Lady Birds

Lady Birds

I wasn’t able to hang out with my sis over the holidays, but we were quickly able to make that up last weekend! With the holiday shopping craze out of the way, she didn’t have to work and was able to spend the entire weekend with me.

We met up on Saturday and drove straight to NoHo for lunch. We had tried to eat at Black Bottom Southern Cafe over the summer, but we came on a Sunday (when they are closed), and so they were off our immediate radar for some time. Six months later isn’t too long of a wait, I’d say…

J'eet Yet?
J’eet Yet?

I wouldn’t even call BB a restaurant. The yellow building behind the “J’eet Yet?” billboard was actually a video store, and the actual “restaurant” was a small square order counter.

My sister and I were greeted immediately and were directed toward the laminated menus. We couldn’t decide what to order right away, and despite being a Southern food restaurant, they did have a couple vegetarian and vegan options that sounded delicious.

CA Veggie Bowl
CA SoulVeggie Bowl

I finally decided on the CA Soul Veggie Bowl, which had a cheesy grits base, topped with pickled black eyed peas (Texas Caviar, lol), greens, and fried okra.

Close-up!
Close-up!

My sister got the Portabello “Sliders”, and I joked that it should be in quotes since her sliders looked like a regular sandwich…it wasn’t even served on a mini hamburger bun like you’d expect.

Portabello "Sliders"...
Portabello “Sliders”…

Rather, it was a sandwich made on a Schiacciata (new word of the day!) roll filled with onion, garlic, cheese, pesto, and balsamic glaze. At least she got some crisp sweet potato fried on the side.

We took our time eating (we found seats outside near the back wall of the restaurant) and spent even more time chatting after we finished all of our food. It was weird dining in with take-out boxes, but I guess BB is primarily used to processing to-go orders, explaining the lack of washable dishwear.

After our lunch we decided to check out a movie and we agreed on Lady Bird. I was mainly intrigued by the plot because the protagonist is a high school girl living in the early 2000s in Sacramento. The movie was particularly relatable to us since my sis and I spent most of our lives growing up in Nor Cal, in a city very close to Sacramento. Actually, we unapollegetically call it Suckramento because it really was the most boring place ever, haha! But I will admit that we have a lot of good memories growing up in our small-town city.

We ended up watching the movie in an overpriced theater in Santa Monica, and getting out of the parking garage was a nightmare. Before heading home, we made a quick Target stop in Westwood to pick up some items for a care package my sis is making for her BF. She’s planning to give it to him for Valentine’s Day, basically a box containing all sorts of “care” things he may need but doesn’t have around, like first-aid kit items, cough drops, ibuprofen, etc. When she told me about it, I was literally dying from the cuteness of it all, haha!

Eventually we made it back home but I was dog-tired. Maybe it was sitting in the dark theater, but I just could not keep my eyes open. My sis was skyping her BF and told me the next day that even though she was talking pretty loudly, I was pretty much unconscious. I get serious when it comes to sleep, lol.

♦

The next morning, we agreed to find a coffee shop close by and get some work done. She’s been doing some summer internship research and so I helped her polish off her CV.

Love Coffee Bar
Love Coffee Bar

We parked ourselves at Love Coffee Bar which was a coffee shop I’ve been wanting to check out ever since I moved to SaMo. I’ll admit it was overpriced, but I loved my spiced latte with almond milk.

Spiced Latte Love
Spiced Latte Love β™₯

And having Emmy’s Organics Lemon Ginger Coconut Cookies on the side made for a perfect pairing.

emmys_lemonginger
Cookies on the side.

My sis had yet another sandwich, but it was that cute, cafe-sized mini baguette sandwich that went well with a huge cup of coffee.

Sunday coffee mornings.
Sunday coffee mornings.

We were working right outside the coffee shop for a while, and surprisingly didn’t get too distracted by the people coming and going…when it came to well-behaved, regal-looking dogs however…that was another story.

Later on we moved inside, and then in the early afternoon decided to walk to another place close by for lunch.

We walked through Santa Monica College to get to good ol’ Pico, in order to cross another place off my foodie list—Grey Block Pizza!

