After a day to myself, I was eager to spend the Saturday catching up with E. I stopped by lab first to bid adieu to my undergrad, from there E and I left for Manhattan Beach.
I took the car out, and the drive out was a slightly crazy one since we were bracing ourselves on I-110 Southbound. We did make it one piece, and stopped for lunch at Cafe Rio since we were starving.
I’ve heard good things about Cafe Rio, which is a Chipotle-style restaurant, but in my opinion, everything looked more fresh.
I got a tostada bowl, while E got a quesadilla. My tostada was topped with cilantro rice, lettuce, guac, sour cream, tomatoes, black beans, tortilla strips, and refreshing spring of parsley.
I guess it wasn’t super outstanding, but since my appetite was raging, I devoured everything. E had to wait a while for me to finish since my bowl seemed to never end, and I was insistent on eating everything (including the tostada shell) with a fork, haha!
After getting our fill of fresh mex food, we stopped inside Barnes & Noble that was nearby before heading to the beach. We found parking in a hilly neighborhood, and only had to walk a block or two down to the shopping area right by the beach.
Once we made it past the shops, we found a spot to sit in the sand, and watch everything around us. It was more crowded than when we visited Aliso Beach, but we had fun taking in the surroundings and gossiping about our own stuff (like we don’t do that enough, haha).
We decided to head back a little before 5, and stopped for some smoothies at Jamba Juice since the weather was still warm. The drive back to LA was just as bracing as the drive we took in the morning, but I was able to drop off E and get home safely.
It was another pleasant Sunday, but I’m certainly not taking it for granted! I was looking at some past posts from around this time last year, and I was in a totally different mindset at the time, and going through some struggles that I’m glad I was able to get over! Having friends in the workplace like E has helped, and just feeling in more control of my surroundings. So yes, I’ll continue to greet and be grateful for days that pass like these ♥.
I’d say the first week of April got off to a good start. I felt like I was able to start fresh, and even began the first week of training with a running coach. Since I plan to run a marathon in San Diego at the beginning of June, we are piggybacking off my training from the LA Marathon, and using the next couple of weeks as an introduction of sorts to his coaching style.
After San Diego, we plan to reevaluate training and prepare for a fall marathon with the goal of racing a Boston Qualifying time. Right now I’m looking at running the Route 66 in Tulsa, but nothing has been finalized yet. Since it falls on the weekend right before Thanksgiving, I thought it would be fun to run the race, and then spend the following week with family for Thanksgiving.
On Saturday, I ran a long run workout that was fartlek in style: I had to run 5 minutes easy, followed by 1 minute fast. With my current coach, he emphasizes incorporating speed into long runs, rather than the “long slow distance” approach, at least if the end goal is running a fast marathon.
I was able to complete the workout for 11 miles, running it at a sub-8:00 pace. I noted feeling fatigue towards the end, and stopping to take water breaks at some points (especially right after the one minute fast), but I’m glad to see that the workout did its job.
When I got home from the run, I got ready as soon as I could in order to meet my friend E for a hike at Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook. It was the first time I actually went out for a hike in LA (lol, I still need to do the Runyon Canyon thing), and after climbing stairs that were as tall as E (she’s on the shorter side, haha), we made it to the top and were treated to some fabulous views of the city.
As we made our descent, we chatted and walked back to the La Cienega/Jefferson train stop. From there, we thought we might as well walk over to Culver City on the bike path since the Culver City station was the next stop. We also contemplated lunch, and I figured we could get some nourishing Mexican food from a recently-established eatery in The Platform, the same place Sweetgreen is located.
Loqui had a limited menu of soft tortilla tacos, bowls, and quesadillas, but E and I figured we’d order what looked to be a filling mushroom bowl.
It was served Chipotle-style, with grilled onions, beans, and guac were piled high on green colored rice. I had two corn tortillas on the side while E had two flour ones.
The restaurant/cafe was very small, and there was limited seating on the patio in the back. The “chairs” were small stools and the tables were pretty tiny as well.
