Summer Winding Down

Summer Winding Down

The weekend my sister arrived to settle in the OC was also the weekend one of my lab mates was hosting a potluck at his house. It’s been years since anyone in our lab has gone out of their way to organize a lab get-together outside of lab, and so I have to give credit to my friend for taking on the challenge, haha!

Since my sister had the car now, she was invited so she could give us a ride ;).  Nah, she was welcome too. 

We carpooled with E and another lab mate and drove to West Covina east of LA. It took us an hour in headache-inducing traffic, and we were the last group to arrive. My friend who was hosting (let’s call him J) and his wife greeted us, and led us out to the backyard where the pool and food spread was. 
We got settled in with some plates of food, and sat by the pool while we ate. Everyone except E, my sister, and I made it to the pool sometime during our stay, but I was too lazy to even dip my feet in. 
We left around 4 in order to avoid traffic, and still faced stopped cars on all sides. By the time we dropped off my lab mate and E, it was almost 6! My sis wanted to get dinner since she wasn’t able to properly eat over the week due to stress from moving and settling in, and I was eager to oblige. I knew how much she liked Tocaya, so we paid their Venice location a visit. 
Tocaya, Venice
Tocaya, Venice
We found free street parking a few blocks away, and didn’t hesitate to park and power walk. Our hunger had caught up to us at that point, and we couldn’t afford to look at the menu for too long. 
A much cozier vibe.
A much cozier vibe.
I ended up getting a Shredded Kale and Quinoa salad, while my sis ordered the bowl she fell in love with during our last visit
Shredded Kale and Quinoa
Shredded Kale and Quinoa – quinoa & shredded kale tossed with white beans, avocado, chipotle-dusted almonds, chile lime pepitas seeds, pico de gallo & red-wine vinaigrette with chipotle-dusted tofu & vegan chipotle jack

My salad bowl was decent, but if it had not been for the dressing, it would have fallen flat. Even the tofu was slightly rubbery (and I prefer chewy tofu over the soft white kind!).

After dinner, we walked home with the humid beach air clinging over us, and despite there being no cooling beach breeze that night, we were able to sleep pretty soundly just from pure exhaustion.

The next morning, the weather was too great to pass up the opportunity to do something, so my sis and I hurried to lab soon after my long run. I had a ton of work to do, but she was willing to help me out and we were done in the afternoon. 

Destination O.T. Pasadena!
Destination O.T. Pasadena!
I let her pick where we should go for lunch, and after reading my “foodie bucket list” excel sheet (yes I have one, lol), Slater’s 50/50 in Pasadena sounded the most appetizing.
She drove, and while we did hit traffic passing by downtown, it was an easy, sunny drive to Pasadena once we got past all that. We found parking in Old Town on a side street, and walked over to the restaurant which was already packed with Sunday afternoon lunch-goers. 
Odd decor!
Odd decor!
We were able to get booth seating, and started off with Vampire Dip as an appetizer, and then decided to split the Veggie Burger because we predicted it would be a lot of food. Annnnd, we were right, haha!
The Vampire Dip was a cheesy, garlic concoction that was super thick, and its consistency was more like a melted cheese ball than a smooth bowl of dip. It came served in a bread bowl, with some flatbread crisps and veggies for dipping. 
Vampire Dip!
Vampire Dip!
I think the crew at Slater’s 50/50 knows how big their portions are, because our burger came to us already cut in half! 
Eat Your Veggies ~ veggie patty, red peppers, avocado mash, cucumbers, sage & garlic aioli, honey wheat bun
Eat Your Veggies ~ veggie patty, red peppers, avocado mash, cucumbers, sage & garlic aioli, honey wheat bun

My sis also felt like getting a shake, but finishing it was a whole other issue 😛

Half a burger was enough, not sure what my sis was thinking when she thought she could finish the shake!
Half a burger was enough, not sure what my sis was thinking when she thought she could finish the shake!

After getting our fill, it was mid-afternoon and I wanted my sis to have enough time to drive back down to the OC.

So much yes.

Of course, I asked if we could stop by a nearby Grocery Outlet (this time the one in Rosemead), so I could get my cheap groceries for the week! My sis didn’t argue, seeing that she could benefit from the trip as well. Cheap food to off-set gas costs, haha!

Slater's 50/50 Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Iceland, Day 2

Iceland, Day 2

Once we were well rested, we were ready to head out for dinner. We had to stop by another store, similar to Target or Wal-Mart, but the name started with a “H” and now I can’t remember it. Of course, it was hard to find anything under 10,000 Kroner ($10 USD), and even essentials like travel size shampoo, milk, and eggs seemed like pricey purchases. When in Iceland I suppose…

Before coming to Iceland, I didn’t think there would be too many vegetarian/vegan options around, but to my surprise, there were quite a number! Kaffi Vinyl got a lot of rave reviews, and I thought we should check it out sometime during our visit, and avoid any chance of missing out.

Kaffi Vinyl

The cafe had a hipster vibe for sure. Everyone working and sitting down looked like they came straight outta Berkeley, haha.

