Monday, March 31, 2014

Brunch in Palm Springs

Spring break was relaxed. It was the "lay in the sun until you get too hot and need to lounge in the pool" type of relaxed. I headed to Palm Springs and stayed a friend's luxurious family house where I read a book, attempted to get a tan, and ate delicious food. 

The weather was perfect in Palm Springs and the pool and community was beautiful. But, the most notable thing was the food. To be specific, brunch I had on Saturday morning. 
Also known as the BEST BRUNCH OF MY LIFE (so far). Yes, the caps are necessary and it is a very bold statement. I love my breakfast food and brunch is my favorite meal, so this statement is big one and 100% not exaggerated. 

While the rest of my week was filled with fun times--Palm Springs, Redlands, Sarah visiting, going out to eat, the Beach Club, jello shot syringes, and job applications--the one notable thing I have to blog about is this breakfast.

We went to Wilma and Frieda in Palm Desert around noon, excited and very hungry. The restaurant was in a mall next to ritzy stores and filled with fashionable retirees (aka the heart of the Palm Springs population). The restaurant already won me over when we walked in and there were small free samples of raspberry oatmeal bar pastries. Since I wanted to eat desperately, I snuck two samples and was blown away by how delicious they were.
By the time we were sat, everyone already knew what they were going to order. Andrea and I decided to get our top two choices (one savory and one sweet). We ordered the strawberry french toast and the Crabs Egg Bennie with a side of salad with poppyseed dressing.

It was hand down the best breakfast food I've ever tasted--even the salad came with delicious dressing. The Eggs Bennie came on a home-made English muffin and a TON of crab meat. Since Andrea and I are both obsessed with seafood, I appreciated that it was more than just a few pieces thrown in. The hollandaise sauce was also on the lighter side which meant the whole dish felt refreshing and perfect.

The french toast was just as equally amazing. It was more bread pudding with baked strawberries than toast and covered with fresh strawberries and a little icing. It was sweet enough to not need maple syrup and the portion was just enough to where you wanted one more bite without getting too much sweetness.

I could write poems about this brunch, and for $17 dollars including tip it was worth every penny. I've never felt the need to document a meal in awhile (my trip to Italy aside), but I can't wait until I make it to Palm Springs to eat here again. Luckily, the rest of my spring break was just as enjoyable as the brunch and included lots of pool time both at Palm Springs and back at home. I should be back in Palm Springs in a few weeks for Coachella as well, so this needs to be on the schedule!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Weekend Trip to Eugene, Oregon

A trip to Oregon has been in the making for years. One of my best friends from home and I spent all of our last semester in high school making pro and con lists for our top college choices. When I finally decided USC and she decided U of O, we promised that we would visit each other. Fast forward to senior year of college, and we both realized that the time to visit needed to happen soon.

I booked my tickets to Eugene through Allegiant Air for only $98 round trip (!). Sure the airline only had one flight in on Thursday and one flight out on Sunday and charged for not only checked but carry on luggage, but I was ecstatic about the price. Since my friend Turner and I can share clothes and I don't have Friday class, I didn't end up paying any extra fees. (Unless you count the In'n'Out bribes I made to get a ride to LAX and back.) I stuffed everything I could into a backpack for my one free personal item, and promptly fell asleep for the whole plane ride.

I got into Oregon in the afternoon, and updated Turner on my life while we drove around Eugene and through campus. While LA was about to have a huge rain storm, Eugene was beautiful with clear skies, suburbs, and pine trees all over campus. I definitely missed all the nature. Our first activity was heading to the U of O gym to take a Zumba class. After subtly finding a way to get me into the gym, we realized that we had forgotten the tickets to get in the class. Instead, we ran a few laps around the indoor track and finished with a 15 minutes on the stepper. It was fun seeing how nice their gym was (especially in comparison to our school) and I was getting a little envious.

Once we got back to Turner's apartment, we made a frozen pizza and watched some mindless TV while getting ready to go out to the bars around the area. It was a ton of fun, and as always I reveled at how cheap drinks were everywhere outside of LA. The whole night was such a good time and may have ended with us eating two boxes of gluten free mac and cheese.

Friday was a much needed lazy day with the exception of walking around campus and Turner giving me a quick tour. Since we checked campus tour off of our weekend to do list, the rest of the night was spent guilt free watching America's Next Top Model marathons, cooking a crock pot dinner, making cookies (and eating cookie dough), and talking about nothing in the best way.

In the weeks leading up to the trip, I only had one request: to eat a VooDoo donut. I may have a slight obsession with donuts* so visiting one of the more famous donut shops in the US was a bucket list item. *Actually my whole family does--it was the one dessert everyone liked, so we all went crazy. Plus any surf trips came with a guaranteed promise of a donut stop. Saturday morning, we slept in and made our way to downtown Eugene. There was a decent line, so I had time to check out all the options and look around at the hilarious signs and donut names (so many dirty puns) and decorations. In typical fashion, I got too excited once there and ordered my top 3 choices--maple bacon bar, chocolate and rice crispy with drizzled peanut butter, and a VooDoo man.

