Family Reunion

Family Reunion

Even though I spent a blissful weekend in south OC with the sis, I could NOT avoid returning only a few days later, because Dad was in town.

I immediately got myself over to Union Station on a Tuesday evening when I was able to leave lab for the day. I was not looking forward to the long weeknight train ride (daily commuters, I feel ya…), but I was able to get off at an earlier stop in Irvine, where my Dad was waiting for me.

After a big hug, we drove for a short while to Mission Viejo to have dinner with my sis. She was coming off a long day of classes so we picked a local, veggie-friendly place so she wouldn’t have to drive too far.

Barbonzai, Mission Viejo
Barbonzai, Mission Viejo

We got to Barbonzai earlier than she did, but she came a few minutes after us, after figuring out the strip mall parking lot.

Thought this poster was adorable <3
Thought this poster was adorable <3

Barbonzai had a small staff, but one of the employees had a really bubbly personality and was super helpful in explaining the menu to us. At the end, we decided to get some tabouli (Dad’s fave) as a starter. My sis and Dad got wraps, and I got a falafel bowl with their yellow falafel.

Tabouli // sister's spicy red falafel
Tabouli // sister’s spicy red falafel

My sis and I were pretty exhausted from each of our long days, and so we had to get some food in us first before we could have a nice conversation with Dad. Once I took a couple bites of my yellow falafel bowl, I felt a little bit more chatty 🙂

Yellow Falafel ~ made with the delicious flavors of curry and coconut! Served with tomatoes, parsley, radish, pickles and our unique turmeric tahini sauce.
Yellow Falafel ~ made with the delicious flavors of curry and coconut! Served with tomatoes, parsley, radish, pickles and our unique turmeric tahini sauce.

Barbonzai closes at 8pm on weekdays, and while we didn’t want to hold up the staff with accommodating us, we tried to get as much time in all-together with the three of us before having to leave. We ended up stopping by Albertson’s which was across the way, and got some night snacks/morning munchables. My sis and I spotted the new Breyer’s low cal pints, and since they didn’t have Halo Top (I got my sister hooked, lol), I persuaded her to try the Breyer’s chocolate version while I got cookies and cream.

She took hers to go, and after saying goodbye to my Dad and I, drove back home since she had another long day the next day. I left with my Dad, and was able to stay with him that night and the following night, just like old times. We stayed in a hotel in Mission Viejo, and as soon as we checked in I crashed. I did not want to leave—just chill, eat ice cream, and sleep.

This: nah. Don't waste your money on it.
This: nah. Don’t waste your money on it.

This “ice cream” though—a HUGE disappointment. It was literally ice, chalky, and a chore to get through. Much like the Ralph’s version of Halo Top I had a while back…

The next morning, I went for a short (but painful—oooh those hills!) run, and when I came back, my Dad prepped some coffee from me from the hotel. He was driving up to LA for the day, and so we were able to spend a good hour together in the car since he dropped me off in lab. He picked me up later in the day, and we spent another good hour and a half driving back to the OC. We may have spent most of the time we had together in the car, but at least it was time spent together.

My sister had a closing shift that day, so it was just the two of us having dinner. We decided on Lemonade in Irvine since my Dad liked their cafeteria-like set-up based on our visit to the Pasadena location a while ago.

Lemonade, Irvine
Lemonade, Irvine

It’s a bit frustrating that they have yet to introduce any veggie-friendly proteins, but their veggie sides are pretty flavorful…so it’s not like we had absolutely nothing to choose from when making a plate of five different sides.

Mouth-watering veggie sides
Mouth-watering veggie sides

There was a colorful array to choose from, but I think I did well with my plate:

❣

It had curried (crunchy!) cauliflower, soba noodles, a sweet potato and corn succotash, and cheese-sprinkled broccoli florets. Despite the extra layer of salt and whatever else added to make this taste so heavenly, it was a quite a nutrient-dense meal especially for its size!

❣

My Dad’s plate was no exception:

❣

His plate differed from mine with the slaw, tortellini and tomatoes, and gorgeous beet red salad.

