Race Recap – 32nd Skechers Performance LA Marathon

Race Recap – 32nd Skechers Performance LA Marathon

I find it SO hard to believe that a week ago, I ran my third marathon—and it ended up being a sub 4:00 one as well! So many things went well with this training cycle, and even though the race is over, this particular marathon has given me the encouragement to keep pushing my training to the next level and conquering more goals associated with this distance.

In the days leading up to the race, I actually wasn’t too hyped up for it. I had other things on my mind (lab work + lab “social” life), but I still made time to go down to the expo at the convention center late Friday afternoon on race weekend.

My third marathon expo.
My third marathon expo.

It was really just a routine visit. I wasn’t too excited about sticking around. To keep up with tradition, I found and photographed my name on the runner’s wall, picked up my race bib/shirt, and walked around the booths for just long enough to gather some freebies.

Trying to find/get all the samples I can.
Trying to find/get all the samples I can.

I didn’t gather much despite it being a MARATHON expo (just a couple mini Larabars and a coconut water), but one of my favorite booths was Clif bar’s. They had samples of their newest nut butter-filled bars and ginger ale/spearmint shot bloks!

Hello, Clif!
Hello, Clif!

After taking a picture with my bib at one of the booths, I decided to head home. I was actually feeling pretty hungry so the “carbo-loading”, you could say, commenced that night—with a Spicy Lentil Wrap from Trader Joe’s.

Friday night turn down 😴 with a Spicy Lentil wrap from Trader Joe’s. I put this right up there with the grilled eggplant wrap!

Tahini sauce brings everything up a level, just sayin’.

The day before the race was a relaxing one, but because I was with E in Glendale, we did plenty of walking. I did try to keep hydrated and made sure to get home early enough to set aside my stuff for race morning and get into bed by 8:30pm.

I woke up the next morning at 3:30am (yes, it’s true), got my race gear together, and called for a Lyft since the rest of my teammates were taking a ride share service/staying at a hotel near the start with family. From Santa Monica, the drive was less than 20 min.

I got to the start with a good 2.5 hours to spare before we had to toe the start line. I had plenty of time to collect some free shot bloks and Clif bars, fuel up with “breakfast”, use the restroom, and warm-up. It was still very breezy and cool outside, so I stayed warm by huddling in a corner of one of the open women’s restrooms.

Waiting at Dodger's Stadium...
Waiting at Dodger’s Stadium…

I was waiting solo for a long while…my teammates did not show up until about 5:30am. Even then, it took me a while to find/get to them at the seats on the ground level. There were a a few of us who met at this point, and after a group picture, we immediately went to bag check and then the start.

I decided to start in the open corral with three of my teammates since I wanted to pace with someone from the beginning. Looking back, I feel like this strategy helped me immensely in getting that sub 4:00. It took us a while to get to a sustainable race pace since we were slowed down by the crowds of the open corral, but once we made it past downtown, I kept up with one of my female teammates for the majority of the race.

Everything felt great for the first half of the race. We were running down Sunset and I felt comfortable enough to talk with my teammate at an 8:47/mi pace. Once we made a turn in Hollywood however, things started to shift.

I felt a sharp pain in my right foot as we made our way down a steep downhill. I had a feeling that I got my first black (big) toenail, and despite knowing this, I tried to ignore it for sanity’s sake.

The next slip-up was my fueling strategy. I was so focused on hydration that I wasn’t sure when to start chewing on my bloks. In my last two marathons, I busted out the plastic bag between miles 11-13, but this time, I was more concerned about keeping up with my teammate. I also didn’t feel too hungry (in fact, my stomach felt a little bit “mixed”…in that, a bathroom stop would have been nice).

When we reached Beverly Hills, I began to second guess my earlier actions of not fueling up. I was starting to feel slightly fatigued, and felt like I had to push quite a bit to keep holding on with my teammate. I surprisingly managed to make it through miles 17-20 without giving up or writhing on Rodeo Dr!

Once we reached UCLA/West LA territory though, we were hitting the Mile 20 mark. My teammate took off, but I listened to my body and just kept my pace. I stopped to take out my bloks and began to fuel up at this point.

Once I reached Mile 21, I felt a little bit better. Mile 22 was when we began to approach Brentwood/San Vicente—the last four miles of the race towards the SaMo finish! Honestly, this was the worst part of the race for me (up until 25.5!!) because I felt tired (mentally mostly), and irritated by anyone that said we were “almost there”. My pace wavered in the 8:50/mi range until it settled at 8:55/mi. I didn’t want it to dip into the 9:00/mi range, so I made sure to keep my walking breaks incredibly short.

By the time I got to Ocean Ave., I tried to let the crowds around me give me the final push I needed to finish fiercely. The finish line felt incredibly far away, but once I hit 25.5, I started to kick things up and go, go, go! The shot bloks were finally kicking in I suppose! When I crossed the line, I had run the race at a solid time of 3:53:57. I didn’t know of this time exactly until I read a series of texts from my Dad since he had been tracking me the entire run.

Bag check was much better this year!
Bag check was much better this year!

