Let the Good Times Roll

Let the Good Times Roll

I got a good dose of endorphins and happy hormones last Saturday. Actually, the happiness rush began last Thursday evening, when I received a care package from my Dad! He says it’s for passing my quals, but I think he would have been kind enough to send me a little something regardless 😉 . It absolutely made my week and I thanked him for it!

care__package
“This is what happens when your Dad wants to surprise you for passing your qualifying exam a little over a month ago…and when Sprouts has a 3/$5 deal on @lennyandlarrys cookies. Shipping just the cookies alone in a small mailing box did not justify the shipping price. So in went some other items, and the box naturally grew wider 😂. Haha, I was so happy to find this at my doorstep yesterday evening ☺️”

On Saturday, my friend from lab (let’s call her “E”) and I were able to hang out outside of lab again. We had not spent some free time together since our movie outing to see Hidden Figures last month, so a girl’s day was overdue!

We both met in lab (duh) Saturday morning to take care of some things for our experiments. From there, we bused to Koreatown, laptops in hand and with coffee on the mind.

She used to frequent a little, hole-in-the-wall place known as Document Cafe. Based on her previous ventures, she has been insisting that we both go together sometime to have coffee and get some work done, since they have a good environment for working and strong wi-fi.

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People here know the drill…

We finally did so on Saturday, and I was able to prevent her from buying for me ;). She got a simple cappucino (with barista foam art) and I felt adventurous and bought their affogato.

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“Affogatos and data analysis on a Saturday afternoon with the lab bestie ☕️ 🔬 🤓. This vanilla bean ice cream + chicory root coffee mix from @document_coffee_bar was excellent!”

We found seats by the wall, set-up our workspaces, and waited for our caffeinated creations to be completed.

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Waiting for treats!

My affogato immediately reminded me of a mini root beer float. It had a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream at the bottom, chicory root coffee throughout the cup, and then another generous scoop of vanilla bean ice cream at the top.

little_Affo_spoon
Cute little spoon to eat the Affogato with.

I will say that it doesn’t taste good unless you completely immerse the coffee with some of the ice cream, the melted parts. Otherwise the drink tastes too bitter…

We spent about 2 hours at the cafe enjoying our afternoon treats and working on lab-related data analysis/readings. We also chatted while doing so, just so that we made the whole experience a little bit more fun.

After getting our fill of caffeine, we had enough energy to walk to Wilshire/Vermont. It was approaching 4pm, and we figured why not have some froyo before calling it a day?

Yogurtland was just down the way, and I went to town with three different flavors of froyo, poppers, mochi, maraschino cherries, and Whoppers chocolate malt balls.

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

We gossiped about lab and the crazy antics of our colleagues. It felt so good to be able to vent and laugh with E outside of lab!!

I left for home around 5, and got back around 6. Since our “last” team long run before the marathon was the next morning, I went to sleep early to ensure I’d be rested enough to put in a good effort into the taper 😉 . Sure enough, it worked since I ran the 12 miles at an average pace of 8:07/mi! Really, really hoping that I can pull off a sub-4:00 come next Sunday!

I definitely do think that having days much like Saturday have been helpful in keeping my mood up, and feeling validated by my running improvements has also helped a lot. I know that it’s normal to have an ebb and flow with moods and feelings (it’s HEALTHY to feel sad sometimes), but if I can find ways to keep my happiness up the majority of the time, why not 🙂 ?

What do you do to keep happy?

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

Vent Sesh (Pull Up a Chair)

Vent Sesh (Pull Up a Chair)

When I came back after an eight mile run and didn’t see anyone in sight, I couldn’t help but feel a little down. I had run a solid 8:40/mi pace on legs still recouping from a 12 mile run the day before, but compared to the group I was running with that day, it felt like I had gone for a Sunday morning stroll in comparison.

For the past three months, I have been trying to find a running coach to take my training to the next level. It’s been really tough only because I don’t have any previous connections nor do I run at the elite level…I’m just trying to find someone to get me there…

I did end up contacting someone as a potential coach a couple months ago, but finding a time to meet kept getting pushed back further and further until this past weekend when I was invited to join this person’s group for a run.