After getting our fill of lunch, E and I didn’t really know what else to do…so we walked some more. I’d say we ended up walking for another hour and a half total, eventually getting back to the Culver City Station stop, but not before a trip to Sprouts. I got some essentials for the week, and then we parted ways.
When I got home, I needed a nap to recuperate from all the running, hiking, and walking from the day. Needless to say, I slept pretty well that night!
Last year, I only had the chance to spend one full week with my family over the winter holidays. I had to fly back to LA a few days after Christmas in order to take care of things in lab that were time-sensitive. I spent New Year’s alone, and everything just felt out of place and deserted because others were lucky enough to spend all the time they could with their loved ones—my labmates included, haha.
Fortunately, I have some help this year and so I don’t have to rush back for anything. I am able to spend two whole weeks with my family to completely recharge, rest, run, and relax. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so much relief departing LA! Even city girls need their sleep.
This whole week has been full of catching-up, and falling into a routine similar to how things used to be when I lived at home. Mornings have been spent sharing a coffee with my Dad at 7am, and splitting desserts and egg sandwiches at Panera.
I’ve been able to enjoy the fresh air during runs alongside the Arkansas River.
The flat terrain and cold temperatures have allowed me to run at faster paces without TOO much effort 😉
It’s also been nice to have access to a car, and just drive where I need to go. My sis and I went out a few times, just to run some errands, but even those moments have been so freeing! Blasting the radio and driving around town singing in the car with my sis has inevitably resulted in non-stop laughter and a dopamine high.
We’ve been splitting ice cream pints while watching stuff on Netflix, including this Confetti Cake ice cream from Ben & Jerry’s from Wal-Mart. It had a vanilla base, but there were chunks of birthday cake throughout and colorful bead-like sprinkles. I tried to cut the pint in half, but instead we did the safe thing and just scoop out half into a bowl.
I ate what was left in the carton, and that night we started Fuller House.
We also went out to eat one night with my Dad before watching Moana at a discount price ($4/ticket!). We ended up going to Qdoba since neither of us have ever been, even though they have locations all around the country.
The set-up reminded me of Freebirds, but the options were limited to what could be found at Chipotle. They didn’t have a veggie protein option though :/
The three of us each got different things. My item was a “naked” burrito bowl with cilantro rice, black beans, greens, onions, tomatoes, corn salsa, hot sauce, and regular salsa.
My sister and Dad got three veggie tacos and a veggie burrito respectively. My sis loved her tacos, but since my Dad found a long strand of hair in his burrito mid-way, it made sense that he lost his appetite and had his burrito refunded. I thought my burrito bowl tasted alright, but I felt the rice lacked flavor and overall, wished there was some veggie protein available to add some body to the bowl.
The week concluded with some holiday dinners/lunches spent with family and friends which I’ll probably touch upon in the next post. We also have a quick trip to Texas planned, and then a few days left in Tulsa before I’ll have to fly back to LA! I’m definitely going to do my best to make the most of every single minute 😉
What’s your favorite part of the last two weeks of the year?
Last weekend’s events were spectacular. I am so grateful for being able to visit my sister on a milestone occasion—her 21st birthday!
I wanted to maximize the time I spent with her so much that I took a night MegaBus so that I could get to Oakland by 7am that Friday morning. From there, one of our besties who also didn’t want to miss out picked me up, and after getting coffee we drove 3 hours to Fresno!
My sister couldn’t contain her excitement when she knew we were close. She skipped class (haha) so that we could all have lunch together at Taqueria Don Pepe.
It was incredibly hot outside (pushing 100s!!) but they had a small, shaded patio where we could sit down and enjoy our lunch. My sister and I both got vegetarian tortes while our friend got enchiladas (despite talking nonstop about her taco craving for the 3 hours I drove with her, lol).
The torta was made with a soft but toasted hoagie roll and filled with refried beans, good ol’ avocado, tomato slices, onion, and shredded cheese. My friend seemed to like her enchiladas, but she actually got bored mid-plate and started talking about splitting fries with my sister from Dog House Grill next door!
We went shopping for a bit afterwards at Target, and then came back to my sister’a dorm for some rest before heading out to dinner.
