January Sunshine

January Sunshine

This past weekend turned out to be better than I expected. I didn’t have a slew of things I was planning to do to begin with, but despite just checking off mundane errands and staying close to home due to lab responsibilities, it was a pretty pleasant Saturday and Sunday.

My shins have slowly been cooperating, as I have been trying to ease back into my normal mileage while giving them recovery time between days I do running workouts. That meant doing cross-training every other day last week, and while I hate feeling like a hamster at the gym, I gritted my teeth and got through it. I also managed to get some strength training in.

When my sister was here the weekend prior, I was able to snag a bunch of great clearance deals at Sprouts, including $3 jars of soybean spread, $6 protein bar boxes, and limited edition RX bars for $0.50 a pop!

It’s funny how last year around this time, seeking out new RX bar flavors was one of the things that kept me sane when I was preparing for quals. Now, these bars aren’t really my jam anymore…

RX Bar - Iced Gingerbread
RX Bar – Iced Gingerbread

And despite everyone one the ‘gram raving about this flavor, I couldn’t get on board with the dry texture. The cinnamon and ginger spice pretty much made this a a dense slab of fruit cake. Eh, not too appetizing. But it was $0.50, so not too much of a loss 😉

My Saturday morning consisted of a short, easy run to get my blood flowing for the next day’s team long run. I eventually made my way to lab, but was too tired/hungry to venture out too far for something to eat. Despite it being early January, the sun was out and bright as ever, meaning the smoothie/juice/acai bowl craving I had was absolutely justified.

Sunlife Organics, USC Village
Sunlife Organics, USC Village

It was my first time trying Sunlife Organics. I first came across the name two Labor Day weekends ago when I made a day trip to Malibu. The one I visited in the relatively new USC Village definitely had that pretentious LA juice shop vibe, but I let it slide.

Juice shop vibes
Juice shop vibes

When it comes to visiting “chain” restaurants or restaurants with more than one location, I like to try whatever is special to that location or seasonal specials so I feel like I have a reason for going to a location that is farther out than where I need to go.

So I got the "Trojan Bowl".
So I got the “Trojan Bowl”.

So I got the Trojan Bowl, which was a coconut butter/hemp milk/whey protein/banana/mango blend base topped with granola, strawberry, peanut butter, goji berries and bee pollen. Being the nut butter fan that I am, I was enamored by the PB and goji berries alone. 


I ate this while people-watching and soaking in some of the sun’s rays. There were plenty of student’s already studying in the vast courtyard (the semester started about a week ago), and looking at their stressed facial expressions made me so relieved that I was no longer in that boat, haha!


I was slightly nervous going into Sunday since it was my first team long run in a while (since I took time off for my shin splints). I stretched as much as I could and hoped for the best. We had originally planned to drive to Pasadena for our notorious 12 miler that everyone gets lost from, but due to lack of cars, we opted for a run close to downtown LA.

To my pleasant surprise, I was able to run pain-free with my teammates! I felt pretty good for about 75% of the run, and the last 2-3 miles felt tougher than usual, but I think it’s due to the lack of consistent running over the past few weeks. I’m hoping my endurance comes back at a roaring pace, but I’m also trying to be cautious and take things at a pace comfortable for my shin recovery.

After the run, I spent the morning catching up on some work, but I made sure to get some time in to get lunch in downtown. For some reason that day, I felt like walking down those DTLA streets I’m so fond of…

Panini Kabob Grill, DTLA
Panini Kabob Grill, DTLA

I used to pass by Panini Kabob Grill all the time when I lived near DTLA and was walking between the Pico and 7th Street Metro stations. The patio seating was always full, but I got myself a seat this time around.

A seat where I was able to appreciate some views.
A seat where I was able to appreciate some views.

Their menu selections includes plenty of veggie-friendly items, and as soon as I saw the charbroiled organic tofu kabob platter, my mind was made up.


I was expecting thick blocks of baked tofu to be skewered with grilled veggies, but my plate came to me skewer-less. But there were bright orange soft squares of tofu, plenty of grilled veggies, a side salad with avocado, a lil cup of hummus (def. not enough for the food that was there to dip it in), and fluffy bulgar pilaf.

Charbroiled Tofu Kabob

Even though the tofu looked worthy based on its color, it was quite bland and lacked flavor. The salad was doused in a dressing with too much vinegar in my opinion, and the bulgar pilaf also lacked flavor. I will admit that the portions did make for quite a filling meal.

I felt like walking a couple blocks after my meal, and definitely felt the effects of the sunshine. I was feeling warm under the sun, but certainly very happy. It was one of those perfect, “winter” LA days.