Needless to say, our dinners hit the spot, and after eating, we were both pretty full and tired to do much else. The hotel had a working pool and jacuzzi, so I was able to put my legs in and just relax. It reminded me of the times when I used to live at home, and my Dad and I would end our gym sessions with some time spent relaxing in the jacuzzi. It’s now only a few years ago since then, but so much has changed…

I took the 7am train back to LA the next morning, with it being my final day being a “nomad” carrying things to-and-from the OC over a few consecutive days. I didn’t mind though—if going the extra mile meant extra time with family and being in a city I truly love, it’s all worth it right 😉 ?

❣

Do you prefer to save your relaxation time for the weekend, or try to have it spread out throughout the week?

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

Mission Viejo Escape

Mission Viejo Escape

Two weekends ago, I was gifted with the chance to spend a weekend with my sister in her Mission Viejo digs, as well as spend some time with Dad since he was going to be in town soon after for business.

I managed to have two of my undergrad assistants come in to take care of something for me over the weekend, so I would be able to make my visit an overnight one. I left on a Saturday afternoon, and arrived just as my sister was getting off work.

She picked me up from the Metrolink station, and from there, we hunted down dinner at Burger Boss.

Burger Boss, Mission Viejo
Burger Boss, Mission Viejo

My sister had been wanting to check it out, and we got the chance to do so since the location was close by. They actually have a number of locations around the OC. It also happened to be right next to a Creamistry, so you could guess what we had for dessert…

Putting our orders in was harder than it looked...
Putting our orders in was harder than it looked…

When we entered BB, we saw some LCD screens on the wall, as well as an order/paying counter wayyyy up at the front.  We decided to give the LCD screens a shot despite making a fool out of our orders—because the buttons were so hard to press, my sis ended up with four different kinds of cheeses on her veg burger and I ended up with two sauces in my burger bowl, haha!

Everything was aesthetically on point, no doubt about that.
Everything was aesthetically on point, no doubt about that.

I made sure put ALL THE VEGGIES AND FRUIT (pineapple, lol) in my burger bowl, on a bed of spinach. My sis’ burger was definitely not lacking in cheese.

Grilled pineapple and mushrooms <3
Grilled pineapple and mushrooms <3

Like I alluded to earlier in the post, we walked right next door to Creamistry after getting our fill of veggies and protein.

Saturday night at Creamistry, Mission Viejo
Saturday night at Creamistry, Mission Viejo

I was leaning towards ordering a nutella or speculoos flavored liquid nitrogen-based ice cream (per usual), but then my sister pointed out their Halloween special: black ice cream with cookie pieces. I was sold.

Of course, I had to top it off with mochi
Of course, I had to top it off with mochi

My sis, of course, had her beloved chocolate. We had our frozen treats inside instead of taking them to go. It was not surprising that we felt cold afterwards, haha.

My sister was adamant about making the next day a “study day”, since she had some exams coming up. I didn’t mind, since I had data to analyze anyways. The next morning, I met her at a Starbucks after a morning run. I had her bring my laptop and things over in the car, so it worked out perfectly 😛

We spent the morning working on our respective items, and when my sister suggested we get lunch, she didn’t have to tell me twice. To make things simple and local, we drove over to the Veggie Grill in Laguna Niguel.

Veggie Grill, Laguna Niguel
Veggie Grill, Laguna Niguel

I love how VG has seasonal menus—its makes my multiple visits to their various locations all the more worth it 😛

Fall '17 Menu
Fall ’17 Menu

This season’s menu seemed to offer a number of delicious-sounding options. I finally chose to get the Rustic Farm Bowl. My sis stuck to her fave chik’n ranch burger.

Rustic Farm Bowl -
Rustic Farm Bowl – farro, grilled mushrooms, roasted yams, braised cannellini beans, broccoli pesto, roasted tomatoes, red pepper sauce

The angles of the picture make it look like the bowl was a large one, but the contents were petite to my dismay. Still, it was quite filling! Just fibrous veggies doing their job I suppose…

Nature's protein-rich, starch-filled goods.
Nature’s protein-rich, starch-filled goods.

