My first family shoot of the year is in the books! I so enjoyed meeting Ashley’s family! Ashley and I haven’t seen each other since being classmates in high school. I won’t tell you how long ago that was, but I will tell you how taken I am with her grace and beauty as a woman and mother. I love photographing old friends because as I marvel at where they’re at, I also get the privilege of remembering them from many years past.
2016 was the fifth consecutive year I’ve read fifty books a year. One book a week is very manageable for me. However, the last two years I fell behind and was faced with 14 book pileups in December. Two years in a row this happened! I blame my lack of willpower and re-watching Game of Thrones and all of Shameless, The Leftovers, The Killing, Stranger Things, The OA, and The Night Of. I resolve to be better with prioritizing reading time in 2017! Here’s this year list of books read. I link to 2015’s list at the bottom of the post.
Books I Loved
I found Maus I in my younger brother’s childhood bedroom during a trip to Houston. I knew of its fame and read it in two afternoons. The graphic novel memoir is the story of a Jewish survivor of Hitler’s regime as told by his cartoonist son.
You can’t finish Maus I and not immediately go look for Maus II. This story reaffirmed my goal of documenting my dad’s story of surviving the Vietnam War.
I read Fates and Furies while in Barcelona and it was hard to go to bed because I couldn’t stop reading! I also carried it and squeezed in reading sessions during subway rides. This story of a marriage is first told in the husband’s point of view and then told in the wife’s point of view.
I expected to love The Thing Around Your Neck, a collection of 12 short stories, because I fell in love with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s writing when I read Americanahlast year. I love stories of straddling two cultures and assimilating to American culture.
I enjoyed The Course of Love so much that I made the girls at I Feel Better Podcast read it and we dedicated a whole episode to it.
Truth and Beauty is a memoir by Ann Patchett about her friendship with Lucy Grealy, who lost half of her face to childhood cancer. A beautiful story that made me want to read Grealy’s memoir, Autobiography of a Face.
Milk and Honey is bittersweet lyrical poetry with accompanying sketches that made me want to sketch again.
I can’t fathom the amount of courage and grace it takes to write about a relationship and its intimate and ugly parts and still have a working relationship. And yet Glennon Doyle Melton achieves that with Love Warrior, an unflinching retelling of her experience of her husband’s infidelities.
The Grownup teetered between books I loved and books I liked but what pushed it into the love cateogory was the fact that I read it to Sugarface on our long drive to Arkansas. We shared laughs and speculations. I laughed out loud at the first line of this novella (which prompted me to read to Sugarface).
Books I Liked
The Lowland is a family drama centered around two Indian brothers.
My friend Ashley recommended I read In Cold Blood and now it’s my turn to recommend that you read it if you enjoy True Crime.
A Tale for the Time Being is two stories in one. That of a Japanese 16 year-old girl who kept a diary and the Canadian novelist who finds her diary washed ashore in Canada.
A neurosurgeon learns of his terminal diagnosis and has to come to terms with his mortality at the age of 36. He dies while writing When Breath Becomes Air and the epilogue is a tearjerker.
I read The Buddha In The Attic after reading Maus II and it was kind of thematic. The writing style (first person plural) was a smidge distracting in the beginning but it was a heart-aching read about Japanese female immigrants right before WWII and then entering WWII.
My friend Treavor gifted me Goldfinch a few years ago for my birthday. What an adventure of a read! It also won a Pulitzer in 2014.
2 Dollars a Day is a compassionate and well-researched book about the extremely impoverished in the United States.
Men We Reaped is a grief memoir that acknowledges (not so much examines) the role of race in the death of five black men in her life.
Love, Loss, and What We Ate is overwritten and needed better editors. Padma Lakshmi was excessive in mentioning how she used to model. Every page at first felt like it had at least three sentences that started with “when I was a model”. When I started to accept that leaving the modeling world was a pivotal moment for her and that she earnestly is referring to that transition, it became less distracting. I read a few criticisms about how out of touch she is from an average person’s everyday life. Those kinds of criticisms always grate me. She’s a former international model and Top Chef host! She’s telling her story, which includes working in an industry that values beauty.
This is my ninth yearly recap on this blog. NINTH! I have been sharing my life from this space for almost 10 years! You can read previous years’ recaps at the bottom of this post. As I review my year, I counted six weddings, three trips to Arkansas, and six trips to Houston. Travel highlights outside of trips to Arkansas and Houston were Miami, Barcelona, and Toronto.