I ate the delicious maple bacon bar for breakfast (because the bacon makes it the most breakfasty, duh) as we drove to beat the rain and go shopping. I was enjoying the zero sales tax (craziness compared to CA's 9%). I obviously had not gotten into the Oregon spirit (or realization that I was going to eat three huge donuts by the end of the weekend) because while it was raining out I bought a new bikini top and Los Angeles tote bag.

After shopping and dropping off the rest of the donuts off at the apartment, Turner, her friend and I all met up to take a Top 40 workout dance class that I had heard about all weekend. It was a different teacher than usual so the class turned out to be more comical than anything, but it felt good to be active and work off at least part of the donut.

And speaking of the donuts, I ate half the rice crispy donut between the workout class and dinner just because it was unbelievably delicious.

Turner's boyfriend and friend joined us for dinner and we went out to a local restaurant that for the life of me I can't remember the name of. After sharing an order of cajun tater tots with the table (which we were told was a necessity), I ordered a mushroom sandwich with cheese and sun dried tomatoes which I happily demolished.

To celebrate our last night together, we headed out again to the bars for one more night out. After dancing and bar hopping, we ended our night with late night Taco Bell (plus the last half of the rice crispy donut) and having heart to hearts. The whole weekend was so much fun, and it was nice to spend it with such a good friend and in a new place. Instead of it feeling like a trip, being in Eugene felt exactly like being home and hanging out with my high school friends. This visit was in the making for 4 years and it was great to finally come the full circle from senior year of high school to senior year of college together.

PS When I got up early to catch my plane, I ate half of my VooDoo donut. It had a pretzel stick through its heart and jelly filling on the inside when you bit it. Very clever and a huge relief that apparently I was starting to get my fill of donuts for the weekend.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Bang Bang (Guns and Stuff in LA)

It's Valentine's day! So let's talk about guns, sausages, and beer!

I'm currently waiting for Scott to get out of class to have some adventures around Redlands, so I thought I would celebrate now by talking about last week's "Explore LA" date. Last Friday, Scott was in town for my sorority invite (in which we were decked out as Hugh Hefner and a Playboy bunny). Usually, the following Saturday we catch up on all our shows and have a lazy day, but this time my house was holding a conference.

The conference left us with no where to stay, so we decided to spend the day out and about downtown. After a quick lunch (breakfast?) at Pizza Studio, we drove to the LA Gun Club by the arts district in Downtown LA. I knew a few people who had gone before, and it was on my "do before I graduate" list.

Scott and I had never shot a gun--I don't think I've even held one--so I was getting the nervous/excited feeling as we walked in. I'm not sure what I expected from a gun club, but I was shocked at all the options and was getting antsy as we took our numbers and waited to be called.

Luckily, we seemed to have beat the large crowd that came in after us, and soon we were talking to an employee about the best gun for beginners. The place gets mostly beginners looking for a fun activity, so I was't self conscious asking a bunch of questions. I wish I could remember the name of the guns we used, but we started off by renting a handgun that I can only describe as the Russian roulette type. I picked a target, and we were given headphones, glasses, and an aisle number.

We had bought a round of 50 to share, and I started off the first shot. Even with my first bad couple shots, the experience was exhilarating. I also was shocked at how well I got the hang of it. By the time I had finished my portion of the rounds (we switched off every barrel), I was spending most of the time admiring my handiwork.

Scott and I ended up having so much fun that we decided to rent another gun and go for one more round. This time we went for a semi automatic handgun that the army uses, and grabbed another target. This gun had more of a kick to it, and all my previous "skills" from before were completely gone. I think I only hit my target about 5 times throughout the whole practice. Scott on the other hand was killing it, and getting everything on target.

Finally, our bullets had run out, and we decided to finish up. We were there for probably about 2.5 hours (including wait time), and the club doesn't rush you to finish which was really great. The whole thing cost about $70 between two people so it was a fairly affordable date (as long as you split it) and was an adrenaline pumping activity. It was so much more fun than I expected, and it's always fun when even after 7 years there are still "firsts" for Scott and I to do together.

Our next stop was at a popular restaurant in the arts district called Wurstkuche for an early dinner.
It sells sausages and imported Belgian and German beers, and is one of those hipster-y restaurants that actually lives up to its reputations (so I heard). It was my first time eating there, and I ordered a simple kielbasa and German beer while Scott got the same (different beer) and fries. The food reminded me of Prague but even better. Ok, so Prague's kielbasa will always hold a special place in my heart but having a bun to eat it with instead of a single piece of dark bread was an improvement. 

It was so much fun just hanging out and eating good food, and by the time we got back to school we had just enough time to squeeze in two episodes of Community before Scott left. It was one of the more perfect weekends I've had all semester. A party with friends, adrenaline, good food, and Scott visiting makes for an amazing couple of days.

