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 😉 . 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 😂. 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 ☕️ 🔬 🤓. 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.

froYO
“Yesterday’s fun day out in K-Town naturally ended with a stop at @yogurtlandinc . Froyo makes the best accompaniment for lab gossip 🙊😜”

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 😉 . 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 🙂 ?

What do you do to keep happy?

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

The Original (Salted Caramel) Yummy Cupcake

The Original (Salted Caramel) Yummy Cupcake

After getting my fill of Korean food for lunch on Saturday, I continued my way down Magnolia until I reached The Original Yummy Cupcakes. Actually, I passed by it at first, and realized that I had gone to far after I realized I had passed by a room of screaming six-year-old girls celebrating a birthday. Obviously that meant cupcakes were in the vicinity!

Yummy Cupcakes
Yummy Cupcakes

Besides the room reserved for birthday parties and events, there are no seating areas in this bakery. Instead, you walk in, and come face-to-face with shiny, shimmering cupcakes waiting to be devoured.

Small store, lotsa cupcakes!
Small store, lotsa cupcakes!

I wasn’t too overwhelmed by the flavor choices, but I knew just one cupcake would do. But which? Should I go with a chocolate, vanilla, or fruity variety?

While I pondered over this, one customer was able to resist any temptations for a cupcake for himself, and focus solely on ordering cupcakes for a Superbowl party he was hosting the next day. When it was my turn, I chose to purchase a salted caramel chocolate cupcake.

Salted caramel cupcake
Salted caramel cupcake

I enjoyed my cupcake on a bench right outside the bakery, and took my time admiring the caramel drizzle and sprinkling of salt.

So good...
So good…

The cake was moist, and the frosting was the perfect complement. Overall, it was indeed a yummy cupcake. Apparently, I learned that they were in existence even before Sprinkles (2004 vs. 2005)!

As I watched the birthday girl and her party crew happily dance down Magnolia, I told myself I was witnessing the magic power of cupcakes unleashing happiness. While those youngins’ chose to let it all out in sugar-fueled glee, I chose to let that happiness simmer in my soul 🙂

What’s your favorite cupcake flavor?

Yummy Cupcakes Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Natural Beauty

Natural Beauty

Last Friday was certainly one of the best days I’ve had in a while. It was the example of a perfect summer (and birthday) weekend. I still had lab duties during the day, but Fridays tend to be less-demanding, and I was able to meet my Dad a little after 3PM. We made our way over to Culver City, and took a short nap in the parking lot of a grocery store before heading over to the Hare Krishna Temple.

We’ve been wanting to pay the temple a visit since learning about its existence in LA. Since this would be my Dad’s last visit to SoCal before moving out-of-state, it was obviously a no-brainer to make the visit a priority this time.

The whole block by the temple is a quiet, residential area of condos/apartments that I later learned were mostly occupied by members and volunteers of the temple.

 Quiet stretch of apartments.
Quiet stretch of apartments.

The temple itself was a small, clean, and peaceful place for worship. One of the head patrons of the temple even spent a good half hour with us, explaining the history of this particular temple. We also took some time for ourselves for personal worship, and were amazed by the extremely diverse community visiting the temple. There didn’t seem to be any exclusivity, and everyone that came in was greeted warmly and with respect.

 Front of temple.
Front of temple.

Dinner was being served right next door, at Govinda’s Natural Food Buffet…a local favorite just based on the crowd.

 Small and cozy.
Small and cozy.

Inside, there was a humble-sized buffet line serving cold and hot foods, which change daily. There were even desserts and pizza being sold separately!

 Delicious looking line-up!
Delicious looking line-up!

The menu that night included a salad bar, brown and basmati ric, lentil soup, whole mung daal, chow mein, steamed cauliflower and carrots, sweet & sour steamed veggies with tofu sausage pieces, and apple halavah for dessert.

 Menu up above.
Menu up above.

I started off with a loaded salad, and a balanced plate of hot foods.

 Buffet Round 1 - Loaded salad with hot food plate including steamed carrots and cauliflower, brown rice, and sweet n sour veggies.
Buffet Round 1 – Loaded salad with hot food plate including steamed carrots and cauliflower, brown rice, and sweet n sour veggies.

I went back for another loaded plate, and unpictured dinner roll, and a sampling of the apple halavah.

 Buffet Round 2 - Loaded hot food plate including steamed carrots and cauliflower, shredded beets, tofu salad, mung daal, brown rice, cherry tomatoes, and cucumbers.
Buffet Round 2 – Loaded hot food plate including steamed carrots and cauliflower, shredded beets, tofu salad, mung daal, brown rice, cherry tomatoes, and cucumbers.
 Apple halawah - not too sweet, and had a mild apple flavor.
Apple halawah – not too sweet, and had a mild apple flavor.