Grey Block Pizza, literally in a gray building.
Grey Block Pizza, literally in a gray building.

To be honest, the interior of the restaurant was quite depressing (I mean, it was gray after all…), but our pizzas weren’t.

Pizza at its finest.
Pizza at its finest.

My sis and I got a 20″ slice each. I’m not sure exactly which veggie-friendly flavors we got, since it was whatever they had on display. Mine had cheese olives, onions, and tomatoes while my sister’s looked to be like a slice with mostly mushroom, onion, and spinach. I was a fan of the crust, which was thinly rolled but, had a sesame seed coating at the edge.

After our bites of pizza, we walked back, and my sister drove me to Sprouts for a quick grocery stop before dropping me off and heading back to the OC.

I was glad to spend the first weekend of the new year with my lady bird πŸ™‚

Grey Block Pizza Company Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

2017, and All of its Blessings β„˜

2017, and All of its Blessings β„˜

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!

β„˜

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.

β„˜

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.

β„˜

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.

β„˜

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.

β„˜

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.

β„˜

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 ?

β„˜

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.

β„˜

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.

β„˜

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.

β„˜

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 πŸ˜‰

β„˜

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.

β„˜

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.

β„˜

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 πŸ’ͺ

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 πŸ˜ŠπŸ‘ŒπŸ½"
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 πŸ˜ŠπŸ‘ŒπŸ½

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 πŸ₯‘ 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 πŸ₯‘ 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 πŸ˜›

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

Before Barcelona

Before Barcelona

I’ve been dying to write about my (short) stay in Spain, but I have the need to document the days leading up to it, since it was a couple of days of trying new restaurants with loved ones and a number of new-to-me ice cream flavors (hello, Halo Top!) 

The weekend before I left, I was in lab (of course) taking care of some last minute things for my trip since I was going for a conference. E also came by, and we ended up going to DTLA since it was close. We walked around for a bit semi-aimlessly, just enjoying eachother’s company and the weather, but I was getting hungry. 
 
We found Le Pain Quotidien, and I suggested we go inside since I had never been. E showed her super sweet side when we came across a homeless young woman asking if we had any spare change. Neither of us did, but E offered to get her a coffee and a croissant. 
 
Le Pain Quotidien
Le Pain Quotidien
 
The woman was really happy with the gesture, and even though she seemed hesitant, she did come inside to get the coffee and food. 
 
E and I then ordered for ourselves at the counter. I ended up getting their seasonal dragonfruit bowl, while she got some avocado toast. 
 
To be honest, the amount I got for the price I paid was disproportionate. The bowl was a measly size, barely filling the size of my palm…
 
Dragonfruit Acai Bowl
Dragonfruit Acai Bowl
 
E’s toast was given to her in a paper box, and looked much more filling than my excuse for a bowl…
 
The next day, I was able to meet up with my sister who was heading back down from a week and a half long trip in Fresno catching up with friends. She picked me up from lab, poster in tow, and we drove to Santa Monica for some early dinner. 
 
Bareburger has been on my list of places I’ve been meaning to visit, and so it was the perfect opportunity to go for a happy hour dinner. 
 
Bareburger, Santa Monica
Bareburger, Santa Monica
 
The inside was super cozy and definitely had a Santa Monica beachy vibe. The bar was not crowded but the after-work crowd was definitely starting to show up. 
 
Having dinner at happy hour meant being able to snag dinner-sized food at happy hour prices! My sis and I unanimously agreed on a cup of fried pickles with dipping ranch, and we got a handhold for each of us. 
 
Fried pickles
Fried pickles
 
Mine was the Farmstead. I didn’t read the description carefully, so I thought my wrap was going to be a bread-based handhold. To my surprise, A green-layered wrap came out with chunks of sweet potato, hummus, and a wild rice patty nicely tucked inside. I was thrown off at first, but after the first bite, I was in love, haha. 
 
