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.

Being in Barcelona, Day 1

Being in Barcelona, Day 1

So, about Spain.

I’d have to say that the chance to go was definitely unexpected. Work-related business ultimately led me to this opportunity, and I’d go so far as to say that it was one of the best experiences of this year. I’d like to use my last recap post of the trip as a “personal reflection”, but I’m incredibly behind on recapping in general, so I’m just gonna get right to it!

I left for Barcelona on a Thursday morning, Cali time. It felt odd to not go into lab, but I quickly got into the traveler’s mindset when my Lyft came by to take me to the airport. I flew to Charlotte via American Airlines, and while this leg wasn’t so bad, I quickly grew to despise AA when flying out of Charlotte.

I was carrying a conference poster rolled up in a tall case, and every time I tried to secure it in an overhead compartment, it would promptly roll out. Passengers around me had no problem tapping my shoulder and pointing at my loose poster roll, but did anyone bother to help me out? Yeah-no.

When it fell out and the cap burst off and rolled under someone’s seat beyond my reach, I requested their help but no one would budge. I asked a stewardess to help, but she quickly proved herself to be one big female canine if you know what I mean…

Eventually a guy stood up, found the cap, and helped me secure the poster better. I thanked him but I still felt heated from the whole situation. At least I had eight or so hours to myself and to cool down…

I arrived in Barcelona at around 11am local time. I didn’t have a window seat, so I missed out on getting a sneak peak of the city, but my concern upon landing was how would I make it out to the city.

My first Airbnb was near a major transport hub, and my host recommended Intake Aerobus. But that’s when I encountered my first issue.

Hmm...should have been simple, but it became complicated quickly...
Hmm…should have been simple, but it became complicated quickly…

Lesson #1 – Always bring cash when traveling in Spain from another country.

I quickly learned that in order for me to be able to use a credit card overseas, at least at a ticket vendor machine, I needed to have a PIN associated with that car. Clueless me was puzzled about this when I attempted to purchase an Aerobus ticket. The ticketmaster ultimately came over, and after trying it for himself, he simply said “No.” and handed the card back to me.

Again, my concern was just making it out to the city in one piece, so I had to find a way. I next tried to purchase some Metro tickets at one of the automated kiosks. No luck there, since it once again asked for a PIN and I was stuck. Luckily, a woman who was supervising the area gave me the recommendation to get a HOLA BCN card at the counter, since I could purchase it with a credit card without providing a PIN.

That was a success, and it only cost me €14 for a 48hr pass! I immediately found the station out, and headed towards Plaça de Espãnya.

.
Plaça de Espãnya

I was staying at an Airbnb that was near the center of all things—it was close to a multi-story mall that was converted from a bull fighting arena, and there was just activity all-around.

The architecture of everything had me stop in my tracks...
The architecture of everything had me stop in my tracks…

I was in awe of everything around me…I did clutch on my backpack and suitcase tightly because I had read about pickpockets (and I wanted go avoid what I had experienced in Paris earlier this summer with my family), but as soon as I saw the Airbnb I was staying at, I became more relaxed.

I checked in easily, set my things aside, and immediately fell into a glorious nap! I woke up later that afternoon and talked to my Dad for a bit before deciding that I should at least go for a walk to get rid of the grogginess. It was cold and rainy outside, and I probably should have packed a jacket, but I made do and walked north in the direction of Plaça de Cataunya.

Rainy day in Barcelona
Rainy day in Barcelona

I walked by an array of shops, markets, paella cafes, and coffee cafes, but what blue me away was how clean the streets were. Compared to the polluted streets of London and dusty roads of Paris, Barcelona was pretty much spotless, haha!

There were two Starbucks along my route, and I stopped at each in order to use their wifi and check where I was. I didn’t want to go out too far as it got darker and colder, and since I was feeling tired, I turned around after getting to Plaça de Cataunya. I tried to find a vegan place that was supposedly in the city center, but it was hard to navigate to and I was getting more tired, hungry, and impatient.

I ended up deciding on a place close to the Airbnb: SandwiChez.

