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2014 in Review

My 2014 has been a transitional year, a liberated year, a magical year. A year full of surprises, adventure, and so many little but love filled moments with my friends. I’ve always prioritized relationships and adventure so they always show up as themes when I write these year end recaps, but this year, there was a boundless feeling to 2014. A buoyancy I haven’t ever experienced. I had so much joy in previous years, I didn’t know I could feel this happy, this light, this free as I did this year. This year was my first full year as a single person in nearly a decade and I reveled in the delicious ambiguity. There were more flowers in one year that I’ve received in all my years in a relationship, gifted by family, friends, and even myself. There was more dancing in one year than I’ve done since college. I checked off a lot of old items on my bucket list. There were more celebrity sightings and more rooftops and more sunsets. 2014 generally had more of the really good stuff.


I rang in 2014 with one of my closest friends. I hadn’t had a New Year’s with her since 2008 and it gave us an opportunity to do our New Year’s tradition on the actual first day of the year. We woke up on New Year’s Day and had cinnamon buns and coffee on a quilt while we wrote on our prayer lanterns our hopes and dreams for 2014.

I also learned how to make kimchi and strawberry chocolate jam. When I look through my Instagram feed for January, there were a lot of desserts and meals out. It definitely set the tone for the rest of the year. Most of my meals in 2013 were home-cooked. Most of my meals in 2014 were from eating out.


I had “cook a whole chicken” on my bucket list since high school. I was intimidated by this but a dear friend of mine did it first and then so sweetly held my hand and provided a whole chicken for me to roast on my own. Like a lot of fears faced, it wasn’t as bad as I made it out to be, and quite delicious! I tried to ignore my favorite holiday for the first time but Anita brought Valentine’s Day to me by coordinating a card making, movie watching couch date. I spent Valentine’s Day night with my roast chicken coach and our mutual friends. We dressed up and ate good food and chair danced in our seats. I also started reading my favorite book of the year.


I went to Arizona for the first time and visited the Grand Canyon with girls I met on Youtube over four years ago. It was the first time we were all together since Vegas in 2012. The photograph of them sitting on a cliff is one of my favorites I’ve shot in 2014 and I wish I was actually in it! We were in L.A. for a hot minute before and after the Grand Canyon and dipped our toes in the Pacific Ocean. The next weekend I was back in Texas and celebrated a friend’s birthday in Galveston Island, smelling the salty air of the Gulf. Two beaches, three states in two weekends. I also developed my first crush in years. It never took off beyond a few dates but I enjoyed the butterflies. March was fun and light.


I started the month in Houston to celebrate my dad’s 70th birthday. I went to the first of three weddings where I snapped that photo of that sunset. This year I made a point of being outside for more sunsets. I ate really well at media dinners and the Austin Food and Wine Festival where I was able to see one of my food heroes in the flesh.


After rarely being home in April, I spent more time home in May. I read more and hosted a seven hour brunch. I went to Houston to celebrate Mother’s Day and attend a friend’s bachelorette party. It was during this trip that Thomas gave me a long exposure photography tutorial and I shot light trails for the first time, igniting a curiosity and passion for nighttime photography.


June was filled with flowers. I started the month frolicking in a field of wildflowers on private property and feeling like my life was a movie. I went on a few dates with a man who was compelled to give me elaborate bouquets every time he saw me. The first few times charmed me but then my threshold of enjoyment was reached. He was one of a handful of very kind men this year I didn’t feel real chemistry with. This year taught me the pain of walking away from who Dan Savage calls GGG men. Good, giving, and game. I ended the month in Dallas after photographing a field of giant sunflowers with Anita and Ashley.

Oh yeah! How could I forget? I also rappelled down a 38-stories skyscraper and had a neon cheering crowd.


Sweet July! I scratched off three new states in a long weekend during a solo road trip. I drove in and out of North Carolina three times and visited South Carolina and Virginia. I saw the amazing Angel Oak Tree in South Carolina and was in awe of all the beauty in the Carolinas. I fell in love with Asheville and added it to my growing list of cities I want to revisit. I was in the area to begin with for the wedding of one of high school friends. I then experienced truly the best birthday I’ve ever had. I showed up to a dinner I planned and a 90s sing-along ready to spend time with some of my favorite people and eat noodles. I had no idea my friends (some of whom still haven’t even met) collaborated with each other and surprised me with a fancy lens for my DSLR camera and a video that I still watch from time to time. The same day as my birthday celebration, Austin CultureMap listed my food blog as one of the top food blogs to follow in Austin. July rocked my world!