A hipster vibe here…

Even though the decor and ambience made me feel like I was back in Nor Cal, the food (and price tag) did not. The burger, noodle dish, and quinoa salad we ordered were familiar in name but with an Icelandic twist.

Pad Thai and Quinoa Salad of some sort. Packed with veggie-based protein!

My burger was full in size and rich in flavor. It also came with a side of generously salted sweet potato fries.

“Dinner in Iceland was just as good too. Pricey, but oh so delicious! My meal was a black bean/quinoa burger topped with pickles, grilled pineapple, blueberry jam, and spicy kimchi sauce. Vegan in Iceland is definitely doable 👌🏽 🍔🌱”

After dinner, we walked around the city center again, going by souvenir shops before closing, and checking out the Hallgrímskirkja church, apparently the tallest building (or it was?) in Iceland. It got chilly really quickly, so we immediately chose to head back to the BNB to get warm and get some shut eye.

Our second day in Iceland started bright, but not too early. We struggled to make the room dark once 10pm the previous night hit. The sun didn’t set until 11pm and rose again around 3am…poor Icelandic people and their circadian rhythms!

I wanted to stay cozy under some blankets while sipping on Senseo coffee, but I decided to go out for a 5 mile run to get a feel for the landscape, and to shake out my legs from the previous tow days of exhausting travel. That morning, we also learned about the horrible attack in Manchester, and were a little bit concerned since we were flying to London the next day. Getting out for some fresh air certainly helped ease the anxiety.

We were lucky to have picked out an Airbnb that was so close to lush green hills and a walking/horse riding/running path that surrounded a clear body of water. My legs felt super heavy, but I pushed through and was able to do some intervals in Iceland, haha!

When I got back, my Dad and sis were ready to hit the road and I quickly got ready. Our first stop for the day was exploring Grotta. We were hoping to stumble across a hot spring during our trip, and according to the map this location was closest to the city.

Grotta was an expansive green and brown grassland, with a rocky path towards the lighthouse. There was a sign that prohibited walkers from crossing, but we went anyway. We saw some rebellious tourists climb over the rope, and we followed suit.

Rocky in Grotta

We were successful in pinning down the lighthouse, but there was no hot spring in sight. It was a bummer, but we were hungry enough to move on from our disappointment.

Lush, windy pastures

We ended up back at the Reykjavik city center for lunch. Honestly, it’s the most happening place in the city so it was no surprise we were back here again. We found a cheaper eatery in Noodle Station.

Noodle Station

18 Kroner for two veggie pho bowls. Nice!

Veggie Pho!

We were quickly warmed up and ready to head back outside. My sis and Dad accompanied me to a fish spa so I could check that off my list, haha! I’ve read so many reviews and articles about fish spas, and knowing that they are illegal in the US, I knew I’d only get the chance to go to one when traveling internationally.

This spa was owned by a gentleman who took extra care in making sure conditions were absolutely sanitary—especially for the fish! The walls were painted a deep purple and tranquil music was playing in the background.

I first had to wash my feet, then add some disinfectant to my skin before stepping into a tank. I then sat back while the fish got to work. And since it was my first time, the owner recommended I spend my 20 minutes with the baby fish.

fishs pa
Get to work fishies!

It was ticklish at first, but then I got used to it. I read about how some people had uncontrollable laughter the whole time because of how sensitive they are—I just held it in by smiling the whole time. Finally, my callouses runner’s feet were getting some RNR 😛

The three of us still wanted to see a hot spring before leaving, and so after my session with the fishes, we thought we’d head to see The Geysir, a part of the Golden Circle. It was an hour drive from Reykjavik, and we left around 3pm. I knew we were going to be tired as soon as we got there, but that comes with the territory of traveling! We tried to also keep on the lookout for sheep, since Iceland is famous for livestock roaming around the hills and trotting along countryside roads. We saw some in the distance, and the sheep stayed put.

We parked in front of the visitor’s center and upon stepping out so wanted to go back in the car and turn the heater on full blast. I was too sensitized by Cali weather—40 degrees Fahrenheit was just too much! I was able to get a warm cup of cappuccino and hold onto that to “trick” myself into thinking I was warm. Then we were able to walk towards the Geysir.

Geysers along the way…

There were smaller springs along the way, but we knew the one of interest was blocked off by rope and had a group of tourists anxiously waiting for it to erupt. We were waiting for at least twenty minutes, and literally after I said “this is getting ridiculous”, it erupted and splashed in our direction, causing the three of us to flee in different directions. It was a funny sight for sure.

Funny/weird statue at a gas station on the way back to Reykjavik.

We called it quits after that and from there, drove an hour back to Reykjavik. I would intermittently fall asleep during the ride, but immediately perked up when we got to the city. For dinner, I gave a list of places for my sister to decide and she picked Kaffihaus Vesturbaejar.

Getting cozy at Kaffihaus Vesturbaejar

When we parked outside, my Dad was like, “not another hipster place” and I was like, “Dad, I can’t control how these vegan-food serving places run their business!” But we were all pretty hungry so our restaurant style preferences took a backseat to what food was offered/what we could eat there!

