Back Into the Swing of Things

Back Into the Swing of Things

I came back from Spain on a Thursday, but was heavily jet-lagged for a week. My mood and emotions were all over the place, and my sleep schedule definitely took a beating. I remember wanting to take a nap at 5pm on the following Sunday, only to wake up in my pitch dark room and glancing at my phone to see that it was midnight…needless to say, getting back to my routine was a challenge, but I was able to succeed and feel somewhat like myself by the time the next weekend rolled around.

Friday Night Cat-Stalking. That's one way to get used to being back in SaMo lol
Friday Night Cat-Stalking. That’s one way to get used to being back in SaMo lol

My sister was free to meet me on a Saturday, and so we made plans to head to Hollywood and check out the Museum of Broken Relationships. A good excuse to get out of my West LA bubble, and make it to the north central part of the city for once!

Since we were in the area on a Saturday afternoon, it was impossible to escape tourist traffic. We soon found the museum unassumingly positioned at the corner of Hollywood and McCadden. It was actually much smaller than we expected…

Museum of BR
Museum of BR

It was cute though. And surprisingly, there were a ton of couples walking about…weird, haha!

The “Wedding Dress in a Jar” and the minuscule “pay attention to me” note caught my eye…

Wedding Dress in a Jar // "pay attention to me"
Wedding Dress in a Jar // “pay attention to me”

There were also some zany and crazy displays of random objects, paired with some heart-breaking stories as well. Each item was paired with a description of who donated it, when the relationship ended, and the meaning of the item.

The mini love notes were bittersweet. Not sure about that pinata tho...
The mini love notes were bittersweet. Not sure about that pinata tho…

There was a second story to the museum, where we saw this weird sculpture (?), but other than that, the displays were limited:

Not sure about the meaning of this...
Not sure about the meaning of this…

So we were out in about an hour. Our next stop was a late lunch/early dinner at Pink Taco on Sunset. After raving to my sister about it (at least based on the experience I had at Century City years ago before that location closed), she was dying to check it out too.

Finding parking was a nightmare, but we found a street parking in a nearby neighborhood and walked over.

We made it just in time for happy hour, and made ourselves comfy among the already-settled crowds of “basic” folk, haha.

Pink Taco
Pink Taco

We devoured the complimentary chips and salsa as soon as the waiter brought them over.

Lesss eat!
Lesss eat!

I already knew I wanted nachos, especially since they were cheap off the Happy Hour menu. The sis went for the tacos, and was not disappointed.

The nachos were just as magical as I remember them being. The cheese wasn’t queso-like, but there was so much guac and jalapeno peppers so it balanced out in the end.

OMG NACHOS. "Pink Taco "Mini" Nachos. Only way this happy hour $8 plate could have been better is if the cheese had been vegan šŸ˜ but considering my voracious appetite yesterday afternoon, this did just fine šŸ˜ŠšŸ‘ŒšŸ½"
OMG NACHOS. “Pink Taco “Mini” Nachos. Only way this happy hour $8 plate could have been better is if the cheese had been vegan šŸ˜ but considering my voracious appetite yesterday afternoon, this did just fine šŸ˜ŠšŸ‘ŒšŸ½

Our portions were just right, but when my sis suggested we get dessert close to my place before she headed home, I agreed!

So after getting through traffic, we drove down Santa Monica Blvd. until we got to Downtown SaMo. I suggested we check out Creams & Dreams.

Creams & Dreams
Creams & Dreams

I’m not sure why C&D was on my foodie list to begin with, since after stepping inside, nothing struck me as it being unique in any way. There are a number of liquid nitrogen ice cream shops now in So Cal, so I’m not sure why I had bookmarked this place…

Regardless, they had Speculoos and Nutella ice cream, so I caved and went for that (despite their offering of avocado or creamed corn)!

"Yes, there were unique-sounding liquid nitrogen ice cream flavors like avocado šŸ„‘ and creamed corn šŸŒ½, but my mind is pretty much made up whenever Speculoos or Nutella is concerned!"
Yes, there were unique-sounding liquid nitrogen ice cream flavors like avocado šŸ„‘ and creamed corn šŸŒ½, but my mind is pretty much made up whenever Speculoos or Nutella is concerned!

My sis stayed to true to her main love of chocolate, and topped it with fruity pebbles.

No surprise with her, always getting chocolate :P
No surprise with her, always getting chocolate šŸ˜›

We walked back to the car with ice cream in hand, feeling sticky from the ocean breeze. This particular weekend helped me get back into the swing of things, and ready to take on October!

Pink Taco Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

A Cold Rolled Concoction

A Cold Rolled Concoction

When I first saw images of Thai ice cream rolls pop up on the ‘gram, I was mesmerized—how on earth could ice cream be molded into such compact rolls, pressed together, and then decorated to a point that they looked too ornate to eat? 

Seriously. Mouth-watering.
Seriously. Mouth-watering.
 
I had been dying to try the creation, but at the time, all of the ice cream locations that made this exquisite treat were located in the OC, and I wasn’t heading down there as frequently as I do now that my sister’s in the area. 
 
I did get a chance to try a cookie-butter themed cup of the stuff at the OC Night Market a few months ago, thanks to the Blue Nova food truck. And while I complained in my recap post of the event that it took forever and a day for the cup to be prepared, I realized how much effort is actually required when I paid a visit to a new,  local-to-me ice cream shop that is crafting up this frozen treat for the denizens of LA. 
 
Cold Rolled Ice Cream Co.
Cold Rolled Ice Cream Co.
 
Cold Rolled Ice Cream Co. has only been open for a handful of weeks, but by the way their shop on Melrose looks, you’d think they’ve been in the business for ages. 
 
At work whipping up hand-crafted frozen creations!
At work whipping up hand-crafted frozen creations!
 
I stopped by on a slightly cool Saturday afternoon for LA, and was able to meet with one of the four shop owners, Tim. He was eager to share the history of Cold Rolled, and it was obvious to me that he had a passion and the expertise for all things ice cream. 
 
