2017, and All of its Blessings ℘

2017, and All of its Blessings ℘

Is it to early to reflect on 2017?

The Saturday after my return to LA from my week in Tulsa was spent mostly sleeping, and catching up with myself emotionally. I didn’t have to go into lab, and honestly, didn’t feel like doing much since I was just feeling so exhausted.

I did manage to get some local brunch though, by finally making a trip to The OP Cafe. I could have had any of their brunch specials but I opted for nachos.

;
Just felt like eating & staying local…

It was exactly what I was craving and it hit the spot.

House-made nachos with all the cheese, beans, guac, and sour cream you could as
House-made nachos with all the cheese, beans, guac, and sour cream you could ask for…

I also found myself reflecting over a lot of things over this particular weekend, thinking about how there is literally one more month left in 2017, and despite all the crazy shenanigans and experiences this year, I can’t help but feel that this was the year I was finally able to turn over a new leaf.

Sour Cream
Sour Cream!

I saw myself grow, adapt, and change over the months…as the seasons transitioned…as I finally came into my own. If I could use three words to describe my personal journey this year, it would have to be acceptance, confidence, and self-love—three things that I never thought I could fully feel for many years…

lll
Guaccccc!

I entered January 2017 with a sense of determination (to continue with my physical and mental recovery from ED), but also a little bit of anxiety. I was anxious over having to prepare for my qualifying exam, and I know it got in the way of my recovery—I was body checking, worried about my measurements/weight, and having urges to binge on jars of Nutella or flavored nut butters. But as soon as my exam date passed and all went well, the cloud had been lifted and it was easier to tackle recovery once again.

In February I embraced the fact that I am a young, twenty-something woman who is going to feel feelings. I had a crush and I went with the flow. I felt giddy and happy for the first time, trying to hold onto this new set of feelings for dear life because it was like nothing I ever felt before.

March was more of the same…I was surprised that these feelings did hold on so long, but “the game” was getting tiring. The boy I ended up having feelings for was so hard to figure out. It was challenging, frustrating, and at times, left me with a sunken heart.

April was when I found out he had a girl already. The practical side of me tried to talk the emotional side of me out of it. But it was hard. I felt the aftermath physically…feeling a sense of fatigue you’d think could only be brought upon by a collision with a moving vehicle or a hard-ass workout. I tried to hate him, but I wanted to be nice. You know, just in case.

May was when I told myself I am perfect as I am, and I focused on me. I realized that I was able to cope with my triggers with ease, each and every passing day. I told my therapist after almost a year with her, that I felt it was time for me to move on. It was something I just felt in my gut.

I returned from an exciting, thrilling, exhausting, and blissful two weeks in Europe in June feeling refreshed, but also nervous about the tasks that lay before me at work. It was going to be another hectic summer. At least I had my sister with me for two weeks. I felt single and free and just…doing okay. But then I wondered, why did he walk alongside me to the train station? Why did it seem like he noticed me and smiled without me initiating? I started to wonder…did lab boy really have a girlfriend, or did he mean girl (insert verrrryyy long space here) friend ?

July was spent working and wondering. My feelings weren’t as intense as before, but when I saw him and we exchanged hellos or smiles, my heart would melt. I had a third party who promised to confirm his situation with me, an undergrad who wasn’t coming back until August! Until then, I worked hard, played hard (since I had my sister’s car for the month!), and shared a bunch of laughs with E. It was a pretty easy-going, chill month.

August was my birthday month, and while I couldn’t spend it with my family, my labmates E and J made my 25th day special. I went out for dinner with E at a restaurant that comped our meal in exchange for a blog post, and overall, it was just a good day. I finalized and confirmed a lot of things this month: that I would be going to Spain for a conference, that my sis would be moving to Mission Viejo, that I had another three over-nighters to pull in lab, and that, yes, he indeed meant girlfriend. Once again, I felt free. Still a bit salty about being single, but I felt (mostly) okay.

September started off in a hurried fashion. I was putting together my conference poster and finishing up those all-nighters/last minute experiments. Unlike the year before, I did not have Labor Day off…I spent the night before sleeping on the couch in my office. I put the labor in Labor Day—easy to laugh about it now! Sadly, I was even looking to my conference trip to Barcelona as something I needed to “check-off”…I didn’t have time to plan what I would do the one day there I would have for myself.

But when I flew off to Spain and arrived in Barcelona, the whole experience was refreshing and new. It was my first solo international trip and once I got past the jetlag and physical fatigue (thanks hormones…), I fell in love with Barcelona. At first I was nervous walking around, not knowing Spanish and clutching onto my purse in order to avoid pickpocket encounters. But the city was so clean, quiet, and beautiful in its own way. During the days of my conference, I was able to interact more with people, and since the conference was in a beachside town, I was surprised with the most gorgeous views of the Mediterranean. It was unlike anything I had seen before.