2016 was my first full year not working a conventional 9-5 job. I worked part-time in an engineering firm and supplemented the rest of my income with freelancing jobs that ranged from photography, blogging, social media marketing, and teaching drawing with Artful Bachelorette. I didn’t make as much as I would have with a full-time job but haven’t been this professionally happy. My biggest source of freelance income was photography which lights me up. I’ve dreamed of becoming a professional photographer since high school and years before I even owned a DSLR. I’m no where near established but my slow and steady pursuit of it this year has been the most fulfilled I’ve ever been professionally.
A close second favorite memory was Valentine’s Day. We started the day with breakfast tacos, watched my friend run the Austin Marathon, and had a chicken tender-off for lunch and ordered chicken tenders from around town to see who had the best one. For dinner, I was just about to make the same dinner I made for him the previous Valentine’s Day when I received a text from one of my besties. She couldn’t make her reservations and gifted us an elegant multi-course dinner at an esteemed restaurant in Austin. We literally had ten minutes to decide and make the seating. It made me feel so lucky to have kind thoughtful friends and a man who is such a willing partner in crime in my life.
March in Austin meant much of the city was under siege for two weeks by SXSW. During SXSW, I usually do a few food related events and my friend Patrick Pho, one of the handful of friends I’ve met through Youtube comes very year. We had our yearly reunion with Ashley.
Sugarface and I attended our third wedding of the year. This one was our first Indian wedding and we felt so honored to be part of our friend’s day. Kind of related, I got ordained as a minister. I even paid extra for the paper certificate which came with a parking pass that made me laugh. I told Sugarface I’ll frame it next to his PhD.
For my dad’s birthday, I treated my parents to a weekend trip in Miami. We stayed with my long time friend, Nazanin. It was there I decided to experiment with taking more photos of humans in addition to my ongoing food photography endeavors. After taking Nazain’s photos in Miami, I declared to my friends and the internet that I am seeking more opportunities to take portraits. My friend Julie obliged and let me do the honors of shooting her engagement photos.
A photo posted by Linda Nguyen (@lindaeatsworld) on
I spent the first day and last weekend in May at the same hiking trail and swimming creek with the dogs and Sugarface. Summer finally arrived and the sweaty hikes and swimming adventures with our dogs are a couple of my favorite things about summers in Austin. Though much of the month was spent partaking in the usual activities of working, organizing happy hours for food bloggers, and grabbing bites with friends, I also attended two special events.
The first event was the yearly Fancy Dress Night with Sugarface’s work. I attended this event even before he did, when I used to work with his boss years ago. It was nice to still come to this tradition as an alum and a plus one. The second special occasion was the wedding of one of my besties, Thomas. I got to use my fancy minister certificate but alas, no one called me Reverend Linda.
I spent the first few days of the month with Sugarface and our dogs visiting his family (which also included 3 other dogs) in Arkansas. I’ve adored his family immediately upon meeting them last year but also come to relish all the time we spend visiting them in their home state. It’s pretty and serene and even the lack of cell service is a welcomed reprieve. Bob the dog, as far as I know had never been on a boat or in Arkansas and he took to the lifestyle. After my weekend in Arkansas, I went to Houston the following weekend to celebrate my mom’s birthday. I took the parents to see this amazing Kusama exhibit.
We came back to Austin and commemorated being together a year and a half by eating at Barley Swine.
I shot another portrait session and then decided to take a leap and against my financial judgement, splurged and bought myself a photography website.
One thing I love about travel is how it makes certain times of your life very memorable. August 2016 is now etched in my memory as the month Sugarface and I took our first international trip together. In fact, it’s the first time we got on a plane together! My biggest blogging regret this year is not properly recapping this trip to Barcelona on this blog and my food blog (except for a post about the Sagrada and tworestaurants). Maybe first thing in 2017? You can find my instagram posts from Barcelona here in the meantime.
Sugarface’s mom came to visit us and took us to Austin City Limits. She goes every year and this was my first time since 2007! I’ve grown quite attached to Sugarface’s mom and loved having her in Austin. For Halloween, we dressed up the dogs as crocodiles and carved our first pumpkin together (and named him Lyle). I roasted the seeds and decided I will now do this every year. I also attended the glorious Texas Monthly Barbecue Festival. Mmmm. Texas barbecue, so good it makes you dance.
A video posted by Linda Nguyen (@lindaeatsworld) on
Oh, November. I was so heartbroken by the election, I wept.
