The weekend my sister arrived to settle in the OC was also the weekend one of my lab mates was hosting a potluck at his house. It’s been years since anyone in our lab has gone out of their way to organize a lab get-together outside of lab, and so I have to give credit to my friend for taking on the challenge, haha!
Since my sister had the car now, she was invited so she could give us a ride ;). Nah, she was welcome too.
We carpooled with E and another lab mate and drove to West Covina east of LA. It took us an hour in headache-inducing traffic, and we were the last group to arrive. My friend who was hosting (let’s call him J) and his wife greeted us, and led us out to the backyard where the pool and food spread was.
We got settled in with some plates of food, and sat by the pool while we ate. Everyone except E, my sister, and I made it to the pool sometime during our stay, but I was too lazy to even dip my feet in.
We left around 4 in order to avoid traffic, and still faced stopped cars on all sides. By the time we dropped off my lab mate and E, it was almost 6! My sis wanted to get dinner since she wasn’t able to properly eat over the week due to stress from moving and settling in, and I was eager to oblige. I knew how much she liked Tocaya, so we paid their Venice location a visit.
We found free street parking a few blocks away, and didn’t hesitate to park and power walk. Our hunger had caught up to us at that point, and we couldn’t afford to look at the menu for too long.
I ended up getting a Shredded Kale and Quinoa salad, while my sis ordered the bowl she fell in love with during our last visit.
My salad bowl was decent, but if it had not been for the dressing, it would have fallen flat. Even the tofu was slightly rubbery (and I prefer chewy tofu over the soft white kind!).
After dinner, we walked home with the humid beach air clinging over us, and despite there being no cooling beach breeze that night, we were able to sleep pretty soundly just from pure exhaustion.
The next morning, the weather was too great to pass up the opportunity to do something, so my sis and I hurried to lab soon after my long run. I had a ton of work to do, but she was willing to help me out and we were done in the afternoon.
I let her pick where we should go for lunch, and after reading my “foodie bucket list” excel sheet (yes I have one, lol), Slater’s 50/50 in Pasadena sounded the most appetizing.
She drove, and while we did hit traffic passing by downtown, it was an easy, sunny drive to Pasadena once we got past all that. We found parking in Old Town on a side street, and walked over to the restaurant which was already packed with Sunday afternoon lunch-goers.
We were able to get booth seating, and started off with Vampire Dip as an appetizer, and then decided to split the Veggie Burger because we predicted it would be a lot of food. Annnnd, we were right, haha!
The Vampire Dip was a cheesy, garlic concoction that was super thick, and its consistency was more like a melted cheese ball than a smooth bowl of dip. It came served in a bread bowl, with some flatbread crisps and veggies for dipping.
I think the crew at Slater’s 50/50 knows how big their portions are, because our burger came to us already cut in half!
My sis also felt like getting a shake, but finishing it was a whole other issue 😛
After getting our fill, it was mid-afternoon and I wanted my sis to have enough time to drive back down to the OC.
Of course, I asked if we could stop by a nearby Grocery Outlet (this time the one in Rosemead), so I could get my cheap groceries for the week! My sis didn’t argue, seeing that she could benefit from the trip as well. Cheap food to off-set gas costs, haha!
My second full day in Vegas started off at a steamy 95 degrees. I kept waking up throughout the night due to the heat/constant shuffling in and out of the bathroom of the other guests, and so I decided to actually wake up at 6, since sleeping in just wasn’t going to work out.
I told my friend to pick me up from the convention center at 9, and so to kill time, I tried to find a session or two to join in. I didn’t find anything too remarkable, so I just participated in a yoga class that was going on. It made me quickly realize that as a runner—I need to stretch more.
When my friend arrived, she looked tired due to her long working day on Friday, but we still followed through with our plans and headed out to Red Rock Canyon.
But just soon as we stepped out of the car, we stepped back in. The heat was unbelievably unbearable, but we couldn’t leave without a selfie, haha.