Some highlights of the shop included:
 
~ A variety of ice cream base options, including all-organic, vegan and non-dairy choices.
~ A number of opportunities to mix and match ice cream flavors and toppings, since Cold Rolled offers 20 flavors and 50+ toppings. 
~The emphasis on making the ice cream-making process an interactive one with the customer: each order is made fresh, and the customer’s name is even spelled on the ice cream before rolling.
~The mural walls decorating the interior of the shop, painted by local street artist Jonathan Cirlin
 
After speaking with Tim outside the shop, he asked if I’d like to try some ice cream and I was quick to respond absolutely! 
 
There were separate rolling stations positioned behind a glass counter, with staff members rolling out tailored creations for customers right before their eyes. 
 
I decided to go with the Matcha Green Tea Premium Creation, which combined a matcha green tea base, red bean paste, and toppings like mochi and green tea Pocky. 
 
The Premium Creations portion of the menu
The Premium Creations portion of the menu

When one of the staff members assigned to making my cup was ready, he motioned for me to come close to the counter so I could watch ice cream magic happen right before my eyes.

It started off with a mash of green ice cream, which was then pummeled back and forth. The clashing of stainless steel tools is a common sound around these parts, haha!

Step 1
Step 1

Next, the ice cream “puree” was smoothed out , and allowed to freeze flat on the circular metal tray.

Step 2
Step 2

Before rolling out the frozen rectangle into mini rolls, my name was spelled out with condensed milk, making it a more interactive experience.

Step 3
Step 3

Each roll was placed tightly in a circular arrangement inside a cup, and topped with condensed milk and toppings.

TOPpin' it off
TOPpin’ it off

I then allowed my cup a few minutes in the spotlight before devouring its contents in mere seconds.

Before it was all gone...
Before it was all gone…

The rolls were frozen firm, and had a mild green tea flavor. I have to be honest and say I was focused on getting to all the mochi pieces first, but after that was taken care of, I was able to devote my attention to the part of the frozen creation that required the most effort. Overall, it was the perfect treat for a slightly cool but sunny Saturday afternoon in LA.

Cold Rolled is definitely a sweet addition to Melrose Ave., and I’m certainly glad I don’t have to make the trek down to OC (at least) every time I have a craving for ice cream rolls!

Cold Rolled Ice Cream Co.
Cold Rolled Ice Cream Co.


Have you ever tried Thai ice cream rolls?

Birthday and The Rockwell

Birthday and The Rockwell

In the days leading up to my birthday last year, I was under what seemed like insurmountable stress, and getting away from everything was more than necessary on my birthday. My 24th was a fun one thanks to the thoughtfulness of my Dad, sister, and friend who went out of their way to give me company when I felt so lonely and was running on fumes…

This year was the first time I celebrated my actual birthday with no close family nearby. But I didn’t mind, because the day felt like any other day, other than the fact I turned a quarter of a century years old šŸ˜›

It started with a short run, specifically a speed workout, and from there, I was off to lab.

In lab, E surprised me with a gift (a Turkish tea set!) and after getting some work done in the morning, she and another one of my lab mates joined me for lunch. They had cake ready and thawed when we came back to the office, and we spent some more time chatting over cake.

I managed to get some more work done in the afternoon, but things slowed down around 5. I asked E if she wanted to join me for dinner at The Rockwell in Los Feliz, since I had been asked if I could come review their summer menu. Being able to set up the visit on my birthday was definitely a plus šŸ™‚

We took the metro over to Los Feliz since leaving to get the car and then driving through traffic didn’t seem like the best idea. When we got off at Vermont and Sunset however, we were greeted by extremely humid weather and…rain?! LA was acting crazy!

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We entered through the stage/club side first, and thought it was strange that a restaurant could be so dark. 

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Luckily, we had the sense to walk around the building and find the restaurant entrance.

The Rockwell, Los Feliz
The Rockwell, Los Feliz

We were greeted by some wait staff who at first didn’t know about the review visit, but we were able to grab some seats near the back, in a cozy little booth with a earthy-looking theme.

Getting cozy!
Getting cozy!

We were given the menu and took some time to figure out what sounded best. The skillet cauliflower ‘n’ cheese initially caught my eye, but E was eyeing it too, so I thought I’d get something different so we could share and try a variety of items.

E also got the RW Quinoa Burger (After figuring out that RW stands for Rockwell, haha), and I ended up choosing one of their wood stone flatbreads, the forest mushroom to be exact.

We were able to put in our order, and we didn’t have to wait too long for our food to arrive. In the meantime, we met The Rockwell’s owner/manager, and sipped on some cold glasses of water.

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We were amazed by how big the portions were when everything came out. And despite the muggy weather outside, we welcomed the warmth radiating from the food and couldn’t wait to dig in.

RW QUINOA BURGER ~ black bean, onion, sun-dried tomato, vegan mango chutney aioli
RW QUINOA BURGER ~ black bean, onion, sun-dried tomato, vegan mango chutney aioli

E wasn’t able to finish her burger, but she was ecstatic to find such a generous portion of avocado laid out so finely on her crisp quinoa patty.

My woostone flatbread was composed of wild mushrooms, leeks, white sauce, and truffle oil. It actually reminded me of the pizza I had at Pizza Studio a couple months ago, but the flatbread crust of this pizza had an intriguing texture. It was perfectly crisp on the outside, and pliable and chewy on the inside. Birthday calories obviously don’t count, and I had no problem getting through all of it šŸ˜›

FOREST MUSHROOM WOODSTONE FLATBREAD ~ WILD MUSHROOMS, LEEK, WHITE SAUCE & TRUFFLE OIL
FOREST MUSHROOM WOODSTONE FLATBREAD ~ WILD MUSHROOMS, LEEK, WHITE SAUCE & TRUFFLE OIL

I had some of E’s cauliflower ‘n’ cheese, which was described as a dish of multi-colored florets coated with golden panko crust and covered in cheese. It definitely wasn’t skimping on the cheese, and even though it’s an item under their “shareables”, it could easily be a rich entree if you so choose!