By the time October came around, I had a hard time getting back into my usual routine. After coming back from a place like Spain, things can never be the same, haha! And the fact that I met a guy who seemed to be smart and charming? Didn’t help at all.

We only did have one conversation while I was there, and it would have been nice to have gotten to talk to him more and get to know him better. After confiding with my friends, they encouraged me to do a daring thing and leave a note for him before I left.

Given the circumstances, I didn’t expect anything to result from this “bold move” but we did exchange messages, at least for a little while, upon my return. Again, it was a battle between my practical and emotional self in regards to how things would turn out realistically, but if anything, all of this proved I could move past my feelings for lab guy!

It also felt nice to do something that required me to be a little more confident 😉

When November rolled in, I was starting to feel mentally exhausted, but I was also starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel for one of the projects I’m working on. Of course, in the world of science, that can always take a turn, but for now I can say my efforts in that foray are coming together. I also had the chance to spend a week with my Dad, run my 5th marathon, and embrace Thanksgiving with what I would say a pretty close to a full recovery from ED kind of mind. Even my Dad noticed all of the changes he saw me in that week compared to times past, and he couldn’t have been happier.

And now as December is here, and as this year comes to a close, I can’t help but wonder how 2018 will be. This month has already gotten off to a tough start, but based on all the things that have happened this year, and the skills and life lessons I’ve acquired, I think I have the ability to make it through.

As of right now, I’m totally feeling sad over the fact that I may lose my lab bestie if she isn’t able to secure a post-doc position here by the end of the year. There’s also the work that my projects require that seem to be never-ending…

I do hope that despite what 2018 may have in store, I am able to build on all that I have gained in this year, and that it makes me a stronger woman on all fronts 💪

Was 2017 a good year for you?

The O.P. Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Back Into the Swing of Things

Back Into the Swing of Things

I came back from Spain on a Thursday, but was heavily jet-lagged for a week. My mood and emotions were all over the place, and my sleep schedule definitely took a beating. I remember wanting to take a nap at 5pm on the following Sunday, only to wake up in my pitch dark room and glancing at my phone to see that it was midnight…needless to say, getting back to my routine was a challenge, but I was able to succeed and feel somewhat like myself by the time the next weekend rolled around.

Friday Night Cat-Stalking. That's one way to get used to being back in SaMo lol
Friday Night Cat-Stalking. That’s one way to get used to being back in SaMo lol

My sister was free to meet me on a Saturday, and so we made plans to head to Hollywood and check out the Museum of Broken Relationships. A good excuse to get out of my West LA bubble, and make it to the north central part of the city for once!

Since we were in the area on a Saturday afternoon, it was impossible to escape tourist traffic. We soon found the museum unassumingly positioned at the corner of Hollywood and McCadden. It was actually much smaller than we expected…

Museum of BR
Museum of BR

It was cute though. And surprisingly, there were a ton of couples walking about…weird, haha!

The “Wedding Dress in a Jar” and the minuscule “pay attention to me” note caught my eye…

Wedding Dress in a Jar // "pay attention to me"
Wedding Dress in a Jar // “pay attention to me”

There were also some zany and crazy displays of random objects, paired with some heart-breaking stories as well. Each item was paired with a description of who donated it, when the relationship ended, and the meaning of the item.

The mini love notes were bittersweet. Not sure about that pinata tho...
The mini love notes were bittersweet. Not sure about that pinata tho…

There was a second story to the museum, where we saw this weird sculpture (?), but other than that, the displays were limited:

Not sure about the meaning of this...
Not sure about the meaning of this…

So we were out in about an hour. Our next stop was a late lunch/early dinner at Pink Taco on Sunset. After raving to my sister about it (at least based on the experience I had at Century City years ago before that location closed), she was dying to check it out too.

Finding parking was a nightmare, but we found a street parking in a nearby neighborhood and walked over.

We made it just in time for happy hour, and made ourselves comfy among the already-settled crowds of “basic” folk, haha.

Pink Taco
Pink Taco

We devoured the complimentary chips and salsa as soon as the waiter brought them over.

Lesss eat!
Lesss eat!

I already knew I wanted nachos, especially since they were cheap off the Happy Hour menu. The sis went for the tacos, and was not disappointed.

The nachos were just as magical as I remember them being. The cheese wasn’t queso-like, but there was so much guac and jalapeno peppers so it balanced out in the end.

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

Our portions were just right, but when my sis suggested we get dessert close to my place before she headed home, I agreed!

