Oklahoma City, OK

Oklahoma City, OK

We decided to take a day trip to Oklahoma City (OKC) since it was a drive, but local enough to call it a daytrip.

It was a cold morning, like all the other mornings that week, and after some morning coffee and a shakeout run (my muscle soreness seemed to calm down three days post-marathon), we left for OKC around 10am. From Tulsa, it was an one and a half hour drive.

Classen Curve
Classen Curve

I didn’t have much of an appetite when we left, but when we reached OKC, my head was aching and my hunger levels were increasing.

Apparently OKC is the the eighth-largest city in the U.S. by land area. And it was apparent..sure there were shops and infrastructure, but there was a whole lotta uninhabited land in between.

For lunch, we paid a visit to Green Goodies in Classen Curve.

Green Goodies Interior
Green Goodies Interior

It was primarily a cupcake shop, but they had some savory lunch options available.

Green Goodies
Green Goodies

I had their Southwest Quinoa Bowl since the avocado and spicy cream sauce sounded most appetizing to me at the time. My Dad had some more soup (lolol) and a veggie wrap.

I just loved the cream sauce and avocado of my bowl.
I just loved the cream sauce and avocado of my bowl.

The bowl was small, but definitely flavorful, warm, and filling for its size.

Veggie wrap & tomato soup.
Veggie wrap & tomato soup.

My dad’s soup and wrap looked like too meager to me, but he was alright with just that. He was starting to feel warm (later he ended up getting sick with a fever 🙁 ), so it was just enough for him.

After lunch, I noticed that my headache still seemed to linger around, and I feel like it was made worse thanks to the car drive. I tried to nap it off, but I didn’t want to leave the car and brace the wind chill once we got to the OKC Memorial.

But I eventually did get out…

OKC Memorial
OKC Memorial

The memorial was a bittersweet, but beautiful display. There were two large gates guarding two opposite sides of the memorial, marked with the relevant times the bombings took place. Chair statues on the lawn represented the lives that were lost, and there was a reflecting pool in the middle.

22 years ago.
22 years ago.

My dad and I went inside the museum after walking around the memorial grounds, where it was much warmer. Once inside, we walked through two floors of exhibits, organized from the day of the event all the way through the investigations, aftermath, and the influence this tragedy had on the events in years to come.

It was an extremely cold day outside, but the fall weather made the trees turn such a beautiful orange color.
It was an extremely cold day outside, but the fall weather made the trees turn such a beautiful orange color.

I definitely walked out with an understanding and empathy for those that suffered, even though I was just a toddler when the bombings happened. After spending about two hours at the memorial, my dad and I stopped for some coffee before going for a walk at one of the nature parks. Soon after, we made the long-ish drive back home, just before it got dark.

Thanksgiving was the next day, and I did my best to enjoy and relax in each and every minute. I started off the day with a shakeout run, taking in fall views of the Arkansas River.

Riverside Trail
Riverside Trail

We had a Thanksgiving potluck at a friend’s house, and I surprisingly wasn’t super hungry. I ate what I wanted, but I didn’t have the desire to stuff myself completely.

We left our friend’s house around 4pm, and my Dad wanted to check out Best Buy for the beginning of Black Friday sales. Even after having pumpkin pie, I had a hankering for some Halo Top, so I grabbed a pint from Reasor’s and snacked on it in the parking lot, haha!

"I didn't just have pumpkin pie last night 🎃 but happened to find the limited edition @halotopcreamery Pumpkin Pie flavor at @reasors as well! Had this in the parking lot while my Dad braced the Black Friday (or should I say Thursday??) Best Buy crowd 😅😅"
“I didn’t just have pumpkin pie last night 🎃 but happened to find the limited edition @halotopcreamery Pumpkin Pie flavor at @reasors as well! Had this in the parking lot while my Dad braced the Black Friday (or should I say Thursday??) Best Buy crowd 😅😅”

It had small chunks of what seemed to be similar in taste and texture to pie crust, all mixed in a soft pumpkin ice cream base.

I went to sleep soon after returning home, and the next day was mostly spent running around to some more stores with my dad (on actual Black Friday, lol), and stopping by GNC for some bars to snack on on my flight back home.

Got to try two, new-to-me Fitjoy bars, and while I like the soft, chewy texture of Grandma’s Lemon Square, I couldn’t get behind the Raspberry Chocolate Truffle flavor much…I mean, if it’s dark chocolate? No thanks…

"Looking for a protein bar that packs a sour punch, while still maintaining a delicate balance of sweetness? @fitjoy Grandma's Lemon Square seems to fit the bill 👌🏽 👵🏽 🍋"
“Looking for a protein bar that packs a sour punch, while still maintaining a delicate balance of sweetness? @fitjoy Grandma’s Lemon Square seems to fit the bill 👌🏽 👵🏽 🍋”
"Eh, didn't like the Raspberry Truffle flavor that much. The raspberry flavor was somewhat overwhelming and the dark chocolate wasn't too appealing 😕"
“Eh, didn’t like the Raspberry Truffle flavor that much. The raspberry flavor was somewhat overwhelming and the dark chocolate wasn’t too appealing 😕”

I made it back to LA close to 6pm, and grabbed some Subway for dinner since I was extremely exhausted. It was a chore just to unpack, but once I hit my bed, I was able to fall asleep so easily and peacefully 🙂

Green Goodies OKC Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

November Degustabox

November Degustabox

Disclaimer: This post was sponsored by Degustabox. All opinions are my own.