She was hungry and had a craving for eggs, especially after hearing about a chain of brunch-type restaurants called Egg Works. We stopped by one of them on her way to work.
It definitely had a mom-and-pop vibe, and even though we were offered seats at the bar, we were able to snag a cozy booth and enjoy our meals without background kitchen noise.
Their menu was extensive, with not only egg dishes, but the sweet breakfast stuff too. But since it was practically noon, I was all about something savory and eager to get some protein in me.
The Veggie Benny was mine, while my friend ordered a Benedict as well, with extra bacon on the side.
I pretty much wiped my plate clean, except for the tomato slices I had on the side. Maybe I should have been like my friend and gotten some cubed potatoes for my side…
After finishing up brunch, we drove around for a bit on the way back to Town Square since my friend had a shift a work starting at 2pm. I found a spot in Whole Foods to work on some things via laptop to pass the time. I grew restless about two hours in, and decided to spend the rest of the time doing some window (and real) shopping.
I met up with my friend again after 6pm, and from there we drove our tired selves over to The Strip. It was still blazing hot outside, but we managed to find free parking at Planet Hollywood, and after going down five flights, walked inside the hotel casino before stepping out and walking in the southern direction of The Strip.
For dinner, we agreed on burgers and Bobby’s Burger Palace was on the way.
Of course it was packed, like any other restaurant on The Strip on Saturday night. Everything was also very meat heavy, except for two veggie options: a Veggie Burger and a Grilled Cheese.
I went for the veggie burger, and even though my friend and I ordered back-to-back, her plate came out a good fifteen minutes before mine did. We blame it on the party of ten who ordered at the register next to us…we think their orders got mixed in with ours and caused the delay, haha.
My Veggie burger was alright thought! I mean, even Bobby is looking adoringly at it on that napkin holder. There was a good ratio of sauce to burger, so it didn’t taste too dry or soggy. It also came with a huge pickle on the side, all of the burgers did actually.
After getting food in our systems, we were in a chattier mood. The sun also went down so it was a bit cooler than an hour before. Our next destination was Sambalatte, right outside Monte Carlo.
It was a cozy little coffee shop, and while it didn’t make much sense to get coffee at night, I had my reasons…
I would drink coffee at midnight if it meant having a mug of this Unicorn Latte. For the ‘gram, if nothing else.
TBH, it’s taste didn’t match it looks. While it looked like it was a coffee made out of rainbow rays, it needed the help of some sweetener. My friend and I took turns sipping at the mug, and then walked into the casino next door. We quickly turned around when her BF texted her to come home since the were meeting family for a late night get together. The abrupt change in plans was a slight disappointment, since I didn’t know the next time I’d be able to see my friend again, but she offered to drop me off at my BNB before heading out.
The next day was nothing momentous. I was glad to finally leave that weird BNB and head back to LA. Of course I wish I could have spent another day or two with my friend, but she also looked like she needed some rest. I guess as long as she’s there, I’ll have a reason to come back to LV.
The first weekend my sister stayed over was spent apartment scoping, food tasting, and shopping (for her, while I anxiously tried to plan my upcoming week in lab/submit a very important email…). It’s funny how this was a weekend in early June, and this post is only going live in mid-July…#PhDStudentLife
We drove down to Irvine after we went to lab. She was able to help me finish faster and with lab experience of her own, I could tell her to do something without worrying if she knew how to do it accurately, haha. We were on the road before noon, and had enough time to stop for lunch before her apartment viewing appointment. So Veggie Grill at the Irvine Spectrum it was!
Because my visits to Veggie Grill have encompassed many of their locations, I like to visit when they have seasonal specials just so I can make sure I am trying something completely new. Their summer menu was featured this time around, and the Super Rica burger was calling my name…
My sister went with her favorite Southern Fried Chik’n plate, as usual, but I did not regret my choice.
It had the perfect blend of spicy, creamy, and crunchy. I didn’t have fries on the side, but the coleslaw was not some poorly made side dish—it brought it’s out flavorful punch too!