I knew going in that this may not have been the best way to meet because I wasn’t about to run at a 6:30 pace overnight. Honestly I just wanted to meet over coffee, and have a real discussion about what I could do to get help with my training…without “squeezing a run in” be the main priority. I also did not want to risk being the girl who “didn’t know what she was in for”.

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Wanted to share another new Halo Top find, even though unrelated to this vent session (haha) ~ Cookies & Cream! The packaging is gorgeous but the flavor did not blow me away…I was expecting CHUNKS of cookies 🍪 mixed in, but the “cookies” were more like crumbs that lacked much flavor ☹️.

It feels like there are tons of resources for recreational runners or runners who have been running their whole life at a competitive level, and basically nothing for transitioning runners: anyone who wants to take what started as a hobby and grow it into something more serious—especially if they’re still running at a pace slower than 7:00/mi.

So yeah, I’ve got to admit that it hurt to come back to everyone gone. I got a text later from the potential coach apologizing for running ahead so quickly, explaining that they had been in a rush to get somewhere else. Would it have really been too much trouble to let me know beforehand??

I’ve been the victim of this kind of “ding dong ditch” behavior of other people my entire life, and while I have learned that this kind of behavior is not a reflection of myself but rather the lack of sensitivity, etiquette, and professionalism of others, it still sucks to have to say “no problem” or “it’s alright” or “I understand”.

At least this potential coach got back to me later that evening about how this person thought I needed extra training….um, yes, that’s exactly what I asked you three months ago in email. And at least I was given a contact for someone else I could try, and my quest to become a competitive runner continues.

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Caption straight from Instagram 😉 ~ Sea Salt Caramel 🌊 🌊 🌊 ! There was a decent amount of caramel swirl throughout the pint, and I’ve always been a fan of the Vanilla Bean flavor, so having that as the base was a good decision made 👍. By the time I dug into it (after walking for 30 minutes from the grocery store in the heat at high noon), it was nice and melty on the top while still solidified at the center. It was my snack while watching The latest SNL episode 😂.

I hope that my next opportunity to find someone will be more fruitful. In high school, I spent an entire summer serving 100 tennis balls a day in order to make my way into singles varsity from junior varsity. I also ran for president of my Robotics team and held that position for two years when my teacher thought I wasn’t interested in being there in the first place. I wasn’t a track star—in fact I hated running with all my heart—but somehow, it managed to crawl back into my life and now it is one of the things I want to immerse myself in fully.

I will do whatever I can to get to the level I want to be because that’s just my character. I’ve always been a lone wolf, partly due to my life circumstances and as a defense mechanism to protect myself from the drama brought on by others. This has led me to find my own solutions and figure out ways to help myself when no one else could.

Fortunately or unfortunately, this applies here too. I’m not going to stop my journey even if others around me aren’t fit to join me, or don’t understand my purpose. I do not have to have been a collegiate cross country star in order to relish in running today.

I hope that reaching out to my next contact as a possible running coach proves more successful, but no matter what I’m going to keep pushing. Being the underdog has been my specialty for so many years, and that’s one thing I don’ need help on improving…

Well, that was how my Sunday went in case you were wondering! But even though this situation didn’t exactly help to boost my self-esteem, I tried not to let it affect my body image and eating plans for the day.

As I was walking back and pondered over what had happened that morning, I also kept my eyes peeled for cute coffee shops and brunch places. I found myself again on Montana Ave., and with no particular place in mind, I just decided to walk until I found something.

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Waiting for FF Co to open!!

I stumbled upon Frozen Fruit Co. and when I saw they offered “fruyo” bowls, I just had to have one.

I was their first customer that day because they opened at 11am and I was literally waiting outside the door trying not to look like a hungry and delirious runner.

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Love the color scheme!

As soon as I saw that a bowl was an option, I immediately went for that! For $8, you actually get quite a lot of variety and textures! I had granola as my base (honey and almond), then had a banana, coconut milk, dates, and pumpkin spice “fruyo”. On top of all that, I got to pick four toppings—pretty much what you’d find in a froyo shop 😉

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Decadence!!!

I picked mango, strawberries, confetti sprinkles, and mochi because mochi is my jam.

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Granola peep!

I walked a little bit further down the street and found a solitary park bench to sit down and enjoy this healthier-than-it-looks bowl. I truly needed all of this food…even though I didn’t run at an elite runner’s pace, I was still starving!