This month’s Degustabox came full of many items I was excited to try—everything from savory, sweet, crunchy, salty, melt-in-your-mouth delicious!

November Degustabox Goods
November Degustabox Goods

The sweet stuff always catches my eye, and the Bauducco Mini Panettone stood out to me a alot because it reminded me of my childhood. I didn’t like the cake as a child, but my mom was fond of the stuff. We’d always have a giant box in the kitchen around the holidays, when they were sold at Trader Joe’s or some other store.

mini-paanettone
Panettone for one? Don’t mind if I do…

But trying this mini version as an adult? I had an immediate liking for it! It was a sweet treat one weeknight after consuming a crockpot veg bowl and winding down with a show on Netflix :P. The bread seemed crumbly and flaky, but it actually held its own and had the appropriate amount of stiffness while still having a chewy texture. 

Then there was this Goya Pico De Gallo Mild Salsa. 

"Just another @degustaboxusa find making my humble weeknight crockpot veggie bowls a little more flavorful"
“Just another @degustaboxusa find making my humble weeknight crockpot veggie bowls a little more flavorful”

I’ve been using to coat my crockpot veg bowls of course! Although, as stated on the label, it’s supposed to be an all-purpose salsa that’s perfect for burritos, fajitas, tamales, pasta, salads and even eggs, haha. 

deg (1)
This salsa is delicious with potato, pepper, and eggplant!

Degustabox first sent some caramels from Lovely Candy Co. in April of this year, but these sea salt ones definitely had a saltier kick! I was still a fan of the brand after chewing on these—so flavorful!

caramels
Lovely Candy Co. – Sea Salt Caramels

Not gonna lie, I was ecstatic to find this Milka Oreo bar in this month’s box! I’ve actually been seeing a lot more of the Milka brand making a presence in US supermarkets. I think my local grocery store (Ralph’s) even offered a Milka bar as a free promo item a while back!

oreo-milka
Milka Oreo!

The Walkers Shortbread Scottie Dogs also brought up some fond memories from my childhood! We used to have Walkers shortbread around the house too, especially when we lived in the UK for two years when I was younger.

sortbread
Walkers Shortbread Scottie Dogs

I had these scottie dogs as a pre-run snack, before heading out for a long run one Sunday with my marathon team.

I brought the Café Bustelo Café Con Leche Instant Coffee packs and Bell’s All Natural Salt‑Free Seasoning to Tulsa to share with my Dad.

degustabox (1)
Coffee and seasoning

We had the coffee one morning during my visit, but we weren’t huge fans. We found it to be too sweet, and slightly burnt, after preparation.

deg (2)
Eh, too sweet for my liking.

As for the seasoning, it added so much flavor to some wild rice stuffing we brought over for a Thanksgiving dinner at a family friend’s house. It was simply a mix of rosemary, oregano, sage, ginger, and marjoram, but it was all that was necessary to elevate the flavor profile of this dish.

deg (3)
Just perfect for Thanksgiving!

The Goya Soft Taco Flour Tortillas were a perfect side for my dinners—especially with a lentil bean chili I had one night.

degustabox (4)
Dinner comfort

I also received a bottle of Arteasan Yerba Mate tea. I let it sit in the fridge for a while to get it ice cold, and had it with one of my dinners. It wasn’t as sweet as I thought it would be, but it was certainly refreshing. I think it would have lacked any flavor if it was at room temperature…it was as if the cold temperature helped to emphasize the mild peach and rosemary flavors. 

degustabox (5)
Arteasan Yerba Mate

I couldn’t have the Country Archer Turkey Jerky and Aneto Chicken Broth for obvious reasons, but one of my labmates (J.) was happy to have them! I left them on his desk in the morning and I forgot I had put them there when he found me later in the day and thanked me. I had no clue what he was talking about until he mentioned them, haha!

Turkey jerky & chicken broth
Turkey jerky & chicken broth

Which of these November Degustabox would you have been excited to try?

Post-Friendsgiving 2016

Post-Friendsgiving 2016

On our last morning in Santa Cruz, I got up a little bit earlier than everyone else. I made myself some instant coconut coffee, sat by the window, and enjoyed the view outside (baby deer)!

coffee-and-deer
Baby deer // instant coconut coffee for relaxin’

We waited until my friend was up before actually leaving. I was taking a bus from San Jose in order to get to LA, but it wasn’t hitting the road until a little after 1pm. My sister and I were able to use the time in the morning, though limited, to stop by for lunch at the Westgate location of Veggie Grill.

westgate
“You MUST order me” — Sandwich Advertisement

Our intentions for coming to Veggie Grill were to specifically try the vegan holiday specials, which included a holiday sandwich and a southern fried plate.

west
Warm-looking interior—to keep sheltered from the rain!

