A Spanish Reflection

A Spanish Reflection

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

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

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

The cute town of Sitges
The cute town of Sitges

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

Sunday afternoon views
Sunday afternoon views

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

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

<3

Along with stalking stray cats…

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

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

♥

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

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

Conference views...
Conference views…

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

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

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

♥

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

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

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

Purposefully getting lost :P
Purposefully getting lost 😛

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

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

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

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

♥

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

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

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

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

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

Hello, food
Hello, breakfast.

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

Yas.
Yaaaas.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Before Barcelona

Before Barcelona

I’ve been dying to write about my (short) stay in Spain, but I have the need to document the days leading up to it, since it was a couple of days of trying new restaurants with loved ones and a number of new-to-me ice cream flavors (hello, Halo Top!) 

The weekend before I left, I was in lab (of course) taking care of some last minute things for my trip since I was going for a conference. E also came by, and we ended up going to DTLA since it was close. We walked around for a bit semi-aimlessly, just enjoying eachother’s company and the weather, but I was getting hungry. 
 
We found Le Pain Quotidien, and I suggested we go inside since I had never been. E showed her super sweet side when we came across a homeless young woman asking if we had any spare change. Neither of us did, but E offered to get her a coffee and a croissant. 
 
Le Pain Quotidien
Le Pain Quotidien
 
The woman was really happy with the gesture, and even though she seemed hesitant, she did come inside to get the coffee and food. 
 
E and I then ordered for ourselves at the counter. I ended up getting their seasonal dragonfruit bowl, while she got some avocado toast. 
 
To be honest, the amount I got for the price I paid was disproportionate. The bowl was a measly size, barely filling the size of my palm…
 
Dragonfruit Acai Bowl
Dragonfruit Acai Bowl
 
E’s toast was given to her in a paper box, and looked much more filling than my excuse for a bowl…
 
The next day, I was able to meet up with my sister who was heading back down from a week and a half long trip in Fresno catching up with friends. She picked me up from lab, poster in tow, and we drove to Santa Monica for some early dinner. 
 
Bareburger has been on my list of places I’ve been meaning to visit, and so it was the perfect opportunity to go for a happy hour dinner. 
 
Bareburger, Santa Monica
Bareburger, Santa Monica
 
The inside was super cozy and definitely had a Santa Monica beachy vibe. The bar was not crowded but the after-work crowd was definitely starting to show up. 
 
Having dinner at happy hour meant being able to snag dinner-sized food at happy hour prices! My sis and I unanimously agreed on a cup of fried pickles with dipping ranch, and we got a handhold for each of us. 
 
Fried pickles
Fried pickles
 
Mine was the Farmstead. I didn’t read the description carefully, so I thought my wrap was going to be a bread-based handhold. To my surprise, A green-layered wrap came out with chunks of sweet potato, hummus, and a wild rice patty nicely tucked inside. I was thrown off at first, but after the first bite, I was in love, haha. 
 
Farmstead Wrap
Farmstead Wrap
 
My sis dropped me off after a quick run to the grocery store, and I immediately got to packing…okay, not exactly, but I made a list 😉 
 
The week leading up to my trip was an excuse to finally taste some of the new Halo Top flavors. I remember last year around this time when I did an extensive series of Instagram reviews on their ten new flavors release. Now, I’m excited to see that even more flavors are out and worth trying, but I’m not racing to Ralph’s with the intention to hoard every new flavor I see. But as far as the flavors I tried so far…
 
Halo Top Cinnamon Roll:
 
This pint was chock full of cinnamon dough pieces all swirled into a vanilla base. Smooth and creamy through and through, but definitely was spicier than expected.
This pint was chock full of cinnamon dough pieces all swirled into a vanilla base. Smooth and creamy through and through, but definitely was spicier than expected.

Halo Top Candy Bar:

This pint had a coffee/mild chocolate flavor with a subtle chocolate swirl and peanut pieces. It was like a cold, underwhelming Snickers bar!
This pint had a coffee/mild chocolate flavor with a subtle chocolate swirl and peanut pieces. It was like a cold, underwhelming Snickers bar!