So after getting through traffic, we drove down Santa Monica Blvd. until we got to Downtown SaMo. I suggested we check out Creams & Dreams.

Creams & Dreams
Creams & Dreams

I’m not sure why C&D was on my foodie list to begin with, since after stepping inside, nothing struck me as it being unique in any way. There are a number of liquid nitrogen ice cream shops now in So Cal, so I’m not sure why I had bookmarked this place…

Regardless, they had Speculoos and Nutella ice cream, so I caved and went for that (despite their offering of avocado or creamed corn)!

"Yes, there were unique-sounding liquid nitrogen ice cream flavors like avocado 🥑 and creamed corn 🌽, but my mind is pretty much made up whenever Speculoos or Nutella is concerned!"
Yes, there were unique-sounding liquid nitrogen ice cream flavors like avocado 🥑 and creamed corn 🌽, but my mind is pretty much made up whenever Speculoos or Nutella is concerned!

My sis stayed to true to her main love of chocolate, and topped it with fruity pebbles.

No surprise with her, always getting chocolate :P
No surprise with her, always getting chocolate 😛

We walked back to the car with ice cream in hand, feeling sticky from the ocean breeze. This particular weekend helped me get back into the swing of things, and ready to take on October!

Pink Taco Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

A Cold Rolled Concoction

A Cold Rolled Concoction

When I first saw images of Thai ice cream rolls pop up on the ‘gram, I was mesmerized—how on earth could ice cream be molded into such compact rolls, pressed together, and then decorated to a point that they looked too ornate to eat? 

Seriously. Mouth-watering.
Seriously. Mouth-watering.
 
I had been dying to try the creation, but at the time, all of the ice cream locations that made this exquisite treat were located in the OC, and I wasn’t heading down there as frequently as I do now that my sister’s in the area. 
 
I did get a chance to try a cookie-butter themed cup of the stuff at the OC Night Market a few months ago, thanks to the Blue Nova food truck. And while I complained in my recap post of the event that it took forever and a day for the cup to be prepared, I realized how much effort is actually required when I paid a visit to a new,  local-to-me ice cream shop that is crafting up this frozen treat for the denizens of LA. 
 
Cold Rolled Ice Cream Co.
Cold Rolled Ice Cream Co.
 
Cold Rolled Ice Cream Co. has only been open for a handful of weeks, but by the way their shop on Melrose looks, you’d think they’ve been in the business for ages. 
 
At work whipping up hand-crafted frozen creations!
At work whipping up hand-crafted frozen creations!
 
I stopped by on a slightly cool Saturday afternoon for LA, and was able to meet with one of the four shop owners, Tim. He was eager to share the history of Cold Rolled, and it was obvious to me that he had a passion and the expertise for all things ice cream. 
 
Some highlights of the shop included:
 
~ A variety of ice cream base options, including all-organic, vegan and non-dairy choices.
~ A number of opportunities to mix and match ice cream flavors and toppings, since Cold Rolled offers 20 flavors and 50+ toppings. 
~The emphasis on making the ice cream-making process an interactive one with the customer: each order is made fresh, and the customer’s name is even spelled on the ice cream before rolling.
~The mural walls decorating the interior of the shop, painted by local street artist Jonathan Cirlin
 
After speaking with Tim outside the shop, he asked if I’d like to try some ice cream and I was quick to respond absolutely! 
 
There were separate rolling stations positioned behind a glass counter, with staff members rolling out tailored creations for customers right before their eyes. 
 
I decided to go with the Matcha Green Tea Premium Creation, which combined a matcha green tea base, red bean paste, and toppings like mochi and green tea Pocky. 
 
The Premium Creations portion of the menu
The Premium Creations portion of the menu

When one of the staff members assigned to making my cup was ready, he motioned for me to come close to the counter so I could watch ice cream magic happen right before my eyes.

It started off with a mash of green ice cream, which was then pummeled back and forth. The clashing of stainless steel tools is a common sound around these parts, haha!

Step 1
Step 1

Next, the ice cream “puree” was smoothed out , and allowed to freeze flat on the circular metal tray.

Step 2
Step 2

Before rolling out the frozen rectangle into mini rolls, my name was spelled out with condensed milk, making it a more interactive experience.

Step 3
Step 3

Each roll was placed tightly in a circular arrangement inside a cup, and topped with condensed milk and toppings.

TOPpin' it off
TOPpin’ it off

I then allowed my cup a few minutes in the spotlight before devouring its contents in mere seconds.

Before it was all gone...
Before it was all gone…

The rolls were frozen firm, and had a mild green tea flavor. I have to be honest and say I was focused on getting to all the mochi pieces first, but after that was taken care of, I was able to devote my attention to the part of the frozen creation that required the most effort. Overall, it was the perfect treat for a slightly cool but sunny Saturday afternoon in LA.