We each ordered seperately, but we split our entrees between the both of us. My sister got the holiday sandwich, and I ordered the southern spicy fried “chicken” plate.

soup_bars
Zucchini Soup and featured Pumpkin Spice Cake.

There was a mess-up with the order first. The cashier thought I wanted the Santa Fe “Chicken” sandwich, and so asked what side I wanted. Thinking that a side came with the plate, I asked for the zucchini soup. Since they messed up the order, I got to keep the soup while they made my actual order.

turkey-sandwich
Holiday Sandwich – Roasted “turkey”, cauli-mashed potatoes, cornbread stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce, side of mashed yams.

The sandwich came out first, and we split the roll down the middle. The plate was more complicated to split up, only because here was so much variety.

veggieplateandportion
Southern Spicy Fried Chickin’ – Fried Chickin’, corn cake, collard greens, cauli-mashed potatoes, porcini mushroom gravy.

Ultimately, my portion looked like this—definitely looks like a Thanksgiving plate!

my-plate
My plate in order.

My sister liked the sandwich, but I thought the bread was too soft, and the filling was cold even though it was advertised as a hot sandwich. Overall, it appeared unappetizing, and unfortunately the taste wasn’t opposite.

The “chicken” plate however was off the charts! The breading on the soy protein was crispy, spicy, and much like what you’d see on those “popcorn chicken” type meals. No pickles were forgotten here (anyone get the Spongebob reference 😉 ??).

After lunch, my sister drove me to the bus stop and I begrudgingly got out in order to get to LA. Even though we left at 1pm, I did not get back to Santa Monica until 10:30pm ?!??! UGH, it was the most horrible, painstakingly long trip. Well, I guess it wasn’t as bad as it could have been if I left on Sunday!

Are you a fan of Thanksgiving leftovers?

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

Friendsgiving 2016

Friendsgiving 2016

I woke up Thanksgiving morning feeling refreshed, despite sleeping on a hard floor in a sleeping bag. My sister got up an hour later after I did, and we talked for a bit until our friend got up. Today was officially Day 1 of our lock down, and I spent the majority of the morning working on my proposal. My friend also had some homework that needed to get done, so we all agreed to start making our Friendsgiving meal around 3pm.

turkey
We saw turkey in my friend’s yard!

My friend also had to attend to some humorous RA calls. There were two incidents where parents couldn’t find their children because their college-age kids overslept and didn’t pick up their phones…it’s like, did they really forget their parents were coming to pick them up for Thanksgiving? There was also a girl that got locked out and called for my friend to unlock her dorm room door for her, but then she asked my friend is she could watch the sunset first. #SantaCruzKids I tell ya!

My sister did the majority of the work when it came to cooking. I was glued to my seat at the kitchen table for the entire day (except for an afternoon run break that killed my quads because Santa Cruz = death by hills), so I have to be honest and say I didn’t contribute cooking-wise, haha.

We didn’t have much to do anyways, just thaw and cook the Tofurky ball, mix and cook the mashed potatoes on the stovetop, warm up the gravy, nuke a single yam in the microwave (lol), and our friend already had buttermilk pie prepared.

friendsgiving
Wine I did not have, Plate #1 featuring toasted sourdough, tofurky, yam slice with vegetarian gravy, plate set-up.

Our friend also invited one of her campus friends to join us. He was a pretty chill guy who also happens to run, so at least I had a good ice breaker topic, haha.

After our dinner, we did some more work/procrastination online, until we decided to play online versions of Catchphrase and Cards Against Humanity. Some of us had some politically incorrect phrases, but they were so on POINT.

We called it a night around 11pm and after our friend’s friend left, the three of us promptly went to bed. Thus, our Friendsgiving 2016 concluded 😉

The next morning, I helped myself to some of my friend’s instant coconut coffee (so good!) and settled myself in at the kitchen table because my 12 page proposal still needed major work. My friend and sister could afford to take a break though, and for them there was nothing standing between them and the Gilmore Girls revival. Even if I could have afforded the time, I don’t think it would have interested me much since I never watched the original series in full.

They started around 10am, which was around the time I seriously got to work. My brain was fried by 2pm, and I desperately needed a break. I went out for a run again, but to try to mix up the route and prevent having to climb a steep cliff back to campus, I ran for a longer time than usual, and ended up tacking an hour-long walk to the end of an 8 mile run just to get back. The temperature was dropping significantly at this time, and part of me felt a little nervous getting back as the sun was setting, but I made it back safely! Needless to say, I was glued to my friend’s heater until we left for dinner 😛

We decided to have dinner at Cafe Gratitude in Downtown Santa Cruz. My sis and friend could not stop talking about the ending of the Gilmore Girls revival as we drove, and I just sat there totally clueless still trying to warm up my body.

downtown-sc
Downtown Santa Cruz

It was absolutely freezing when we got out and walked, but thankfully my friend let me borrow her heavy jacket. Even with that I tried to think warm thoughts. I was so happy Cafe Gratitude wasn’t too far from where we parked.