Halo Top Caramel Macchiato:

This flavor had a sharp coffee caramel taste. Another pint with a subtle swirl, though caramel.
This flavor had a sharp coffee caramel taste. Another pint with a subtle swirl, though caramel.

Halo Top Pancakes & Waffles:

Found this to be such a unique-sounding flavor! The cone pieces were mushy, but the ice cream had a nice blend of honey and caramel. But the aftertaste did pack a punch!
Found this to be such a unique-sounding flavor! The cone pieces were mushy, but the ice cream had a nice blend of honey and caramel. But the aftertaste did pack a punch!

I also had two flavors that were NOT Halo Top, and one fared to be just as good as the offerings from HT and the other…not so much.

Sprouts Organic Cinnamon Pumpkin Ice Cream:

...
For some reason the pumpkin flavor was calling out to me that day…the texture was like soft serve, and had ice cream itself was a mix between pumpkin and cinnamon. It became a new favorite of mine, that I immediately shared on Instagram.

Simple Truth Low Cow Lite Ice Cream – Birthday Cake:

I rarely ever use harsh language on this blog, but this flavor just plain sucked. I mean, this is a disgrace to all things birthday cake-flavored.
I rarely ever use harsh language on this blog, but this flavor just plain sucked. I mean, this is a disgrace to all things birthday cake-flavored. The ice cream was bland, gross, and dry, sticking to the sides of the pint. The candy pieces had no flavor, and while it was a cheap price at Ralph’s it just was not worth it…

Now that I’ve got some major work items out of the way (for now), I can get caught up on my Spain posts (even though that was work-related too, haha). Stay-tuned!

Bareburger 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 😉 !

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…

IMG_9104
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.

coffee and art
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.

chef_tofu
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.

chef_TOfuuu
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!

hammer_museum
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…

interior_
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?

falafel_wrap
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 🙂

backofjar
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 🙂

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

Yes, It’s Done!

Yes, It’s Done!

It’s so hard to believe that the past couple of months had me so anxious/stressed all over one little day. Well, on Tuesday I passed my qualifying exam, and it literally felt like the weight of the world was lifted off my shoulders. I had been working on it for so long that I forgot what it felt like to go out on the weekends and explore the city.

Now the only major thing left in this whole grad school thing is getting to the end—defending a dissertation and graduating! That won’t be for at least another 2.5 years, but I honestly think the hard part is over, at least in terms of academic requirements.

Last week however, I was feeling 10x more stress and anxiety compared to how I feel now.

Last Thursday, I stayed home to work from home. I was glad to save time from commuting, and I even squeezed in a run and Whole Foods/Vitamin Shoppe stop before heading home to work.

barz
RX Bars

To my surprise, I found two new-to-me RX bars at Whole Foods, and snacked on them at the store.

Coffe Chocolate had a rough texture and the chocolate chips against the coffee flavor was strong, and overall I thought it was alright. I truly loved Apple Cinnamon though—tasted like Apple Pie if one added nuts into the crust!

coffee_applecinnamon
Coffee Chocolate // Apple Cinnamon

I also had a Smores flavored Combat Crunch bar that I picked up from Vitamin Shoppe, and it tasted like a higher-quality Milky Way bar. Basically a Milky Way bar with a thicker, crispier, crunchier chocolate-coating shell.

smores
Smores Combat Crunch

On Saturday, we got a day break from the rain. I used that to my advantage and went out for a ~11 mi run. I was thinking about attending the women’s march taking place in downtown, but my priority was working on my PowerPoint presentations.

out_
Uplifter’s Kitchen

Before heading to work, I had to get some breakfast in me. I ended up going to Uplifter’s Kitchen for a quick, small bite in a cozy atmosphere. Despite it being sunny, the temperature was still chilly from the rain.

inside
Where to order

I ended up getting a seasonal mixed berry scone with a cafe latte on the side made with almond milk. I could have consumed this on the go, but I truly did want to give myself a break before transitioning to work mode.

scone_
A seasonal mixed berry scone with juicy fruit!