How is the weather currently where you live?

LA Grow! An Evening at the Wiltern

LA Grow! An Evening at the Wiltern

Last weekend was unlike any other that I’ve experienced so far in LA, and one word sums it all up: humidity

I had to go into lab on Saturday morning, but not until later in the morning. The sky was cloudy and gray like it had been the few days prior, but the Saturday morning news alerted me about thunderstorms that would occur later in the day. Still, I left my apartment in shorts and a t-shirt since it felt warm outside, and made the mistake of “forgetting” my umbrella. 

Fortunately, I was able to take cover during the intermittent moments of downpour/thunder, but it certainly slowed me down schedule-wise. It even caused a mini power outtage in my lab building, but I was able to resume my experiments without there being any major crisis!

I finished up mid-afternoon, and made the swift decision to walk over to the grocery store before another predicted downpour. I managed to make it back to the apartment just before thunder was heard again, and saved myself from an unwanted shower. 

I spent the rest of the day/evening inputing data and working on an document with a Monday deadline (Saturday nights of a grad student…what can I say?), but at least I was able to include a celebratory pint in all of this. The featured flavor of this weekend was B&J’s Strawberry Cheesecake:

 Strawberry Shortcake -
Strawberry Cheesecake – strawberry cheesecake ice cream with strawberries & a thick graham cracker swirl

I’m normally not a die-hard cheesecake fan, but the graham-cracker swirl intrigued me and pulled me in to buy this flavor. I guess I could tolerate some cheesecake if it means there’s a sweet and crunchy swirl!

 I'm amazed by how patient I am to take these pictures...you'd think that upon ripping the lid off I wouldn't think twice about stopping to take pictures.  :P
I’m amazed by how patient I am to take these pictures…you’d think that upon ripping the lid off I wouldn’t think twice about stopping to take pictures. 😛

The cheesecake ice cream actually wasn’t that bad, and tasted more like vanilla. There were some frozen strawberries mixed in, and of course the graham cracker swirl is what brought this flavor to the top…managing to keep its crunchy texture and sweet flavor.

 Inside the pint.
Inside the pint.

Sunday morning was when I experienced the aftermath humidity from Saturday’s tropical rainshowers. While it was nice to listen to the rainfall in the evening, the humidity was such a pain to deal with on my long run the next morning! After mile 6, I was pushing through with all my might to just keep going and not stop. I did make a stop at a nearby Starbucks though, to get some ice water which I held onto for dear life from mile 9 to the finish!

I was a sticky mess when I came back to the apartment, but had to get ready quickly in order to move on and get my lab work done for the day. I had exciting plans that evening, and I wasn’t going to let the humidity stop me from following through with them!

Fortunately, after getting onto the train a little after 3:30PM, I was able to keep cool in air-conditioned spaces as I made my way to Wilshire and Western. This is a stop that I have made frequent visits to, but I had never paid attention to the dark teal building right across the street—the Wiltern.

 The Wiltern Theater
The Wiltern Theater

That is, until now!

The event I was attending was the cocktail hour of LA Grow!, sponsored by Whole Foods and benefiting RootDown LA, a youth-run non-profit organization that focuses on promoting healthy food and nutrition education in South LA.

 LA Grow! event poster.
LA Grow! event poster.

Inside the theater, I picked up my drink tickets from will call (even though I didn’t use them that night since I don’t drink…), and then proceeded to the actual fest set-up in a hallway, ballroom-like area.

 Things getting started.
Things getting started.

Exhibitors were lined up along the sides of the hallway, and the first food-related booth I noticed was being run by the main sponsor, Whole Foods.

 Avocado toasts!
Avocado toasts!

The table featured mashed avocados, which we could top on thick, cracker round toasts. Additional toppings included sea salt, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and sundried pesto. I loved the sea salt and pesto + avo combination, and made frequent visits to this table over the course of the evening. 

For those of us attending who don’t drink alcohol, there were several non-alcoholic drink samples for us to taste. Harmless Harvest was giving out pink coconut water (!!) and Rebbl Tonic had a massive spread of elixirs and tonics spread out. The exotic tonics included Maca Mocha, Reishi Chocolate, and Ashwagandha Chai…all of which I tried multiple times, and found myself to be a fan of the chocolate one the most.

 Pink coconut water and exotic elixirs.
Pink coconut water and exotic elixirs.

I only tried the Ginger Citrus tonic, even though Hibsicus Mint and Forest Berry were also available. I attribute it to the fact that the citrus drink was literally glowing with a bright yellow hue, and that made it difficult to walk away from it 😉

I also passed by the Casamor Farm table, and it looked like the chef was plating small dishes featuring edible flowers! I didn’t get up close to see what exactly was going on since the area was too popular, but it looked quite intriguing from what I could tell. 

