February 24, 2017

Sometime in the zone of last Friday morning, I took these photos…



Future love triangles

Being a parent brings many unknowns and many surprises. Yesterday proved to be quite a memorable day, made possible by an interaction that I had with another mom. I met her as I walked up the stairs to my daughter’s preschool classroom. She stopped me in my tracks when she said, “You’re Lily’s mom right?” to which I responded, “Yep!” She then introduced herself and her son, whom I’ll call Miles. This mom (I’ll call her Jen) told me that her son talks about my daughter all the time (the phrase “all the time” was quite elongated, I could tell she was serious).


Mind you, these are preschool kids – three and four-year-olds, who are just barely learning about the world, and how to interact with one another. Yet, somehow, they seem to be on another dimension of their own, this Miles and Lily. Miles seemed to be smitten with Lily, but she had no idea, and neither did I. I looked at Miles and he had a slightly forlorn look on his face, almost sad, and he said, “I never get to play with Lily.”

“Why?” I asked him.

“Because of Sam,” he responded.

Let me introduce you to the story behind Sam. He’s a little boy in her class who lives not too far from us, and coincidentally we go to the same park often. Ever since Lily and her dad ran into Sam and his dad at the park, those two became best buddies. They played together at the park whenever we were all there at the same time (once Sam reached out and gave Lily a hug, to which she responded by awkwardly hugging him back). This particular boy clearly enjoys being around my daughter, because every time he saw her, whether at school or at the park, he’d instantly ask her if she wants to play with him. He’s an outgoing boy who clearly knows what he wants and isn’t afraid to ask for it, whereas the other boy Miles is shy. I suggested to Miles that perhaps he should go over to Lily and play with her even if Sam is there, or he can simply ask her to play with him, and I bet she wouldn’t mind.

Needless to say, my daughter is involved in some sort of early childhood love triangle, to which I am a little bit perplexed and makes her dad (my husband) quite nervous. Like many fathers, he’s not ready to admit that his daughter is growing up, let alone think about the fact that someday she might attract the attention of multiple boys. I can only imagine that in high school, she’ll mention in passing about a boy she likes (or several) and he’d put on his grumpy, serious father face and immediately forbid her to talk about going out with boys ever again.


As her mother, I can only hope that she will never be in a serious, true love triangle where she has to choose between two men to be with. At her age, I was in a much less satisfying situation. I was put in a Catholic preschool, where I was bullied and reprimanded by the nuns all day. Granted, they reprimanded all the kids whenever we were a little bit rowdy, but that’s the predicament you’re in when you go to a Catholic school. Needless to say, I didn’t last too long there.

So the fact that my daughter has not only done so well in preschool so far – she loves going to school so much that she asks to go every single day – and has made several friends brings me happiness and joy. When you’re a parent, you can only hope that your child does well when put in a different environment where they can have their own experiences. You hope that their experiences are going to be a little bit different than yours.


After I picked her up from school, I took her out on a little jaunt to the Pearl District, where we rode the Portland Streetcar for many, many stops. We ended up at this ramen restaurant after running an errand. Although she clung to hand tightly, freaking out every time I tried to release it, I had fun with this little girl – for she is mine, my daughter true and true. She is so much like me in some ways but completely different from me in others. I love her dearly.

My birthday

Today, I turned 32. Age is just a number, they say. You are as young as you feel! I always hear. For me, though, my birthday has always felt a little bit gloomy. I remember that I felt very, very depressed on my 24th & 25th birthdays because I was unemployed both years on this day. Being an unemployed college graduate was not something that I had planned on doing. I had high hopes for myself, yet I was very naive, and like most twenty-somethings, I didn’t know a lot of things. I didn’t know that I would graduate during one of the worst recessions of our time – 2008, and for someone with a business degree and no plan or any idea what she wanted to do in life after graduation was not a predicament that one would want to be in.

