President’s Day Weekend ’17 – Part 1

President’s Day Weekend ’17 – Part 1

The last time I saw my cousin and her wife was in the summer of 2015…just before my parents moved from Cali and before I began my second year of grad school.

I didn’t think it would be another year and a half before seeing them again, but it wasn’t until this past weekend that my sister and I had a chance to visit.

A little guide dog that boarded the train :)
A little guide dog that boarded the train 🙂

I left on a Thursday afternoon just so that I could spread out my travel time. I took the evening Amtrak bus/train, and my sister picked me up at the station. My bus arrived in Bakersfield an HOUR early, so waiting to board the train ended up being an uncontrollable waste of time. I did eventually get on and get to Fresno around 8:30pm. My sister and I immediately went to Sprouts to get snacks, chill, and got to sleep around midnight.

The next day, I woke up to go for a run, despite the intermittent showers. I ended up running a little under six miles, while my sister finished up her morning class. From there, we left for a late breakfast at her now all-time favorite brunch place Benediction. Seeing as it was my third time visiting the location, I didn’t think about taking pictures of my food. I left my phone in the car, and fully enjoyed some piping hot coffee, potatoes (still have a craving for the starchy goodness ever since my visit to JFAT), and my sister’s company.

From there, we left for Walnut Creek. It ended up being just about 3 hours of a drive and my sister was a trooper, driving through some horrid rain spots as we got closer to the bay. I offered to take over towards the end but she had it under control. We did have some bladder-related tasks to take care of, so when we finally got to my cousin’s apartment, we fled upstairs with the luggage still in our car. The first question we asked was “where is your bathroom?!”

Once we were settled in, we chatted for an hour our two while snacking on a slice of coffee-spiced cheese, apple slices, and oranges. I forgot how good the apple/cheese combo is!

We originally had plans to eat in for dinner, but then my cousin’s wife offered to pay for dinner since she got a bonus and wanted to treat all of us.

Welcome to Babalou's!
Welcome to Babalou’s!
Overview
Overview

Because of her sweet offer, we dined at Babalou’s for some fresh Mediterranean food.

Menu
Menu
Fun artwork!
Fun artwork!

I had the veggie plate, which came with two falafel, two dolmas (grape leaf rolls), a lentil salad, babaganoush, hummus, and tahini.

Veggie Plate
Veggie Plate

There was also of course some pita bread on the side to mop up any excess condiments.

Baba & Hummus
Baba & Hummus

After dinner, we made our way to the nearby theater to watch Lion. It was incredibly packed, more so than when I saw a movie out in LA on a Friday night.

Friday night at the movies!
Friday night at the movies!

All of us pretty much teared up or held our tears back by the time the movie was through. It was such a good story and the meaning of the title makes so much sense at the end.

We got home around 10:00 but we were all pretty tired to stay up and do anything. Dinner and a movie was all we could handle for the day!

Babalou's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sit Back and Relax?

Sit Back and Relax?

Once Wednesday morning rolled around last week, I felt much less anxious, but I did have some lingering adrenaline because I could not sleep. Post-presentation jitters? I guess that’s a thing.

I did treat myself to a latte in the morning: the new Cascara latte from Starbucks.

As a treat for my major accomplishment yesterday, I treated myself to a tall cup of the new Cascara Latte from Sbux. Was it worth a $1.00 extra vs a cappucino? Interestingly, I thought the froth was softer and creamier, and maybe it was the stevia, but it tasted so sweet. I usually have to add two packets of stevia to my cappuccino in order to get half the sweetness I got with this cup.
As a treat for my major accomplishment yesterday, I treated myself to a tall cup of the new Cascara Latte from Sbux. Was it worth a $1.00 extra vs a cappucino? Interestingly, I thought the froth was softer and creamier, and maybe it was the stevia, but it tasted so sweet. I usually have to add two packets of stevia to my cappuccino in order to get half the sweetness I got with this cup.

I saved my celebrations for the weekend though. My friend from lab and I snuck out a little early Friday evening to head downtown and see Hidden Figures. It was my friend’s second time seeing it, but she loved it so much that she didn’t mind seeing it again with me.

She ended up buying both of our tickets even though I insisted she didn’t. Ah, now I owe her—if she’ll ever give me the chance 😉 !

I absolutely loved the movie, though I will admit I love movies and books about people and their stories. I loved reading biographies as a kid, and even now I prefer memoirs over anything else literature-wise.

