Back in August…

Back in August…

Man, I have a TON of posts to catch up on! But if I procrastinate any longer, I proably won’t even remember enough about the pictures I have to write about them…better late than ever.

Also goes to show that being busy enough not to blog means that life things are picking up, and have me occupied in a good way. I have some big travel plans coming up in a few weeks (work-related, but still exciting!), and I’m looking forward to what that experience will bring.

In the meantime, I’ll reflect back on what I was doing in early August, right after my b-day celebrations and my sister’s arrival back in Cali. It was my last weekend with the car in my possession, but I didn’t have the desire to drive out too far…

Actually, there was a lot going on locally. The USC Village was something that was under construction for a long time now, near the downtown area. Since it’s grand opening was scheduled for mid-August to coincide with move-in day, some of the stores and restaurants had soft openings a week prior. One of the restaurants was CAVA…funny how I visited the Santa Monica location only days before!

CAVA, USC Village
CAVA, USC Village

For their soft opening, the CAVA at USC Village was giving away free food from 12-2pm! I stood in line with some of my labmates for almost 1.5 hours, but since I knew the kind of food we would be getting wasn’t some cheap meal, I had to begrudgingly admit that it was worth it.

CAVA Menu
CAVA Menu

Although…by the time we got inside and were able to place our orders, they had run out of flatbread. We all opted for grain bowls, and I had mine based with lentils, the spicy veggies and all of the other crisp veggie toppings. I think I opted for some lemon dressing this time around instead of the apricot sriracha, but it fit well with what ended up being a warm salad bowl.

Grain Bowl!
Grain Bowl!

I ate my late lunch with E before we continued on with our work day.

When Saturday rolled around, I first drove to Sprouts after a morning run to pick up a snack. I’ve been on a GoMacro bar kick lately (my latest bar obsession), and Sprouts carries their Everlasting Joy flavor, the proceeds of which go to help the homeless.

GoMacro Everlasting Joy
GoMacro Everlasting Joy

I love their chocolate chip/nut butter flavors, so this was an instant favorite of mine. I mean, coconut flakes added to either of those types of flavors can only make it better.

I worked in lab for some of the morning, and since E was also finishing up some stuff, we finished around noon and walked over to where I parked the car to drive off to lunch.

She suggested earlier in the week that we both share a Turkish Breakfast at Mama’s Secret, a cozy, Turkish establishment very close to Beverly Connection.

Anyone got $1,000 for breakfast??
Anyone got $1,000 for breakfast??

Maybe if we combined a good chunk of our monthly income, we could have split the $1,000 pancakes…but we weren’t feeling too rich that day, haha!

What we could afford vs. what we couldn't
What we could afford vs. what we couldn’t

Nah, the Turkish Breakfast and cheese-stuffed flatbread not only sounded affordable, but well-rounded and filling for two people.

The Turkish breakfast was served with an assortment of cheeses, veggies, turkey slices (that we left alone), and flatbread. The sauces/dips were filled in cups and included hummus, tahini, honey, jam, nutella, and a ricotta-looking cheese curd.

TURKISH BREAKFAST
TURKISH BREAKFAST

And of course we had some warm tea…

The cheese-stuffed flatbread was my favorite, even though it wasn’t part of the breakfast platter. It came out already cut out in small portions so it was easy to split.

One of the cheese-stuffed flatbreads they offered. I believe ours was spiced with parsley and basil.
One of the cheese-stuffed flatbreads they offered. I believe ours was spiced with parsley and basil.

I had no idea that these cheese-filled flatbreads were a staple of Turkish cuisine, but my friend confirmed this foodie fact. I’d go as far as to say it’s one of my new favorite dishes now!

E was meeting some other friends for a movie-in-the-park event (one that I actually went to myself for a friend’s birthday last year…) so I dropped her off before heading home. I felt tired enough to go to sleep early, but I did have a night dessert before turning in.

That Snickerdoodle Dough
That Snickerdoodle Dough

Nada Moo’s Snickerdoodle is cream was soft and creamy, but the lack of dough pieces was a huge disappointment and sub-par in comparison to So Delicious’ offering. Ah well, they tried…

What your current food obsession?

Have you ever had a Turkish breakfast?

Mama's Secret Bakery & Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Birthday Weekend, Day 2

Birthday Weekend, Day 2

My friend stayed Saturday night, and since she planned to leave on Monday morning, we had another full day we could put to use for our enjoyment.

I let her sleep in while I completed a long run. The coach I’m working with had me transition to a forefoot form style of running, and I was definitely feeling it in my calves! My legs were wrecked for the rest of the day, but since we had a beach visit planned, I knew relaxation was part of the agenda for the day and my legs would get some much needed R&R.

We were off to Huntington Beach around noon, and with traffic, surprisingly managed to arrive around 2pm. Before heading the the beach, we decided to get a late lunch at Vegan Nirvana because we were super hungry.