After lunch, we took a long afternoon nap and went out later in the evening to pick up some snacks to have at home so my sis could continue studying. Despite staying within my sister’s home turf and spending most of our time together at our laptops, it was a great weekend getaway for me. Mission Viejo is literally eye candy with its rolling hills and sunshine (although I will say it’s a runner’s nightmare—at least this runner’s nightmare, with all those hills!!)

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

October Degustabox Review ’17

October Degustabox Review ’17

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

First off, Happy (belated) Halloween! I’ve made the decision to not dress up as anything—just drop by a department Halloween party, and then head home. I know, I am such a partier I have no control 😛

With November here, and Thanksgiving (and my first FALL marathon) coming up, it’s time again for another Degustabox review!

October Degustabox
October Degustabox

Unlike last month’s box, October’s offerings were much more appealing to me. It contained old favorites, and new brands I’ve been meaning to try!

I was ecstatic to see a bag of Hippeas chickpea puffs thrown in. I first spotted them at Starbucks, and then I happened to pass by their warehouse near downtown Santa Monica since it’s right along the Expo Line! I was beyond ecstatic to try the new and local vegan-friendly alternative to cheese puffs.

Hippeas -
Hippeas – Vegan White Cheddar

These were beyond crazy delicious. They had a firm texture, a nice crisp crunch, and each puff was coated with just the right amount of vegan cheese flavoring.

Since it was a box arriving in time for candy’s famous holiday, it made sense that a bag of Cow Tales made a comeback. It’s always been a childhood favorite of mine, but Degustabox has partnered with them before in the past. I also noticed the new colorful, cartoon-y packaging.

Cow Tales Minis
Cow Tales Minis

Then there were two cups of original SunButter…I was certainly awestruck. Fortunately, I can have peanuts and foods with peanut-based ingredients, but I think I still prefer sunflower butter over peanut butter. It has a much smoother consistency in my opinion, while still keeping peanut butter-like thickness.

I had one cup serve an unconventional purpose: as a dip for plain Boboli pizza crust, which was also a featured product in this month’s box. Honestly, it was a pretty good combo!

Sunflower butter and pizza crust
SunButter cup and Boboli Original Mini Pizza Crust

I had the other cup scooped into a cottage cheese chocolate proyo bowl, which is something along the lines of what I’m normally used to as an after-dinner snack.

Just like old times
Just like old times

The Bush’s White Chili Beans contained “chicken base” as one of their ingredients, so I had to pass on trying it. I don’t see why it did though…I’m sure the recipe would have been just as good—if not better—without the addition of a meat product.

Does it have to have chicken in it?
Does it have to have chicken in it?

I was however able to try the Bush’s Kidney Beans in a Mild Chili Sauce, after thorough examination of the ingredients for any meat source. I initially thought about adding it to one of my crockpot dinners, but then I thought why not try it on its own? I warmed it up for lunch in lab one day, and it was definitely nourishing through its well-mixed flavors of ripe tomatoes, chili peppers and cumin. It had enough fiber to keep me satiated as I worked the rest of the afternoon.

Suitable for a lunch break.
Suitable for a lunch break.

The Quadratini Raspberry-Yoghurt wafer cubes were an interesting snackable. I normally don’t prefer wafers over other types of cookies and biscuits, but these wafers were certainly an exception. Each cube has four layers of raspberry-yoghurt flavored cream, sandwiched between mini crunchy wafer squares.

Quadratini
Quadratini Raspberry-Yoghurt Wafer Cubes

They definitely had a yogurt-like aftertaste, but that did not detract from their delicious taste.

Unlike other wafers I've had!
Unlike other wafers I’ve had!

When I saw a small cup of overnight oats, I was reminded of my early blogging days when overnight oats and OIAJ (oats in a jar) were super trendy. Now that brand name companies got a hold of this one-time, food-bloggers-only secret, I wasn’t surprised to find this container from Dave’s Naturals in this month’s box.

Dave's Naturals Overnight Oats - Apple Nut
Dave’s Naturals Overnight Oats – Apple Nut

This flavor had dried apple cubes, chia seeds, and dried oats. All I added was enough almond milk to soak the oats in, and after letting it sit in the fridge overnight, I pulled it out and it made for THE best stuck-in-lab-analyzing-data-all-morning snack.