This scone was encrusted with sugar crystals, and the blackberries and strawberries were so juicy!

scone_latte
Also got a latte with my scone 🙂

The latte on the other hand, was sub-par. Maybe because they hadn’t sweetened it themselves, and when I got it I was too lazy to figure the right amount of sweetener to add. At least the frothy part looked pretty, and it was made from locally-sources almond milk? That is a plus, right 😉 ?

tapatio
Picked a seat by the wall.

I also later found out that my scone made a difference! Haha, apparently, the proceeds that Day were going towards organizations that support women’s reproductive rights, LGBTQ equality and protection from discrimination for immigrants. I was thrilled to hear that, and safely came to the conclusion that I was able to contribute to the day despite my own personal to-do list 🙂 !

Well—since my quals trials are over, I am overwhelmed (with happiness) thinking about what I could do this weekend! Ah, it feels like I need to catch up with the entire world, haha.

Uplifters Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

A Visit to Novel Cafe (Before Writing My Own Novel…)

A Visit to Novel Cafe (Before Writing My Own Novel…)

I have a huge 12 page proposal due soon, and with this on my mind the weekend before Thanksgiving, I was anxiously-driven to put in some concrete hours working on it.

picmonkey-collage
Tried a new RX Bar flavor from Trader Joe’s—Maple Sea Salt! I love how it has salt speckles that sparkle like diamonds!

Fortunately, I didn’t have to go into lab that weekend, so it also gave me plenty of time to sleep in for a bit, and then set up shop at a local library.

apple-caramel-yogurt
Tried this interesting new seasonal greek yogurt flavor —> Apple Caramel Greek Yogurt? Tastes more like cream cheese with apple pieces…uh, I guess that could be appetizing but when you expect yogurt and taste cream cheese, it’s quite a surprise 🤔 .

I also had a hankering for pizza, so I made it my first priority to get myself a warm, hearty tomato-based pie before working. This meant waking up around 8 (because that’s my definition of sleeping in) and then heading over to Novel Cafe because I heard they had pretty good pizza, among other things.

vegan-pizza
Novel Cafe

The outside was covered in calligraphy and murals, while the inside had an interesting layout. There were one (or two?) shops within the restaurant selling what I assume was jewelry, but they also didn’t seem to be affiliated with the restaurant.

teninthemorning
Casual seating area

I sat at a table in the center, and in my view was an empty juice bar, and bakery cases full of pastries and bread. I was handed a long, laminated menu and my eyes immediately gravitated to the pizza section. I had to go for the organic vegan topped with zen buddha cheese…

vegan-pizza
VEGAN PIZZA,COME TO ME!

…it also came with other goodies like rich tomato sauce, zucchini, and mushrooms!

melt
That melty “cheese”

My pizza was a medium, but it was the perfectly-sized personal pizza. It took me a while to finish, but that’s because each bread-y bite took some work to chew. Each slice was thin enough to fold NY style.

I left with a full tummy and gathered enough energy to get to work on my paper for the rest of the morning and early afternoon. I spent a good three hours at the library, hard at work, before I decided to venture home and crash into a carb-induced coma of a nap.

The next day, I continued to put those carbs to use when I ventured out for a fourteen miler with my marathon team. My running buddy and I kept a consistent pace the entire time, making us enthusiastic about our marathon prospects. If all goes well, I may be significantly PR’ing come March 😉

veggie-wrap
Trader Joe’s Veggie Wrap w/ Hummus – The wrap itself is so soft…and each bite is chock full of hummus!

I did some grocery shopping after the run and before heading home, all on now-tight quads! I picked up a new-to-me wrap from Trader Joe’s for lunch while watching the latest SNL episode.

hummus-wrap
What I had to say about this wrap —-> Is it actually raining in So Cal today 😱?? I thought it was pretty good timing on my part getting back home after a 14mi run JUST before the downpour. I wanted to get a lot of my written proposal done, but a lot of napping, SNL watching, and veggie wrap with hummus eating happened instead 😛 But at least I did catch up in the sleep department 👍

I had my fair share of hard work and relaxation in the weekend immediately preceding Thanksgiving, but I am more excited to type out my Thanksgiving recaps! That is…if I ever finish this proposal 😛

Novel Café Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Nothing But Self-Care

Nothing But Self-Care

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

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

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

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

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

Areal Restaurant
Areal Restaurant

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That pineapple slice though!
That pineapple slice though!