Farmstead Wrap
Farmstead Wrap
 
My sis dropped me off after a quick run to the grocery store, and I immediately got to packing…okay, not exactly, but I made a list πŸ˜‰ 
 
The week leading up to my trip was an excuse to finally taste some of the new Halo Top flavors. I remember last year around this time when I did an extensive series of Instagram reviews on their ten new flavors release. Now, I’m excited to see that even more flavors are out and worth trying, but I’m not racing to Ralph’s with the intention to hoard every new flavor I see. But as far as the flavors I tried so far…
 
Halo Top Cinnamon Roll:
 
This pint was chock full of cinnamon dough pieces all swirled into a vanilla base. Smooth and creamy through and through, but definitely was spicier than expected.
This pint was chock full of cinnamon dough pieces all swirled into a vanilla base. Smooth and creamy through and through, but definitely was spicier than expected.

Halo Top Candy Bar:

This pint had a coffee/mild chocolate flavor with a subtle chocolate swirl and peanut pieces. It was like a cold, underwhelming Snickers bar!
This pint had a coffee/mild chocolate flavor with a subtle chocolate swirl and peanut pieces. It was like a cold, underwhelming Snickers bar!

Halo Top Caramel Macchiato:

This flavor had a sharp coffee caramel taste. Another pint with a subtle swirl, though caramel.
This flavor had a sharp coffee caramel taste. Another pint with a subtle swirl, though caramel.

Halo Top Pancakes & Waffles:

Found this to be such a unique-sounding flavor! The cone pieces were mushy, but the ice cream had a nice blend of honey and caramel. But the aftertaste did pack a punch!
Found this to be such a unique-sounding flavor! The cone pieces were mushy, but the ice cream had a nice blend of honey and caramel. But the aftertaste did pack a punch!

I also had two flavors that were NOT Halo Top, and one fared to be just as good as the offerings from HT and the other…not so much.

Sprouts Organic Cinnamon Pumpkin Ice Cream:

...
For some reason the pumpkin flavor was calling out to me that day…the texture was like soft serve, and had ice cream itself was a mix between pumpkin and cinnamon. It became a new favorite of mine, that I immediately shared on Instagram.

Simple Truth Low Cow Lite Ice Cream – Birthday Cake:

I rarely ever use harsh language on this blog, but this flavor just plain sucked. I mean, this is a disgrace to all things birthday cake-flavored.
I rarely ever use harsh language on this blog, but this flavor just plain sucked. I mean, this is a disgrace to all things birthday cake-flavored. The ice cream was bland, gross, and dry, sticking to the sides of the pint. The candy pieces had no flavor, and while it was a cheap price at Ralph’s it just was not worth it…

Now that I’ve got some major work items out of the way (for now), I can get caught up on my Spain posts (even though that was work-related too, haha). Stay-tuned!

Bareburger Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Birthday Weekend, Day 1

Birthday Weekend, Day 1

After my birthday, my work week continued on as usual—long days filled with experiments, coffee breaks, and moments of eye droopiness at the computer, haha!

When Friday night rolled around, I was so excited for my friend’s arrival! She’s the one my sister and I visited during Thanksgiving,  and she came around 10pm. We stayed up till midnight just catching up and talking. We planned to stay local on Saturday, and then venture out to the OC on Sunday.

She woke up leisurely, while I got up a little earlier to get a morning run in. I also had to go by lab, so we did that, and then drove back to Santa Monica for lunch…at Bondi Harvest.

Bondi Harvest
Bondi Harvest

It’s a relatively new establishment, with the inside and exterior decor carrying themes of the Australian coast. Many of the menu items were small, brunch-like items with unique ingredient combinations of fresh quality.

Friend's eggs, tomato, and toast.
Friend’s eggs, tomato, and toast.

My friend got a simple plate of toast with a poached egg and roasted tomato. She was an immediate fan of the tomato, because of how proportionately seasoned it was.

I chose to get something that had a prominent feature in their menu: Whirley’s Bowl.

Whirley's Bowl
Whirley’s Bowl

It was a bowl containing chimichurri, dressed cauliflower rice, slaw, avocado, yogurt tartar and salsa…I said no thank you to the fish!