It’s kind of unusual because this Cafe Gratitude isn’t listed on their website with all of their So Cal locations, so I’m not sure what the deal is. I’m pretty sure they are owned by the same people because the menu looked similar, if not smaller…

cafe-g
Pretty small inside, and while it was bright inside, it wasn’t exactly warm!

I got the Grateful bowl, which was just as warm as any bowl of soup would have been.

grateful-bowl
This bowl had brown rice, fresh baby kale, black beans, steamed veggies, and green tahini sauce.

My sis got a sandwich and I believe my friend got a bowl that had sushi rice in it.

sis-sandich
Sister’s sandwich 🙂

After eating, we braced out into the cold. My sis wanted to get drinks at a bar, so we checked out one bar, but promptly left. It wasn’t our scene so we got out of their quickly! Instead we made a pit stop for ice cream at Penny Ice Creamery.

penny-ice-creamery

It was just a small, local shop with rotating flavors. Very Santa Cruz-ian.

ice-cream

I got a scoop of the Apple Crisp with date, my sis got chocolate of course, and my friend a mint chip scoop on a cone. I could detect the bits of apple but overall I found it to be a bland flavor profile.

red-room

My sis still wanted to check out a bar before we left, and I didn’t really care as long as it was warm! We found a place called the Red Room and it was literally all red. I was surprised I didn’t doze off once I sat in the lounge. My friend and sis ordered at the bar, and then brought their drinks back to our table. We stayed until they were finished, and then I was given the car keys to take us all back home. Designated driver at your service 😉 !

We were all pretty tired by the time we got back…just before 9pm! We are total party animals, I know 😛 . My sis and I had to leave in the morning anyway, so we were okay with sleeping in early and getting as many hours of rest in as possible.

How was your Thanksgiving?

Are you a Gilmore Girls fan?

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

Pre-Friendsgiving 2016

Pre-Friendsgiving 2016

Thanksgiving this year ended up being a Friendsgiving celebration. I am so grateful for the fact that I didn’t have to schedule my travel plans around time sensitive experiments, and that I could just enjoy being in the company of my sister and our close friend in Santa Cruz.

bollywood-popcorn
I had this the night before my trip, so spicy! —> Next time you have a movie night, get like 5 bags of THIS. Bollywood Popcorn from Trader Joe’s is bound to bring the party…IN YOUR MOUTH

My weekend began Tuesday afternoon (lol, earliest weekend ever), and I left from lab in order to catch the Amtrak to Fresno. It was a painstakingly long ride, due to the fact that the train had a late start by one hour. Pairing that with a rowdy family that would not shut up for the next two hours, it was no surprise my head was throbbing beyond its limits.

I finally arrived around 9:30pm and insisted that my sister drive me to Sprouts before it closed at 10pm. I was hungry at this point and needed some food to make up for dinner time I lost.

The both of us went to sleep immediately after eating some ice cream and watching SNL (it was not boring at all watching Kristen Wiig’s skits over again with my sis, we were cracking up)!

The next morning, I went for a run around my sister’s campus before heading into the car for our 3 hour drive to Santa Cruz. The last time I visited Santa Cruz was ages ago…I’m thinking like fourth or third grade? I barely remember it though since we passed by it briefly, only making it down to the boardwalk. Since I have yet to visit my friend during a time when she is on campus, Thanksgiving presented itself as the perfect opportunity to pay her a visit.

The drive was scenic once we made it past Madera and headed west. As we got further and further into the woods, and closer to the coast, we knew we had arrived. There was also a chill in the air so we knew we were in Santa Cruz country.

My friend, who is a Resident Advisor, had to stay on campus from Wednesday evening through Friday evening, so we used the afternoon hours as soon as we arrived to get some lunch off campus.

saturn-cafe
Saturn Cafe, Santa Cruz

We knew we had to hit up Saturn Cafe, a vegan staple that I visited two and a half years ago (!!!) in Berkeley. My friend made a comment about how she took her parents to this place so much that they got tired of it, but who on Earth gets tired of vegan food?!

interior
So cosmic!

There are those that don’t like it to begin with, but vegan food is just one of those things where there is a magical little substitute for everything in the meat and dairy world…how can you tire of that?

peanut-royale
Got my eye on the Peanut Royale

But I digress. The three of us were pretty hungry by the time we entered. Unfortunately, we had a wait time that was longer than it should have been. The cafe wasn’t packed at all, yet it took the wait staff 15 minutes or so to just get us seated! The waitress looked like she’d rather be anywhere but in a pink vegan diner, and this poor attitude showcased itself when she came around to ask for our orders.

I remember the portion sizes being huge from my Berkeley visit, but I just felt like having something manageable for lunch and warm…definitely warm!

peanut__royale
It shimmers with orange and sparkles with tofu!

I ended up going with the Peanut Royale, while my sister got a delectable-looking sandwich and our friend, her favorite Mexican-inspired bowl. We also split some onion strings with a ranch-like dressing for dipping!

onion_strings
Onion strings and sister’s sandwich with chips 🙂

My sister also got an overflowing chocolate shake that thy actually brought over BEFORE her entree. After eating we waited another eon before getting our checks. They at least were able to split our checks, but didn’t take Discover credit cards (who doesn’t take Discover anymore??).

