We recently has a post-doc leave our lab to pursue a new job, and as a result, we’ve been shifting the seating arrangements of our lab personnel…in other words, my lab bestie (E) moved into the office I am in, as well as another person I like talking to in lab! From the two offices our lab occupies, my office became the “loud and fun one” pretty much overnight 😛
To celebrate the new arrangements, me, E, and our other colleague went out for lunch Tuesday afternoon. Azla Vegan Ethiopian was a food court-style restaurant in a mini shopping complex called Mercado de Paloma, but this specific food spot was a place I had on my foodie radar for a while now (like so many places I am realizing, haha)!
E and I ended up eating here while our colleague got a quesadilla lunch from one of the other food court stalls. We picked 3-4 side items, and got two rolls of injera with our plates.
We were able to pick from dressed lentil salads, curried lentils, greens, cooked vegetables, and spicy tofu to pair up with our injera.
There was also a small assortment of vegan baked goods, but we (well at least I did!) knew our plates would be filling enough.
E’s plate was full, packed and looked delicious! I didn’t get the lentil salad, but looking at E’s plate made me second-guess that decision.
My plate had the curried lentils, boiled potatoes/cabbage/carrot, gomen (cooked spinach), and two rolls of injera. The three of us walked over with our plates of food and found a table to sit at, amongst racks of clothes and in front of other food stalls.
We spent the next hour enjoying our lunch and each other’s company. I made this comment on Instagram, but being able to go out for lunch on a Tuesday with lab mates, and not having food be the focus felt so refreshing. It was just another reminder that I am progressing through recovery, and that I’m also improving when it comes to taking advantage of social opportunities. I’m forming relationships, and allowing those to grow while, gradually with each day, I am squashing that eating disorder voice. This is recovery in action, and I’m loving that days like these are starting to occur more in frequency.
We went back to work after lunch, but I felt much more energized from both the food and endorphin burst from all the laughing we did. I’m sure these lunches will become a regular occurrence, and seeing that it took me two years to feel “at home” at work, I couldn’t be happier about this prospect.
Do you hang out with work colleagues outside of work?
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 gettingto 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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
This scone was encrusted with sugar crystals, and the blackberries and strawberries were so juicy!
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 😉 ?
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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 😉
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…
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.
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 😛
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.
Finally, we have the primary investigator (PI). The head honcho. The big boss. The don…
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)!
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 😛 !
Last Friday, I was bit by the social bug yet again! Instead of a thrilling blogger meet-up though, I ended up going out for some gourmet pizza with some marathon teammates.
But before stuffing my face with all the pizza (you could say quite literally, after seeing the pics!), I stuffed my face with two, new-to-me bars. I ended up paying bookstore prices for these bars (in other words, much more than what I would pay at GNC) by Oh Yeah!
I was finally able to try two of their new “One” bars—Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough and Cookies & Creme.
I like how the bars are fully coated, but since I have become used to associating cookie dough-flavored protein bars to actually looking like molded cookie dough, I was thrown off by the chocolate coating at first.
I grew to like the bar as I continued eating. Cookies & Creme on the other hand, could have tasted so much better. Nice try though Oh Yeah! folks?
Fridays tend to be slow days in lab since everyone is exhausted by the end of the week/anxious to find an excuse to leave early, but I held on until ~6pm, when I headed out to meet my running mates for our pizza dinner! Apparently we had 20 people RSVP, but including me, there was only six of us total! Bring on the pizza now!!
We carpooled to DTLA, and reserved the top floor of Pitfire Pizza…
…even though we really didn’t need that much space after all…
To start of the meal, we were given full-size pitchers of lemonade, coke, water, and tea. Among the six of us, we literally could have sipped out of our own personal pitcher if we really wanted, haha.
Before there was pizza, we helped ourselves to plentiful servings of salad. It was hard to resist having more than one plate because the salad was actually pretty good—dressing, onions, shaved parmesan, and all!