After dinner, we stopped by Sprouts so I wouldn’t have to worry about grocery shopping for the week later. Then we drove over to Dockweiler just as the sun was starting to set. Perfection.

aintitbeautiful
Beauty and the beach.

The weather was just right. The moment was just right. The Friday night crowd was just right (mini beach bonfires everywhere!). And being able to enjoy this natural beauty with my Dad—who I probably won’t see until winter—made it all the more perfect.

Of course, getting back home was far from being perfect because TRAFFIC. By the time I was all good and settled back at the apartment, it was almost 9:40PM. Still, I made time for B&J’s while watching The Daily Show with Dad before going to bed.

 Buffet Round 1 - Loaded salad with hot food plate including steamed carrots and cauliflower, brown rice, and sweet n sour veggies.
Chocolate ice cream? Tasted more like a frozen chocolate mint  bar, so all was good. The swirls were barely there, but at least the cookie balls made up for it! They also kept their firm crunch too!

It’s days like these that make me wish every evening could end the same way 

What is your best summer evening memory?

Click to add a blog post for Govinda's Natural Food on Zomato

Ten Things Over Tiramisu

Ten Things Over Tiramisu

1. I am so glad Urth Caffe has 5 locations for me to check out and that they have such an extensive menu. I’ve already crossed the WeHo location off my list, where I was thoroughly impressed by my Sunday afternoon dessert. 

 Urth Caffe in West Hollywood.
Urth Caffe in West Hollywood.

2. Speaking of which…this tiramisu? Out-of-this-world-insanely delicious.

 If love could be defined in terms of tiramisu, this would be it.
If love could be defined in terms of tiramisu, this Matcha Green Tea Tiramisu would be it .

 Matcha Tiramisu matcha infused mascarpone cheese layered in between matcha soaked ladyfingers topped with whipped cream & garnished with matcha powder.
Matcha Tiramisu = matcha infused mascarpone cheese layered in between matcha soaked ladyfingers topped with whipped cream & garnished with matcha powder. [in other words, SO GOOD…]
3. Everybody in WeHo had the same idea as I did: 3pm tea time on a sunny Sunday afternoon

 Busy day at Urth Caffe.
Busy day at Urth Caffe.

4. I may have taken more than my share of stevia packets. Sorry, I’m not ashamed. 

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5. All I was missing was a leisure-reading book and a sun hat. I’m also surprised I didn’t go back for seconds…

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Okay, now for some things non-tiramisu-related 😉

6. In about 5 months time, I’m going to be doing this. I never thought about doing it so soon, but there is really no time like the present. The topic most definitely deserves a post of its own…

7. I busted out the baking pan and made these last night. Shhh—it’s a surprise for my Dad and sis 😉 . Also plan a separate post detailing what they are/what’s in it!

surprisesurprise

8. Speaking of family, they are arriving tonight and I still am not sure what to do with them for the weekend (haha). How do you pick when there is somuchstuff going on in LA? 

9. I’ve finished week 2 of my first lab rotation, and have been feeling completely exhausted. Like, napping-at-6pm-seems-like-a-good-idea exhausted. The work itself is not tiring, so I guess it’s just because my routine is changing again, and that’s causing some form of subconscious stress?

 Yeah, so I may not be driving, but even commuting by bus can add exhaustion...
Yeah, so I may not be driving, but even commuting by bus can add exhaustion…

10. This week has been crazy in terms of free stuff. We had a vendor show on campus the other day, and I was able to pick up some things that always come in handy (reusable shopping bags, pens, etc.). We also got to go around to different booths and get a card stamped for an entry to win an iPad mini. And of course, there was free food. My favorite was a small bottle that looks like something you’d find in a lab cabinet, but it actually had Hershey’s Kisses in it! 

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Are you a tiramisu fan?

What’s the best way to spend a Sunday afternoon?

Urth Caffé on Urbanspoon

Birthday = Crossing Places Off the Foodie Bucket List

Birthday = Crossing Places Off the Foodie Bucket List

What’s the best way to celebrate a {summer} birthday? A lot of bloggers definitely know how, since there have been many birthday recaps as of late 😉 , but for me, certainly three things are necessary: close friends, things to do, and tasty food. My birthdays in recent years had all of these “ingredients” and were successful as a result. Last year’s was memorable for sure, but I truly appreciated being able to celebrate my birthday this year with those closest to me and at places I’ve been wanting to visit for quite a while.