My sis and friend spent forever doing their makeup, and opened a bottle of wine to drink before we left. I was “designated mommy” since I don’t drink, so I let my sis enjoy her new-found freedom with alcohol. She’s actually probably the smartest person I know when it comes to drinking safety…she did her research and did not go crazy at all. She told me she stayed hydrated and drank only after eating something substantial the night she had her first drink, on her actual birthday. Obviously I’m bragging now because I’m such a proud older sis.
After they had their fun, I drove us all to The Cheesecake Factory because my sister had a giftcard she wanted to use, and because I had never been to TCH!!
We had to wait about 45 minutes before we could get a table, and when we were taken to our seats we came across a server who was scrambling to set up our table. It was the most awkward thing ever, as it looked like he was literally playing musical chairs with silverware. We stood there in polite silence, but were all actually thinking what the…
We ordered A TON, and I ended up reprimanding both ladies for it afterwards because we needed up taking four boxes home. We devoured a whole bread basket, shared chips and guacamole, and my sis and friend ordered huge plates of burgers with sides. My sis got a side salad that she didn’t even touch because she got the kale salad appetizer. I tried the mozzarella flatbread, and while it was crisp and creamy from the cheese, it was not the most stellar thing to cross paths with my tastebuds.
After dinner, we walked through the mall for a bit and then drove back. We finished the night with the Bratz movie (just to make fun of it, and it was unsurprisingly the only thing we could all agree upon) and I was the first one to fall asleep.
I woke up the next morning to squeeze in a 6 miler, but as soon as the ladies woke up, we for ourselves ready for an eggy brunch—Fresno style!
As the sun began to set on Friday night the weekend I was spending with my sister, we drove out to River Park for dinner.
Instead of finding some local place that serves food unique to Fresno, we decided to have our Friday girls night dinner at Yard House. Even though they are a chain, bar-and-burgers kind of place, they have a special vegetarian menu with all sorts of tasty items made with Gardein soy protein.
We had to wait almost an hour for a table, so we took our buzzer back to my sister’s car, and even called up our friend and talked to her while we waited.
When we came back to the restaurant, we were guided to a long booth, with a small candle placed at the opposite end. The extraneous space felt awkward, but not as awkward as trying to take pictures of the restaurant in the dark.
But I got a picture of this painting in full light?
Both of us got an appetizer plate as our entree, since the Gardein-based dippers sounded delicious. The pictures don’t do much justice, but the plates were FULL. I ordered the Jerk Gardein Dippers, which had a flavorful, crisp texture to them and came with a sweet and tangy sauce for dipping.
My sister got the BBQ Gardein Skewers, which reminded me of orange tofu (or what would be orange chicken for all you non-veggies).
To be honest, the Jerk Gardein dish, while it was delicious, got mediocre after awhile. I wasn’t too hungry when I first started eating, but I managed to finish the whole plate.
For lunch on Saturday, we drove back down to the Tower District to have tamales at the perfectly-named Casa de Tamales.
They had four different vegetarian options for tamales, but my sister wasn’t keen on ordering tamales. To her pleasant surprise, the girl behind the counter was able to customize some tacos so that they had all the veggie fix-ins, even though this wasn’t on the menu.
I kept it simple and ordered a tamale plate—with portabello & asparagus tamales, rice, and beans all in one plate.
Since it was nice and sunny outside, we were able to sit on the patio.
My sister adored her tacos, and I loved my tamales plate.
It had the perfect balance of tamales, rice, and beans. I had the rice and beans together first, before digging into the tamales.
What I loved about the tamales most was right on the outside: a fresh dollop of green guacamole. The inside was piping hot, and chock-full of mushroom pieces. For a lunch, it was the perfect portion, well-balanced, and kept me satiated for pretty much the rest of the day. I was still feeling somewhat full by dinnertime, but I did have enough room for that outing…
What was the most creative filling you’ve had inside a tamale?
