Category Archives: Creative Endeavors

Doodles About Feelings

One day in August while at work, I was particularly frustrated about something. I went to visit my friend who sits at the opposite corner of our suite floor. I grabbed a thick black sharpie from his desk and scribbled a tangled mess of lines on a page of his legal pad. Bewildered, he asked me what I was doing.

“I’m drawing my feelings.”

We laughed about it and I walked away.

The next day, still frustrated about the same thing, I turned the page of his almost done legal pad and scribbled an ugly stick figure with an grossly over-sized head wearing a frown.

I did this a couple more times until his legal pad was filled and it dawned on me I could make this a daily routine and spend about 5 minutes to visit my friend during a work day and doodle. I love happy rituals in relationships and I enjoy filling up notebooks and journals. So I now have an established corner of his desk that houses my Doodles About Feelings sketchbook, colored pencils, an eraser and circle stencils. The project grew to two physical volumes of sketches that make us giggle when we flip through them and serves as another catalog of memories. I even started an instagram account for it.

Turns out there’s a lot of benefits to doodling. It can improve your memory and focus, provide another way to express yourself when your words fail you, and provide cheap comic relief to the mundane happenings in your everyday life. Read “The Power of the Doodle” for more about the benefits of doodling.

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Follow along on Instagram @doodlesaboutfeelings.

Strangers and their Fears

In December, I’m doing something that scares me every day. For the first day, I revisited something that scared me during my October challenge, which was to take ten photos a day with my newly acquired DSLR in an effort to learn how to use it. Hung had given me daily homework for October, one of which was to take a photo of a stranger with his or her permission. It gave me such anxiety that I thought it was a good one to revisit for my fear project. Thomas and Kim joined me for coffee and moral support, and I nervously asked five people to let me take their photos with their fears.


“I’m scared of people seeing my handwriting.”


His wife: “Risk makes you smile?”


“Do you have a black marker? Because we’re talking about fears here.”


She was the first person I asked and her answer made us wince and clutch our hearts.


“I like your bubble lettering.”
“Thank you, I’m trying to make it look as cute as possible.”

I ran out of paper but I love this set so much I decided to keep this series up in tandem to whatever else I’m doing for my daily dose of fear-facing. (Today’s is to sit through a scary movie without closing my eyes or ears. I don’t even know if I’m capable but I’m going to try.)

Home on the Internet

me: Nico, I’m trying to blog every day in November. I’ve done this for 4 years now. The first three years, I did not miss a day. This year? I missed 4. Suggestions for blog post?
Sent at 3:53 PM on Tuesday

Nico: Were you around for the “golden age” of blogging? Right around the start of Twitter and the rise of 20sb?
Sent at 3:54 PM on Tuesday

me: I was around, yes.
Nico: Because I have the feeling that when people made their own homes on the Internet, we came to each others’ sites like how you’d visit someone’s house. But now that there are common meeting spaces, it’s like New York – you don’t spend time at your place, you meet in public. And it’s easier for people to shrink back into the shadows when we all have to share this common space. So the prompt > how does one make a “home” on the internet nowadays?

I’ve been sharing my life on the internet since high school. My last home before this blog was Diaryland, which I had from 2001-2005. During high school I owned my own domain with my best friend; it was called healingstar.org. Before that, I blogged on someone else’s domain. I am almost too embarrassed to tell you it was called sweetessence.com but please remember I was 14 and it wasn’t mine! I still have a few friendships from those days which means they’re some of my oldest friendships. I made my home by sharing my small life as consistently as I can and reading (and listening and watching) the content of others as they share their lives. The internet has changed my social life. I make it my home by keeping it respectful. I try very hard to not air the dirty laundry of people I share a life with. This was something I had to learn as I have a history of over-sharing. I make it a home by taking things offline. If there is a spark in public forum, I’ll send a private message and meet for coffee or bubble tea. Before I knew it, the first meetings grew to vacationing together and sharing heartaches.

