Hollywood Hike and The Oaks Gourmet

Posted by Nicole

Yesterday was such a busy day! My normal weekend routine includes sitting around, doing homework, watching TV, hanging with friends, and going out at night. This Saturday was a lot different, but in a good way.

I woke up nice and early (8:50), took a shower, and had breakfast while waiting for my friends to meet me.

I read comics while I ate and saw a funny one that reminded me of my sis.

Change “cookies” to cupcakes/icecream/froyo and it basically describes our life. Sorry, Mom!

Soon enough, I hopped in the car with my friends and we were off to hike to the top of the Hollywood sign. Along for the ride was my friend Allison (who I’ll be living with next year yayyy!!!!), James (lives on my dorm floor), and Jordi (James’ roommate from Spain that plays for the USC tennis team).

We saw some pretty sites along the way…

So many palm trees

And the scientology celebrity center. CREEEEPPPYYY.

The weather cleared up and it was sunny out by the time we reached the hike entrance.

Up we went!

Me and Allison ^

James and Jordi ^

The whole gang. And some wind.

Then we went back down and got some better pictures.

The hike totaled to about 3.5 miles and it was a great day. Side note: If you’re planning on hiking to the sign, go early because it gets packed in the afternoon. We reached the top at noon and there were already tourist groups on the trails.

After the hike, we quickly decided on a place to eat lunch. Our choice:

The Oaks Gourmet

1915 North Bronson Avenue

Los Angeles, CA 90068

At first I thought that The Oaks Gourmet was a place to buy wine, beer, and cheese.

Luckily, the market also had a bakery and kitchen! They had a lot of great options on their menu, and the food was delicious.

Allison and I decided to split two dishes.

Roasted Beet, Sherried Fig & Humboldt Fog- Golden Beets, Baby Spinach, Toasted Walnuts, Fuji Apple, Roasted Beet & Poppy Seed Vinaigrette- $10

The salad was good, but neither of us were fans of the beets. It was my first time trying figs and I was impressed! I’ll have to experiment with them in the future…

The real winner of lunch was our sandwich. The menu had more than one vegetarian option, but I’m sure glad we chose this one.

Fresh Veggies on Cranberry-Walnut Toast- Cucumber, Avocado, Tomato, Shaved Fennel, Red Onion, Artichoke Hearts, Sprouts & Chive Cream Cheese- $9

It was AMAZING. All the veggies went perfectly with the fruity, dense toast. And any sandwich with cream cheese is a winner in my book. Definitely recreating this!

(James and Jordi got burgers, and they said they were amazing. I didn’t take pictures.)

We headed back to school, Allison and I attempted to watch “Crazy Stupid Love,” but ended up napping. I slept for 2 hours straight on a couch… Guess I was tired?

The rest of the day was fun too, but I’ll post about that a bit later.

Hope you’re enjoying your weekend!

– Nicole

Q4U: Have you ever hiked to the top of the Hollywood Sign? If not, favorite hiking place!?

Beignets for a walk

Posted by Lauren

Answers to the trivia questions at the end of my last post:

  1. O.J. Simpson – Who is the only player in NFL history to rush for over 2,000 yards in a 14 game season? (we put Walter Peyton)
  2. New York City – What city and state was George Washington in when he was inaugurated? (we put Philadelphia, PA)
  3. Delaware – What was the first state to use Direct Recording Electronic Voting machines? (we put Rhode Island)
  4. Luna 2 – What was the first spacecraft to reach the surface of the moon? (no idea what we put…)

If you knew all the answers, please come out to Mountain View the next time we go to Trivia Night!

Friday night, Kyle and I drove to Groveland, a town near Yosemite that you might recognize from previous posts. We slept in on Saturday and then began making a leisurely breakfast!

The star of the show: Cafe Du Monde beignets!


Cafe du Monde is a landmark French market in New Orleans that serves French beignets (aka donuts) and cafe au laits. When Kyle and his friends went to Mardi Gras last year, he brought back a box of their famous beignet mix. This is our second (successful!) attempt at the donuts.

  1. Mix 2 cups of mix and 7 fluid ounces of water. Stir with a spoon until blended.
  2. Roll to 1/8″ thickness (I think I rolled it too thin with my wine-bottle-rolling-pin) on floured surface. Cut into 2 1/4″ squares (ours were a little larger than that)
  3. Fry in an inch or two of oil at 370* until puffy and light golden. Drain well.
  4. Enjoy while hot!

You can’t just eat donuts for breakfast, so we also prepped some crispy hash browns and scrambled egg whites.