We were finally able to leave and made a stop into Safeway before heading back to campus. My friend had an allowance for food since she had to be on “lockdown” so we got our Friendsgiving meal staples and snacks. We had to make a special stop to get a lil Tofurky ball at a co-op, but at least we were in Santa Cruz and could count on some place having it ready the day before the holiday!

When we got back, we unpacked a bit more and rested up from our morning drive and afternoon errands. I tried to get some work done but our friend’s wi-fi was only picked up by our phones and not our computers.

window____
Friend’s cute window wall.

After some downtime, our friend whipped up her latest specialty—Gordon Ramsey eggs!

gordon-ramsey-eggs
Gordon Ramsey eggs!

They were scrambled eggs whipped with butter and olive oil, all piled high on crisp sourdough toast. I think this is something we are going to be asking our friend to make every time we see her now 😉

We tried to all watch something on Netflix later that night, but I was so tired that I dozed off right when we picked out something! Haha, I certainly had great sleep that night 🙂

Have you tried Bollywood Popcorn or Gordon Ramsey eggs?

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

OC Thanksgiving

OC Thanksgiving

When I asked my sister what we should do for Thanksgiving this year, since we couldn’t hop on a flight to see our family in the middle of the country, she had the brilliant idea of doing something local with Airbnb.

With some careful planning and some luck (apparently the place we booked is pretty popular), we were able to score a clean, roomy 1-bedroom in Costa Mesa.

 Digs in Costa Mesa.
Digs in Costa Mesa.

The first thing we did was unpack and nap. It felt so good to be able to control the thermostat and crank it down to the lowest it could go (I try to take advantage of these situations since my current living arrangements with my roommate involve A/C wars -.- ).

After our little nap, my sister and I only had to walk about fifteen minutes to get to NATIVE FOODS at the Camp, where they were hosting a Thanksgiving dinner!

We couldn’t get dine-in reservations since they sold out, but we did find seats outside, since the other establishments in the Camp were closed for the holiday.

 The Native Wellington being rationed.
The Native Wellington being rationed.

The buffet line started off with the Native Wellington, which was a stuffed pastry filled with seitan and veggies and all that veggie good stuff. The line followed with a polenta-type dish, creamed asparagus, cornbread, waldorf salad, kale, and a breaded cranberry dish. We got to take out two trays, a drink, and dessert (pumpkin pie or pumpkin cheesecake). My sister and I both got pumpkin cheesecakes which came with a nutty syrup topping.

 DA FOOD.
DA FOOD.

We enjoyed our meal outside, and while it was all filling and delicious, we both didn’t think it was worth the $30/person price,…at least for the amount of food we got. If we had dined in, we could have taken some to-go if we had wanted.

We spent the rest of our Thanksgiving curled up with our respective assignments (I had a proposal and presentation due the Monday right after the holiday weekend, yuck…), but then spent a few hours watching a few episodes from a Lisa Ling series on Netflix before going to bed.

On Friday, we woke up casually and headed out towards South Coast Mall for Black Friday…well, that wasn’t the main reason for our excursion. Rather, we headed further north towards the border of Santa Ana.

What made Santa Ana so magical and worth visiting was Cauldron Ice Cream—the home of the “puffle cone”.

 Black FRIDAY shopping requires proper ice cream fueling.
Black FRIDAY shopping requires proper ice cream fueling.

I had been wanting to come here since seeing the magical puffle rise in popularity on Instagram. I have to be honest and say that was partially the reason why I booked the place we ended up staying…since it was so close to Cauldron, haha!

At first I was overwhelemed by the menu, but after spotting Speculoos—BAM, my decision was done-decided. My sis took her time and ended up getting Smores, which came out much fancier than my simple scoop.

 Puffle cones for sisters.
Puffle cones for sisters.

I was expecting the cone to be crisp like a regular ice cream cone, but it was actually chewy and hot, just like a regular waffle fresh off the gridle. I’m not sure if I really liked how chewy it was, but I had a puffle cone in my hands so I was going to enjoy it regardless.

 Why, hello there puffle!
Why, hello there puffle!

After ice cream, it was then time for shopping. We literally waddled around the mall for hours, and to make matters worse, my legs felt like lead so walking felt unbearable. The crowds were insane, so I’m surprised we managed to stay for so long AND make it out of there with stuff!

 Shopping tree!
Shopping tree!

We even had the patience to walk around in the evening, admiring the holiday lights already on the trees.

For dinner, we were walking distance away from Halal Guys. Dinner wouldn’t be so easy to get though…just like in the mall, we had to bear through the crowds and wait in line.

 The Halal Guys // Cute wall painting when we were standing in line // watching people eat while we are waiting ;-;
The Halal Guys // Cute wall painting when we were standing in line // watching people eat while we are waiting ;-;

We made it inside within 20 minutes and I was beginning to feel ravenous and emotionally hangry. When my turn came up, I asked for the falafel plate, and the employees were slightly stunned since most people come for the chicken and gyro. There was even some discussion between the employees about whether or not the falafel was cooked enough!