I guess I was hungrier than I thought, because I finished my plate entirely and helped my sister out with hers.
It was soon approaching 1pm so we made our way back to the car and drove towards the apartment complex she booked a tour at. The visit was alright, but the cons definitely outweighed the pros. Finding a place in the OC that was decently priced and clean was surprisingly not too easy a task, and I could tell my sister was feeling frustrated. I was able to propose a solution for her that didn’t solve the housing problem, but at least it took her mind off the issue for a little bit.
We were able to stop by Churned Creamery in Cypress for a tasting of their constantly-churning ice cream (the ice cream is in huge vats that are consistently being mixed through). They had number of options, including their unique CroCream: a croissant stuffed with ice cream and toppings.
The servers were all super sweet ladies enthusiastic about ice cream. After sampling a few flavors, I went with one of their recommendations—Whiskey cream ice cream stuffed in a warm, crispy croissant and topped with Mochi cubes.
The croissant was a flaky, golden brown on the outside and edges, but perfectly soft on the inside.
My sister of course got her chocolate fix with an ice cold, thick chocolate milkshake mixed with a scoop of Oreo ice cream. She could not deny that it was quite a dense and thick shake indeed.
Looking at all the flavors of ice cream they offered, the possibilities seemed endless! It just so happened that we could have gone by their Irvine location (their grand opening was that day…), but the Cypress staff accommodated us on short-notice without a doubt.
We were back on the road and headed home soon after. Our plans the following day turned out to be similar—woke up, long run before going to lab, getting out and feeling crazy ravenous, and driving up to NoHo only to find out the restaurant we were planning to have lunch at was closed on Sundays…
We ended up getting veggie burgers at a chain restaurant, and then driving to the Glendale Galleria to find a graduation gift for our friend who graduated at the end of June. While at the mall, I made a stop at GNC and picked up the new Quest Hero bars.
Blueberry Cobbler was my favorite, with a vanilla yogurt coating and a fruity, chewy filling.
Vanilla Caramel was decent, but I thought the texture of the filling was pretty dry.
I could go without having another of the Chocolate Caramel Pecan flavor, but I wouldn’t be surprised if a chocolate lover (such as my sister) found this to be their favorite of the three.
Even though apartment hunting was a bust on this particular weekend, at least we made the most of our dining out choices. And just having my sister for company made the weekend all the more enjoyable.
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 😛
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.
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!
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.
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.
I got the pizza fries sans pepperoni, and man, did they not skimp on the cheese.
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 🙂
Have you ever had to do anything physically strenuous right after traveling/when you were feeling jet-lagged?
My sis and I woke up bright and early on Sunday morning, with the goal of getting things wrapped up in lab and then heading off to Santa Monica for brunch.
I am honestly so grateful for the Expo line expansion…what would have originally been almost an hour and a half trip to the ever-popular Santa Monica now only takes 30-40 minutes!
One of the stops is a convenient seven minute walk to Chomp Eatery and DK’s Donuts. One day when I have cash on hand, I will be back for some of their mouth-watering donuts, but my sis and I headed right next door to Chomp Eatery: a place we knew that takes credit cards and serves up an irresistible novelty.
The Unicorn Melt was something I came across on Instagram. It’s basically a grilled cheese with a rainbow theme, in that the cheese is colored with organic food coloring and melted so that a rainbow oozes out when the slices are pulled apart. Sound appetizing yet?
Since my sis and I decided to split the Unicorn Melt, we each got our own meals as well. I of course got one of the wellness bowls.
The bowl I chose to go with was none other than the Goji Berries Banana Bowl, which had a plain greek yogurt base, and heavily topped with granola, cacao nibs, goji berries, banana , and agave syrup.
My sister got one of the burger with a veggie patty, and it was an overflowing tower of rich, nutrient-packed veggies and creamy add-in like avocado and a fried egg.