On Saturday, I gave myself a rest day knowing that the next morning I would have to get up and run 15 miles. I wasn’t exactly sure what to do with my day, knowing I had it all to myself with no impending items on my to-so list…

IMG_9104
Except maybe go frolicking around Westwood?

I ended up walking around Santa Monica in the morning because I woke up ravenous, and I wanted to get donuts from DK’s. Unfortunately, my debit card wasn’t working and I couldn’t withdraw any cash to buy any donuts from the cash-only shop. I don’t understand why they can’t take credit cards at this point with all their success/recognition, but one day I’ll be able to see what the hullabaloo is about…when I have cash in my pocket.

In the meantime, I had to find something pronto because my stomach was growling…

SuperFood Cafe in Santa Monica
SuperFood Cafe in Santa Monica

I totally forgot about SuperFood Cafe’s existence, even though I had been planning to check this place out a while back. They have an incredible amount of vegan and vegetarian items, hinted by the size of their large laminated menus.

At the counter, I ordered a warm bowl called Chef Tofu and a coffee because that morning I desperately needed one. I then found a seat and admired the high ceilings and warm, cozy color tones.

coffee and art
Nothing says comfort like a giant mug of coffee

I added two packets of brown sugar and one serving of creamer to the coffee, which made it taste much more magical. My bowl came in a very interesting-shaped bowl—it looked like something you’d find in an art gallery.

chef_tofu
That crazy looking bowl though.

The bowl itself contained organic tofu, hemp seed, organic broccoli, kale & spinach, and organic tomato-corn-chipotle salsa. The tofu had a nice spice to it, being coated with a light curry sauce and all.

chef_TOfuuu
Ah, a bowl of yum!

With my hunger satisfied, I decided I might as well do something fun, but cultural, with my free day. I took the bus (which stopped right in front of SuperFood, conveniently!) to Westwood, and decided to check out the Hammer Museum since I hadn’t been yet!

hammer_museum
Hammer Museum—an illusion of size

The museum was actually pretty small. From the outside it looks enormous, but then I realized that the bulk of it was a parking garage…so much for culture! While it was gorgeous on the inside, there were only TWO art displays open, and so my visit was drastically cut down to a fifteen minute walk-through…

interior_
Pretty, but small & quiet

So, I ended up doing what I pretty much do on my weekends when not in lab…grocery shop, and then head home to nap! At least at my grocery stops over the weekends, I treated myself to some delicious new finds:

I had this Falafel Wrap from Trader Joe’s on Sunday, after a 15-mile long run with my team. After having the Veggie Hummus and Grilled Eggplant wraps though, I found this one to be awfully dry even with the provided tahini sauce. It didn’t help that all the falafel were to one side (it made it harder to dip that side into the sauce cup)…maybe if they had been assembled in a staggered arrangement, it would have helped with the dunking?

falafel_wrap
Trader Joe’s Falafel Wrap

I also used some Vitamin Shoppe points I had to go towards my first jar of D’s Naturals Fluffbutter!

I tried D's Naturals Fluffbutter for the first time last night! It's a vegan protein-infused peanut butter that comes in a number of flavors, but Creamy Chocolate S'mores caught my eye immediately. It has a thick consistency, but that's balanced out with a good proportion of peanut oil to make it easy to spread. It tastes like a mild chocolate peanut butter, and comes in the perfect small-sized jar. So excited to get my hands on the other flavors and see how they compare!
I tried D’s Naturals Fluffbutter for the first time last night! It’s a vegan protein-infused peanut butter that comes in a number of flavors, but Creamy Chocolate S’mores caught my eye immediately. It has a thick consistency, but that’s balanced out with a good proportion of peanut oil to make it easy to spread. It tastes like a mild chocolate peanut butter, and comes in the perfect small-sized jar. So excited to get my hands on the other flavors and see how they compare!

As described by my caption so succinctly, I enjoyed this flavor immensely 🙂

backofjar
I will be on the hunt for the others!

I would say that my post-exam jitters finally went away Monday morning. I woke up feeling much more refreshed than I did last Wednesday, and so far, that feeling’s been holding up pretty well 🙂

Does it take you a while (psychologically) to get back to your normal routine after a long stressful event is over?

