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 Visit to Novel Cafe (Before Writing My Own Novel…)

A Visit to Novel Cafe (Before Writing My Own Novel…)

I have a huge 12 page proposal due soon, and with this on my mind the weekend before Thanksgiving, I was anxiously-driven to put in some concrete hours working on it.

Tried a new RX Bar flavor from Trader Joe’s—Maple Sea Salt! I love how it has salt speckles that sparkle like diamonds!

Fortunately, I didn’t have to go into lab that weekend, so it also gave me plenty of time to sleep in for a bit, and then set up shop at a local library.

Tried this interesting new seasonal greek yogurt flavor —> Apple Caramel Greek Yogurt? Tastes more like cream cheese with apple pieces…uh, I guess that could be appetizing but when you expect yogurt and taste cream cheese, it’s quite a surprise 🤔 .

I also had a hankering for pizza, so I made it my first priority to get myself a warm, hearty tomato-based pie before working. This meant waking up around 8 (because that’s my definition of sleeping in) and then heading over to Novel Cafe because I heard they had pretty good pizza, among other things.

Novel Cafe

The outside was covered in calligraphy and murals, while the inside had an interesting layout. There were one (or two?) shops within the restaurant selling what I assume was jewelry, but they also didn’t seem to be affiliated with the restaurant.

Casual seating area

I sat at a table in the center, and in my view was an empty juice bar, and bakery cases full of pastries and bread. I was handed a long, laminated menu and my eyes immediately gravitated to the pizza section. I had to go for the organic vegan topped with zen buddha cheese…


…it also came with other goodies like rich tomato sauce, zucchini, and mushrooms!

That melty “cheese”

My pizza was a medium, but it was the perfectly-sized personal pizza. It took me a while to finish, but that’s because each bread-y bite took some work to chew. Each slice was thin enough to fold NY style.

I left with a full tummy and gathered enough energy to get to work on my paper for the rest of the morning and early afternoon. I spent a good three hours at the library, hard at work, before I decided to venture home and crash into a carb-induced coma of a nap.

The next day, I continued to put those carbs to use when I ventured out for a fourteen miler with my marathon team. My running buddy and I kept a consistent pace the entire time, making us enthusiastic about our marathon prospects. If all goes well, I may be significantly PR’ing come March 😉

Trader Joe’s Veggie Wrap w/ Hummus – The wrap itself is so soft…and each bite is chock full of hummus!

I did some grocery shopping after the run and before heading home, all on now-tight quads! I picked up a new-to-me wrap from Trader Joe’s for lunch while watching the latest SNL episode.

What I had to say about this wrap —-> Is it actually raining in So Cal today 😱?? I thought it was pretty good timing on my part getting back home after a 14mi run JUST before the downpour. I wanted to get a lot of my written proposal done, but a lot of napping, SNL watching, and veggie wrap with hummus eating happened instead 😛 But at least I did catch up in the sleep department 👍

I had my fair share of hard work and relaxation in the weekend immediately preceding Thanksgiving, but I am more excited to type out my Thanksgiving recaps! That is…if I ever finish this proposal 😛

Novel Café Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Pizza Pals

Pizza Pals

I’ve always had a sweet spot in my heart for the month of May—it truly is a month of changes, but the changes are usually hopeful, sometimes with a tinge of nostalgia, and almost always involve connections.

It also is the beginning of “free time” for a lot of people, since students are free to go on vacation (if they aren’t necessarily given a summer break anymore, which is my case!) and usually, people have a more relaxed schedule in general.

Even though my work has not died down in the slightest (actually, I would say it’s increased over the past two weeks and my summer will most certainly be busy), having a boss away for the summer does allow one to be more flexible schedule-wise 😉

And when your flexible schedule meshes with another person’s blogger’s schedule, it’s bound to result in good happenings.