“After a day of trekking to the Grotta lighthouse, a fish spa treatment for my calloused runner’s feet (can finally check that one off the list 😁🐟), and a long drive to visit The Geysir, the fam and I were able to relax at Kaffihus Vesturbaejar, and split two “Veganbogaris” 🍔🌱 and fries 🍟 among the three of us. This was honestly my favorite meal of the Icelandic leg of our trip so far—just enough food and a pretty presentation 💕”

We pretty much had one option—the Veganbogari. We got two and split them between the three of us. The portions were as perfect as the crispy exterior of the potato wedges that were served alongside the burgers. The creamy green aioli sauce was also perfection.

We drove back with full bellies and content with that we explored of Iceland. It was by no means an epic outdoor adventure, camping in the arctic tundra for days on end, but I feel it was a good introductory visit to one of the Scandinavian lands.

I won’t deny however that I was more than ready for London!

Have you ever visited Iceland (or Greenland)?

A Local Among Tourists

A Local Among Tourists

In the week I came back from Tulsa, work continued as usual…as if I never even left! I was glad I had enough things to keep me occupied so I wouldn’t have to spend too much time longing to be back hanging with my Dad.

On my way to lab my first day back, I snacked on two new-to-me Picky Bar flavors: Smooth Caffinator and Ah, Fudge Nuts! Surprisingly, I wasn’t blown away by either one, but both had a smooth, chewy texture and a rich, nutty flavor. I just don’t think I’ll be gravitating towards these bars again and again.

Smooth Caffinator
Ah, Fudge Nuts!

The rest of the week kept me extremely busy, since I had experiments to take care of, reports to write, and people to train. One good thing is that I was able to snag an undergrad to assist me in my daily duties…perhaps I’ll be able to snag a few more free weekends as a result 😉

When Friday night rolled around, I was an exhausted noodle. Funny I say that, as I had an interesting meal for dinner that night before scarfing down a pint of Halo Top. This bowl of cauliflower rice and soybean noodles in a succulent, sweet sauce (that I wish I remember the name of now, since I threw the package away 😛 ) was out of this world! It was a package my Dad brought over when he came out to help me move, and happened to be one of those unique foodie finds at Big Lots. Hmmm…I’ll just have to keep an eye out for it if I’m ever in a Big Lots in suburbia…

The next day, I wanted to stay local since I still felt tired and not in the mood for traveling. I decided to finally check out True Food Kitchen in Downtown Santa Monica, since I’ve heard rave reviews about it, and because I’ve always walked past it whenever I was at the Promenade.

True Food Kitchen

Big mistake to venture out on a Saturday afternoon though—even at 2pm! The place was packed with tourists (British, German, Italian accents all-around)! And when I made my way to the front of the restaurant (I made the mistake of entering through the back, again), stating I was looking for a seat for one, I was told I could sit at the bar or at the communal tables, since all of the “regular” seating areas were taken…

LOL that lady with her hair 😛

I was hungry (on the verge of hangry), so to the communal table I went. On my left was a pair from Russia, and on my other side, a few individuals from across the pond. Was I the only local dining at this place?!

I wasn’t too excited by the menu, so I decided to go for the menu item that looked the most filling. Under the bowls section, the Teriyaki Quinoa sounded the tastiest, but when it arrived, it looked like something I could make at home…not something worth $15.

Teriyaki Quinoa Bowl, True Food Kitchen

The bowl had a quinoa and brown rice base, coated in dark teriyaki sauce. Sauteed vegetables were mixed in, and to balance out the carbs, some creamy slices of avocado were added on top along with a sprinkling of sesame seeds.

When creamy + carbs clash…

I mean, the bowl was good, but why were these poor tourists spending their hard-earned lunch money here? My meal with tax and tip came to just under $20…for a bowl that could be made for less than $3 with ingredients bought from Wal-Mart. Just goes to show that hype sells I guess!

Do you like seeing tourists spending $$$ in your hometown, or not so much?

True Food Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

P’s (Birth)day Off

P’s (Birth)day Off

After coming off a tumultuous and stressful week, I was more than ready for my birthday to come around! After meeting my sister and our friend at the hotel close to 10:00pm, we all went down to the hotel’s jacuzzi to soak our legs, relax, and spend some time together since we didn’t want to go to sleep just yet.

We soaked for ~20 min, and then went back upstairs to get some serious shut-eye. I still woke up early around 7am the next morning, but it was my birthday and I didn’t want to waste a minute of it 😉 . The girls woke up a little while after, and we were all ready and out by 11am. We missed the hotel breakfast hours, so by the time we hit the road for Aliso Viejo/Laguna Beach, we were already discussing lunch options!

I knew right away that Native Foods was my #1 pick, since I’ve made it my personal mission to visit all of the Native Foods locations. I’ve pretty much accomplished that goal for their Cali locations (just need to somehow get to Palm Springs to officially do it), thanks to our stop in Aliso Viejo.

Native Foods in Aliso Viejo

I captured more photos of the restaurant and our food orders, but in the middle of transferring pics from my phone to laptop, I somehow managed to delete a bulk of them. Definitely made me irritated, but at least I was able to salvage a couple thanks to posting earlier on Instagram.

