Weekend One with the Sis

Weekend One with the Sis

The first weekend my sister stayed over was spent apartment scoping, food tasting, and shopping (for her, while I anxiously tried to plan my upcoming week in lab/submit a very important email…). It’s funny how this was a weekend in early June, and this post is only going live in mid-July… #PhDStudentLife

We drove down to Irvine after we went to lab. She was able to help me finish faster and with lab experience of her own, I could tell her to do something without worrying if she knew how to do it accurately, haha. We were on the road before noon, and had enough time to stop for lunch before her apartment viewing appointment. So Veggie Grill at the Irvine Spectrum it was!

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Because my visits to Veggie Grill have encompassed many of their locations, I like to visit when they have seasonal specials just so I can make sure I am trying something completely new. Their summer menu was featured this time around, and the Super Rica burger was calling my name…

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My sister went with her favorite Southern Fried Chik’n plate, as usual, but I did not regret my choice.

The Super Rica Burger, made with Beyond burger, chorizo queso, fire-roasted poblanos, cherry pepper, charred onions, lettuce, tomato, house made "corn nuts" + crispy fries
The Super Rica Burger, made with Beyond burger, chorizo queso, fire-roasted poblanos, cherry pepper, charred onions, lettuce, tomato, house made “corn nuts” + crispy fries

It had the perfect blend of spicy, creamy, and crunchy. I didn’t have fries on the side, but the coleslaw was not some poorly made side dish—it brought it’s out flavorful punch too!

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I guess I was hungrier than I thought, because I finished my plate entirely and helped my sister out with hers.

It was soon approaching 1pm so we made our way back to the car and drove towards the apartment complex she booked a tour at. The visit was alright, but the cons definitely outweighed the pros. Finding a place in the OC that was decently priced and clean was surprisingly not too easy a task, and I could tell my sister was feeling frustrated. I was able to propose a solution for her that didn’t solve the housing problem, but at least it took her mind off the issue for a little bit.

Churned Creamery, Cypress
Churned Creamery, Cypress

We were able to stop by Churned Creamery in Cypress for a tasting of their constantly-churning ice cream (the ice cream is in huge vats that are consistently being mixed through). They had number of options, including their unique CroCream: a croissant stuffed with ice cream and toppings.

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The servers were all super sweet ladies enthusiastic about ice cream. After sampling a few flavors, I went with one of their recommendations—Whiskey cream ice cream stuffed in a warm, crispy croissant and topped with Mochi cubes.

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The croissant was a flaky, golden brown on the outside and edges, but perfectly soft on the inside.

Whiskey Cream Crocone with mochi and strawberries ♥
Whiskey Cream CroCream with mochi and strawberries ♥

My sister of course got her chocolate fix with an ice cold, thick chocolate milkshake mixed with a scoop of Oreo ice cream. She could not deny that it was quite a dense and thick shake indeed.

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Looking at all the flavors of ice cream they offered, the possibilities seemed endless! It just so happened that we could have gone by their Irvine location (their grand opening was that day…), but the Cypress staff accommodated us on short-notice without a doubt.

We were back on the road and headed home soon after. Our plans the following day turned out to be similar—woke up, long run before going to lab, getting out and feeling crazy ravenous, and driving up to NoHo only to find out the restaurant we were planning to have lunch at was closed on Sundays…

We ended up getting veggie burgers at a chain restaurant, and then driving to the Glendale Galleria to find a graduation gift for our friend who graduated at the end of June. While at the mall, I made a stop at GNC and picked up the new Quest Hero bars.

Blueberry Cobbler was my favorite, with a vanilla yogurt coating and a fruity, chewy filling.

Blueberry Cobbler
Blueberry Cobbler

Vanilla Caramel was decent, but I thought the texture of the filling was pretty dry.

Vanilla
Vanilla Caramel

I could go without having another of the Chocolate Caramel Pecan flavor, but I wouldn’t be surprised if a chocolate lover (such as my sister) found this to be their favorite of the three.

Chocolate
Chocolate Caramel Pecan

Even though apartment hunting was a bust on this particular weekend, at least we made the most of our dining out choices. And just having my sister for company made the weekend all the more enjoyable.

Veggie Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Week One With the Sis

Week One With the Sis

I’ve finally caught up on my travel posts, but coming back meant starting a crazy work schedule in lab. Summer is no time to slack off, haha. 
 
A lot of my time-intensive experiments were beginning at the end of the month, so the the two weeks after my trip were spent planning for the arduous weeks ahead. At least I had my sister with my for moral support. 
 
With no landlords in the house for the first week we were back, we had free reign over the kitchen. Scrambled eggs, with a side of bread and cooked veggies from a pan was our staple dish, and of course we accompanied it with snacks. 
 
Throughout the week, I sampled many of the snacks I brought back from our trip, including these Grenade protein flapjacks.
 