Cold Rolled is definitely a sweet addition to Melrose Ave., and I’m certainly glad I don’t have to make the trek down to OC (at least) every time I have a craving for ice cream rolls!

Cold Rolled Ice Cream Co.
Cold Rolled Ice Cream Co.


Have you ever tried Thai ice cream rolls?

Labor Day Weekend ’17

Labor Day Weekend ’17

I can’t believe Labor Day weekend was only a few weeks ago…it feels like it’s been ages! This year’s holiday weekend was another one spent in lab for me (meaning no day trip to Malibu like last year…), but I did make the most of the snippets of free time I could gather.

My friend J from lab was given a handful of “1  free Perfect Bar” coupons, and gave them to me before checking out for the holiday weekend. He wasn’t a fan, and asked if I’d make use of them. Obviously, yes!

Free bars, woooo!
Free bars, woooo!

It was convenient for me to redeem them at Trader Joe’s as a on-the-go breakfast, since it’s on my way to campus.

Almond Butter is a classic, and it’s crumbly texture with sesame seeds on top reminded me of an Indian powder sweet (Sathu Maavu). I commented on Instagram on how it truly was a “Perfect Bar”!

"This really is perfection ✨"
“This really is perfection ✨”

Dark Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter had a softer, more compact texture, and enough mini chocolate chips on the top to add a cute touch. And given that these bars can cost up to $3-4 retail, I was very grateful to J for those handful of coupons!

"Another perfect flavor 🍫🥜🍪"
“Another perfect flavor 🍫🥜🍪”

On Friday evening of Labor Day weekend, E and I were invited to attend our friend’s birthday. She’s the sweetest undergraduate who works in a neighboring lab, and we were excited to celebrate the special day with her.

Dockweiler Beach Sunset
Dockweiler Beach Sunset

We carpooled with her and her roommates to Dockweiler, and found a spot on the beach to set up camp and lay out some food.  She’s a fan of this local African taco place, and so we had that catered along with other party food fare (chips, cake, cookies, etc).

..
Setting up a bonfire at Dockweiler Beach—another must-do for anyone living in LA!

More of her friends showed up, and as the sun set turned into night, we eventually were able to claim a fire pit and get a bonfire going! It definitely was a fun and memorable night.

Since I was spending Sunday night in lab, I did my best to finish up with my daily tasks on Saturday as quickly as possible. I was super hungry when I left, and didn’t want to venture out too far from my normal route home. Mod Pizza in Culver City was close enough, and pizza sounded appetizing, so that immediately became my destination.

Mod Pizza
Mod Pizza

The Art Lover is my go-to at Blaze, and at Mod Pizza, the closest thing I could find to that was Lucy Sunshine.

"First time trying Mod Pizza, and I was happy with my "Lucy Sunshine" choice 👍🏽 🍕. Red sauce dollops and artichoke hearts on a flat, crispy piece of CARB is really all you need 😜"
“First time trying Mod Pizza, and I was happy with my “Lucy Sunshine” choice 👍🏽 🍕. Red sauce dollops and artichoke hearts on a flat, crispy piece of CARB is really all you need 😜”

It was a smaller pie, but it did not lack in toppings. The mozzarella, parmesan, artichokes, garlic, and dollops of red sauce were all there.

The Culver City location was small and awkwardly placed facing the busy, traffic-packed Venice Rd., but it served its purpose as a clean dining area to sit down and finish off a pizza to fuel the rest of my Saturday.

Sunday was the day I was ready to dread, and since I would not be sleeping in the comforts of my bed that night, I took my time getting ready in the morning, before heading to campus.

I spent more time than I wanted to preparing for Monday’s early morning experiments, but I did give E a heads up on when I would be done, so she could meet me for an afternoon snack (and give me some company before I locked myself up in lab for the night!)

Cafe Amadine
Cafe Amadine

We found a cozy little spot called Cafe Amadine, and while they did have warm, savoy sandwiches, we opted for some frappucinos and split a banana cream cake slice. Wasn’t a fan of the cake (ugh, bananas!), but my green tea frapp was able to cover up the gross banana flavor, haha!

Sunday snackin'
Sunday snackin’

 After accompanying me back to lab, I said bye to E and settled in for my overnight stay. Funny how my Labor Day was definitely going to be packed with labor 😉

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!
 
Menu
Menu
 
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.

GOYO
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

Back in August…

Back in August…

Man, I have a TON of posts to catch up on! But if I procrastinate any longer, I proably won’t even remember enough about the pictures I have to write about them…better late than ever.