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

Pizza and a Movie

Pizza and a Movie

After spending ten straight days running, it felt glorious to sleep in, and not have to worry about getting a mandatory workout in. It was the absolute perfect way to start the three-day Independence Day weekend!

Since my sister was staying with me for a few days, we had tons of fun things planned 😉

The fun began later in the morning, after stopping by lab to check on an experiment. We were out by noon, and proceeded to take the train + bus to WeHo for a scrumptious lunch before hitting the movie theater.

 Enter, EVO Kitchen
Enter, EVO Kitchen

While it wasn’t a completely vegetarian/vegan establishment, EVO Kitchen offered plenty of organic, vegan, and gluten-free options. Many of the menu items could be made meatless upon request however. This was a fact that pleased my sister and I, after taking an extensive amount of time looking at the large offering of pizzas.

 All the pizzas sound amazing. Right before getting our pizzas, the waiter gave us some garlic salt and pepper flakes!
All the pizzas sound amazing. Right before getting our pizzas, the waiter gave us some garlic salt and pepper flakes!

The restaurant itself was small and cozy, with a smattering of booths and small tables + chairs. There was a bar to the right, and from where we were sitting, we could see part of the kitchen and the cooks hard at work!

iterior
The cozy interior.

It took a while for our pizzas to arrive (or maybe we were just that hungry?) but when they did, my sister and I split our pizzas in half to share with one another. 😉

On top: the BLEU CHEESE STEAK without steak - mushrooms, onions, marinara, mozzarella and gorgonzola // on bottom: the BBQ CHICKEN without chicken - BBQ sauce, tofu cubes, scallions, onions, soy cheese.
On top: the BLEU CHEESE STEAK without steak – mushrooms, onions, marinara, mozzarella and gorgonzola // on bottom: the BBQ CHICKEN without chicken – BBQ sauce, tofu cubes, scallions, onions, soy cheese.

Out of the two pizzas, the one I ordered [the BLEU CHEESE “STEAK”] was my favorite. I ordered it with multigrain crust, and it came out super crunchy as a result. There was also a mild tang to the marinara, and overall, was perfectly-sized for a lunch portion.

 The chili flakes added a pop of color...and just look at those scallions!
The chili flakes added a pop of color…and just look at those scallions!

The BBQ pizza, from the slices I tried, was good…just not mind-blowing. The BBQ sauce tasted more like ketchup than a spicy BBQ sauce, but at least the tofu cubes were quite chewy and added variety to the toppings.

 BBQ with tofu!!
BBQ with tofu!!

After lunch, we made a semi-made dash for the bus stop to head to The Grove. We wanted to make the 4PM showing of Inside Out, but ended up having to get tickets for the following show at 5:30PM…not because we missed the bus or anything, but rather all of the seats for the 4PM show were reserved. I have never heard of reserved seating for “regular” movies before (plays, yes), nor have I ever had to pay $15 for a movie that was not in 3D.

 A nice looking theater---inside & out (haha...)---but the $15 ticket price? Not so nice...
A nice looking theater—inside & out (haha…)—but the $15 ticket price? Not so nice…

Good thing Inside Out was beyond worth it. The story, concept, characters, and ending were all on point, and I was glad that I was patient enough to wait to see the movie with my sister. After leaving the theater, we couldn’t stop talking about our favorite scenes 🙂

Since it was still sunny and gorgeous outside, my sister and I stayed out longer to get some snacks from Trader Joe’s.

 Festive times at The Grove.
Festive times at The Grove.

It took us an hour or so to get home, but once we got back to my apartment, I made some scrambled eggs on toast for my hungry sister.

 Had to prove to my Dad that I was not starving my sister.  ;)
Had to prove to my Dad that I was not starving my sister. 😉

We stayed up until 11PM (which is unusual for me 😛 ) watching Friends and munching on snacks. It was nice to not have to worry about getting up early again the next day—especially since we had another fun-filled day planned for the 4th!!

Have you seen Inside Out?

How do you like your pizza?

Click to add a blog post for EVO Kitchen on Zomato

Beaches and Boating

Beaches and Boating

From all of the relatives I visited on my trip, I had the most wonderful time with the daughters of my cousins. Two girls, one aged six years and the other ten, were so delightful and such fun to be around. This was the first time they saw me when they could actually remember me, since five years ago they were babies/toddlers. Watching, and playing, with both girls reminded me of how much boundless energy I had as a kid—something I wish I didn’t lose as I grew up.