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The original Grenade bars contain gelatin so unfortunately, I haven’t been able to sample those, but these protein flapjacks were a decent option for vegetarians. One of the reasons I love the U.K.? The “suitable for vegetarians” logo…
 
grenade-coconutchaos
I had the Coconut Chaos and Fused Fruit flavors, and while the coconut one was my favorite of the two, I thought the chewy but dense consistency of the bar made it seem more like a slab of dry cake rather than a flapjack (if we are using the word to refer to pancakes here, haha)! 
 
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The Cadbury’s Oreo Mint bar was an immediate favorite of mine, as it had a soft mint cream filling with a slight crunchy texture from the Oreo cookie pieces. 
 
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I also picked up a number of Nakd products, including a bar flavor that was new and some flavor-infused raisins…
 
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I didn’t think the Apricot Crunch flavor had enough “crunch”, as its texture and flavor consistency was similar to other Nakd bars, but it had a mild fruity flavor that seemed to distinguish it from the other bar flavors. Although, I must admit it’s been a while since I had a Nakd bar, so I can’t be too sure, haha! The cherry-infused raisins however were unlike anything I’ve ever had before.

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I’ve never been too keen on raisins, but these seemed to taste as if cherry juice was individually pumped into each raisin to give it a kick of flavor. I wouldn’t mind eating these to fulfill my daily fruit serving!

And then there were the chocolate spreads…

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This Cadbury’s chocolate spread was thinner than Nutella, but it literally tasted like a melted Cadbury’s milk chocolate bar so all was good.

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It made a packet of plain oatmeal much tastier, 😛

 This Malteasers Teasers spread won me over too.
 
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It had small crunchy malt pieces, and my sister and I added it to some yogurt with a broken Wispa bar (a bar I wasn’t too fond of chocolate-flavoring-wise, but it did have an airy, bubble filling.
 
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After a few days cooking and snacking from home, my sister and I had dinner out on a Friday evening since that’s when my landlords came back from their trip. It also happened to be a long, exhausting day for me at lab, so having my sister come pick me up from the train station and drive down to downtown SaMo was such a relief.

We had dinner at Wahoo’s Fish Taco, which surprisingly had plenty of veggie options. You could substitute tofu for pretty much any meat item, and so that made it easy when figuring out what burritos and tacos to get.

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It felt so great to be out on a Friday night with company, chatting about our days and looking forward to the weekend. I was going to drag her into lab with me (just for the mornings 😉 ), but after that we had plans to go to Irvine to check on a potential apartment for her.

We split a burrito packed with tofu, rice, and black beans, and had tacos made to our liking. Mine was topped with a delicately-cut avocado.

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With the taco and half a burrito, my sister and I managed well. The meal was satisfying and just enough for both of us.

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Instead of walking over to the beach (it’s literally a few blocks away), we drove back home and transitioned into couch potato mode. We fell asleep immediately, but got up the next day feeling refreshed. The week had been a great start and welcome for June!

Wahoo's Fish Taco Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Welsh Country

Welsh Country

Going into this Europe trip, I honestly didn’t think much of Wales as more than where my cousin and her family lives. We used to live in the U.K., and we actually did visit Wales when I was younger. I remember having a shirt from Wales with a bunch of cartoon sheep on it. It was one of my all-time favorite t-shirts.

On a Friday morning, we caught the Great Western Railway (GWR) from Paddington Station. It was easy to board, except we had to make it exactly on time. It’s not like Amtrak where they’ll wait for an extra fifteen minutes after the actual departure time before leaving…

At Paddington Station
At Paddington Station

Fortunately we caught our train, and settled in for the three hour ride. I was asleep for most of the ride (of course), but when we got to Wales, everything looked so bright and cheerful compared to the dreary gray and smoggy London we left that morning. I’m not sure why, but I just felt happier looking at the scenery. Signs in Welsh started popping up as we made our way through the Cardiff station.

When we saw our cousin, we immediately went into hug mode. It had seriously been SO long (like seventeen years…). She and her husband picked us up, and we made our way back to their house.

Welsh Land
Welsh Land

The roads, highways, rolling hills, and architecture is the houses were so amazing. It was like walking through a suburb with a strong Medieval history.

Our cousin had lunch prepared, and afterwards she, my sister, and I went to pick up her younger daughter from primary school. Imagine a peppy and petite Desi girl short enough to be five, but is actually eight, with a thick Welsh accent and that’s Little M. She came out in her uniform, saw us, and became very bashful. Her mom was like “Oh, so now you’re quiet!” She did open up to us soon enough though!

At home, we met my cousin’s older daughter, who I’ll refer to as Little P. She presented herself as quiet, but was very polite. We were all then introduced to Muffin, the baby of the family.

Just look at those adorable eyes...
Just look at those adorable eyes…

Apparently, her sibling won the title of “Best Pug in Wales”. Go figure.

The plan for the evening was to go for an hour drive west to the cliffs in Swansea. The car ride was absolute fun since the girls were so full of energy. They took a particular liking to my sister, especially Little M.