The day started with a run to the gym, and then after getting ready, my friends and I drove to SF. We first dropped off my friend’s brother at his friend’s house, and then made our way over to SoMa (after fighting traffic and keeping our eyes peeled for a parking spot…). I let the frustrations get to me, and let my Dad take over to look for a spot while my sis, friend, and I walked over to the restaurant. We found him waiting at the entrance…apparently, there was parking right in front of the restaurant.

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After laughing at the irony, we perused the menu hanging on the window in front, then made our way to the cashwrap.

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I insisted that lunch be on me, and took care of the bill. I also suggested we get four dishes to share family-style so we could all try different things. I was surprised by how empty the place was, even though it was lunchtime.

source inside

I took advantage of the opportunity however, and tried to discreetly take pictures of the space. Source was featured on an episode of Mystery Diners, and has been on my bucket list of places to eat after finding out it was a vegan restaurant in the Bay Area. They also have a smaller location, Source Mini, in Berkeley.

SOURCE

In their menu, they use fake meat, but refer to it as “cluck”, “oink”, or “moo” depending on what meat it is “supposed” to be. Our four dishes came out after ~15 minutes even though it seemed like longer. The first to come out was the Vegan Mousaka. I originally wanted to get the Jamaican Jerk Cluck (cluck <– fake chicken & veggies cooked in jerk sauce, with organic brown basmati rice, black beans & chutney), but they had unfortunately sold out 🙁 . Although it wasn’t meant to be an appetizer, it served its role as one, and worked as a great thick tomato dip for the pita bread pieces it was served with.

grilled layered eggplant with cinnamon, all spice, garbanzo, mushroom, tomato, topped with cashew “béchamel” sauce

A little while later, the waitress arrived with the “real” appetizer: Baked Vegan Spinach Artichoke Fondue. My sis and friend were enthusiatic about this particular dish, and so I let them have at it since I wanted to save room for the other two dishes that had yet to come to our table.

roasted peppers, spinach cashew cream, truffle oil & pita bread

We had to ask for some more pita bread to get all of the dip out of the bowl!

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My absolute favorite was the Chile Cluck Pizza. It had a sweet and spicy flavor that was out of this world, and it was made on such a thin crust so it didn’t make me feel too stuffed to tackle the…

cluck, mozzarella, plum tomato sauce, sriracha sauce, parmesan, truffle oil & balsamic glaze

Country Shepherds Pie! My sis picked out this one and I thought she made a good choice. I wasn’t a fan of the mashed potato topping, but the filling was warm, satiating, and perfectly paired with the mini, sliced sourdough on the side.

moo (fake meat), mushrooms, eggplant, zucchini, carrot, celery, onion, topped with roasted mashed potatoes

After our nice, quiet, and fulfilling lunch, I drove us over to the Golden Gate Bridge. My friend and I were talking about how she never could walk across the whole bridge because her family would always complain it’s too cold/long, so I wanted us to be able to finally do it together. It quickly turned from sunshine to fog, and I sort of regretted not bringing a jacket (you think I would remember after all these years…), but fortunately I was at least wearing longsleeves.

While we were able to stop for photos and take in the view, the walk was anything but pleasant. There was a strong wind, noise from passing cars, bikers who didn’t know how to bike politely, and it was very, very cold. I honestly felt like having a warm cup of coffee on the way back!

Golden Gate Bridge

After the walk, it was time for birthday cake vegan cinnamon rolls! Cinnaholic was another foodie-destination of mine, and I thought why not celebrate the b-day with a different kind of sweet? Leaving the city during rush hour was madness, but we still made it through to the other side—even if it was an hour and a half later than we would have liked.

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I learned about Cinnaholic after the owners appeared on an episode of Shark Tank. At first, I thought they just shipped out orders of vegan cinnamon rolls, but when I learned they had an actual establishment (actually very near to Saturn Cafe!), I knew I had to make a visit.

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The idea behind the custom roll is you pick your flavor of frosting followed by toppings. They also have recipes for their own combos (like S’mores), have other baked goods for sale (cookies, brownies), and have mini buns too!

inside cinnaholic!

We all decided to get two rolls and share. Our first roll was a rootbeer frosting + graham cracker topping combo, and our second was a pina colada frosting + raspberries combo.

SAMSUNG

SAMSUNG

To be frank, the rolls were not as amazing as I wanted them to be. While we attacked the rolls with excitment at the beginning, our initial excitment plummeted mid-rolls. The roll base itself tasted dry, wasn’t that sweet, and both frosting flavors didn’t have much flavor other than the taste of pure icing/sugar. At least I can now cross it off my list…

Despite nourishing myself with food I had my heart set on for months, I still felt hungry. Actually, I felt oddly ravenous all day. While the girls felt full (and spent some time in a book shop), my Dad and I thought it would be best to end the day with the frozen yogurt, this time his treat. The Yogurtland on the corner was the solution.

