Cupcake Caught My Eye

Cupcake Caught My Eye

After getting my fill of Mediterranean food for lunch on Saturday, I couldn’t help but make a pit stop…for cupcakes!

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Big Man Bakes

Big Man Bakes is a cupcake store I used to pass on some Sunday long runs when I lived near DTLA. I would sometimes run past it before turning right, back to Figueroa. This time however, I was walking straight towards it.

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Just FYI…

Once I got to the small storefront, I gazed into the display case of perfectly frosted cupcakes, and didn’t even know what to pay attention to first.

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Cupcakes and gear

The young lady behind the counter was eager to share a bit about Big Man Bakes, and some of their classic and seasonal flavors that were currently available. I was thinking I’d go for the Red Velvet or Oreo…

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Utensils and things

…but in the end, I went with a seasonal flavor—strawberry!

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Ready to eat!

It was called an “XL” cupcake, but it really wasn’t that big. To me, it seemed like a standard-sized cupcake.

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The Strawberry XL Cupcake

The cake itself was moist, but it didn’t stand out in regards to flavor. I was also hoping for a generous serving of cream filling on the inside, but sadly, that wasn’t the case.

At least it was pretty photogenic:

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Views of a cupcake…

Are you picky when it comes to cupcakes?

Big Man Bakes Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Ice Cream, Cookies, Donuts, Coffee

Ice Cream, Cookies, Donuts, Coffee

Who wouldn’t want a bowl containing all of the above ๐Ÿ˜‰ ?

I knew that after “dining” on some sub-par salad, dessert had to be beyond exceptional.

Good thing icdc was only a half an hour walk away.

 icdc front --- stands for ice cream, cookies, donuts & coffee
icdc front — stands for ice cream, cookies, donuts & coffee

Apparently this colorful little hole-in-the-wall has been around for quite a while. I recently learned of its existence while surfing through Instagram one day, and bookmarked it for later travels.

 Colorful interior!
Colorful interior!

But the time had come for me to feast on my first ever donut sundae. Trust me, icdc made it a good one.

 Coffee shop essentials.
Coffee shop essentials.

I first picked my donut, then ice cream, which was all topped with whipped cream and my choice of caramel or fudge sauce. I picked caramel to “lighten” things up.

 Ice cream selection and cups/cones.
Ice cream selection and cups/cones.

The employee behind the counter took her time making the masterpiece, carefully scooping a generously-sized portion of mint chip ice cream and balancing it at the center of a vanilla donut with rainbow sprinkles. She then moved towards the cash wrap area, where she topped everything off with whipped cream and a giant swirl of caramel.

Indeed, it was a beauty.

 View from the top!
View from the top!

There was no seating inside, so I carefully carried my sundae outside and enjoyed it while people-watching/grateful for the fact I wasn’t one of the poor drivers stuck in traffic.

 My customized donut sundae ~ vanilla donut with sprinkles + mint chip ice cream + caramel sauce + whipped cream
My customized donut sundae ~ vanilla donut with sprinkles + mint chip ice cream + caramel sauce + whipped cream

I ate the whipped cream first, and then was met with a pleasant surprise by the flavor of the ice cream. It didn’t taste like that sweet, artificial mint stuff you usually find—it had the flavor of mint leaf infused in it or something, because it tasted refreshing and truly minty!

 Mint chip ice cream, actually infused with mint leaf!
Mint chip ice cream, actually infused with mint leaf!

When I finally got to the donut, the outside of it had taken in all of the ice cream meltiness, but it was resistant to the cutting of my knife. After peeling away at it, I found the donut to be quite tasty, and definitely falling under the cake donut category versus the light/fluffy kind I usually come across.

 Hard to cut through with a plastic knife, but so good to eat!
Hard to cut through with a plastic knife, but so good to eat!

icdc—secret code for dreams in a cup โ™ฅ

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

So That’s What It’s Called!

So That’s What It’s Called!

The one thing I like about being independent in lab is being able to coordinate my lab schedule with my life schedule—at least for the most part. For the current experiments I’m doing, I had to plan weeks in advance to make sure everything I needed to accomplish was covered, but with a little maneuvering and careful planning, I was able to make myself free sometime within the time frame of my sister’s birthday. It also happened to be a weekend after some of the more time-intensive experiments, and so this “mini break” was much, much needed.