Drive to the cliffs
Drive to the cliffs

We parked near a lush green cliff and saw sheep not too far from us. The girls jumped out and ran manically towards them and the sheep bounded just as fast. It was a funny sight for sure. Near the cliffs was The Worms Head Hotel/Pub, we found a table out back, and ordered some plates of garlic bread and chips.

chipsandfries
Garlic Bread & Chips

Little M was adorably hyper, and would not stop chatting. We couldn’t help but laugh, even though her parents told her to calm down a bit for the consideration of others. I could see others were smiling though.

We didn’t go down to the cliffs, but we walked for a bit after, down a gravel-packed trail. There were a bunch of dogs, and the girls had to pet them all. When we got back to the car, it was almost 8pm but we just had to stop at Verdi’s Ice Cream before going home.

Verdi's Ice Cream Parlour
Verdi’s Ice Cream Parlour

Verdi’s was by the water, near a dock with a bunch of boats.

Mumbles, Swansea
Mumbles, Swansea

It was getting chilly, but it wasn’t too cold to deny ice cream. My cousin recommended the Turkish Delight ice cream, and I eagerly jumped at the chance to try a new ice cream flavor. It ended up being a winner for me.

Turkish Delight Ice Cream
Turkish Delight Ice Cream

The ride back was more quiet, since the girls fell asleep, but drive back while the sun was setting was a gorgeous sight indeed. Watching Wales turn down for the night only emphasized to me how magical this place was.

This weekend was certainly going to be a great one.

Have you ever visited Wales?

Verdi's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

‘Ello London!

‘Ello London!

We left for London bright (oh so bright…) and early on a Wednesday. There wasn’t time for a decent breakfast so I had some coffee and then helped pack all of our luggage into the car. The hour drive back to KEF seemed to go by quickly, perhaps due to the fact I pretty much dozed off for a good portion of the drive. Actually, I woke up right as we were pulling into Avis. 
 
Going through security was a chore. They took my bag for “examination”, but literally only took a piece of paper to “swipe” it, and then let me go. I guess I couldn’t have been be too surprised by this happening, considering the things going on, but I just found it very odd and unnecessary to hold up my time for no explicit reason. 
 
After making our way through Duty Free, we found our gate. We were flying with EasyJet, a British-based airline that had a very retro feel. The inside of the plane was literally transplanted from the 1970s. 
 
Before boarding, I had to do something about my gnawing stomach. Snacks were going to cost us on this flight, so I picked up a European candy bar to try. 
 
Lion candy bar!
Lion candy bar!
 
This Lion bar had a thick chocolate coating, nougat, and crunchy nut pieces. It could have totally been a breakfast bar…I mean, you’ve got your nuts…and then chocolate and caramel for taste 😉 
 
The flight was about 3 hours long, and my face was getting more oily by the minute. I arrived in London in much more of a tired-looking state than when I arrived in Iceland! 
 
We flew into Gatwick, and from there took an express train into London.
 
Gatwick Express
Gatwick Express
 
When we got off, we found a black cab to take us through the city up north to West Hampstead. What should have only been a ten minute drive took almost an hour due to traffic. With the heat, humidity, and dust, it was pretty tortuous. 
 
Seen on my ride.
Seen on my ride.
 
Good thing there were enough landmarks and people to watch to keep us somewhat distracted during our drive. 
 
We stayed at a hotel in the area for our first two nights in London. For dinner, we didn’t want to travel too far so we walked a few blocks over into the food/shopping neighborhood of West Hampstead. 
 
West Hampstead, London
West Hampstead, London
 
We were about to have Lebanese, but then I spotted Nando’s from afar. I had been wanting to go there since learning their only US locations were on the east coast and Illinois. Funny thing was, Nando’s practically ruled the U.K.—it was pretty much in every neighborhood! 
 
Nando's menu
Nando’s menu
 
There were a good amount of veggie options to choose from. I went for the quinoa salad topped with feta crumbles. My sis and dad got veggie and portobello mushrooms.
 
Nando's famous sauces.
Nando’s famous sauces.
 
My sister also got a side of mash that we were all intrigued by. My dad even asked one of the employees if he could know what was in it and they brought over a recipe book!
 
Yum, yum, YUM!
Yum, yum, YUM!
 
I was a fan of the halloumi cheese, and gobbled up the leftovers of my Dad and sis. 
 
 
The next morning, I decided to go for a run, even though I knew the weather wasn’t going to be the best…and of course, it wasn’t. I ran 9 miles, but the entire my time my legs felt heavy, I was sweating profusely, and I was craving water. I can’t imagine how London runners do it, but if I ever want to live here in the future, I have to keep this in mind…
 
Running through hot and muggy London in the morning!
Running through hot and muggy London in the morning!
 
I made it back in one piece, quickly showered and got ready, and then headed out with my Dad and sis. We took a double decker bus into the heart of the city since a stop was near our hotel. We got off on Bond Street, and found a Selfridges to walk into. 
 