I was able to slow down to a walk, gather a medal and my gear at bag check, huddle up with a heat sheet, and take some fun post-race photos. I also collected as many protein bars as my arms could carry, and met up with my teammates at our designated family reunion area meeting spot.

People around me were still in a daze...
People around me were still in a daze…

I waited with my team for about an hour and a half just to congratulate, commiserate, and photograph the moment. The teammate I had ran with up until mile 20 ran a 3:46 marathon, and considering it was her first, she did a great job.

All of us took the train back to our destinations, and I got off pretty quickly. It felt so nice to be able to get back home at a decent time, unlike how it was the past two years fighting traffic to get to downtown! Now I had enough time to attend to my battle scars…

One ripe blister and gunmetal-polished toenail, came right up!
One ripe blister and gunmetal-polished toenail, came right up!

At least this small gem reminded me that I just did something pretty amazing that morning??

3rd time's a charm!
3rd time’s a charm!

Out of all the 26.2 distances I’ve raced, this one was the most painful, but also the most accomplishing. I had a goal, and luckily was able to meet it. It was a challenge, but a challenge worth giving up a smooth heel and big toe nail for. And if I only want to get better and faster at this monstrous distance, it’s only going to get more eventful from here!

Have you ever run a marathon/had a great marathon experience?

Would you ever consider running a marathon?

Have you ever had a black toe nail?

Sit Back and Relax?

Sit Back and Relax?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Except maybe go frolicking around Westwood?

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

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

SuperFood Cafe in Santa Monica
SuperFood Cafe in Santa Monica

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

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

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

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

That crazy looking bowl though.

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

Ah, a bowl of yum!

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

Hammer Museum—an illusion of size

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

Pretty, but small & quiet

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

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

Trader Joe’s Falafel Wrap

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

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

As described by my caption so succinctly, I enjoyed this flavor immensely 🙂

I will be on the hunt for the others!

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

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

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

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.

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, 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?!

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?

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!

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 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.

Friend’s cute window wall.

After some downtime, our friend whipped up her latest specialty—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

A Visit to Novel Cafe (Before Writing My Own Novel…)

A Visit to Novel Cafe (Before Writing My Own Novel…)

I have a huge 12 page proposal due soon, and with this on my mind the weekend before Thanksgiving, I was anxiously-driven to put in some concrete hours working on it.

Tried a new RX Bar flavor from Trader Joe’s—Maple Sea Salt! I love how it has salt speckles that sparkle like diamonds!

Fortunately, I didn’t have to go into lab that weekend, so it also gave me plenty of time to sleep in for a bit, and then set up shop at a local library.

Tried this interesting new seasonal greek yogurt flavor —> Apple Caramel Greek Yogurt? Tastes more like cream cheese with apple pieces…uh, I guess that could be appetizing but when you expect yogurt and taste cream cheese, it’s quite a surprise 🤔 .

I also had a hankering for pizza, so I made it my first priority to get myself a warm, hearty tomato-based pie before working. This meant waking up around 8 (because that’s my definition of sleeping in) and then heading over to Novel Cafe because I heard they had pretty good pizza, among other things.

Novel Cafe

The outside was covered in calligraphy and murals, while the inside had an interesting layout. There were one (or two?) shops within the restaurant selling what I assume was jewelry, but they also didn’t seem to be affiliated with the restaurant.

Casual seating area

I sat at a table in the center, and in my view was an empty juice bar, and bakery cases full of pastries and bread. I was handed a long, laminated menu and my eyes immediately gravitated to the pizza section. I had to go for the organic vegan topped with zen buddha cheese…


…it also came with other goodies like rich tomato sauce, zucchini, and mushrooms!

That melty “cheese”

My pizza was a medium, but it was the perfectly-sized personal pizza. It took me a while to finish, but that’s because each bread-y bite took some work to chew. Each slice was thin enough to fold NY style.

I left with a full tummy and gathered enough energy to get to work on my paper for the rest of the morning and early afternoon. I spent a good three hours at the library, hard at work, before I decided to venture home and crash into a carb-induced coma of a nap.

The next day, I continued to put those carbs to use when I ventured out for a fourteen miler with my marathon team. My running buddy and I kept a consistent pace the entire time, making us enthusiastic about our marathon prospects. If all goes well, I may be significantly PR’ing come March 😉

Trader Joe’s Veggie Wrap w/ Hummus – The wrap itself is so soft…and each bite is chock full of hummus!

I did some grocery shopping after the run and before heading home, all on now-tight quads! I picked up a new-to-me wrap from Trader Joe’s for lunch while watching the latest SNL episode.

What I had to say about this wrap —-> Is it actually raining in So Cal today 😱?? I thought it was pretty good timing on my part getting back home after a 14mi run JUST before the downpour. I wanted to get a lot of my written proposal done, but a lot of napping, SNL watching, and veggie wrap with hummus eating happened instead 😛 But at least I did catch up in the sleep department 👍

I had my fair share of hard work and relaxation in the weekend immediately preceding Thanksgiving, but I am more excited to type out my Thanksgiving recaps! That is…if I ever finish this proposal 😛

Novel Café Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Lunch with the Roomie

Lunch with the Roomie

This past weekend, my roommate and I finally had some time to hang out together—at least for lunch!

