Welsh Country

Welsh Country

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

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

At Paddington Station
At Paddington Station

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

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

Welsh Land
Welsh Land

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

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

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

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

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

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

Drive to the cliffs
Drive to the cliffs

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

chipsandfries
Garlic Bread & Chips

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

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

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

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

Mumbles, Swansea
Mumbles, Swansea

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

Turkish Delight Ice Cream
Turkish Delight Ice Cream

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

This weekend was certainly going to be a great one.

Have you ever visited Wales?

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

‘Ello London!

‘Ello London!

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

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

Iceland, Day 2

Iceland, Day 2

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

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

kaffi
Kaffi Vinyl

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

kv
A hipster vibe here…

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

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

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

kaffi__
“Dinner in Iceland was just as good too. Pricey, but oh so delicious! My meal was a black bean/quinoa burger topped with pickles, grilled pineapple, blueberry jam, and spicy kimchi sauce. Vegan in Iceland is definitely doable πŸ‘ŒπŸ½ πŸ”πŸŒ±”

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

β™₯

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

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

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

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

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

iceland1
Rocky in Grotta

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

iceland2
Lush, windy pastures

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

iceland4
Noodle Station

18 Kroner for two veggie pho bowls. Nice!

iceland3
Veggie Pho!

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

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

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

fishs pa
Get to work fishies!

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

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

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

geysir
Geysers along the way…

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

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

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

kaffihaus
Getting cozy at Kaffihaus Vesturbaejar

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

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

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

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

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

Have you ever visited Iceland (or Greenland)?

First Stop, Iceland!

First Stop, Iceland!

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

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

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

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

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

Glacier bottle?
Glacier bottle?

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

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

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

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

Airbnb digs.
Airbnb digs.

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

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

Reykjavik Roasters
Reykjavik Roasters

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

coffee
Eclectic decor, eclectic people
roasters
Bread and baked goods πŸ™‚

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

Icelandic breakfast
Icelandic breakfast

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

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

icelandddddddddddd
A glimpse of Icelandic coast

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

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

kringlan
Kringlan

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

1500kroner
An expensive fish pilow

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

bonus!
Oh hello Nutella!

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

Moving Out, Flying Out

Moving Out, Flying Out

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spring seasonal menu!
Spring seasonal menu!

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

Tofu Poke Bowl
Tofu Poke Bowl
Sparkle!
Sparkle!

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

Pending Travel

Pending Travel

This post was written weeks ago, but with all the traveling I’ve been doing and no time to sit down and post, here it finally is with no edits to verb tense, haha!

These past two weeks have been on hyperdrive! Even my efforts in running seemed to be sub-par in comparison to my performance in previous weeks. Stress has been subconsciously hitting me I guess!

I’ve been scrambling putting together stuff at work, as well as prepping for two weeks of international travel. I haven’t packed yet (no surprise) but I do have a list going. Things are going to be coming back-to-back with no pause in between—sister’s graduation, traveling in Europe, my marathon in San Diego—this time off seems to be like it’s a lot more work than intended.

Salted Caramel Cluster...it blew me away in a good way. A mild, creamy base with a super salty caramel swirl, rich chocolate chunks and CASHEW pieces. So many more @so_delicious flavors to try 😩 it may take me forever but it should be a fun quest to complete πŸ˜‹ #WhereIsMySponsorship #JkJk #Sorta πŸ˜‰
Salted Caramel Cluster…it blew me away in a good way. A mild, creamy base with a super salty caramel swirl, rich chocolate chunks and CASHEW pieces. So many more @so_delicious flavors to try 😩 it may take me forever but it should be a fun quest to complete πŸ˜‹ #WhereIsMySponsorship #JkJk #Sorta πŸ˜‰

But hopefully the payoff is good. I’m anxious-excited about seeing my cousin, whom I haven’t seen in 17 years, and her 13 and 9 year old daughters I haven’t met yet, at all!

I went to the Westfield mall in Culver City last weekend with E to shop for said daughters. My cousin enlightened me on what they would really like as gifts and I was ready to have fun with it. I bought the younger one two cute dresses from Old Navy and The Children’s Place. I remember my wardrobe was literally all TCP from ages 7-10, and I was taller-than-average for my age lol.

Gifts!
I come with gifts!

For the older daughter, I got two pieces from Hollister…hard to believe (or is it?) that the brand is still popular among teens. Man, I remember feeling SO much unspoken peer pressure to wear Hollister and Abercrombie, haha.