Selfridges Food Hall!
Selfridges Food Hall!
 
I headed straight towards the Food Hall, but had no idea what to get given the food stalls present. Ultimately, we decided to pick out some things from a bakery in the corner right near the entrance. Honestly, I wanted EVERYTHING. 
 
Oh. my. what. to. choose.
Oh. my. what. to. choose.
 
I was able to pick out one thing for myself, while my Dad and sis split a huge loaf of olive focaccia and a mini cake. My heart was full just looking at the pink-glazed, pistachio-topped chouxnut that lay before me. The texture was chewy,  and the cream filling had a vanilla flavor. My only regret was that it was tiny, and it was gone within a handful of bites. 
 
Strawberry and pistachio chouxnut
Strawberry and pistachio chouxnut
 
After breakfast at Selfridges, we began our tourist adventures. Our first stop was Trafalgar Square, and we made it there successfully via the Tube. If there’s one thing I learned from this trip, it’s to “mind the gap”, haha! 
 
When we reached TS, my Dad immediately noticed how there was a scarcity of pigeons. Apparently they used to rule the grounds, but there wasn’t one in sight. Also, there are a number of Bollywood movies that have had the romantic meeting of hero/heroine here. 
 
What pigeons?
What pigeons?
 
After taking some touristy pics of statues and next to them, we decided to go inside the National Gallery since it was right there. I was feeling very exhausted, and my legs felt super sore, so I sat out the exploration part. I was also very hungry, and found it was best to listen to my body even if it meant “missing out on art and culture”. 
 
But I was embracing the culture, in a way, by snacking on these U.K.-based Nakd Bites. I was expecting crunchier pieces, but each mini bite was soft and flavorful! I tried Coconut Bliss and Salted Caramel, both of which were rich in their respective flavors.
 
Nakd Nibbles
Nakd Nibbles
 
When my Dad and sis were done, our next destination was the London Eye. We were able to get advance tickets and save some time not standing in line. Ultimately, this spot is hyped up more than it should be. It was like riding on the slowest ferris wheel ever. The views were great, but the constant Coca-Cola plug wasn’t. 
 
London Eye
London Eye
 
When we reached the ground again, the three of us were more than ready for a late lunch. Out lunch plans turned out different than planned, but we ended up making a very popular choice in the end…
 
London: love, hate, or indifferent ?

Nando's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Iceland, Day 2

Iceland, Day 2

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

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

kaffi
Kaffi Vinyl

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

kv
A hipster vibe here…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Rocky in Grotta

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

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Lush, windy pastures

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

iceland4
Noodle Station

18 Kroner for two veggie pho bowls. Nice!

iceland3
Veggie Pho!

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

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

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

fishs pa
Get to work fishies!

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

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

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

geysir
Geysers along the way…

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

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

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

kaffihaus
Getting cozy at Kaffihaus Vesturbaejar

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

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

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

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

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

Have you ever visited Iceland (or Greenland)?

First Stop, Iceland!

First Stop, Iceland!

Our European adventure began on a Sunday morning, with a stop for bagels before heading to the airport. My Dad had a rental since we used it to move my sister’s stuff, so before heading over to our terminal, we dropped it off and took the shuttle from there.

Checking in and security was surprisingly not too bad! TSA Pre does have it’s advantages…since our first leg was a domestic flight to JFK Airport in NYC.

Our flight was about six hours long, but on Jet Blue, so we were set, haha. Once we landed, we realized we had to walk over to another terminal and go through security again (this time, a much more tedious process), before being able to find something to eat.

Options for food at JFK’s international terminal are all things mediocre and mundane. We ended up getting personal pizzas and a salad to “get our greens in”. It took about an hour between dinner and finally boarding on Icelandic Air.

When we did board, we were handed cute water bottles with the top part of the bottle shaped like a glacier. And the music playing was very Enya-like.

Glacier bottle?
Glacier bottle?

There were no free inflight meals or snacks, but we came prepared with our own. I mostly slept for the majority of the flight, so hunger wasn’t a huge issue. We reached Reykjavik (actually Keflavik) by morning.

Upon landing, we had to exit out of the side of the plane (in the cold…) and board a bus to take us to the airport. After going through immigration and collecting our luggage, we were able to grab a rental and head out on Icelandic roads.

Everything looked so dreary and foggy, but overall it actually felt quite peaceful. It was an hour drive from the KEF airport to Reykjavik proper, but we knew we were in “civilization” upon seeing large warehouses and more traffic.

The address to our Airbnb was so short, I was surprised Google Maps didn’t come back with an error message. We weren’t too trepiditious about the apartment we would be staying in once we got settled in.

Airbnb digs.
Airbnb digs.

Yeah the bathroom was tiny, but the rooms were simple, clean, and our host left us a good number of blankets on the sofa so we wouldn’t get cold. Plus, I think tiny bathrooms are part of the whole European living experience, haha.