I was able to meet Julianna this past Saturday, and chat with the vibrant lady over some hot, fresh-out-of-the-brick-oven pizza. I’ve been following her blog over the years, reading about her undergrad journey in UCLA from the beginning. She’s graduating soon and heading off the Atlanta, and I couldn’t be more excited for her 🙂 !

We met outside the pizzeria Prova, and thankfully my awkward handshake didn’t scare her off (haha, it’s a habit I developed after grad school interviews two years ago!).

prova (2)
Prova Pizzeria

The enticing menu made us take a while to make a final decision on what to get, but Julianna got one of the tomato sauce-less pizzas with egg on it while I went the same sauce-less route, ordering a mozzarella pizza with artichoke and mushrooms.

Our pizzas were the thin-crust kind, with a really flat center and easy to fold. Seeing the golden yolk on Julianna’s pizza made me second guess my pizza choice, but seeing as though I left nothing but half a piece of one slice’s crust, I’d say I wasn’t too regretful of my pizza combination.

prova (1)
Mozzarella with artichokes & mushrooms 🙂

I always get a bit nervous before blogger meet-ups, but once they happen, I find my nervousness to be a silly feeling. In the few blogger meet-ups I’ve had to-date, I’ve always left each feeling happy that I got to know someone I’ve been following for years in person. Julianna was no exception, and her energetic, positive personality certainly matches how she expresses herself in her blog posts.

prova (3)
Another pic cause it was just that good.

One of the things we asked each other was our favorite dessert, and of course I had to say ice cream. Even though I couldn’t find a certain flavor of Halo Top I thought would be in any of the grocery stores near Prova, I happened to find it the next day close to home, and stayed true to my answer 😉

Halo Top Birthday Cake! It’s been so coveted that only three (!!) pints were left when I stopped by my local grocery on Sunday.

halotopbdaycakeeee (1)
Sprinkles, that’s it?

Would I say it was worth the hype? Probably not…I mean, it had sprinkles and a very creamy vanilla flavor with an iced-cake like texture (if you can imagine that), but it got really old, really quick. I guess putting confetti-colored sprinkles on anything nowadays means it’s a birthday cake :/

halotopbdaycakeeee (2)
The packaging is cute tho.

Do you get nervous before blogger meet-ups or meeting someone for the first time in person?

Are you tired of the birthday cake trend or do you love it?


LDW ’15

LDW ’15

Labor Day Weekend is such a precious gift for a graduate student…especially one who has to go into lab prettymucheveryday, and has to read abajallionpapers every week for class. I wish I was exaggerating, but such is the life of a second-year! Even though I felt overworked and drained from a long week, I surprisingly had enough energy to talk to my new roommate once I got home and got some dinner in me! I also had to have an pint of ice cream of course because duh, Friday. 😉

 Ben & Jerry's Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough.
Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough.

Since my roommate and I were talking non-stop, I ended up eating this ice cream in a semi-melted state. It was not too big of an interruption to affect the taste though. It was like eating frozen yogurt with large chunks of cookie dough thrown in. How is that ever a bad thing? 😛

We had planned to go out for an afternoon hike the next day, but other things got in the way for the both of us. Instead, after fulfilling my lab duties in the morning, I ended up spending the rest of my Saturday playing catch-up. I thought another ice cream pint would get me through the mundane workload, but let’s just say New York Super Fudge Chunk left me feeling less enthused.

So what if it had white chocolate fudge chunks and fudge-covered almonds? Certainly not my go-to flavor or one to try again later… :(
So what if it had white chocolate fudge chunks and fudge-covered almonds? Certainly not my go-to flavor or one to try again later… 🙁

Maybe it was the too-frozen consistency, or the dark chocolate ice cream. Perhaps it was the overload of nuts? Too many cons, and not enough pros made this flavor an unfortunate no-no for me 🙁

On Sunday morning, I managed to still wake up at the dark hour of 5AM and head out for a 12 mile long run. Averaging an average pace of 9:20/mi, I made it back to the apartment around 7:30AM, just as my roommate was getting up. I still had to go into lab that morning, and we planned to meet up later to go grocery shopping/eat out, but something else came up for her that she had to attend to. So after my work was done, I was off on another weekend solo adventure, as usual 😉 !