Mix of different flavors. Toppings include mochi, cookie dough pieces, mango poppers, white yogurt chips, mini caramel cups.

Despite the nuissance of city traffic and parking, it was a splendid day overall. I also had that “letdown” feeling that usually passes over me after a great and eventful day, so I knew that I had spent my time the best way possible. It’s hard to believe another year in my life has gone by though! Should I be scared or excited 😉 ?

Do you like the season that your birthday falls under? Summer birthdays are the best, period. Sorry to you spring/fall/winter babies 😉 !!

Source on Urbanspoon Cinnaholic on Urbanspoon

Race Recap – Loop the Lagoon

Race Recap – Loop the Lagoon

Last year was packed with fun races and was a great experience for me as an “official” first-time runner. I knew that coming into 2014, my racing for the year would have a late start, due to interviews and family trips, but once things got settled, I decided to get back into racing. I’ve registered for some really exciting events this summer, including two half marathons next month!

Since I find the 10k distance to be my favorite (though I hope that the 13.1 half marathon distance will be after I get back into the long run swing of things…), I decided that it would be best to have my first race of the year be a 10k, so Loop the Lagoon fit the bill. The only May race I ran last year was the Sunrise Run, and leading up to that, I had run in four 10k races. So having my first race of the year be in May did bring on some doubt as far as my readiness was concerned. It didn’t prove to be a problem however, and I even logged some 6 mile runs in the two weeks prior to the race, after returning from my trip.

This race took place on the same course as this race from last year, but it was organized by the host city’s school district education fund. The 10k course was a flat loop around the lagoon (twice), so I didn’t have to worry about steep hills! They also had pre-race day packet pick-up, so I was able to pick my race shirt and bib the day before.

Pre-race Swag (really it's just the shirt...)
Pre-race Swag (really it’s just the shirt…)

I opted for the “Mother’s Day” edition shirt, since I had a choice. Also because I love the pink color of it 😛

I woke up around 7:00AM the morning of the race, had some coffee and a Quest bar, and noticed that there was a cool breeze outside even though the sun was already out.

The booths were already set up by the time we arrived.

Morning of the race

It was time to do some pre-race swag collection!

The booths were starting to open up, and I wasn’t sure if all of them were handing out free samples…

loopthelagoonpreraceeeee (4)

Fresh and Easy passed out fruit, granola bars, and water.

loopthelagoonpreraceeeee (5)

Walgreens made a stop on their Way to Well Health Tour here, and provided participants with free cholesterol, bp, BMI, and metabolic rate checks!

loopthelagoonpreraceeeee (3)

Jamba Juice was selling (not giving away 🙁 ) morning smoothies for runners who wanted a pre-race smoothie.

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The money from this race went towards school/education funding, so it made sense for there to be school-related companies advertising their wares to the public. I thought this car was super adorable:

loopthelagoonpreraceeeee (7)

A hospital was handing out free sunglasses, water bottles, and sunscreen samples. I’ve already collected an innumerable amount of water bottles from previous races, so I stuck with the sunglasses and sunscreen samples.

loopthelagoonpreraceeeee (8)

Someone was already helping themselves to a pre-race massage as well, haha!

loopthelagoonpreraceeeee (9)

There were at least three jumphouses at the event…I almost forgot there was a kids’ race scheduled as well.

loopthelagoonpreraceeeee (15)

The casual strolling from booth-to-booth came to a close when a representative from Gold’s Gym came to the stage and initiated a group warm-up.

LothLaWarmUp

After the warm-up, the runners for the 10k Tower Challenge (this included those hills) lined up for the 8:30AM start. Us 10kers were let go from the ring around 8:35AM with the 5kers.

Miles 1 & 2 – I was surprisingly able to zone out for the first two miles. Normally, my boredom kicks in around mile 2 and the mental countdown begins, but there were many people going at my pace early on in this race so there was a lot going around me to keep my mind distracted.

Mile 3 – After looping around the lagoon, we were directed to go up alongside a hill, which wasn’t as bad as I was expecting. The long descent down was gratifying, but I grew frustrated when I saw the finish line ahead and knew that I had another loop to finish before I could stop.

Mile 4 – At this point, I was wishing that time flew by faster! The crowds that were around me were spreading out, and so it was harder to stay focused. I was sort of keeping pace with an older man (likely to be in his mid-70’s or so), and made it my “goal” of sorts not to get too much behind him. At least (I think) I had an endorphin kick, because the dull hip and right foot aches I had been feeling earlier on were subsiding.

Mile 5 – Made my way to the hill again, eager to come across the finish line that was in the distance…

finish.