Falafel wrap & tea at Sandwichez
Falafel wrap & tea at SandwiChez

It was a cozy coffee shop chain, and I got myself a simple Falafel Wrap with a side of chai tea. Everything was warmed up, and I found a convenient little spot by the wall to relax and enjoy my meal.

Something to soothe the jetlag.
Something to soothe the jetlag.

I surprisingly didn’t have too much jetlag that night, and I was able to fall asleep pretty quickly. I did wake up a few times in the early morning, but I was tired enough to stay in bed until 9am the next morning. I slowly got ready, and tried to map out what I’d like to do and what would be the best way to get to these attractions.

Park Guell sounded intriguing, almost like an architectural amusement park. It was also a destination that required some travel planning, so I decided to check that out first. I used the Metro to get to the closest station, and when I exited, I found myself in the most gorgeous-looking, quiet, European neighborhood. It almost reminded me of the hilly streets of San Francisco combined with the green earthiness of the PNW.

Where am I??
Where am I??

I ended up walking in the wrong direction for about 20 minutes before re-orienting myself and actually heading towards Park Guell. Even though it was on top of a hill, it wasn’t too arduous to get to…there were escalators guiding visitors up!

And the view was very well worth it…

That's Barcelona over yonder...
That’s Barcelona over yonder…

Everything was architectural eye candy…

l

My favorite were these iconic arch structures:

Falling in love with Park Guell ♥
Falling in love with Park Guell ♥

After walking for a bit, I stopped for some coffee, and even took a look inside the gift shop.

Coffee break
Coffee break

There were so many colorful and cute knick-knacks, but I didn’t find anything that called out to me as “gift material”.

Gift shop!
Gift shop!

I soon walked out of Park Guell, and into another coffee shop (Coffee Park) that was just outside the exit. Since I didn’t have any food (just coffee), I was on the hunt for some churros, or something.

What actually ended up catching my eye were the cannolis. I intended to order one, but since they had a minimum credit card charge, I “had” to get two 😉

Italian dessert in Spain lol I know
Italian dessert in Spain lol I know

They were delicious, but maybe two was overkill, haha.

I walked back to the closest metro station and easily used the map to get off at the Sagrada Familia station. As soon as I stepped out from underground, I was met with a stunning view of a gothic cathedral. Everyone around me was just standing and staring at the grand, behemoth building before them.

Sagrada Família
Sagrada Família

It was hard to get a clear picture due to the sun rays, so I walked around to the entrance on the other side. I didn’t go inside the cathedral, but seeing the outside was enough for me.

I did some more exploring of the neighborhood by foot. I even stopped inside a supermarket and just walked around, familiarizing myself with what a typical Spanish person eats on a daily basis.

There was a whole section for donuts...that was an interesting find.
There was a whole section for donuts…that was an interesting find.

I heard that the Arc de Triomf was worth checking out, so I used my HOLA BCN card to hop on a bus. Ever since moving to LA, I’ve made it one of my unofficial missions to learn how to use the modes of public transit in the cities I visit. I got a taste of how the trains work, so it only made sense that I hop on board a bus eventually during my visit.

The Arc De Triomphe of Paris is nothing compared to Spain’s.

Arc de Triomf
Arc de Triomf

Just walking under the structure and along the pathway was such a happy event. There was a good crowd, not too many people, and so much activity taking place. I really wanted to take a selfie but angles just weren’t cutting it.

Exploring the area
Exploring the area

This was proving to be the place to be, especially on a sunny day right after a cold and rainy one.

To be continued in Part 2!

Time Flies When You’re Living Life

Time Flies When You’re Living Life

Ahhh, no post for about two weeks! I kind of needed the break, and life has been “much too distracting” to find the time and patience to put a post together. I haven’t even been perusing through the ‘gram much lately either. It makes me happy that I’m busy/engaged enough with life right now to not be glued to a screen.