Vegan Nirvana
Vegan Nirvana

From the outside, VN looked like an unassuming strip mall restaurant…

Stepped into the blue zone...
Stepped into the blue zone…

…but on the inside, the walls were painted a deep blue and had a strong cooling effect. There wasn’t too much seating and the walkways were narrow, and I think the management was confused on whether they wanted the interior to give off a oceanic or cosmic vibe.

Spaceships…or sharks…or both?

We had to wait for about fifteen minutes before getting a table, but my friend and I were able to look at the menu beforehand and decide on what we wanted. I knew from the get-go that their Ultimate Liberation dish was their star entree. It was a vegan fish tacos dish that was described to be an entree of fish-free fillet tacos topped with cabbage, pico de gallo, cilantro, and Chipotle sauce in corn tortillas.

Menu
Menu

My friend went for the chik’n tenders and that crispy dish sounded like a good choice to me.

They were super crispy!
They were super crispy!

We shared our entrees with each other, and agreed that our veggie meats overall were top notch quality. My friend even commented that the vegan fish tacos actually tasted like fish.

These fish-free tacos were delicious..
These fish-free tacos were delicious…

After lunch, we drove a short way to Huntington Beach. Several loops around a residential area later, we found parking. We were also fully prepared with some beach towels, but the closest we got to the water that day was a foot dip. Instead, we lounged on the sand and read/napped for about an hour.

Relaxation at its finest…

Huntington Beach!
Huntington Beach!

When it was approaching early evening, we decided to head back to the car and make our was more inland towards Fountain Valley: the Mecca of all those quirky dessert foodie trends you see on Instagram.

Birthdae Cake
Birthdae Cake

Birthdae Cake was our destination, and it was nestled unassumingly in a strip mall across from Albertsons.

It was a small establishment, and while there weren’t any lines out the door during our visit, the people that were there knew what they wanted and were content with what they got.

The wallpaper :P
The wallpaper πŸ˜›

I knew I had to get one of their iconic creations featured multiple times on the ‘gram. Their cookie dough ice cream sandwich was something I could not avoid getting.

COOKIE DOUGH ICE CREAM SANDWICH YES IT EXISTS.
COOKIE DOUGH ICE CREAM SANDWICH YES IT EXISTS.

My ice cream sandwich was birthday ice cream in-between two slabs of Cookie Monster cookie dough. The cookie dough slabs were sense, thick, and though they weren’t as flavorful as I imagined, they held up and didn’t fall apart/melt.

My friend got a simple ice cream cone, but we were both delighted by our choices. After our dessert for the day, we drove back to LA and spent the rest of the evening relaxing at home.

My friend dropped me off in lab the next morning before heading back on her way to Santa Cruz. Her visit only emphasized how fun and social this summer has been so far for me!

Did Summer 2017 fare well for you?

Vegan Nirvana Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Birthday and The Rockwell

Birthday and The Rockwell

In the days leading up to my birthday last year, I was under what seemed like insurmountable stress, and getting away from everything was more than necessary on my birthday. My 24th was a fun one thanks to the thoughtfulness of my Dad, sister, and friend who went out of their way to give me company when I felt so lonely and was running on fumes…

This year was the first time I celebrated my actual birthday with no close family nearby. But I didn’t mind, because the day felt like any other day, other than the fact I turned a quarter of a century years old πŸ˜›

It started with a short run, specifically a speed workout, and from there, I was off to lab.

In lab, E surprised me with a gift (a Turkish tea set!) and after getting some work done in the morning, she and another one of my lab mates joined me for lunch. They had cake ready and thawed when we came back to the office, and we spent some more time chatting over cake.

I managed to get some more work done in the afternoon, but things slowed down around 5. I asked E if she wanted to join me for dinner at The Rockwell in Los Feliz, since I had been asked if I could come review their summer menu. Being able to set up the visit on my birthday was definitely a plus πŸ™‚

We took the metro over to Los Feliz since leaving to get the car and then driving through traffic didn’t seem like the best idea. When we got off at Vermont and Sunset however, we were greeted by extremely humid weather and…rain?! LA was acting crazy!

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We entered through the stage/club side first, and thought it was strange that a restaurant could be so dark. 

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Luckily, we had the sense to walk around the building and find the restaurant entrance.

The Rockwell, Los Feliz
The Rockwell, Los Feliz

We were greeted by some wait staff who at first didn’t know about the review visit, but we were able to grab some seats near the back, in a cozy little booth with a earthy-looking theme.

Getting cozy!
Getting cozy!

We were given the menu and took some time to figure out what sounded best. The skillet cauliflower ‘n’ cheese initially caught my eye, but E was eyeing it too, so I thought I’d get something different so we could share and try a variety of items.

E also got the RW Quinoa Burger (After figuring out that RW stands for Rockwell, haha), and I ended up choosing one of their wood stone flatbreads, the forest mushroom to be exact.