Coffee for me. Tea for him. Beignets for all!


Only the first few puffed up like they should, the oil wasn’t hot enough for the others. Unfortunately, we didn’t have any powdered sugar to sprinkle on top. Instead we dipped these in maple syrup, not a bad swap!


After a big breakfast, we headed out for a walk along the creek.


Round trip distance = 6 miles.


Croaking toads, sunshine, pretty views…..



When we returned, it was time to figure out what to do for lunch. The fridge was pretty bare, but we made it work! Boca burger + bacon + peanut sauce + salad with thai basil and cilantro.


Then, we napped. It only seemed right.


Exploding Dog

Posted by Nicole

Don’t worry, there are no exploding dogs in this post.  That would just be cruel.

Have you ever had one of those days where you don’t want to talk to anyone, you wish you could mute the world, and everything seems to bother you?  Today is one of those days for me.  Why?  I don’t know.  Am I just being a brat?  Probably.

On a happy-ish and pretty unrelated note, I thought I’d share some cool artsy stuff today.  Exploding Dog is a collection of drawings with random and witty captions.  I first saw the “cartoons” on Tumblr back when I was into that sorta thang.

When I’m feeling bored, I like to browse the Exploding Dog drawings.  Some of them are happy, some are sad, some are cute, some are just plain random.  Here are some of my favorites.

The happy, funny, loving:

The sad, lost, lonely:

And the ridiculously relatable:

Anyhow, go check them out if you’re bored.  All you do is click from picture to picture.  It’s fun.  And time-consuming.

That’s all for now!  Happy Friday.

– Nicole

Q4U: How do you waste time online?  Not counting Facebook, Twitter, Google Reader, Pinterest, DailyMile, Netflix, or Hulu!

Can you spot me?

Posted by Lauren

Wowza, Nicole is on a blogging streak these days! First she changes the header, surprise!, and she’s pounding out posts faster than ever:

  • The Christian Diet – For Lent, I’m trying to sleep more (aka giving up staying up late for no reason + watching Hulu or ch131 shows) and adapt to a workout in the morning cycle (no luck with that but I have to alter my sleep schedule first)
  • Awkward Burn Circuit – can we add bunny hops to that list? Those are really awkward
  • Exploding Dog – my favorite is the guy in the rocket “I could sleep more”

I wanted to quickly check in and talk about the end of my week…


I’m trying to bicycle more. That means riding my bike to the gym instead of driving, even if it’s dark/late/cold. California nights are a lot more mild than other places, so I need to quit being a weather-wimp.


In addition to the real bike, I used the stationary bike quite a bit this week. On Thursday, I ran my first post-accident mile on the treadmill!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! My lower back felt a little better this week and I desperately wanted to get that first mile out of the way. Kinda like your first kiss? Bad analogy? Anyways, I ran one mile on Thursday and TWO miles on Friday (after work) – felt great to get moving even if my back’s nowhere near 100%.

I also completed my first post-accident strength training workout on Thursday morning – a no-machine superset workout courtesy of Courtney. After Friday’s run, I attempted Kristine‘s pilates-inspired ab circuit. Both got me very sweaty!

After work on Thursday, a few coworkers and I went to Sports Page, a bar down the street, for Trivia Night. There were four-ish rounds:

  • Round 1: Find 9 differences between two nearly identical illustrations of cows in a pasture. We’re talking “this cow has a bigger eye than that cow”
  • Round 2: Questions like “Who wrote Great Expectations?” (Charles Dickens) and “Where is the Port of Dieppe?” (France)
  • Round 3: DJ Earworm mashup song/title recognition. Half a point for correct artist, half a point for correct song; identify all 25 songs in the mashup, which the emcee played twice
  • Bonus Round before the final: 1 girl from each team gets a set of questions for extra points (no help from other teammates allowed)
  • Round 4: More questions! They were HARD.


The mashup part was really hard for me because I have no music skills. Nicole hears a song for 4 seconds and can tell you the artist, the song title, and sing/rap half the lyrics. I, on the other hand, can barely hum a song after I’ve heard the whole thing.


Before we started the 4th round, our team – All We Do Is Lin Lin Lin – was in FIRST PLACE. By this time, our team was about 10 strong and back a few pitchers. We needed to buckle down and crank out correct answers. Sadly, we got question after question incorrect! We only managed to get one answer right that round!! Needless to say, we didn’t make 1st, 2nd, or 3rd place. Bummer.


Friday began with an early start to the work day, cherry Fage Greek yogurt, coffee, grapes, and a nice “nudge” from Nicole to drink some water.