Later on in the day, I stopped by Whole Foods because I still felt hungry. I had satisfied my weekly craving for Halo Top, so I was pleased to find this in the refrigerated aisle.

edoughble
Edoughble, we meet again!

It’s been a while since I had this cookie dough, and since I had not tried Cookies N’ Dream, I couldn’t think of a better time to have it! This, and the fruyo bowl, while not completely uplifting my mood, did do their part to help.

How do you vent (writing, talking it out, etc.)?

Frozen Fruit Co Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Natural Beauty

Natural Beauty

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

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

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

 Quiet stretch of apartments.
Quiet stretch of apartments.

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

 Front of temple.
Front of temple.

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

 Small and cozy.
Small and cozy.

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

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

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

 Menu up above.
Menu up above.

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

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

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

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

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

aintitbeautiful
Beauty and the beach.

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

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

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

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

What is your best summer evening memory?

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

TMI Survey

TMI Survey

When I saw this survey on Irina’s blog, I knew I had to complete it myself. It’s been a while since I last took a survey too…


Making

…do with what I have. I don’t say this in a depressing way, but rather I like the challenge of living on a budget and keeping track of my spending. So far, I’ve been quite frugal, and have actually saved more money than I expected. It’s also a way for me to figure out what I need on a weekly basis, and I’ve been able to avoid wasting things this way.  So far, so good 😀

Cooking

…crockpot-based  dinners during the week, and not cooking on the weekend because I’d rather taste what LA has to offer. 

Drinking

 …coffee with So Delicious French Vanilla Coconut Milk Creamer. Where have you been all my life??

 1 tablespoon goes a long way! It tastes great in chamomile tea, as well as coffee :) !
1 tablespoon goes a long way! It tastes great in chamomile tea, as well as coffee 🙂 !

Reading

…any running/fitness magazines I can get my hands on. I love reading them before going to bed, or when I’m on the bus driving to campus in the mornings. 

 Case in point: free magazines I scooped up from Vitamin Shoppe :P
Case in point: free magazines I scooped up from Vitamin Shoppe 😛

Wanting

…a step stool, so I can store more stuff in my kitchen cabinets. I finally got a seat cushion after a countless number of days where studying at the kitchen table resulted in a sore behind.

 So cute, and so comfy!
So cute, and so comfy!

Looking

…forward to seeing the fam a couple of times between now and the new year. 

Playing

…music on my weekday early morning runs. That, and treating myself to Quest bars and coffee before starting the rest of my day are great motivators for me to get out the door!

Wasting  

…time when I get home after a long day. It makes sense to recap on the day’s lectures, but no. My brain immediately goes into lay-zee mode once it hits 6pm. It also doesn’t help that I instantly change into my PJs either…

Planning

…on hosting my girls in December for a week! I just need them to be able to coordinate themselves and find their way to LA first.

Running

…in the mornings as the sun rises. You cannot say you lived until you do this.  

Enjoying

…each day in this sunny, warm-even-in-November city. Being able to run in the morning without putting on layers—but I do want to breakout my armwarmers again!  

Waiting

…for classes to be done! I’m already planning (in my mind) what to do/where to go in the city and surrounding area with the time I have off. Perhaps I can finally get an OC trip in…

Liking

…these KIND Strong Bars that I got as freebies from this race. To be honest, they all pretty much taste the same (except for the jalapeno flavor, which tastes similar to the other two, but spicier), but that doesn’t mean they don’t taste good! They remind me of Nature Valley’s trail mix bars, except more savory of course. 

 Flavors: Roasted Jalapeno, Honey Mustard, and Hickory Smoked
Flavors: Roasted Jalapeno, Honey Mustard, and Hickory Smoked

Wondering

…about where I should take my friends when they (hopefully) visit me next month. I’ve been urging them to make requests, but so far, all I know is that my sister wants me to take her to a “legit” bakery. I have a list…  

Loving

…how I’ve been spoiled with free food, pretty much at least once a day, and at least 3-5 times during a week!

 Some free food from last week!
Some free food from last week!

Hoping

…that my marathon training goes well. Right now it just seems like I’m running like normal, but come January when we start to hit the numbers beyond 13, I’m not sure how I’ll feel!

Marveling

…how DTLA looks from the freeway. I need to remember to never take this for granted. 