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Morning 2.22.2017

What I didn’t know was that it would take me many years to get to where I am today. It has been a very slow progression, but today, I have a job that by no means a “dream job” but it suits me and I like where I am. I’ve been married to my high school sweetheart for almost a decade. I have two wonderful kids whom I grew in my body and pushed them out, much to my dismay, in a quick succession without any pain meds. I live in a neighborhood that I love. My husband and I own our car outright. My student loans are not paid off yet, but it will be by the end of this year. I have several retirement accounts and excellent credit. If that’s not achievement then I don’t know what is.


To quote from one of my favorite children’s book series, Dr. Seuss. He knows what’s up.

“Today you are you! That is truer than true! There is no one alive who is you-er than you!”

I’ve never felt more like myself than today. Today is when I became at peace with myself, at the position that I’m in. Life isn’t perfect, and you’re not always going to get what you want, but if you sit down and think about what you already have, then it makes life more worthwhile.


Downtown Portland

Monday induces the oh-so-big sighs from many of us, for it’s the end of the weekend, end of fun activities, outings and the like. Back the dreariness of life, or a thing called “work.” But not I. For me, getting back to work means going back to downtown Portland. Six months ago, I was lucky enough to snag a job at a local university, the same university that I graduated from many years ago – it feels strange being an employee and not a student.

Nonetheless, I love being downtown, amidst all the hustle and bustle of every day life, where everything can be reached within minutes of walking and even less driving (sometimes during traffic it can feel the same amount of time as walking!). Coffee shops, restaurants, schools, theaters, local businesses and the like. That’s what I love about being downtown. I may have been born into the country life, but I grew up in the city and I’m a city girl at heart.


The day started off on a wet note – puddles of rain awaited me as I stepped out the door this morning with my camera. I felt really nervous about walking in the rain to the train station carrying my camera, because it reminded me of that one time many years ago when I took an Olympus point-and-shoot that I got as a gift from my husband to a group retreat at a camp in the forest and throughout that weekend, it rained and I brought it outside, to my sheer stupidity, it got destroyed and no longer worked when it dried up.

Hence, I refrained myself from taking pictures, for fear of destroying my lens.

Luckily, the afternoon came and my work day was over. I stepped out into a bright, clear and semi-warm day, beneath a small covering of clouds, I felt really glad, not just because it stopped raining, but because I felt so much change happening around me. Construction was being done on a new business school at PSU, I saw many men & women working hard at it, plus beautiful wall art (below) and an endless supply of those orange bikes littered all around campus. Finally, as I was walking towards the daycare center on campus to pick up my daughter, I decided to venture off into a little corner of the world that was hidden away and once stepped in, it felt like I was in The Secret Garden (one of my favorite books as a child). This kind of foliage is something that I’ve always yearned to have, something that I find so beautiful and comforting.




I wish I lived here…
Afternoon 2.20.2017

Pancakes & cat naps

Sundays are really simple days.

My daughter has a thing for pancakes. Ever since I introduced her to a thing called pancake-mix-in-a-box and showed her how to measure and whisk it, she’s been obsessed. So last night, I promised her that we’d make pancakes first thing in the morning. And that’s exactly what we did.

Morning 2.19.2017

Speaking of obsessions, her other current obsession is Elephant & Piggie books by Mo Willems. (If you’re not familiar with Mo, read this excellent article from the New Yorker about him). And just like that, without any prompts, she took it upon herself to grab a book from her bookshelf and started reading.


Sometimes I find it hard to believe that as a three year old, Lily can read by herself. My parents thought I was smart, but I was certainly not reading sentences at age three. In fact, most kids don’t grasp the reading skills until age five, at least, if not later. She is one of a kind – this girl.

Then it was time for my son’s nap…otherwise known as ‘catnap day.’ After his two long naps yesterday, he decided he was going to do 30 minutes here, and 30 minutes there. Oh well. You win some, you lose some.

Afternoon 2.19.2017
Staples in our home – noodles & sauce

Thoughts on photography

I didn’t really get bit by the photography bug until I got my first smartphone in 2010. It was a Windows phone, and boy oh boy was it fancy. At least, it fit my definition of “fancy” because it could do more things than my old flip phone could do, mainly in the camera department. I was entranced. I started taking pictures with my phone, and couldn’t stop. From minute things like little birds or my apartment, I took pictures faster than I could delete them.