 Inside the Halal Guys
Inside the Halal Guys

Everything was alright in the end though, and while my sister chose to wait to eat when we got back to the apartment, I could not wait to dig in. I needed the energy now just to walk back.

The plate itself was a beauty. Unlike other falafel plates I had in the past, the falafel were moderately-sized, topped with a mayo-based sauce, and a drizzle of HOT sauce.

 Falafel plate!
Falafel plate!

It took me about 20 minutes to finish the plate, and I felt stuffed. My sis even knew I was now satiated, and I had tamed the hunger beast. She has an incredible amount of patience I tell ya!

When we left, there was still a line out the door! Our routine that night was similar to Thursday’s. For our final day in Orange County, we planned to go to Tustin…this time to visit a place my sis had been dying to go to!

Did you eat out or have a home-cooked meal this Thanksgiving?

The Halal Guys Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Thanksgiving 2014, and a Dish to Pass

Thanksgiving 2014, and a Dish to Pass

Thanksgiving with my family this year turned out to be quite successful. It was also even more special to me than in previous years, since it was the first time I returned for a visit from LA. And while we didn’t keep up with our older “traditions” like going out to a movie with our close friends or feasting on a Tofurky ball, I would say being able to run a Turkey Trot and digging into Trader Joe’s fake turkey roast were good “replacement” traditions 😉 .

 Thanksgiving 2014
Thanksgiving 2014

We made the usual side dishes (deviled eggs, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, etc.), but instead of getting store-bought rolls, I took charge of the bread dish and provided some savory muffins to our feast. I added cauliflower puree and some stevia (instead of plain sugar) so that the dish could contribute more nutritionally to the feast as well 😛 .

Savory Cauliflower Muffins

Savory Cauliflower Muffins
Soft, moist savory muffins with cauliflower puree. Great with cranberry sauce!
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Ingredients
  1. 2 1/2 to 3 cups of all-purpose flour
  2. 1 cup of processed cauliflower
  3. 2 stevia packets (or 2 tsp. of sugar)
  4. 1-2 teaspoons of liquid aminos
  5. 1/4 cup buttermilk
  6. 3/4 to 1 cup water
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 450F.
  2. Mix all-purpose flour with 2 stevia packets or sugar.
  3. For cauliflower puree, process 1 cup of cauliflower in a blender with enough water to get a pourable consistency.
  4. Add wet ingredients (cauliflower puree, liquid aminos, buttermilk, water) to dry ingredients and mix in a bowl.
  5. Line a muffin tin with non-stick parchment paper or spray with PAM.
  6. Pour batter into muffin cups.
  7. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until brown (oven times may vary, so check with a toothpick).
  8. Let them cool once out of the oven.
  9. After cooling, serve on a plating dish, and enjoy with family & friends!
Notes
  1. Tastes great with a tart cranberry sauce!
Will Study for Food http://www.willstudyforfood.com/

The muffins paired perfectly with our cranberry sauce, and they may have also paired well with our vegetarian gravy (didn’t try that, but in retrospect, I’m thinking I should have!). I also could not get enough of the other star dishes on our table:

 Trader Joe's Fake Turkey Roast, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, steamed veggies, wild rice stuffing.
Trader Joe’s Fake Turkey Roast, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, steamed veggies, wild rice stuffing.

If you are looking for some other great, healthy recipes for the holiday season, check out Aloha.com for their collection from contributions from other food bloggers as well!

I may be late in my Thanksgiving recap and recipe to share, but how was your Thanksgiving 😀 ?

Race Recap: Run to Feed the Hungry

Race Recap: Run to Feed the Hungry

When your Dad is the one who reminds you that you have a race to run on Thanksgiving morning, and that it would be best to hit the hay after an 8 hour bus ride from LA, you know that running a turkey trot on Thanksgiving is now tradition. This particular race marked my third consecutive turkey trot (and also apparently has the largest amount of participants of all turkey trots in the country!), with my first ever turkey trot also being my first ever race! Hard to believe that was just two years ago 😀 !

morningprep_itwasntthiscold24hrsago.
Woke up and got ready to brace the cold with my armwarmers (!!), a cup of black coffee with a splash of milk; walking to the race start in 40 degree-ish temps.

I was able to wake up on Thanksgiving morning without too much resistance. I went about my pre-race routine and “fueled” with a coffee since I didn’t feel too hungry. Off in the car we went, with the heater on full-blast to combat the chilly temps outside.

We had to park in a nearby car garage (didn’t have to worry about fees like in LA though 😉 ), and then had to walk about ~0.5 miles to the actual race start. There were already a bunch of people standing around—taking pictures with the inflatable turkey, picking up their race packets, and using the well-positioned porta-potties. 

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Pre-race decorations and activities: inflatable turkey, banner, porta-potties line-up, t-shirt pick-up.