After buying some chocolates from Target, and a cookie butter jar from Trader Joe’s (which I’m hoping they’ll love since Trader Joe’s isn’t available in Wales!), E and I decided to take a lunch break at the happening food court.

I spotted Bibigo down the walkway, and headed towards it while E went next door to Burger King.

Bibigo, Westfield Culver City
Bibigo, Westfield Culver City

A nice, warm veggie bowl with cool toppings sounded so appetizing at the time. So for my base, I had a bowl with salad greens. On top of that went pickled veggies like onions and slaw, and of course kimchi.

Side of wontons, warm tofu, and fres, cold veggies!
Side of wontons, warm tofu, and fres, cold veggies!

To finish it off, warm tofu cubes added a nice touch along with seaweed flakes. Even a guy who was behind me in line commented on how good it looked, haha.

A fantastic creation.
A fantastic creation.

The bowl was just filling enough to get my energy spent from shopping back up, and to power me to get back home. E and I had a fun bus ride back to the train station, and from there I traveled my usual commute home.

Couldn't resist snapping this pic of my city <3
Couldn’t resist snapping this pic of my city <3

It was too late to take a nap when I got home, but I tried to turn in early enough so that I could catch up on some sleep. At least it was a productive day overall though!

Do you like planning for trips?

On the Horizon

On the Horizon

It’s hard to believe that in about two weeks, I’ll be walking, running, and skipping (maybe? haha!) across Europe. The plan is to start in Iceland, fly across the pond to the UK, and then end the journey in Paris. It’ll be quite a way to celebrate my sister’s upcoming graduation from her undergraduate university!

pizza-studio
Hello Pizza Studio!

But what I’m most excited for is her move this fall to Irvine. Yes, she’ll be about 60 min away from me by car, and I could not be more excited. We may not be moving in together right away, but I foresee a bunch of weekend adventures with her, and hopefully we’ll be able to find a place to live together when she gets more settled in!

interior
Pizza Studio, South Los Angeles

In the meantime, work has been keeping me busy, and weekends in lab have become commonplace again. Obviously all that work stirs up an appetite, and pizza has been my carb craving as of late.

I’ve finally been getting on board with the popularity behind the whole make-your-own-pizza trend. First it was Blaze, and now I got around to trying out Pizza Studio.

I could have gotten creative and really asked to make up my own combo—perhaps even have it all on a spicy pizza crust—but one of the ready-made combos, Truffled Mushroom, seemed to sound quite appetizing.

truffled-mushroom
The Truffled Mushroom

This magical combo was composed of a rosemary herb crust, garlic alfredo, freshly grated mozzarella, truffle roasted mushrooms, fresh parmesan, and baby spinach. It came out soooo warm and with the cheese all melty, I had to be incredibly careful when picking up the slices because it was hot to the touch.

mushroompool
All those mushrooms and that cheezzzzzz…

But the taste was all worth it. I’m thinking with all the things planned and events coming up, my carb cravings are only going to get stronger…and I think more pizza places are going to be crossed off my list in the process πŸ˜‰

What do you crave the most when you are super busy and get super hungry?

The Pizza Studio Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

President’s Day Weekend ’17 – Part 1

President’s Day Weekend ’17 – Part 1

The last time I saw my cousin and her wife was in the summer of 2015…just before my parents moved from Cali and before I began my second year of grad school.

I didn’t think it would be another year and a half before seeing them again, but it wasn’t until this past weekend that my sister and I had a chance to visit.

A little guide dog that boarded the train :)
A little guide dog that boarded the train πŸ™‚

I left on a Thursday afternoon just so that I could spread out my travel time. I took the evening Amtrak bus/train, and my sister picked me up at the station. My bus arrived in Bakersfield an HOUR early, so waiting to board the train ended up being an uncontrollable waste of time. I did eventually get on and get to Fresno around 8:30pm. My sister and I immediately went to Sprouts to get snacks, chill, and got to sleep around midnight.

The next day, I woke up to go for a run, despite the intermittent showers. I ended up running a little under six miles, while my sister finished up her morning class. From there, we left for a late breakfast at her now all-time favorite brunch place Benediction. Seeing as it was my third time visiting the location, I didn’t think about taking pictures of my food. I left my phone in the car, and fully enjoyed some piping hot coffee, potatoes (still have a craving for the starchy goodness ever since my visit to JFAT), and my sister’s company.