The last time I was in Westwood, it was scorching hot in mid-July and I was eating my weight in pie and ice cream. About two month’s later and nothing’s changed…except I was about to eat my weight in pickles, bread, and cabbage at Lenny’s Deli. After seeing their feature on Mystery Diners and learning about their famous Rosenberger, I was excited to be able to cross them off my LA foodie bucket list 🙂

 Lenny's Deli
Lenny’s Deli

It was almost 4pm when I made my way inside, and having run 12 miles in the morning and being cooped up in lab right after, I was more than ready to chow down. Then entrance opens up right to a huge bakery, with countless dessert options.

 The HUGE bakery and Happy Birthday Israel sign---it was a Jewish deli after all!
The HUGE bakery and Happy Birthday Israel sign—it was a Jewish deli after all!

I made my way over to the restaurant area, which was towards the right of the restaurant, and had a diner-like feel with the huge booths and TVs lining the top of the walls.

 Isolation, diner-style.
Isolation, diner-style.

I was given a menu to look through, but I noticed that a new and featured special—the Vegan Tuna Fish Dish—was currently being offered. My original plan for a burger went out the window when I saw that, and I made my request to the hostess.

 Don't tease me like that!
Don’t tease me like that!

Unfortunately, she came back with the sad news that they were actually out for the day. I ended up ordering what I initially planned on—The Rosenberger.

I didn’t have to wait in a hangry state, since right after I made my order, I was given complimentary pickles + sauerkraut, along with four slices of rye bread. The sauerkraut actually tasted sweeter than I expected, but it, along with the large pickle halves, paired deliciously with my rye slices.

 Pickles, sauerkraut, and rye bread---almost didn't even need to order a meal!
Pickles, sauerkraut, and rye bread—almost didn’t even need to order a meal!

By the time I got through all of the pickled items, my Rosenberger arrived—full and ready to be devoured.

The Rosenberger, vege-fied: two flat, thick onion bread buns with a soft, veggie patty, melted cheese, mushrooms, grilled onions.

I was amazed by the appearance of the onion bread buns, and the inside of the burger was mind-blowing.

The good stuff on the inside.

On the side, I got a cup of coleslaw:

Cold, sweet coleslaw

I guess it wasn’t too bad that they ran out of vegan tuna 😉

I was already feeling full from all of the fibrous pickled items I had inhaled before, but this burger deserved to be consumed in its entirety. I ate it open-face style with a fork, and mixed in my coleslaw with the mushrooms/cheese/onions for flavor-packed breadfull bites!

I was STUFFED by the end of it, but the meal was certainly balanced. I was also incredibly thirsty afterwards…perhaps due to all of the salt from the pickles? 😛

How did you relax this Labor Day Weekend?

Lenny's Deli Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

RAW-ful, Restful Weekend

RAW-ful, Restful Weekend

It’s hard to believe that Thanksgiving is merely a week away, and that we have already passed the mid-November mark! It seems that with the holidays coming closer and closer, everyone around me is starting to be a little bit more relaxed when it comes to work…or maybe it’s just me 😛

Last weekend was very much a relaxed one for me, and I was able to do things at my my own, slow pace. Friday night was a cloudy one, and after a short day in lab, I came home to a cozy crockpot dinner, a pint of coffee Artic Zero, and a taped episode of Shark Tank. On Saturday morning, I woke up leisurely and after having a cup of coffee, decided to not go for a run, but instead review my lectures from the past week before heading out to lunch.

 A low-key dinner on Friday night, and some light studying on Saturday morning.
A low-key dinner on Friday night, and some light studying on Saturday morning.

I was particularly excited about my lunch destination that Saturday, since it was a relatively new raw, vegan place nestled on Melrose Ave.