I didn’t even go out for lunch or dinner over Easter weekend. That Saturday, I was extremely exhausted and ended up taking naps in the afternoon in addition to “sleeping in” until 7:30am. I did get some new flavors of bars to try and a jar of D’s Naturals spread…

salted-caramel
Post run noms from this morning! Got around to trying the Salted Caramel Oh Yeah! One bar and thought it tasted fantastic! Definitely has a salty kick, but the caramel-flavored shell coating and fudge-like center of the bar helped to balance it all out. And there’s something about that purple-colored wrapper that’s just so eye-catching. 😜👍🏽

I did force myself to get out of the house to go see a critically-acclaimed anime movie called Your Name. I went to a late afternoon showing at an indie film place in Santa Monica, and did not regret it! The movie was fantastic—the animation, storytelling, plot twists—critics say the director of this movie is the next Hayao Miyazaki and if they are coming to that conclusion based on this movie alone, I feel they are right on the money!

maple-glazed-dnut
This Maple Glazed Donut Oh Yeah! One nutrition bar definitely hits you with the scent of maple syrup when opened, but the flavor is quite bland in comparison to the other new flavors I tried in my previous recent posts. Be wary of delicious sounding flavor names!

Because I felt so exhausted on Saturday, I moved my long run workout for the week to Sunday. My coach usually has me doing Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday workouts as my “key” workouts, while the rest of the days are easy aerobic recovery days. So on Sunday, I set out to do a mix up long run that was 30k in distance, with fast intervals thrown in. Since the workout was broken up in 5k chunks, it was mentally manageable.

blueberry-cobbler
This Blueberry Cobbler Oh Yeah! One nutrition bar may be one of my new favorites. Served cold, it tastes like a blueberry ice cream bar. 🍦

Obviously, I was ravenous and smelly by the time that was over. I quickly showered and took the train over to E’s place since she invited me to her landlords’ Easter brunch. I didn’t have pics from the event since I wasn’t in a phone picture-taking mood, but we were fed well. I was also introduced to the delicious treat that is a Ferrero Egg. Where can I get more of them??

cocoa-glazed-cinnamon-roll-
On Saturday, I felt dead exhausted 💀 sleep 😴…the kind of tired that makes you feel like staying in bed ALL DAY is a very good idea…but I did manage to have this Cocoa Glazed Cinnamon Roll @dsnaturals Fluffbutter from Vitamin Shoppe. After snacking on this, and taking yet another nap, at least I had enough energy to go see @yourname.movie ! Loved this cocoa scented jar that had a soft butter texture just as much as I loved the movie 💕

Afterwards, E and I spent the rest of the day in downtown SaMo, walking down the pier and laughing at a sign that said “Weed Week” that was flying through the sky attached to a plane. We then walked in circles around the promenade only to sit down for coffee and later Pinkberry. When I got home, I crashed and fell into a glorious night’s worth of sleep!

The following week kept me busy—I honestly can’t recall all of the things I did, but there was so much done, yet so much left to do! #LifeofAResearcher . I was so exhausted by Friday night, and a new pint flavor was exactly what I was craving:

justlike a milkshake
This legit tastes like a {vegan} melty chocolate milkshake with cream-filled cookie chunks. Sometimes it pays off to try a new flavor—I was about to buy Snickerdoodle (which I know I love), but felt a little daring on a recent trip to Ralph’s. Now I think I may have another new So Delicious favorite…

It was also an interesting week for my training program too! My coach had me try a double run on Saturday…15.5 miles in the morning and 10 miles in the PM. It sounded daunting at first, but I was also looking forward to the challenge! I ran the morning run with one of my marathon team teammates, but the weather was not in our favor. It got hot really quickly, with temperatures reaching the 80s by 8AM. It was a tough workout for sure, but having someone to run the longer run of the day with certainly helped!

I noticed that my upper left calf started to feel sore, so I made sure to spend some time rolling it out/massaging it when I got home. Before getting in some hours of rest and recovery, I stopped in Culver City to address the other “R”: REFUEL.

Tender Greens seems to have locations all over So Cal, and in my two and half years living here I had yet to visit…somehow a Saturday that got into the 90s persuaded me to walk through the doors of their Culver City location…

Tender Greens, Culver City
Tender Greens, Culver City

The set-up was ordering at the front, and then walking towards the back to pay and get your meal. I found it odd that you had to pay in the back, and then even more awkward waiting around the front to pick up your meal, since they could have easily handed you a number placard to place on your table and have them find you. At least there was ample, spacious seating at this location, and some spots out on the patio as well.

sit
Very spacious

The unusual set-up didn’t bother me too much in the end though, because the giant Falafel Plate I ordered hit the spot and vanquished my hanger.

falafel plate
Falafel plate with side kale salad (garlic dressing + parmesan), a green dollop of hummus that looked like guacamole, tahini sauce, and a crisp crostini bread.