The Welch’s Fruit ‘n Yogurt snacks were light, poppable, and had a creamy yogurt coating that worked well with the chewy cherry flavor. These were able to keep a gummy-like texture due to pectin. No gelatin was seen in sight, which was a mark of approval in my book!

Welch's Fruit 'n Yogurt Snacks
Welch’s Fruit ‘n Yogurt Snacks

I didn’t get a chance to try the two Kernal Season’s Popcorn Seasoning bottles (White Cheddar and Kettle Corn), since I gifted them to my sister, who is a greater consumer of popcorn than I’ll ever be, haha!

Which of these October Degustabox products would you try?

Being in Barcelona, Day 1

Being in Barcelona, Day 1

So, about Spain.

I’d have to say that the chance to go was definitely unexpected. Work-related business ultimately led me to this opportunity, and I’d go so far as to say that it was one of the best experiences of this year. I’d like to use my last recap post of the trip as a “personal reflection”, but I’m incredibly behind on recapping in general, so I’m just gonna get right to it!

I left for Barcelona on a Thursday morning, Cali time. It felt odd to not go into lab, but I quickly got into the traveler’s mindset when my Lyft came by to take me to the airport. I flew to Charlotte via American Airlines, and while this leg wasn’t so bad, I quickly grew to despise AA when flying out of Charlotte.

I was carrying a conference poster rolled up in a tall case, and every time I tried to secure it in an overhead compartment, it would promptly roll out. Passengers around me had no problem tapping my shoulder and pointing at my loose poster roll, but did anyone bother to help me out? Yeah-no.

When it fell out and the cap burst off and rolled under someone’s seat beyond my reach, I requested their help but no one would budge. I asked a stewardess to help, but she quickly proved herself to be one big female canine if you know what I mean…

Eventually a guy stood up, found the cap, and helped me secure the poster better. I thanked him but I still felt heated from the whole situation. At least I had eight or so hours to myself and to cool down…

I arrived in Barcelona at around 11am local time. I didn’t have a window seat, so I missed out on getting a sneak peak of the city, but my concern upon landing was how would I make it out to the city.

My first Airbnb was near a major transport hub, and my host recommended Intake Aerobus. But that’s when I encountered my first issue.

Hmm...should have been simple, but it became complicated quickly...
Hmm…should have been simple, but it became complicated quickly…

Lesson #1 – Always bring cash when traveling in Spain from another country.

I quickly learned that in order for me to be able to use a credit card overseas, at least at a ticket vendor machine, I needed to have a PIN associated with that car. Clueless me was puzzled about this when I attempted to purchase an Aerobus ticket. The ticketmaster ultimately came over, and after trying it for himself, he simply said “No.” and handed the card back to me.

Again, my concern was just making it out to the city in one piece, so I had to find a way. I next tried to purchase some Metro tickets at one of the automated kiosks. No luck there, since it once again asked for a PIN and I was stuck. Luckily, a woman who was supervising the area gave me the recommendation to get a HOLA BCN card at the counter, since I could purchase it with a credit card without providing a PIN.

That was a success, and it only cost me €14 for a 48hr pass! I immediately found the station out, and headed towards Plaça de Espãnya.

.
Plaça de Espãnya

I was staying at an Airbnb that was near the center of all things—it was close to a multi-story mall that was converted from a bull fighting arena, and there was just activity all-around.

The architecture of everything had me stop in my tracks...
The architecture of everything had me stop in my tracks…

I was in awe of everything around me…I did clutch on my backpack and suitcase tightly because I had read about pickpockets (and I wanted go avoid what I had experienced in Paris earlier this summer with my family), but as soon as I saw the Airbnb I was staying at, I became more relaxed.

I checked in easily, set my things aside, and immediately fell into a glorious nap! I woke up later that afternoon and talked to my Dad for a bit before deciding that I should at least go for a walk to get rid of the grogginess. It was cold and rainy outside, and I probably should have packed a jacket, but I made do and walked north in the direction of Plaça de Cataunya.