Morning 2.18.2017


Several years later, I upgraded to an iPhone, and my obsession continues. When I had a kid, I took more pictures of her than there were space on my phone – from the moment she was born until now, she’s been in the spotlight, along with my son. They are growing up in a drastically different era than I. Photos weren’t such a big deal when I was growing up, especially because I grew up in a poverty stricken country. Hence, my parents were more concerned with the bare necessities than documenting their daily lives.


Morning 2.18.2017

I’m not sure how many people who know me knows how crazy I am about taking pictures. I am an introvert, usually awkward in social situations, especially at parties. I socialize by hiding in a corner, and if I’m lucky to have my husband there, I let him do all the talking. So I don’t particularly have the drive to put myself out there – artistically or otherwise. Now, that’s about to change, because for one – I got a DSLR recently as a gift (early birthday or valentine’s gift, I don’t know) from my husband, and I realize for the past six years or so that I’ve been taking pictures that photography is a “hobby” that brings me joy. Sure, I love baking too, and I love taking pictures of all the things I bake, but I usually end up not eating most of what I bake, not because it’s not good, but because I bake for others to enjoy. Photography is another dimension of happiness altogether.

So today, I decided I’m going to start a project that will push me out of my comfort zone a little bit, and help me become a better photographer. A morning/afternoon project. It’s simple – take some pictures in the morning, before 10am, and some pictures in the afternoon, after 12pm, and post my favorites here.


Why document the mundane everyday things when you’re not a celebrity, you say? Well, I believe that the everyday things, from routines we follow in the morning (wake up, brush teeth, drink coffee, put clothes on) to the things that we do before we head to the office (whether it’s a home office or a real office building) to our jobs and things we need to do every day, I think it’s something that goes by in a flurry and sometimes I catch myself wondering what happened on so-and-so morning because I couldn’t remember. If you have a daily routine, it’s important to remember them, and if you don’t, that’s okay too. It’s the little moments that make up the whole day. I hope to take pictures every single day for 365 days so by the end of the year I can have enough images to create a collage photo book. I want to remember the joys, the sorrows and the in-betweens.

Afternoon 2.18.2017


P.S. The idea came from two women whom I admire but have never met – MAV & SCB from 3191milesapart.com

Crispy chicken fusion wrap

Sometime in the past week or so, I may have mentioned here and there that I don’t really cook – in fact, I’m pretty spoiled in the nourish department. My husband cooks, my mother cooks, my sister-in-laws cook. Everybody cooks except me. Regardless, now’s a good time to admit that I’m fairly creative in the lunch department – this is the first edition of “make whatever you can find in your fridge for lunch” series.


Take, for example, you’re a big fan of chicken. Crispy fried chicken, that is. But you don’t live close enough to a Kentucky Fried Chicken or a Popeye’s – lord knows how dangerous that would be if you did! So you resort to buying Foster Farms Crispy Chicken Strips (like these) at the grocery store. One day, you’re feeling a little hungry. It’s about 10:30 a.m. and the baby is taking a nap. Perfect time to make lunch right?

Except you’re not really in the mood for noodles or soup, or leftovers.

So what do you do? You gather up these ingredients:

  • Fresh herbs – mint, basil, or cilantro
  • Lettuce
  • Sriracha mayo
  • Sriracha (or rooster sauce)
  • Ranch dressing
  • Bean sprouts
  • Pickled daikon & carrots (can be found at an Asian supermarket)
  • Tortillas
  • Chicken strips (preferably Foster Farms Crispy Chicken Strips)


It’s not surprising for someone like me to buy tortillas and never actually have a burrito night. I buy tortillas so I can make wraps. They’re easy and nutritious, in my opinion. Plus you can use leftovers (like turkey from Thanksgiving) to make it into a wrap. Easy peasy.