My sister, a self-proclaimed carb-lover thought her burger + melt may have been too much at one time, but she enjoyed her burger. We both agreed that the melt wasn’t outstanding in taste, but as far as presentation and creativity goes…how could it be anything less than 110%? Not to mention, it was a pretty festive and fitting rainbow on the inside.
After devouring our sandwiches and chewing every last goji berry, we walked towards downtown Santa Monica, stopped inside Cotton On, and then boarded the train from the new downtown station in order to get to Union Station on time.
After dropping off my sister later that afternoon, I felt extremely exhausted and could not wait to go to bed—early! Haha. Needless to say, 4th of July was very low key. No fireworks, no veggie dogs…just plenty of lab work in the morning as usual, and then relaxing at home. At least I did sort of celebrate with a patriotic grilled cheese!
After a relaxing Thanksgiving getaway, I thought I would have enough energy to take on the rest of December. But a brain-draining proposal presentation got in the way of that, and so the first weekend of December was spent close to home since I was feeling so exhausted.
I was too exhausted to even plan out where to eat lunch on Saturday, which is odd for me, the girl who plans her free time around food 😛
At least there are still many places I haven’t visited in DTLA that are worth the trip. Cabbage Patch happened to be one of them!
The front of the restaurant looks like what you’d expect for a cafe, but inside it was massive in space and size. There were two stories, but it looked like only the first floor was open for seating.
There was a large menu near the front of the restaurant, and I had a hard time choosing at first. Should I go for yet another falafel-based dish, or something else even if I wasn’t truly craving it?
In the end, I decided to change things up and get a veggie burger with peanut slaw…which also happened to be 20% off based on one of the promotions going on!
The burger came out with avocado, greens, tomato, a single slice of melted cheese on top of a beans-and-rice-based patty, all of which was closed tight between oiled brioche buns. Ketchup and mayo were portioned out into tin cups, and the slaw was heavenly—mixed with spices, peanut dressing, and actual peanuts.
I may have eaten the burger in an unorthodox way (fork!), but it was the best way to mix slaw, patty, and bread. Actually, leaving the bread for last to mop up the condiments is the way to go.
Sunday ended up being a physically exhausting day, and even though I had this Combat Crunch cookies and cream bar prior to my marathon team’s 16 mile long run, it wasn’t enough to combat the soreness I felt during the entire run.
I could almost go as far to say that this run was probably my worst…I just felt like a jiggly bag of bundled nerves and every 0.1 mile felt like it was much longer.
Needless to say, I’m glad it was over, and even worked up an appetite to grab two Lenny & Larry’s cookies after finishing the run, and before heading into lab for a bit.
I’ve actually had both of these flavors a couple times already, and they tend to be my go-to choices! I love how simple they are in texture, yet are both true to their respective flavors. Even though they’re packed in protein, they’re chewy and easy to digest…perfect for the tender piece of meat I felt like after the grueling run I put myself through 😛
I guess I’ve been too busy with the proposal that took me 14 hours (total) to write, the mice-related experiments that have been keeping me occupied in lab, and the early morning runs that provide me with an outlet to de-stress before each day begins…
But part of me secretly loves this hectic schedule, and knowing that I have goals and things to get done every day, week, month, is what fuels me to put out my best and see what happens. I guess I love planning for excitement.
I’ve still got a lot on my plate tomorrow and the upcoming week (including a one-of-a-kind race I’m running in the wee early morning hours tomorrow!!), but I wanted needed to take a break to share some things as of late.
1) It’s official, the Vegan Mac Daddy >>> Big Mac.
Last weekend was quite productive, but I also made sure to give myself some “me” time in the form of a 10k on Saturday and some time out on Sunday. A race recap on the 10k is in the works, but I’ve been dying to share my Organix dining experience…only because I had a vegan burger that would totally give the Big Mac a run for its money!!