An interesting combo of flavors and textures...
An interesting combo of flavors and textures…

The slaw was a fruity, citrus slaw, and definitely elevated the flavor profile of the bowl. The large half of avocado also seemed like an overwhelming addition. I’m not sure I’d order this again if I ever came back to BH, but I didn’t regret my decision too much. Though I did doubt my decision NOT to get eggs and toast (and tomato).

After lunch, we tried to figure out what else to do in SaMo besides shop and go to the beach. I did want to see what the Santa Monica Stairs was all about (thinking it featured a colorful, painted outdoor staircase), but when we made the drive up to north of Brentwood, it was literally just a steep, wooden staircase with a bunch of buff guys and gals running reps up and down in Lululemon and Nike.

Santa Monica Stairs
Santa Monica Stairs

We climbed on flight just to say “we did it”, and then drove off to Brentwood.

We didn’t do much in Brentwood either, just walk up and down San Vicente. Because of the heat, heading back home to rest up and figure out dinner plans seemed like such a reasonable idea.

Once at home, we turned on the fan (because my room was like a sauna, ughhh), and made the executive decision to get coffee (after 4pm, haha) and read/do work at a coffee shop before having dinner.

This wasn’t a bad idea at all, since it was the perfect opportunity to try Phillz Coffee, and get caught up on some data analysis.

Phillz Coffee, 3rd St. Promenade
Phillz Coffee, 3rd St. Promenade

I was surprised that there was such a demand for Phillz Coffee after 4pm, on a Saturday, but this was the case as we soon figured from the long line trailing towards the front entrance.

Honestly, it was just for the iced coffee topped with mint leaves…another capture for the ‘gram…because based on my experience, the coffee was too bitter and nothing special.

Agh, couldn't finish this...
Agh, couldn’t finish this…

I couldn’t stomach the whole cup. Perhaps if I had had the barista pour some milk or cream, it could have made a difference, but Phillz was so not worth the hype.

But I did get some data analysis done, so there’s that!

And to conclude our eating adventures for the day, we stumbled upon CAVA, a fast-growing, Chipotle-for-Mediteranean-food kind of place. I first came across it in Culver City, but was ecstatic to try it for the first time with the company of my friend.

CAVA, Santa Monica
CAVA, Santa Monica

She got a bowl for her base, but I wanted some bready carbs, so I chose to get a pita stuffed with falafel, veggies, and apricot sriracha…yesssss.

That. Sauce. Though.
That. Sauce. Though.

We were able to enjoy our meal outside since it was finally starting to cool down, and after gobbling down everything to the last morsel, we headed back home and relaxed for the rest of the night with a movie on Netflix.

Another shot from CAVA
Another shot from CAVA

I probably would have died of boredom if I had stayed local the entire day (since I practically run the same roads everyday, the scenery had become too familiar, haha!), but having my friend by my side certainly made it a fantastic day πŸ™‚

Philz Coffee 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.

<3
β™₯

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.

β™₯
β™₯

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.

β™₯
β™₯

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 πŸ˜‰

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

Ravenous

Ravenous

Last Sunday, I didn’t run any marathons, but I felt hungry to the point as though I did run one. Of course a trip to lab was on the agenda, but as soon as I was done, I was ready to fill my belly with all things delicious.

I truly craved a hearty, Mediterranean meal because I knew it would have all the nutrients I was craving as well as taste amazing. But having to wait for 30 minutes or so on the train with a growling stomach was not going to cut it. I got off at Westwood, just to dive into the mall and get some snacks…

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@fitjoynutrition , I think you’re getting better at this protein bar thing πŸ˜‰

One of which was a new FitJoy protein bar flavor. I had no idea FitJoy released some new flavors recently, but since one of them was a “Cookies & Cream” flavor, I could not let it get away! The bar had three distinct layers, with the top being a chocolate fudge-like flavor with small crispy chocolate pieces. The bottom layer was coated with a chocolate shell, and overall the bar was a good mix between crunchy and chewy (though not too chewy—what I liked about it overall was how firm it ended up being)!