Also goes to show that being busy enough not to blog means that life things are picking up, and have me occupied in a good way. I have some big travel plans coming up in a few weeks (work-related, but still exciting!), and I’m looking forward to what that experience will bring.

In the meantime, I’ll reflect back on what I was doing in early August, right after my b-day celebrations and my sister’s arrival back in Cali. It was my last weekend with the car in my possession, but I didn’t have the desire to drive out too far…

Actually, there was a lot going on locally. The USC Village was something that was under construction for a long time now, near the downtown area. Since it’s grand opening was scheduled for mid-August to coincide with move-in day, some of the stores and restaurants had soft openings a week prior. One of the restaurants was CAVA…funny how I visited the Santa Monica location only days before!

CAVA, USC Village
CAVA, USC Village

For their soft opening, the CAVA at USC Village was giving away free food from 12-2pm! I stood in line with some of my labmates for almost 1.5 hours, but since I knew the kind of food we would be getting wasn’t some cheap meal, I had to begrudgingly admit that it was worth it.

CAVA Menu
CAVA Menu

Although…by the time we got inside and were able to place our orders, they had run out of flatbread. We all opted for grain bowls, and I had mine based with lentils, the spicy veggies and all of the other crisp veggie toppings. I think I opted for some lemon dressing this time around instead of the apricot sriracha, but it fit well with what ended up being a warm salad bowl.

Grain Bowl!
Grain Bowl!

I ate my late lunch with E before we continued on with our work day.

When Saturday rolled around, I first drove to Sprouts after a morning run to pick up a snack. I’ve been on a GoMacro bar kick lately (my latest bar obsession), and Sprouts carries their Everlasting Joy flavor, the proceeds of which go to help the homeless.

GoMacro Everlasting Joy
GoMacro Everlasting Joy

I love their chocolate chip/nut butter flavors, so this was an instant favorite of mine. I mean, coconut flakes added to either of those types of flavors can only make it better.

I worked in lab for some of the morning, and since E was also finishing up some stuff, we finished around noon and walked over to where I parked the car to drive off to lunch.

She suggested earlier in the week that we both share a Turkish Breakfast at Mama’s Secret, a cozy, Turkish establishment very close to Beverly Connection.

Anyone got $1,000 for breakfast??
Anyone got $1,000 for breakfast??

Maybe if we combined a good chunk of our monthly income, we could have split the $1,000 pancakes…but we weren’t feeling too rich that day, haha!

What we could afford vs. what we couldn't
What we could afford vs. what we couldn’t

Nah, the Turkish Breakfast and cheese-stuffed flatbread not only sounded affordable, but well-rounded and filling for two people.

The Turkish breakfast was served with an assortment of cheeses, veggies, turkey slices (that we left alone), and flatbread. The sauces/dips were filled in cups and included hummus, tahini, honey, jam, nutella, and a ricotta-looking cheese curd.

TURKISH BREAKFAST
TURKISH BREAKFAST

And of course we had some warm tea…

The cheese-stuffed flatbread was my favorite, even though it wasn’t part of the breakfast platter. It came out already cut out in small portions so it was easy to split.

One of the cheese-stuffed flatbreads they offered. I believe ours was spiced with parsley and basil.
One of the cheese-stuffed flatbreads they offered. I believe ours was spiced with parsley and basil.

I had no idea that these cheese-filled flatbreads were a staple of Turkish cuisine, but my friend confirmed this foodie fact. I’d go as far as to say it’s one of my new favorite dishes now!

E was meeting some other friends for a movie-in-the-park event (one that I actually went to myself for a friend’s birthday last year…) so I dropped her off before heading home. I felt tired enough to go to sleep early, but I did have a night dessert before turning in.

That Snickerdoodle Dough
That Snickerdoodle Dough

Nada Moo’s Snickerdoodle is cream was soft and creamy, but the lack of dough pieces was a huge disappointment and sub-par in comparison to So Delicious’ offering. Ah well, they tried…

What your current food obsession?

Have you ever had a Turkish breakfast?

Mama's Secret Bakery & Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Birthday and The Rockwell

Birthday and The Rockwell

In the days leading up to my birthday last year, I was under what seemed like insurmountable stress, and getting away from everything was more than necessary on my birthday. My 24th was a fun one thanks to the thoughtfulness of my Dad, sister, and friend who went out of their way to give me company when I felt so lonely and was running on fumes…

This year was the first time I celebrated my actual birthday with no close family nearby. But I didn’t mind, because the day felt like any other day, other than the fact I turned a quarter of a century years old 😛

It started with a short run, specifically a speed workout, and from there, I was off to lab.