Mile 6 +0.2 – The descent was much fun, and I felt a surge of energy that propelled me to take greater strides than the old man I had been running with/against. I finished with a 9:49/mi pace, happy that it was under 10:00/mi, even though I started the race at an easy pace. According to my Garmin, I had negative splits!

The older man that I had been running near the entire time congratulated me on a good race, which I thought was nice. Another woman came from behind us, and thanked us for pacing her! This was the first time anyone has ever come up to me and thanked me for pacing them, so that was pretty awesome as well. I could have shelled out a few bucks for some shave ice, but I quenched my thirst with a full bottle of water—in less than 30 seconds.

konaice2kooloff

As far as the freebies I came home with are concerned, I had a good collection of trail mixes, g-bars, and fruit stashed in my bag. I did come back with much more than is pictured here, of course.

 Sunglasses, trail mix packs, granola bars...
Sunglasses, trail mix packs, granola bars…
 Random frisbee too, haha!
Random frisbee too, haha!

This race was the perfect start to my 2014 racing season, even though we’re almost reaching the middle point of this year! I’m looking forward to the summer races that are taking place in the coming weeks, and am even keeping an eye out for some races in my new home, later on this year.

What was your first race of 2014?

SJR 2014 Pre-Race Talk [Giveaway Included!]

SJR 2014 Pre-Race Talk [Giveaway Included!]

Last year, I had the opportunity to be an official ambassador for See Jane Run, and I am honored to have that opportunity again for 2014. Having this opportunity was memorable and meaningful because it marked my first race in a half marathon, I was able to establish a PR for myself at this distance, I challenged myself with long runs, and I had an incredible time on race day. Oh, and post-race fuelage Ethiopian style, was another plus 😉

This year, SJR will be hosting three summer races in SF Bay (June 22nd), Seattle (July 13th), and Witchita (September 13). All events will have a half, 5k, and kids’ run taking place. Free chocolate, champagne, and massages are also a given, and the vendors that participate during the post-race festivities never seem to disappoint!

The course for this year in SF Bay looks to be the same as last year’s SF Bay race, so I don’t expect for there to be any surprises:

Source

I do however plan on doing a few things to improve even more from my experience last year.

Increasing my time, and setting a new PR –  I would like to improve my running pace in the half marathon distance. Seeing that I’ve only run 13.1 miles twice in my life, it makes sense that I’m not exactly running at my 5k pace when 10 more miles are tacked on (it was more like 10:50-11:00/mi). I’m hoping that now that I’m back into a better weekly running routine, my long runs on the weekends and short speed workouts during the week will help me at least get to a 10:00-10:30/mi pace when running this half marathon.

Treating LSDs with utmost importance – This relates to my increasing my pace goal. I have made it a priority to make time for LSD runs on the weekends, but now it’s all about sticking to those commitments penned in my planner. I don’t exactly categorize the thought of running 8, 10, or 12 miles on a Saturday or Sunday morning as exciting, but I know running them is important. Speaking of LSDs, I have a 10 mile one scheduled for this weekend…

Staying to a schedule as consistently as possible – Again, this is a goal that relates to the other two. In the past, I sometimes had the mentality that if I ran a long run earlier in the week, I could be more lax as far as squeezing in short workouts and weekday runs. It’s only the long runs that count when training for a half marathon, right? Wrong! I’ve learned that lesson now, and understand that a mix of short runs and LSDs are imperative for building the endurance (and speed!) needed to be successful in a half marathon. And this time, I want to not only finish but be successful 😉

Hydrating like a fishThis is the most important goal for me in terms of half marathon training. No matter how much water I seem to drink per day, I never feel hydrated enough. The summer weather and long runs are not the perfect mix, and even if I plan to run in the early morning, I need to be hydrated. I think waking up each morning and chugging down two full glasses of water may help, but I believe I will need to be more conscious of my water consumption as I continue with training.

Now as an ambassador for SJR, I have been given the exciting opportunity to raffle off a free race registration to any of the SJR races in 2014! You can enter below, and I will have a winner by next Friday:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

If you already know you want to sign-up right away (or perhaps you want to run two SJR races…), you can save 10% off race registration with the code:  SJRAMB253

Have you run a half marathon yet this year?

Beaches and Boating

Beaches and Boating

From all of the relatives I visited on my trip, I had the most wonderful time with the daughters of my cousins. Two girls, one aged six years and the other ten, were so delightful and such fun to be around. This was the first time they saw me when they could actually remember me, since five years ago they were babies/toddlers. Watching, and playing, with both girls reminded me of how much boundless energy I had as a kid—something I wish I didn’t lose as I grew up.