She wanted to check out UCLA, and even though I wanted to get some grocery shopping done (I can’t miss an opportunity to shop at Westwood’s Sprouts!), she was able to meet up with an old friend.

Prior to Saturday’s plans, I made my usual crockpot dinner much more satisfying with the addition of a Trader Joe’s pretzel bagel. I’ve also been taking them to school/lab smothered in hummus and a slice of cheese. The combination is definitely a satisfying mid-day snack!

Crockpot Veggies with a pretzel bagel <3
Crockpot Veggies with a pretzel bagel <3

On Saturday, my roommate and I took the Metro train and a bus to head on over to Westwood. For lunch, we made our way to TLT Food: the brick-and-mortar location for The Lime Truck food truck.

TLT Food ~ The Lime Truck
TLT Food ~ The Lime Truck

I remember first passing by this restaurant one day early last year, when I spent a whole day strolling through Westwood. It was because of its bright green walls and eye-catching colors, inside and out…

It took me almost a year to actually venture inside, and at least my first visit was with company! There were a few, ready-made vegetarian menu options listed, but I wanted something classic, like nachos or fries.

Pork Belly Nachos was listed, but I was able to have the pork belly subbed with spicy tofu cubes. I love it when restaurants don’t hesitate to be accomodating. My roommate got the steak fries. We were both given buzzers (like the ones they give at Olive Garden when you have to wait 20 minutes for an open table on a Saturday night…), and in the meantime, found seats.

Seating area.
Seating area.

When our buzzers lit up, we had to go to the pick-up counter to get our food.

Pick-up counter
Pick-up counter

My nachos looked classy…slightly fancier than what you’d get at a ballpark 🙂

Pork Belly Nachos (minus the pork)!
Pork Belly Nachos (minus the pork)!

Even though they didn’t put my tofu cubes IN the nachos, I happily ate all eight cubes individually, appreciating the spices and texture of each boxy bite.

Spicy tofu cubes!
Spicy tofu cubes!

Without the pork belly, my nachos were comprised of crisped, puffed triangular tortilla chips (that were also slightly spiced), creamy queso, and fresh pico de gallo. I ate them by hand and with the help of a fork 😛

After lunch, my roommate and I parted ways. I headed to Sprouts for some grocery shopping, and even stopped at Bristol Farms to pick up some edible cookie dough for snacking later.

I made it home before my roommate did (haha), and dove into the cookie dough when I was all settled into my pjs, robe, and a collection of recorded tv shows I needed to catch up on.

Edoughble -
Edoughble – Chocolate Chip Off the Ol’ Block

Compared to the birthday cake flavor, I wasn’t a real fan of this chocolate chip one. It reminded me of the chocolate chip one by Cookie Dough Cafe, which I didn’t like that much…oh well!

Have you tried Trader Joe’s pretzel bagels or any of the Edoughble flavors?

If you ever had a roommate, were you friends/enemies?

TLT Food Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Getting into the Fall Spirit: Help from Pumpkin & Ube

Getting into the Fall Spirit: Help from Pumpkin & Ube

Despite it STILL feeling like summer in LA, I have made my best attempt to make it seem more like fall…at least with the foods I eat!

Trader Joe’s makes this easy to do, since almost all of their featured new items right now are pumpkin/cinnamon/orange color-themed. During last weekend’s grocery trip, I left with a jar of Pumpkin Spice Cookie Butter, and two cups of Peanut Butter and Jelly Greek Yogurt.

Trader Joe's Pumpkin Pie Spice Cookie Butter
Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Pie Spice Cookie Butter
Trader Joe's Peanut Butter & Jelly with Nonfate Greek Yogurt
Trader Joe’s Peanut Butter & Jelly with Nonfate Greek Yogurt

The latter isn’t really “fall-themed”, but the color of the packaging reminded me of autumn leaves. Plus, when I mixed it as part of a weeknight proyo bowl and topped it with the pumpkin spice cookie butter, it could have easily been mistaken for a pumpkin or cinnamon-flavored greek yogurt!

 Proyo Bowl Left: Trader Joe's Peanut Butter & Jelly with Nonfate Greek Yogurt, protein powder, and TONS of coconut almond butter // Proyo Bowl Right: Blueberry soygurt, protein powder, and a generous portion of Trader Joe's Pumpkin Pie Spice Cookie Butter
Proyo Bowl Left: Trader Joe’s Peanut Butter & Jelly with Nonfat Greek Yogurt, protein powder, and TONS of coconut almond butter // Proyo Bowl Right: Blueberry soygurt, protein powder, and a generous portion of Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Pie Spice Cookie Butter

But the true pumpkin favorite find as of late was the limited edition Quest bar flavor I was able to get a hold of. Honestly—the best purchase I’ve made from my campus bookstore, ever 😛

 I found it!
I found it!

After a suuuuper long day in lab (and an incredibly long week if we want to be specific!), finding the pumpkin pie Quest bar flavor on Friday night was just the treat I was looking for.