I didn’t feel like trying anything new or new-to-me, but I also didn’t feel the need to get my all-time favorite platter of vegan nachos. Instead, I stuck to another ol’ favorite of mine: the Soul Bowl.

Made me soulllllfullll
Made me soulllllfullll

I’ve seen this dish morph over the years. Back in 2012 when I first stepped foot into a Native Foods, the bowl was drenched in sauces and had two fried “chik’n” skewers pierced through the top and center. Now a little over four years later, the presentation is a little less extreme…it’s more elegantly-styled, but still full of flavor. It’s hard to see in this pic but the soulful-ness from this bowl comes from what’s underneath all those greens. The quinoa and beans at the bottom were just as satisfying and filling as I remembered them!

My sis and friend shared a Soul Bowl and a burger+fries kind of dish, while my Dad had a Thai “meat” ball salad (and after looking back at this post from last year, he basically ordered the same exact thing as last time!!). When we got our fill, we drove out west towards the coast, and pretty much hopped out of the car once we knew we were as close to the coast of Laguna Beach as we could get.

I mean, look. at. that.
I mean, look. at. that.

After being awestruck for a good 30 minutes, we finally asked a local how to get down to the sand where the real action was. When we made it, we spent a good portion of the afternoon appreciating the liveliness of our surroundings and the excitement of the ocean.

Ahhh so pretty...
Ahhh so pretty…

I didn’t bring my swimsuit so I couldn’t get more than knee-deep into the ocean, but it was fun enough to run to/from the waves every time they splashed onto the shore.

After soaking in enough sun, we took an ice cream break (sadly no pictures since I accidentally deleted them 🙁 ), and made the long trip back to LA since we all had to get up early the next day. We had dinner once we got back, which consisted of chips+cheese dip and a large veggie pizza split amongst the four of us. Of course, we couldn’t fall into a deep slumber without a few minutes of jacuzzi time.

I did my best to fully take in every single minute of my birthday since I knew the next day would be a grueling one for me. I had to wake up at 4am in order to go into lab and begin a procedure that kept me up until 2am the following day…it was FAR from fun, but at least I did get my birthday off? Hmm…I’m just glad that I’m taking next week off to visit my family in Oklahoma. I see that as my ultimate birthday gift.

Native Foods Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Localita & the Badasserie

Localita & the Badasserie

Last weekend was another hot one here in LA, and because I was feeling overwhelmed from the hectic first week of classes, I ended up not venturing out too far over the weekend.

My weekend started on Friday evening, with a quick stop to 7-11 before heading home from campus. I needed a pick-me-up from the accumulating week-o-stress, so I made the rare-for-me stop at the gas station convenience store just so I could get my hands on the 7-11 exclusive Ben & Jerry’s flavor—Nutty Caramel Swirl.

 Chocolate and peanut chunks galore!!
Chocolate and peanut chunks galore!!

Upon opening this pint, I could not believe the amount of chocolate chunks and peanuts there were! If the very top layer was indicative of what was yet to come, this was going to be a fun flavor to dig through!

 Look at that swirl!
Look at that swirl!

And indeed it was. When I was younger, I hated mixing nuts with chocolate, but obviously my palate has changed over the years, because this flavor is now in my top 5 B&J flavors!

On Saturday, I woke up at a leisurely pace, made my way over to lab, and as soon as I got out, felt the strong heat wave that made me change my original plans to head out north. At the time, it just wasn’t worth the commute for me, given the unbearable weather and all :/

Instead, I decided to head to downtown for some quick grocery shopping, a bite to eat, and then head home to catch up on some {class-related} reading. I used it as an opportunity to check out a small local vegan cafe I had heard about that had limited day hours—Localita & the Badasserie.

 Entrance sign.
Entrance sign.

They are only open until 3 or 4pm during the week, and so I was able to swing on by an hour before they closed up shop for the day. I almost missed them though, since they were nestled in a hub of downtown among a collection of factory garment shops. In fact, the storefront is more like a food counter, with no “real” restaurant seating.

localita (4)
There were some bar stools and a small table in the back though…

There was also no A/C, which made me frustrated since I couldn’t escape from the heat wave. I could feel myself sweating as I ordered, and even so, I still made the silly decision to order a HOT quinoa bowl.

 Quinoa bowl selection.
Quinoa bowl selection.

With a name like Chili Chili Bang Bang though, I expected the heat to come through from the chili…not the temperature as what happened.

 My small, but filling AND HOT bowl of quinoa chili.
My small, but filling AND HOT bowl of quinoa chili.

It was something I could have easily made at home, and unfortunately not worth the perspiration 😛

I did find this quote on one of he napkin holders though provoking however.

 Napkin holder quote.
Napkin holder quote.

After leaving Localita sweatier than ever, I managed to get to the grocery store, and along with my weekly purchases, decided to cool off with a pint of Vanilla Caramel Fudge.