I first spent some time with my older cousin, and mother of the six-year old. This child has the most gorgeous smile and is quite intelligent too. She’s always asking questions—the mind of a budding scientist I tell ya 😉 . On my first day with them, we woke up early in the morning (around 5am) to get ready to go to the beach for some fresh air before school.

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We had a beach day!

We went near the water and soaked our feet as the water came closer and closer to shore. My cousin’s daughter got absolutely soaked, but in addition to collecting shells and making moats, it was all part of the fun.

After having a fun morning, we came back and freshened ourselves up. Since it was my cousin’s daughter’s last day of school (April-June is summer vacation time in India), she had to dress up in her full school uniform in order to pick up her report card. There was also a book fair going on, and so we obviously bought one or two books for her 😉

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An outdoor book fair—still just as popular as when I was in school!!

By the time we returned home, I was exhausted from the morning’s events so after lunch, I took a much-needed 2 hour nap. After I woke up, my cousin and I went out for some (window) shopping and coffee, after dropping off her daughter at a friend’s house for a mid-afternoon play date. We had dinner pretty late (8-8:30pm) and then went to sleep soon after since we had plans to go to the movies the next day.

Rio 2 had come out that weekend, so we decided to attend the first showing that morning. My cousin’s daughter was interested/bored/interested again, and you could tell that she was really enjoying herself towards the end since she wouldn’t stop bouncing in her seat! So adorable…

In India, going to the movies is a pretty big event for some folks. You always see your usual large groups of families and teenagers “just hanging out”—it is always packed no matter what time it is or what movies are showing. Even at 11AM in the morning, the food counter was hoppin’: where you can purchase anything from popcorn, candy, ice cream, and even samosas.

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11AM at the food counter…

After purchasing some strawberry ice cream for the little one, us “grown-ups” denied ourselves any movie theater treats since my cousin’s mother already had lunch prepared. The rest of the day was spent relaxing and resting, and then we all went out for a family dinner at a restaurant in the evening.

The following day, my Dad and I thought it would be fun to have both girls join us for a boating adventure outside of the city! We carpooled with my cousin’s daughter (the six year-old I spent the previous days with) and her father, and met up with my other cousin’s daughter (the ten year-old), my cousin (mother of ten year-old), my cousin’s husband, and my cousin’s father (my uncle) at the boating place.

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Scenes from the highway, outside of the city.

The drive was entertaining on the way to the boating place, but soon the scenes outside became repetitive (dirt roads, the same plants, buildings, etc.), so I let myself fall asleep until we arrived. My cousin’s daughter was also great entertainment, and definitely had more energy than me 🙂 !

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More highway scenes!

Boating was an interesting experience! All of us were huddled into a motorboat and had the option to wear life vests. We were then shuttled to a bank where we got off and spent some time on a beach! Absolutely everything was burning HOT that day—the boat, my skin, the sand—the only thing that seemed cold was the ocean water, and even then, to only some extent.

There was also a group of guys near us who were acting rowdy—yelling, screaming, and even stripping down to their underwear and rolling around on the beach—obviously they didn’t realize how stupid they were acting in front of two kids, but then again, they probably didn’t care.

We were done in about two hours, and retreated to our cars and put the A/C on full blast while driving to a roadside hotel (in India, a hotel is interchangeable with restaurant) for lunch. Along the way, we stopped for some tender coconut and palm fruit—straight from the source.

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Roadside palm fruit

It was intriguing the way the man with the scythe cut open the coconuts/palm fruit with such precision to make sure nothing went to waste. Forget packaged coconut water, it’s more authentic when someone pierces a coconut for you, and then slashes it open so you can feast on the tender coconut inside!

The palm fruit was small and gelatinous in comparison, surrounded mostly by a hard shell disproportionate to its tiny size. Even though it has no taste, you can’t argue that it’s as much fun to play with as Play-Doh.

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Palm fruit feast.

We eventually found a place to sit down and have a relaxing mid-afternoon lunch. The drive back to the city was a long one, taking two hours instead of one due to the insane amount of Sunday evening traffic. For the rest of the night, I would not leave the couch since my feet were large and swollen from the heat. Even with the weather and congestion of traffic, it was the definition of a perfect day and a day worth every minute—especially since I got to spend it with two lovely girls 🙂

It’s an extremely hot day outside—spend the day at the beach, or in an A/C theater watching a movie?

13 in ’13

13 in ’13

I would say 2013 was a year I’d look back on and be pleased with. I was able to accomplish a lot, as well as continue to learn and discover more about myself.

I put together 13 things that stood out to me about this year, just for fun…

13 in '13

I have some awesome and exciting things planned for 2014, and I am anxious to share about it all here on this blog! Of course I do not want to rush into things, but I am more than ready for 2014 to arrive so things can get going ;).