 So orange, so crispy, so beautiful!
So orange, so crispy, so beautiful!

I’ve seen lots of mixed reviews for this flavor, but I would say I am a proponent of this flavor. I personally liked the crunchy bits on the top, and the overall orange/pumpkin coating. It may have been too crumbly (I was spilling crumbs everywhere as I was walking :P), but I thought the bar stayed true to the Quest bar reputation of not tasting dry or chalky like most other protein bar brands. The bar also is 220 calories, which is higher than the usual flavors, but there’s gotta be a little wiggle room when designing a creative flavor 😉

Over the weekend, I decided that I wanted—no, needed—to head over to any Sprouts for my grocery shopping this week, and since I had not paid a visit to Pasadena in a while, I decided to head over there for a bite to eat after my morning lab duties.

It still felt like a hot summer day, but I did my best to keep things cool as I made the ~1 hour trek over to Old Town Pasadena. UCLA had a home game that day I assume, because I was seeing Bruin t-shirts, and blue & gold all around me as I was walking to my tea time destination 😛

 Cafe 86's newest location in Old Town Pas.
Cafe 86’s newest location in Old Town Pas.

I learned about Cafe 86 a couple weeks back, but added it to my ever-growing foodie bucket list as a “someday” kind of item, since their only location at the time was in Chino. However, they recently opened a location slightly more west in Pasadena to my delight. So recent in fact, that I had to put in the location of the poke restaurant they are right behind because they aren’t recognized by Google Maps yet!

After being awkward with my camera phone outside the cafe, I continued my awkward-ness inside. It was hard being subtle…I had to pretend I was “looking at the menu” while I took some of the interior pics 😛

 Front counter area.
Front counter area.

Their baked goods selection rotate daily, and Saturday’s offering included Ube Dulche de Leche Flan cupcakes and Ube truffles. I was sort of hoping they would be offering their crumbled chip cookie, but only the cupcake and truffle were available. It was warm enough to also splurge on a boba milkshake or iced tea, but I wanted to balance out the sweetness so cold water sufficed.

 Baked goods with a key ingredient---UBE!
Baked goods with a key ingredient—UBE!

I found a seat in the corner, and marveled at the cozy atmosphere around me. Cafe 86 also offers free Wi-fi, so obviously this would be a good study spot for those who are able to concentrate in coffee shop/cafe settings.

 Cozy atmosphere here.
Cozy atmosphere here.

I tried the Ube Dulche de Leche Flan cupcake first, eating the flan on top separately.

 Ube Dulche de Leche Flan cupcake
Ube Dulche de Leche Flan cupcake

The flan layer was soft and creamy, and the texture reminded me of sliced mozzarella. The cake itself was a dark shade of purple, a reflection of the purple yam that made up a large percentage of it.

 Creamy flan layer, but dry ube cake :(
Creamy flan layer, but dry ube cake 🙁

The cake itself was quite dry, and I suppose if eaten with the flan there would have been a balance, but there wasn’t much flan to go around in my opinion. The bottom of the cake was unusually sticky too.

Next was the Ube Truffle!

 Ube Truffle.
Ube Truffle.

I couldn’t tell if it was dusted in chocolate or crystallized sugar, but it seemed like the latter after I had to cut through it with a (plastic) knife.

 Shiny rock of a truffle!!
Shiny rock of a truffle!!

Again, the ube sparkled through, and its appearance reminded me of a purple crystal (amherst or something like that?)

So the truffle trumped the cupcake, and neither were overly sweet. Still, I sipped on several cups of water to tone down the sweetness that was there.

Even though October has just started, I feel like my goal to “make Fall happen” in a forever-sunny city is off to a great start. Speaking of which, my Sprouts trip led me to find some more fun, pumpkin-themed items! Operation: Pumpkin Everythang is a go 😉 !

Have you been able to easily get into the Fall spirit?

Cafe 86 Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

February Foodie Finds

February Foodie Finds

This past month was quite a busy one for me—growing long runs each weekend, work starting to pick up in school/lab, taking a trip home to see family, and trying some new, random food products! Because of the random nature of the photos I collected, it only made sense to feature these products in a single post as my “foodie finds” for the month. Enjoy! 🙂

Saturday Night Dinners

Saturday night dinners this month have been on the simple-side, only because my Saturday evenings in general have been all about resting up for Sunday morning lonnnnnng runs. Simple means popping in a microwave steam-able bag of veggies, pairing it with a new-to-me carb-o-licious side, and rounding off the meal with dessert before heading to bed at a time no later than 10pm.

I did have a pretty busy Saturday the first week of the month though, and because of the duration of the event I was volunteering at, I came home right at dinner time. Fortunately, I was able to do my grocery shopping the Friday before since class was cancelled, and “planned” what I wanted to have ready for my simple dinner.

I found this at Sprouts during that Friday afternoon grocery trip, and resolved to try something new as part of my Saturday night dinner—Garden Lites Kale and Quinoa Souffle!

A delicious souffle of hearty Kale blended with Quinoa, whipped egg whites, and select spices.