I took a bus back to Santa Monica and stopped right in front of my lunch destination—Mediterranean food at Crimson sounded so mouthwatering at that point.

crimson
Crimson, Santa Monica

When I stepped inside, it felt like the A/C was on full blast, but no energy was actually being “wasted” since it was just the cooling blacks and greys on the wall that allowed the restaurant to help keep patrons feeling refreshed.

crimson_inside
Eating inside on a hot day…

I saw that it was an order first, then sit down kind of set-up, so I walked over to the front and grabbed a menu. The Falafel Veggie Plate sounded appetizing of course, but there was plenty of room for customization and add-ons.

menu
Got the ‘Falafel Veggie Plate’

My plate ended up holding a gargantuan volume of eats. I was shocked, but happy, with the food that lay before me, and I was eager to tuck in.

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The complete plate :: the gorgeous array of grilled vegetables <3

Since it was mostly veggies and healthy fats, I got full pretty quickly.

dawholeshebang
Tahini -> kale salad and hummus -> falafel in garlic sauce -> ricccceeee

But I’d say I did a decent job getting to all of the good stuff…only some rice and a bit of kale salad, along with half of a tahini cup was left.

alldone
So much good stuff on one plate…couldn’t finish it all!

After my hearty meal, I immediately felt my eyes droop. Obviously it was time for a nap. Home was a short ways away, so I wasn’t too far from falling into a cozy Sunday afternoon nap. After my nap, I woke up ready to eat some more! I was feeling ravenous for some reason that day, and I just went along with it. Spoonfuls of this Gooey Bananas Foster D’s Naturals Fluffbutter did the trick.

gooeybananasfoster
I was skeptical at first when I saw the Gooey Bananas Foster @dsnaturals Fluffbutter on sale at GNC for 50% off it’s retail price. It made me think “what’s wrong with the flavor?”, but no such answer exists. It definitely had the taste of bananas, but it wasn’t overpowering at all. In fact, it tasted as if the nut butter was made from finely mashed caramel-coated bananas. Bananas are my least favorite fruit, so take me seriously when I say this flavor was GOOD.

I was well-fed that Sunday indeed. Later on in the week, I indulged with other new-to-me treats that included the following…

Two more new FitJoy nutrition bar flavors: Homemade Pumpkin and Raspberry Chocolate Truffle:

Homemade Pumpkin
Homemade Pumpkin

Homemade Pumpkin bar reminded me of a giraffe based on the looks of the top! It had orange splotches and a light swirl on the top, with crispy wafer pieces scattered over the surface.

The Raspberry Chocolate Truffle bar had a slightly sour flavor (which isn’t that surprising), but it had a chewier and denser taste/texture in comparison to the pumpkin and cookie flavors I tried above.

Everything I love, all in one mug.
Everything I love, all in one mug.

There was a thin chocolate shell on the bottom, and its appearance actually reinded me of a Luna coconut bar. I broke the bar in half, and added it to a yogurt blend with pumpkin spice Amazing Grass mix. For good measure, I added a Lenny & Larry’s Snickerdoodle cookie!

Goodie Girl Cookies - Mint Slims
Goodie Girl Cookies – Mint Slims

I also came across these cute, mini Thin Mint-like cookies by Goodie Girl Cookies. I found these at Starbucks one day, and they made the perfect accompaniment with a coconut milk cappucino, on my walk to the train station.

For Ralph’s Freebie Friday promo this past Friday, they were giving out free Larabars! I used the opportunity to snatch up a Key Lime Pie bar flavor, and didn’t regret it.

Key Lime Pie Larabar
Key Lime Pie Larabar

I hadn’t had Lara Bars in quite some time, so having this flavor made me realize I was missing on out on something so naturally delicious. I think I’ll keep coming back to this flavor, especially as the summer months approach.

On days when you feel ravenous, do you eat whatever you crave or try to reign it in?

Crimson Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tiramisu Thoughts

Tiramisu Thoughts

I left my house Sunday morning around 7:30am, waking up to a light fog cast around my neighborhood. I only needed to put in 8 miles that day. The running miracle that is ‘tapering’…

I ran a route close to home solo, since many of my teammates are undergrads that went home for spring break. I took it as an opportunity to run AT home, and eat here after the run as well.