We were able to put in our order, and we didn’t have to wait too long for our food to arrive. In the meantime, we met The Rockwell’s owner/manager, and sipped on some cold glasses of water.

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We were amazed by how big the portions were when everything came out. And despite the muggy weather outside, we welcomed the warmth radiating from the food and couldn’t wait to dig in.

RW QUINOA BURGER ~ black bean, onion, sun-dried tomato, vegan mango chutney aioli
RW QUINOA BURGER ~ black bean, onion, sun-dried tomato, vegan mango chutney aioli

E wasn’t able to finish her burger, but she was ecstatic to find such a generous portion of avocado laid out so finely on her crisp quinoa patty.

My woostone flatbread was composed of wild mushrooms, leeks, white sauce, and truffle oil. It actually reminded me of the pizza I had at Pizza Studio a couple months ago, but the flatbread crust of this pizza had an intriguing texture. It was perfectly crisp on the outside, and pliable and chewy on the inside. Birthday calories obviously don’t count, and I had no problem getting through all of it πŸ˜›

FOREST MUSHROOM WOODSTONE FLATBREAD ~ WILD MUSHROOMS, LEEK, WHITE SAUCE & TRUFFLE OIL
FOREST MUSHROOM WOODSTONE FLATBREAD ~ WILD MUSHROOMS, LEEK, WHITE SAUCE & TRUFFLE OIL

I had some of E’s cauliflower ‘n’ cheese, which was described as a dish of multi-colored florets coated with golden panko crust and covered in cheese. It definitely wasn’t skimping on the cheese, and even though it’s an item under their “shareables”, it could easily be a rich entree if you so choose!

SKILLET CAULIFLOWER β€œN” CHEESE ~ purple, yellow, white florets with golden panko crust
SKILLET CAULIFLOWER β€œN” CHEESE ~ purple, yellow, white florets with golden panko crust

For the amount of food we got, and the quality, the cost was understandable and not too expensive. We had our meal covered, but the price range is certainly not out of reach if you are looking for a cozy, patio-style restaurant with shareable, bar food appetizers and classic entrees with a fresh, Californian (more like Hollywood-inspired) twist. They also hold shows throughout the month, the tickets to which are sold separately from dining in at the restaurant.

E and I took the train back, and I made it home close to 10pm. It was a busy, long birthday, but for what I did and who I surrounded myself with, I think I welcomed my 25th year the happiest way I could.

Rockwell Table & Stage Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Finally!

Finally!

I had no trouble getting back into my routine after returning from Las Vegas, but one piece of news threw me for a loop.

Freebies from the IDEA/BlogFest Expo! An RX Bar in Chocolate Chip flavor! Too much nuts IMO, but not too shabby of a flavor.
Freebies from the IDEA/BlogFest Expo! An RX Bar in Chocolate Chip flavor! Too much nuts IMO, but not too shabby of a flavor.

One of my undergraduate assistants informed me that the week would be his last, even though he originally had plans to stay and help me out for a longer period of time.

A new-to-me Trader Joe's find I picked up that week---
A new-to-me Trader Joe’s find I picked up that week—Greek Whole Milk Yogurt (Avocado Citrus) mixed with peanut powder. It fueled me through a 12hr day x-x

Even though his change of plans was a disappointment, he still came in over the weekend, and so at least I had one solid weekend free from the constraints of lab. I definitely took advantage of this.

Another cool freebie! La Colombe Coconut and Vanilla coffee...the coconut flavor was pleasantly surprising in taste, like a splash of coconut water was added to some iced cream coffee!!
Another cool freebie! La Colombe Coconut and Vanilla coffee…the coconut flavor was pleasantly surprising in taste, like a splash of coconut water was added to some iced cream coffee!!
 
I was able to take the car out to Encino, and from Santa Monica it was an (almost) easy drive up the 405. I was also able to avoid paying for street parking by finding a neighborhood to park at and from there walk over. 
 
Veggie Grill, Encino
Veggie Grill, Encino
 
Veggie Grill was my destination since they sent me a $5 off birthday coupon that I couldn’t resist… 
 
Mondo Nachos, Veggie Grill (Encino)
Mondo Nachos, Veggie Grill (Encino)
 
…and the dish I couldn’t avoid ordering, despite having it before AND the fact that their summer menu had a mouth-watering array of options. A plate of Mondo Nachos sounded just perfect at the time. 
 
Compared to the plate I had at the WeHo location more than a year ago, I felt like it lacked a lot of guac and soy crumbles (they replaced it with grilled chik’n this time around). This was more of an observation than a complaint, however. I also brought my laptop and did some work at the restaurant for a few hours after eating. I guess it’s more “normal” to set up shop like that at a Starbucks or a cafe,but Veggie Grill had a jammin’ playlist so I wasn’t too pressured to get up and leave! 
 