From there, we left for Walnut Creek. It ended up being just about 3 hours of a drive and my sister was a trooper, driving through some horrid rain spots as we got closer to the bay. I offered to take over towards the end but she had it under control. We did have some bladder-related tasks to take care of, so when we finally got to my cousin’s apartment, we fled upstairs with the luggage still in our car. The first question we asked was “where is your bathroom?!”

Once we were settled in, we chatted for an hour our two while snacking on a slice of coffee-spiced cheese, apple slices, and oranges. I forgot how good the apple/cheese combo is!

We originally had plans to eat in for dinner, but then my cousin’s wife offered to pay for dinner since she got a bonus and wanted to treat all of us.

Welcome to Babalou's!
Welcome to Babalou’s!
Overview
Overview

Because of her sweet offer, we dined at Babalou’s for some fresh Mediterranean food.

Menu
Menu
Fun artwork!
Fun artwork!

I had the veggie plate, which came with two falafel, two dolmas (grape leaf rolls), a lentil salad, babaganoush, hummus, and tahini.

Veggie Plate
Veggie Plate

There was also of course some pita bread on the side to mop up any excess condiments.

Baba & Hummus
Baba & Hummus

After dinner, we made our way to the nearby theater to watch Lion. It was incredibly packed, more so than when I saw a movie out in LA on a Friday night.

Friday night at the movies!
Friday night at the movies!

All of us pretty much teared up or held our tears back by the time the movie was through. It was such a good story and the meaning of the title makes so much sense at the end.

We got home around 10:00 but we were all pretty tired to stay up and do anything. Dinner and a movie was all we could handle for the day!

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

Red, White, and Chew

Red, White, and Chew

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

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

chomp_eatery
Chomp Eatery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

burger_and_melt
Burgers + melts

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

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

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

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

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

Seattle Adventures – Part 4

Seattle Adventures – Part 4

Our last full day in Seattle began with yet another bus ride to Ravenna, where we were the previous day drinking tea. This time though, we had brunch at a hipster cafe, and one of my favorite places we ate during the whole trip: Wayward Cafe!

Wayward Cafe
Wayward Cafe

The clientele, employees, and restaurant space all had a hipster vibe going on, so obviously my sis, friend, and I felt out of place but this did not chase us from getting our share of comforting vegan food!

Countertop eating
Countertop eating

We sat at the counter, so in a way, we were somewhat secluded from the rest of the diners. It didn’t matter though, because we were all quite hungry and didn’t mind so much that the view in front of us was a mix of kitchen gear and foggy windows showcasing a highway.

Coffee :)
Coffee πŸ™‚

We each started off with coffee/tea, and you know I took those extra stevia packets for the road πŸ˜‰

Country Bumpkin!
Country Bumpkin!

For my dish, I was all for the Country Bumpkin. I finally got my biscuits and gravy craving taken care of on this trip!

Friend's dishes
Friend’s dishes

My sis got the Dixie Fried with a circular scone look-alike biscuit, and my friend got a gorgeous enchilada (I think) type dish smothered in sauce and aligned next to seasoned cubed potatoes.

Our grand-in-flavor brunch was also easy on the wallet, and we were able to catch a bus to downtown feeling renewed. On the way there, we rode alongside not one, but TWO adorable animals! The first was a cat “with an eating disorder” headed to the vet. He was a golden, obese tabby who had the most precious meow. The next was this adorable groomed pomeranian who obediently sat on his/her owner’s lap all the way to downtown! I have yet to see an animal board a bus here in LA so I was probably a little too excited upon observing these animals boarding the bus, haha!

LOOK AT THAT ADORABLE POM OHHHH!
LOOK AT THAT ADORABLE POM OHHHH!

Once we were in downtown (yet again), we actually took the time to go inside Pike’s Place Market (just like many other tourists), walk around, get bored, and then walked further down, ending up at the gum wall!

The infamous gum wall!
The infamous gum wall!

After taking a couple pictures with the wall in the background, doing our best to not LEAN against the wall, we walked back towards our starting point, and then made our way towards the movies to watch the latest Alice movie, since we couldn’t watch it the day before due to my sister not feeling well, and my friend was dying to see it. I never was a fan of the Disney Alice movies (I guess I liked the animated one?), so I found myself getting restless at some parts, but I was glad that watching the movie made my friend happy πŸ™‚

After the movies, we obviously had dinner πŸ˜› . And how could we pass by a Veggie Grill and not go in?

Veggie Grill, Downtown Seattle
Veggie Grill, Downtown Seattle

We all ended up ordering hearty meals like burgers, mac and cheese, and even shared my sis’s favorite chocolate pudding from when she tried it the first time we visited a VG.