 Vanilla Caramel Fudge
Vanilla Caramel Fudge

While it was no Nutty Caramel Swirl, how can you go wrong with a vanilla base with caramel and fudge swirled in? A delicious way to end a super hot Saturday!

Sunday started off slightly hectic, and while things didn’t go as planned, I still managed to get what I needed to get done done. I ended up breaking a 10 mile run into chunks, first running 5 miles in the early morning and planned to run the final 5 with a group I’ve been running with lately.

Unfortunately, my ride slept in because her alarm didn’t go off, so I ended up joining my marathon group’s first practice of the season. They were only running three miles, so I tacked on the extra two before heading into lab. I was somewhat frustrated by having to do this since it was getting hotter, and I wasn’t expecting to have to make up the miles like this.

Still, I got it done, even though I was a sweaty mess while doing my experiment in lab 😛

By the time afternoon rolled around, I indulged in yet another pint. Peanut Butter Cup was on my list for quite a while, and I was finally able to check it off.

 Looks naked
Looks naked

Wowza…all peanut butter ice cream, and no skimping on the peanut butter cups! There were legitimately full-sized peanut butter cups, cut in half, mixed thoroughly in the ice cream.

 But it's not
But it’s not

It may have been peanut butter overload, but hey, how can you say no to a pint of sweet & satisfying healthy fats 😉 ?

So even though my restaurant outing for the weekend was a miss, I think my ice cream tastings made up for the irritating heat.

It is starting to cool down here in LA though…hopefully the temperature will stay this way throughout Labor Day weekend!

Click to add a blog post for Localita & the Badasserie on Zomato

The Beach Day We Wanted

The Beach Day We Wanted

A little power nap was all we needed, but my sis and I ended up taking a long 45 minute afternoon nap when we checked in to our hotel room for the night in San Diego.


But when we woke up around 3, it was still bright and gorgeous outside! We still had time for a beach adventure 🙂

 Hello, downtown San Diego!
Hello, downtown San Diego!

We had trouble getting out of the parking garage (a Zipcar Honda vs. a bunch of SUVs/Hummers/Trucks is not exactly an easy battle to win…), but fortunately we made it out without a scratch.

Our destination was Coronado Beach—which also took a while to get to due to traffic, ending up at the wrong side of the beach due to GPS issues, and having to park in a far off residential area once we found the beach. But, when we found it, it was about relaxation!

 To the beach!
To the beach!

Once at the beach, my sis and I laid out our towels and proceeded to sun bathe for the next hour and a half…only because our 45 minute nap wasn’t enough 😉

 Time to relax...
Time to relax…

It was so peaceful though. Sure, there were crowds, but it was a beautiful California summer day, and we were finally able to say we were experiencing a real beach day.

Before heading back for dinner, we took pictures by the water and took our time getting to the car. The crowds had died down by then, and there was no traffic on our drive back to the hotel.

Before leaving for our weekend trip, I learned that Cafe Gratitude had opened a new location in San Diego—and it coincidentally happened to be in Little Italy, within walking distance from our hotel! Obviously this was our prime choice for dinner 🙂

 Sunny skies and lofts in SD.
Sunny skies and lofts in SD.

Our stroll through downtown was a fun preamble to dinner, but when we saw the swanky CG location, we were more than ready to eat!

 My third time visiting Cafe Gratitude :)
My third time visiting Cafe Gratitude 🙂

Since it was brand new, I wasn’t surprised by all the eager, vegan-loving San Diegans that were present that night.

 Soooo busy.
Soooo busy.

Because it was so busy, we almost had to sit outside, even though I had called in beforehand to make a reservation.

 Kind of cozy actually...
Kind of cozy actually…

The set-up reminded me of both their Venice and Larchmont locations, so I felt like I was in familiar territory. I was excited for my sister to experience CG for herself!

After staring long and hard at the menu, we both ended up deciding against a sandwich-based entree since we had our fill of that earlier in the day, and so we both ended up ordering the exact same thing. We both got the ‘Resolved’ entree, described as being a southern soul food sampler containing red beans and quinoa, seared tempeh, smashed maple garnet yams, spiced collards, coleslaw, and a gluten-free jalapeno biscuit.

Oh, and we couldn’t forget adding BBQ sauce on the side…even if it cost $2 (!!) extra.

It took almost half an hour, but at least our plates came full and ready for us to dig in.

 Vegan southern food platter.
Vegan southern food platter.

My favorite parts of this plate were the sweet mashed yams, the tempeh when dipped into the BBQ sauce, and the jalapeno biscuit (when dipped into the BBQ sauce as well). My sis didn’t like the yams so much, but was a fan of the coleslaw.

 Top: jalapeno biscuit (gluten-free!) // bite of tempeh // a bed of quinoa
Top: jalapeno biscuit (gluten-free!) // bite of tempeh // a bed of quinoa

It was a meal that we both agreed as being satisfying and sleep-inducing. I’ll admit it now—we are grandmas, but at least we eat well 😉

When we got back to the hotel, we quickly changed into our jammies and watched TV until our eyes started to droop. It was certainly a summer Saturday well spent.

What do you like to do at the beach?