I left LA around 7:30AM by bus, and then transferred on to the train to head up to Fresno. Like my first trip a couple months ago, this train ride was far from anything you’d expect from an amusement park, but at least it got me to my sister ๐Ÿ™‚

After picking me up from the station, my sister dropped me off at the dorms while she dashed to class. I took my time settling in and soothing my sore head from a lingering headache.

When she came back, we were both ready for an afternoon tea-esque snack, so we headed out thinking a place called La Boulangerie would be able to satsify us.

After some driving around with a confused GPS, we realized that even though La Boulangerie existed and served French pastries and snacks, it wasn’t the Parisien dessert shop my sister had previously visited and had told me about. She then realized that it was Le Parisien she wanted to go to ๐Ÿ˜›

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Le Parisen front.

We found the right cafe among other establishments in a strip mall, and my eyes immediately latched onto the sugary collection in the display case.

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So many sweets to choose from!!

My sister and I had been talking macaroons on the way over, but some of these other beauties were making me change my mind…they even had discount, day old pastries that still looked appealing.

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These day-old sweet hearts still look good!

I wasn’t in a jelly-filled, powder-sugared donut mood though…I saw an incredibly looking chocolate tart, and I was sold. My sister got three small pastries, and a vegetarian crepe.

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All for ourselves!

We were the only ones in the cafe at the time, so we found a table right in the middle that wasn’t too close to the window or the sun rays coming through them.

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A chocolate tart with chocolate ganache to DEVOUR.

My chocolate tart had a swirl of mousse, and a thin layer of chocolate ganache. The crust was hard to cut through, but if I had eaten it as a handhold rather than from top-to-bottom with my fork, I may have appreciated the crust layer more.

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Orange, mint chocolate macaroons, and lemon meringue

My sister lover her orange macaroon, but wasn’t much of a fan of her lemon meringue or mint chocolate macaroon. She decided that fruit macaroons > non-fruit macaroons, but I can’t take her word for it until I try a non-fruit macaroon, since I’ve only tried lemon and blueberry flavors so far…

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Vegetarian crepe

She did love her vegetarian crepe though, filled with an assortment of colorful vegetables and cheese, all wrapped up in a rectangular thin crepe. I even helped myself to a few bites.

We got back to her dorm a little before five, and though it would be smart to get some homework/reading done before dinner. When we did get in the car again, we blasted the radio and drove off into the sunset…sort of ๐Ÿ˜‰

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Friday sunset

We were both craving Mediterranean, and we found out that a new Mediterranean grill had opened up in Clovis just a few weeks ago that was worth checking out.

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Ark Mediterranean Grill

The shopping area Ark Mediterannean Grill was housed in was busy for a Friday night, but the restaurant only had a few other patrons besides ourselves. There was a long table with at least a dozen people near the back of the restaurant, I’m assuming all family, and enjoying an evening out together.

There wasn’t much in options for vegetarians other than the falafel plate or a falafel sandwich, so my sister and I both got the plate. We avoided twinning when I chose to have bulgar instead of rice.

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The vegetarian-friendly falafel plate

Along with a well-balanced plate of falafel, bulgar, hummus, and cucumber salad, we also got four thin triangles of pita bread and a cup of tahini sauce.

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Pita bread and tahini

The inside of the falafel reminded me of a pretty amazing falafel plate I had a few weeks ago in Glendale, but these falafels were on level with the ones of So Cal. And of course, the hummus was exceptional. To be honest, I don’t think you can ever have “bad” hummus unless the chickpeas have spoiled or something ๐Ÿ˜›

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Just like the one I had in Dune…

While picking through the bulgar, I noticed what looked like short, thin noodles mixed in, and I was reminded of what my friend used to eat when were kids. Her mom used to prepare something similar, and I was always fascinated by what it was called. Apparently, after simply Googling the phrase ‘noodles mixed with rice Mediterranean’, I found out it’s called Riz Bil Sh’arieh (or more casually, Lebanese Rice). The key is broken vermicelli noodles ๐Ÿ˜‰

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Riz Bil Sh’arieh! So that’s what it’s called!

After this nourishing meal, I felt pumped for the race I was planning to run the next day. Once we got back, I managed to also have some energy to read a few papers before heading to bed, but my sister and I did make some time to laugh out loud during our countless study breaks ๐Ÿ˜€

Have you ever had Riz Bil Sh’arieh?

Le Parisien Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Stax of Sweetness

Stax of Sweetness

I knew that a fun-filled week of free food, beaches, and vegan favorites would eventually come to an end, but at least it ended on a sweet note.