I looked forward to the prospect of trying a product from the Garden Lites brand for the very first time. The souffle was fit snug in a recyclable plastic tray, and I popped it in the microwave with the plastic seal still on (as per box instructions) for about 3 1/2 minutes. After that, I heated it for another minute, and then flipped over the tray so that the souffle sat perfectly atop some steamed veggies.


The souffle texture was quite soft, and fell apart easily. I also feel like it may have needed to be heated for a longer time since it wasn’t cold, but not exactly hot ‘n’ fresh either. The surface that was facing the microwave (but now face down on the pile of veggies!) had a crispier taste to it since it had more exposure to the heat, I suppose. To be honest, this souffle actually reminded me of some Dr. Praeger burgers I had a while ago—they even look like them close-up!

The following Saturdays kept with the same food theme, but during these weekends, I used the opportunity to try some new-to-me burritos.

I’ve had plenty of Amy’s Kitchen items in the past, but this was the first time I tried one of the ‘Light in Sodium’ products…specifically the Cheddar Cheese Burrito!

Amy's Kitchen Cheddar Cheese Burrito (Light in Sodium)

I microwaved each side for ~45 seconds, and the tortilla ended up being pretty flimsy after the microwaving (which is not surprising). I planned on unwrapping it anyway so I could mix the bean + cheese filling with bites of my steamed veggies.

The other ‘burrito of the month’ was this one that I picked up on a trip to Sprouts:

Sweet Earth - The Curry Tiger Burrito

It was my first time trying a Sweet Earth product, and was intrigued by the eco-friendly, brown sandwich paper wrap packaging. It easily warmed up after 1 minute in the microwave on each side, and the spicy filling mixed well with my side veggies. If this flavor is a true representative of their other products, I think I’ll be eating my way through some of their other flavors in the future 😉

Fun Finds

I picked up this South Beach Diet box-o-bars only because I had a freebie coupon for it from Ralph’s for their Friday Freebies promotion (I also redeemed a free Chobani yogurt on the same shopping trip 🙂 !). Out of their South Beach Diet bar selection in the particular Ralph’s I visited for my grocery shopping that week, I was intrigued by this flavor:


I had it as fuel before my 18 miler (the toughest long run of my marathon training plan…), and they proved to sustain me through that ordeal, even though I didn’t “properly” fuel during the run. Texture/flavor-wise, I love how I could taste the chocolate coating AND pieces of coconut mixed into the “crunchies” part of the bar. I would say that these bars were definitely one of Ralph’s best Friday Freebies 😉

Keeping with the theme of chocolate and protein, I was able to reach my protein requirements for each day this month with a little help from this canister:


My Dad found this Naturade brand of protein powder at Grocery Outlet for about $8, and was thoughtful enough to bring it down for me when he was in the city back in January. I saved it for after I annihilated my jar of PlantFusion powder, and I actually found myself to prefer this protein powder over the prior.

I found it easy to mix into yogurts and milk…which is pretty much what I used it for 😛 . Each serving is about 140 calories, 3 rams of fat, and 20 grams of protein. A serving a day, plus 2 Quest bars, certainly helped with getting in my protein this month 😉

Another (cheap) protein find from Grocery Outlet was this Nature Valley Protein Oatmeal. Since they were 2/$1, my Dad surprised me with two cups of the mixed berry crunch flavor for those days when my protein goals were just out of reach.


It was actually quite easy to prep. Each cup comes with a pack of granola that is separated from the oatmeal within the cup. You fill the oatmeal with milk or water, microwave for about 45 seconds (or you can steep it), top with granola, and then enjoy! For some added fats, I included a dollop of almond butter when I tried it for the first time.

I love the fact that there were actual, plump dried cranberries in the oatmeal, and since I don’t like my oatmeal with too much liquid, I was able to enjoy the mix of oats and granola without having the risk of getting a “soggy spoonful”. Annnnd, the almond butter…how can you go wrong with oats and almond butter 😉 ?

My final ‘fun find’ of the month was hard to resist opening as soon as I bought it! I like to have one open jar of a nut butter/spread at a time, so when I bought this Trader Joe’s brand Cookies & Creme cookie butter, I made sure to have at least a spoonful of peanut butter every day from the jar that I was currently making my way through at the time, just so I could open this gem:


When the time had come, I rejoiced! Haha…by rejoice, I mean slathering it on Quest bars, using it as a spread and making sweet paleo bread sandwiches, adding it to yogurts, brownies…and of course, eating straight out of the jar.


Trader Joe, you did good here 😉

Cause I’m a Yogurt Collector…

…I definitely did not miss the opportunity to try some new yogurts this month!

A while back, I bought some Voskos yogurts since there was a promotion going on at Ralph’s. When I opened one of the cups I had bought however, I noticed a mold spore…and the cup still had two more weeks till it’s ‘best by’ date!