Click to add a blog post for Cafe Gratitude on Zomato

When I Don’t Study, I Eat

When I Don’t Study, I Eat

Last week was insane school-wise.

I had two intense exams in both of my classes on the SAME day, as well as a paper that was due over the weekend. Fun times in grad school…

 An hour before one of my exams, and not even free coffee could keep me from being distracted!
An hour before one of my exams, and not even free coffee could keep me from being distracted!

I still managed to have some “fun” and gave myself study breaks by making myself go out for some fresh air food. I was able to do just that on both weekends that sandwiched my horridly-scheduled exam week.

I mentioned that after my half, I had a late lunch. It was more like a super late breakfast, since I ended up ordering something to satisfy my sweet tooth from Jacks N Joe—a snug breakfast-centric restaurant tucked behind a strip mall.


I arrived about half an hour before their closing time in the mid-afternoon. One of the employees was putting away the outdoor seats and tables, but she pleasantly held the door open for me as I approached the entrance. After declining a spot at the counter, I gladly took a table for one near the cash register, and didn’t mind since it gave me a central view of the restaurant.



After looking over the menu another time (I looked at it dozens of times online 😛 ), I decided to order one of their signature french toast plates.

SAMSUNGAnd it ended up being a heavenly choice 😉

 7 Minutes in Heaven French Toast ~ 3 slices of Hawaiian french (lol) toast with nutella, bananas, and strawberries.
7 Minutes in Heaven French Toast ~ 3 slices of Hawaiian french (lol) toast with nutella, bananas, strawberries, and of course powdered sugar.

The bread was soft and chewy, and can you go wrong with strawberries and chocolate spread? I would have enjoyed this dish even without the bananas, but I’m not exactly a fan of the fruit so I’m a little biased there 😛

 I tolerated the banana slices because there was chocolate!
I tolerated the banana slices because there was chocolate!

I didn’t even touch the bottle of syrup that my waiter put on the table prior to my french toast coming out. There was truly no need!


Despite averaging ~8 hours each day researching/writing for my paper the weekend after exam week, I still managed to get out for some eats. I decided not to venture off too far, since it was chilly as far as LA weather was concerned, and because my “free” time was limited.

I kept things simple by busing over to Fairfax Ave. since I could do some grocery shopping in the same area, while grabbing a bite to eat at Swinger’s Diner.

The parking lot, entrance, and waiting near the door.

 The place was packed at 3pm on a Saturday, and no one wanted to eat outside since it was windy and cold, so I ended up having to wait twenty minutes for a seat. Even then, I was given the suggestion to get a booth at the back of the restaurant, and so I didn’t get to continue people watching. 

People watching while waiting for a table. Mod art on the wall.

Instead, I ended up facing the cow wall, and had these condiments to entertain me.


The menu was…entertaining as well, haha. I just quickly scanned through it to find the vegetarian and vegan options I had read online about, which was easy to do since a “thumbs up” icon next to a menu item meant it was vegetarian, and a peace sign meant it was vegan.

the menu
Had to blur out some non-PG images, which I didn’t notice at first but then was like whoathere

After reading the fine print, I learned that tofu could be subbed in for chicken at no extra cost, so to my pleasant surprise, that opened up a lot more meal options! Because of that, I decided to get the grilled jamaican jerk chicken tofu 😀 . 

Waiting for my food to arrive took just as long as waiting for a seat. It was probably because the diner was still busy, but since I was literally facing a wall, time seemed to pass by slower than reality. Sure, there was a window to my left, but the view was the back of a hotel, and an obscured view at that since my booth was at a low level. 

When this came out, I wasn’t sure what to think exactly—why were the tofu pieces so thin and pathetic-looking? or plantains that look like french fries?? YES 😀 

Grilled Jamaican Jerk Tofu ~ jerk-marinated tofu with fried plantains black beans and sauteed quinoa.

Even though the tofu was a disappointment, the plantains picked up the slack—having just enough crisp on the outside, yet chewy on the inside. The black beans added flavor that the “marinade” on the excuse-for-tofu was lacking, and the quinoa added some extra crispiness to the dish, since it was sauteed.


So after getting some food in me and doing some grocery shopping at the Grove, I got back home just as the sun was setting and felt refreshed enough to revise another draft of my paper. Sunday’s “adventures” were limited to a long run at Griffth Park with my running group, and then literally sitting at my kitchen table for almost 8 hours total wrapping up the paper that controlled my weekend.

Well, at least it’s done now!

How often do you need breaks when you study/work?

Jacks N Joe on Urbanspoon

Swingers on Urbanspoon

Events Taking Place Pre-Race

Events Taking Place Pre-Race

There is something about October that (almost) makes it my favorite month. I guess I can go far as to say it’s my second favorite month, perhaps because there is so much going on and my time has been occupied by things that keep me busy, but in a good way. 

Besides studying/lab rotations, spending my weekends exploring the city, eating, and sleeping, running has been a major part of my schedule. I signed up for the Rock n Roll LA Half back in June, excited about the prospect that my fifth half, and my second fall half would take place in the heart of my new home!