I first spent some time with my older cousin, and mother of the six-year old. This child has the most gorgeous smile and is quite intelligent too. She’s always asking questions—the mind of a budding scientist I tell ya 😉 . On my first day with them, we woke up early in the morning (around 5am) to get ready to go to the beach for some fresh air before school.

caption
We had a beach day!

We went near the water and soaked our feet as the water came closer and closer to shore. My cousin’s daughter got absolutely soaked, but in addition to collecting shells and making moats, it was all part of the fun.

After having a fun morning, we came back and freshened ourselves up. Since it was my cousin’s daughter’s last day of school (April-June is summer vacation time in India), she had to dress up in her full school uniform in order to pick up her report card. There was also a book fair going on, and so we obviously bought one or two books for her 😉

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An outdoor book fair—still just as popular as when I was in school!!

By the time we returned home, I was exhausted from the morning’s events so after lunch, I took a much-needed 2 hour nap. After I woke up, my cousin and I went out for some (window) shopping and coffee, after dropping off her daughter at a friend’s house for a mid-afternoon play date. We had dinner pretty late (8-8:30pm) and then went to sleep soon after since we had plans to go to the movies the next day.

Rio 2 had come out that weekend, so we decided to attend the first showing that morning. My cousin’s daughter was interested/bored/interested again, and you could tell that she was really enjoying herself towards the end since she wouldn’t stop bouncing in her seat! So adorable…

In India, going to the movies is a pretty big event for some folks. You always see your usual large groups of families and teenagers “just hanging out”—it is always packed no matter what time it is or what movies are showing. Even at 11AM in the morning, the food counter was hoppin’: where you can purchase anything from popcorn, candy, ice cream, and even samosas.

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11AM at the food counter…

After purchasing some strawberry ice cream for the little one, us “grown-ups” denied ourselves any movie theater treats since my cousin’s mother already had lunch prepared. The rest of the day was spent relaxing and resting, and then we all went out for a family dinner at a restaurant in the evening.

The following day, my Dad and I thought it would be fun to have both girls join us for a boating adventure outside of the city! We carpooled with my cousin’s daughter (the six year-old I spent the previous days with) and her father, and met up with my other cousin’s daughter (the ten year-old), my cousin (mother of ten year-old), my cousin’s husband, and my cousin’s father (my uncle) at the boating place.

caption
Scenes from the highway, outside of the city.

The drive was entertaining on the way to the boating place, but soon the scenes outside became repetitive (dirt roads, the same plants, buildings, etc.), so I let myself fall asleep until we arrived. My cousin’s daughter was also great entertainment, and definitely had more energy than me 🙂 !

caption
More highway scenes!

Boating was an interesting experience! All of us were huddled into a motorboat and had the option to wear life vests. We were then shuttled to a bank where we got off and spent some time on a beach! Absolutely everything was burning HOT that day—the boat, my skin, the sand—the only thing that seemed cold was the ocean water, and even then, to only some extent.

There was also a group of guys near us who were acting rowdy—yelling, screaming, and even stripping down to their underwear and rolling around on the beach—obviously they didn’t realize how stupid they were acting in front of two kids, but then again, they probably didn’t care.

We were done in about two hours, and retreated to our cars and put the A/C on full blast while driving to a roadside hotel (in India, a hotel is interchangeable with restaurant) for lunch. Along the way, we stopped for some tender coconut and palm fruit—straight from the source.

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Roadside palm fruit

It was intriguing the way the man with the scythe cut open the coconuts/palm fruit with such precision to make sure nothing went to waste. Forget packaged coconut water, it’s more authentic when someone pierces a coconut for you, and then slashes it open so you can feast on the tender coconut inside!

The palm fruit was small and gelatinous in comparison, surrounded mostly by a hard shell disproportionate to its tiny size. Even though it has no taste, you can’t argue that it’s as much fun to play with as Play-Doh.

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Palm fruit feast.

We eventually found a place to sit down and have a relaxing mid-afternoon lunch. The drive back to the city was a long one, taking two hours instead of one due to the insane amount of Sunday evening traffic. For the rest of the night, I would not leave the couch since my feet were large and swollen from the heat. Even with the weather and congestion of traffic, it was the definition of a perfect day and a day worth every minute—especially since I got to spend it with two lovely girls 🙂

It’s an extremely hot day outside—spend the day at the beach, or in an A/C theater watching a movie?

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