I headed out a little after 1 and my next stop was in Grocery Outlet in Burbank. I inevitably had to face traffic, and it took me almost thirty minutes to get from Encino to Burbank. 
 
Burbank Grocery Outlet
Burbank Grocery Outlet
 
When I did arrive however, I was ecstatic to finally be stepping into one of GO’s newer So Cal locations. Ah, it had been too long! 
 
I made out with a week’s worth of food with plenty of change to spare, so it only made sense to drive by Glendale and finally get me some Yoga-Urt! They had been on my radar for quite some time now, and I’ve actually been following them on Instagram since their opening two years ago in 2015! Getting there by public transit always posed a challenge, but with a car handy it’s really not that impossible to get to. 
 
__yoga-urt__
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The shop is very small, with a few patio chairs and tables in the front. There’s also a huge blackboard wall near the entrance, the contents of which are frequently changing. 
 
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They offered a lot on their menu, but their flavors of soft serve were limited for the day.

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A turmeric/gold rose flavor sounded unique, and was listed as one of their offered flavors, but unfortunately not on the day I visited.

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A small cup of froyo with one topping proved to be pricey (~$6!), but since it was vegan-friendly and a hand-crafted kind of place, I thought it was a worthy treat to splurge on. I ended up going for the Peanut Butter Prana topped with dried mulberries.

PBP & Dried Mulberries
PBP & Dried Mulberries

I enjoyed my cup outside, and marveled at how thick the soft serve was. It was like those So Delicious ice creams I rave about, except smoother and creamier. The mulberries added some varied crunch, but to be honest they weren’t a vital component.

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After spending the day driving and eating through North LA, I made the drive back home, and spent the remainder of the evening napping and catching up on some work. I was squeezing every minute out of this “free” weekend, because who know when my next one will be!

A new Nuts 'n More flavor for me to try. I picked it up from the Vitamin Shoppe near the Veggie Grill in Encino. Definitely found it more blanaced in the oil-to-butter ratio. The vanilla flavor was mixed throughout, and it didn't have those crystalized sugar pieces at the bottom like I observed with Cookie Butter.
A new Nuts ‘n More flavor for me to try. I picked it up from the Vitamin Shoppe near the Veggie Grill in Encino. Definitely found it more balanced in the oil-to-butter ratio. The white chocolate flavor was mixed throughout, and it didn’t have those crystallized sugar pieces at the bottom like I observed with Cookie Butter.
 
 Is there something you finally got done recently?

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

4th of July What?

4th of July What?

For me, 4th of July weekend was non-existent. I was in lab every single day that weekend, two of which were spent as over-nighters due to the nature of the experiments I was running. It was exhausting, but I felt so productive and accomplished by the end of it…and when I saw co-workers walking in on July 5th looking super depressed, haha!

The weekend after, I still had to go into lab but lunch in downtown with E was a given. I had an eye appointment I had to attend to first, but after that, E and I walked into the depths of downtown—under the hot LA sub—looking for Two Boots Pizza. We were covered in sweat by the time we saw the small stand by an old-style theater and Urban Outfitters.

Two Boots, DTLA
Two Boots, DTLA

One thing that intrigued me about this place is how they have a lengthy line-up of some veggie/vegan pizza options! The green-bordered menu had E and I excited to dig into a late lunch.

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Despite the long list of pizza options, the guy behind the counter disappointed us by saying the only flavors available that day were displayed through the front window.

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In that case, we both ordered a slice of the Night Tripper. She got another spicy slice while I got the veggie-topped V for Vegan.

β™₯ Night Tripper & V for Vegan β™₯
β™₯ Night Tripper & V for Vegan β™₯

We sat at some stools next to the little stall and munched on our slices. The Night Tripper was indeed a spicy one with a soft layer of cheese and basil drizzle. V for Vegan was milder in comparison, but put artichoke hearts on anything and it just takes it to the next level.

After talking for a bit, we headed back to catch the train and from there I headed home. I stopped by Ralph’s to get a pint for the night—this time a new So Delicious flavor to try: Dark Chocolate Truffle.

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And…despite wanting to love it, the DCT cashew milk ice cream just wasn’t those flavors I fell in love with. Snickerdoodle, Salted Caramel Cluster, and Cookie Dough had me feeling differently, but I guess this flavor is perhaps best suited for a vegan who loves her chocolate!

On Sunday, I went out for a 14 mile run before heading to lab. Since San Diego, I’ve just been trying to maintain my weekly mileage, since I plan to start fall marathon training (back with a coach) in August. July seems to be the perfect month to be a little lax with training…since “slow” times and “sluggish efforts” can always be blamed on the heat πŸ˜‰

After the run, I hurried to lab just to get my errands out of the way. With my sister out of the state for the next couple weeks, I’m car-sitting her automobile and so I was able to conveniently drive over to lab that morning. I finished up by early afternoon, and so E and I took the car out to Melrose to dine at Fratelli Cafe. Of course, we parked too soon at La Brea since E thought she knew where the restaurant was. We were off by a couple blocks, and so we literally ended up having a warm-up walk before eating, haha!