After freshening up, we got in our rental and drove to the city center. It was freezing cold, and I wanted to make sure we knew exactly where our coffee/breakfast destination was before getting out of the car! Good thing we parked in front of Reykjavik Roasters.

Reykjavik Roasters
Reykjavik Roasters

It was like walking into someone’s kitchen/garage. Half of the space had a bakery counter and tables, while the other half was “storage” for large bags of coffee beans.

coffee
Eclectic decor, eclectic people
roasters
Bread and baked goods 🙂

We first realized Iceland was pricey when we saw that the coffee would be 800 Kroner…$8 USD for a single cup of coffee. It was sticker shock for sure, but we knew we’d only be here for two days so we put up with it. Along with coffee, we split some fresh nut bread with cheese and jam, a cinnamon scone, and a coffee “jogart” parfait topped with honey and almonds.

Icelandic breakfast
Icelandic breakfast

Everything tasted so fresh and warm, and even though I was the one that had the coffee jogart, I gobbled up my piece and leftover crumbs left from the scone.

After our authentic coffee break, we walked a couple blocks towards the water. There was a huge walking path that was carved alongside the water, hugged by rocks. Walkers, runners, and photographers could all be seen walking along the trail.

icelandddddddddddd
A glimpse of Icelandic coast

We stopped to take pictures along the way, including one of what we thing is an abstract sculpture of a viking’s ship.

Before heading back to the apartment for a few hours of rest, we stopped at a shopping mall called Kringlan to see if we could grab some snacks that weren’t, uh, so pricey in comparison to the morning’s meal…

kringlan
Kringlan

We stepped inside a store similar to the dollar store, and came out with nothing since everything for sale was extremely overpriced for what it’s actually worth. It left me wondering, are Icelandic people just richer than the rest of us? Or is it really that much of a struggle to live here?

1500kroner
An expensive fish pilow

We felt more justified buying food, and when we entered Bonus, an Icelandic-based grocery store, we were able to make it out alive with our wallets not undergoing a huge drop in weight, haha!

bonus!
Oh hello Nutella!

After our purchases, we were able to rest up, and then head out again for dinner—at Kaffi Vinyl! More on that in the next one 🙂

Moving Out, Flying Out

Moving Out, Flying Out

My sister’s graduation fell on a Friday and we felt like there was so much to do in so little time! While I went out for a long run at Woodward Park, my Dad drove over to my sister’s dorm to help her finish up with packing. Our close friend also came down for the weekend, and helped out.

After my run, I showered and got ready to meet everyone for brunch. My sister wanted it to be at Benaddiction since that has been her all-time favorite place in Fresno since we both discovered it during one of my earlier visits. We caught up quickly and laughed a lot. The restaurant was already pretty loud so it was no big deal. My friend and sis got their usual favorites while I got a simple potato plate. I also had some of mint chocolate chip pancakes they just had to order…

After brunch, I left with my Dad and the both of us went back to the Airbnb while my sister got ready for the ceremony. We met her and my friend again about an hour before, and my sister left us all to join her class.

After looking at the program though, we were dreading how long everything was going to take…My sister’s major was one of the first ones to step up though, so we didn’t have to wait too long for her to get her spotlight 🙂

After the ceremony, it was blazing hot outside (still…) and I wanted to just head back and cool off but of course we had to take pictures. I headed back with my sister and friend since I was staying in the dorm for the night.

We rested for a bit before making plans to head out to The Cheesecake Factory. It was going to be a late dinner, but surprisingly, not as packed as you’d think it would be on a graduation day.

We met up with another one of my sister’s friends who graduated with a degree in Communications. After dinner (and drinks for some, haha), we were back at the dorm around 10:30. My sister’s friend from lab came over with some friends, and by the time it was 11:30, there were seven people packed into a tiny dorm room. It was a hilarious sight…something I probably would have found humorous at the time if my eyes weren’t so droopy. I retired for the night earlier than everyone else and slept like a baby!

The next day was a day full of packing and driving. We left Fresno mid-morning and got to Irvine around 5pm, and had to quickly catch the sales clerk at the public storage facility my sister was keeping her things for the summer. We had to climb a flight of stairs to unload her stuff into, and by the time we were done, we were all ready to eat before heading back to my place to rest for the night.

Veggie Grill sounded perfect, and we were able to head to the one at The Market Place…a HUGE outdoor mall/shopping complex in Irvine.

Veggie Grill, The Market Place
Veggie Grill, The Market Place
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I wanted to try a seasonal menu item, and the Tofu Poke Bowl seemed like it would be nourishing and flavorful.

Spring seasonal menu!
Spring seasonal menu!

It looked small at first glance, but the flavors were anything but. The rice was sticky and filling (sushi rice!), and along with the pickled cucumbers, avocado, edamame, and tofu cubes, this dish certainly was satisfying.

Tofu Poke Bowl
Tofu Poke Bowl
Sparkle!
Sparkle!