SKILLET CAULIFLOWER ā€œNā€ CHEESE ~ purple, yellow, white florets with golden panko crust
SKILLET CAULIFLOWER ā€œNā€ CHEESE ~ purple, yellow, white florets with golden panko crust

For the amount of food we got, and the quality, the cost was understandable and not too expensive. We had our meal covered, but the price range is certainly not out of reach if you are looking for a cozy, patio-style restaurant with shareable, bar food appetizers and classic entrees with a fresh, Californian (more like Hollywood-inspired) twist. They also hold shows throughout the month, the tickets to which are sold separately from dining in at the restaurant.

E and I took the train back, and I made it home close to 10pm. It was a busy, long birthday, but for what I did and who I surrounded myself with, I think I welcomed my 25th year the happiest way I could.

Rockwell Table & Stage Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

4th of July What?

4th of July What?

For me, 4th of July weekend was non-existent. I was in lab every single day that weekend, two of which were spent as over-nighters due to the nature of the experiments I was running. It was exhausting, but I felt so productive and accomplished by the end of it…and when I saw co-workers walking in on July 5th looking super depressed, haha!

The weekend after, I still had to go into lab but lunch in downtown with E was a given. I had an eye appointment I had to attend to first, but after that, E and I walked into the depths of downtown—under the hot LA sub—looking for Two Boots Pizza. We were covered in sweat by the time we saw the small stand by an old-style theater and Urban Outfitters.

Two Boots, DTLA
Two Boots, DTLA

One thing that intrigued me about this place is how they have a lengthy line-up of some veggie/vegan pizza options! The green-bordered menu had E and I excited to dig into a late lunch.

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Despite the long list of pizza options, the guy behind the counter disappointed us by saying the only flavors available that day were displayed through the front window.

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In that case, we both ordered a slice of the Night Tripper. She got another spicy slice while I got the veggie-topped V for Vegan.

ā™„ Night Tripper & V for Vegan ā™„
ā™„ Night Tripper & V for Vegan ā™„

We sat at some stools next to the little stall and munched on our slices. The Night Tripper was indeed a spicy one with a soft layer of cheese and basil drizzle. V for Vegan was milder in comparison, but put artichoke hearts on anything and it just takes it to the next level.

After talking for a bit, we headed back to catch the train and from there I headed home. I stopped by Ralph’s to get a pint for the night—this time a new So Delicious flavor to try: Dark Chocolate Truffle.

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And…despite wanting to love it, the DCT cashew milk ice cream just wasn’t those flavors I fell in love with. Snickerdoodle, Salted Caramel Cluster, and Cookie Dough had me feeling differently, but I guess this flavor is perhaps best suited for a vegan who loves her chocolate!

On Sunday, I went out for a 14 mile run before heading to lab. Since San Diego, I’ve just been trying to maintain my weekly mileage, since I plan to start fall marathon training (back with a coach) in August. July seems to be the perfect month to be a little lax with training…since “slow” times and “sluggish efforts” can always be blamed on the heat šŸ˜‰

After the run, I hurried to lab just to get my errands out of the way. With my sister out of the state for the next couple weeks, I’m car-sitting her automobile and so I was able to conveniently drive over to lab that morning. I finished up by early afternoon, and so E and I took the car out to Melrose to dine at Fratelli Cafe. Of course, we parked too soon at La Brea since E thought she knew where the restaurant was. We were off by a couple blocks, and so we literally ended up having a warm-up walk before eating, haha!

Fratelli on Melrose
Fratelli on Melrose

When we entered the restaurant, we could tell the place was a local favorite based on the crowds, but getting the attention of the wait staff proved to be difficult. We weren’t sure if we had to wait to be seated, or seat ourselves, but we eventually figured out that we order first and then find a place to sit. There weren’t enough menus at the front where we had to order, and so E and I waited awkwardly behind a group of three who had all three menus…

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When we did get our chance to order, I ordered the Huevos Rancheros off the breakfast menu while E went for a veggie sandwich and chips. There was no difference sitting inside versus outside since there was no evidence of an A/C, so we found a table outside.

It took a while for our food to arrive, and the dishes that passed us in the meantime were a real tease for our exhausted, overheated bodies. When our plates did come though, I took a moment to admire the layers of my brunch plate.

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I had a well-balanced, hearty plate in front of me, if I do say so myself…

"I've been craving eggs šŸ³ like crazy lately, so I wasn't surprised that I ended up getting Huevos Rancheros for a late lunch on Sunday at Fratelli Cafe with the lab bestie. Besides getting food in our systems, it didn't make sense to do anything else because of the heat wave šŸ”„šŸ”„šŸ”„ and after dropping her off at home, I was knocked out šŸ˜“ by 7:30pm. The next thing I know, I wake up and it's pitch black at 9pm šŸ˜±šŸ˜‚. I guess I must have been really tired in addition to being really hungry šŸ˜…. Working through the Fourth of July holiday weekend does that to you I guess šŸ¤·šŸ½ā€ā™€ļø šŸ˜‰ #PhDStudentLife"
“I’ve been craving eggs šŸ³ like crazy lately, so I wasn’t surprised that I ended up getting Huevos Rancheros for a late lunch on Sunday at Fratelli Cafe with the lab bestie. Besides getting food in our systems, it didn’t make sense to do anything else because of the heat wave šŸ”„šŸ”„šŸ”„ and after dropping her off at home, I was knocked out šŸ˜“ by 7:30pm. The next thing I know, I wake up and it’s pitch black at 9pm šŸ˜±šŸ˜‚. I guess I must have been really tired in addition to being really hungry šŸ˜…. Working through the Fourth of July holiday weekend does that to you I guess šŸ¤·šŸ½ā€ā™€ļø šŸ˜‰ #PhDStudentLife”

We finished our late lunch by 4pm, and while the sun was still high in the sky and we could have easily done something else thanks to the convenience of a car, we decided to call it a day since it was too hot. I dropped E off at home before doing some grocery shopping, and on the way, finally picked up a jar of Nuts’n More to try.