It was also my first RNR race altogether, and I have to admit that I was majorly influenced by the constant stream of ads for the race series when I picked up and read issues of Competitor from my old gym. More about my experience with the race to come, but for now, let’s get back to expo day

I originally would have liked to make it out to the expo for packet pick-up on Friday afternoon, but I was occupied in lab until about an hour and a half before the expo closing time. I decided to just make it out to pick-up right when they opened at the LA Convention Center at 9:30am the next morning. 


I expected it to be crowded, crazy, and take too long, but it was actually the opposite. In fact, I probably was only there for about an hour total for packet pick-up and booth browsing.

Not taking the time to browse over-priced expo merch.

There were plenty of vendors, mostly pushing/selling their products at “expo prices”, but there was a good share of freebies being handed out as well. I got (waytoomuch!) reusable tote bags, pens, and other random non-food goods. A lot of the food/beverage samples were being portioned out unfortunately, for me. I did sip on a sample of a vanilla protein shake while checking out the Geico booth, but my favorite booth from the expo was Mahatma Rice’s.


Yeah, so I may have gotten a lousy paper fan as my “spin-the-wheel-prize”, but the booth guy was like “hold up!” as I was about to leave, and handed me two sample packs of rice! Um, thank you very much! 😀

Since the expo bored me pretty quickly after I made my way around to all of the booths, I left the Convention Center with one of my reusable totes filled with the freebies I happened to pick up, and boarded the Metro to Venice. I was looking forward to getting off at an earlier stop on the Santa Monica route and not only saving time, but gathering more freebies at Vitamin Shoppe’s health “fair” and getting lunch for the first time at Cafe Gratitude.

My first stop was Vitamin Shoppe for Quest Bars (of course…), but since they were having health fairs in their stores nationwide, I ended up getting yet another reusable bag full of samples! I looked like a super bag lady walking out of the store 😉 !

With my bags in tow, I walked 2 miles coast-wards, and ended up on Lincoln and Rose for part of the walk. I noticed that the area took the name to heart.

When two cross-streets have a logo, you know you’re in a pretty savvy place B)

My destination was in housed in a brick building, and I would have absentmindedly passed by it had I not looked up at the right moment.



When I walked in, I could tell that it was lunch time—the place was packed!


I was able to get a table for one right up against the wall at the back of the restaurant. Great for picture-taking and out-the-window gazing…



I love how the menu items start with “I am…” and then finish with some sort of adjective. I ended up getting the Humble bowl, which, when you think about the ingredients, really does sound humbling!


 HUMBLE indian curry bowl  14 Red lentil dal, roasted heirloom tomatoes, sautéed spinach, fresh corn, spicy mint chutney, sweet tamarind sauce, chopped scallions, choice of local brown rice or quinoa
The Humble Indian Curry Bowl ~ Red lentil dal, roasted heirloom tomatoes, sautéed spinach, fresh corn, spicy mint chutney, sweet tamarind sauce, chopped scallions, local brown rice or quinoa

It was humble in flavor too (in other words, it was lacking in spice & seasoning!!)


But if were just keeping score based on looks? 10/10.


I had a hard time picking up the small bits of quinoa though. Perhaps a side order of bread would have been helpful in this case…


What am I grateful for?

Free stuff. And good food. 😀


What are your experiences with race expo(s)?

What are you grateful for?

Cafe Gratitude on Urbanspoon

Baagan Review

Baagan Review

The last restaurant I had to eat out at for 2013 happened to specialize in vegan cuisine. Go figure.

It all started with plans to check out the after Christmas sales at Roseville Galleria. I stumbled upon Baagan while perusing through Yelp, and realized it was about 10 minutes away from the mall! I knew immediately that I had to drag my friends here ;).

Baagan Storefront
Baagan Storefront

Their standing as a local business was another huge plus. After ordering and paying at the front, we helped ourselves to some chia powder samples, chili sunflower seeds, condiments, and water. Samples Water Condiments Galore... My sister and friend got sandwiches, but even though one was Veggie Hummus and the other Tomato Basil Pesto, they looked very much alike.

Which 'wich is which?
Which ‘wich is which?

I had the Trio Boat, since I felt like sampling a little bit of everything (a quinoa dish, warm veg dish, and a salad of some sort). They change it up every week, and this week, they had a beet salad, quinoa with craisins, and brussel sprouts mixed in seasonings and olive oil.

The mmmazing Trio Boat!
The mmmazing Trio Boat!

My dish was definitely the prettiest of the three ;). Despite eating outside in the cool-ish temperature, I was craving a smoothie to pair along with the sampling dish. Enter the Dark Velvet, a smoothie comprised mostly of banana and a lot of dark cacao. Also some other greens mixed in, but my sister nor I could distinguish anything from the strong cacao flavor—it seriously bit back!

Dark Velvet

For the majority of the time we consumed our meals, we were a quiet bunch. We had to devote all of our attention to demolishing every morsel in sight ;).


