Houston food

Here are some of the food places we dined at in Houston. Please note, I am not a foodie. I don’t necessarily go to food places because I saw it on a magazine or TV. A lot of times it’s serendipitous — but really I’m just hungry. Also since I went with friends, they helped me decide where to go.

Phat Eatery (23119 Colonial Pkwy Suite B-2, Katy, TX 77449)

Cuisine: Malaysian

The first place we ate when we arrived to Houston after a 2.5-hour drive from Austin. This restaurant was in a large strip mall, I decided Phat Eatery because my friends never had Malaysian food.

Top from left to right: Sizzling Tofu (my favorite!), Roti Canai, Beef Rendang. Bottom: Sizzling Tofu, Mi Goreng, and I am guessing the vegetable side is water spinach (?)

Continue reading Houston food

Do not get stuck on a to-do list

Grab a horchata latte and relax with me. I’ve been on a horchata latte kick lately because it’s so good. Horchata latte is espresso and the Mexican rice drink, horchata. Usually I am not a horchata fan because a lot of the time I find it diluted. Maybe it’s better to attempt horchata myself — this horchata recipe looks so good!

Speaking of kick, I’ve been reading a few good graphic novels which has gotten me back on my reading groove.

Horchata latte

Career break week

This week was my week off before I start my new job. Though I had a list of things I’d like to do during my career break week, I did not accomplish any of them but it was still a very productive week. I’ve learned early in my life to not get stuck on a to-do list. On Monday, I visited the three daycares I narrowed down after a 2-3 weeks of research. On Tuesday, I made a decision on which daycare to enroll Lna and paid the deposit. Thursday was her first day there. We did half-days on Thursday and Friday. When I picked her up at noon, it was so weird to think that I’m only four miles away from my house, not 25 miles. I had the rest of the day to continue running errands or driving home for nap time.

I spent my week putting together a dressier wardrobe for work. It’s business casual, how it has been with my other previous jobs. I got away with slacks and sneakers since I did a lot of walking around the hospital. But this employer prefers “a suit jacket over a dress or dress shirt/slacks.” I decided to go in a greener direction by looking into neighborhood no-buys on Facebook and thrift stores. I also had some clothes that needed some fixing so I sent it over to an alteration place.

My mom gifted me tomato plants last weekend. I had to get supplies for the tomato plant such as a large terracotta plant, plate, soil, and the tomato cage. It was very hard to find a large terracotta plant. I went to a few stores and finally found one.

Also, I got a chance to meet with my cousin and her husband for dinner. It’s hard to meet up with them since they both work weekends. She’s a flight attendant and he’s nurse. I guess looking back, though I did not accomplish anything on my list, it was overall a good week off. I even worked on a few posts that have been in the draft backburner for so long.

The Next 30 days

…will be interesting. It’s too long to share, but… I would not be surprised if at some point one of the BILs will call their mom over. MIL will come to our house and ask my husband, “why are you pushing your brothers to get jobs and be more productive? Why are you scaring them with an eviction?”

Tags: #WeekendCoffeeShare

Play hard

The Comparison game

I think one of the worst things a parent, a grandparent, or a relative could do to a child is to compare them with other children. I am thankful my parents never did that. I am also thankful my parents advised me to never compare myself to other people. I am sure I started this self-flagellation of comparing myself to others as early as elementary school…maybe even sooner? I think into my 20s it was pretty bad because I was concerned about career and life satisfaction. Now in my 30s, I am actively fighting against it.

Continue reading Play hard

Five Things Friday – Attempt #1

Five things Friday is a post where I share five things that either made my week, what I am thinking about, or would like to share with all of you

1. Saag Paneer – Attempt #1

It was surprisingly pretty easy to make. The hard part was looking for paneer. Thankfully Sprouts sells paneer, but next time I want to get my paneer from an Indian market since we have so many of them where I live.

saag paneer
Need to have better plating skills. This is just from my pan.

2. “Trese” anime series on Netflix

As a Filipina-American it was so awesome to see all these creatures from Filipino folklore play out in the modern day. It reminds me of a Filipino version of Grimm, but much more well…grim…

3. Evening walks with my husband, Lana, and the dogs

Right now we’re experimenting with evening walks. Maybe it will help Lana fall asleep faster.