In lab, E surprised me with a gift (a Turkish tea set!) and after getting some work done in the morning, she and another one of my lab mates joined me for lunch. They had cake ready and thawed when we came back to the office, and we spent some more time chatting over cake.

I managed to get some more work done in the afternoon, but things slowed down around 5. I asked E if she wanted to join me for dinner at The Rockwell in Los Feliz, since I had been asked if I could come review their summer menu. Being able to set up the visit on my birthday was definitely a plus 🙂

We took the metro over to Los Feliz since leaving to get the car and then driving through traffic didn’t seem like the best idea. When we got off at Vermont and Sunset however, we were greeted by extremely humid weather and…rain?! LA was acting crazy!

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We entered through the stage/club side first, and thought it was strange that a restaurant could be so dark. 

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Luckily, we had the sense to walk around the building and find the restaurant entrance.

The Rockwell, Los Feliz
The Rockwell, Los Feliz

We were greeted by some wait staff who at first didn’t know about the review visit, but we were able to grab some seats near the back, in a cozy little booth with a earthy-looking theme.

Getting cozy!
Getting cozy!

We were given the menu and took some time to figure out what sounded best. The skillet cauliflower ‘n’ cheese initially caught my eye, but E was eyeing it too, so I thought I’d get something different so we could share and try a variety of items.

E also got the RW Quinoa Burger (After figuring out that RW stands for Rockwell, haha), and I ended up choosing one of their wood stone flatbreads, the forest mushroom to be exact.

We were able to put in our order, and we didn’t have to wait too long for our food to arrive. In the meantime, we met The Rockwell’s owner/manager, and sipped on some cold glasses of water.

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We were amazed by how big the portions were when everything came out. And despite the muggy weather outside, we welcomed the warmth radiating from the food and couldn’t wait to dig in.

RW QUINOA BURGER ~ black bean, onion, sun-dried tomato, vegan mango chutney aioli
RW QUINOA BURGER ~ black bean, onion, sun-dried tomato, vegan mango chutney aioli

E wasn’t able to finish her burger, but she was ecstatic to find such a generous portion of avocado laid out so finely on her crisp quinoa patty.

My woostone flatbread was composed of wild mushrooms, leeks, white sauce, and truffle oil. It actually reminded me of the pizza I had at Pizza Studio a couple months ago, but the flatbread crust of this pizza had an intriguing texture. It was perfectly crisp on the outside, and pliable and chewy on the inside. Birthday calories obviously don’t count, and I had no problem getting through all of it 😛

FOREST MUSHROOM WOODSTONE FLATBREAD ~ WILD MUSHROOMS, LEEK, WHITE SAUCE & TRUFFLE OIL
FOREST MUSHROOM WOODSTONE FLATBREAD ~ WILD MUSHROOMS, LEEK, WHITE SAUCE & TRUFFLE OIL

I had some of E’s cauliflower ‘n’ cheese, which was described as a dish of multi-colored florets coated with golden panko crust and covered in cheese. It definitely wasn’t skimping on the cheese, and even though it’s an item under their “shareables”, it could easily be a rich entree if you so choose!

SKILLET CAULIFLOWER “N” CHEESE ~ purple, yellow, white florets with golden panko crust
SKILLET CAULIFLOWER “N” CHEESE ~ purple, yellow, white florets with golden panko crust

For the amount of food we got, and the quality, the cost was understandable and not too expensive. We had our meal covered, but the price range is certainly not out of reach if you are looking for a cozy, patio-style restaurant with shareable, bar food appetizers and classic entrees with a fresh, Californian (more like Hollywood-inspired) twist. They also hold shows throughout the month, the tickets to which are sold separately from dining in at the restaurant.

E and I took the train back, and I made it home close to 10pm. It was a busy, long birthday, but for what I did and who I surrounded myself with, I think I welcomed my 25th year the happiest way I could.

Rockwell Table & Stage Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Days Like These

Days Like These

After a day to myself, I was eager to spend the Saturday catching up with E. I stopped by lab first to bid adieu to my undergrad, from there E and I left for Manhattan Beach.

I took the car out, and the drive out was a slightly crazy one since we were bracing ourselves on I-110 Southbound. We did make it one piece, and stopped for lunch at Cafe Rio since we were starving.

Standing in line
Standing in line

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

Cafe Rio, Manhattan Beach
Cafe Rio, Manhattan Beach

I got a tostada bowl, while E got a quesadilla. My tostada was topped with cilantro rice, lettuce, guac, sour cream, tomatoes, black beans, tortilla strips, and refreshing spring of parsley.

Tostada Bowl
Tostada Bowl

I guess it wasn’t super outstanding, but since my appetite was raging, I devoured everything. E had to wait a while for me to finish since my bowl seemed to never end, and I was insistent on eating everything (including the tostada shell) with a fork, haha!