After sending an email to the Voskos folks, they kindly apologized, and sent me some VIP coupons to make up for it. So as a result, I ended up being able to try some new-to-me flavors for free! And the one flavor I absolutely fell in love with was this one:


This Fruit on the Bottom Coconut Cream yogurt rocked my world! I used it to fuel up before my 16 miler, but I had tried it once beforehand with one of the coupons I received. It literally has dessicated coconut medium on the bottom (the jelly-looking substance, haha) and the 6 oz. cup is packed with 15 grams of protein! I guess I owe a thank you to that mold spore 😛 ?

When I went back to visit my family during President’s Day Weekend, I didn’t leave without stopping by Grocery Outlet. I was able to pick up three new Chobani products—Chobani Oats Apricot Ancient Grains, and two new limited batch flavors (Grape and Green Tea)!


Out of the three, I would say the Grape flavor matched up most with its name. It had a somewhat sour/tangy taste, but at least it reflected it’s title. I can’t say that about the Green Tea flavor. To me, to tasted mostly like pain vanilla yogurt. After looking at the ingredients, I can see why since the only green tea in this cup was captured through its “essence”, haha.


Because there was no noteworthy flavor to try and taste, I decided to mix the Green Tea flavor with some of my Naturade Chocolate Pea Protein powder.

The Apricot Chobani Oats didn’t blow me away either. Apparently the ingredients list chia seeds as being in a cup, but I couldn’t detect them when mix with the grains. At least I could see some apricot chunks?


What were some of your February Foodie Finds?

Pistachio Butter

Pistachio Butter

Whoa, where has the time gone? Is next week really the last full week of September?

To be honest, I am both happy and anxious about September ending so quickly. This weekend will be fun since my sister will be home to celebrate an early birthday. I’m not sure about what she would like to do, but nevertheless, we are going to do our best to make her birthday a relaxing and homey one.

But even with the small celebration, I don’t have time to take too long of a break. So far, I’ve been doing a pretty good job balancing GRE study time with researching grad programs and going to the lab everyday, but it has come with some sacrifices (nothing major, but they can be frustrating). This is a topic for another post though, since this one is aiming towards a nuttier tone…

After blazing through a jar of sunflower butter from Trader Joe’s (took me about a week and a half to finish!!), I felt a bit guilty about the ~$5 price it cost. Now this is usually the standard price for “fancier” nut/seed butters, and I don’t mind getting fancy with these jars once in a while, but I have yet to try making a homemade nut butter and found this as the perfect opportunity to do so.

Pistachio Butter

Pistachio Butter


  • 1 cup of pistachios
  • 1-to-2 tablespoons of honey
  • 1-to-2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • Cinnamon

Pistachio Butter Ingredients


  • Roast pistachios in a 350º F oven for ten minutes, turning them over.
  • Cool the pistachios.
  • Grind them dry in a food processor to a fine powder.
    • There is no need to add salt since the pistachios are loaded with it 😉
  • Add warm honey and olive oil (based on ease of blending) to processor and blend.
  • Add some shakes of cinnamon
  • Note: The honey has the tendency to crystallize, so it may come out more crumbly than “regular” nut butters purchased from the store. 

I added some to my hot grain cereal this morning…and it was to die for :)! When mixed in piping hot grains or on a freshly toasted piece of bread, its true taste comes out (even if it’s texture says otherwise…)

Pistachio Butter in Hot Grains

What’s your favorite nut/seed butter to make at home?

My Unplanned Weekend, and a Pizza Recipe!

My Unplanned Weekend, and a Pizza Recipe!

Hey everyone! I hope your weekends were relaxing and refreshing :)!

My weekend didn’t go exactly as planned, but that is neither good nor bad…just how it happened to turn out.

I had the goal to finish strong with 30 miles this week, and originally planned to get the bulk of my miles in within the first half of the week. Due to my self-imposed “pressure” about my math final, I ended up taking Monday and Wednesday off (even though I could have easily squeezed in 3 miles on both days). Most people say that working out during times of stress can be relieving and a necessary break, but I find myself more relaxed when I have no constraints, and can design my workouts around the schedule I want. That’s why it’s hard for me to log the miles or great workouts during times of exams!

But when Wednesday afternoon arrived, I knew I had some serious mileage to make up on if I wanted to reach my 30 mi/week goal. I ran ~8 miles total on Thursday and managed to squeeze out a 4 mile run on Friday towards the end of the day…oh Friday.

Remember how in my last post I was all excited about volunteering at a robotics regional this past weekend? Well that was what didn’t go exactly as planned.

When I initially signed up, I was disappointed that I (thought I) couldn’t apply for a certain position because I assumed I wouldn’t get the job. Turns out, a girl around my age (probably even a year younger) got that position, and it just made me frustrated that I made assumptions and could have easily volunteered for that position.

The position that I did end up with was supposed to keep on my feet, active, and make me “feel useful”. The problem was that the lead volunteer who was supposed to train everyone in my position acted like he didn’t even need me, and I totally felt useless. I ended up going in circles to various spots on the playing field, and at one point, I was literally just watching the game and then standing up when the robots had to exit the field “safely”.  In other words, my duties included zilch, nada, and zero!  I was working with some people that were rubbing me the wrong way with their attitudes, and I just couldn’t take it anymore!

So at lunch, I took a looooooong lunch, and didn’t come back.