I started on a research proposal assignment due for one of my classes on Saturday, but continued to work on it into Sunday after running 9 miles that morning. I was glued to my seat for about 4 hours before hearing my tummy rumble, and that’s when I knew a study/food break was due! Obviously it was the perfect time to head out to Eagle Rock and check out a small, local vegan market with a trendy vegan deli.
I arrived at the market/deli around 4, with genetics lecture notes in tow since I also had an in-class exam to study for…I noticed a small window in the back of the small store, where a tiny menu was plastered onto the wall.
There was also a sign that said to place orders at the cash register (so as not to interrupt the busy cooks in the back), and after confirming that I indeed wanted the Vegan Mac Daddy, I made my way to the front counter and let the guy at the cash register know. He was thoughtful enough to tell me that it may take at least another half an hour for my burger to be ready, since they had just received a large catering order, but I didn’t mind since it gave me some time to walk around the store and admire all sorts of products that would make a vegan and/or vegetarian swoon…
After looking around, I found a seat near the produce and pulled our my lecture notes. I guess I could at least take advantage of this waiting time by studying 😉
Once I started to get into study-mode however, the guy from the cash register came over with my burger! Yeah, it was supposed to be a Vegan Mac Daddy, but it’s relatively small size made it seem like a Mac Baby…
It’s small size made it tempting to eat it as a hand-hold, and like regular burger-eating folk, I ate it with all ingredients intact, instead of resorting to my usual deconstructing techniques…
2) Arctic Zero’s Chunky Pints are amazing.
I first tried the Lil’ Bit Chippy flavor when I was in Tarzana and found it at a Whole Foods there, but when I saw Organix had the ever-so popular Cookie Dough Chip, I forked over the $6.99 for the over-priced-but-worth-it pint.
I mean, when and where else would I find it with such ease? They have been selling out so quick…
It didn’t have as many cookie dough pieces as the Lil’ Bit Chippy flavor had chocolate chips, but it was still a nice way to end my meal after chomping down on the Vegan Mac Daddy!
I was locally also available to find the Cool Mint Chip flavor at a Ralph’s near my apartment. It was actually during an impromptu grocery trip after my weekend in Fresno, and I had to stop by the store to stock up on some things for the week I wasn’t able to get over the weekend.
I had it after my dinner on a Monday night, and paired with a taped episode of Shark Tank, it was the most perfect way to unwind.
3) I feel at peace when I write.
Like I said earlier, the majority of this week was spent typing and writing away at a proposal that took a total of 14 hours for me to complete from start to finish. I will admit that when we first had to start writing these kinds of mock proposals for classes, it was intimidating. But the more I came across these types of assignments and spent the necessary time researching, drafting, and writing, it became much more methodical. I also find completing a 4-proposal—single-spaced with 0.5″ margins on all sides—just as gratifying as finishing a Sunday morning long run. When you are able to see your hard work pay off in the end, it is worth it 🙂
4) Excited for this summer.
I feel like LA has no time for spring, and that summer truly arrives in the month of March. But even so, I like to equate the end of the spring semester with the start of summer. There is no doubt that I will be occupying myself with lab work, since I want to make some headway in experiments and getting data, but I am looking forward to exploring more of LA and going on weekend trips. My sis will also be staying in Fresno for the summer, so I want to make it up there to see her again.
5) Yearning to make things happen.
This sort of goes in hand with where I am in my “career”. I’m finishing up as a first-year grad student, and am now in a lab I truly want to be in for the duration of my studies. There is no real “pressure”, but I’ve always felt like I have had to make a good first impression before cutting myself some slack. That’s where putting in the time, effort, and hard work comes in, and I guess the self-added pressure comes from not wanting to mess up/look stupid. I do remind myself that as a grad student, it’s my job to ask questions, and it’s okay to make mistakes…I just don’t want them to be so detrimental that it affects months of work! Anyways, I’m hoping that the work I put in this summer gets me somewhere that reflects the effort I put in, and that it puts me on the right path to do great work in the coming academic year…especially for quals!