Nuts'n More Cookie Butter High Protein Spread
Nuts’n More Cookie Butter High Protein Spread

In comparison to D’s Naturals, I found that the oils mix much more evenly throughout the jar so that the bottom isn’t a flaky, dry paste. There were some tiny, crystallized sugar pieces in the mix too, but the cookie butter flavor was still detectable.

My 4th of July “holiday weekend” was something I missed out on, but I’d say I do a pretty decent job of finding the time to give myself a break, even if it doesn’t coincide with the rest of the world’s! It also helps to have a colleague/friend who pretty much lives at work just as much as you do. At this rate, with all of the places I drag her out to eat at, E will probably become just as much of a foodie as I am!

Did you have a long 4th of July holiday weekend, or just a day or two off?

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

Race Recap ā€“ 32nd Skechers Performance LA Marathon

Race Recap ā€“ 32nd Skechers Performance LA Marathon

I find it SO hard to believe that a week ago, I ran my third marathon—and it ended up being a sub 4:00 one as well! So many things went well with this training cycle, and even though the race is over, this particular marathon has given me the encouragement to keep pushing my training to the next level and conquering more goals associated with this distance.

In the days leading up to the race, I actually wasn’t too hyped up for it. I had other things on my mind (lab work + lab “social” life), but I still made time to go down to the expo at the convention center late Friday afternoon on race weekend.

My third marathon expo.
My third marathon expo.

It was really just a routine visit. I wasn’t too excited about sticking around. To keep up with tradition, I found and photographed my name on the runner’s wall, picked up my race bib/shirt, and walked around the booths for just long enough to gather some freebies.

Trying to find/get all the samples I can.
Trying to find/get all the samples I can.

I didn’t gather much despite it being a MARATHON expo (just a couple mini Larabars and a coconut water), but one of my favorite booths was Clif bar’s. They had samples of their newest nut butter-filled bars and ginger ale/spearmint shot bloks!

Hello, Clif!
Hello, Clif!

After taking a picture with my bib at one of the booths, I decided to head home. I was actually feeling pretty hungry so the “carbo-loading”, you could say, commenced that night—with a Spicy Lentil Wrap from Trader Joe’s.

spicy_lentil_Wrap
Friday night turn down šŸ˜“ with a Spicy Lentil wrap from Trader Joe’s. I put this right up there with the grilled eggplant wrap!

Tahini sauce brings everything up a level, just sayin’.

The day before the race was a relaxing one, but because I was with E in Glendale, we did plenty of walking. I did try to keep hydrated and made sure to get home early enough to set aside my stuff for race morning and get into bed by 8:30pm.

I woke up the next morning at 3:30am (yes, it’s true), got my race gear together, and called for a Lyft since the rest of my teammates were taking a ride share service/staying at a hotel near the start with family. From Santa Monica, the drive was less than 20 min.

I got to the start with a good 2.5 hours to spare before we had to toe the start line. I had plenty of time to collect some free shot bloks and Clif bars, fuel up with “breakfast”, use the restroom, and warm-up. It was still very breezy and cool outside, so I stayed warm by huddling in a corner of one of the open women’s restrooms.

Waiting at Dodger's Stadium...
Waiting at Dodger’s Stadium…

I was waiting solo for a long while…my teammates did not show up until about 5:30am. Even then, it took me a while to find/get to them at the seats on the ground level. There were a a few of us who met at this point, and after a group picture, we immediately went to bag check and then the start.

I decided to start in the open corral with three of my teammates since I wanted to pace with someone from the beginning. Looking back, I feel like this strategy helped me immensely in getting that sub 4:00. It took us a while to get to a sustainable race pace since we were slowed down by the crowds of the open corral, but once we made it past downtown, I kept up with one of my female teammates for the majority of the race.

Everything felt great for the first half of the race. We were running down Sunset and I felt comfortable enough to talk with my teammate at an 8:47/mi pace. Once we made a turn in Hollywood however, things started to shift.

I felt a sharp pain in my right foot as we made our way down a steep downhill. I had a feeling that I got my first black (big) toenail, and despite knowing this, I tried to ignore it for sanity’s sake.

The next slip-up was my fueling strategy. I was so focused on hydration that I wasn’t sure when to start chewing on my bloks. In my last two marathons, I busted out the plastic bag between miles 11-13, but this time, I was more concerned about keeping up with my teammate. I also didn’t feel too hungry (in fact, my stomach felt a little bit “mixed”…in that, a bathroom stop would have been nice).

When we reached Beverly Hills, I began to second guess my earlier actions of not fueling up. I was starting to feel slightly fatigued, and felt like I had to push quite a bit to keep holding on with my teammate. I surprisingly managed to make it through miles 17-20 without giving up or writhing on Rodeo Dr!

Once we reached UCLA/West LA territory though, we were hitting the Mile 20 mark. My teammate took off, but I listened to my body and just kept my pace. I stopped to take out my bloks and began to fuel up at this point.

Once I reached Mile 21, I felt a little bit better. Mile 22 was when we began to approach Brentwood/San Vicente—the last four miles of the race towards the SaMo finish! Honestly, this was the worst part of the race for me (up until 25.5!!) because I felt tired (mentally mostly), and irritated by anyone that said we were “almost there”. My pace wavered in the 8:50/mi range until it settled at 8:55/mi. I didn’t want it to dip into the 9:00/mi range, so I made sure to keep my walking breaks incredibly short.

By the time I got to Ocean Ave., I tried to let the crowds around me give me the final push I needed to finish fiercely. The finish line felt incredibly far away, but once I hit 25.5, I started to kick things up and go, go, go! The shot bloks were finally kicking in I suppose! When I crossed the line, I had run the race at a solid time of 3:53:57. I didn’t know of this time exactly until I read a series of texts from my Dad since he had been tracking me the entire run.

Bag check was much better this year!
Bag check was much better this year!

I was able to slow down to a walk, gather a medal and my gear at bag check, huddle up with a heat sheet, and take some fun post-race photos. I also collected as many protein bars as my arms could carry, and met up with my teammates at our designated family reunion area meeting spot.