Rainy day in Barcelona
Rainy day in Barcelona

I walked by an array of shops, markets, paella cafes, and coffee cafes, but what blue me away was how clean the streets were. Compared to the polluted streets of London and dusty roads of Paris, Barcelona was pretty much spotless, haha!

There were two Starbucks along my route, and I stopped at each in order to use their wifi and check where I was. I didn’t want to go out too far as it got darker and colder, and since I was feeling tired, I turned around after getting to Plaça de Cataunya. I tried to find a vegan place that was supposedly in the city center, but it was hard to navigate to and I was getting more tired, hungry, and impatient.

I ended up deciding on a place close to the Airbnb: SandwiChez.

Falafel wrap & tea at Sandwichez
Falafel wrap & tea at SandwiChez

It was a cozy coffee shop chain, and I got myself a simple Falafel Wrap with a side of chai tea. Everything was warmed up, and I found a convenient little spot by the wall to relax and enjoy my meal.

Something to soothe the jetlag.
Something to soothe the jetlag.

I surprisingly didn’t have too much jetlag that night, and I was able to fall asleep pretty quickly. I did wake up a few times in the early morning, but I was tired enough to stay in bed until 9am the next morning. I slowly got ready, and tried to map out what I’d like to do and what would be the best way to get to these attractions.

Park Guell sounded intriguing, almost like an architectural amusement park. It was also a destination that required some travel planning, so I decided to check that out first. I used the Metro to get to the closest station, and when I exited, I found myself in the most gorgeous-looking, quiet, European neighborhood. It almost reminded me of the hilly streets of San Francisco combined with the green earthiness of the PNW.

Where am I??
Where am I??

I ended up walking in the wrong direction for about 20 minutes before re-orienting myself and actually heading towards Park Guell. Even though it was on top of a hill, it wasn’t too arduous to get to…there were escalators guiding visitors up!

And the view was very well worth it…

That's Barcelona over yonder...
That’s Barcelona over yonder…

Everything was architectural eye candy…

l

My favorite were these iconic arch structures:

Falling in love with Park Guell ♥
Falling in love with Park Guell ♥

After walking for a bit, I stopped for some coffee, and even took a look inside the gift shop.

Coffee break
Coffee break

There were so many colorful and cute knick-knacks, but I didn’t find anything that called out to me as “gift material”.

Gift shop!
Gift shop!

I soon walked out of Park Guell, and into another coffee shop (Coffee Park) that was just outside the exit. Since I didn’t have any food (just coffee), I was on the hunt for some churros, or something.

What actually ended up catching my eye were the cannolis. I intended to order one, but since they had a minimum credit card charge, I “had” to get two 😉

Italian dessert in Spain lol I know
Italian dessert in Spain lol I know

They were delicious, but maybe two was overkill, haha.

I walked back to the closest metro station and easily used the map to get off at the Sagrada Familia station. As soon as I stepped out from underground, I was met with a stunning view of a gothic cathedral. Everyone around me was just standing and staring at the grand, behemoth building before them.

Sagrada Família
Sagrada Família

It was hard to get a clear picture due to the sun rays, so I walked around to the entrance on the other side. I didn’t go inside the cathedral, but seeing the outside was enough for me.

I did some more exploring of the neighborhood by foot. I even stopped inside a supermarket and just walked around, familiarizing myself with what a typical Spanish person eats on a daily basis.

There was a whole section for donuts...that was an interesting find.
There was a whole section for donuts…that was an interesting find.

I heard that the Arc de Triomf was worth checking out, so I used my HOLA BCN card to hop on a bus. Ever since moving to LA, I’ve made it one of my unofficial missions to learn how to use the modes of public transit in the cities I visit. I got a taste of how the trains work, so it only made sense that I hop on board a bus eventually during my visit.

The Arc De Triomphe of Paris is nothing compared to Spain’s.

Arc de Triomf
Arc de Triomf

Just walking under the structure and along the pathway was such a happy event. There was a good crowd, not too many people, and so much activity taking place. I really wanted to take a selfie but angles just weren’t cutting it.

Exploring the area
Exploring the area

This was proving to be the place to be, especially on a sunny day right after a cold and rainy one.