Needing

…see “Wanting”, above.

Smelling

…cooked cabbage when I come back to the apartment on weeknights. I use it as a base in my crockpot dinners, and I’m glad my roommate doesn’t (seem to) mind!

Wearing

…dresses on the weekends because between lab/school/running, there isn’t another appropriate time!

Following

…the news, or at least attempting to. Since I’ve recently been caught up with things occurring in my own life, I’m waaay behind on current events. It now feels like I’m reading more about history than current events 😛 .

Noticing

…how irritating undergrads can be (not saying they all are 😉 ). I live in an apartment complex that mostly houses undergrads, and it amazes me how they are so hyper all.the.time. Yeah, I was an undergrad once as well, but I don’t think I was as annoying (or messy, or narcissistic).

Knowing

…that time is flying by so fast, and that this amazing year is almost over! I also know that I don’t want it to end so quickly, but that I at least can look back on the many posts from this year if I ever want to “relive” the life-changing moments that took place in 2014.

Thinking

…about where I was two years ago: in my last year of undergrad, dreaming about something bigger, and where I (want/hope/expect) to be two years from now: only time will tell!

Feeling

…content, happy, anxious, grateful.

Writing

…more blog posts. I seem to be behind on what I want to share ever since moving to the city! I also need to go back to writing in my personal journal, I haven’t touched it since I moved…

Opening

…emails through the phone. It can be such a pain.  :/

Missing

…going to the gym with my Dad, my fluffball of a cat, and the rain. 

Feel free to take the survey yourself!

Ten Things Over Tiramisu

Ten Things Over Tiramisu

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

surprisesurprise

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

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

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

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

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Are you a tiramisu fan?

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

Urth Caffé on Urbanspoon

Getting Ready

Getting Ready

It’s hard to believe that within a week, I will be living on my own for the first time. I commuted as an undergrad, and even though I did spend my first year in the dorms, I came home almost every weekend without doubt. Seeing as I will now be about 7 hours away, that’s not going to be possible.

But that’s okay. I’ve been waiting for this transition—for this time to stand on my own two feet (as cliche as it may sound)—for quite some time now. It’s just hard to believe that all this waiting is coming to a close and that it is finally happening.

My Dad and I had to fly down for my program’s orientation last week (he for business), so that also gave me a good opportunity to check in on my apartment and get some other errands done. The orientation was in the morning, and I was out by early afternoon. I was able to cool off with a chilly find from Sprouts as a snack.

Artic Zero Sea Salt Caramel

One of the newer flavors of Artic Zero—Sea Salt Caramel 🙂 ! It was so scorching outside and in the car, so this was a great way to cool off on the way to the hotel. I also think this is my new favorite flavor, since it actually tastes like a caramel fudgesicle, if not ice cream. 

After checking into the hotel, I spent some time resting up before we decided to head out to some place local for dinner, since driving in LA traffic didn’t seem like something my Dad and I both felt like doing. Finding some fresh and filling food was not a problem, however, since Natural Selection was only 5 minutes away from the hotel.

Outdoorz

The restaurant itself was located in a small space, but inside decor was beautiful.

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indoors

The ceiling was my favorite part—it’s raining fruits 🙂 !

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There was a menu on the wall, but I already knew what I wanted since I had taken a look at their menu online prior to heading out.

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We found a spot to sit at near the front window, and on the wall across from us were some picture collages of organic food/local farm produce logos cut out from boxes.

Wall Decor

After about ten minutes, my Dad’s drink came out: a strawberry-kiwi all-natural juice. It definitely tasted like the fruits were freshly-pressed, but it was a bit watery for my taste.

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Soon after the drink came out, our plates arrived. I tackled my Hawaiian Burger with a knife and fork. The pineapple ring was what classified this burger as Hawaiian I suppose, but overall it was a tasty burger. I especially liked the teriyaki/yogurt mayo combo (and adding siracha helped with the flavor too)!!

Hawaiian Burger - Veggie or turkey patty, jack cheese, grilled organic pineapple, organic tomatoes, onions, lettuce, yogurt based mayo, teriyaki sauce on a whole  wheat bun
Hawaiian Burger – Veggie or turkey patty, jack cheese, grilled organic pineapple, organic tomatoes, onions, lettuce, yogurt based mayo, teriyaki sauce on a whole wheat bun

My Dad’s Meditteranean Wrap—he was eating the other half when this picture was taken 😛 .