4. Trader Joe’s Instant Cold Brew Coffee

This has saved me from standing in the long lines at the coffee shop at work. I can just go straight to the office and make my own cold brew from my desk.

5. New fitness tracker

My FitBit Charge 4 decided to stop working on Sunday after one year of having it. Before that I had a FitBit Charge 2 for several years before it died out. I did not want to shell out another $150+ on a FitBit so I did a little bit of research and came across the Amazfit Bip U Pro. It looks like an Apple Watch or a FitBit Versa but so much more in my price range.

Wednesday Coffee and Croissants

I wanted to scale back the lavishness of a wedding to celebrate something ordinary like a Wednesday. I’ve been doing this recently to celebrate that I am halfway through another workweek. Plus, the lines in bakeries on Fridays tend to be long. I assume people are celebrating the end of the work week or they have Friday off..

Treating myself for a coffee and croissant on an Wednesday makes the middle of the workweek special. Wednesdays tend to be my busiest days also, so waking up a little early to leave my house a little early is worth it. Plus, I support small businesses.

This week has been pretty hard already. Since Sunday my car broke down and it’s still down today. My husband anticipated that the repair was beyond his skillset so I called for a mechanic to come take a look, but that did not happen until the following day. Monday happened and the mechanic shared his insight and said he’ll go look for the part and possibly come back later that evening or the following day. Anyways, I had to use my dwindling PTO to get that Monday off. I thought about getting a Lyft ride to work after the mechanic stopped by, but because I live fairly far the fare was pretty pricey for doing less than five hours of work that day.

Anyways here’s to another work week!

Ham and gruyere croissant
Ham and gruyere croissant from Proof Bakery

Do you do celebrate any “ordinary” days? Comment below!

“Eat around the World is a monthly writing/photography challenge where I invite people to share a dish around a theme, ingredient, or technique. June’s theme is “Wedding Cake…and other Celebratory Treats.” All themes are open to interpretation. Cooking skills are not required to participate.

Amara Coffee and Chocolate

Amara Coffee and Chocolate” is originally posted as a guest post for The Cappucino Traveler. Just like me, Crystal is passionate about coffee across different methods and styles. Come check it out!

This post is part of a series of different people sharing their favorite (local) cafes. In this post, I feature Amara Coffee and Chocolate in Pasadena because it has two of my favorite things: good drinking chocolate and fresh, hot churros!

Cacao Latte

After what felt to me like months and months of non-stop work and projects, I decided to dedicate the month of August to place the brakes.


I wanted to finally relax and remind myself of some of the things in life that bring me joy. Yes, I have a husband and two dogs that keep me centered but there are things in life that bring me joy. One of them is exploring different coffee houses.

Amara Coffee and Chocolate

For this post, I’ll highlight Amara Chocolate and Coffee (Amara C+C) in Pasadena. It’s an authentic Venezuelan cafe serving brunch, coffee, pastries, and of course hot chocolate.  My husband and I discovered this place a couple of years ago, when we were walking around  Pasadena, walking off our dinner. Unfortunately that dinner was bland.  It was cold (for California standards), we wanted desserts and found Amara C+C.

For our first visit, we got hot drinking chocolate and churros for dessert. The churros were fresh and the drinking chocolate was decadent. Since then we’ve been going back, especially when we are feeling especially indulgent. Bonus points if the weather is cold and rainy too. Gladly, I am taking you readers to Amara because it is in my top five favorite cafés in Los Angeles — it’s a real treat. Plus I am ordering a hot drink on a Sunday brunch day in August.

Cacao latte and churros

Weekend Coffee Share: Here’s a Lemoncocco

At my house you will usually find a limited selection of beverages: water, coffee (available in hot and cold), teas (hot and cold), or some citrus beverage because we have an abundant amount of oranges and lemons in my yard. Once in a while, you’ll find beer or wine and very seldom you will find carbonated beverages or other specialty drinks.


If we were having coffee, I would also offer a Lemoncocco and DRY sparkling soda. I picked these up yesterday when I was wandering through Gelson’s searching for an indoor plant for our house. I never had Lemoncocco before today and this Italian beverage is not overly sweet. Don’t be surprise if this will end up being a regular in my house. My favorite soft drink is DRY sparkling but I don’t find it in a lot of markets. I guess that is good thing. It’s not sweet and I love the unusual flavors it comes in like lavender, rhubarb, and watermelon.