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

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

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

P’s (Birth)day Off

P’s (Birth)day Off

After coming off a tumultuous and stressful week, I was more than ready for my birthday to come around! After meeting my sister and our friend at the hotel close to 10:00pm, we all went down to the hotel’s jacuzzi to soak our legs, relax, and spend some time together since we didn’t want to go to sleep just yet.

We soaked for ~20 min, and then went back upstairs to get some serious shut-eye. I still woke up early around 7am the next morning, but it was my birthday and I didn’t want to waste a minute of it 😉 . The girls woke up a little while after, and we were all ready and out by 11am. We missed the hotel breakfast hours, so by the time we hit the road for Aliso Viejo/Laguna Beach, we were already discussing lunch options!

I knew right away that Native Foods was my #1 pick, since I’ve made it my personal mission to visit all of the Native Foods locations. I’ve pretty much accomplished that goal for their Cali locations (just need to somehow get to Palm Springs to officially do it), thanks to our stop in Aliso Viejo.

nativefoodsaliso
Native Foods in Aliso Viejo

I captured more photos of the restaurant and our food orders, but in the middle of transferring pics from my phone to laptop, I somehow managed to delete a bulk of them. Definitely made me irritated, but at least I was able to salvage a couple thanks to posting earlier on Instagram.

I didn’t feel like trying anything new or new-to-me, but I also didn’t feel the need to get my all-time favorite platter of vegan nachos. Instead, I stuck to another ol’ favorite of mine: the Soul Bowl.

Made me soulllllfullll
Made me soulllllfullll

I’ve seen this dish morph over the years. Back in 2012 when I first stepped foot into a Native Foods, the bowl was drenched in sauces and had two fried “chik’n” skewers pierced through the top and center. Now a little over four years later, the presentation is a little less extreme…it’s more elegantly-styled, but still full of flavor. It’s hard to see in this pic but the soulful-ness from this bowl comes from what’s underneath all those greens. The quinoa and beans at the bottom were just as satisfying and filling as I remembered them!

My sis and friend shared a Soul Bowl and a burger+fries kind of dish, while my Dad had a Thai “meat” ball salad (and after looking back at this post from last year, he basically ordered the same exact thing as last time!!). When we got our fill, we drove out west towards the coast, and pretty much hopped out of the car once we knew we were as close to the coast of Laguna Beach as we could get.

I mean, look. at. that.
I mean, look. at. that.

After being awestruck for a good 30 minutes, we finally asked a local how to get down to the sand where the real action was. When we made it, we spent a good portion of the afternoon appreciating the liveliness of our surroundings and the excitement of the ocean.

Ahhh so pretty...
Ahhh so pretty…

I didn’t bring my swimsuit so I couldn’t get more than knee-deep into the ocean, but it was fun enough to run to/from the waves every time they splashed onto the shore.

After soaking in enough sun, we took an ice cream break (sadly no pictures since I accidentally deleted them 🙁 ), and made the long trip back to LA since we all had to get up early the next day. We had dinner once we got back, which consisted of chips+cheese dip and a large veggie pizza split amongst the four of us. Of course, we couldn’t fall into a deep slumber without a few minutes of jacuzzi time.

I did my best to fully take in every single minute of my birthday since I knew the next day would be a grueling one for me. I had to wake up at 4am in order to go into lab and begin a procedure that kept me up until 2am the following day…it was FAR from fun, but at least I did get my birthday off? Hmm…I’m just glad that I’m taking next week off to visit my family in Oklahoma. I see that as my ultimate birthday gift.