We were also able to cut down the order from the original EIGHT pizzas to just four, which included two vegetarian and two meat-eater pizzas. They took a while to make it up the stairs to our “knight’s table”, but when they did arrive, we dove right at them as if we had just finished a Sunday long run 😛
The veggie-friendly pizzas included a simple marinara & mozzarella pizza which was mostly sauce. I ended up having more slices of this pizza because it was right next to me, easy to pull apart, and simply delicious. The second veggie-friendly pizza was covered in greens, but underneath it all was swirls of creamy red and white sauces. It was definitely the more “gourmet” of the two.
After stuffing ourselves silly (we demolished the food pretty well for six people!!), we thought it would be great to finish off our carb-o-licious Friday night with a cookies-and-ice-cream dessert. We split chocolate chip cookie ice cream sundaes with chocolate or caramel sauce with the person across from us.
I ended up sharing one of the chocolate sauce sundaes 🙂
Our dinner ended around 9pm, and I was more than ready to go to sleep! We had an exhilarating time getting home (driving home clown-car-style, trying to avoid any tickets!!), but we certainly made it home safely. Even though I was content enough to fall into a deep sleep, I was also content with the fact that I would have plenty of energy for my next day’s impromptu 10k race!
My favorite kind of weekend is the kind that makes you feel like you’ve been on a week-long vacation come Sunday night. This past weekend had me feel just that, even though taking Friday off helped 😉
I left for the airport in Long Beach after taking care of things in lab during the day. I ended up having an hour to finish up packing, and rode the train down to the farthest stop it would go in Long Beach. Even though there was an accident on the railroad tracks by the time I boarded, the delay only took an extra half hour, and so I wasn’t panicking about missing my flight. I actually ended up making it to my gate with a good twenty minutes to spare!
We didn’t depart until ~8:30PM, which meant take-off took place when the sky just turned dark. Needless to say, the view was awesome from my window seat 😉 . I was able to sit back, listen to my MP3, and enjoy flying through the night sky. I landed close to 10PM, and my Dad was able to pick me up from the airport. I had no energy once arriving at the house, and promptly crashed into a pleasant night’s sleep.
The next morning, I went out for a 6 mile run along old routes. I was quickly reminded of how hot it gets in the summer, even at 8AM up in my part of Nor Cal, but I was still able to run at a fast-for-me pace despite this.
After the run, I kept things lazy with a nap at noon. Since my sister was also visiting this weekend, we decided to head out to the mall later in the afternoon with our friend who was at home with her family for the summer. We ended up doing some clothes shopping, and stopped at Barnes & Noble for some coffee and reading time (I appropriately read the issues of Runner’s World that I needed to catch up on 😉 ).
For the rest of the evening, I sat down to a home-cooked meal and eventually went to sleep after some couch & TV time…it was the best 🙂
On Saturday, my Dad and I went to the gym, where I was able to fit in an upper-body workout followed by a soak in the spa. After running some errands, I had lunch followed by a glorious nap. Funny thing is, when I woke up from that nap, I felt like taking another one! I was certainly taking advantage of the hours of sleep I lost from my busy days in May!!
I think I ended up napping the day away looking back at it now…but I have zero regrets about that. Upon waking up, I was able to convince my sister (though it didn’t take much convincing…) to join me in a pint party. She treated herself to a chocolate-exploding flavor from Ben & Jerry’s, while I finally got my hands on and dug into a pint of The Tonight Dough!
I was expecting this flavor to be a lot more tastier than it ended up being, but found it to be heavy in the chocolate ice cream when compared to what was available caramel-wise. And the ‘gobs of cookie dough’ were really lacking, just sayin’.
We paired our ice cream party with a Netflix movie, specifically Mary & Max. Our thought was that claymation = a potentially cute and endearing movie, and while it was a good movie from the aspect of storytelling, it was interesting to see “certain themes” imaged through a medium primarily used for younger audiences….yeah, but what else can you expect from Netflix?
On Sunday, I was able to “sleep in” until 7, and immediately got ready for my 12-mile long run after sharing coffee with my Dad. I went out for a 6 mile out-and-back with no music, and felt incredibly refreshed after my workout. I was even more elated to find out that my Dad made chocolate chip pancakes for my sister and I, and I topped mine with some cherry greek yogurt because greek yogurt >>> syrup. Again, just sayin’ 😉
The morning fun continued with a stop at the gym, and a quick lunch before heading out for my first ever pedicure!