Mediterranean Wrap Grilled chicken breast, feta cheese, black olives, organic baby greens, cucumbers, hummus and homemade Mediterranean dressing
Mediterranean Wrap – Grilled chicken breast Veggie patty, feta cheese, black olives, organic baby greens, cucumbers, hummus and homemade Mediterranean dressing

While it would have been nice to have more fruit on the side, I appreciated how they were at least blackberries and kiwi—in other words, a “pricier” offering 😉

Not sure when my next post will be up, but since this week is going to be jam-packed with things I need to do, will do, and hope to do regarding my move and school, blogging may have to take a back-seat until when I am all settled in 😉 !

What are your thoughts on moving?

Natural Selection on Urbanspoon

Birthday = Crossing Places Off the Foodie Bucket List

Birthday = Crossing Places Off the Foodie Bucket List

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

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

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

SAMSUNG

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

source inside

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

SOURCE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Golden Gate Bridge

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

SAMSUNG

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

SAMSUNG

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

inside cinnaholic!

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

SAMSUNG

SAMSUNG

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

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

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

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

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

Source on Urbanspoon Cinnaholic on Urbanspoon

The First Couple of Days

The First Couple of Days

For the first couple of days, we stayed at my aunt and uncle’s place, with our daily routine being something like this:

  • waking up between 6-7am, having coffee
  • going for a morning walk with uncle and dad
  • stopping by fruit & veg produce store
  • eating said produce after cleaning and chopping —> my favs were alphonso mango and sapotas 🙂
  • brunch prepared by aunt around 10-11am
  • leaving for a relative’s house around 12pm —> when the day’s unique events actually began…

The morning view

My mornings began when I woke up anytime between 6-7am, with bright sunlight and the noise of the city greeting me through the windows. After some coffee and bidding good morning, I’d read the local newspapers and then get ready to go for a walk with my uncle and dad.

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view from cot // downstairs entrance to flat complex // looking down from 3rd floor

My surroundings

On these morning walks, we’d often have to stay close since traffic is insane, the roads are pretty dusty as well, and sweat is inevitable. But on the walks we were able to leave early enough in the morning for, we were able to cross quiet roads. During those times, I would take in my surroundings with great care. It was a sensory overload for sure…

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buying Indian sweets n snacks at a local shop // litter // sign with English misspellings

Daytime transport

After brunch courtesy of my aunt, we’d get set and go to our day’s destination via an auto. Autos are these speedy, three-wheeled vehicles that hold ~4 [lean] people  + the driver. Even though it was burning hot outside, there was no need for an A/C since there was a nice breeze cooling us off once we zoomed across the roads.

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views from inside the auto—motorcycle gang, haha.

In the evening

In the first couple of days of our visit, we retreated back to my aunt and uncle’s place after a day’s visit with some relative. Driving at night can be manic, but observing the outside environment is a nice way to pass the time.

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So much traffic and noise, but hey…it’s a city.

Unwinding for the day 

After the day’s events, I would find my aunt having started preparations for dinner and my uncle watching a TV serial. Chopping up vegetables was my job one day, while snacking on fresh jackfruit was my “unofficial” job. After dinner, we’d all assemble in the living room and just relax! Then around 10pm, we’d all retire to our rooms and get some shut-eye.

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watching TV// cooking in the kitchen // greens, mango pieces, and jackfruit

This was the order of events for the first couple days, and even though at times it felt like the days were going at a snail’s pace, I did appreciate how relaxing the routine was.

Do you find it easy to adapt to a routine while vacationing?

April on the Other Side of the World

April on the Other Side of the World

The last time I was overseas was six years ago. It has been six, long years since I saw the faces of several aunts, uncles, cousins, members of extended family, and my dear grandparents.

April couldn’t be a more perfect time to go. I don’t think I’ve ever been to India in the springtime—even as a baby! When I was a kid, we never missed a visit every two years for at least two-three months in the summer. When I got older, winter break became the norm time to visit since three weeks was the most we could manage in regards to taking time off. Taking one week off of school was enough to cause an avalanche of make-up work, so it only made sense to combine that week with the two weeks of winter break.