People around me were still in a daze...
People around me were still in a daze…

I waited with my team for about an hour and a half just to congratulate, commiserate, and photograph the moment. The teammate I had ran with up until mile 20 ran a 3:46 marathon, and considering it was her first, she did a great job.

All of us took the train back to our destinations, and I got off pretty quickly. It felt so nice to be able to get back home at a decent time, unlike how it was the past two years fighting traffic to get to downtown! Now I had enough time to attend to my battle scars…

One ripe blister and gunmetal-polished toenail, came right up!
One ripe blister and gunmetal-polished toenail, came right up!

At least this small gem reminded me that I just did something pretty amazing that morning??

3rd time's a charm!
3rd time’s a charm!

Out of all the 26.2 distances I’ve raced, this one was the most painful, but also the most accomplishing. I had a goal, and luckily was able to meet it. It was a challenge, but a challenge worth giving up a smooth heel and big toe nail for. And if I only want to get better and faster at this monstrous distance, it’s only going to get more eventful from here!

Have you ever run a marathon/had a great marathon experience?

Would you ever consider running a marathon?

Have you ever had a black toe nail?

Race Recap ā€“ Hard Rock Cafe 10k 2016

Race Recap ā€“ Hard Rock Cafe 10k 2016

Last Saturday, I ran the Hard Rock Cafe 10k once again. I paired it with a weekend voting adventure that ended up being more memorable than I thought it would. The turmoil I faced in the afternoon did not make me regret the race though!

halo-top-peanut-butter-cup
Over the weekend, I also tried the last Halo Top flavor I needed to try out of the ten new flavors! Caption from Insta —> The day has finally arrived! I tried out the last of the new Halo Top flavors—Peanut Butter Cup! Honestly I was expecting for there to be peanut butter CUP CHUNKS, but there was a hardened peanut butter swirl. In my pint, it was mostly at the bottom, and surprisingly didn’t have much flavor even though it looked like PB. While I did expect this pint to be more fantastic than it actually was, it was not too bad. If you were at the store and this and Oatmeal Cookie were your options, get THIS first!! Haha. šŸ‘‰šŸ½ Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough > Pistachio & Black Cherry & S’mores > Sea Salt Caramel >> Red Velvet & Peanut Butter Cup >> Chocolate Almond Crunch > Cookies and Cream & Oatmeal Cookie. šŸ¦ And there you have it, my opinion on all the new Halo Top! Now please excuse me while I stock up on all the Cookie Dough pints šŸ˜ .

I woke up incredibly early in order to catch a 5AM train. Ugh it was far from what I wanted to do in regards to getting to the race start, but I did make it to Hollywood and Highland, fortunately all in one piece!

walk
Early morning start!

I picked up my race shirt and bib, and seeing as there was no packet pick-up YET AGAIN, I had to wear the shirt over my current shirt. I also got a cappuccino from Starbucks in the meantime, before assembling with the other runners at the race start.

shirt
Race shirt and walking around the start/finish

The race began at 7AM, and the path was pretty much a 3 mile out and back in regards to the 10k. It was a run down Hollywood Boulevard, and we turned around at the border of Los Feliz. I honestly felt so light and free for the first three miles. My pace was sub 8:00 for a while and then slowly crept up after mile 3.

My breath and legs were catching up to me, but I didn’t feel so exhausted to the point that I had to slow down. I had a major dip at mile 5, but then had enough energy to kick it to the finish.

I ended up with a pace of 8:12/mi ! My current 10K Race PR!

Like last year, there wasn’t much in terms of goodies.

shorts
Bai and Nesquik were here this time…but something new were the Turkey Trot LA 2015 shorts!!

They had the Nesquik truck again, but they also at least had Bai and this guy giving out LA Turkey Trot 2015 shorts! Obviously I thought the shorts were the best of all the race goodies being given out, even if they were more like bloomers, haha!

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Ohh shiny medal!

I left for North Hollywood soon after since I wanted to get voting out of the way (lol) but overall I was glad with how the race ended up. My last race experience in Hollywood was terrible so Saturday’s race definitely made up for that ordeal!

What would be a cool post-race freebie for a company to hand out?

Race Recap: Hard Rock Cafe 10k

Race Recap: Hard Rock Cafe 10k

By the time this post goes live, I will probably be on my way, or already in, Las Vegas…all so that I can run a half marathon that benefits a remarkable foundation. Obviously all of that deserves a post (or series) of its own, but to get myself into the racing spirit, I ended up registering for the Hard Rock Cafe 10k in Hollywood (at the last minute), which took place last Saturday.

It was so much of a last decision, that I treated it like a usual weekday run rather than a race. In fact, I had to get back to lab later that morning!

 At the break of dawn.
At the break of dawn.

I took the Metro Red line and made it to Hollywood/Highland around 6AM. After picking up my bib, I rushed into the nearest Starbucks just to keep warm. Others had the same idea, but also felt like they could squeeze in a cup of coffee before the 7AM start.

 Waiting to start.
Waiting to start.
 Early morning packet pick-up.
Early morning packet pick-up.

We ended up leaving around 7:10AM since the staff was still making sure all the roads part of the course were closed off.

The course was extremely flat, and all of it was on gravel road. I’m not sure if this contributed to the shin soreness that I started to feel, but I did feel unusually fatigued for most of the run. I did end up finishing at an 8:50 pace, but my legs felt much more numb and sore than usual.

 Post-race reunions.
Post-race reunions.

The medal was snazzy, but the race shirt was a little over-the-top and too baggy for my liking…

Medal and shirt.
Medal and shirt.

There wasn’t much in post-race goods either. Just pH-balanced water (lol), bananas, and Nesquik. Um, where were the bars??

 Healthy watuuurrrr lol
Healthy watuuurrrr lol
 Bananas...
Bananas…

Pleased with my overall time, and after stuffing my bag with bottles of water and Nesquik, I made it back to my apartment just after 10…and just as my roommate was getting up!

 Nesquik truck!
Nesquik truck!

Sometimes I may get frustrated with my tendency to wake up at the crack of dawn before most people have the energy to hit the snooze button on their alarms, but most of the time, I’m amazed with how much I’m able to get done in those early hours…races included šŸ˜‰

Do you like planning your races, or signing up for races as they come up?