 Edible flowers?!
Edible flowers?!

Another popular table was Kye’s, a to-go food shop that sells unique nori wrap burritos…rather “Kyeritos”! They had both non-veg and vegan flavors available, and you know I definitely got the vegan one to try!

The Nahm Jim Kyerito - Seven Different Veggies, Herbs, Lotus Root, Woodear, Thai-inspired Fish Sauce, Hemp Seeds, Macadamia Nuts, Sliced Almonds, White Rice Blend, Vegan Nahm Jim Sauce
The Nahm Jim Kyerito – Seven Different Veggies, Herbs, Lotus Root, Woodear, Thai-inspired
Fish Sauce, Hemp Seeds, Macadamia Nuts, Sliced Almonds, White Rice Blend, Vegan Nahm Jim Sauce

To keep on with the vegan theme, I drifted over to the Cafe Gratitude table, and helped myself to these yam/cauliflower filled savory fold-overs. There was also a green chutney and fruit jam available to coat over as a topping!

 Yam = yum!
Yam = yum!

I also took some time to check out the pop-up garden/RootDown LA exhibit in the patio area. I was pleased to learn that a program that is invested in the overall health and wellness of urban neighborhoods exists in an area so close to where I live. Kids living in these neighborhoods, and who are involved in this program, are trained to eat and grow their own produce. They are also encouraged to get other members of their community to follow suit. It truly is change happening at the ground level, and based on the display, RootDown LA seems to be meeting their goals!

 Pop-Up Garden featuring RootDown LA's work
Pop-Up Garden featuring RootDown LA’s work

I also visited the tables of Slow Food Los Angeles, Farm Fresh to You, and Lasan (from who I grabbed a free reusable shopping bag to add to my growing collection)! Rustic Canyon’s table was another favorite of mine.

 Rustic Canyon
Rustic Canyon

Marcona almonds coated with lavendar sugar-–need I say more??

 I totally went back for seconds...and um, thirds.
I totally went back for seconds…and um, thirds.

I ended up going to many of the tables more than once, trying to avoid awkwardly bumping into others as I was eating. A communal dinner was planned to follow the cocktail hour for those who purchased tickets. It was around 6PM when the announcement to head over to dinner was heard, and that was my signal to head on home.

The air still felt warm outside, but at least now there was a cooler breeze.

 Just another cloudy summer day in LA.
Just another cloudy summer day in LA.

As I headed home, my weekend ended just like it had started—I fell asleep to the sound of rain tapping at my window that night 🙂

Are there local youth-driven food and nutrition training programs for kids in your area?

Summer Walks, Afternoon Snackin’

Summer Walks, Afternoon Snackin’

I haven’t been in the blogging mood much lately…mostly because I’ve been getting my daily dose of Vitamin D,and then some.

Clear blue skies and sun rays on morning walk
Clear blue skies and sun rays on morning walk.

Sure, it hasn’t been super breezy, which does make taking long morning walks a bit more challenging (fighting against the hot weather and the stink sweat that results), but I have been enjoying myself nonetheless. 

These walks have been a great time to…

do my share of drought-shaming (bad neighbor, bad!). As a Californian, I’ve gotta do my part in this whole drought awareness campaign-thing 😉

 drought shaming
If you are going to water your lawn, water the stuff that’s green only, please. The sidewalk isn’t thirsty. :/

marvel at local nature. Knowing that the scenery of my local strolls will shift in the coming months (thanks to my move 🙂 ! ), I’ve been trying to be more present on my walks, taking into consideration the quirky nuances of  the nature of my neighborhood.

on my walk
Wild, brown grasses. Untouched by bulldozers and land developers—at least for now.
 this little tree was next to a larger one!
This little palm tree was next to a larger, woodsy forest green tree!
 Cacti growing through the fences. It's a Cali thing :)
Cacti growing through the fences. It’s a Cali thing 🙂

laugh at my own observations. If you look really carefully, there is a paint splattering on the sidewalk that looks like a caricature of Albert Einstein (the hair, mustache)! It’s okay if you don’t think so…I’ll just continue to chuckle to myself about it 😉

Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein—don’t ya think so?

use shady spots to check how your phone pictures turn out. Since I was taking most of these pictures in the bright sunlight, I had to use the shady spots I found to check if my pictures turned out to be good. Yes, I had to—otherwise there would be no blog post!