After eating, we had another 40 minutes on the road before arriving in Santa Monica. The drive back wasn’t too hectic, as we weren’t in a race against the clock to see if we could beat the closing time of a storage place. Once we got back to my place, the three of us started arranging our things and emotionally preparing ourselves for our Trans-Atlantic journey the next day—we were hours away from adopting the title of “Tourists” for the next two weeks!

Time Flies When You’re Living Life

Time Flies When You’re Living Life

Ahhh, no post for about two weeks! I kind of needed the break, and life has been “much too distracting” to find the time and patience to put a post together. I haven’t even been perusing through the ‘gram much lately either. It makes me happy that I’m busy/engaged enough with life right now to not be glued to a screen.

I didn’t even go out for lunch or dinner over Easter weekend. That Saturday, I was extremely exhausted and ended up taking naps in the afternoon in addition to “sleeping in” until 7:30am. I did get some new flavors of bars to try and a jar of D’s Naturals spread…

salted-caramel
Post run noms from this morning! Got around to trying the Salted Caramel Oh Yeah! One bar and thought it tasted fantastic! Definitely has a salty kick, but the caramel-flavored shell coating and fudge-like center of the bar helped to balance it all out. And there’s something about that purple-colored wrapper that’s just so eye-catching. 😜👍🏽

I did force myself to get out of the house to go see a critically-acclaimed anime movie called Your Name. I went to a late afternoon showing at an indie film place in Santa Monica, and did not regret it! The movie was fantastic—the animation, storytelling, plot twists—critics say the director of this movie is the next Hayao Miyazaki and if they are coming to that conclusion based on this movie alone, I feel they are right on the money!

maple-glazed-dnut
This Maple Glazed Donut Oh Yeah! One nutrition bar definitely hits you with the scent of maple syrup when opened, but the flavor is quite bland in comparison to the other new flavors I tried in my previous recent posts. Be wary of delicious sounding flavor names!

Because I felt so exhausted on Saturday, I moved my long run workout for the week to Sunday. My coach usually has me doing Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday workouts as my “key” workouts, while the rest of the days are easy aerobic recovery days. So on Sunday, I set out to do a mix up long run that was 30k in distance, with fast intervals thrown in. Since the workout was broken up in 5k chunks, it was mentally manageable.

blueberry-cobbler
This Blueberry Cobbler Oh Yeah! One nutrition bar may be one of my new favorites. Served cold, it tastes like a blueberry ice cream bar. 🍦

Obviously, I was ravenous and smelly by the time that was over. I quickly showered and took the train over to E’s place since she invited me to her landlords’ Easter brunch. I didn’t have pics from the event since I wasn’t in a phone picture-taking mood, but we were fed well. I was also introduced to the delicious treat that is a Ferrero Egg. Where can I get more of them??

cocoa-glazed-cinnamon-roll-
On Saturday, I felt dead exhausted 💀 sleep 😴…the kind of tired that makes you feel like staying in bed ALL DAY is a very good idea…but I did manage to have this Cocoa Glazed Cinnamon Roll @dsnaturals Fluffbutter from Vitamin Shoppe. After snacking on this, and taking yet another nap, at least I had enough energy to go see @yourname.movie ! Loved this cocoa scented jar that had a soft butter texture just as much as I loved the movie 💕

Afterwards, E and I spent the rest of the day in downtown SaMo, walking down the pier and laughing at a sign that said “Weed Week” that was flying through the sky attached to a plane. We then walked in circles around the promenade only to sit down for coffee and later Pinkberry. When I got home, I crashed and fell into a glorious night’s worth of sleep!

The following week kept me busy—I honestly can’t recall all of the things I did, but there was so much done, yet so much left to do! #LifeofAResearcher . I was so exhausted by Friday night, and a new pint flavor was exactly what I was craving:

justlike a milkshake
This legit tastes like a {vegan} melty chocolate milkshake with cream-filled cookie chunks. Sometimes it pays off to try a new flavor—I was about to buy Snickerdoodle (which I know I love), but felt a little daring on a recent trip to Ralph’s. Now I think I may have another new So Delicious favorite…

It was also an interesting week for my training program too! My coach had me try a double run on Saturday…15.5 miles in the morning and 10 miles in the PM. It sounded daunting at first, but I was also looking forward to the challenge! I ran the morning run with one of my marathon team teammates, but the weather was not in our favor. It got hot really quickly, with temperatures reaching the 80s by 8AM. It was a tough workout for sure, but having someone to run the longer run of the day with certainly helped!

I noticed that my upper left calf started to feel sore, so I made sure to spend some time rolling it out/massaging it when I got home. Before getting in some hours of rest and recovery, I stopped in Culver City to address the other “R”: REFUEL.