Native Foods Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Time Needs to Like, Freeze for a Second

Time Needs to Like, Freeze for a Second

The past two and a half weeks or so have been a whirlwind! Each day has been non-stop busy for me, and while I’ve always preferred being busy over being bored, it can get pretty overwhelming when your list of things to-do never seems to end…

BUT, the food side of things have been pleasant (especially the pints!), and over the past two weekends, I got my fair share of vegan eats.

squireel
There was one day last week however when I was snacking after a long day, and a squirrel came very close to me, very hungry as well 😉

Might be easier to go into detail if I break it down…

New Snack Attack:

I first tried Buff Bake spreads a couple months ago (their cookie flavor), and thought I’d give the white chocolate flavor a go. I spread it generously on a birthday cake cookie (♥♥♥♥) and it served as the perfect pre-run fuel. It definitely had a milder, sweeter taste than the cookie flavor I tried before, which had a thicker, drier protein aftertaste. This flavor still had a dryness to it if the oils weren’t mixed fully, but I would say it is the protein spread version of PB&Co’s WCW.

buffbake_whitechocolate
Buff Bake – White Chocolate on top of Birthday Cake Cookie

I’ve seen so many rave reviews for the Oh Yeah! One Almond Bliss bar, and when I saw it fully-stocked at my campus bookstore, I had to try it during one of my breaks from lab 😛 . Upon the first bite, I could have mistaken it for an Almond Joy. I do find it funny how it has exactly three almonds at the surface though 😛

I loved it so much that I paired it with a macadamia cookie for a Thursday night snack plate. I melted both for about 20 seconds, and the bar came out warm and melty, while the cookie stayed put in its consistency. It was still a knock-out snack plate though 😉

almond bliss
Oh Yeah! One Almond Bliss Bar
night snack plate
Winning on a Thursday 😉

Pint Party till Infinity:

I don’t think I’ve ever had a bad trip to Sprouts, but I have had stellar ones. Trips that included deep discounts on soy yogurts, salad boxes, crockpot staples, and even Arctic Zero! Speaking of which, I was enlightened by my Dad that they are having a BOGO deal on them this week…

…and speaking of Enlightened…

I just had to grab and try both the Mint Chocolate Chip and Sea Salt Caramel when I saw them on the freezer shelf during my last grocery trip. I did enjoy the earthy mint flavor of this pint:

enlightenedmint
Enlightened Mint Chocolate Chip

But Sea Salt Caramel absolutely took my breath away. Some would argue that the caramel swirls might be too sweet, but it was all too perfect for me…ahh, if they weren’t almost $6 a pint, I would have stocked up for sure.

seasalt
Enlightened Sea Salt Caramel

For now, they are just weekend treats…maybe Sprouts should have a sale on these in the near future!

That same weekend, I cam across another Mint Chip, but this time it was Halo Top’s version.

halotopint
Halo Top Mint Chocolate Chip

It wasn’t as bright blue/green as Enlightened’s, nor was it as minty, but Halo Top’s texture has always seemed to be just as creamy as the real ice cream guys’, and this flavor was no exception.

Now I just need to hunt down the Birthday Cake flavor…where are you?!

If you aren’t getting tired of my ice cream samplings just yet, my final share from these past two weeks was THIS amazing thing:

soymilk_cookiedough (1)
So Delicious Soymilk Cookie Dough Pint

When I stopped by the grocery store last Friday to pick up my pint for the night and to kick off the weekend, my favorite Snickerdoodle was not in stock. What was the next best thing with dough chunks mixed in? Obviously this guy.

As I make my way through So Delicious’ other dairy free pints, this Soymilk Cookie Dough flavor is occupying the #2 spot for now, and rightfully so!

Vegan ‘Ventures:

My weekend adventures were nothing out of the ordinary, but I was proud of myself for being able to allocate enough time for myself, even while still having to follow through with my other responsibilities.

one_veg_world
One Veg World Inside Restaurant

On the same weekend I went to Sprouts, I stopped for lunch at One Veg World in Pasadena for a nutritious & delicious JACKFRUIT carnitas burrito.

burrito
Jackfruit “Carnitas” Burrito

It was apparently one of their newest menu additions, and while the size was small, the filling was juicy and flavorful. Brown rice + jackfruit + that mysteriously tasty vegan-friendly cream sauce was just a combination that can’t be beat! Oh, and the avocado made it even more refreshing 😉

filll
Brown rice mixed in!