Shady Spots
Shady Spots

The best part about long walks? Refueling afterwards! I made sure to mix it up with new-to-me products and meal combos: 

After a long walk on a Thursday morning which pushed into the afternoon, I felt drained from the effects of the sun and the heat. I guess it was a good thing that my original plan for a run “fell through”. On my way home, I stopped by one of the local grocery stores to see if they had any daily discounts worth grabbing a hold of. 

I deemed these Honey Stinger Chews (only $1) to be a worthy “splurge”.

 Honey Stinger Organic Energy Chews
Honey Stinger Organic Energy Chews

The Pomegranate Passion was the only one on sale for a $1, and I have to admit I got these because I was influenced by my best friend’s frequent snacking on gummy bears. I have been craving something gummy to chew on for weeks now, and these gelatin-free energy chews satisfied just that.

So round & adorable

Obviously these gummies were very chewy and supremely sweet. I found them to be sweeter than Shot Bloks or even Swedish Fish! I guess these babies are truly meant to be fuel for a long run rather than after a long walk. 

I also tried my third flavor of Siggi’s yogurt—Peach! I found it to be extremely thick (like Fage plain thick), and it basically was a white yogurt base with globby peach chunks. I wish that the yogurt itself was peach in color, but otherwise it mixed well with this Kashi Heart-to-Heart cereal. And how can you argue with 14 grams of protein 😀 ? 

Siggi’s Peach with Heart-to-Heart cereal. 
Siggi's Peach
Doesn’t contain a lot of things—but that’s good!

 The only thing I was missing was a good source of fat from this post-Thursday walk snacking revelry, but I when I started to feel my eyes droop after finishing my yogurt mix, I knew taking a nap took top priority. 

On some of my other long walk days, I refueled with some other interesting combos: 

simple berry trifle: 1 container of blueberries, 1 container of strawberries, soaked in banana cho, topped with a mix of kashi go lean crunch and dark chocolate crunch cheerios!
Beauty in a bowl: this simple berry trifle. Literally has one container of blueberries, one container of strawberries, both of which were soaked in one cup of banana Chob. Then topped with a mix of Kashi GoLean Crunch and Dark Chocolate Crunch Cheerios!
Mississippi Mud BR Ice Cream with Kashi Cereal
Mississippi Mud Baskin-Robbins Ice Cream with Kashi Cereal. I mixed my dollar scoop with some GoLean Crunch cereal, and it made for the perfect post-8pm snack.
 Tofurky Italian Sausage with Baked Potato Cubes and Hot Chili Laughing Cow Swiss Cheese Spread
A “Meat ‘n’ Potatoes” kinda craving, except it’s perfectly suitable for this vegetarian 😉 ! In the mix was one Tofurky Italian Sausage with Baked Potato Cubes and Laughing Cow Swiss Cheese Spread mixed with Hot Chili Sauce.

Do you like taking a break from intense workouts and instead go on long walks?

Recruitment Recap #4 – Interview in the Windy City

Recruitment Recap #4 – Interview in the Windy City

This post is the second in a series regarding interview recaps of PhD programs I applied to. The first post in this series can be read here, the second here, and the third here.

My last interview weekend took place in Chicago, and I was super excited to not only finish up interview season, but to have my last interview take place in an amazing city.

Compared to the JFK airport, I thought the O’Hare airport was cleaner and prettier. There were lights, curvy window walls, and it just seemed to be spacious overall!

hard to take a picture when you are walking fast /// window walls

I did not have to deal with a taxi debacle this time around, and was able to secure a ride with a shuttle. The ride was okay itself, but the awkward part was having a phone interview with a faculty member who wasn’t available when I was in NYC the previous weekend during the entire drive over.  I was explaining my research experience (probably in a really loud voice), and I wouldn’t have been surprised if the driver/other passengers were irritated. So embarrassing…

Inside the shuttle.

When I got to the hotel, I was pleasantly surprised by the room, which incuded a “living area”, bathroom, and two beds since I once again had a roommate. She hadn’t arrived yet, so I freshened up and got my things together to get some late lunch.

“living area”/ room key  / bathroom  / bed

To get to my destination, I had to cross the river. When I got to the River Walk, I was blown away by its beauty. Even though it looked freezing with slabs of ice sheets floating on top, there was just something about the fog, mixed with serenity, mixed with the dim lights that made it worth walking the long way.

Beauty is possible in winter.

After eating at Native Foods and grabbing a Crumbs cupcake, I began to walk back while admiring the city streets beside me on The Loop.

Tall buildings, rainy afternoons…

I spotted a Freshii!

A hidden Freshii!