Tender Greens seems to have locations all over So Cal, and in my two and half years living here I had yet to visit…somehow a Saturday that got into the 90s persuaded me to walk through the doors of their Culver City location…

Tender Greens, Culver City
Tender Greens, Culver City

The set-up was ordering at the front, and then walking towards the back to pay and get your meal. I found it odd that you had to pay in the back, and then even more awkward waiting around the front to pick up your meal, since they could have easily handed you a number placard to place on your table and have them find you. At least there was ample, spacious seating at this location, and some spots out on the patio as well.

sit
Very spacious

The unusual set-up didn’t bother me too much in the end though, because the giant Falafel Plate I ordered hit the spot and vanquished my hanger.

falafel plate
Falafel plate with side kale salad (garlic dressing + parmesan), a green dollop of hummus that looked like guacamole, tahini sauce, and a crisp crostini bread.

After eating everything though, I wondered how it would affect my PM run. When I did go out for my 10 miler in the evening, I was relieved that the temperature was much cooler. It helped that it was a beach run and that the sun was setting. I felt great for the first half, but then tummy issues slowed me down for the last half. I did make it home in one piece though, and was proud of myself for conquering my first long run double.

falafel_plate
Close-up of everythang.

After talking to my coach, he affirmed that practice makes perfect and that I’ll get used to these the more I do them. He also recommended that I try refueling with foods that are simple in carbs, some fats, and low protein no more than two hours before the PM run—recommendations that I’ll definitely put into practice for the next time!

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

Race Recap – Owasso Marching Band Run to the Beat 5k

Race Recap – Owasso Marching Band Run to the Beat 5k

For about five weeks, I’ve been frustrated when it comes to running. After beginning to see improvements in my pace, and after finally getting into the 35-40 mi/week range, I began to feel posterior shin pain in my left leg. At first it was mild, and it came about during a week I was feeling tired all over, so I dropped my mileage substantially and took it easy. When the pain didn’t go away right away, I knew it must be an injury, and as much as I hated having to do so, I lowered my mileage for a few weeks after, and slowed my pace in order to not exacerbate the injury.  I even ended up sacrificing $45 that I paid as a registration fee for a 10K I was planning on running at the end of July, since that was when the pain really started to kick in and I decided it was best not risk making the injury worse.

It’s been something I’ve had to figure out on a weekly basis, and it’s something I wish would go away ASAP. I first had it checked out by a chiropractor at the IDEA expo as an area I could get free KT tape for. I then went to a running store to replace the Newtons I had run 500+ miles on, and got some suggestions from the sales clerk there on what I could do in the meantime to help my shin heal faster. This was about three weeks before I made the trip to Oklahoma, and with the pain still there (less intense on some weeks, and more intense on weeks I tried to increase mileage), I tried Graston for the first time. I’m not sure if it really helped, but the PT who conducted the procedure advised that I should notice the effects 72 hours after the procedure was administered. I’ll be keeping an eye on it as this week continues, but dealing with this injury (though now healing) has really dampened my enthusiasm even though at the back of my mind, I know that it is a temporary set-back.

Since I was in Oklahoma for a week, I did want to participate in a race since my Dad could attend as well. The Graston Guy (lol) said running on Saturday would be okay, and so I was able to participate in the “Run to the Beat 5K” in Owasso. The race was benefiting the Owasso High School Marching Band, and being a band geek myself back in the day, I was glad I was helping out a local band attend marching reviews, purchase instruments, and refurbish uniforms.

Owasso is a town about 20 minutes north of metropolitan Tulsa, and the drive reminded me of the drives I used to take on the way to Sacramento when I lived in Nor Cal just a few years ago…

Sunrise and new running shoes to help with my pronation.
Sunrise and new running shoes to help with my pronation.

The race, and race-check-in, was taking place at Owasso High School, home of the Owasso Rams. The weather was about 20 degrees cooler than predicted, with gray clouds looming overhead and with rain being in the new forecast as well.

Race Check-In
Race Check-In

Packet pick-up was underwhelming, but I did get a new race shirt along with promo cards for other local races I knew I would not be able to attend, since they would be taking place from September-November.

Packet Pick-Up
Packet Pick-Up

A fun run took place on the football field starting at 7:00am, which I assumed was about a mile based on the times people were finishing. By the time the last person was in from the fun run, everyone else began to assemble for the 5k race. I positioned myself close to the front, since I wanted to set myself up to run between an 8:20-8:50/mi pace.

Getting ready to begin
Getting ready to begin

One thing that distinguished this race from all of the Cali races I’ve run was that an actual hunting rifle was used to signal the start of the race, rather than a blow horn or…something less intense? Haha. A few girls in front of me covered their ears with their hands, knowing that the rifle was going to be LOUD. The guy holding the rifle looked so serious, as if the sanctity of the race depended on his ability to shoot the rifle, which I thought was absolutely comical.

Do you see the hunting rifle in his hands?! (Okay maybe not...the picture is blurry, haha)
Do you see the hunting rifle in his hands?!