To be continued in Part 2!

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 😛

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 🙂

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!

♥

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

unnamed

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.

~
~

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 😛

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 “N” CHEESE ~ purple, yellow, white florets with golden panko crust
SKILLET CAULIFLOWER “N” 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

Week One With the Sis

Week One With the Sis

I’ve finally caught up on my travel posts, but coming back meant starting a crazy work schedule in lab. Summer is no time to slack off, haha. 
 
A lot of my time-intensive experiments were beginning at the end of the month, so the the two weeks after my trip were spent planning for the arduous weeks ahead. At least I had my sister with my for moral support. 
 
With no landlords in the house for the first week we were back, we had free reign over the kitchen. Scrambled eggs, with a side of bread and cooked veggies from a pan was our staple dish, and of course we accompanied it with snacks. 
 
Throughout the week, I sampled many of the snacks I brought back from our trip, including these Grenade protein flapjacks.
 
♥
 
The original Grenade bars contain gelatin so unfortunately, I haven’t been able to sample those, but these protein flapjacks were a decent option for vegetarians. One of the reasons I love the U.K.? The “suitable for vegetarians” logo…
 
grenade-coconutchaos
I had the Coconut Chaos and Fused Fruit flavors, and while the coconut one was my favorite of the two, I thought the chewy but dense consistency of the bar made it seem more like a slab of dry cake rather than a flapjack (if we are using the word to refer to pancakes here, haha)! 
 
♥
 
The Cadbury’s Oreo Mint bar was an immediate favorite of mine, as it had a soft mint cream filling with a slight crunchy texture from the Oreo cookie pieces. 
 
♥
 
I also picked up a number of Nakd products, including a bar flavor that was new and some flavor-infused raisins…
 
♥

I didn’t think the Apricot Crunch flavor had enough “crunch”, as its texture and flavor consistency was similar to other Nakd bars, but it had a mild fruity flavor that seemed to distinguish it from the other bar flavors. Although, I must admit it’s been a while since I had a Nakd bar, so I can’t be too sure, haha! The cherry-infused raisins however were unlike anything I’ve ever had before.

♥

I’ve never been too keen on raisins, but these seemed to taste as if cherry juice was individually pumped into each raisin to give it a kick of flavor. I wouldn’t mind eating these to fulfill my daily fruit serving!

And then there were the chocolate spreads…

♥

This Cadbury’s chocolate spread was thinner than Nutella, but it literally tasted like a melted Cadbury’s milk chocolate bar so all was good.

♥

It made a packet of plain oatmeal much tastier, 😛

 This Malteasers Teasers spread won me over too.
 
♥
 
It had small crunchy malt pieces, and my sister and I added it to some yogurt with a broken Wispa bar (a bar I wasn’t too fond of chocolate-flavoring-wise, but it did have an airy, bubble filling.
 
♥

After a few days cooking and snacking from home, my sister and I had dinner out on a Friday evening since that’s when my landlords came back from their trip. It also happened to be a long, exhausting day for me at lab, so having my sister come pick me up from the train station and drive down to downtown SaMo was such a relief.

We had dinner at Wahoo’s Fish Taco, which surprisingly had plenty of veggie options. You could substitute tofu for pretty much any meat item, and so that made it easy when figuring out what burritos and tacos to get.

♥
 
♥

It felt so great to be out on a Friday night with company, chatting about our days and looking forward to the weekend. I was going to drag her into lab with me (just for the mornings 😉 ), but after that we had plans to go to Irvine to check on a potential apartment for her.

We split a burrito packed with tofu, rice, and black beans, and had tacos made to our liking. Mine was topped with a delicately-cut avocado.

♥

With the taco and half a burrito, my sister and I managed well. The meal was satisfying and just enough for both of us.

♥

Instead of walking over to the beach (it’s literally a few blocks away), we drove back home and transitioned into couch potato mode. We fell asleep immediately, but got up the next day feeling refreshed. The week had been a great start and welcome for June!

Wahoo's Fish Taco Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

What Would Rodin Say?

What Would Rodin Say?