DISCLOSURE: The common denominator in these two wraps is the fact that they’re spicy- because I like ’em spicy. If you can’t take the heat, don’t feel pressured to put it on. Leave the sauce out.


Anyways, once you have all the ingredients listed above, you can have your wrap in two ways: The first option is above – cook your chicken until it’s crispy on the outside, then lather up some ranch dressing, put the chicken on the tortilla, then add a combination of bean sprouts, fresh basil leaves, and some pickled daikon & carrots. Voila!


Second option: leave the ranch dressing out, instead put your (cooked & crispy) chicken on the tortilla, put some pickled daikon & carrots, plus some lettuce, then squirt some sriracha mayo on top.

This task can be accomplished in about 10 minutes or less. Depending on how fast your oven is – I used a toaster oven, which took almost 10 minutes – you can have these wraps faster than you can watch all the super bowl Sunday commercials.



Thanksgiving has come and gone. And it was a good one for me. I spent it with family, as it should be. We had a big traditional feast of turkey, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole (the only thing I made!), stuffing, cranberry sauce, biscuits, and soup (made by my sister-in-law). As far as traditions go, this one is one that we adopted happily.

Growing up, I remember there were always many big feasts. In Vietnam, we didn’t have what we called Thanksgiving, but we did have many religious holidays that involved food. Whether that’s Chinese New Year, Christmas, or Easter, there was usually a gathering of family and friends, plus neighbors, together for a meal around a big table. I was just a little kid then – I didn’t realize the importance of getting together, and sitting down having a meal. In this day and age, especially in busy USA, it’s even more important to sit down and have a meal together.

Speaking of traditions, this little girl of mine grew a sudden interest in making pancakes, and it’s developing into a tradition between the two of us. About a month or so ago, I introduced her to (box) pancakes (like Krusteaz). I showed her how to mix and whisk and add things together, and she took it with great enthusiasm. So the past week or so, she’s been asking me to make pancakes with her every morning. Of course, after eating so many pancakes I’m frankly getting a little tired of them, but to keep her spirits up, I oblige to making pancakes and I let her help – the part that makes the most excited. So far, we alternate between blueberry and chocolate chip pancakes.

Have a happy breakfast!

Celebration means food

Those who know me might be surprised that I don’t really cook – at least, not very well – considering that I grew up around food. I was spoiled, really. My mother & aunts cooked and I never developed any urge to learn how to cook myself. But regardless of my lack of culinary skills, I am obsessed with documenting things related to food – whether it’s trips, restaurants, dinners my husband made, things I made for myself (usually involves simple breakfasts & lunches), or what I found at the grocery store, I am always looking for an opportunity to document food. I feel that food brings people closer together – families can gather around a table and have conversations, all the while eating a meal. Now that Thanksgiving is near, there’s no better time to show a few past images that involve food.

A sample of several occasions that involved FOOD: (see pics in order)

#1. That one time my family and I took a trip on a whim to the beach. Oregon beaches aren’t known to be nice & warm, and on that day it was no exception. But regardless, we all stopped by a local seafood restaurant and had fantastic fish & chips- the ambiance made the experience worth it.

#2. A view of the Oregon Maritime Museum from the edge of Tom McCall Waterfront Park. This park is in the heart of downtown, next to boating docks and fine dining restaurants, not to mention several bridges. This one overlooks the Steel Bridge.

#3. For my husband’s 30th birthday, we went to Screen Door – undoubtedly one of the best restaurants in town! Their chicken ‘n fried waffles were out of this world. Southern comfort breakfast food is popular in Portland – there are always lines out the door and down the block at this place.

#4 and #5. For our 7th anniversary, my husband and I went to Tasty n’ Sons, also a fine breakfast joint in Portland, famous for its ambiance and delicious food.

#6. Rust Coffee Lounge is a semi-new coffee bar in my neighborhood. Located conveniently next to my favorite public library, it’s known to drawn in locals on a regular basis. They always have treats for the little 4-legged friends!

#7-9. Once again, anniversary at Tasty n Sons.