What else is up?

New face. Yes, this blog has a new layout as of yesterday. I like it a lot. I hope I stick to this one for a while.

Let it go. As of lately, I have been decluttering according to The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing (and here’s a summary)Ever since we moved into our house two years ago, we have not unpacked every box. But it did not stop by from buying things for our house too. Also, we had a housemate who occupied our spare room for almost two years. When she moved out, she left a lot of her stuff at our house which created more clutter. And we have stuff from the previous owners. I decided to put Marie Kondo’s tips into execution. When I see something, I ask myself, “does it bring meaning, does it bring joy?” If not, I’ll either I trash it or send it to donations.

It’s certainly a more aggressive way to declutter but I feel so much better. My husband likes to hold on to things even way after it serves its use on the otherhand. Today for examples, my husband wanted to get rid of our pub table and replace it with more shelves for our pantry. I am all for it, but I was not for relocating the pub table into the laundry room. Besides where would the two chairs go? I told him the pub table will not have any purpose in the laundry room. Sure there is room for the pub table, but wouldn’t a drying rack make more sense? Also wouldn’t the pub table be sad? The pub table spent its first several years as the main dining table to serve me and then my boyfriend-now-husband. It spent its years in the kitchen/dining room as the center of the home. It’s still being used to hold cookbooks and meal prep and eat breakfast, but now we have a regular dining table in the dining room. The pub table would be sad staying in the laundry room with no purpose other than to hold junk.

This pub table was purchased 10 years ago and I got it from IKEA for less than 90 dollars. That being said, I would not be sad if this were to go to the donation bin. Thank you for your years of service pub table and chairs for giving us a comfortable place to eat, otherwise we’d be eating around the coffee table sitting on the floor.

What’s up for this week?

For the blog, stay tuned for a few photos from my recent hikes. I even have one taken with a 360-camera. I’ll see if I can post that. Also, my first guest post spot!

For life, I have PTO this Friday. It’s been an unusually busy summer for me work-wise. According to my calendar, it should be fairly calm this week. I hope.

Julie Weekend Coffee Share

Credit: The Smushed Peach

Interested in participating in the Weekend Coffee Share yourself? Come on over to Nerd in the Brain for more details! Check out the link party page or this wordpress tag for inspiration.

Weekend Coffee Share: Instagram


No coffee today. I think today is a good day to have a pineapple cider :-).

After thinking this through, I finally got around to making an Instagram for my blog. I had my reasons to not having a separate Instagram account — I thought my personal account was enough. The truth is, I don’t really update my personal account and I felt my personal account should be for covering the candid things in my life and I want to continue to keep it less curated. My blog account should be more like an extension of the blog and promote my posts. I felt incorporating my blog content to my personal account would be awkward disruptive to my feed.

I have some friends who post on Instagram of pictures of their family, kids, dinner with friends, selfies with their make-up for the day, outings, and the next thing you know they post photos about their upcoming sale, inspiring quotes about living and breathing organic food, and reposts. The change in posting behavior can confuse your personal brand. If you need to sell your organic oils and reach your followers via Instagram, then make a brand new, separate account instead.

There you have it, if you want an extension of this blog, check out @inthewildla. If you want to get to know me and follow me in real-time, then check out @itsjuliebear.

Do you keep separate social media accounts for your blog? If so (or not), then why.


Julie Weekend Coffee Share

Credit: The Smushed Peach

Interested in participating in the Weekend Coffee Share yourself? Come on over to Nerd in the Brain for more details! Check out the link party page or this wordpress tag for inspiration.

Weekend Coffee Share: Planning a spa afternoon

If we were having coffee, it would be at my house. We’d have coffee from a conservative selection of Nespresso pods. I have Vanizio, Intenso, and Melozio for now. Which would you like? The weather has been bearable for hot coffee.


Train ride to San Diego: don’t let the grey fool you! It was warm!

