Biltmore Estates

Biltmore

I was invited to a wedding in a small town in North Carolina and used that opportunity to drive in and out of North Carolina three times to visit South Carolina and Virginia. This road trip sold me on solo travel. I drove into Houston to fly to Charlotte, North Carolina and then I drove to Charleston, South Carolina to spend the night. Then back up to north North Carolina for the wedding and the night. The following morning, I drove almost three hours to see a sight in Virginia, and then four and a half more hours back down to North Carolina to visit the Biltmore and spend the night in Asheville. In the span of 5 days, I drove a total of 24 hours. I’m still recovering but it was all worth it. I’m officially at 25 states now in my 50 states travel goal.

I didn’t know much about North Carolina and someone earlier in the year told me it was his favorite state. He’s been to 48 states. As I was driving through it and spent a day and a night in his favorite town, I just had to text him despite not being in contact with him much. I told him I get it! I am completely smitten with North Carolina and I especially love Asheville. I can see myself settling in a town like Asheville. It feels like a smaller, friendlier, more charming version of Austin. And I say this truly loving my hometown, Austin.

If hypothetically I lived in Asheville, I’d invest in the annual pass to the Biltmore. The grounds and gardens are so expansive and beautiful. I saw people bringing lounge chairs and blankets and bikes. As I was being shuttled from the house to my car, I asked the shuttle driver if he ever tired of the breathtaking views, seeing it day in and out. I have a theory that when humans get too comfortable and familiar in their relationships and surroundings, it’s inevitable they start taking people and things for granted. He told me he never tires of it because the surroundings change with the seasons. The gardens change with the seasons. He said he could spend his days off back at the Biltmore if he lived closer. And as I admired the views and remembered breathing in the scents of the gardens and greenhouses, I believed him.

Asheville, I have to come see you again.

Biltmore

Biltmore

Biltmore

Biltmore

How It Feels to be Loved by Her

cooking

It’s my mom’s birthday today. She expresses love dominantly through service, but more specifically, through cooking. She would ask me over and over again what I want her to cook for me weeks before my visit home. In fact, I already know she’ll have a bowl of bun rieu ready for me when I drive to Houston tonight. I remember once I thanked her for a very delicious meal and she responded, “Thank you for showing me what it’s like to be loved by you.” It made me laugh for a couple of reasons. First, she one-upped me! Second, I am ashamed to admit that I’ve failed in loving her so much more than she’s failed me. That’s one thing your relationships with your family and loved ones teach you, that if you love someone long enough, you’ll be on the receiving and giving ends of neglect and hurt. No doubt, I’ve been on the giving end of hurt with my mom more than she with me. And there she is thanking me for showing her what it’s like to be loved by me. In just that one line she gave me affection, giggles, and humility.

What does it feel like to be loved by her? It feels very safe. People often ask me why I haven’t moved away from Austin or Texas. I tell them easily that I want to be driving distance in case my parents need me in Houston. I say that but since moving out 13 years ago, it has always been me needing them and driving down to Houston to seek the soft landing spot and a soul-soothing bowl of noodles. She not only loves me but she’ll love the people I love without even having met them. She’ll send my roommates food and has cooked for every significant other way before even meeting them. She’ll ask about them and joke with them, and has endeared herself so much that sometimes my friends in Houston will pop by and visit her without my being in town.

So mom, thank you for showing me what it’s like to be loved by you.

Sunflowers on a Saturday

In between Dallas and Austin (more specifically in between Italy, Texas and Waxahachie, Texas) lies a few giant sunflower fields. I wanted to photograph them as soon as I learned of their existence. It was a cloudy day when I made it out there with Anita and Ashley, so the flowers were drooping. I never thought so much about sunflowers but now that I’ve seen these in person, the thought of them now makes me smile. Also, a coworker of mine calls people suffering from infatuation, love, or crushes, sunflowers because their gazes follow the objects of their affections similarly to sunflowers moving to face the sun. Isn’t that an adorable analogy?

Sunflowers

Sunflower Selfie

Sunflower Selfie

Sunflowers

Sunflowers

Sunflowers

Sunflowers

Sunflowers

June On and Off of Instagram

“I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn’t quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.”

― Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

A dominant theme this month is flowers. On the first of the month, I had a surreal night with a sexy man frolicking in a field of wild flowers and fireflies and literally discussing the meaning of life. It felt like a scene from a teen movie. We even jumped a fence to get to this field. It was just a moment as he promptly left for a motorcycle cross country trip and frankly, his free-spirited approach to life scares me. I’m looking for roots, you know? Fear was another dominant theme in June. I cried on top of a skyscraper just before rappelling down.