After walking around, I found my spot at the crowded race start.

waitingatthestartline
The shirts were more light red than pink…

And at 8:15am, we were given the signal to GO! I was able to keep a consistent and speedy-for-me pace throughout the entire 10k. The course was quiet and residential, and I appreciated the fresh air in this locale, compared to the inevitable car/bus exhaust I’ve been having to inhale on my weekday runs in DTLA 😛

I did have to deal with a slightly agitated bladder towards the end of the run, but I was able to keep my mind off of the fact by keeping my eyes glued on the surroundings. A lot of the families living in the houses we were running by were stationed outside with encouraging posters and fun costumes. There was one family giving out orange juices AND mimosas around mile 5. In fact, I would say it was easier to get a cup of OJ along the course instead of water. Who would have thought? 

In the end, I was able to shave off 30 seconds from my current 10k PR. Running below 9:00/mi never felt so good 😀

race!
After the race, we had to walk from the finish line over to the post-race area and get our water there instead of right at the finish. Sorta awkward…

The only thing better than actually running a good race was of course the megaload of freebies I scored. Clif was a major sponsor of this race, and so there were mini Clif bars galore. Ask me exactly how many bars I walked away with, and I will plead the fifth…

somanyfreebies
A bakery also offered out pumpkin cake bites!

I also tried to meet up with a friend who ran this race as her first 10k! Unfortunately due to miscommunication, we weren’t able to get together, but I did see her eventually over the holiday weekend. And of course, there will be other races we could run together, since I think she found this 10k to be quite an accomplishment. I’m certainly proud of her!

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What’s a race without outdoor music?

Once we got back from the race, it was nearing noon so we really had to get started with Thanksgiving cooking! After laying out my loot and taking a quick nap, I helped my Dad in the kitchen, and about 2 hours later, was able to refuel with a delicious feast along with my family 😀

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Did you run a turkey trot this year?

A Student’s Travel Essentials

A Student’s Travel Essentials

Despite still having a lingering headache from the long bus ride back to LA on Monday, I’m glad I was able to make the long weekend visit to see my family for the Thanksgiving holiday! Even though carrying two (heavy!!) bags and a rollerboard partially filled with freshly-pressed laundry wasn’t originally included in my “vacation plans”, at least I got a somewhat good workout out of it? The compact packing also helped me make some decisions on what gets priority as my travel essentials

Emma of RelayRides reached out to me to share some of my travel must-haves. RelayRides is a peer-to-peer car rental company that allows travelers to rent cars from locals of the city they are visiting. I’ve seen listed rentals for as low as $19/day, so it seems like a great alternative compared to the usual airport rental company. It’s also a great option for those of us who live in the city without a car, but need wheels for a day. 

With the holiday travel season already underway, and with already having made a trip to visit my family for Thanksgiving, I feel like I have a pretty good idea on what I consider travel essentials…for being a  student anyways. Since I traveled for the Thanksgiving trip via bus, I didn’t have to worry about airport security, and that made it much easier to pack! 

Student Travel Essential #1 – Laundry

Honestly, it never occurred me to pack dirty clothes to bring home to wash, but when my parents offered, how could I say no 😉 ? As a student who had plenty of luggage space (at least for the ‘to’ part of the trip), it made perfect sense to load up on as much items as possible that needed cleaning. Plus, clothing is light, fits easily around other items, and can also act like a “buffer” if you have breakable/fragile items that need to be transported as well. 

Student Travel Essential #2 – Reading Materials/Homework

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I may or may not have done “homework” during my holiday weekend, but at least I can say I did pack reading materials—my planner (I never go anywhere without it!), Reader’s Digest and a book for the bus, school notes that I (briefly) looked over while my friends worked on their homework, and a scratch notebook for jotting down anything that needed to be written down on the fly. I tend to get headaches very easily when traveling, especially when I read, but I surprisingly was able to get through a few chapters of the book I brought along with me before having to shut my eyes and take a nap!

Student Travel Essential #3 – Electronics (phone, MP3, etc.)

These are essential, whether I like it or not. I try not to be too dependent on technology (phone, computer, etc.), so riding on a bus without WiFi/electrical outlets was a good test of that. I was successful with conserving my phone battery, since I had my trusty MP3 player to entertain me on both bus trips I had to take. Since I also had a turkey trot to run the next day after my arrival, I packed my Garmin watch and its accompanying charging cable. Speaking of chargers, I also made sure to park my phone charger, and kept my phone on it immediately after the bus ride. 

Student Travel Essential #4 – Anti-bac wipes, sanitizer, face wipes

I would say these are crucial to pack, since late fall/winter is prime-time to catch icky bugs from others in close quarters! I packed enough to clean the whole bus…okay, not quite, but enough to keep my space clean for the 8-hour ride. Face wipes also helped me keep that fresh feeling despite having to take naps with my face pressed against my purse as a pillow.

Student Travel Essential #5 – Wallet with IDs, cash, relevant boarding passes/tickets

Obviously, this is an important essential when it comes to traveling via any vehicle, going in any direction. The bus system I used required a print-out/phone image of our tickets, so I made sure to have it downloaded and ready-to-go on my phone the night before. It was also another reason I had to keep my battery conserved because the bus owner was based in Nor Cal, and so we had to wait until near the end of our trip to show our proof of ticket purchase. I also made sure to have some cash on hand to tip the drivers 🙂 

 Admiring Market St. while waiting for my return trip bus.
Admiring Market St. while waiting for my return trip bus.