When I got back near my hotel, I decided to check out some shops nearby since I had some time left. Zara was right across from me, and Topshop was a block over, so I made it a priority to check out both.

an actual Garmin store / Zara, upper level / light canopy in front of Topshop / Topshop dresses

At around 6:30, I realized it would be a good idea to get back to the hotel for real this time since the first event started at 7:00. I met my roommate, who was applying to another program from mine, and we both went down to the hotel’s ballroom where we met other applicants, got free school swag, and were told of our itinerary for the weekend. We then broke into our program groups, and left with current grad students in each program to go out to dinner.

My program group ate out at an Asian sushi bar, and I then realized that there were more grad students than applicants! Literally everyone in the program—from first-years to fifth-years—were present, which showed how excited they were for recruitment weekend themselves. If the current grad students are happy, you know the school ain’t so bad ;).

The next day, recruits from all programs were shuttled from the hotel to the university. One of the current grad students took it upon himself to give us a bus tour via the bus microphone, and pointed out some Chicago landmarks while inserting some quick tidbits of fun facts.

When we got to the school, our programs split up again, and my program group was escorted by two of the faculty directors who led us to a corner conference room with this view…

How can you work with this in front of you??

The room was surrounded by windows for walls, and the Chicago skyline stood out prominently. It surprised me how anybody managed to get any work done if it had to be in this room!

After helping ourselves to coffee or tea, we watched two grad students, who were finishing up with their PhD studies, give presentations on their main projects. We also learned more about the department we were applying to, and the program directors gave talks themselves.

Soon it was time for lunch, which was held in the main lobby. It was basically catered salad and pizza, and we had about 2 hours to chat with grad students before our interviews right after. There were only four 30-minute interviews, with 10 minutes in between. Since this was my last interview, I had little-to-no nerves, almost feeling like a broken record by this time :P.

After interviews, we had a break before we were shuffled to a graduate student seminar. The current grad students go crazy for this every-Friday event, since everyone knows science pairs perfectly with free food and drinks (pizza and beer) ;). Us recruits happened to be guests on a day when a grad student gave a talk on his research in prostate cancer, while mixing in themes from the show Adventure Time. I think we figured out a few slides in as to why faculty don’t come to these things ;)!

Dinner was held at the home of one of the directors, and it basically was a selection of foods ranging from pretzel rolls to quinoa loafs—pretty much good food all around! I thought it was super thoughtful for the professor to invite all the recruits PLUS all of the current grad students for dinner at his house. A very different approach for a social get-together when compared to my other interview weekends!

After dinner, I was starting to lose my voice and overall did not feel very good, so I thought it made sense to call it a day and stay at the hotel, rather than push myself to “be social” at the arcade bar, even though I don’t drink. My roommate was really sweet and let me help myself to some cough drops/ibuprofen. Apparently everyone came back at different (odd) hours in the morning, ranging from 1 to 4 AM. After hearing some of the stories the next morning, I was glad I didn’t go!

We left for the university the next day around 8:30, and the (half) day’s events were devoted to a walking tour of the campus, student housing, and later, poster sessions before bidding adieu.

One of the current students took us to his apartment: a cozy little living space with a kitchen, three (small-ish) bedrooms, and one bathroom. His living quarters were a running distance away from the science buildings on campus where the department is housed, so it’s an ideal living space—especially for a first-year.

Next, we took a tour of the gorgeous gothic architecture that made up the campus:

Have I stepped into a Harry Potter book, or what??

The outside of the library lured us inside…

Walking towards the library.

…and we were blown away…

The beautiful library on campus.

Sitting in a library like that would definitely push me to study.

Lunch was catered again (salad and some random non-veg appetizers), and we were urged to walk around and mingle with grad students showcasing their research, via posters. At around 1pm, all recruits were called over to get shuttled to the airport or back to the hotel to do our own thing.

I opted to go back to the hotel so I could visit Water Tower Place again, as well as walk more of downtown Chicago.

water tower / random spongebob mailbox—couldn’t resist / walking in an alleyway

At around 3:00PM, my sore throat started to get the best of me, and I pretended to be a mannequin took a seat near a window in a nearby Nieman Marcus for half an hour (no joke). I did happen to come across a Vosges boutique—with samples! And if you’re a regular reader of mine, you know how I feel about free samples, let alone chocolate ones!

Blurry phone pic of Vosges Boutique Store.

I did manage to make it to the airport on time despite my less-than-stellar well-being. Needless to say, the 4.5 hour flight home was a horrible one. Probably one of my worst flights ever. But this trip overall? One of the best, ever.

How do you cope with getting sick while traveling?

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