For a couple of weeks I dated a man who brought me flowers every time we saw each other. And though I had just mentioned in this blog post that receiving flowers was outside the threshold of enjoyment for my mom, I found receiving flowers every single time I saw someone was outside my threshold. After saying goodbye and feeling foolish citing that he was too romantic for me, I stopped dating and sought romance in solitude and loving moments with friends.

I visited Houston and had a museum date with my best friend whom I hadn’t seen since New Year’s. We relived our past trips to Paris and Marfa through the current exhibits at the museum and over crepes.

I ended the month just as I started it, in a field of wildflowers. Instead of with a sexy man on private property, it was with just north of Italy, Texas with Anita and Ashley. After photographing the flowers, the three of us visited Dallas and crashed Treavor’s studio apartment for a night.

Not depicted on Instagram is a budding crush on a friend. I know. I’m incorrigible. Also not depicted, a romantic stroll in a park with Treavor while holding hands. We like to joke that it would be too easy if he liked women. The search would be over!

Field of Wildflowers

Amor

Gorgeous Best Friend

Heaven

Greetings

Loves Me Not

Solo

Stolen Kisses

Flowers

A Walk with Treavor

Fire Salmon

Flowers

Reliving Paris

Quiet Time

Sunflowers


Question: What are some highlights from your June?

Printed in the paper!

This photo of mine on Instagram was selected as photo of the week in the print edition of Austin 360, an awesome feature in our local paper, Austin-American Statesman. It’s an exciting day for me and I may have bought multiple copies. You know, for my parents.

Beet Salad from Aroma

I usually keep my food content on my food blog. I mentioned it here now because in the feature they listed this blog, my personal blog instead of my food blog. Of course it’s likely because my personal blog is the blog that is linked on Instagram. So if you’re here because you saw the photo in the paper today, may I kindly direct you to my food blog for more on the food scene in Austin?


Question: Have you ever been printed or featured in print?

Rappelling Down 38 Stories

rappelling

I rappelled down 38 stories this past weekend through fundraising for Make-A-Wish. It was by far the scariest thing I have ever done. I cried when I was literally hanging on top of The W Hotel by my toes. I have done a lot of scary things in my life but don’t remember being reduced to tears. As I was crying and stalling, I heard my friends on the ground cheer me by name. Hearing my friends cheer me for the first time finally motivated me to take the first few steps.

rappelling
photo by Thomas

I inched down slowly and clumsily. I’ve heard the term “spaghetti legs” a few times from unique sources describing my ungracefulness. I was instructed to descend until my butt touched the ground. After the volunteers unhooked the ropes from me, they asked me to stand up. That was when I realized I couldn’t without help. This was the second time in my life where I felt pins and needles throughout my entire body and all my extremities from the adrenaline and nerves. (The first time was when I heard upsetting news during my first experience with heartbreak.)

The Make-A-Wish volunteers hoisted me up on my feet when it was clear that I needed help. I numbly smiled the biggest smile I could muster to my excited friends waving at me. The volunteers told them I had to return my gear and get my belongings before I could join them.

After returning my gear and retrieving my belongings, I checked my phone. I received so many texts of encouragement from those who couldn’t watch in person. I was stunned by how big of a deal my loved ones were making this to be. I didn’t quite feel like I owned this challenge. I tried to tame my helmet hair before heading out. I was to go on a winery tour for the rest of the day for my friends’ surprise birthday party and my freshly washed hair was now damp with sweat.

Still in a daze, I walked out and was greeted by a neon group of smiling faces, signs, and silly string. Some of my closest friends made it and were meeting each other for the first time. Treavor met my best friend from high school. My best friend from high school met Anita. Thomas was no longer there but he got to meet some of my Austin friends. I felt so loved and lucky and yes, a little undeserving.

The thing is, I often downplay my accomplishments. I was hard on myself for being so scared and not enjoying it. The only enjoyable part for me was being done. I also thought it wasn’t that big of a deal. A lot of people rappel down buildings. No one cares. It isn’t that special. But almost a week later, my friends are patting me on the back still and just today Kim tagged me on a Facebook status bragging about me. I’m seeing myself reflected through their proud eyes and am finally reveling in this feat. They are patting my back not only because they’re sweet and loving, but because I rappelled down 38 stories!

I’ve walked by The W Hotel twice since rappelling this Saturday and each time, I looked up and thought, I rappelled down that. Just as I don’t think I could have made it down if I hadn’t heard my friends’ cheers, I don’t think I could have been proud of myself had I not got a glimpse of my reflection through their eyes.