Let’s Get Together

Let’s Get Together

I would definitely go as far as to count last weekend as being one of my more social weekends of the semester. It’s been hard to get together with a lot of my classmates since the beginning of this year—due to things getting busier in our respective labs, other commitments, etc.—but three of my girl friends and I were able to take time out of our busy schedules to meet up for brunch and see a musical at the Cupcake Theater in Hollywood. One of my friends found a Groupon deal about a month beforehand, and we were able to get tickets to see Avenue Q for $16!

So on Saturday morning, I woke up around 7AM (but I felt like I could sleep in, surprisingly!) and got ready. I hopped on board the Metro Expo, then onto the Metro Red, and got off at Hollywood/Vine. The Hollywood Half was underway, and I walked alongside the course as many half marathoners were finishing up. It was the first time I was witnessing a race I wasn’t part of (as a runner OR volunteer), and part of me wanted to jump in, snag a medal, and grab a couple freebies as well šŸ˜‰

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BUT—I resisted the temptation, since I was hauling a heavy purse, and was wearing denim shorts & converse, which don’t exactly match the description of running gear all to well!!

My friends and I wanted to have brunch before heading over to the theater at 12pm, so we decided to meet up at Eat This Cafe. It opened at 10AM, and being the early bird that I am, I arrived way too early at 9:20AM. Good thing I packed some notes to review to keep me busy for the next 40 or so minutes. I even found a bench in front of the cafe to comfortably sit on while doing so.

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 Fun murals and paintings near the cafe.
Fun murals and paintings near the cafe.

When the restaurant did open up, I waited inside since I couldn’t get a table until our full party showed up. The interior space was quite small, but I love the cool shade of blue painted on the walls. There were plenty of tables (but not for long, as I would soon find out!), and even a more intimate, cozy corner booth.

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My three friends came soon after, and we were all seated at a table by the window. All of us started off with waters, and one of my friends got orange juice while another got a mimosa to start off her day. When she was asked for ID, she gladly handed over her card to the waitress, loving the fact that she looked so young šŸ˜‰

After looking over the menu, we placed orders for a truffle panini, french toast, corned beef hash, and vegan tofu scramble (can you guess which one was mine šŸ˜‰ )? We had no problem getting into a conversation, but when one of my friends noticed a familiar face walking outside the window, we all stopped and tried to figure out who she was pointing at. And surprisingly, it happened to be one of the professors we knew from school—dressed in a simple t-shirt and jeans, just strolling around Hollywood like a regular ol’ person. He even stepped inside the cafe for a moment to make change!

Haha…yeah, we know that professors/teachers are like everyone else, but it’s still strange to see them out of context.

So after that happened, our brunch spread soon arrived. It was no problem getting pictures, because all four of us whipped out our phones at the same time to get pictures of our feast.

BRUNCHSPREAD

Mine was the prettiest though, I must say.

 My gorgeous, healthy, earthy, beautiful vegan scramble.
My gorgeous, healthy, earthy, beautiful vegan scramble.

My scramble was mix of light, chewy tofu pieces, diced peppers, and mostly roasted potatoes. Ketchup was served on the side, and I got full pretty quickly. There is just something so filling about potatoes!

We took out time getting through brunch, and left the cafe close to 11:30AM. Fortunately we were able to find parking, and quickly got in line to get our seats before the show started.

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Cupcake Theater is pretty much the size of a walk-in closet, and due to the bad lighting it was hard to get any pics, but the show itself was well-put together. One of my friends happened to see the show on Broadway, and thought the execution in this production was on par with the one she saw in NYC.

Now, the show itself…some of the themes of the show weren’t exactly PG, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that the actors themselves were quite talented. The production/staging crew also did an excellent job with scene changes, lighting, props, etc. So, at least organization-wise, it was a great showing!

My friends and I split up when the show ended around 2PM, and I decided to head down to The Grove to get some grocery shopping done before calling it a day.

After doing some grocery shopping, I stopped to grab a cool dessert before catching the bus home. I’ve been meaning to try the Halo Top Creamery Pints. The store I was at offered all four flavors, but ‘lemon cake’ sounded the most unique and appealing…

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The nutritional stats also looked intriguing. The whole pint has 28 grams of protein and is only 280 calories.

lemon__cke

The texture and flavor were simply amazing. It seriously tasted like a cold and creamy iced lemon cake. There was just enough sweetness to balance out the lemon though, so it was far from being sour!

The rest of the evening was spent catching up on homework (oh statistics…), and getting to sleep early because a long run was in the plans for Sunday morning!

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Yes, I’m still making it a priority to keep up with my long run maintenance goals! On Sunday, I got away from the usual DTLA loop I fall into, and instead ran from Culver City Station to Marina Del Rey and back. I had to take a bathroom break at a nearby Ralph’s around mile 8, but was also able to get a cup of water (with ice!!) from Starbucks before making my way back. Running with a plastic cup wasn’t that bad actually!

 Cool down walk after a 15 mile run. It always feels good to finish a long run!!
Cool down walk after a 15 mile run. It always feels good to finish a long run!!

I finished my 15 mile run close to the restaurant I was meeting a friend from my marathon training group at. The restaurant opened at 11AM, and so I patiently waited by the entrance.

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After letting the waitress know I was waiting for a friend, I was seated at a table near the cash register, and given the menu.

la_vegan__inside

LA Vegan may be a hole-in-the-wall kind of place, where most of the orders end up being take-out by the residents that live in apartments and houses nearby, but they had a variety of items to pick from their menu—everything from burgers to curry.

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When my friend joined me, we sipped on some waters and ended up talking about our marathon experience instead of looking at the menu. The waitress politely reminded us while refilling our waters, but we were quick to both order a curry dish.

I ordered the Spicy Pineapple “Shrimp” Curry, which came with a side of brown rice.

 Soy shrimp, fresh tomatoes, bell peppers, basil and pineapple in coconut milk red curry.
Soy shrimp, fresh tomatoes, bell peppers, basil and pineapple in coconut milk red curry.