With the whirlwind of my undergrad years behind me, and the intense (but hopefully rewarding!) years of graduate work ahead, it made perfect sense for my Dad and I (my sis unfortunately can’t join us cause she’s got school until May 🙁 ) to reunite with family members new 😉 and old sometime in the next few months before August.

Getting there is going to be a doozy, but the time spent with family will certainly make up for it. To keep my mind from worrying about the leg-numbing fourteen-hour trek across the Atlantic (and then some), I thought I’d summarize what I am looking forward to…

1—Seeing the kids.

Since my Dad is the baby of the family, my sis and I wound up being the youngest batch in our group of cousins. Our cousin group ranges from ages 45-18, with my sis being the 18-year-old youngin’. So naturally, many of my cousins are already mothers and so there will be many little kiddos to meet and play with when I visit! One of my cousins had a baby recently, so I’m definitely excited to meet the latest cutie of our clan 😉

The shirt we got for the "big" sister of the new babe. This girl is a cutie herself!
The shirt we got for the “big” sister of the new babe. This girl is a cutie herself!

2—Reconnecting with family more seriously (and humorously).

As a child, I absolutely loved it when my parents would tell me stories from their childhood. As I got older, long car rides and those “when-I-was-your-age” situations were also the perfect moments when stories were shared. In previous visits, it was nice to get other perspectives from aunts and uncles to the stories I only heard from my parents.

I was a lot shyer back then, and only absorbed the stories that were brought up on their own. This time around, I want to not be so reserved around my relatives and I really want to try and connect with them. Seeing as how visits can’t be taken for granted (six years!!), it would be nice to let my inhibitions go and to enjoy unforced conversations (and laughs!) with my extended family.

3—Learning how to cook traditional recipes from the source.

Even though I come from an Indian family, I have to be honest and say I don’t eat traditional Indian cuisine seven days a week. The real truth? I barely do. My family is completely vegetarian though, so a lot of the meals we do eat are vegetable-based. I often end up having vegetables in some form with carbs of some form every night for dinner, it’s just not traditional Indian fare.

But in India, it’s a different story. People are eager to feed you, and the food you are offered can’t be beat. It’s fresh, (most of the time) healthy, and if it’s made by family, then you can guarantee that love is the only additive 😉 . For example, my pati (grandma) makes the best idlis and dosas. I always used to ask for my dosas extra crispy, and she knew how to make them to my request just right.

Warm, spicy goodness.
I’ve made chili idlis before, but I want to shadow my pati instead of adapt a book or internet recipe!

Instead of just eating the food this time, I actually want to learn how to make these traditional recipes myself—from the source, and not a library book anyone can get their hands on. Food is a big part of culture and tradition after all, and I think going through the cooking process step-by-step with a family member will also bridge a stronger bond!

4—The sights and smells.

There are certain sights and smells that I will always connect to India: the scent of sandalwood, the murmur of a electric fan, Britannia biscuits, the feel of an air-conditioned jewelry and sari shop, the hot and dusty roads, masala chai in tin cups, the twinkling ring of Walls ice cream carts rolling across the beach…whenever I come across any of these, I immediately think back to India and some memory associated with them. It’s a wonderful feeling, and I’m excited to come across these sights/smells once again 🙂

SomeofmyfavouriteBritanniaBiscuitsfromIndia
Some of my favorite Britannia biscuits. Little Hearts are a classic 🙂 !

5—Reminiscing and new memories.

Going along the whole sharing stories/reconnecting with relatives line, I look forward to the big-group reunions we plan to have where many of my uncles, aunts, cousins, and cousins’ children will assemble at my grandparents’ house. Of course it won’t be exactly how it was in the past, as some people won’t be there due to the fact they now live in different places with their own families, or they have passed on, but being able to reconnect with as many people as possible is my main goal on this trip. It’ll be about reminiscing with everyone about how things used to be or what things we all did in the past, and it’ll also be about creating new memories so we don’t miss the past too much.

My Dad has “put me in charge” of setting up a video montage of old home video clips from our past trips to India. I have clips from as early as ’96, but watching the ones from 2000 really threw me back. That was when my sis and I were the “cuties of our clan”, and before many of my cousins got married. It’ll be interesting to see how they and their children react 😉

How long has it been since you’ve seen a large portion of your family?