It’s amazing what you can do if you surround yourself with people who believe in you.

May On and Off Instagram

April was a flurry of activity as I ran from one fun thing to another in an effort to get over a crush. May was less frantic and more grounded. I spent more time at home in my own company. I am also reviving parts of me that had laid dormant for half a year, one of which is my love for cooking! I used to cook almost every day and took painstaking care of organizing weekly meal plans. Now that it’s just me, I can get away with cooking just one or two meals a week and subsisting on leftovers for the rest of the week. I courted my old bond with cooking by hosting a brunch for my girlfriends and we ended up brunching for seven hours. I have so much love for everyone who was there and am reminded how forged sisterhoods are one of the best things in my life. I had one trip to Houston in May and met with one of my best friends who happens to be a photographer. He gave me a long-exposure tutorial, lent me his tripod, and together we hung out on a bridge in Houston to shoot light trails. It was exhilarating!

Not depicted on Instagram in May, holding hands with a good looking man for a couple of dates before gently parting ways. The moment you first hold someone’s hand is such a delicious moment of possibility. I’m enjoying the ambiguities of life these days.

Lamb Chop

Julie and Me

Tikka Masala

long exposures

long exposure

Brunch

Feelings

Macaroons and Latte

Reading

noodles

The Ugly Things That Happen to Us

Recently, I was talking to a friend about an ugly thing that happened to her. She wanted to know if she should tell someone in her life about it. I did my best to advise her without pushing her one way or another. I gave her a decision tree. If she thinks sharing this will bring them closer together and that’s what she wants, yes. If she wants to let her friend experience her more fully, yes. If she doesn’t think she can handle a disappointing reaction from her friend, no. I gave her a handful more scenarios for this decision tree. At this point in my friendship with her, we had already exchanged stories. I had told her about the ugliest thing that happened to me. The emotional scar that no one can visibly see on my body. I told her that it took me two decades to fully process it and I had to do it in stages with a lot of breaks. I told her that now I tell my story if others tell me theirs and I can sense they’re feeling isolated and alone. I told her that I plan on telling my story if I find myself regressing to that time in my life because I’m being triggered by someone I want to keep in my life.

I told her all this to remind her that the emotional scars from the ugly things that happen to her in life are part of her story. So now I’m telling you. That ugly thing that happened to you? It shapes you. You can share it as a tool for intimacy. You can share it as a tool for self-discovery. You can not share it for preservation. You can share it to be heard. It’s yours and you can do whatever you want with it. Whatever happened was inexplicably ugly but you are beautiful. And if the people you share it with try to make that ugly thing your fault or don’t receive it in a way where you feel supported, it doesn’t change that you are beautiful. It just might mean that they’re not your people. And the fuck with them.

Peonies Season

After my parents immigrated to the states, they had to raise a family with very little. We always ate well but there were luxuries my mom wouldn’t dream of purchasing. One of which was flowers. My dad and I learned to stop buying her flowers on special occasions. It was just beyond her threshold of enjoyment. I on the other hand, love receiving flowers and they always are a treat to see the flowers blossom just for you in your home. I even like how brief their lifespans are. It reminds me to enjoy them now because in a few short days, their beauty will wilt. In the last couple of years, I’ve started to treat myself instead of only enjoying them as gifts. I don’t buy them regularly but have resolved to always have fresh flowers at home when I host a meal. These beautiful peonies grew in size during the course of a 7 hour brunch and we all marveled on how quickly they opened for us.

Peonies

Peonies

Peonies

Peonies


Question: How often do you keep fresh flowers at home?

April On and Off Instagram

April was a flurry of activity. I looked at my calendar and only had 4 nights at home. There were food tastings, food events, a bachelorette party, a subsequent wedding, birthdays, happy hours, a trip to Houston, and filling in for absent players in intramural kickball games. The crush I alluded to in my March Instagram recap didn’t feel mutual. I distracted myself with friends, family, meeting new people, and delightful bites. Not pictured in these photos from April is my raising over $1500 for Make-A-Wish and securing a spot to rappel down a 38 story building in June (I’m still fundraising so please consider donating to a great cause). Also not pictured, booking airfare to Greece for August and buying Oprah tickets for October. Despite the discomfort of unrequited crush, April was delicious and love-filled and I planted seeds for an exciting 2014.

Oh, did you see? I breathed the same air as Andrew Zimmern, truly a dream come true.

Sous Vide Steak

Pork Belly

Whip It

Sunset

Beginning

Oasis

Pooped

Ming Tsai

Andrew

Odd Duck

Odd Duck

Japan Festival

Curly

Oasis

wine

wine