Fratelli on Melrose
Fratelli on Melrose

When we entered the restaurant, we could tell the place was a local favorite based on the crowds, but getting the attention of the wait staff proved to be difficult. We weren’t sure if we had to wait to be seated, or seat ourselves, but we eventually figured out that we order first and then find a place to sit. There weren’t enough menus at the front where we had to order, and so E and I waited awkwardly behind a group of three who had all three menus…

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When we did get our chance to order, I ordered the Huevos Rancheros off the breakfast menu while E went for a veggie sandwich and chips. There was no difference sitting inside versus outside since there was no evidence of an A/C, so we found a table outside.

It took a while for our food to arrive, and the dishes that passed us in the meantime were a real tease for our exhausted, overheated bodies. When our plates did come though, I took a moment to admire the layers of my brunch plate.

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I had a well-balanced, hearty plate in front of me, if I do say so myself…

"I've been craving eggs 🍳 like crazy lately, so I wasn't surprised that I ended up getting Huevos Rancheros for a late lunch on Sunday at Fratelli Cafe with the lab bestie. Besides getting food in our systems, it didn't make sense to do anything else because of the heat wave πŸ”₯πŸ”₯πŸ”₯ and after dropping her off at home, I was knocked out 😴 by 7:30pm. The next thing I know, I wake up and it's pitch black at 9pm πŸ˜±πŸ˜‚. I guess I must have been really tired in addition to being really hungry πŸ˜…. Working through the Fourth of July holiday weekend does that to you I guess πŸ€·πŸ½β€β™€οΈ πŸ˜‰ #PhDStudentLife"
“I’ve been craving eggs 🍳 like crazy lately, so I wasn’t surprised that I ended up getting Huevos Rancheros for a late lunch on Sunday at Fratelli Cafe with the lab bestie. Besides getting food in our systems, it didn’t make sense to do anything else because of the heat wave πŸ”₯πŸ”₯πŸ”₯ and after dropping her off at home, I was knocked out 😴 by 7:30pm. The next thing I know, I wake up and it’s pitch black at 9pm πŸ˜±πŸ˜‚. I guess I must have been really tired in addition to being really hungry πŸ˜…. Working through the Fourth of July holiday weekend does that to you I guess πŸ€·πŸ½β€β™€οΈ πŸ˜‰ #PhDStudentLife”

We finished our late lunch by 4pm, and while the sun was still high in the sky and we could have easily done something else thanks to the convenience of a car, we decided to call it a day since it was too hot. I dropped E off at home before doing some grocery shopping, and on the way, finally picked up a jar of Nuts’n More to try.

Nuts'n More Cookie Butter High Protein Spread
Nuts’n More Cookie Butter High Protein Spread

In comparison to D’s Naturals, I found that the oils mix much more evenly throughout the jar so that the bottom isn’t a flaky, dry paste. There were some tiny, crystallized sugar pieces in the mix too, but the cookie butter flavor was still detectable.

My 4th of July “holiday weekend” was something I missed out on, but I’d say I do a pretty decent job of finding the time to give myself a break, even if it doesn’t coincide with the rest of the world’s! It also helps to have a colleague/friend who pretty much lives at work just as much as you do. At this rate, with all of the places I drag her out to eat at, E will probably become just as much of a foodie as I am!

Did you have a long 4th of July holiday weekend, or just a day or two off?

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

Before Her Mid-Summer Departure

Before Her Mid-Summer Departure

In the second week my sister stayed with me, we ate out for dinner on most nights since my landlords were back. On that Monday night, we went out to dinner with my lab bestie E, at Tocaya in downtown SaMo.

Tocaya, Downtown Santa Monica
Tocaya, Downtown Santa Monica

E and I both had long, exhausting days, and were pretty much falling asleep on the train when on our way to meet my sister. My sister was waiting for us in her car, and from there it was an easy drive.

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For a Monday night, the restaurant had a large crowd. We didn’t have to wait too long to order though. We all got bowls, with mine being the Venice Beach Bowl. I just went with the “chef’s suggestion” as listed on the menu, and had the bowl with roasted cauliflower, sweet potato, lentils, garbanzo beans, pickled onions, cilantro-curry salsa, vegan picadillo (pea-based protein) & vegan chipotle jack.

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We found a table by the wall, and sat there pretty quiet until our food came. Once we had food in our bellies, we were able to keep a conversation going! It was a fun evening out, and since going out to eat on weeknights is a rare occurrence for me, I found it to be especially enjoyable. We went back towards DTLA to drop E off at home, and then returned back to my place.