Robots ’14

Robots ’14

Spring—the season of the sun’s return, over-blooming flowers (allergies, ick!), and…ROBOTS!

When I was in high school, the month of March was always a thrilling one because of my involvement in robotics. After six weeks of being huddled in a cold workshop tinkering away at metal and coming home after school smelling of grease, competition season was always something I looked forward to.

This year marks my fourth year out of high school, and out of robotics as a “participant”, but that didn’t stop me from volunteering. I had a mini-rant about what happened last year, but this year turned out for the better—and I’m glad it did!

♥00oo♥

Looking back, the days leading up to a robotics competition were always exciting for me.  Competitions usually took place on a Friday and Saturday, but the events really began on a Thursday. For me, the excitement always kicked in to full gear on the Wednesday before a competition.  If we were traveling to a regional far away from our school, Wednesday was all about getting yourself pumped up for the “adventure” in the days ahead.

This year, I had the opportunity to volunteer as a Judge. Instead of packing my bags and counting down the minutes to Thursday morning however, I spent my Wednesday enjoying a pint of Coffee Artic Zero after working in lab. It was a gorgeous sunny day outside, but I gobbled up this frozen treat in my car.

A Pint of Coffee Artic Zero---enjoyed in my car on a warm, sunny day in March :)
A Pint of Coffee Artic Zero—enjoyed in my car on a warm, sunny day in March. I’ve forgotten how much I love this flavor, as it is the only AZ flavor (in my opinion) that’s sharp enough to detect and discern as ‘coffee’.

As I ate away, I couldn’t help but feel the nostalgia of my high school years in robotics. I was looking forward to the next evening’s events as a rookie judge.

Thursdays were “set-up” days and were very low key, but the fact that a few of us from our team got to travel early to the arena where the regional was taking place and prepare our “booth”, unleash our robot from its crate, and (possibly) get some practice matches in made me feel productive when I was a student on the team.

This time around, my Thursday went about as usual until approximately 5:30pm. My dad (who was judging for his third time) and I carpooled together over to the location where the regional was taking place, and were able to locate the exclusive Judges’ Room.

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Snapshots during the ‘working dinner’. I also had some coffee afterwards (the mug in the left corner of the second photo is a hint).

Once we arrived, we were given our nametags, and were allowed to help ourselves to some catered dinner while the Judge Advisor went over the responsibilities we had for the weekend. After the training, we were also given parking passes for the weekend, as well as the infamous blue polos the Judges are well-known for at these competitions:

And mine
And mine even came in a fitted size for women’s—so it didn’t look like I was in a potato sack!!

We were out after an hour and a half, and I left with a feeling of excitment—ready to inspire students, as well as be inspired by them.

Fridays were when things kicked in to full gear. Our match schedule was set up, our robot was ready to go (once we plugged in a fully-charged battery), and many of us students on the team were settled in our positions. I took on a lot of responsibilities on the team when I was a student participant, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. Everytime I saw those adults in blue polo shirts pass by, I was an eager beaver—ready to answer every and any question they had about my team and our robot…

On this past Friday, I woke up at 6am in order to report to the Judges’ Room by 7am for breakfast. We also had a quick training on our “tools” (paperwork for filling out info about the teams, clipboards, a pit map, etc.), and then we were sent out around 8am to start interviewing teams. 9am was opening ceremonies, which was when we were also introduced to the kids and the crowds. We got to watch the first match, and then we were urged to continue meeting with our assigned teams in order to ask them questions from topics that ranged from robot design to public relations.

Lotsa Bots
Some of the robots at competition.

We started deliberating around 10:30am, went back out for more interviewing, and then it was time for lunch.

Part one of my lunch on Friday. Wasn't able to snap pics of the rest of the goodies :(
Part one of my lunch on Friday. Wasn’t able to snap pics of the rest of the goodies.

At this time, we narrowed down our final teams for the awards we were planning on giving out that evening. The next step was to check back with those teams to ask them further questions in order to see which team better exemplified the award they were in the running for.

Once the final teams were chosen for Friday’s awards, it was time to write some scripts! These scripts are a cute way to introduce the award and the team being given that award, and often feature hints that gives the audience a clue as to which specific team is the winner.  I had the opportunity to write such a script, and it was amusing to watch the announcers read my words during the ceremonies.