I’ve had a fair share of Lyft rides this week to get LA and San Diego. Here are topics I share with my Lyft Driver:

  • Unions: What’s good about them, what’s bad about them
  • The importance of having social connections when you’re older, especially if you have dementia
  • The status of your job interview (not mine, theirs)
  • The stigma of living in the San Fernando
  • Will San Fernando be super crowded a few years down the road?
  • Costs of housing back in the day versus today.
  • Gentrification in Los Angeles
  • I need a spa weekend

I feel this week was like running like a marathon. I’ve ran marathons before so I have this marathon mentality to keep on going to get to the finish line. Wednesday was a long day because I went to San Diego and came back home at 8 PM. About 2 hours later, my in-laws called and said they wanted to stay over at our house because they came from a long road trip, and 1 hour later they arrived plus I finally went to sleep.

My husband feels he did not feel quite refreshed since our Paso Robles lake house trip earlier this month. I blame the sun for wearing us out. I suggested to my husband, we need to spend an afternoon at a Korean spa. We’ve got Groupons and that’s what we’ll do this weekend! It’s over due and much needed! But…got a few things I need to do today which is my morning barre class and Toastmasters Officer Training right after. Then we’ll go to the Korean spa.

In other news, how cool is this first trailer of Ready Player One?

Julie Weekend Coffee Share

Credit: The Smushed Peach

Interested in participating in the Weekend Coffee Share yourself? Come on over to Nerd in the Brain for more details! Check out the link party page or this wordpress tag for inspiration.

Weekend Coffee Share: We’ve got madeleines

The madeleine bake-a-thon came to an end of Friday. Whew! If we were having coffee, we’d be at my house and I’d serve some cold brew and eat some madeleines and macaron’s from the wedding. It was a wonderful wedding — I’d say one of the best weddings I’ve been to. It was nice to see you don’t need to drop a whole lot of cash to have a great wedding (and a great marriage). It was nice to also run into old friends and former co-workers again.


Orange Blossom Flavor Madeleines

Where this week go? I spent a large part of the week preparing the madeleines. I am somewhat burnt out on making any more desserts after the wedding. I told myself after this wedding, I’ll do some sort of Whole 30 Challenge. Instead of doing it for 30 days, I’ll do it for 15 days. I’ve done the Whole 30 Challenge and got through the whole month of March successfully. It was life-changing for me. I was amazed I was able to avoid sugar and alcohol for the whole month. Also this mini-challenge could not have arrived at a better time because I ran out of sugar — so no more desserts for now.

Instead of doing 15 days, why can’t you do the entire 30? Again, I would say timing is a factor. It’s summer time where a lot of the season is heavy on events such as weddings, travelling, and social events. Or how about this? I’ll aim for Whole 15 for my first milestone and from there, I’ll see if I can take it all the way to Day 30.

San Jose for another day. This week went by fast. On Wednesday, I flew to San Jose and stay there 6 AM to 6:30 PM. I arrived to LAX AT 7:40 PM and did not arrive home until after 9 PM. I was so tired.

*inhales deeply* On Friday, my day ended with a bit of anxiety. Not a great way to end the work week, and neither a great way to welcome the weekend. At around 3:30 PM on Friday, I received a reminder e-mail from my grad program admissions the deadline to submit all my application materials was due this Sunday. I thought I fixed my issue in regards to the delivery of one of my academic transcripts. I received an e-mail from my grad program they received my transcript as soon as that  arrived. The weight of receiving that e-mail — even thinking about that e-mail — felt like a pit hanging in the bottom of my stomach. As soon as I received that e-mail on Friday, I immediately e-mailed back to the admissions program asking what else I was possibly missing. I anticipated I would not get a reply — maybe they received these responses around that same time from a lot of the applicants like me. *exhales tenuto*

Reads. Oh yeah, this week I finished two books, Talking As Fast As I Can by Lauren Graham and Modern Love by Aziz Ansari and Eric Klinenberg. I told myself this month I need to work on my “Current Reads” page.

This coming week:

Reviewing my agenda, so far it looks not so busy compared to this past week. Again, that could be deceiving. As of lately, I’ve been making a more conscious effort to avoid burning out and managing my work and life load. If I don’t get around to something, I should not punish myself. It’s been an interesting way of approaching…well…life. All my life, I’ve been running, running, running but it I asked myself “To what? To where?”

Also, I’ll let you know how this Whole 15 thing goes.

Julie Weekend Coffee Share

Credit: The Smushed Peach

Interested in participating in the Weekend Coffee Share yourself? Come on over to Nerd in the Brain for more details! Check out the link party page or this wordpress tag for inspiration.