_front_
Urth Caffe – Santa Monica

I finished my run on Main St., pretty much at the steps of Urth Caffe. It had been a few years now since I’ve been to one…the visits I paid the WeHo and DTLA locations were when I was a fresh Los Angeleno craving weekend foodie adventures and soaking in as much of the city as possible.

Two and half years later, I walk into this Urth Caffe with a straighter posture and resting LA face (much like a another “resting face” people are more familiar with…). I get in line, knowing that crowds are expected even at 9am on a Sunday, barely giving the menu a glance since I already know what I’m going to get—a Spanish Latte with soymilk and an Earl Grey Tiramisu.

menu
Feeling like a latte…

I take my honey-glazed, sweet-filled pastry over to a counter seat by the window. I dig in with a fork, and people-watch as I think about a number of things. The fact that I walked into this place on a whim…it wasn’t planned. I felt like having something sweet paired with something warm, Urth was nearby, so I just went.

window
Views.

Even two and a half years ago, I would have been riddled with panic if my food plans had to change. Any and all visits were planned, and excuses were made if anything tried to “destroy” those plans.

tiramisooooooo
Hello, gorgeous.

But now, I was digging into this tiramisu with enjoyment. The calorie counter was still ticking in my head, but the number didn’t phase me as much as it used to. I got this tiramisu not because of its number, but because I was craving it as my post-run treat.

When my latte arrived, I held the mug in both hands, took a sip, and was immediately transported to Barcelona.

barcel
Something warm.

A young woman sitting next to me looking over sheet music asked how I was doing with a huge smile, which at first took me by surprise, but then I gave a her a huge smile back. There was no need to hold on to my “resting LA face”. Happiness starts with YOU, and welcoming every smile or greeting bestowed upon you by others only helps to grow and sustain that happiness.

cup
“I may not be in Barcelona, but I’m going to pretend I was there yesterday morning since this Spanish Latte certainly made me feel like I was”

I left Urth Caffe feeling refreshed and fulfilled with my self-care time and reflections. I have so much to be thankful for, and so much to look forward to. I used to fear the unknown, rather than look at it with anticipation.

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Slice of decadence…

I could sit back, and worry about not hitting my goal to run under 4 hours at the marathon this weekend. I could ruminate over whether or not I can sustain the relationships I am cultivating now in the future. I could be anxious about reaching my academic and career goals…but I’m coming to the realization that letting those thoughts take up brain space leads to wasted time…

I’d rather be using that time laughing with E in lab over a coffee break, smiling to myself when I reread funny text conversations between my sister and I, and taking pride in my daily running achievements (whether that be a new fast pace or just getting out to run despite not having the motivation).

Honestly, life is just too short…get that piping hot Spanish latte, demolish that decadent tiramisu, and take pride in knowing that life is yours for the taking.

earl_grey.
“Run 8 miles, replenish with an Earl Grey Tiramisu”…and enjoy life.

Urth CaffΓ© Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Eggs & Taters

Eggs & Taters

Last Sunday, I ran my second-longest long run for LA marathon training: a 20 miler from Dockweiler to Palos Verdes and back. I was pleasantly surprised with the personal improvements I noticed with this run when compared to how I performed in the past. I used to hit the physical/mental wall between miles 17 and the end, but this time around I actually found myself feeling more refreshed and kicking up speed! I averaged an 8:48/mi pace at the end of the ordeal, and raced the last 0.5 miles back with two of the faster guys on my team. It felt great, and it’s exciting to notice this improvement now…if it’s any indication of how the marathon will go in March, I can only imagine how happy I’ll feel with a solid PR.

After the run, I was able to get dropped off home around 12:30, quickly shower, and then head to downtown SaMo for some late brunch eats at a new spot that opened—Jimmy’s Famous American Tavern (JFAT). I was given an invite to come out for a Sunday brunch, and certainly did not want to turn it down!