Last weekend, I felt like I was in a tighter time crunch so I didn’t get too adventurous…I went to a tried-and-true favorite, just at a new-to-me location.

veggie grill YASSSS (1)
VEGGIE GRILL 🙂

Nestled in a shopping complex in WeHo, I found another Veggie Grill I have yet to visit.

veggie grill YASSSS (3)
Typical Veggie Grill interior 🙂

I used this visit as an opportunity to get the Mondo Nachos…something I’ve always had my eyes on, but was slightly fearful about getting because of the calorie content.. Something that I struggled with when I had an active eating disorder/was in limbo about recovery because I always wanted to “make it fit” but it never did when my “calorie rules” were strict.

veggie grill YASSSS (8)
This one garnered alotta likes on the ‘gram.

But I made up for that suffering this time around, and I actually, to my pleasant surprise, did not have second doubts when I placed my order. The nachos were soon at my table, and after taking the first bite and hearing that crunch, I couldn’t believe I held back from ordering this for so long…

veggie grill YASSSS (6)
Okay, just look at the guac…

The cheese, the soy bits, the guac,the crema…it was all so, so perfect. Maybe it was meant to be that I waited this long to have them? To stand as another moment of progress and accomplishment in my recovery journey?

Haha, I’m getting emotional over nachos —> typical food blogger right here 😛

Do you ever feel overwhelmed when you don’t blog for a while and feel like you have to “catch up”?

Veggie Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

That Lab Life

That Lab Life

I often reference how I have to “pop into lab” or “go out for lunch after lab” in many of my posts, but I have not had the chance (or the patience) to go into detail about my life in lab. I thought it would be fun to describe the usual hierarchy of a lab, so you could have at least some idea of what I have to deal with on a daily basis…

Before I became the dedicated PhD student researcher I am today ( 😉 ) , I was an overworked, overexhausted undergrad student, who was treated like a grad student during my first lab research experience. Not all was bad though, as I learned a lot, and had face-time with my boss every time I was in the lab, but as an undergrad student I could only spend so much time in the lab. My boss at the time didn’t understand this, and she kept pressuring me to stay longer, work more, etc. I was able to hold on for a year before moving on to my next experience!

The undergrads in my current lab are more like these guys though…

(source)

They’re not annoying, but most of them work under a post-doc in my lab who likes to call them “minions”. In my lab, they tend to carry out smaller experiments and tasks, but don’t necessarily have a project on their own. In comparison, I would say I had it a lot better (if we’re talking about getting experience and training…if we’re talking about the preservation of my sanity, then perhaps it would be the opposite 😛 ).

Next up on the lab hierarchy are usually research techs/lab assistants. Usually people that are at this stage are students that just finished undergrad, and are trying to keep busy while waiting to hear from the grad/medical school programs they applied to. I fell into this stage right after I graduated from undergrad a year early, and fortunately, it was in a lab that was very laid-back. I wasn’t paid (so that meant working evening shifts at a local outlet store for some $$…), but it kept me in-tune with the research world as I applied, which also helped with my interviews! But not all research techs/lab assistants are students-in-waiting. In fact, I’ve come across many people who are older adults, or people who got a B.S. or M.S. in some science major and had to take a hiatus from lab work due to personal circumstances.

In either case, they’re on a never-ending quest to prove that they’ve got what it takes.

(source)

Then there are the grad students, the PhD-type 😉 . Their origin can be one of these two: a continuing masters student, or one who is constantly replying “No, I came straight from bachelors” to anyone who asks “Did you get a masters first?”.

Compared to my years as an undergrad, I would say being a grad student is less intense. Shocked? Don’t be! I still have plenty of work, and with my qualifying exam coming up, I’ll probably be rethinking what I type here, but I am being completely honest when I say I felt more stressed/anxious/obsessive about my work as an undergrad than I do now. I view the work I do now as my job, and I don’t necessarily see myself as a student in the traditional sense. I do have classes I have to take, but unlike in undergrad where my focus was on class and doing well in class, now it’s produce work in lab and just show your face in class 😛

This will totally be me as I get closer to earning my degree!

Just above the PhD students, you have the post-docs. These guys and gals try very hard to make sure everyone knows that they are NO LONGER STUDENTS and that they do in fact have 100% earned the right to be called _______ , PhD. There is no denying the fact that they do deserve this, but it can get irritating when you have grad student vs. post-doc arguments debates. The PhD student doesn’t want to look stupid when he/she asks a question to the post-doc, and the post-doc wants to make sure that they give the right answer, and “look good” doing so. They also have added pressure to be even more independent than a student, and are often regarded as mini-bosses in the lab.