Can you do that more often, Nic? It was really helpful!

Around lunchtime, everybody met in the courtyard to take a group photo to celebrate a new company milestone. The camera man stood on the roof and on the count of three we started to cheer. Can you spot me in the picture? I’m wearing a bright blue jacket and I am to the left of a white sign.


The bottom left photo is a celebratory chocolate blueberry cake that we ate later in the day. It was a fun way to end the work week!

Oh! Our group went inside to grab lunch after the photo… and then we brought our food outside for a “picnic.” The weather was amazing!!! Random lunchtime topic: WIll Smith and his1999 flick, Wild Wild West.


Anybody know the answer to……. (a few Round 4 trivia questions we got incorrect)

  1. Who is the only player in NFL history to rush for over 2,000 yards in a 14 game season?
  2. What city and state was George Washington in when he was inaugurated?
  3. What was the first state to use Direct Recording Electronic Voting machines?
  4. What was the first spacecraft to reach the surface of the moon?


ABC – Awkward Burn Circuit

Posted by Nicole

If you’re anything like me in the weight room (which for your own sake, I hope you’re not), you know what it’s like to feel intimidated, clueless, and weak.  I’ve said it multiple times that I do not feel 100% comfortable in the “weights” section of the USC gym.  Today, I solved that problem.

I’ve been following LiveFit for about 6 weeks now, and I’m starting to get a little antsy.  I have major commitment issues when it comes to fitness goals.  I get lazy.  I get bored.  I’m only human.  I like freedom in my routine.  I’ve been wanting to have fun.  Today, I solved that problem.

I had about 45 minutes to spare before dinnertime and decided to make up a fun workout circuit.  That’s right, I said NO to my dear friends Mr. Hulu and Mr. Netflix (they seem masculine for some reason) and actually used my free time to do something productive.

Another thing.  Are there a few moves that make you feel particularly uncomfortable to perform in front of the gym audience?  For me:

  • Pushups, because I can only do them from my knees
  • Jackknifes, because I look like I’m in a lot of pain
  • Squats of all sorts, especially plie squats
  • Deadlifts, because it’s basically a free show to my booty
  • Donkey Kicks, because they are just plain awkward
  • Walking Lunges, because they take up a lot of room in the crowded gym
  • And the list goes on…

So here is the circuit I came up with.  It incorporates a few of the “OMG I hope no one is watching me” moves and only requires a few dumbbells and a chair/step.  Feel free to try it if you are up to it.  I’m not a trainer or any of that legit stuff, so proceed with caution and don’t hurt yourself because I’ll feel really bad if you do.

ABC – Awkward Burn Circuit (40 burnin’ minutes!  supersets by color)

Afterwards, feel free to relax in front of a fan and drink ice water.  Highly recommended :)

And then, go fill up on a healthy dinner.  For me- kale/wild rice salad, roasted brussels sprouts, eggplant, tomatoes, squash, and some baby carrots.

And then have dessert.  You deserve it.

– Nicole

Q4U:  Let’s get awkward… You tell me… What are some weight-lifting moves you wish you could do without the gym audience?

The Christian Diet

Posted by Nicole

Happy (Ash) Wednesday!  Hopefully you all didn’t party too hard last night for Fat Tuesday… I know I didn’t.  Yesterday morning, I had a marketing midterm and felt like spending the night in bed- sleeping and sleeping and sleeping some more.  I did just that, and it was fantastic.

In terms of Lent, or should I say The Christian Diet, it starts today.  I always enjoy bugging my family about what they are each giving up.  It’s funny how many people, myself included, use Lent as a diet.  I wish I could use Lent to adopt a positive behavior, rather than give up a bad behavior, but I don’t.  I’m not very creative and I’m too vain.  If you have any good Lent ideas, hit a sista up in the comments section :)

In celebration of Lent, I’m going to do what I always do- give up sweets!  To challenge myself a bit more, I’m going to also give up alcohol.  My mom said, “that’s a good idea, considering you’re not even 21…”  She is a wise woman.  Here’s to 40 days and 40 nights of commitment!  I’m kind of excited.  I like challenges.  A lot.

Moving on to some things that have made me particularly happy these past few days…

THIS FRIKKEN ADORABLE DOG!  My yellow labrador retriever, Sandie, passed away a few months ago and my stepgrandma just got a dog… and decided to name it Sandie.  To me, this little chihuahua ratdog is Sandie Jr.

Regardless of the fact that she stole Sandie’s name, she is so so so stinkin’ cute.  And cuddly.