With the one and only sit-down final I had to complete out of the way after Monday, the weekend that followed was devoted to some much needed ME time. I spent the rest of the time that week organizing myself in lab, getting myself ready for some upcoming projects I was planning to do after Christmas and seeing my family.
The Saturday of that weekend was a busy one. I was able to make it out to Santa Monica for the first time in months (not counting running-related events), and seek out a new vegan establishment—eLOVate kitchen.
The menu was pricier than what I expected, but looking at their decor, and seeing that their prime estate was located near Ocean Ave., I could understand the fact that they had a lot of costs to cover…
At least what I wanted to order was under the appetizer menu (and as a result, cheaper). I was more-than-excited about digging into a plate of vegan poutine topped with mushroom gravy and almond cheese curds.
The fries were shoestring Kennebec fries, and took to holding the gravy with such poise, haha.
It was truly a simple enough dish that gave me just enough energy to get some gift shopping done for some family friends at Penzey’s Spices. Along the way, I redeemed a coupon I had for a free pair of running shoes that I had won a few months ago. Even though I was thinking about cashing it in for some Vibrams, the sales lady who was helping me insisted I redeem it for some Newtons…ah well, at least this pair was made and styled for women. I can share more about this pair in a future post 😉
I originally planned on stopping for some late afternoon dessert at one of Santa Monica’s finest cookie/cupcake/donut establishments, but when it started to pour rain and all I had was a small umbrella shielding me from the downpour, I opted to hop on the next bus and hunt for a different kind of treat known to be found at Bristol Farms.
When I saw an array of Edoughble Cookie Dough flavors lined up in the refrigerated aisle, my eyes immediately pounced on the birthday cake flavor. I also bought another cookie dough brand/flavor that I originally came for, as well as a flavor of B&J’s I have a hard time finding in stores closer to me.
After my purchase, I sat down and dug into the birthday cake flavor, since it was still raining outside. While others around me were munching on warm sandwiches and sipping on soothing soup, my tastebuds were beyond happy with the taste of chewy sugar cookie dough mixed with vanilla frosting and confetti sprinkles.
When I had enough courage, I ventured out into the damp, cold, and turning-dark environment. I was home as soon as it turned pitch black, and found myself hungrier an hour or so later. I used it as an opportunity to try the other edible cookie dough purchase of the day.
Compared to Edoughble’s Birthday Cake, I found the dough to be just as rich, chewy, and sweet, but the chocolate chips were too chunky and overwhelming in my opinion. I found myself scooping them out and placing them to the side after awhile, since they got in the way of having a smooth-consistency dough.
I started off Sunday on a semi-rough note. I was able to go out for a long run in the morning, but didn’t feel too well afterwards. I had a throbbing headache as I worked in lab for a few hours, but fortunately, it faded away by the time I left mid-afternoon. It was a weird feeling and I was worried that it would be similar to what I went through a week earlier, so I’m glad it went away on its own!
Plus, I was looking forward to having a delicious meal that I could appreciate at Cowboys & Turbans (previously Sprouted Garden Cafe) in Silver Lake.
Only outdoor seating is available at this restaurant, and even though it was slightly chilly, there was a fire going and the seating arrangements were beautiful.
I sat a table in the middle of the area, so that I could get a great view from all angles.
The menu supposedly has a mix of Mexican and Indian dishes, hence the restaurant name Cowboys and Turbans. I chose to go with an old favorite of mine (Aloo Gobi) with a side of masala fries.
Everything came out fresh and piping hot—temperature and flavor-wise! Instead of ketchup, I was given a cup of creamy curry sauce for dipping the aloo gobi and fries into. The side of fries may look small in the pic, but that bowl was anything but! I was quite full at the end of this meal, and even though I had some bloat to deal with, I made it to the bus stop in one piece 😉
Dessert that night was the B&J’s S’mores pint, which was not a winning flavor for me. Too much chocolate, underwhelming marshmallow (actually, it was pectin and not gelatin, so this flavor is okay for veggies 😉 ), and an indistinguishable graham cracker swirl made this flavor far from appetizing.
How do you like your fries (seasoned with spices, just salt…) and what condiment(s) do you like pairing them with?