I have seen people say personal blogging is dead. People don’t share too personally anymore. Really, after Diaryland, I myself don’t share too personally. Maybe it’s true as a trend, but I’m glad I’ve found a tribe of friends who still show up and who still tell their stories. It has been such a gift in my life.

So, thank you for reading if you’re reading.

Question: What is your life on the internet like?

Do Something Every Day That Scares You

I’m attempting a year of 30 Day Challenges. I started in October with taking ten photos a day with my DSLR. In November, I’m blogging every day. In brainstorming for December, I considered what I already have planned, which is my first solo weekend road trip. It’s something that scares me, so that inspired me to dedicate December to facing fears. I’ve started brainstorming a list of things to do and literally started sweating at the thought of a couple of them. Two of which involved having very hard conversations with family members.There were three things that have lower stakes but have been things I’ve wanted to do for years, and that is to cook pho, bun rieu, and a whole chicken.

I’ve shared this idea with coworkers and they all commented about the chicken. “There’s nothing scary about cooking a whole chicken!” That’s the thing about fear. It’s such a personal thing. A whole chicken is nothing to most people and yet I’ve had this on my bucket list for years. Skydiving sounds terrifying to a lot of people but I did that more readily than go to the grocery store and pick out a whole bird.

I can’t wait to plan this project out further and see what I push myself into doing.

Related post: Landing On My Feet

Questions: What would you do if you weren’t afraid?

The Thrill of Being a Beginner

When I first started learning how to really cook, I was easily excitable. Everything I was cooking was something I was cooking for the first time. Just a couple of years ago I remember the first time I made green beans, I literally started shouting to myself. “LINDA, YOU ARE MAKING GREEN BEANS!!” Having fresh eyes and fresh perspective is something that comes naturally to beginners. As you advance with experience, that wide-eyed wonder is something you have to actively engage and nurture.

A little over a week ago I inherited my friend’s DSLR camera and since then I took many hideous photos. In fact, after days of playing with settings I only just took my first clear photo last night. Below I posted a consecutive succession of the photos I took last night leading up to my first clear photo taken with a DSLR. I was beside myself with pride.





And to steal a line from Ashley from our emails last night, the “heavens shined upon me” and this was my first clear photo!

It is so invigorating to be a beginner!

Question: When was the last time you had a breakthrough while learning a new skill?

Friendship Dates


I have a handful of friends who are always up for things. Skydiving? Sure! Go to a new country because you’re turning 30? Okay! Paint something pretty because Instagram inspired you? Let’s do it!

I’ve met Anita through Bloggers in Sin City last year and in just a year, I’ve learned that she is one of the people in my life who is always willing to say yes to a new adventure, however big or small. It’s such a fortunate coincidence that she lives in Austin too. She recently sent me a Groupon for a splatter Pollock date. Since we both recently have a shared interest in saving for a house, I suggested for a fraction of the cost, we can just have our own painting date. I’ll bring the sheet to protect for paint splatters! She offered to cook a Smitten Kitchen Cookbook dinner because one of her 2013 resolutions is to cook her way through the entire book. And there we have it, a perfect girls night in to brighten a week day.

Most of my close friends don’t live in the same city as me. Through the years of having quarterly phone dates to catch up, I noticed a theme in all the conversations. It can be quite lonely in our age group. Friends move away to pursue careers. Friends get married and all of a sudden common interests shift. There’s hardly any time outside of work and home life especially if you’re also juggling a family or a long commute or both! When I trace back the friendships I cherish to see what was the moment that caused two people to realize they like each other and want to continue seeing each other, most of the time it was someone going out on a limb to invite a near stranger to an outing. It could be as mild as sitting at the same table for lunch at work or as huge as skydiving.

There are these endorphins that release when you do something new and fun. It feels good. And when you’re doing something that feels good with someone, that’s a form of bonding. (Refrain from TWSS jokes. I’m trying to be semi-serious here!) And when you find that you’ve made a new friend and you both like each other, keep doing new things with your friend.

You might even get free homemade desserts.

Question: Tell me about your last great friendship date.