Our trip to Tustin eventually became a trip to Irvine. The day was still gorgeous, bright, and sunny when we pulled up to the parking lot at University Town Center, right across from the UC Irvine campus.

 University Town Center!
University Town Center!

The little shopping and dining area very much gave off a college town vibe, and it reminded me of my undergrad days…

 Beautiful arches...one of which decorates my dessert destination!
Beautiful arches…one of which decorates my dessert destination!

My purpose for the visit that afternoon was to get my cookie-and-ice-cream fix at Stax Cookie Bar, a custom ice cream sandwich shop that also serves up other sweet specialties. I was fortunate to try some of those as well ๐Ÿ˜‰

 Welcome to Stax Cookie Bar!
Welcome to Stax Cookie Bar!

I first met Marina, who had reached out to me about coming in for a tasting. She greeted me with a smile and an overview of all their goods—cookies, ice cream, shave ice galore!

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Stuffed cookies (smookies!) and a wide variety of other cookies!

I was then greeted by another staff member who encouraged me to try whatever I wanted and to make sure I left feeling “full”. How could I argue against that ๐Ÿ˜€ ?

 Fun wallpaper to stare at while munching on cookies & ice cream.
Fun wallpaper to stare at while munching on cookies & ice cream.

I first learned about the Smookie, which is really a warm, shapened piece of cookie dough that can be topped with any flavor ice cream and fudge, caramel, or whipped cream.

 So many ice cream flavors...which to choose??
So many ice cream flavors…which to choose??

I chose to have the Nutella-stuffed Smookie as my base, topped with a scoop of green tea ice cream and whipped cream. Best decision ever.

 The perfect Smookie.
The perfect Smookie.

The Nutella filling was obviously the best part ๐Ÿ˜‰ ! It was also at the right temperature, coming out of the oven after just 3 minutes of warming up.

 The undeniably good filling with melted green tea ice cream (:
The undeniably good filling with melted green tea ice cream (:

For my other ice cream-related dessert, I was able to customize a ice cream cookie sandwich so that I had birthday cake ice cream (how convenient ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) in between a mocha and snickerdoodle cookie. I had all flavor and color profiles represented here!

 The masterpiece.
The masterpiece.

My Dad liked the birthday ice cream the best, and I could certainly see why. The ice cream was perfectly creamy, and the added swirls of color tasted just like icing. It wasn’t just for show.

 Who needs birthday cake when you can have it in ice cream form...and sandwiched in between two cookies?!
Who needs birthday cake when you can have it in ice cream form…and sandwiched in between two cookies?!

To add to all the sweet excitment, we were given another dessert to try—a generous portion of green tea shave ice! Topped with syrup and freshly cut fruit.

 The presentation itself was beautiful!
The presentation itself was beautiful!

It tended to melt pretty quickly, so being the resourceful person that I am (haha), I used to top off the leftover cookie pieces from my ice cream sandwich. We weren’t able to completely finish it, but if our stomachs had been large enough, there’s no question we would have annihilated the cup and then some ๐Ÿ˜› .

I asked Marina about their vegan options, and she pointed to two of their specially-vegan flavors. I was urged to take one for the road, so I chose to try their vegan (and gluten-free!) coconut chocolate chip cookie. I was also gifted with a beautiful stack of cookies!

 My stack of Stax cookies // one of the two vegan cookies offered
My stack of Stax cookies // one of the two vegan cookies offered

The vegan coconut chocolate chip cookie was more fragile compared to the regular cookies, but its flavors were just as great, if not better than a standard cookie. It tasted just like a sweet oatmeal bar with gooey chocolate mixed in and rich coconut oil gleaming on the surface.

Stax has plans to open more locations in the future, and I surely hope they do, since I can’t have this be my only visit ๐Ÿ˜‰ . Ice cream sandwich and cookie bars may have started out as a trendy thing, but based on my experience, Stax has taken it to the next level!

Click to add a blog post for Stax Cookie Bar on Zomato

In the 7 Days Before 26.2

In the 7 Days Before 26.2

After running my fastest 8 miler to date (and gaining new 5k and 10k PRs in the process!), I had a lot of my morning left since my run with the team was close to home, and time wasnโ€™t wasted with managing a carpool.

I was able to get on the bus around 11am, and make it to my destination for lunch around noon. Seeing that I already paid Cafรฉ Gratitude in Venice a visit some time ago, I thought it would be fun to stop by the Larchmont locationโ€ฆand grab some dessert from one of the nearby bakery/shops in Larchmont itself ๐Ÿ˜‰ !

cafegratitude_larchmont (1)

It was beautiful and sunny outside, but I opted for a table inside. At least I got to sit by the window though.