 Entrance to Grassroots Alchemy
Entrance to Grassroots Alchemy

Grassroots Alchemy—the name itself sounds so unique and mystical! And the ambiance was a pure reflection of that…



There was outdoor seating as well, but I obviously chose to stay inside. Plus, I had the whole place to myself since everybody else was distracted by Urth Caffe across the street 😛


I ordered the Habibi Plate at the counter, and then asked to use the restroom. I was directed towards the back of the restaurant and told to use this magical-looking key to open the door…

Even the bathroom is treated with respect!

After freshening up, I found a seat at the counter near the front window (it was that or eat awkwardly on the couch since there were no tables in sight). It was interesting to watch people walk down the street in fitness garb or yoga wear. Since it was just past noon on a Saturday, you could safely assume people were done with their morning workouts—I was just surprised no one came in to refuel with a raw food dish, or even a cold-pressed juice!

Ah well, at least I enjoyed having the space to myself, and finally feasting on this beauty when it arrived:

The Habibi Platter, which included curried hummus, raw falafel, tabouli, raw crackers, and tahini dressing.

(Almost) too good to eat…almost.

Habibi Plate Close-Up

I loved all of the main components of the plate, but I especially loved mixing the curried hummus with the raw falafel and crackers. The falafel was quite doughy since it was not baked or fried, but the crackers balanced things out texture-wise with their crunchiness and full-bodied flavor.

After my exceptional lunch experience, I spent some time walking down Melrose before heading home. I wanted to head back early and rest up before running 10 miles the next day!

So yes, my Sunday at least had a productive start with a 10 mile long run with my running group, and once I got back around 11am, I couldn’t resist taking a nap! I woke up a little after noon and slowly got ready to head out for lunch and also grab a few necessities from the grocery store.

I wanted to refuel properly, and was craving a huge salad with filling ingredients. I also felt like hoping on the rail, so towards North Hollywood I went, stopping at the station near Universal Studios to visit SunCafe Organic.


From the outside, it didn’t look like much, but I shouldn’t let appearances fool me too quickly! I made my way to the entrance after winding around the outdoor patio seating area. The inside was dimly-lit, but quite spacious and cozy.


The bathroom was well-kept and cutely decorated as well.

 I was quite fascinated by the faucet.
I was quite fascinated by the faucet.

But…back to the main point of my visit: satisfying my salad craving. I was able to do just that by ordering the Kale Colossus.

 Kale Colossus, which included massaged kale, soy chorizo, mushrooms, bell peppers, pico de gallo, three dressings, raisins, and three slices of banana delicately placed on top :)
Kale Colossus, which included massaged kale, soy chorizo, mushrooms, bell peppers, pico de gallo, three dressings, raisins, and three slices of banana delicately placed on top 🙂

It came to my table crazy fast, that even my waiter was surprised when he came by to check on me. Seeing as it was smaller than I expected, I did my best not to demolish it in three bites or less even though I wanted to.

Kale Colossus Close Up

I took my time eating this salad, and felt completely nourished by the time I finished. After paying the bill, I headed over to Ralph’s before heading home as the sun set.

Even with my nap, I still felt quite exhausted from the weekend’s events, so I went to bed at the early hour of 10pm…even though, I must say that this particular weekend was a much more tame one in comparison to the others I’ve had to-date!

Grassroots Alchemy on Urbanspoon

SunCafe Organic on Urbanspoon

A Visit From Home

A Visit From Home

On Tuesday, I had my first exam in grad school, so Sunday and Monday became default study days—which meant it would be wiser to hunker down in the library study room versus “going out for lunch” 😉 .

But on Sunday morning, I met up with the same running group (that I ran my fastest mile to-date with on Wednesday) for a 3 mile run. Sundays are their long run days, but they are starting with a lower mileage since it is the beginning of a new academic year and they are in the process of recruiting people. Will I be one of their new recruits… 😉After the run, I spent the afternoon on campus at the library, but I felt so distracted. I did make it through though!