Clossssssse-up
Clossssssse-up

After getting our fill of fresh mex food, we stopped inside Barnes & Noble that was nearby before heading to the beach. We found parking in a hilly neighborhood, and only had to walk a block or two down to the shopping area right by the beach.

Once we made it past the shops, we found a spot to sit in the sand, and watch everything around us. It was more crowded than when we visited Aliso Beach, but we had fun taking in the surroundings and gossiping about our own stuff (like we don’t do that enough, haha).

Beach bummin'
Beach bummin’

We decided to head back a little before 5, and stopped for some smoothies at Jamba Juice since the weather was still warm. The drive back to LA was just as bracing as the drive we took in the morning, but I was able to drop off E and get home safely.

It was another pleasant Sunday, but I’m certainly not taking it for granted! I was looking at some past posts from around this time last year, and I was in a totally different mindset at the time, and going through some struggles that I’m glad I was able to get over! Having friends in the workplace like E has helped, and just feeling in more control of my surroundings. So yes, I’ll continue to greet and be grateful for days that pass like these ♥.

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

4th of July What?

4th of July What?

For me, 4th of July weekend was non-existent. I was in lab every single day that weekend, two of which were spent as over-nighters due to the nature of the experiments I was running. It was exhausting, but I felt so productive and accomplished by the end of it…and when I saw co-workers walking in on July 5th looking super depressed, haha!

The weekend after, I still had to go into lab but lunch in downtown with E was a given. I had an eye appointment I had to attend to first, but after that, E and I walked into the depths of downtown—under the hot LA sub—looking for Two Boots Pizza. We were covered in sweat by the time we saw the small stand by an old-style theater and Urban Outfitters.

Two Boots, DTLA
Two Boots, DTLA

One thing that intrigued me about this place is how they have a lengthy line-up of some veggie/vegan pizza options! The green-bordered menu had E and I excited to dig into a late lunch.

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Despite the long list of pizza options, the guy behind the counter disappointed us by saying the only flavors available that day were displayed through the front window.

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In that case, we both ordered a slice of the Night Tripper. She got another spicy slice while I got the veggie-topped V for Vegan.

♥ Night Tripper & V for Vegan ♥
♥ Night Tripper & V for Vegan ♥

We sat at some stools next to the little stall and munched on our slices. The Night Tripper was indeed a spicy one with a soft layer of cheese and basil drizzle. V for Vegan was milder in comparison, but put artichoke hearts on anything and it just takes it to the next level.

After talking for a bit, we headed back to catch the train and from there I headed home. I stopped by Ralph’s to get a pint for the night—this time a new So Delicious flavor to try: Dark Chocolate Truffle.

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And…despite wanting to love it, the DCT cashew milk ice cream just wasn’t those flavors I fell in love with. Snickerdoodle, Salted Caramel Cluster, and Cookie Dough had me feeling differently, but I guess this flavor is perhaps best suited for a vegan who loves her chocolate!

On Sunday, I went out for a 14 mile run before heading to lab. Since San Diego, I’ve just been trying to maintain my weekly mileage, since I plan to start fall marathon training (back with a coach) in August. July seems to be the perfect month to be a little lax with training…since “slow” times and “sluggish efforts” can always be blamed on the heat 😉

After the run, I hurried to lab just to get my errands out of the way. With my sister out of the state for the next couple weeks, I’m car-sitting her automobile and so I was able to conveniently drive over to lab that morning. I finished up by early afternoon, and so E and I took the car out to Melrose to dine at Fratelli Cafe. Of course, we parked too soon at La Brea since E thought she knew where the restaurant was. We were off by a couple blocks, and so we literally ended up having a warm-up walk before eating, haha!

Fratelli on Melrose
Fratelli on Melrose

When we entered the restaurant, we could tell the place was a local favorite based on the crowds, but getting the attention of the wait staff proved to be difficult. We weren’t sure if we had to wait to be seated, or seat ourselves, but we eventually figured out that we order first and then find a place to sit. There weren’t enough menus at the front where we had to order, and so E and I waited awkwardly behind a group of three who had all three menus…

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When we did get our chance to order, I ordered the Huevos Rancheros off the breakfast menu while E went for a veggie sandwich and chips. There was no difference sitting inside versus outside since there was no evidence of an A/C, so we found a table outside.

It took a while for our food to arrive, and the dishes that passed us in the meantime were a real tease for our exhausted, overheated bodies. When our plates did come though, I took a moment to admire the layers of my brunch plate.