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The bar was packed with people, but I was there long enough for the groups to leave.

bar

I was also near the baked goods case which I eyed from time-to-time, but I knew dessert plans were going to take place elsewhere!

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My waitress was a sweet woman with glasses, and after taking my order, left me with the question of the day: who can you acknowledge? I could have spent my time waiting for my food to ponder this question, but I was starting to feel hungrier as time passed, and obviously this was my excuse for losing concentration ๐Ÿ˜›

But eventually, this beaut of a sandwich did arrive at my table:

 Extraordinary house BLT โ€“ grilled panini bread, coconut bacon, romaine, tomato, avocado, chipotle cashew aioli, and a side of spicy coleslaw.
Extraordinary house BLT โ€“ grilled panini bread, coconut bacon, romaine, tomato, avocado, chipotle cashew aioli, and a side of spicy coleslaw.

I ate this sandwich with a fork, layer by layer. My favorite โ€œlayerโ€ was the slice of bread topped with coconut bacon/cashew aioli filling, only coming second to the fat slices of avocado! In reality, I actually ate the side coleslaw first, but then realized it would have been great within the sandwich. Oh well, I have no regrets.

Extraordinary house BLT cocobacon closeup

For dessert, I walked back down to Beverly Blvd. while staying on Larchmont. LAโ€™s BabyCakes NYC location was nestled right in the heart of Larchmont Village, and things were swinginโ€™ this Sunday afternoon.

erinmckenna's

The bake shop itself is very small, and after looking at their offerings, I was somewhat disappointed with how small there desserts were. I was thinking I would be greeted by gargantuan cupcakes like seen in the Crumbs next door, but that was not the case. There were some unique items though like cupcake tops (just the top part of the cupcake with ice cream) and sweet bread/cake loaves.

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I took a while to decide, but eventually chose to get a donut and keep with my coconut theme for the day. Despite being housed in a small space, there were still some areas to sit down and munch on any sweet goods you bought.

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I found a seat by the front window, and managed to make every bite count of this small donut.

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Even though Babycakes NYC didn’t meet up to my fullest expectations (and I was almost tempted to leave and buy a giant Crumbs cupcake, but decided against it so I could “try something new”), I do like the fact that they offer a wide selection of sweet treats for customers with intolerances and dietary restrictions. I even saw the employee at the counter offer some potential customers samples since, like me, they were overwhelmed with the choices and couldn’t make a firm decision on what to order!

And to end on a positive note, how can you go wrong with coconut?

Cafe Gratitude on Urbanspoon BabyCakes NYC on Urbanspoon

A 15K Ice Cream Kind of Day…

A 15K Ice Cream Kind of Day…

For a long run day, last Saturday turned out pretty nice! The Nike Store at the Grove hosted another milestone run event, a 15k, and after running a 10k with them a few weeks back, I knew that I wanted to have a good excuse to run with them again ๐Ÿ˜‰ . The 9.3 miles that I ran didn’t seem tortuous (is it safe to say the heat wave is over?), and the treats I feasted on at the end of my run were cool and refreshing.

Only a few people showed up to run the 15k, and I ended up running with two employees for the entire distance. Both ladies made the run fun with their chatter, while I focused on my form and breathing. I would occasionally join the conversation by answering their questions, but I still have yet to master the art of holding a decent conversation while running at a fast pace! 

We ran the similar route as the 10k a couple weeks ago, but the distance was extended on roads running through neighborhoods, which helped keep the pattern of abruptly stopping at lights and then picking up momentum again to a minimum. We were the last three to finish, but out of a group of maybe five/six people that actually completed the 15k run, I would say it was not bad at all! Plus, it was a good- effort long run that was enjoyable!

After the run, we were given cold-pressed juices (purple or green!). I chugged mine down (kale-apple- ginger I believe?) so quickly that even one of the employees took note, haha. Someone even commented on the shape of the bottle, saying that it reminded them of shampoo! Forget coconut water as the trendy runnerโ€™s drink—the next big thing is shampoo, yaโ€™ll.

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I refuel with shampoo.

It was around 11:15am when I decided to leave. And after saying good-bye to my running buds for the day, I walked down Beverly Blvd. to find a place where I could get my eyebrows waxed before grabbing another treat Iโ€™ve been craving to eat!