Now I just need him to get out of class!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Surf City Half Marathon!

After 3 months of training and long runs everywhere from San Francisco to Santa Monica, the weekend of the Surf City Half Marathon was finally here. Running a half marathon is also on my new bucket list, so I was both nervous and excited to finally do it.

On Saturday, I drove to Long Beach to pick up my sister, and we both headed to the race expo to get my and my roommate's bids and swag bag. It was much funner than I thought it would be and Jessica and I spent most of the time grabbing all the free samples and admiring my new hot pink, long sleeve (!) race shirt.

We spent the rest of the day hanging out until we decided to grab a dinner downtown at Pitfire Pizza. Madison and I shared a pizza and spaghetti and meatballs (tip from my brother for our pre-race meal) before heading back, packing our running stuff, hyperventilating, and setting our alarms for 5:45 before finally heading to bed.

5:45 is a time meant for sleeping. Hearing my alarm and realizing that I was getting up to run 13.1 miles (which I had to keep reminding myself was something that I had not only chosen to do but also paid a decent amount of money for) made me wish for a few more hours of sleep. Especially since I found out when I'm nervous, I wake up and switch my pillows every hour of the night. I was happy that I already laid out all my clothes the night before, so it just took a quick change and grabbing my bag before I was downstairs eating my PB&honey English muffin.

The sun was rising as we drove the 45 minutes to Huntington Beach, and for once there was no LA traffic and the radio wasn't playing ads. We were trying to mentally prepare ourselves for the race, and the drive did actually help.

What didn't help was waiting almost an hour for the shuttle to take us to the starting line. It was really cold and we went from being intimidated to just wanting to get on the bus so we wouldn't be cold and late. By the time we made it to the start our heat was just about to begin. Without anytime to get nervous, we were instantly running.

The start was scenic and felt good. I instantly warmed up even though I had tossed my jacket to the side, and running the two miles to a three loop mentally made the first half go quick and painlessly. I ran the first half of the course with Madison which meant that I had someone to talk to.

For some reason, I had decided to train for the entire half marathon without listening to any music. It actually made the run feel much more special, and it became a more meditative experience. During a good run, I can just zone out and think about nothing for several miles or focus on mantras that motivate me.

Until mile 8, we were running to Bolsa Chica Beach on PCH. I was shocked about how good I felt--I didn't want to walk, was at a comfortable pace, and was enjoying having so many people around me to "target" since I usually run alone.

At that point, I grabbed a free Cliff Bloc (first time eating during a run) which helped get a little energy back. I was also tempted to grab a donut that people were handing out, but refrained when I imagined the stomach cramps that could result. As the race took us back to Huntington Beach, I started to get more and more tired. From mile 9-10 I was cursing the slight uphills (while also happy that my house was surrounded by so many hills during my training runs) and debating at what point to turn on my music. Mile 11 was a rough point--I finally turned on some Beyonce before realizing that without headphones, I couldn't hear anything. Luckily, at the point there were more spectators and I had made up several mantras that I was chanting in my head to make sure I didn't stop running.

Although slightly nauseous, I knew my one goal was to run the whole marathon. I had to keep reminding myself that I would be so disappointed if 2.1 miles from the finish line I started walking. It also made me think about how far I've come and how well the training worked. Achieving a goal was taking actual hard work, and I was amazed that this was possible for me. A red vine handed out by a spectator also may have helped too.

A huge motivator was also knowing that so many people came to support me. Scott drove out from Redlands, Jessica came to watch, and my two friends from school Andrea and Maddie had driven out as well. It wasn't until I was running the race that truly I realized how much it meant to me, and how much it helped keep me motivated.

I saw them right at the finish line and waved before crossing over with the biggest smile on my face. That smile quickly turned to shock when I realized that instead of relief, every muscle from my butt down was KILLING me. I could barely walk, but I still managed to grab all the free food and my medal on the way out before meeting up with Scott (who may have offered to carry me ;).

I cannot put into words how proud of myself I am that I completed the half marathon and stuck to all my goals. Finishing the race was a combination of awe at how feasible the race felt (up until mile 9 I felt strong and in the zone) and how much mental strength it took to not take walking breaks. I was amazed I could run so far and so long without listening to music and really focusing on myself, my goals, and at the same time nothing at all.

A half marathon has been a goal of mine for years. I would print out half marathon training plans and look up races, but never got past a three mile run. Crossing the finishing line was so empowering, and I'm already looking forward to my next one (not in the near future however). I was also beyond appreciative to have such an amazing support system and people around me.

Even better, we celebrated with a mimosa and some chicken and waffles from Roscoe's in Long Beach. My eyes may have been a little bigger than my stomach, but it was amazing (and I had the leftovers for dinner). What's the point of a half marathon if you can't brunch?