JFAT (4)
Jimmy’s Famous American Tavern

I met with the manager Chris, and he was eager to let me know about their mimosa and drink options, appetizers, and featured menu items. A lot of their stuff is intended to please the extreme appetites of bacon/waffle/egg/potato carb lovers, and the vegetarian options are slim, but I was able to find the Veggie Bennie on the menu, and chose to try that for my meal.

JFAT (2)
Time to brunch, hard.

In the meantime, I sipped on some cold water to get myself back on the hydration track, while enjoying the gorgeous sunny weather and view from my patio booth. The restaurant is at a prime location on Ocean Ave., minutes away from the Metro station, 3rd St. Promenade, and of course the Pier.

When my plate came, my eyes grew wide. Everything looks so colorful and the tater tots were a surprise too! When Chris asked if I’d like some hot sauce, I knew it would only enhance the flavors of everything on the plate. Once I added a drizzle of Tapatio’s, I was all set.

JFAT (7)
The glorious Veggie Bennie

The tater tots were the stand-out of this dish. They have an extra crispy exterior and are seasoned with a bunch of salt and thyme. I used hot sauce for dipping, but they tasted out-of-this-world when dipped in poached egg yolk!

JFAT (5)
Tater tots seasoned with sea salt & thyme

And the English muffin-poached egg creation—-man, this makes me wish I had some skills with cooking with eggs. The layering of egg, spinach, tomatoes, onions, and of course the chive hollandaise sauce was perfection. There was no doubt at all that my plate would be wiped clean by the end of it!

JFAT (1)
Perfectly poached

It was, and I actually was pretty full from that one plate. I had no room for dessert/trying other entrees, so I left soon after letting myself digest. I was thankful for the opportunity to have this meal, especially after a 20 mile long run! I can safetly assume that all those fats, carbs, and nutrients from the eggs/veggies were happily taken up by my muscles for post-workout recovery!

JFAT (6)
Tearing into perfection

Earlier in the week, I took advantage of Vitamin Shoppe’s BOGO 50% off D’s Naturals products by purchasing two of their fluffbutters: Vanilla Maple Frosting and White Choolate Mousse. Out of the two, I was infatuated with VMF.

foodz (1)
Vanilla Maple Frosting Fluffbutter

The oil-to-nut butter ratio was perfect. There was some separation at the top, but I was able to easily mix it up so that enough oil got to the bottom of the jar where it was drier. I topped it on yogurt bowls throughout the week.

foodz (2)
Perfect proyo topping

With the WCM flavor, the oil was mixed in more thoroughly. For both flavors, I was able to detect the respective scents, so despite there being no added toppings to make these distinct by appearance, these nut-based butters could be differentiated if placed side-by-side if only through scent/taste.

foodz (4)
White Chocolate Mousse Fluffbutter

I was most excited to try Zevia this week. I picked up a 6-pack of the Cream Soda flavor, and I was so enthusiastic about taking a picture of the can that I dropped my phone. I panicked/had a β€œcan I go back in time?” moment, and basically now my phone looks like it has a permanent gray scale/rainbow stripes across the screen.

foodz (3)
The last picture I took BEFORE dropping my phone :'(

The phone is still functional in all other aspects, so I’m not sure I can justify a new phone purchase…at least not just yet…

Tater tots or French fries?

Have you ever dropped your phone and damaged it in some way? Did you repair it or replace it?

Jimmy's Famous American Tavern Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sit Back and Relax?

Sit Back and Relax?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IMG_9104
Except maybe go frolicking around Westwood?

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

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

SuperFood Cafe in Santa Monica
SuperFood Cafe in Santa Monica

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

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

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

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

chef_tofu
That crazy looking bowl though.

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

chef_TOfuuu
Ah, a bowl of yum!

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

hammer_museum
Hammer Museum—an illusion of size

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

interior_
Pretty, but small & quiet

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

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

falafel_wrap
Trader Joe’s Falafel Wrap

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

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

As described by my caption so succinctly, I enjoyed this flavor immensely πŸ™‚

backofjar
I will be on the hunt for the others!

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

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

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

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