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I had a well-balanced, hearty plate in front of me, if I do say so myself…

"I've been craving eggs 🍳 like crazy lately, so I wasn't surprised that I ended up getting Huevos Rancheros for a late lunch on Sunday at Fratelli Cafe with the lab bestie. Besides getting food in our systems, it didn't make sense to do anything else because of the heat wave 🔥🔥🔥 and after dropping her off at home, I was knocked out 😴 by 7:30pm. The next thing I know, I wake up and it's pitch black at 9pm 😱😂. I guess I must have been really tired in addition to being really hungry 😅. Working through the Fourth of July holiday weekend does that to you I guess 🤷🏽‍♀️ 😉 #PhDStudentLife"
“I’ve been craving eggs 🍳 like crazy lately, so I wasn’t surprised that I ended up getting Huevos Rancheros for a late lunch on Sunday at Fratelli Cafe with the lab bestie. Besides getting food in our systems, it didn’t make sense to do anything else because of the heat wave 🔥🔥🔥 and after dropping her off at home, I was knocked out 😴 by 7:30pm. The next thing I know, I wake up and it’s pitch black at 9pm 😱😂. I guess I must have been really tired in addition to being really hungry 😅. Working through the Fourth of July holiday weekend does that to you I guess 🤷🏽‍♀️ 😉 #PhDStudentLife”

We finished our late lunch by 4pm, and while the sun was still high in the sky and we could have easily done something else thanks to the convenience of a car, we decided to call it a day since it was too hot. I dropped E off at home before doing some grocery shopping, and on the way, finally picked up a jar of Nuts’n More to try.

Nuts'n More Cookie Butter High Protein Spread
Nuts’n More Cookie Butter High Protein Spread

In comparison to D’s Naturals, I found that the oils mix much more evenly throughout the jar so that the bottom isn’t a flaky, dry paste. There were some tiny, crystallized sugar pieces in the mix too, but the cookie butter flavor was still detectable.

My 4th of July “holiday weekend” was something I missed out on, but I’d say I do a pretty decent job of finding the time to give myself a break, even if it doesn’t coincide with the rest of the world’s! It also helps to have a colleague/friend who pretty much lives at work just as much as you do. At this rate, with all of the places I drag her out to eat at, E will probably become just as much of a foodie as I am!

Did you have a long 4th of July holiday weekend, or just a day or two off?

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

Before Her Mid-Summer Departure

Before Her Mid-Summer Departure

In the second week my sister stayed with me, we ate out for dinner on most nights since my landlords were back. On that Monday night, we went out to dinner with my lab bestie E, at Tocaya in downtown SaMo.

Tocaya, Downtown Santa Monica
Tocaya, Downtown Santa Monica

E and I both had long, exhausting days, and were pretty much falling asleep on the train when on our way to meet my sister. My sister was waiting for us in her car, and from there it was an easy drive.

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For a Monday night, the restaurant had a large crowd. We didn’t have to wait too long to order though. We all got bowls, with mine being the Venice Beach Bowl. I just went with the “chef’s suggestion” as listed on the menu, and had the bowl with roasted cauliflower, sweet potato, lentils, garbanzo beans, pickled onions, cilantro-curry salsa, vegan picadillo (pea-based protein) & vegan chipotle jack.

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We found a table by the wall, and sat there pretty quiet until our food came. Once we had food in our bellies, we were able to keep a conversation going! It was a fun evening out, and since going out to eat on weeknights is a rare occurrence for me, I found it to be especially enjoyable. We went back towards DTLA to drop E off at home, and then returned back to my place.

The rest of the week was spent getting back into the work grind, with my sister leaving that Thursday morning to have enough time to see our friend who was graduating. She was gone for two weeks, but came back for one night at the end of the month since she was leaving for Oklahoma to spend some time with my parents.

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For that night, we ate at Tender Greens, and after hearing me talk about the exquisite Falafel Plate I had at the Culver City location a few months back, she was excited to try it for herself. Although, her plate didn’t exactly match what I had.

Oddball cartoons
Oddball cartoons

This time around, I had the Falafel Salad. But it was honestly nothing to be over the moon about. The falafel was too dry, and the tahini sauce was more of a decoration than something to dip into.

Falafel Salad
Falafel Salad

My sister liked her plate though. She didn’t’ have the dollop of green hummus I had previously, but she had her mashed potatoes so she was perfectly content.

Falafel Plate
Falafel Plate

I drove her to the airport early the next morning, and then drove back home to park the car and head to lab. The following weeks were crazy work-wise, but now as I write this, it’s a little less hectic now.

Words to remember...
Words to remember…

 

I’ve still got tons to do (when is that going to change haha), but that doesn’t mean the weekends are completely non-existent 😉

Tender Greens Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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