If only her name wasn’t Sandie…

FRESH FRUIT.  Good thing I’m not a psycho that counts fruit as a “sweet” because I plan to eat endless amounts of fruit while it is in season.  How could you not?  Natural sugar FTW.

NONI TEA.  David gave me some special tea when I was home this past weekend.  It’s special because it is from all the way across the globe!  He went to Palau, Thailand in January (to go deep-sea diving) and came back with some souvenirs.  The herbal tea boasts a lot of benefits and I was pleased to find that it tastes pretty good, too.  It tastes kind of like seaweed and green tea, but in the best way possible.

How long till I get the “Healthy Body and Beautiful Skin”?????????

The COOLNESS of my SCHOOL.   A scene in “United States of Tara” was filmed at USC.  I felt famous just watching it.  I started to freak out.

What’s up, Taper Hall?

SO so cool.

RUNNING OUTSIDE and BASKETBALL.  After a weekend of outdoor running and hiking, it was a struggle to run on a treadmill on Tuesday night.  Tonight, I fired up the Garmin and headed out for a little run to and from the gym.  At the gym, I played basketball with DG for the second time this semester.  Once again, I ran around and flailed my arms and pretended I knew what I was doing.  Once again, we lost.  Coincidence?  Maybe.

GRILLED TOFU in the couscous for dinner.  No chicken for this girl.  I was a happy camper.

Countdown to the weekend starts…… NOW.

Q4U: What are you giving up for Lent?  Any good ideas of non-food related challenges?

Q4U: Do you seem to run faster on the treadmill or outside?  

I seem to always run slower outside… not a good thing.

WIAW 2/22: Creole Lunch + Wikipedia Info

Posted by Lauren

Nicole and I promised that the first thing we would mention for this WIAW post (thanks Jenn!) is her healthified spinach artichoke dip.

Go check it out! And then read about the 70s Love Boat Cruise in SF (or, don’t).


After an enjoyable 3-day weekend, I headed back to the office, totally happy about the lighter traffic. In high school, we always got this week off (“ski week”), so my guess is that a fraction of normal commuters are off to the barren slopes of Tahoe?

I began my day with two hard-boiled egg whites and a bowl of cinnamon oatmeal with trail mix topping. Nuts. Raisins. Chocolate. That’s enough to keep me interested in microwave oats.


The theme of today’s lunch was quite befitting – Creole cuisine to celebrate Mardi Gras. I filled my plate with crawfish etouffee (such a fun word to say), red beans and white rice, tofu etouffee, a hush puppy, cantaloupe dipped in chocolate (?), and sautéed Cajun collard greens.


The crawfish etouffee was the best part! Thanks to Wikipedia, I now know that etouffee literally means smothered or suffocated. When it comes to Louisiana cookin’, one “smothers” food by simmering it in a little liquid and lots of spices/seasonings. That process creates a sauce the consistency of gravy! A proper etouffee is thicker than gumbo and features seafood. Creole-style etouffee is dark-brown in color, whereas Cajun-style etouffee is light brown.

Wikipedia can be so enlightening.

After lunch, I walked around the block. I’m loving the cherry blossoms :)


Cherry blossom trees were introduced to the United States exactly 100 years ago! Japan gave the U.S. 3,020 trees in 1912 (let’s just forget about the 2k trees we received in 1910). These trees will continue to blossom through late March if we are lucky!


A little sugar in the form of bread pudding, fruit, and …um… some m&m’s :) carried me through to the end of the work day. I went to the gym and bicycled for about 30 minutes, used the elliptical for 20 minutes, and gazed longingly at the treadmill. Hopefully I feel good enough to run soon!


I picked up the April 2011 issue of Fitness Rx to read while on the machines. After I got past the initial shock of a magazine full of really muscley women and tons of protein powder ads, I focused on some interesting articles that discussed nutrition and various exercise styles. When I get back into tip-top shape, I might hunt down some of that info! (p.s. that magazine needs a graphic design overhaul really badly)


The super simple dinner you see above came together quickly thanks to some leftovers in the fridge! I combined grilled chicken, sliced carrots/celery/peppers, spinach, and ground red pepper to a skillet. The leftovers that came to my rescue? Nicole’s squash dish from Friday!

Right after dinner I caught up on PLL and 2 Broke Girls with some Greek yogurt, popcorn, and dark chocolate. Keeping it easy tonight and going to bed early!

Question: Did you eat anything related to Fat Tuesday/Mardi Gras recently? Have you ever been to New Orleans?