I initially went in with hopes of getting rid of two tough calluses that had formed on the sides of the balls of my feet (oh, the side effects of running…), but unfortunately the pedicurist didn’t do such a great job. It did feel nice to have my legs and feet pampered though…especially soon after a long run!
And to continue my state of R&R bliss, I had another pint–#2 for the weekend!
The That’s My Jam Core was calling out my name—Ben & Jerry surely did want to redeem themselves for the sub-par flavor that was The Tonight Dough 😛 . And this core certainly did just that—it had just the right balance of chocolate and raspberry flavors, and the chocolate chunks were appropriately mixed in with the raspberry side of things 😉
Unlike on Saturday though, this pint served as my “nap cap”, and I fell into another deep, cozy nap. I accompanied my Dad to the grocery store when I woke up, and after returning, had dinner while watching The Next Food Network Star with the sister. Before going to bed, I finished packing up and before I knew it, I was awake again (though not due to my choosing…) and the blissful, relaxing weekend as I knew it had come to an end.
This short trip was especially bittersweet for me this time around, since my parents are setting up to move out-of-state by the time summer ends. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to make it up again before the big move, so it may as well be the final time I stayed in the house that I grew up in for 14 years of my life…I still have ties to my hometown though, at least through my close, childhood friends, but not having a personal “home” in the place I lived most of my life will definitely be something that I’ll need to get used to.
What are your ingredients for a fine summer weekend?
Wow, I am so glad May is over! For it being the “start of summer”, it was quite an exhausting one. This past week alone has been one of my most busiest yet, and so I inevitably had some strong sugar cravings by the time the weekend rolled around!
My featured pint for the weekend was this Ben & Jerry’s Hazed and Confused Core. Even after an exhausting Saturday morning in lab, I managed to walk over to the grocery store and pick this up. I intended to have it on Sunday evening, but my craving was so strong that I ended up having it on Saturday night. I mean, how can that be a bad choice when paired with a movie to watch on TV 😉 ?
The hazelnut ice cream won me over more so than the chocolate, but the chocolate side had a good deal of chocolate chip chunks. And of course, there was the irresistible fudge core!
On Sunday morning, I woke up to misty and foggy air while going out for my long run. In other words, it was the perfect time to run—the weather was just cool enough, and no traffic on the LA streets to contend with at such an early time either.
After my run, I made a mad dash to lab so I could start early/end early, and have enough time to head on over to a not-so-secret cafe in Hollywood.
When I first arrived on Sunset Boulevard, I saw hordes of people outside the humble cafe, and had doubts if I would get a seat. Fortunately since I was on my own, I was able to get a seat at the counter.
I knew from looking at the menu beforehand that pancakes or french toast was what I wanted, but their selection was overwhelming! But, probably not as much as my sugar cravings 😛
I decided to go with an order of oreo-stuffed pancakes known by the name of ‘Black Magic’. Little did I know that it would be a BIG plate of magic…
It was somewhat awkward sitting on my own at the counter with a couple on one side and another lone diner on the other. At least they were finishing up, so it wouldn’t be too strange to whip out my phone and start taking pictures of my food 😛
I did notice that the couple next to me wasted this beautiful latte of sorts loaded with whipped cream…the poor beverage.
But to be fair, I had a hard time demolishing this beastly beauty when it came to me.
Don’t let the top view fool you—this had four thick layers of flapjacks mixed with chunks of oreo and generously topped with whipped cream.
It was hard to capture the quantity of oreo chunks this stack had, but trust me, it was a skewed ratio of oreo to pancake 😛
The first couple bites were pure bliss, but then things shifted to feelings of habituation and being stuffed. It got to the point where I felt like the sweetness was too much, and I couldn’t take in another bite without feeling sick—even with water by my side.
What I did manage to consume though was phenomenal. Who would have thought oreos work well in a pancake stack? 🙂
Have you ever ordered a dish you enjoyed but just couldn’t finish?