The rest of the week was spent getting back into the work grind, with my sister leaving that Thursday morning to have enough time to see our friend who was graduating. She was gone for two weeks, but came back for one night at the end of the month since she was leaving for Oklahoma to spend some time with my parents.

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For that night, we ate at Tender Greens, and after hearing me talk about the exquisite Falafel Plate I had at the Culver City location a few months back, she was excited to try it for herself. Although, her plate didn’t exactly match what I had.

Oddball cartoons
Oddball cartoons

This time around, I had the Falafel Salad. But it was honestly nothing to be over the moon about. The falafel was too dry, and the tahini sauce was more of a decoration than something to dip into.

Falafel Salad
Falafel Salad

My sister liked her plate though. She didn’t’ have the dollop of green hummus I had previously, but she had her mashed potatoes so she was perfectly content.

Falafel Plate
Falafel Plate

I drove her to the airport early the next morning, and then drove back home to park the car and head to lab. The following weeks were crazy work-wise, but now as I write this, it’s a little less hectic now.

Words to remember...
Words to remember…

 

I’ve still got tons to do (when is that going to change haha), but that doesn’t mean the weekends are completely non-existent πŸ˜‰

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

Race Recap – 30th Rock β€˜n’ Roll San DiegoΒ Marathon

Race Recap – 30th Rock β€˜n’ Roll San DiegoΒ Marathon

On June 4th, just a few days after returning from our Europe trip, I ran my fourth marathon in San Diego. I was breaking my “just running LA” streak with this race, and it was also just about two months after I ran LA this year.

I woke up around 4am and had enough time to put on my race gear, and call for an Uber right outside where my sister and I were staying for our Airbnb. Since I called for one early enough, there wasn’t any issue with traffic so it was an easy drive to the race start at Balboa Park.

From where I was dropped off, I followed other runners to the exact location of bag check, restrooms, and the starting line. At that moment, I realized I made the mistake of forgetting my race belt…so I had to improvise πŸ˜›

Sometimes you have to improvise...
Sometimes you have to improvise…

I literally pinned a ziploc bag to the side of my shirt and stuffed my Clif Shot Bloks and some freebie bars from the expo into it, and it actually managed to hold up for the entire race, haha!

The race start was at 6am, so I had some time to kill. I took my stretching, and after checking in my bag, found my spot at the start line. I was shooting for a 3:40 (around 8:23/mi pace) based on how my training the past two months had fared, and after talking with my coach the day before, we thought it was a reasonable and good goal to shoot for. Luckily they had pacers, and I made sure to stay glued to mine.

The first few miles leaving Balboa Park and through North Park seemed to be alright. I felt like the pace was sustainable, I felt properly fueled, and I tried to only drink to thirst. As we made our way through Normal Heights, I felt like I was transported back to the Silver Lake/Hollywood portion of the LA Marathon. There was a good crowd turn-out throughout this section of the race, but I managed to stay focused and stay within a few steps behind my pacer, so I mostly tuned out what was occurring in my surroundings.

I started fueling with one shot blok around mile 5, and the plan was to refuel every 5 miles. Miles 10-13 felt slightly harder to push through since I started to have an unsettling feeling in my stomach. Just after approaching Old Town, I had to stop and use the first porta-potty that I saw. I never had to stop mid-race (at least for a half or full marathon) to use the restroom, so I was slightly anxious about how it would cut into my time. Unfortunately, I knew a 3:40 would not be possible this time around since my group was already way ahead by the time I was back on the course. I did try to speed up around mile 15 as we made our way to Mission Bay, but it didn’t help much.

It was disappointing knowing that I wouldn’t make my goal time for this race, as well as having to finish without external support. And honestly from that point on, it seemed like the course got much more difficult. There were hills, less crowds, and a mundane, mind-numbing stretch of the last portion of the race on Highway 163. I was certainly having my doubts about making sure I was sub 4:00 at this point, let alone finishing. I began feeling an intense sense of fatigue around mile 18 that pressed on until about mile 24.

I managed to recover and pick up my pace once we were back on city streets, and wrapping around Balboa Park again. It was kind of funny because the last few yards of the finish made me remember of a weekend trip my sister and I took to San Diego a little under two years ago. On the way back to where my sister was picking me up, I even passed the hotel we stayed at!

After passing under the finish line arch, we were handed water bottles and our finisher medals. I was disappointed by the fact that no mylar blankets were being handed out, and I honestly felt like I needed one. I felt slightly cold, shaky, mild nausea, and every step I took felt like I was carrying a 1,000 pound load on my back and my muscles were taking the beating. It was my first time feeling such intense fatigue after a race…my past races usually brought on powerful soreness the day after, but I usually felt okay immediately after a race.

Fancy-looking medal but what's the point if you're shivering?
Fancy-looking medal but what’s the point if you’re shivering?

They did give free jackets to the marathon runners though. Many of the half marathoners were confused/upset as to why they couldn’t get one, and while I could see that they felt left out, I would have been perfectly content is they gave everyone mylar blankets at the end. That should be a mandatory requirement at marathons!