I officially added my first emceeing job to my weird batch of freelancing work and got to emcee Austin’s first Mac and Cheese Festival. I took advantage of the opportunity by sharing all the cheesy jokes I could manage without being booed off stage. Sugarface and I spent Thanksgiving in Houston with my family where we overindulged in my mom’s cooking and Lee’s Fried Chicken and Donuts. I also booked the most photo shoots in the month of November compared to previous months in 2016 and felt like I was making headway in my photography as a business dream!
We attended my friend Julie’s wedding, our 6th and last of 2016. She invited me along with 3 other women with whom we share a dinner club. It was at her wedding that I realized we photograph our food when we get together but haven’t taken one photo together in over five years of having our dinner club. We thankfully remedied that. I also photographed my first newborn multiples photo shoot. One of my favorites of the year!
Sugarface and I spent Christmas weekend in Arkansas with his family. I had Sugarface introduce me to Anthony Chapel in his hometown and it was breathtaking. I plan on requesting we stop by everytime we visit Arkansas now!
I’m not sure yet what we’re doing for New Year’s, if anything. So long as Sugarface and I hug and kiss at the stroke of midnight, I think I’d be happy wherever we are. I know this year felt heavy for many, and if you’re reading this, I want to thank you for supporting my endeavors even if just by following along. I wish you a new year filled with light, joy, and love. Happy New Year to you!
That photo above is from a coffee date I had with a friend this week and we each brought the same notebook. I delighted in that coincidence and had to boomerang it. Happy Holidays, all! I’m heading to Arkansas for the weekend to stay with Sugarface’s family. I can’t wait to take some time off to spend with lovely humans and dogs. What about you? Are you traveling anywhere?
Here’s this year’s last Friday Feels, a round up of links that made me feel things.
I’m a reformed crotchety Christmas-hater. I’m learning to give into the magic of the holidays, and shooting holiday photos is helping me in this winter-time journey! It’s hard to be a scrooge when you’re around family who love each other. I had a blast being the fourth wheel to the Tovars as we strolled around downtown Round Rock. Their little princesa was a natural in front of the camera!
I had my first multiple babies photo shoot in Austin this weekend. Can I be honest about something? I find myself just gazing at these snapshots. These cousins are so stinking cute, I can’t help myself. Born just a few days apart, I have a feeling they’re going to grow up to be best friends.
To see more of my work and book with me, check out my photography website! I don’t mind a little travel either!
One of my girl crushes and heroes in Austin is someone you probably already follow if you live in Austin. Jane of A Taste of Koko writes a very popular food blog. Funnily, sometimes strangers will stop me when I’m out and about, commending me for my food blog and praising me for my work. I let myself be flattered and touched and then the stranger will say something like, “bye Jane!” It cracks me up and I ain’t mad about it!
It has been fun and inspiring to see her soar through her career as a blogger and influencer. I enjoyed catching up with her as I photographed her in her bright and airy home. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for her and her journey!
You can see more of my work on my photography site. If you live in Austin, San Antonio, or Houston and wish to have your portrait taken, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to hear from you!
A few days ago, I had the pleasure of meeting baby Aubrey when her proud grandfather and my friend Doug, hired me to shoot holiday photos. I was touched to spend time with a family with so much love for each other. It didn’t take long to see that the family dotes on Aubrey. I can’t imagine it any other way since I fell in love with her happy disposition instantly. She gave me the best facial expressions and was a dream to photograph.
Hello friends! Happy almost November! Are you ready for November? Are you panicking like I am? I had so much I wanted to do this year and still a lot of it left to accomplish! Oy. So this weekend I plan on catching my breath with Sugarface and doing something that makes us happy. Maybe a hike with the dogs? And I have a barbecue festival to attend. The joys of being a food blogger! What do you have going on this weekend? What have you been reading?
It’s been a bit since my last link round-up of Internet pieces that made me feel feelings. Some of these links I’ve had in my pocket for a few weeks. Enjoy and happy Friyay!
When my beautiful friend Soujanya approached me about doing a newborn photography session with her son, Reyansh, I was honored. As soon as I arrived at Soujanya’s and her husband Deepak’s home, we entered a state of flow. With patience and teamwork, the four of us, with some support from doting grandparents, were able to capture some precious moments. Baby Reyansh and his adoring family were a dream to capture. I left inspired by their images. Soujanya reported she loves them so much she cried. What a relief! Here are some of my favorite shots.