After eating everything though, I wondered how it would affect my PM run. When I did go out for my 10 miler in the evening, I was relieved that the temperature was much cooler. It helped that it was a beach run and that the sun was setting. I felt great for the first half, but then tummy issues slowed me down for the last half. I did make it home in one piece though, and was proud of myself for conquering my first long run double.

falafel_plate
Close-up of everythang.

After talking to my coach, he affirmed that practice makes perfect and that I’ll get used to these the more I do them. He also recommended that I try refueling with foods that are simple in carbs, some fats, and low protein no more than two hours before the PM run—recommendations that I’ll definitely put into practice for the next time!

Tender Greens Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Little Lab Outing

Little Lab Outing

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

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)!

azla
Azla Ethiopian Vegan

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

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

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

saladstoeat
Salads!

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

theressweetstuff
Savory, and a bunch of sweets.

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

friendsplate
E’s plate

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

lentilsvegspinachinjera
My plate 🙂

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

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

Do you hang out with work colleagues outside of work?

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

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

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

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?

Friday Night Pizza!

Friday Night Pizza!

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. 

Oh Yeah! One - Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough
Oh Yeah! One – Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough

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. 

Oh Yeah! One - Cookies & Creme
Oh Yeah! One – Cookies & Creme

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!!

racing_for_pizza
Racing for pizza.

We carpooled to DTLA, and reserved the top floor of Pitfire Pizza…

pp
Inside Pitfire Pizza

…even though we really didn’t need that much space after all…

knightstable
All this space…what to do??

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.

 Want a pitcher?
Want a pitcher?

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!

the_salad
Salad.

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 😛

PIZZA.
That pizza tho.

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.

cookie_and_icecream
Spoons ready!

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!

What’s your favorite Friday night pizza stop?

Pitfire Pizza Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

A Fine Summer Weekend

A Fine Summer Weekend

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 😉 ).

 Sbux and magazine reading at B&N // Stats from run earlier in the day!
Sbux and magazine reading at B&N // Stats from run earlier in the day!

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!!

 Tried on the free tank I got in the mail a few days ago!
Tried on the free tank I got in the mail a few days ago!

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!

thetonightdough!

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’

 Too much chocolate, not enough caramel, and is that a peanut butter cookie dough gob I see...or just my imagination??
Too much chocolate, not enough caramel, and is that a peanut butter cookie dough gob I see…or just my imagination??

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’ 😉

 Homemade post-run brekkie fuel (aka, the best).
Homemade post-run brekkie fuel (aka, the best).

The morning fun continued with a stop at the gym, and a quick lunch before heading out for my first ever pedicure!

spa day

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!

thatsmyjam

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 😉 

 Okay, so chocolate is finally giving some room for another flavor ;) . Raspberry ice cream and a raspberry jam core isn't such a bad flavor to share the spotlight with though!
Okay, so chocolate is finally giving some room for another flavor 😉 . Raspberry ice cream and a raspberry jam core isn’t such a bad flavor to share the spotlight with though!

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?

Runners, how do you get rid of calluses? 

Sugar Fuel

Sugar Fuel

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 😉 ?

hazed&confusedcore

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.

griddle

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.

inside

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.

SAMSUNG

But to be fair, I had a hard time demolishing this beastly beauty when it came to me.

 From menu -> "Black Magic disbelief will possess you as you’re pulled under the spell of our crushed oreo-filled flapjacks topped with whipped cream and oreo cookie pieces. (reality or illusion)"
From menu -> “Black Magic disbelief will possess you as you’re pulled under the spell of our crushed oreo-filled flapjacks topped with whipped cream and oreo cookie pieces. (reality or illusion)”

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.

close-up

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 😛

 Arrow pointing to an example of oreo chunk!
Arrow pointing to an example of oreo chunk!

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.

 At least I tried.
At least I tried.

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?

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