I wanted to sit down but every part of my body ached. Ugh, probably the worst I've ever felt after a race...
I wanted to sit down but every part of my body ached. Ugh, probably the worst I’ve ever felt after a race…

After making my way over to where my sister was parked, we planned to get lunch somewhere in SD, but since the race closures were still active, it was hard to navigate without coming across a roadblock. So we ended up driving north to Santa Ana, after I thought about some possible restaurants I’ve been wanting to visit in the OC. GD Bro Burger was one of them, it was open, and crowds were not to be seen.

GD Bro Burger
GD Bro Burger

The wall decor and signage was very interesting—very much in tune with current pop culture and popular slang. And you can’t have burgers without sports playing on a TV hanging from the wall, so that was obviously there as well, haha.

My sister got herself their vegan burger, but it didn’t come with their classic hot red-colored bun. Rather, it was a stiff gluten-free bun that my sister had to resist from spitting out. She did like her two crispy mozzarella sticks though.

herd
“A not-so-delicious veggie burger”

I got the pizza fries sans pepperoni, and man, did they not skimp on the cheese.

_pizza_fries
All the cheese, some marinara, and very skinny fries.

I reached my dairy quota for the month from that tray alone.

When we got back home, my sister and I quickly got into couch potato mode. I slept earlier because the next day would be my first day back to work after two weeks of vacation. Surprisingly, I felt minimal fatigue and soreness the next day…it was as if I never ran the day before! It was very bizarre cause I thought I would be limping around with DOMS, but I was walking just fine. I guess the training I had in the past two months really impacted my endurance and muscle recovery.

I think I’ll be passing on this race in the future though. The course wasn’t as exciting as LA’s, and the experiences I had during the race didn’t leave me feeling my best. BUT, I did still maintain a sub-4:00 pace, and I came out injury-free! That’s something worth celebrating πŸ™‚

Have you ever had to do anything physically strenuous right after traveling/when you were feeling jet-lagged?

GD Bro Burger Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Parisian Shock

Parisian Shock

Oh France, oh Paris. Instead of falling in love with what is supposedly the romantic city on Earth, I left exasperated, exhausted, and not to thrilled about our experience there.

Leaving London
Leaving London

I wasn’t at my best physically, since the soreness I first experienced in Wales was sticking around…along with bloating and major water retention. One thing I’ve always hated about traveling internationally is how it messes up with my hormonal/monthly cycle, and these PMS-like symptoms didn’t help me feel eager about wanting to continue our travels to France.

The Eurostar train ride was about three hours, and it was time I used to get some sleep. We reached Gare du Nord, the beginning of our troubles, around noon Paris time.

We spent a while scrambling to find the “left luggage” department so we could drop off two of our larger suitcases so we wouldn’t have to lug them around for three days. Then we stood in front of the Metro ticket station, clueless as to what was the best deal. We ended up getting a little book of tickets (more like stubs…) and caught a train heading to BrΓ©guet Sabin, where our Airbnb was located.

Gare du Nord --- the scene of our unfortunate encounter
Gare du Nord — the scene of our unfortunate encounter

We waited at the station, minding our own business, but then I remembered something about pickpockets being notorious in Paris. I reminded my sister quietly so as not to bring attention to ourselves.

When the train came, I was hesitant to get on because it seemed like a lot of people were getting inside…and there were a group of guys standing near the door who were eyeing us and not going out of their way to make room. One of them offered to help my sister up and I was like “Oh no…“.

After that, my sister said she felt someone tug at her bag strap but it was a woman sitting behind her. We later found out the woman tugged on my sister’s bag in order to prevent them from pickpocketing her. Then my Dad who was trying to sit down lost his balance because some of the guys were getting to close to him. He ended up falling on another guy and saying, “Sorry mate…”. It’s something we laugh at now, but the entire time I was thinking why on Earth did we get on this train??

One of the guys that originally surrounded my Dad before the fall “helped” him up and tapped on a hand rail on the side, suggesting that my Dad hold onto it…most likely so they could reach into his pockets. My Dad didn’t oblige, and so we were able to thwart our first pickpocket encounter.

My sister was somewhat shaken up by the experience, but she was thankful for that woman’s help. She ended up calling her out French angel who we couldn’t even say “merci” to because we were at a loss for words, haha!

We got off at our stop in one piece after that shocking experience. Our Airbnb was a ten minute walk away, and walking along those Parisian streets to get there was far from romantic.

Yes, we passed cute cafes and shops, but overall the environment wasn't overly welcoming...
Yes, we passed cute cafes and shops, but overall the environment wasn’t overly welcoming…

 

The roads were dusty, every other person had a cloud of cigarette smoke around them, and I got the vibe from my surroundings that you either fit in here or you didn’t, and if you didn’t you were ignored. Yeah, I get it that tourists can be annoying but I knew from then on that Paris was not going to be a welcoming city.