Our last day in Paris fared better than the previous two days, but Paris still couldn’t win me over. We began the day with a sweet breakfast at Maison Passos, a patisserie we hoped carried creme brulee for my sister, but no luck. Instead, we got soggy Nutella crepes. A fantastic representation of quality French dessert selections 😛

Soggy Nutella crepes. Only in Paris, France...
Soggy Nutella crepes. Only in Paris, France…

From there, we decided to pass on the Louvre Museum and instead pay a visit to the Musee Rodin. On our walk there, we encountered some schoolchildren who we assumed were heading over to the museum for a field trip. We followed them just to be sure, haha!

We passed what we think was a military museum?
We passed what we think was a military museum?

The schoolchildren weren’t going into the Musee Rodin, but we did find it tucked away on a narrow street. The entrance was a huge courtyard, and we found our way into the ticket sales line. Of course, the sales people had issues with our credit card/their credit card machine so we held up the line for a good twenty minutes. I was getting irritated by the tourists behind us commenting on how “that’s why they don’t pay with credit card”. Shut up, I’m not going to carry around 100 Euros in my pocket only to have it snatched from a pickpocket, only to be more convenient to others 😛

We did make it through though.

Visitor for the day
Visitor for the day

We made our way through the courtyard, and observed that all the “serious/artsy” sculptures were outside in direct sunlight and closest to the entrance. “The Thinker” was one of these iconic sculptures.

"The Thinker is a bronze sculpture by Auguste Rodin, usually placed on a stone pedestal. "
“The Thinker is a bronze sculpture by Auguste Rodin, usually placed on a stone pedestal. “

We had more fun looking and taking pictures of (and with) the sculptures towards the back.

The funny guyz
The funny guyz

Inside the museum, there were more works that were smaller in size, and that were sculpted in different mediums.

Thought this one was elegant...
Thought this one was elegant…

That was enough culture for one morning, and we had built up a strong enough appetite for lunch. We thought our final meal out in Paris should be at an authentic French cafe with outdoor seating, and we were lucky to find one that also served vegetarian cuisine! Le Grenier de Notre-Dame is apparently the first first vegetarian and macrobiotic restaurant to open in Paris, in 1978.

We started off with water and fruity drinks.

drinks

I ended up ordering a ratatouille/hot pot like dish, but it turned out it to be a thin tomato soup with veggie dogs thrown in with cooked veggies.

♥

I wasn’t too thrilled by it after seeing what my sis and Dad got.

♥

Their full plates came with crisp dressed side salads, a spinach quiche-like slice, rice/quinoa in tomato sauce, and poached egg. I had their leftovers, for sure.

Our meal was filling enough to carry us across to Notre Dame across the street. It was blazing hot though, and the thought of standing in line to enter the cathedral seemed too exhauting for my sis and I. Our Dad went in to take pictures while we rested in the shade, and admired the architecture of the cathedral from the outside. We even observed a couple in wedding garb taking pictures, and my sister and I were surprised that the bride didn’t mind her dress collecting dust and dirt from the surroundings.

♥

When my Dad came out, we walked for a couple more blocks trying to find creme brulee. We walked into chocolate shops, countless patisseries, and even the equivalent of mall food courts but we couldn’t find the one dessert my sister was dying to have besides her usual chocolate. We eventually gave up the search, and found a Monoprix to get some food gifts to take home.

I had fun exploring the aisles and finding some funny, rebranded items marketed for the French.

Who is Vaiana? And no indication that "Very Bad Kids" are indeed sour gummies.
Who is Vaiana? And no indication that “Very Bad Kids” are indeed sour gummies.

We made it back to the apartment earlier than the previous day, but still feeling accomplished about exploring Paris to the best of our abilities. My sister and I agreed that it would take some really special circumstances to ever come back, but at least we made the most of the experience and had stories to tell. Travel tidbits such as 1) stay away from Gare du Nord and 2) know how to read a used ticket stub were important skills to learn, but things I was glad not to worry about after our three-day stay.

Our two weeks flew by fast, but I was happy for the opportunity to do this with my family, at the time we did it. However, I must say, I can’t deny that I was eager to return home!