I had a photo taking date with my good friend, Aaron. We walked around during sunset and chased the light between skyscrapers as we shot downtown. It was during this friend date I met my first unicorn. In August, I started seeing a friend, met Vince Young, and ended the month in Greece, a trip I had on my life list since high school.


I started the month of September in Greece. My favorite island was Santorini. It was in Santorini where I skinny-dipped for the first time. That has always been on my life list and I assumed I’d do it first in the middle of the night at some unremarkable apartment pool. I love that instead of that unremarkable pool in the dead of the night, it was in the daylight with Anita in the Aegean Sea. How’s that for an upgraded story? The rest of the month wasn’t too shabby either. Anita and I went to a Chris Guillebeau signing, our third time meeting him together. We also went to a party where Ethan Hawke was in attendance, and were sitting close to the front row for a Wendy Davis talk.


October emotionally wrecked me. It was the one year anniversaries of the break-up of a six year relationship and the deaths of two friends. I also experienced more heartache when the friend I was seeing and I had a brutal falling out while on a group trip to New York. Though these parts of October weren’t pretty and caused me a lot of pain, I had some big highlights of the year in October. I finally got to see Oprah with Kimmy. Kimmy is the friend with whom I have the New Year’s tradition and every year we wish to be in the same room as Oprah. We attended a weekend event with Oprah’s Life You Want Tour. I saw Kimmy a few days ago and we both listed this weekend as one of our best moments in 2014. Also in October, I started a tradition with my mom and flirted with Neal Patrick Harris. Not so bad for a grim month!


The first part of November involved moving from North Austin to South Austin which reduced my work commute from 2 hours a day to 30 minutes a day. I moved in with Ashley and it’s been a blast so far. I spent a lot of November practicing self-care and nursing a tender heart. I went to Houston for Thanksgiving and swung on swings with Kimmy and together with Thomas we dabbled in nighttime photography and sneaked on a skyscraper rooftop. November has always been one of my favorite months.


I am back in Austin after spending a week in Houston for Christmas. My dad has decided to join in my dates with my mom and I love that photo of him reaching for the coffee. His weathered hand symbolizes so much to me.

December makes me laugh. I had started the month writing a difficult blog post and was open about my dating experience. It felt vulnerable to share. What makes me laugh though is in the post, I acknowledged how 2014 has been an amazing introduction to dating with minimal damage and I was already flirting with the possibility of a charmed romantic life in 2015. I had already moved on to 2015 despite still having three more weeks of 2014. A week after I published that blog post, I invited a friend as my date to a holiday party and by the end of the night we were holding hands and I was feeling butterflies. It was as if 2014 was telling me to wait, that she wasn’t done surprising me yet.

I am hosting a small New Year’s Eve Party with Ashley and Anita and tonight we’ll cook and prep for it. Tomorrow, I plan on ringing in the new year around happy humans and a sparkling dog.

2014, I’ll miss you and will carry you with me forever.

Previous years: 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013

Question: What are five highlights and one “lowlight” from your year?

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?


Sunflower Selfie

Sunflower Selfie






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


Gorgeous Best Friend



Loves Me Not


Stolen Kisses


A Walk with Treavor

Fire Salmon


Reliving Paris

Quiet Time


Question: What are some highlights from your June?

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.





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

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.)

Favorite Photos from October

I’ve mentioned before I started a tumblr to document 30 day projects. My first month was October and the challenge was to take ten photos a day with my DSLR. I had a steep learning curve. For every twenty or thirty photos, I would snap one that I liked. Here are some of my favorites that haven’t made an appearance on the blog yet.

Wordless Wednesdays: Flowers, Cupcakes, and a Caramel Apple

Hung saw that I was trying to learn how to use my DSLR. He has taken me under his wing and has given me daily homework for October. I am really grateful for his guidance. These shots were shot with twinkle lights as my only source of light. The assignment was to capture something in low light. You can follow along as I take at least ten shots a day in October at 30 by 12.

I’ve had “learn how to use a fancy camera” on my bucket list since high school. 15 years later it’s finally happening. I’m learning!

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?