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I took this picture in the morning after being dropped off by the bus—before the crowds could strike!

When I first stumbled upon Beverly Boulevard in my first week of LA living, I remember walking by this corner and a huge line had formed outside. This was around mid-afternoon of the day I visited, and since then, I had wondered what made this place so worth the wait? I was able to find out this day…

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I promise I wasn’t stalking that guy ahead ๐Ÿ˜›

Since I was able to beat the mid-afternoon crowds, it was relatively easy to make my way through the doors and order. I needed time though, since the ice cream flavors were one too many. I did know that I wanted to try their famous macaroon ice cream sandwiches!

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Oh, and the baked goods display case? Do not get me started:

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They had two cashiers working, and so with the minimal crowds, I had to make a decision quick since the guy at the counter had an impatient look on his face. I quickly picked the most “exotic” sounding flavor that I saw first, despite my tendency to “play it safe” with cookies and cream. So I ended up with jasmine tea in my hands…

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Supposedly Jasmine Tea. More like Vanilla.

I had this macaroon ice cream sandwich inside, and found a seat near the kitchen.

insideMILK

People were even having a “real” lunch (for those who don’t consider dessert a main meal ๐Ÿ˜› ), and waiting to take some delicious treats to-go.

SAMSUNG

It literally took me minutes to finish my sandwich, and it only further strengthened my love for the macaroon. I will say it was hard to eat without getting some ice cream on the nose though! Good thing I was within arms’ reach of the napkin holder ๐Ÿ˜› .

As I got up to leave, I glanced back at the ice cream sandwich display case and felt like I needed one more to really get that Milk experience. I couldn’t resist, and bought another ice cream sandwich! I had the blueberry crumble to-go. 

blueberrycrumble
Blueberry Crumble!

THIS totally made up for the mismatched “jasmine tea” flavor. Plus, half of it was dipped in chocolate so what was there to criticize? I ate this while mindlessly walking towards a bus stop a couple blocks further from where I usually wait…and I pretty much carried this mindlessness with me back home—where I fell into a luxurious nap on my couch, and had to force myself to study when I woke up. Let’s just say Saturdays are more productive when it comes to running, eating, and sleeping ๐Ÿ˜‰ .

What is the most exotic ice cream flavor you’ve had?

Milk on Urbanspoon

Super Sweet Blogging Award

Super Sweet Blogging Award

Madison nominated me forย The Super Sweet Blogging Award a while back, and I was in the mood to fill it out (finally). Thanks again to the lovely Madison :)!

super-sweet-award-misaki

The rules:

  1. Give credit to the person who chose to nominate you.
  2. Answer the โ€œSuper Sweetโ€ questions.
  3. Nominate a โ€œBakerโ€™s Dozen (13) blogs.

Super Sweet Questions:

1. Cookies or Cake?

I love both, but I think cake takes the cake (haha?). I will admit that I’ve always been fond of those soft sugar cookies with frosting and sprinkles on them…you know, the ones that are featured at the front of the grocery store and are often the go-to desserts for elementary classroom parties and potlucks?

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Yeah, these were my excuse to party!

2. Chocolate or Vanilla? I love both, and it really depends on what is chocolate or what is vanilla. For example, I love chocolate frosting on white/yellow cakes or cookies, but I prefer vanilla meringues over chocolate. If I have to choose between chocolate or vanilla ice cream, I’m gonna go with vanilla.

(source)
(source)

3. What is your favorite sweet treat? It’s never too cold for ice cream, or even froyo. With lots of fun toppings like rainbow mochi and sprinkles!

(source)
(source)

4. When do you crave sweet things the most? It makes the most sense to crave things when you haven’t had them in a while, so I’ll usually crave sweets if I’m eating more fruits and veggies than usual. I try to treat myself to some form of sweets frequently though, so I don’t often have crazy cravings.

Remember this from Spongebob? That crazy-stalker fish who obviously was craving “CHOOOOOCOLATTTTTE”
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5. If you had a sweet nickname, what would it be? Um, not sure? As long as it’s not sweetie pie, honey buns, or sugar lips, I’m good :P.

Never have actually eaten these, but they look (not) tasty.
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I’m gonna skip the nominations, but feel free to answer any of the questions above! I’m off to start my super sweet weekend with a long nap…I have reached the halfway point of classes this quarter, and I am already BEAT!

What’s your favorite sweet treat?

Do you have any sweet weekend plans?

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