Weekend Recap

I had a lovely weekend galavanting around Austin during SXSW. I spent most of the weekend with VEDA alums and it felt like a mini vacation!

Friday night, I had a date with Treavor who was in town from Seattle. We gorged ourselves on fried foods and chatted about our usual topics, life and love.

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Saturday, we met up with Anita and Patrick at the 4th Annual Bacon Takedown. I am very proud of the fact that I haven’t missed out on a Bacon Takedown yet! It was also the first time I met Patrick, yet I kind of felt like we were old friends. That’s the beauty of having Youtube/Twitter friends. They start to blend into your everyday reality so much that when you meet them, it doesn’t feel like it’s for the first time.


Photo Credit: Patrick Pho

Sunday, Anita and I went to Chris Guillebeau’s meetup and book signing. There was a point before the talk where Chris stood beside me and caught me stalking him on my phone. That was slightly embarrassing. I managed to feign having my wits about me enough to meet him before his talk and then once again to get my book signed. I bought his $100 Startup which was kind of a big deal to me. I haven’t purchased a book for myself in a long while and when I do, I use Amazon to get the best deal. I paid 25 dollars for the copy on site! It was worth it though to have him sign and acknowledge my future attendance of World Domination Summit with “See you in July!”.

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We followed the book signing with a lunch date at a vegan restaurant. (We were in the neighborhood and up for adventure.) We were solely disappointed with our food mostly because we had just been spoiled by a full day of bacon. But also, what was I thinking ordering a raw vegan Pad Thai? Don’t ever do that to yourself.

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After our disappointing but healthy lunch, Anita and I went to peruse the sketchbooks at the Austin stop of the Sketchbook Project tour. I was shortly reunited with mine and was able to check out Suki’s before their internet system went down. Below, you’ll find a collage with 3 snaps of my favorite random sketchbook. The artist had a thing for dinosaurs and created a fun and holey book centered around the extinct reptiles. I love that shot with Anita peeking from the other side of the sketchbook.

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Oh, I also high-fived Mario. Winning weekend indeed!

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Question: What are the top four highlights of your weekend?

Sketchbook Project 2013

The theme I signed up for Sketchbook Project 2013 was “documentation”. I gravitated towards documentation since it’s something I’m really interested in and practice for most of my life. What exactly I wanted to document in my sketchbook I wasn’t quite sure. Kim gave me the idea to do adventures and that just felt right to me! It also gave me a chance to dig through all my separate archives I keep to hunt down actual dates of my past adventures. It was fun exercise not only in creativity but also in personal research. Here are a few of the pages of my project, you can see the whole book uploaded here.

Question: What is one of your favorite adventures?

Balloon Renegade Street Art

Last year during Thanksgiving weekend, I had a Magical Day with Thomas and Kim and a few others. It consisted of good food, sparkly tattoos, and learning how to make paper cranes. Exactly a year later, we reunited for Magical Day 2.

This time around, we met up for brunch, sipped on cinnamon coffee, and finished our meals with buttery croissants filled with chocolate and almond cream.

We then convened at a playground where we blew up dozens of pink balloons, after we monkeyed around on swings of course. (Kim and I have had a long standing affair with balloons.) We then took the balloons to one of the two red telephone booths we knew of in Houston. The other one was locked and occupied by a mannequin.

This one though, happily, was open and empty! We filled up the booth with balloons and then had a mini photo shoot. I’ll show you the official photos on Wednesday. We left the balloons there for passersby to enjoy.



It was so much fun. We took turns gingerly getting into the booth and shrieked in surprise when a balloon popped. I loved how well we played together. One person would squeeze herself or himself into the booth, while the remaining three stuck their hands into the booth and fluffed up the balloons.

It was a beautiful and joyful start of our Magical Day 2. We followed up the Balloon Renegade Street Art with a craft show, board games, and a fancy dinner. I’ll post the photographs from Thomas on Wednesday for Wordless Wednesday. In case you missed these two from my last post and Twitter, here are two sneak peeks.



Leave a comment and tell me about an awesome day you had recently.