I remember trying soy shrimp when I found it at a Grocery Outlet long ago…and being absolutely repulsed by it when I had it with a homemade salad. I didn’t think I could ever be a fan, but this curry helped to change my mind.

closeups

The pineapple chunks were a great addition as well, and added some pleasant sweetness to the already-spicy coconut milk-based red curry.

Since my friend had to run some errands soon after our early lunch, she was able to offer me a ride. I asked if I could be dropped off near a ice cream/cookie place that recently-opened, because I obviously couldn’t pass up my long run dessert šŸ˜‰ !

C.R.E.A.M. {cookies rule everything around me šŸ™‚ } was where I ended up concluding my lunch, and after all this time knowing of its existence in Nor Cal (and never having the chance to stop by one of those original locations), I had the chance to try out one of their newer franchises.

counter___

For a basic cookie ice cream sandwich (their specialty), you are able to pick two cookies, and a scoop of ice cream to get sandwiched in the middle. Oh, and of course there are toppings and sauces if you wish for that as well.

toppings&icecream

The girl behind the counter was ready and willing to help, and even though I felt somewhat rushed when reading through all of the cookie and ice cream choices, I was happy with my ice cream-cookie sandwich choice of snickerdoodle + carnival cookie(s), green tea ice cream, and confetti sprinkles.

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I was able to eat my cookie sandwich conveniently at a table facing the door.

 Just enjoying this beautiful day...
Just enjoying this beautiful day…

The cookies were crispier than I imagined them to be, but the ice cream helped remediate that. The cookies became much more softer, especially in the middle, once in contact with the ice cream.

cookie_closeup

Since there are plans to open up a few more C.R.E.A.M. locations, I think it would be difficult not pay these guys a visit a few more times. I think it would also be wise to keep my schedule more open when I make my visits to Nor Cal, and make time to visit the locations that started it all!

Eat This Cafe on Urbanspoon
Cream on Urbanspoon LA Vegan on Urbanspoon

Making Time for Lyfe, Hummus, and Rosewater

Making Time for Lyfe, Hummus, and Rosewater

My weekdays are starting to become busier and busier, and by the time Friday evening rolls around, I want to fall asleep right after eating dinner…at 7:30pm. I’ve (obviously) become much more appreciative of my weekend time, and even though sometimes work manages to squeeze in even on a Saturday and/or Sunday, I always try to have a more “fun” activity be the focus of my weekend days. 

On Saturday, I went up north and a little west after doing some homework in the morning. I combined my grocery shopping trip with a late lunch date (with myself šŸ˜‰ )at Lyfe Kitchen in Tarzana. 

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I first ate at a Lyfe Kitchen establishment back in September, in Culver City. It was just as sunny and warm as it was in Culver City when I paid a visit to the Tarzana location this time around.

lyfekitchenoutside

Everyone was eating outside, so the inside of the restaurant was clean and empty. The counter was filled with a display of fresh juices and drinks.

atthecounter

After ordering at the counter, I walked around the restaurant to figure out which finely decorated area to take a seat at. There were tables in the back, booths on the side, and of course, outdoor seating. I chose to sit at a high-chair style booth, with a gray backdrop (bottom frame in the below pic):

lyfetarzanainside

It didn’t take too long for my food to arrive, and I was actually surprised with the amount I got, based on my last visit. Last time, I ordered a flatbread that had a crust consistency comparable to that of a thin wafer or nonexistant chip, but the veganthai red curry bowl was actually decent-sized!

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marinated tofu with broccoli, eggplant, peppers, peas, whole grain wheatberries, thai basil

Peas and wheatberries: may not be the first ingredients that come to mind when thinking about Thai food, but they were the better parts of the dish…that, and the generous portion of coconut milk drenching all of the veggies and tofu! And even though it was overall a good portion for lunch, I made sure to wipe the bowl clean and not leave a trace of coconut milk.

curry

After lunch, I stopped by Whole Foods next door.

WFTARZANA

I didn’t buy any groceries for the week here, but I did not stop for some dessert. When I saw an Artic Zero pint from the relatively new ‘chunky’ line, I had to try it!

articzero_lilbitchippy

Lil’ Bit Chippy was a 300 calorie Artic Zero pint that was all-creamy, and all-chunky thanks to the innumerable amounts of mini chocolate chips tossed in. It was certainly a fun treat to dive into at 4pm, with the sun still beating down and the temperature at an all-time high for the day.

lilbitchippy

I then walked for a half hour back to Encino to stop at Vitamin Shoppe and Ralph’s (to actually buy groceries) before heading home. I spent the rest of the evening plowing through stats homework before hitting the hay.

I woke up on Sunday morning around 6AM to clock in a 14 mile long run. I’m grateful for being able to stick with my maintenance goals, but it has been so tough to get out for those long runs without a group to run with or a race to look forward to. Hopefully I can remedy this real soon though!

As a reward for plowing through 14 miles along the same route I normally run on weekends, I made plans to have a late lunch and ice cream at some locations that had exotic items on their menus. Like Saturday, I first spent the late morning/early afternoon reviewing notes and writing up and outline so I could tell myself that hey, I did study this weekend!! šŸ˜‰ . The real fun started after 2pm though, when I made my way back to downtown and hopped on board the Metro Red Line to get off at the Hollywood/Highland station.

I was taken by surprise though. I always thought Hollywood/Vine was the spot for tourists (and as a result, always wondered why it seemed to be less busy than I thought it would be…), but no…Hollywood/Highland was where the action is at—as I soon found out.

I found myself getting irritated by the slow-walking tourists trying to find their favorite entertainers on the Walk of Fame. It was also a challenge to avoid Elmo, Spider Man, the Tin Man, and Snow White (yes, I guess the pressure of working at Disneyland was getting to her?), but I managed to do so when I finally hit La Brea and was able to walk away from the commotion.