When we were given the motion to take off, I could feel my shin slightly act up when I initially pushed off, but once I got going, the pain subsided. I was averaging a 7:45 pace (!!) for the first 0.6 miles, and for the first mile, ended up with 7:56 or something like that. As the race continued, my pace slowed slightly, but I was able to maintain within an 8:20-8:30/mi pace for the rest of the time through. I was pushing, but not so hard that I was going to keel over.

The last turn had us go around the football stadium bleachers in order to cross the same finish line the fun run runners crossed, which was next to the football field and on the track. I finished with an 8:23/mi pace according to my Garmin, and while it wasn’t as speedy as my last 5K back in June, I was very ecstatic with my performance and time, given my shin troubles in the past weeks.

Start/Finish on the Football Field
Start/Finish on the Football Field

There wasn’t much in race freebies other than water bottles, bagels from Panera (though they did have a wide variety of flavors available), bananas in the raw (ugh), and one table for an energy drink whose name I already forgot.

My Dad was patient enough to wait until everyone crossed the finish line so that the “award ceremony” could begin. Small medals were given to 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place finishers in male and female age groups. With my time, I ended up getting second in my age group.

After the race, we drove back to Tulsa for some breakfast since it was 9:00 and all we had that morning was some coffee. We went to an old favorite, Old School Bagels, and it was just as lively as I remember from last December.

BAEgels
BAEgels

It was warm enough to sit outside this time around though (even though the clouds above begged to differ), and my Dad and I split the same two bagels as we did last time: a savory honey wheat bagel with egg and cheese, and a sweet cinnamon bagel with Nutella. I also had a couple sips of his black coffee. They were playing the women’s Olympic triathlon on one of the TVs they had outside, so all of us on the patio had our eyes glued to the screen as we ate.

Love this.
Love this.

After breakfast, we proceeded with our Saturday wrapping up some errands, napping, and getting food ready for a dinner we were having with some family friends later that evening. The rest of my Saturday seemed to go smoothly since my mind was put at ease from the results of the race. Even though the pain isn’t completely gone yet, I was still able to run at a solid pace despite it. I think that mentally gave me a confidence boost, as well as assurance that it will eventually heal.

 I was also grateful that I was able to run a race with my Dad in attendance after almost a year! The last race he saw me run was the RNR Las Vegas in November, so having him waiting for me at the finish line was a great motivator as well. Hopefully I’ll be able to find a local race taking place around the holidays so he can attend again, but until then, I’m looking forward to a fun and challenging fall racing season (if my shin continues to cooperate of course)!

Have you ever had an annoying exercise-related injury?

Red, White, and Chew

Red, White, and Chew

My sis and I woke up bright and early on Sunday morning, with the goal of getting things wrapped up in lab and then heading off to Santa Monica for brunch.

I am honestly so grateful for the Expo line expansion…what would have originally been almost an hour and a half trip to the ever-popular Santa Monica now only takes 30-40 minutes!

chomp_eatery
Chomp Eatery

One of the stops is a convenient seven minute walk to Chomp Eatery and DK’s Donuts. One day when I have cash on hand, I will be back for some of their mouth-watering donuts, but my sis and I headed right next door to Chomp Eatery: a place we knew that takes credit cards and serves up an irresistible novelty.

The Unicorn Melt was something I came across on Instagram. It’s basically a grilled cheese with a rainbow theme, in that the cheese is colored with organic food coloring and melted so that a rainbow oozes out when the slices are pulled apart. Sound appetizing yet?

Since my sis and I decided to split the Unicorn Melt, we each got our own meals as well. I of course got one of the wellness bowls.

gojiberriesbowl
Of course I go straight to the bowls part of the menu…

The bowl I chose to go with was none other than the Goji Berries Banana Bowl, which had a plain greek yogurt base, and heavily topped with granola, cacao nibs, goji berries, banana , and agave syrup.

gojiberries_banana_bowl
Looks like a small bowl but there was tons of yogurt and a mountain of granola!!

My sister got one of the burger with a veggie patty, and it was an overflowing tower of rich, nutrient-packed veggies and creamy add-in like avocado and a fried egg.

burger_and_melt
Burgers + melts

My sister, a self-proclaimed carb-lover thought her burger + melt may have been too much at one time, but she enjoyed her burger. We both agreed that the melt wasn’t outstanding in taste, but as far as presentation and creativity goes…how could it be anything less than 110%? Not to mention, it was a pretty festive and fitting rainbow on the inside.

unicornmelt___
A red, white, and blue cheese melt!!

After devouring our sandwiches and chewing every last goji berry, we walked towards downtown Santa Monica, stopped inside Cotton On, and then boarded the train from the new downtown station in order to get to Union Station on time.

After dropping off my sister later that afternoon, I felt extremely exhausted and could not wait to go to bed—early! Haha. Needless to say, 4th of July was very low key. No fireworks, no veggie dogs…just plenty of lab work in the morning as usual, and then relaxing at home. At least I did sort of celebrate with a patriotic grilled cheese!

Chomp Eatery & Juice Station Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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