Weekend Coffee Share: Have Some Cake

If we were having coffee, it would be at my house. I would make us some Vietnamese styled iced coffee and serve this Italian style cake I baked from Food52. For some strange reason, it reminds me of my Vietnamese mother-in-law’s honeycomb cake. Maybe it’s the simplicity of the cake.

I felt like baking a cake because I’ve been making a lot of madeleines in preparation for my friend’s wedding. I’ve tested different flavors from earl grey latte, lemon, vanilla, chocolate, banana, rosewater, and orange blossom. The final flavors that will be presented at the wedding are: rosewater, orange blossom, and vanilla dipped in chocolate.

But I’m not quite done yet though. I needed to figure out how to differentiate between rosewater and orange blossom. Also I need to figure out how to display them, purchase a few large airtight containers, and enough ingredients to make 300+ madeleines total.

My husband and I finally got a new mattress. After 8 years, I traded in my IKEA memory foam mattress for a Purple Mattress. Yes, I’ve had this mattress before I met my husband. So far, it’s promising and our mattress is not retaining heat.

Because we got a new mattress, it meant a trip to one of my favorite places, Home Goods! We picked up new bed sheets, servings plates, and I can never leave without a few more  items like this ceramic pig (plus a candle and new measuring cups)! I thought it was so cute! And it fits so well with the “Eat” and “Farm” signs I picked up from Target a couple of week back.


This Week:

A good chunk of it will be making madeleines — for a project like this, it would be awesome to have a kitchen aid. Today, I’ll start making the batter and get to baking them either Tuesday or Thursday night. FYI madeleines do freeze well.

On Wednesday, I’ll be in San Jose for the day at work. It’s going to be a long day.

Then Saturday will be the wedding day!

Julie Weekend Coffee Share

Credit: The Smushed Peach

Interested in participating in the Weekend Coffee Share yourself? Come on over to Nerd in the Brain for more details! Check out the link party page or this wordpress tag for inspiration.

Weekend Coffee Share: It’s going to be a hot weekend

If we were having coffee, it would be at my house I’ll serve cold brew but you’ve got some options. Usually at home, the only beverages we stock up are coffee and tea. We have a Brita filter so we drink primarily water. Occasionally we have wine and beer and very rarely we have any carbonated beverages in the house. Because it’s so hot, we have La Croix sparkling water and San Pellegrino sparkling fruit beverage. You are indeed in luck.

Anyways it’s been so hot, the news placed an excessive heat warning and it will carry on tonight at 11 PM. Instead of dinner tonight, I would be happy to get some ice cream.

This week was nice. I was on vacation at Lake Nacimiento which is north of San Luis Osbipo. On the way from Lake Nacimiento, we thought of taking a little road trip along the Central Coast. We explored San Luis Osbipo and Solvang. We did not spend a whole lot of time in each town because the drive was so long. Also, we had plans to meet our friends in Calabasas later that day to see their new apartment.


Come to think of it, I don’t have any photos of our walk around downtown San Luis Obispo except for this photo of Koda. It looks like he’s got a big smile.

Solvang is a cute little town with Danish influences. Solvang means “Sunny Field” in Danish. I wish we stayed a little longer to explore. It’s likely we’ll come back when the weather cools.

These are photos I took from Solvang to Calabasas because I wasn’t driving. The State Route 246 is a fun drive. From the hills I can see the ocean and Santa Barbara.

I mentioned in an earlier post, our housemate is in the process of moving out. I have to say, she moved out fast. She came back her 3-week vacation in Europe, arrived home on the 4th of July, and moved her stuff out the following day. I guess she really wanted to live that West LA life. We are not looking for a housemate to occupy the spare room. My husband and I decided we’ll bootstrap and enjoy the house to ourselves.

Next week: 

Well I have all 5 days of work. It looks like this coming Friday and Saturday would be more bearable. Hopefully it means I can hike somewhere.

Also on Wednesday, I have a presentation. Wish me luck everyone!


Julie Weekend Coffee Share

Credit: The Smushed Peach

Interested in participating in the Weekend Coffee Share yourself? Come on over to Nerd in the Brain for more details! Check out the link party page or this wordpress tag for inspiration.