♥–Happy New Year, everyone!–♥

What was 2013 like for you?

Are you more than ready for 2014?

A Freebielicious Day

A Freebielicious Day

A sunny day in Santana Row, four girls eager to shop, and free item coupons to redeem—these are the makings of a fantastic birthday weekend day trip, particularly mine ;).

We arrived at Santana Row around midday, and admired the classic, old downtown-esque style of the buildings and how the shops were so close together.

Santana Row Walk

It’s such a fancy-schmancy place, you could dish out the big bucks and drive out with a Tesla car if you wanted to :P! I could imagine the conversation a rich couple living in Silicon Valley would have…

“Hey honey, what did you buy at the mall today?”

“Oh the usual, it’s out on the driveway.”

We soon arrived at the place that was the whole reason for making the trip down to Santana Row. I have been dying to visit ever since learning about their Northern California existence…

Veggie Grill!!!
Veggie Grill!!!

My friends are non-vegetarians, but they appreciate good vegetarian/vegan food as much as the “whole earth/plant-obsessed” vegan ;). My sister and I appreciate, and like to support, restaurants that are veg-friendly since we’ve been vegetarians since birth.

I didn’t need a menu since I already knew what I was going to order. My friends debated dishes from burgers to appetizers, but once we all knew what we wanted, we made our way to the counter to pay. I came prepared with a free dessert and free entree coupon, since I had joined their e-mail club program and their birthday perk is an entree on the house. We were able to wipe off $13 from our bill—not bad considering we were four hungry young ladies :P!

We found a booth near the cooking action. Perfect for taking “discreet” phone images.

Veggie Grill in Santana R.

Even though we were close to the kitchen and our stomachs were growling, we didn’t have to wait long. We got to sample the dessert we had already ordered. I never had an in-restaurant sample before, so that was new to me!

Sample

Within 10 minutes of sitting down, our food came to the table—fresh and pippin’ hot. Before fully digging into our own meals, we were slicing up samples for eachother, taking bites out of eachother’s burgers, and reaching over the table…it probably looked odd, but hilarious to all the other patrons!

I had come with a plan, and went with my growling gut on the decision to order a Crispy Chickin’ Plate.

Fried Chickin’, cauli-mashed potatoes, porcini mushroom gravy with fresh rosemary, steamin' kale
Fried Chickin’, cauli-mashed potatoes, porcini mushroom gravy with fresh rosemary, steamin’ kale.

What was great…

  • Breaded chickin’—enough said.
  • The gravy sauce was perfect with the chickin’.
  • It was an all-around favorite with the girls.

And not so great…

  • The kale could have been seasoned more, even though there was dressing on top.
  • I’m not a mashed potato fan, so the cauli-mashed potatoes were a bit of a bore to me.
  • Would have preferred more chickin’ over the potato or kale :P!

One of my friends ordered the Bali Bliss Burger.

“Too-Good” Tempeh, lettuce, tomato, red onion, chipotle ranch.
“Too-Good” Tempeh, lettuce, tomato, red onion, chipotle ranch.

What was great…

  • The adorably-shaped tempeh “patty”. Square beats circle when it comes to patties!
  • The cute, fluffy wheat bun.
  • Chipotle ranch….mmm!

And not so great…

  • Avocado cost extra ($1.50!!).
  • The side slaw was poorly seasoned and very mediocre.
  • The tempeh could have had more flavor.

My sister went for the Chickin’ Tacos.

Sauteed Chickin’, Mexican spices, cabbage, roasted corn salsa, white corn tortillas, with mashed avocado and tomato salad.
Sauteed Chickin’, Mexican spices, cabbage, roasted corn salsa, white corn tortillas, with mashed avocado and tomato salad.

What was great…

  • Perfect ratio of inner ingredients to tortilla.
  • The jalapeno slices on the side.
  • Watching my sister’s taco face while devouring this :P!!

And not so great…

  • Vegan cheese could have taken this to the next level
  • The tacos were a tad too small.
  • The cabbage didn’t taste bad, but the bright white color of it didn’t work well appearance-wise with the other ingredients.

My other friend feasted on the “Crab” Cake Burger.

Crispy “crab” cake, spiced tartar sauce, pickles, tomato, lettuce, red onion.
Crispy “crab” cake, spiced tartar sauce, pickles, tomato, lettuce, red onion.

What was great…

  • The sweet potato fries with their “special” seasoning.
  • Dipping said fries into spiced tartar sauce.
  • Just this burger!