It sounds kind of harsh, but it was either act like I was doing something useful for the next four to five hours, or actually do something that engaged my brain and body a bit more. I didn’t leave the vicinity entirely since my dad was a Judge, so I took a power nap and went by Trader Joe’s.

Don’t get me wrong, I love this program and what it stands for, but the organization of this specific event, this year irritated me, even though I wish it didn’t. At least I can apply next year for the position I really want knowing that there is no age cap/restrictive qualifications involved.

Moral of Friday’s story is, let them say no. Don’t assume anything when it comes to something you really want to do. And if they do say no, you can always go out for an awesome run…which is what I ended up doing that evening (even though I thought I had no energy left)!

On Saturday, I decided to go back with my Dad, but just to spectate during the elimination rounds and awards. Since those took place in the afternoon, I came equipped with a copy of Runner’s World, read that for the first hour in the car, and then went out for some “chopped up” runs to visit a local grocery store I’ve been planning on going to (turned out to be nothing special) and then to Trader Joe’s.

I decided to treat myself to one of my favorite happy foods, a Greens Plus protein bar, and had a clerk who commented on my frequent purchases of these bars. Funny thing was, I was trying to avoid him for that reason, but life doesn’t let you avoid such situations! I forgot what I said, but it probably wasn’t very intelligible since I knew my secret love of energy bars was revealed to this stranger, haha!

I ran a total of 5 miles since the new-to-me grocery store was ~2.5 miles away from the event. I changed into some “regular” clothes (didn’t want to look odd in my running shorts…although there was a team sporting some hot pants and liquid gold spandex leggings!!) and then watched alliance selection—which is a nerve-wracking experience for these students since only 24 teams get to participate…

Top 8 teams get to pick two more teams to form an alliance...and then it's time to RUMBLE!
Top 8 teams get to pick two more teams each to form an alliance…and then it’s time to RUMBLE!

The rest of the afternoon was spent watching the elimination rounds, and was full of excitment, cheering, and dancing…including Gangnam Style. At the end of the day, my high school team did really well, and I felt extremely proud to call myself an alumni of that team. I felt like I was a mother watching her kids grow up! Haha…

Sunday was much more lax. I went to my first ZUMBA class in over a month, and was pleasantly surprised that my fav instructor from Mondays was substituting for the regular Sunday morning instructor. It was fun to get back into the ZUMBA groove with songs and choreography that I like. Finished off my gym visit with some of my usual weight exercises, and then went home.

After an early lunch, I ran some minor errands, and then my Dad and I went out for fro-yo. It was an unplanned outing, but I wanted to treat myself, and even though I didn’t quite hit 30 miles for the week (about three miles off from the original goal), I shrugged it off, and decided to go all out anyways:

A coffee/banana mix (despite being a raw banana-hater!) with carob and yogurt chips, mango poppers, cherries, rainbow mochi, blackberries, and mango
A coffee/banana mix (despite being a raw banana-hater!) with carob and yogurt chips, mango poppers, cherries, rainbow mochi, blackberries, and mango

 Plus, it was a nice, warm day yesterday—perfect for fro-yo feasting ;)!

So that’s pretty much how my weekend went down, but I wanted to end this post with a random (but delicious!) pizza recipe. The featured topping is the Pepperoni Tofurky Deli Slices by Tofurky, which my sister and I have been going gaga over for the past few weeks :3!

I had this for dinner two Sundays ago (I think) and it was the perfect pizza for one. Enjoy!

Tofurky Pepperoni Thin Crust Pizza
Tofurky Pepperoni Thin Crust Pizza

Tofurky Pepperoni Vegetable Pizza (for One)


  • 4 oz. storebought pizza dough
  • your favorite pizza/marinara sauce
  • sliced olives
  • sliced jalapeno peppers
  • chopped onions
  • shredded mozzarella cheese (I used the low-fat part-skim type since that’s what we had in the house)


  • Roll out the pizza dough into a nice round disc (I made mine thin in order to get a thin crust).
  • Bake the dough in a conventional oven for ~10 min at 400°F (may need to watch it so it doesn’t burn).
  • Add a nice coat of pizza or marinara sauce onto the now-baked dough.
  • After chopping or getting pre-sliced olives, jalapeno peppers, and onions, use these to top the pizza in progress.
  • Bake all of this for ~5 min at 400°F (may need to watch it so it doesn’t burn).
  • Take out of oven, and cover with the shredded mozzarella cheese.
  • Add 6-7 slices of Tofurky Pepperoni slices. Go ahead and take out an extra and munch on it as an appetizer ;).
  • Bake again until the cheese bubbles.
Yup, another pizza recipe! Coming soon ;)!!
Yup, another pizza recipe! Coming soon ;)!!

Have you ever volunteered and felt like you were wasting yours and everybody else’s time?

What was your best volunteering experience?

Happy Foods

Happy Foods

I can not believe January is almost over! Well, technically there’s about two weeks left, but I automatically get into “end-of-the-month mode” by the time the 20th of any month hits.

But I have to say, winter isn’t so glamorous after the holidays are over.


