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.
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.
Because of her sweet offer, we dined at Babalou’s for some fresh Mediterranean food.
I had the veggie plate, which came with two falafel, two dolmas (grape leaf rolls), a lentil salad, babaganoush, hummus, and tahini.
There was also of course some pita bread on the side to mop up any excess condiments.
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.
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!
The holiday weekend actually started off on Thursday night for me, when I met up with some of my girl classmates for a potluck/movie night. I brought these brownies, and helped my friend set-up before everyone else arrived.
Our get-together went on until about 10:30pm, and after getting back to my apartment, I finished packing up for my trip back north to visit the fam! I had an early morning bus to catch, so I went to sleep immediately after getting everything ready.
My bus left a little after 6am on that Friday morning, and while I did plan to do some studying, I ended up sleeping (or trying to sleep), making use of the free Wi-Fi even though I had to do a lot of squinting (phone problems…), and eating whatever snacks I packed for the trip.
I made it to SF around 2pm, and after figuring my way through other modes of transit, I finally met my Dad and sister (who also came up for the weekend) waiting for me at a BART station. From there, we had to drive our way through Friday-late-afternoon-end-of-the-work-day traffic, and so I literally did not get home until 5pm. But once I did get home, I was excited to finally have a home-cooked meal and for some bonding time with the sis. We both “studied” while playing Toy Story 3 in the background. Definitely a good way to spend a Friday night! 😉
Saturday morning was my half marathon, but we spent the rest of the day with my cousin since we were in her neck of the woods. We met up in Jack London Square, and had lunch at a spot of my choosing—Souley Vegan!
The small, homey restaurant was not hard to find, since the bright turquoise paint made it visible from a block or two away. We had to park that far away because, you know, that’s just one of the perks of city life 😛
All of the items were Southern-inspired, and most importantly, VEGAN!
We found a table at the corner of an elevated floor, so we had a great view of our surroundings. We took some time looking over the menu before ordering at the cash register.
While we waited for our food, my cousin realized that they had a cup of samples with pieces of one of their featured desserts. It was peanut-ty appetizer—a piece of their Peanut Butter Brick!
While my family got combo plates with items like BBQ tofu (sooo good!), mac n cheesz, cornbread, and mashed potatoes, I had the Southern Fried Tofu Bowl as my main entree, and also had some of the spinach dip with fried tofu chips.
My bowl was comprised of battered and fried tofu (mimicking fried chicken), which sat atop a sea of salty gumbo and a warm bed of grits. I wasn’t a major fan of this dish, but I thought the fried tofu was pretty delicious. I feel like the gumbo + grits tasted somewhat bland, even though I could detect the salt. Perhaps if there had been a spicier and thicker sauce in this dish (like the BBQ sauce used for their tofu cubes), it would have been more palatable for me.
We did a nice job of tackling everything…
As the afternoon rolled on, the weather continued to be clear, bright, sunny, and just overall perfect. It would have been wasteful to not take advantage of the beautiful weather conditions, so we decided to take an after-lunch stroll. We first stopped inside World Market, where I found this cute poster that reminded me of the periodic table, but the “elements” were major cities. We then walked over in the direction of a Ben & Jerry’s Scoop Shop, but ended up waiting across the street for a good ten minutes because a train was passing through!
It was quite a sight though 😉
At the scoop shop, I was able to try Phish Food for the first time. I opted for the kids’ scoop…and I was glad I did. I guess it was the little chocolate fish pieces that persuaded me to choose the flavor initially, but it was just waaay too much chocolate. I mean, I love chocolate, but this scoop and this flavor…it was just too much for me. I’m pretty sure my sister would have liked it though 🙂
We ended up feasting on our ice cream selections while looking over the water. There were a couple ferries going in and out, shuffling people too and from SF. Ah, let the pictures speak for themselves…
After we finished dessert, we walked through a local crafts fair and took in all the sights and sounds. There were so many dogs out and about, and plenty of intriguing items from plushies with vampire teeth to figurines made out of scrap metal.
From the fair, we drove over to my cousin’s for a siesta (I think being out in the sun made me more sleepy rather than my morning half marathon!), and snacked on some apples/coffee/tea after waking up an hour later. My Dad and I left as it approached evening, and I was more than ready to get some more zzzz’s!
On Sunday, I was able to spend more quality time with my sis. Since she wasn’t able to spend the day with us on Saturday (the poor girl had to study for an upcoming exam…), my Dad and I wanted to be able to go out for lunch with her. So after stopping by the gym and running some errands in the morning, we picked her up and visited Noodles & Company for the first time.
As of right now, there are no Noodles & Company locations in the LA area (only Orange County and San Diego I believe…) so when I learned that they were opening this one in the Nor Cal area, I wanted to check it out during one of my family visits!
The inside layout of the restaurant reminded me a lot of the Boudin SF set-up (which was also nearby): an entrance has you line up single file all the way to the register, a large menu that spans the wall as you approach the register, and central/outdoor (crowded) seating.
After placing our orders, we were lucky to find a table during the lunchtime rush hour. Our bowls came to us in minutes despite the bustling activity.
I dug into my small-sized (it was indeed pretty small…) bowl of Japanese Pan Noodles with chopsticks
I was definitely a fan of the caramelized noodles/soy sauce combination. Each noodle had a fair coating of sauce, and they were still easy to pick up with chopsticks!
My sister had the Penne Rosa, and my Dad the Thai Curry Soup:
Both dishes looked just as delicious as mine, but I was satisfied with my selection. Sure, it could have been spicier, but I guess wanting to try their spicy Indonesian Peanut Sautee gives me a reason to come back to another one of their other locations in the future.
After lunch, we returned home and did nothing productive in particular 😉 . After a glorious nap, I had dinner and then watched Boyhood with Dad and sis after doing a little homework. Monday was spent prepping for my return on Tuesday, as well as sending my sister off, and Tuesday was my tired travel day. Kind of wish I could redo this weekend all over again, because I don’t see myself doing anything but work for the next week or so…
How did you spend your holiday weekend (if you had one)?