Return to London

Return to London

We left Wales on a Monday morning (more like mourning…) with a sad Little M that didn’t even want to come to the train station to see us off because she was upset. I felt the same way—I didn’t want to leave! 
 
Little P and her Dad accompanied us, and we left the train station back to London around 9. It was a pleasant ride back, and got crowded only one stop before Paddington. People were dressed up in light blue and white, and some sports event was going on (maybe soccer—erhm, football?) so that must have caused the crowds. 
 
We took the Tube to Euston Station in King’s Cross, closer to where we were staying for our second hotel. We checked in early, and then walked back to the station to figure out where we were off to. Since I never got my vegan fish and chips, I did push for us all to get Cornish pasties. I vaguely remember being fond of the cheese ones as a child. I had to find and eat one for the memories! 
 
pasties
Golden, flaky savory pies!
 
Luckily for us, The Pasty Shop was right there and so we were able to treat my cravings. We ended up getting a mixed veggie and a mushroom filled one since those were the ones labeled as being vegetarian.
 
pasty_shop
The Pasty Shop in Euston station
 
There weren’t any seats inside the food stall as the pasties were meant for take-away, so we went to the Starbucks next door and munched on them, haha! 
 
cornish_pasty
Vegetarian savory pasties
 
The crust was super flaky, and of course you could smell and taste the butter coating. The filling was mediocre—I wish I remembered which shop carried those cheese pasties I was fond of!  
 
After eating, my Dad and sis went off to the Tate Museum. I wasn’t in the mood for museum walking, and thought it would be more interesting to walk around a neighborhood on my own, perhaps do some shopping. Act like a local for a day…and I got away with it until I had to talk to cashiers and my accent wasn’t British…
 
I ended up going to Hammersmith because there were a few stores I wanted to check out there. 
 
primark
Primark Euston
 
My first stop was at Primark, a cleaner, less ostentatious version of Forever 21. I think I spent almost two hours in here, and only bought some basics like socks and layering tanks! 
 
I then hopped on over to Holland and Barrett’s (a fancy British version of GNC), Poundland (lol like the Dollar Store), and T.K.  Maxx. Yes, T. K. Maxx.  Oh, and were the clothing items better than what could be found at T.J. Maxx. 
 
And of course…I didn’t buy any more clothing than what I got from Primark, but as far as British brand protein bars and chocolates from Poundland, I got that covered. 
 
My sis and Dad eventually made their way to Hammersmith as well, after their Tate Museum adventure. It had started to sprinkle, and we weren’t too hungry to go out and find a place to eat. We were all content with going to Sainsbury’s to pick up some snacks and fixings to make a simple meal at the hotel. We had to hurry into the store quickly though, because everyone was closing up shop early due to the Bank Holiday. 
 
It was tiring train ride back, but once we got back to the hotel, I immediately showered and got into lounge mode. Along with having some hummus with crackers and a half a sandwich, I tried out some of my snack purchases from the day, like this Cadbury’s chocolate bar filled with popping jelly candy. 
 
Cadbury Dairy Milk Marvellous Creations Jelly Popping Candy Shells
Cadbury Dairy Milk Marvellous Creations Jelly Popping Candy Bar
 
Can someone tell me why chocolate from the States is NOTHING like this?! Seriously, popping candy and jelly pieces stuffed in the middle of a solid milk chocolate bar?!? Haha. 
 
I also tried the Toffee Treat flavor of the Nakd Bites I first tried when we first stopped in London, before Wales. 
 
Nakd Toffee Treat Nibbles
Nakd Toffee Treat Nibbles
 
All of this while rearranging our stuff for Paris, and watching Britain’s Got Talent. We would leave from St. Pancras (I wanted to say St. Pancreas the whole time lol) to take the Eurostar train to Paris immediately in the morning, so we made sure to have all of our stuff ready to go. 
 
st. pancras
Walking around in the evening near St. Pancras
 
I wasn’t sure I wanted to say goodbye to the U.K. just yet, and actually with the way things in France went, I would not have given a mind at all if we had made a decision to complete our trip here. More on that in the next post…

The Pasty Shop Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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 🙂

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!

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 🙂 ! 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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