This unassuming blue door did not disclose the pain that we would endure just to get to our flat.
This unassuming blue door did not disclose the pain that we would endure just to get to our flat.

Our flat was six floors up, and I definitely underestimated the ascent even though our host warned us via message. Climbing up after a long morning of travel and with luggage was a challenge to say the least. We were sweating bullets by the time we reached the top.

We were semi-joking about wanting to stay in the flat for the remainder of the trip, but we were able to take some time to calm down and cool off to decide to walk to lunch. I heard about a cute vegan burger place in a SAFE neighborhood, and we used the opportunity to see what Paris was like on foot.

Eyeing that French architecture
Eyeing that French architecture

For lunch, we made it to Hank Burger, an all-vegan burger place that was built within what seemed to be an old loft.

Hank Vegan Burger
Hank Vegan Burger

We ordered downstairs and then climbed up to the top floor where wooden booths were covered in soft blankets and pillows. The chairs and other furniture were tiny though!

<3
β™₯

Our burgers came with special sauces depending on what type of burger we got. The tray papers were adorable too.

My burger had a fig-based sauce (left-most)
My burger had a fig-based sauce (left-most)
If I took French high school, maybe this could have been useful now as a worksheet :P
If I took French high school, maybe this could have been useful now as a worksheet πŸ˜›

The burgers were enough to make us feel more calm and comfortable with our surroundings. After lunch, we had enough fuel to walk back towards the flat, but not without stopping by Bastille which was nearby.

Bastille
Bastille

 

We also stopped by flower garden, but the heat was getting to us so we slowly made our way back eventually. I also still felt incredibly sore and bloated so going back and resting up sounded perfect.

Short walk around some nearby gardens and park.
Short walk around some nearby gardens and park

We stopped at a local grocery store on the way home so we could pick up some snackables to have for “dinner”. The remainder of the evening was spent on the couch relaxing while French dubs of American tv shows played in the background.

We weren't like the locals who were out that night waiting in anticipation for something...
We weren’t like the locals who were out that night waiting in anticipation for something…

I got one appreciated the extra rest that evening because the next day was just as eventful…

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
-
-

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!

Off to Graduation!

Off to Graduation!

The first of my long series of travel posts—starting off with the days of my sister’s graduation weekend, and then the good stuff from Europe πŸ™‚ ! Enjoy!!

Graduation weekend came upon me so quickly! I still have at least two years to go for my PhD, but my sister is finally done with undergrad!

I was working till the last minute on Thursday afternoon before leaving for my two weeks off. My dad picked me up from campus, and the plan was for both of us to drive up to Fresno to see my sister and possibly help her with packing.

Everytable
Everytable

Before hitting the road, I introduced E to my Dad and we had lunch at a small but convenient place called a Everytable. I had been wanting to check it out for a while, and since we were running short on time trying to drive up to Fresno, it seemed like a good choice.

l
Grab a bowl,
sit down, and eat!

I was expecting more than salad bowls to be offered, and was slightly disappointed not to see some noodle or rice salads in the display. But for what I did choose (Kale Caesar Salad), the taste and texture wasn’t too bad! My salad came with Parmesan crisps to be used as a topping, and the additional crunch was a perfect touch.

Pretty good salad...
Pretty good salad…

We left around 2pm after dropping E back in lab. The three hour drive up wasn’t too hectic. We were battling LA traffic of course, at least until Santa Clarita, but once we were on the road time seemed to fly by. We stopped for coffee midway, and made it to Fresno by 6. My Dad and I were staying in an Airbnb for the night and checked in there first.

Before heading out to dinner, we thought to check in on my sister. She had plans with some friends that night but we were able to meet with her briefly and helped with some clean-up amidst her packing “mess”.

For dinner, we headed out to a place called Tofas Grill, since it was conveniently right next to a Wal-Mart. We planned to stop there to pick up some gift and greeting cards.

Tofas in Fresno
Tofas in Fresno

They offered a ton on their menu, but the only decent vegetarian option was a ginormous vegetarian plate.

Lots written down but not really much to offer...
Lots written down but not really much to offer…
They did have ample seating though!
They did have ample seating though!

The falafel was too dry for my liking though…

Falafel, salads, hummus, pita...the usual.
Falafel, salads, hummus, pita…the usual.
Looks good and appetizing, but the falafel was too dry...
Looks good and appetizing, but the falafel was too dry…

At least the pita was soft and made up for it? Can’t deny that it was a filling dish though!

After stopping by Wal-Mart for some gift cards and greeting cards, my Dad and I came back to our Airbnb and I went to sleep right away. I had to get in my last long run before my marathon in San Diego on June 4th, and it was all about fitting it in into this time of excitement and change!

Do you feel mostly excited or nervous before “good” change is about to happen?

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

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