Monday was absolutely boring during the day, but I tried to stay productive so that I would really deserve my study break that evening. The truth was it was a challenge to keep my focus, since I was counting the hours minutes until I would get to see my Dad! He was in the city for business, and I was so excited to meet up with him after not seeing him for over a month—which has been the longest time I’ve been away from close family in general!

Okay, and I was excited about the goodies he brought via roller board: 

 Yup, he brought me cups of discount Grocery Outlet Chobani cups after hearing me complain about the yogurt prices every time we talk on the phone. Dads are the best :)
Yup, he brought me cups of discount Nor Cal Grocery Outlet Chobani cups  after hearing me complain about the yogurt prices every time we talk on the phone. Dads are the best 🙂

After quickly unpacking/packing to spend the nights he was in town with him, we went out for dinner. I was feeling ravenous after forcing myself to stay focused for so long, and so I couldn’t wait to just sit down and dig into some satisfying, wholesome food.

As we drove, I rambled on and on about my LA adventures so far, and how we probably would have gotten to the restaurant faster if we didn’t listen to Google, but rather follow the Metro buses.

Entrance of Gracias Madre (easy to miss!) and outdoor seating.

Dinner that night was at Gracias Madre—a place I’ve been longing to go to for a while, but somehow felt intimidated by the fact of going alone. I guess I was expecting it to be packed with all hardcore vegan/gluten-free/organic/foodie patrons, but it turned out to be quite empty on a Monday night.

It was even quiet and serene outside on the patio:


And the crowd was not too stereotypical of WeHo…except there was a couple who acted like they should be waited on hand and foot just because they made the choice to dine at this fine establishment. They were practically shouting across the patio to get the attention of a waiter. I wouldn’t have been surprised if they started tapping their wine glasses with a fork and shouting “Garçon!”.

Everything sounded so appetizing on the menu:


After meeting with our energetic waitress who gushed about how everything was organic/gluten-free/vegan, I decided to go with the El Plato while my Dad got the Tacos. He also ordered a ginger/kale/lime(?) juice that really had a kick to it!

 The spicy juice with the Tacos - three corn tortillas topped with seared cauliflower, grilled calabaza verde, and mushrooms. topped with cashew crema, served with beans
The spicy juice with the Tacos – three corn tortillas topped with seared cauliflower, grilled calabaza verde, and mushrooms. Topped with cashew crema, served with beans.

Our food came out quickly, and I took the time to admire my plate before digging in. I mean, the colors. The variety

 El Plato - butternut squash, cashew nacho cheese, chorizo mushrooms, cilantro pesto, escabeche, rice, pico de gallo, black beans, housemade tortillas.
El Plato – butternut squash, cashew nacho cheese, chorizo mushrooms, cilantro pesto, escabeche, rice, pico de gallo, black beans, housemade tortillas.

My plate came with tortillas on the side, and I have to say my favorite components of this dish were the (not real) chorizo mushrooms and dollop cilantro pesto. Wholesome? Check. Satisfied? Double check.


After dinner, it took us almost an hour to get to the hotel my Dad was staying at. We made the “mistake” of listening to Google, and ended up getting a scenic tour near the Hollywood Hills just so we could avoid worse traffic. I have to admit it was a beautiful sight though—seeing the city against the backdrop of the sunset. Too bad I wasn’t able to capture any decent pictures with my shaky phone camera :/

By the time we did get onto the freeway, we were still shuffling through traffic. At least there were some street peddlers to entertain us—these folks were literally walking along the median of the road, trying to sell “Drake vs. Lil’ Wayne” t-shirts. So awkward, but it distracted us from the pains of traffic!

When we finally got to the hotel, I immediately crashed after leafing through my notes one last time. With a full belly and an (over)prepped mind, I was more than ready to get some shut-eye.

What’s the longest amount of time you’ve been away from family?

Gracias Madre on Urbanspoon

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