While I thoroughly enjoyed my meal and thought Baagan offered some excellent foods, my sister’s reaction was so-so. She thought the food tasted fine, but after the first few bites, the novelty began to fade away. Our opinions didn’t matter though, as the place was packed even on a Monday afternoon! I also noticed a lot of elderly folk were fond of the place :P.

After our nourishing lunch, we made our way to the Roseville Galleria for some after Christmas shopping. My sister was on a quest to find a new pair of jeans since a pair she’s had for just about five years was beginning to wear down.

Waiting outside the dressing room in a store where my sister was trying on jeans. Notice the cute fox purse?
Waiting outside the dressing room in a store where my sister was trying on jeans. Notice the cute fox purse?

After several loops of walking, my sister got some Zebra Popcorn at Popcornopolis, but we didn’t leave before sampling some other flavors.

Cupcake Batter Popcorn sample at Popcornopolis.
Cupcake Batter Popcorn sample at Popcornopolis.

After some more browsing and dressing room visits, each of us bought something from American Eagle (my sister found a nice pair there :D), and I managed to pay for my items solely through giftcards. The perks of after Christmas shopping!

Baagan on Urbanspoon

Do you like getting a dish with a sampling of different foods, or do you prefer sticking with something you know?

Five Things Friday – Post-Valentine’s Day Edition

Five Things Friday – Post-Valentine’s Day Edition

This week managed to go by quickly for me…perhaps it was due to the (pleasant) change in the weather? Yes, I know Nemo begs to differ for some, and that’s why I’m grateful for the California sun…and for Punxsutawney Phil not seeing his shadow..

I plan to make this weekend relaxing and fun, but I also want to (and need to) buckle down for some serious Microbiology studying. My second midterm is on Thursday, and since it is a points-based class (no curve!) I really want to ace it. I did have a Math midterm today though, and since it is Friday, I thinking I’m deserving of a little break. Plus I’m in the mood for a “Five Things Friday”. Enjoy!

1) Latest food fix has been a cup of greek yogurt (preferrably $0.79 clearance Chob) and a dollop of Nutella. I’ve been craving this  combo for the past week! Good thing the cups were on clearance, otherwise there would be a huge hole in my pocket!

Nutella + greek yogurt = ♥

2) Weather has been amazing…and will continue to be (except for the chances of rain later next week…)! I certainly do not have an excuse to get some running in this weekend :)! The only thing that irritates me though is that the mornings are still winter cold, so I have to wear a jacket anyways. And then I have to lug around the jacket when it warms up in the afternoon. Yes, I’m so full of complaints, but I’d rather have my days stay at a consistent temperature…preferrably sunny & warm temperatures…

High's in the 70s, baby!
High’s in the 70s, baby!

3) Listening to the Latino Top Hits station when you didn’t take Spanish in high school and/or college. I can only stand the other “Top 40/Mainstream Radio” stations for so long you know! Plus, I recognize like half the songs from my ZUMBA classes.

I didn’t hear it on the Latino station (rather an internet dance radio station), but my current favorite song to jam along to is this one. Oh, and the remix too! You might recognize the singer from Mr. Saxobeat, which has been in my head all week too 😉

4) Had to get a filling yesterday (a minor one) but after getting reprimanded by my dentist for needing to practice good flossing technique on a more frequent basis, I couldn’t help but google “electronic flossers”.

Worth it??
Is it worth it??

Right now I’m trying to get into the habit of using those Dentek flosser thingys since I hate the threaded floss. But an electric flosser would be so nice. Is it worth the $100 though??

5) Who says you can’t have chocolate after Valentine’s Day? Funny how I switch to the topic of chocolate after I mentioned my filling. (Honestly, it was a filling in a really hard to reach area…I promise I have really good dental hygeine otherwise 😉 !)

Anyways, I tried two new-to-me chocolate bars a couple weeks ago but couldn’t find the right post to fit them in to. Since I’m not in a chocolate coma from yesterday, looking at these bars doesn’t make me sick to my stomach…although one of them did have a similar effect…:P

Simply Lite - Dark Chocolate
Simply Lite – Dark Chocolate

This Simply Lite bar was a low carb chocolate bar, and while it did satisfy my dark chocolate craving that I was having one day, I don’t recommend eating the entire bar in one sitting (it even says so on the wrapper – excess consumption may cause a laxative effect). My tummy made some weird gurgling sounds soon after and was acting up for the majority of the day. I found the aftertaste to be kind of off too.

Whole Foods didn’t let me down though…especially since their chocolate selection is engrossing.

Alter Eco - Dark Quinoa
Alter Eco – Dark Quinoa

When I saw this quinoa chocolate bar by Alter Eco, I knew I had to buy it (also a plus was that it was on sale!!). I’ve seen this brand/bar on other blogs, but wanted to try it myself. It honestly reminded me of a more sophisticated Crunch bar, and it even had that same “Crunch” taste too. Only difference was that this bar was thinner and flatter, while the Crunch bars of my childhood were thicker and shorter (at least the ones that came in the Lunchables boxes were! :P).

Well, I’m off to go watch a new episode of Shark Tank. Anyone else like that show, btw?

Have a fun three-day weekend!

What are your weekend plans?

Do you hate flossing?

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...