Hi everyone! What do you have going on this weekend? I’m driving down to Houston to spend some time with my mom in honor of Mother’s Day. I’m trying to prioritize seeing them more. Time spent with parents gets even more precious when we get older. What are you doing this weekend? What’s been making you laugh these days?
I’ve been sitting on some of these links for a while and thought it’s time to share them for a round of Friday Feels, a list of pieces of the internet that made me feel feelings.
I’ve been featuring a mom a day this week on both my photography account on Instagram and Facebook. Come give me a follow and read my thoughts and tributes to mommas! I’ll be posting my own momma on Sunday.
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!
I squeezed in a baby trip to Toronto a couple of weeks ago. Sugarface was there for work and even though I couldn’t visit long, I indulged and joined him for just under 48 hours. I worried about whether it was worth the expenditure for such a short trip, but now I know I don’t regret it and would do it again! We stayed downtown and mostly kept our exploring within walking distance from our hotel. Downtown Toronto was just teeming with restaurants. We ate so well but most exciting to me was that we had poutine. I have been to Canada and have eaten poutine but I’ve never eaten poutine in Canada! (Read more about our delicious meals on my food blog.)
Aside from all the eating, we also walked by the CN Tower, visited Ripley’s Aquarium, where we were mesmerized by eels and jellyfish, and explored Graffiti Alley. During our first night there, I met an internet friend whom I’ve known for almost 6 years. I like how being a blogger has made it possible for me to have friends around the world. I’m also glad I can add Toronto to my adventures with Sugarface. We’ve only been on two international trips together, the first one not too long ago, and each time it becomes clearer how much I love having him by my side when I explore this world.
So that concludes my weekend recap in Toronto. I already miss it and want to go back. If I ever make it back, I’m definitely going to plan for a day trip to Niagara Falls! Have you ever been to Toronto?
So much has happened in August that I almost forgot how wonderful July was too. 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 was a welcomed reprieve. I saw the stars, a vision I don’t get in my everyday urban life, enjoyed being both in and on the blue lake water, and laughed at our silly dogs. Bob the dog, as far as I know had never been on a boat or in Arkansas and he took to the lifestyle.
We came back to Austin and commemorated being together a year and a half by eating at Barley Swine. And immediately after that celebration and just a week after our trip to Arkansas, I went on another weekend trip to Houston, where I dropped off Bob at his grandparents’ so I could travel to Spain later in August. In Houston, my good friend and photographer Thomas and I crossed off a Houston photography bucket list item and visited the gorgeous BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir temple.
Speaking of photography, I shot another portrait session of an old friend of mine and then decided to take a leap and against my financial judgement, splurged and bought myself a photography website.
The rest of July was spent eating a lot of ice cream and seeking out green tea desserts. My friend Jennifer tormented me with photos of her green tea parfaits on her social feeds. So when my friend Michelle asked where she could treat me for my birthday, I said I wanted the only green tea parfait in town I knew of, the one at Kome. She so sweetly obliged me and it was such a fun-filled evening. We requested the parfait to come during dinner instead of the end and it had us laughing like children. We then followed that meal by walking across the parking lot to a famed and classic donut shop, Mrs. Johnsons’ Donuts, where Michelle had her first fresh from the fryer donut.
That green tea parfait only inflamed my green tea dessert craving. I went to a couple of more places and still have green tea dessert friendship dates on the calendar. I celebrated and shared my birthday at the end of the month with Neva the dog. On the day of, I lunched with one of my besties during work hours, had another ice cream date, treated Neva to a cheeseburger after her birthday shoot, and Sugarface and I ate one of our favorite things, noodles. He made me feel very special when I came home to pink purple roses and a book he saw I was ogling back in May. Among some of kind surprises received from afar was a funny and beautifully shot cookbook by Chrissy Teigen.
And that was my sweet July. How was yours? What did you do for the Fourth?
I ate ramen twice, which is a lot as it has been about 100 degrees in Texas lately but I don’t regret either bowl. I made dinner for my friend Julie and she gifted me pretty purple tulips that inspired me to photograph them.
Sugarface and I ended the month road-tripping to Arkansas with Bob and Neva to celebrate the Fourth of July with his family. I love that shot of Neva window-gazing during the eight hour drive. Both our puppies are so good during long car rides!
Not depicted on Instagram was a media event at McDonald’s that tickled me. There were chicken nuggets being passed out as appetizers, a doorman, DJ, and photo booth. It went down in my book as the weirdest visit to McDonald’s I’ve ever had.
I spent the first day and last weekend in May at the same hiking trail and swimming creek with the dogs and Sugarface. Summer is finally here 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’s so 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. Not depicted on Instagram was me officiating his wedding. It was such an honor and a special moment in my life.
After taking her photos, 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. Not depicted on Instagram was shooting professional head shots outside my day job and at my alma mater.
The nonprofit I work with as a board member hosted an open to the public Curry Cook Off. We were worried about ticket sales but ended up almost selling out, and the bar was brimmed with happy people eating delicious curries. I plan happy hours once or twice a month for the same group and April’s happy hour was as photogenic as it was tasty. Also in event happenings, my writer friend Amy had a birthday picnic at my new favorite picnic table spot in town.
As for my home life, Sugarface and I plopped down on a comically small patch of bluebonnets and it was a wonder the photo was in focus since I was shaking so hard with laughter. We took the dogs to a new to us field. Bob the dog found a creek behind the field so though the field looked promising, it’s now best to save for bath day. Finally, the soup you spy is Asian comfort food. Rice porridge also known as congee. I made a big pot of chicken congee for us when Sugarface was feeling under the weather. I love the photo of the soup so much since I’ve eaten it all my life but never thought it was photogenic! It just needed some good light, props, and someone to believe in it.
I was tempted to skip March in my monthly recap but though I’m way tardy on this recap, it felt more wrong to skip! I find a lot of joy in tracing over happy memories. The act of writing these monthly recaps makes me happy.
March in Austin means much of the city is under siege for two weeks by SXSW. It means overwhelming crowds, functions, parties, dinners, and traffic. 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.
I adapted a recipe for pork and bok choy noodle soup and I can’t wait to make it again when the weather is cool. You can see the pin of the original recipe and my notes of my adaption here. We ate it three days in a week and I didn’t tire of it. Also pictured on instagram, was one of my dogs dressed for St. Patrick’s Day, a homemade meal of Vietnamese crepes that my mom made me during a weekend trip, and doing some filming with Youtube star Furious Pete.
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. The groom used to be one of my coworkers at the job from which we were both laid off. More specifically, he sat one desk over. Through our years at our former job, he has felt like a younger brother to me. I’m happy that despite us no longer seeing each other regularly, we still remain close and close to our mutual professional mentor who was also in attendance. It was a heart-warming celebration to end the month of March.
Not depicted on Instagram, I got ordained as a minister. I even paid extra for the paper certificate which came with a parking pass that makes me giggle. I told Sugarface I’ll frame it next to his PhD! You can call me Reverend Linda now.
This past weekend, I was given the honor of shooting not only my first engagement session, but to add even more pressure to the experience, photographing my good friend Julie. I adore her and Johnny so much and I wanted to do right by them. I recently delievered her photos to her and breathed a sigh of relief and happiness when she told me she loves them so much that she could cry. Here are some of my favorite shots!
Question: Tell me about the last scary challenge you took on.