Everything is just. so. COLD. I absolutely love the summer, and prefer warm weather over cold weather, so saying I hate winter is an understatement. The cold doesn’t make me want to do anything (which means not working out at all for four days straight) and I hate having a lecture this quarter that’s from 6-7:30pm in the evening when the temperature drops another 10 degrees or so.

It’s times like these I wish I had a winter home in Australia :P.

But even though the weather is depressing, I manage to keep my spirits up by treating myself to happy foods…foods that make me :).

Here are a few foods that kept me happy from the past two weeks:

Happy Food #1 ~ Trader Joe’s Vegetable Tempura Rolls With Brown Rice

Trader Joe's Vegetable Tempura Rolls With Brown Rice

I don’t have a lot to choose from when it comes to purchasing any type of sushi, being a vegetarian and all (unless ofcourse I stumble upon a place that serves all-vegan sushi—unfortunately, it’s not that common as people like to think ;( ). Perhaps that’s why I find myself gravitating towards these awesome sauce rolls (or should I say, awesome soy sauce :P) when my stomach is on the verge of eating itself, and I have an hour to spare before sitting for another hour and a half for Microbiology lecture.

Trader Joe's Vegetable Tempura Rolls With Brown Rice 2

These rolls are made with brown rice, and have seaweed on the inside to separate the oh-so-copious (not) amount of veggies and tempura bits. Even though the entire tray is about $3.50, and it doesn’t look like much, the mix of rice and veggies helps with keeping my belly full and my mind happy…it’s the thing that helps me look forward to the end of my 3-hour long lab class, since I know it will help replenish my depleting energy reserves spent on pipetting microliter after microliter of unknown protein concentrations into a 96-well plate.

Trader Joe's Vegetable Tempura Rolls With Brown Rice 3I love these rolls in particular because they come with easy-to-peel packets of soy sauce, pickled horseradish, and wasabi. I oftentimes try to mix up the amount of wasabi on each roll just for fun, but sometimes I may put too much on one roll and the all-too-familiar stinging in the nose will come about!

Wasabi is packed with beta-carotenes and antioxidant capabilities, so it’s perfect for fighting the ailments of winter, like congestion and cold-related symptoms. Even though the stinging and the tears from the crazy ingredient can be too much to handle for some, wasabi is my winter condiment for sure!

Happy Food #2 ~ Greens Plus Protein Bar – Peanut Butter & Chocolate

Greens Plus Protein Bar - Peanut Butter and Chocolate

Ever since first purchasing this…I’ll admit, pricey bar from Trader Joe’s over the summer, I have fallen in love with this flavor combination: chocolate, peanut butter, and green jelly-like filling. The bar is incredibly chewy, and even though the ingredients list is quite long…

Greens Plus Protein Bar - Peanut Butter and Chocolate 2

…there’s nothing to really fear! I mean, if a bar can be packed with organic quinoa sprout powder, Japanese chlorella, milk thistle seed extract, and still taste good, why not?

Greens Plus Protein Bar - Peanut Butter and Chocolate 3

The one thing that makes this bar unique is definitely it’s green, jelly-like filling. No gelatin is listed, but where does the green come from? How about organic alfalfa grass!

Grass and chocolate doesn’t sound like the most awesome combination ever, but for the foodie crowd, it’s probably no biggie since green monster smoothies are often seen as one of many expected go-to nutritious foods.  Alfalfa grass can definitely be considered a rich and nutritious ingredient since it’s packed with eight essential amino acids, calcium, magnesium, and other fun nutrients and minerals known to be associated with those of chlorophyll ownership. Hey, if you’re using ingredients of the Earth, how can you not be happy ;)?

Happy Food #3 ~ Dr. Praeger’s Italian Veggie Burgers

I must say, happiness does come in patty form. Veggie patty, that is.

Dr. Praeger's Italian Veggie Burgers 2

Is it horrible to say Monday is the weekday that makes me the most happy? At least for this quarter, since I just have once class in the morning and then just work afterwards. Lunch is easy to plan, and with a 50 cents off coupon in tow, I decided to purchase this box of Dr. Praeger’s Italian Veggie Burgers and cook ’em up (microwave style) during my lunch break.

Dr. Praeger's Italian Veggie Burgers

I had all four plain as my lunch, and didn’t need any condiments since they were flavorful on their own. Although it wasn’t recommended that they be microwaved, they turned out fine and the texture was more like cutting into a quiche than thick burger.

Dr. Praeger's Italian Veggie Burgers 3

I honestly didn’t mind that these “burgers” were not really burger-like, since the pop of colors from the bits of random veggies made me smile. And there’s nothing like having something warm and nutritious to eat when it’s old outside, and your working in the basement floor of one of the tallest buildings on campus.

So I guess if happiness could be summarized in three foods, you read about mine just now…although my tastes are always changing, and it’s more than likely I’ll find a new Trader Joe’s product to swoon about or a new veggie meat I just gotta have every single day, but for now, I think I’ll have sushi and veggie burgers till my heart’s content…and not forget my Greens Plus Protein Bar for dessert!

What foods have been making you happy lately?

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