What are your travel essentials?

TMI Survey

TMI Survey

When I saw this survey on Irina’s blog, I knew I had to complete it myself. It’s been a while since I last took a survey too…


Making

…do with what I have. I don’t say this in a depressing way, but rather I like the challenge of living on a budget and keeping track of my spending. So far, I’ve been quite frugal, and have actually saved more money than I expected. It’s also a way for me to figure out what I need on a weekly basis, and I’ve been able to avoid wasting things this way.  So far, so good 😀

Cooking

…crockpot-based  dinners during the week, and not cooking on the weekend because I’d rather taste what LA has to offer. 

Drinking

 …coffee with So Delicious French Vanilla Coconut Milk Creamer. Where have you been all my life??

 1 tablespoon goes a long way! It tastes great in chamomile tea, as well as coffee :) !
1 tablespoon goes a long way! It tastes great in chamomile tea, as well as coffee 🙂 !

Reading

…any running/fitness magazines I can get my hands on. I love reading them before going to bed, or when I’m on the bus driving to campus in the mornings. 

 Case in point: free magazines I scooped up from Vitamin Shoppe :P
Case in point: free magazines I scooped up from Vitamin Shoppe 😛

Wanting

…a step stool, so I can store more stuff in my kitchen cabinets. I finally got a seat cushion after a countless number of days where studying at the kitchen table resulted in a sore behind.

 So cute, and so comfy!
So cute, and so comfy!

Looking

…forward to seeing the fam a couple of times between now and the new year. 

Playing

…music on my weekday early morning runs. That, and treating myself to Quest bars and coffee before starting the rest of my day are great motivators for me to get out the door!

Wasting  

…time when I get home after a long day. It makes sense to recap on the day’s lectures, but no. My brain immediately goes into lay-zee mode once it hits 6pm. It also doesn’t help that I instantly change into my PJs either…

Planning

…on hosting my girls in December for a week! I just need them to be able to coordinate themselves and find their way to LA first.

Running

…in the mornings as the sun rises. You cannot say you lived until you do this.  

Enjoying

…each day in this sunny, warm-even-in-November city. Being able to run in the morning without putting on layers—but I do want to breakout my armwarmers again!  

Waiting

…for classes to be done! I’m already planning (in my mind) what to do/where to go in the city and surrounding area with the time I have off. Perhaps I can finally get an OC trip in…

Liking

…these KIND Strong Bars that I got as freebies from this race. To be honest, they all pretty much taste the same (except for the jalapeno flavor, which tastes similar to the other two, but spicier), but that doesn’t mean they don’t taste good! They remind me of Nature Valley’s trail mix bars, except more savory of course. 

 Flavors: Roasted Jalapeno, Honey Mustard, and Hickory Smoked
Flavors: Roasted Jalapeno, Honey Mustard, and Hickory Smoked

Wondering

…about where I should take my friends when they (hopefully) visit me next month. I’ve been urging them to make requests, but so far, all I know is that my sister wants me to take her to a “legit” bakery. I have a list…  

Loving

…how I’ve been spoiled with free food, pretty much at least once a day, and at least 3-5 times during a week!

 Some free food from last week!
Some free food from last week!

Hoping

…that my marathon training goes well. Right now it just seems like I’m running like normal, but come January when we start to hit the numbers beyond 13, I’m not sure how I’ll feel!

Marveling

…how DTLA looks from the freeway. I need to remember to never take this for granted. 

Needing

…see “Wanting”, above.

Smelling

…cooked cabbage when I come back to the apartment on weeknights. I use it as a base in my crockpot dinners, and I’m glad my roommate doesn’t (seem to) mind!

Wearing

…dresses on the weekends because between lab/school/running, there isn’t another appropriate time!

Following

…the news, or at least attempting to. Since I’ve recently been caught up with things occurring in my own life, I’m waaay behind on current events. It now feels like I’m reading more about history than current events 😛 .

Noticing

…how irritating undergrads can be (not saying they all are 😉 ). I live in an apartment complex that mostly houses undergrads, and it amazes me how they are so hyper all.the.time. Yeah, I was an undergrad once as well, but I don’t think I was as annoying (or messy, or narcissistic).

Knowing

…that time is flying by so fast, and that this amazing year is almost over! I also know that I don’t want it to end so quickly, but that I at least can look back on the many posts from this year if I ever want to “relive” the life-changing moments that took place in 2014.

Thinking

…about where I was two years ago: in my last year of undergrad, dreaming about something bigger, and where I (want/hope/expect) to be two years from now: only time will tell!

Feeling

…content, happy, anxious, grateful.

Writing

…more blog posts. I seem to be behind on what I want to share ever since moving to the city! I also need to go back to writing in my personal journal, I haven’t touched it since I moved…

Opening

…emails through the phone. It can be such a pain.  :/

Missing

…going to the gym with my Dad, my fluffball of a cat, and the rain. 

Feel free to take the survey yourself!

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