I think they’re having one of those grad student vs. post-doc “debates”. The grad student is a fiesty one 😉

Finally, we have the primary investigator (PI). The head honcho. The big boss. The don…

LOL! Can you imagine Shah Rukh Khan—the face of Bollywood—leading a scientific research lab?!

I’ve come across three PIs in my overall experience so far (not including rotations), and while they all have their own quirks and personality traits, a couple things stay common for all. As a PI, your biggest responsibility is making sure your lab has adequate finances. It’s what gives you the freedom to run your lab the way you want to. It’s no secret that funding is extremely tight, so labs can get competitive when it comes to raking in mon-ayyy. In order to make sure that your lab is successful, a PI needs to be assertive, exact, frank, and be able to compromise if necessary (especially when it comes to collaborations, as science is definitely a “it’s who you know” kind of industry)!

Me minus the fur :P
Me minus the fur 😛

It’s kind of funny that as a grad student, I fall right in the middle of all these interesting characters! At times, it almost feels like I’m in a sitcom or a TV show with all the crazy interactions and dynamics that go on around me or involve me. I do love it though 😛 !

Do you like your workplace?

There’s Always Time for Ice Cream

There’s Always Time for Ice Cream

I’ve gotten so distracted by my work lately, that eating out—and even running—have started to retain less and less of my attention. Last year around this time, I was celebrating my weekends with long run victories and skipping all over LA finding good places to eat post-runs.

Of course I’m still eating and running, but this past weekend, I wasn’t in the mood to eat out and I had plenty to do anyways. On Saturday, I volunteered for a STEM-related event my campus was sponsoring. Along with nourishing young minds, I was nourishing myself with this delightful veggie sandwich. It was stuffed with lettuce, tapenade, and layerzzzz of swiss cheese.

one fine veggie sandwich
Free (veggie) food for volunteers!!

Instead of going out to eat afterwards, I made a quick stop downtown to grab some groceries from Walgreen’s and the Whole Foods that recently opened. I found two truffle-jammed B&J pints, and since they were Walgreen’s exclusives, I couldn’t pass them up.

I had Triple Caramel Chunk Saturday night, and fell head over heels for this caramel-insane pint! I loved the mild, sweet caramel ice cream, and the caramel swirl that reminded me of the Karamel Sutra Core flavor. Of course, the mini caramel truffle cups were smallest, but best part!

triple_Caramel_CHunk
Triple Caramel Chunk

On Sunday, rain and thunder were in the forecast for LA. Even so, my marathon training team still drove all the way to the beach to get in our longest, grittiest run pre-marathon of 22 miles. It was the best/worst decision I ever made. I felt strong and amazing for the first six miles, but by mile seven, it was pouring, I was soaking wet, and I loathed the fact that I wasn’t even half way done yet. The last two miles were what killed me…the wind gusts were so great off the ocean that sand was literally sticking to my legs. Not to mention the fact that it was freezing cold! I wanted to smack our team captain in the face for making us go out for the run, but then it was probably one of those things that would help us out on race day…if we survived the monsoon run, we could survive a milder 26.2 in two weeks, right? 😉

I came home later that day soaking wet, and ready to dig in into my other pint: Truffle Trifecta.

truffle trifecta
Truffle Trifecta

It was all chocolate ice cream so I wasn’t expecting it to be an all-time favorite, but it was fun trying to find all three truffles that were supposedly mixed in this entire pint!

chocolate_top
It’s ALL chocolate?

I found fudge…

chocolate truffle
Fudge truffle

…and caramel…

caramel_truffle_now_where_is_the_marshmello_truffle
Caramel truffle

…but “marshmallow”? Nope. I couldn’t find any white, pectin-based marshmallow truffles to my disappointment.

Even though I treated myself to some decadent ice creams this weekend, I am looking forward to a lab-free weekend coming up! It’s also taper week, so my long run on Sunday will only be 8 miles…meaning more time for doing what I love best: hopping all over LA and stuffing my face with its good eats!

Do you easily get caught up with work?

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