When the team name is announced, the team walks races down to the field, and the kids (and sometimes adult mentors), are able to high-five all the judges. We were given hand sanitizer for this very reason…

Complimentary hand sanitizer, to keep hands clean after all those high-fives!
Complimentary hand sanitizer, to keep hands clean after all those high-fives!

Since the matches were running 40 minutes behind schedule, Friday’s awards ceremonies were conducted pretty late. We managed to get out at 7:30pm, but it was interesting to note that report time on Saturday was exactly twelve hours later…

Saturdays were go-time for us. If we didn’t bring it on Friday, then we had to kick it up a notch (as Emeril Lagasse would say :P) on Saturday….otherwise we would be left in the dust. Once opening ceremonies were through, it was time to finish up the remainder of our matches, and to either have a running list of teams we would like on our alliance if we were in the Top 8 going into Eliminations, or to sell ourselves to other teams to ensure we would be picked. Alliance selection always had my heart racing…what would happen if we didn’t get picked?? Fortunately, I never had to deal with that when I was in school. Our team always found a spot in the Elimination rounds…

We didn’t have any training on Saturday morning, so once the kids entered the arena around 8am, we were sent to follow-up on teams that were in the running for Saturday awards. Finishing around 10am, I came back with my notes and began to organize which teams I still thought deserved to be in the running. Once everyone got back, we began to get into deliberation mode.

For the most part, many of our decisions were unanimous…at least after some convincing ;). We were able to come to our decisions fairly quickly, and so were encouraged to go back outside and watch the rest of the matches taking place. Around noon, the representatives from the top 8 ranking teams aligned themselves on the playing field for Alliance Selection. Each representative had to pick two other teams to make an alliance. So in total, 24 teams would be going forward in the Elimination rounds.

After alliances were selected, my Dad and I headed back to the Judges’ Room and had lunch. I had two plates of veggies, and some Girl Scout cookies (unpictured), which were given to us by a team comprised of Girl Scouts. The perks of being a judge at a Robotics competition…

Plate #1 of Lunch. Wish I got a picture of the Girl Scout cookies! Thin Mints and Samoas are where it's at ;)
Plate #1 of Lunch. Wish I got a picture of the Girl Scout cookies! Thin Mints and Samoas are where it’s at!

Once lunch was eaten, it was time to go back and revel in the music, dancing, energy, and robot games that were about to take place. At around 3:30pm, I went back to the Judge’s Room with my Dad to get some pick-me-up coffee. Instead, I found a rather “distracting” dessert buffet laid out for us. The cake pops immediately caught my eyes, and you know I went for those.

Desserts set out after 3pm. Vanilla and Chocolate cake pops---so moist and yummy!
Desserts set out after 3pm. Vanilla and Chocolate cake pops—so moist and yummy!

The late afternoon indulgence brought my blood sugar back up enough to go back out and watch the semi-final and final rounds. The spirit in the arena was at an all-time high since Cotton-Eyed Joe, the Cupid Shuffle, and Gangnam Style brought everyone to their feet in between matches. Students, mascots, mentors, volunteers, and yes, even some judges all got up and boogied to the music. It’s not just about the science, we nerds can have fun too 😉

Spirit Crowds
Everyone is so spirited—in the middle picture, they’re waving their phones like candles.

Even though elimination matches were fun to watch, once they were over, everyone was ready to move on to awards and then to head home. So us judges quickly got into formation like we did the evening before, and got into position to high-five the winning teams with efficiency and ease. After all of the awards were given out, we all shook hands with one another and left! Funny how something that involves so much investment in the beginning doesn’t require much in the end…

♥00oo♥

I definitely had a blast being on the other side of things, and I can now honestly understand what it feels like to be an invested alumni in this program. It really does leave a mark on you for the rest of your life…in a good way of course! Even though I didn’t pursue engineering, robotics wasn’t just about that for me. I developed life, communication, and leadership skills, as well as left inspired by what science—be it biology, computer science, physics, whatever—can do, and how it can make such a meaningful impact on the world. I guess you could say this weekend was a good reminder for me to reflect on my “roots”, and pay homage to where my love for science was cultivated.

My plans for next year? I certainly want to volunteer as a judge, but at which regional depends on where I will be living in a year from now 😉

If you are an alumni of a program/school/organization, do you try and find ways to give back?

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