And not so great…

  • Not much to say except maybe I should have asked my friend if she wanted to swap dishes with me in the middle? While everyone loved my plate the best, I was a fan of this whole plate. 

After all of that vegetarian bliss, we wrapped up lunch with the Chocolate Pudding Parfait.

Made-from-scratch pudding, topped with chocolate sauce, crushed cookies, walnuts, VG Crema.
Made-from-scratch pudding, topped with chocolate sauce, crushed cookies, walnuts, VG Crema.

What was great…

  • The cookie crumbles.
  • The presentation: perfectly centered cream, cookie crumbles on top AND at the bottom.
  • Perfect for sharing.

And not so great…

  • Served at the same time as our other meals. It would have been nice to have been served this after we finished our main meals. <—This is a minor issue though :P!
  • The pudding tasted fine, but it would have been awesome if it came in other flavors like vanilla, strawberry, or caramel.
  • Should have had more cream…or maybe we should have ordered a glass of just cream :P!

After our vegan-friendly feast, we left with full bellies and decided to walk around. After some browsing and window shopping, we found this hilarious blackboard beckoning us.

Hey Girl.

We went inside the store, Paper Source, and found some interesting, cute, and “I-wish-I-had-those” items.

These would make fun gifts.
These would make fun gifts.
Books, paper, things organized by color...my kind of store!!
Books, paper, things organized by color…my kind of store!!

One of my friends really wanted to step into Lululemon, so we did since it was close by. I know so many bloggers are practically in love with Lulu, but can someone please justify a $44 sports bra? Until then, my humble earnings are staying in the bank…

Even though Santana Row is known for its pricey and upscale shopping, that didn’t stop us from making any purchases at all. We were just very picky. My sister was on cloud nine when she found…

The Container Store

Yup, The Container Store.

I’m not lying when I say we spent a full hour here, and I’m surprised we weren’t there for even longer. I like IKEA and stores like The Container Store, but since I wasn’t on the hunt for dorm or apartment things, I wasn’t in the mood to stay there longer than 15 minutes.

Good thing I found this ergonomic $99.00 stool thing.

ergoErgo

I sat here while the girls took their time browsing the lower level.

When I collected enough energy, I made my way to the second level. Some pretty cool stuff was there:

Container Store Cool Finds

 

Where else can you find a aisle of TRASH CANS?! Like, seriously…

Trash Aisle

My favorites include these cool kitchen finds:

Kitchen KutiesAnd I love the office supplies and cool wall magnet storage tiles:

For the Office and Organization

 

We took a look at the clearance items, and I was particularly intrigued by the Kapoosh knife storage.

Kapoosh

I finally managed to push my sister to check-out, and even though she bought some things, I didn’t have to tell her to “contain herself”…

I was tempted to buy this...
I was tempted to buy this…

After leaving the store, we walked across the street to Westfield Valley Fair Mall. What’s funny is that this mall is considered to be in Santa Clara, so we literally walked from city to city :P!

The first thing we did was look for Cako, since I had a coupon for a free birthday cupcake. We found the little mall booth in the center of one of the mall walkways.

Cako

There were some sweet-looking cupcakes (and macaroons of every pastel color of the rainbow!), but I chose to keep it simple and fun with the first cupcake I saw that had colorful sprinkles.

The Back to Basics Vanilla Sprinkles Cupcake
The Back to Basics Vanilla Sprinkles Cupcake

We split the cupcake into fourths since we didn’t want to shell out $3.50 x 3 more for three more cupcakes for each of us. In the end, we made the right decision since the frosting-to-cake ratio was less than extraordinary (not much frosting compared to the amount of cake we had), and the cake was very crumbly.

After our cake break, we did some more browsing and shopping. To continue the running theme of the day, we stopped by Victoria’s Secret since I had a coupon for free underwear from their PINK brand. This happened to be a coupon that I received in the mail by coincidence, but it was a great time to redeem it since I normally don’t shop at VS.

The only time it feels good to see zeroes!
The only time it feels good to see zeroes!

My friends went slightly crazy at Forever 21 while I gave my feet a break. At around that time, I noticed an acupressure booth highlighting which parts of the foot, when applied pressure to, affect other parts of the body.

My Feet Needed This...

Hmm, I’ll have to think about this next time I do some golf ball rolling with my feet after a long run :P!

We were shopped out by 7:30pm, and it took us about two hours to get home with the traffic. I was surprised that a lot of stuff I did that day was “free”, but I was happy mainly because it was a great day out with my most favorite girls, and nothing beats a smiles-and-laughter-filled girls day out!

The Veggie Grill on Urbanspoon

What are your favorite birthday freebies? Not included in this post, but I always love getting a free birthday scoop coupon from Baskin-Robbins!

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