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 😍 but considering my voracious appetite yesterday afternoon, this did just fine 😊👌🏽"
OMG NACHOS. “Pink Taco “Mini” Nachos. Only way this happy hour $8 plate could have been better is if the cheese had been vegan 😍 but considering my voracious appetite yesterday afternoon, this did just fine 😊👌🏽

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 🥑 and creamed corn 🌽, 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 🥑 and creamed corn 🌽, 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 😛

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

Days Like These

Days Like These

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.

Standing in line
Standing in line

I’ve heard good things about Cafe Rio, which is a Chipotle-style restaurant, but in my opinion, everything looked more fresh.

Cafe Rio, Manhattan Beach
Cafe Rio, Manhattan Beach

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.

Tostada Bowl
Tostada Bowl

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!

Clossssssse-up
Clossssssse-up

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).

Beach bummin'
Beach bummin’

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 ♥.

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

Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook

Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook

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. 
 
Inside Loqui
Inside Loqui
 
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. 
 
Ordering our bowls (mocajeltes)
Ordering our bowls (molcajetes)
 
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.
 
A beautifully-paced mushroom bowl with tons of rice and guac // two soft corn tortillas
A beautifully-paced mushroom bowl with tons of rice and guac // two soft corn tortillas
 
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. 
 
And then we walked some more.
And then we walked some more.
 
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! 

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

A Hiatus from Life

A Hiatus from Life

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.

re-1
Pecan Braid from Panera Bread

I’ve been able to enjoy the fresh air during runs alongside the Arkansas River.

re-3
Breathing in some cool, crisp air while running by the river.

The flat terrain and cold temperatures have allowed me to run at faster paces without TOO much effort 😉

2
Pleased with my pace on this particular run 🙂

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.

2-1
Pint night with the sis gets better when you find a cake-based flavor of ice cream!

I ate what was left in the carton, and that night we started Fuller House.

re-2
Just look at the top of this thing!

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. 

re-4
First time trying Qdoba…

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 :/

qdoba
So orange + brown in here…

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.

qdoba_bowl
“Naked” Burrito Bowl

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.

qdoba_food
Dad’s burrito and sister’s tacos.

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?

Qdoba Mexican Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Her 21st

Her 21st

Last weekend’s events were spectacular. I am so grateful for being able to visit my sister on a milestone occasion—her 21st birthday!

cakkkkke
Slice of chocolate birthday cake. Can’t pass up a slice in celebration!

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.

don_pepe
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).

don_pepe
Pickle bar, small interior

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!

veg_torta
Veg torta anyone?

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.

filling
Everythannnng in here

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!!

lol
The Cheesecake Factory on a Friday…so busy!!

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…

drinks_chips
Sis and friend’s drinks…I helped myself to chips and guac.

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.

pizza
A sub-par flatbread pizza

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!

Do you drink?

What was your first alcoholic drink ?

Taqueria Don Pepe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Fried Stuff and Guacamole

Fried Stuff and Guacamole

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.

yh_front
Yard House front

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.

light
Super dim lighting

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.

inside
Yard House interior

But I got a picture of this painting in full light?

painting
Yard House painting

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.

jerk
Jerk Gardein Dippers

My sister got the BBQ Gardein Skewers, which reminded me of orange tofu (or what would be orange chicken for all you non-veggies).

bbq
BBQ Gardein Skewers

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.

cdt_front
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.

counter
Counter for ordering

I kept it simple and ordered a tamale plate—with portabello & asparagus tamales, rice, and beans all in one plate.

inside_cdt
Casa de Tamales interior

Since it was nice and sunny outside, we were able to sit on the patio.

veg_tac
Custom vegetarian tacos

My sister adored her tacos, and I loved my tamales plate.

IMG_3579
Portabello and Asparagus Tamales with rice and beans.

It had the perfect balance of tamales, rice, and beans. I had the rice and beans together first, before digging into the tamales.

gua
Guacamole and inside of 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?

Yard House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Cookie Dough & Fries

Cookie Dough & Fries

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.

eLOVatemenu
eLOVate menu

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…

eLOVate
eLOVate inside

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. 

poutine__fries
Yes it it vegan poutine!!!!!

The fries were shoestring Kennebec fries, and took to holding the gravy with such poise, haha.

curry_fries
Vegan Poutine with mushroom gravy and almond cheese curds.

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. 

edoughble_birthdaycake
Edoughble – Birthday Cake

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.

thecookiedoughcafe_chocolatechip
The Cookie Dough Cafe – EDIBLE chocolate chip cookie dough :9

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. 

front
Cowboys & Turbans (previously Sprouted Garden Cafe)

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. 

outdoorestaurant
Outdoor seating!

I sat a table in the middle of the area, so that I could get a great view from all angles.

cowboys&turbansmenu
Cowboys and Turbans menu

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.

c&t
Aloo gobi, masala fries, curry sauce

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 😉

smores_b&j
Ben & Jerry’s S’mores Ice Cream ~ Chocolate ice cream with fudge chunks, toasted “marshmallow”, and graham cracker swirls.

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? 

Cowboys & Turbans Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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