It was a long walk on Sunset, but I saw Aroma Bar & Grill in the distance, and picked up the pace to get to the food faster šŸ˜›

sunsetblvd

It was another sunny LA day, so many diners were already occupied outside on the patio. I kept up with my renegade style, and asked to sit in a booth by the window inside.

inside

The menu was quite extensive, but I had some time to look through it beforehand, and knew I wanted to go with one of their “old world classics”. The Sabich sounded quite appetizing…

menu
As per menu ~ Sabich – an exotic breakfast feast with eggplant bakes overnight, served with hummus, red onions, Israeli salad, pickles, and green olives.

The waitress was friendly and helpful, but I realized the whole California drought thing was really kicking in when I had to ask for a glass of water. But when I did though, she offered to include some ice and lemon. Nice touch!

dining options

It took about 15-20 minutes for my food to come to the table, and I was pretty much people-watching through the window until my food was ready. About 5 minutes before the plate came, I actually pulled out my notes to try and get more studying done, but obviously that didn’t work out šŸ˜‰

 Sorry genetics, had to devote my attention to THIS.
Sorry genetics, had to devote my attention to THIS.

I honestly did not know where to start—everything was overflowing and everything looked scrumptious! I started off by trying the eggs + hummus together since I never have had both foods together before.

I then went on to mix in the eggplant with the hummus, and layer that on the pita bread that was given to me. I tried adding the raw veggies on top, but since they persistently kept falling off, I mixed them in with my delicately-dressed Israeli salad.

aroma cafe sabbich

And as you can see, nothing went to waste.

dontforgetthepita!

I was honestly quite stuffed after finishing off this beautiful platter, but I still was in the mood for some ice cream. Especially since Mashti Malone’s was right around the corner

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Even though it wasn’t located in the most posh of settings, it was a strip mall gem…much like how Doomie’s was!

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Inside, there were baked goods for sale, along with a variety of their trademark exotic flavors in pints.

interior_mm

The girls behind the counter were really sweet, helpful, and didn’t mind that I took forever to look over each flavor before coming to a decision.

flavors

To try the most interesting combination possible, I chose to get two scoops in a cup of lavender (because of its purple hue) and ginger rosewater (because it just sounds cool). The size of the scoops were generous as well, and my cup was organized so that ginger rosewater was at the bottom and lavender was at the top.

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I think lavender as a flavor tasted like a general vanilla ice cream, but looked attractive because of its color. I could definitely note the ginger in the ginger rosewater though. I was more impressed by the texture—incredibly soft, airy, and fluffy!

So even though my weekdays are starting to become busier and busier (and will probably not reverse in this trend for quite some time…), I’m still making it my priority to keep my weekends both productive and fun. This past week (the week after the weekend highlighted in this post) was packed, but at least I have another fun-filled weekend to look forward to starting tomorrow!

Now go enjoy your weekend! šŸ™‚

Lyfe Kitchen on Urbanspoon
Aroma Bar and Grill on Urbanspoon Mashti Malone's on Urbanspoon

Diner Fare

Diner Fare

Before my Dad had to leave for the airport, we were able to have dinner out together one more time. It involved some crazy driving in DTLA for the most part—taking 10 minutes just to turn at a corner 0.3 miles ahead—but we were able to push the driving-associated frustrations aside when we sat down at the Nickel Diner.

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Looking at the outside of the restaurant, it looked like the entrance to a quaint little bakery. Inside however, it seemed like a grand lounge from the 50’s or something, with high ceilings and seats all around.

nickel
Not a big fan of the dim lighting though.

I didn’t have to open the main menu at all when the placard with the day’s specials were handed to me.

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I was fixed on the Sloppy Veggie Jo, and asked for my side to be cooked spinach. Dad had the vegan chili.

sidespinachandveganchili

The Sloppy Jo was an interesting version: it was an open-faced sandwich, and the “meat” was actually cremini mushrooms (even though the menu said portabello?) chopped up into miniscule pieces that would have fooled anyone into thinking it was actually meat. I had to ask my server again just to make sure it really was meat-free!

sloppyveggiejo
So much cheese though—and so good!

While I was chowing down like a ravenous dog on my sandwich, my Dad was able to ask the server about the history of the diner. Apparently it was restored from an older restaurant from the 40’s, and the “this is the place” signage was originally part of that older restaurant. Gotta love tableside history lessons šŸ˜‰ !

For the remainder of the week, I went back to out-of-my-apartment meals, but was still on a diner kick come Saturday. After a late start, I hopped on the Metro Rail and headed up to Hollywood to check out The Waffle. 

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Another busy Saturday at another popular restaurant, meaning the only available seats were at the counter.

 Awkward picture-taking, but I was successful ;)
Awkward picture-taking, but I was successful in the end šŸ˜‰

I wasn’t to overwhelmed by the menu either, since they had neatly arranged the vegetarian-friendly selections under their own category!

menu

The Cobb Salad and Veg Reuben sounded tasty, but I decided to order the Vegetarian Philly, which ended up being vegan since I had it sans cheese. I also had a side salad that came with balsamic vinaigrette.

Soy beef strips, bell peppers, and onions sauteed in a sweet balsamic reduction, and served on a warm vegan French roll; side salad; pickle .
Vegetarian-turned-vegan Philly Cheesesteak – Soy beef strips, bell peppers, and onions sauteed in a sweet balsamic reduction, and served on a warm vegan French roll with a side salad and pickle .

I dug into the salad first, and then pulled and tugged at my sandwich with a fork since I didn’t want to get my hands messy.

Soy beef strips, bell peppers, and onions sauteed in a sweet balsamic reduction, and served on a warm vegan French roll; side salad; pickle

I found the bread to be too dry to my liking, but the soy strips had a nice, sweet taste to them. The sauteed onions and peppers were delicious too! In the end, despite my best efforts with the fork, I wound up picking up the bread and eating it like an open-faced sandwich.  

After my meal, my plans to pick up some groceries to hold me over until I leave for Thanksgiving slightly changed. Instead, my walk to the grocery store was cut short due to it getting dark out, and I needed to catch the bus before it got really dark. It’s all okay though…I have about six apples and some other close-to-expiration goods I need to get to before I leave šŸ˜›

Nickel Diner on Urbanspoon The Waffle on Urbanspoon

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