Friends eat right.
Friends eat right.
Oh man, that pudding.
Oh man, that pudding.

I got the Buffalo Bomber, oozing with spicy BBQ sauce and a side of coleslaw.

How did I not have this before?
How did I not have this before?

Having warm meals in a restaurant with an orange hue made us feel so cozy with the weather starting to get cold and rainy outside.

Even though it looks the same, this VG seemed cozier than the others.
Even though it looks the same, this VG seemed cozier than the others.

After dinner, we just wanted to get back to the Airbnb and relax for our last night in Seattle. I actually ended up staying up until midnight, which is something I rarely do, but I had the energy to do so, and I wanted to really enjoy the time I had with my sister and friend because those chances are so few nowadays.

After a long night’s rest, I woke up the next morning, and got everything packed. After getting my sis and friend to do the same, we headed out to the Fremont District for one last adventure before flying out of the glorious PNW.

Welcome to Theo's Chocolates!
Welcome to Theo’s Chocolates!

Our destination was a chocolate tour at Theo’s Chocolates!

Welcome to Theo's Chocolates!
Welcome to Theo’s Chocolates!

The cost of the tour was only $10, but there were samples galore and learning about the process of making fair-trade and organic chocolate was quite interesting.

Theo Chocolates Factory Tour - waiting room
Theo Chocolates Factory Tour – waiting room

After putting on hairnets, we were guided into a small green room with benches where our guide explained to us the story of how the cacao plant becomes what we know as chocolate.

Theo Chocolates Factory Tour - lecturin'
Theo Chocolates Factory Tour – lecturin’

During her talk, she passes around samples, and I fell in love with a flavor speckled with raspberry.

Hello, raspberry.
Hello, raspberry.

After the short lecture, we were taken inside the factory, where we saw the vats and got to sample some cacao nibs: the mild and bitter ones! My sis and friend ended up buying a bag of the mild cacao nibs from the gift shop after the tour.

Inside the factory
Inside the factory

Once we made a rotation through the actual factory, we were lead into the kitchen, a.k.a. the best room on the tour. In this room, we were given the opportunity to sample truffles, limited edition chocolate flavors, and other intriguing sweet (and savory!) chocolate items. And immediately after that, we were given coupons and directed straight into the gift shop…where there were even MORE samples.

Theo Chocolates Factory Tour - store!
Theo Chocolates Factory Tour – store!

I literally made laps around the store sampling all the chocolate, even finding myself at one point just pacing near the main wall where the samples for the original chocolate flavors were. When my friend and sis were done picking out their cacao nibs and truffles, I even took some store samples for the road! I guess I didn’t completely overdose on sugar, because I still had some room in me for a small lunch! Flying Apron was just along the way, so we decided to sit down there and munch on something savory.

Flying Apron
Flying Apron

I was able to hit it right with my order of red lentil soup with a slice of their bread of the day (which I believe was multigrain).

They have shirts?
They have shirts?

My friend and sis however, weren’t so lucky. They shared three dishes among the two of them, a pesto salad, mac and cheez (with lots of spinach apparently), and a BBQ tofu pocket, all of which were doughy, and lacked flavor to the point where it tasted completely bland. I had to taste them myself just to believe it, and my sis and friend were absolutely right.

Flying Apron - the good, bad, and ugly
Flying Apron – the good, bad, and ugly

If I wasn’t sweetened out by all the chocolate I had earlier, maybe I could have tried a sweet baked good and could have given the chance for Flying Apron to redeem itself. Oh well, I was happy with my humble bowl of soup.

Maybe it would have been different with the sweets...
Maybe it would have been different with the sweets…

We spent another hour strolling around the Fremont district, and then took the bus back to our Airbnb in order to get our luggage and call for an Uber. My sis and friend were sharing a second suitcase filled with books from their Amazon Books adventure, so it was necessary.

It was hard to bid goodbye to them at the airport, since I was flying back separately to LA and the both of them were flying back to Nor Cal together.

Bye, Seattle. It's been fun :)
Bye, Seattle. It’s been fun πŸ™‚

Overall, I was so happy that the trip happened at the time that it did. Right now I’m already wrapped up again in my work but prior to my vacation, I was running on fumes and felt so burnt out from my work! There’s no doubt that I’ll probably need another week off (at least) by August rolls around, but until then, I think I feel refreshed enough to continue being my normal busy self. The fact that summer is just beginning kind of helps too πŸ˜‰

Have you been on a food factory tour before?

Wayward Vegan Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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