Daily Design – Week 2

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Design, Food

Whoa – we’re at the end of the second week of January 2018. (Methinks 2018 will fly quickly.) So in regards to this point, it’s too early to tell if I’ll keep up with designing one thing a day (I’m very much committed though), but here are my daily* designs from the week:

Happy Monday gif

Carnival menu designed by Diana Nguyen
1/9/18 – Okay, I know we’re in the dead of winter (although it was 57 degrees at one point this week – that’s practically spring to Chicagoans this time of year! – but I was thinking about funnel cakes….which led me to this menu, which I’ll call my little wish list. (I could go for a corn dog – followed up with a deep fried Oreo – right now.)

Mi Restaurante Menu Design
1/10/18 – Mi Restaurante is a Mexican restaurant where the food is muy delicioso. The current menu does the job, but for this little project of mine, I decided to play around with it. I’m sure they would not be too appreciative of me making their menu “hipster” – as my brother would say – but hopefully, they can see that I did this out of pure amor. And FYI – this is only one page of their menu. There are also burritos, tortas, gorditas, sopes, quesadillas (more than what’s listed in the appetizer section here), breakfast and more. I’m telling you, I’m mucho lucky to have this place near us.

chocolate chip cookie recipe from Savory Sweet Life
1/11/18 – I love this chocolate chip cookie recipe from Savory Sweet Life.

dinner menu
1/12/18 – This isn’t the first Dinner menu I’ve printed around here – it’s been a thing I’ve done for awhile now as it helps with grocery shopping and meal planning. Otherwise, I’d be standing and looking into the fridge for 30 minutes before figuring out what to cook…or succumbing to the powers of Chinese takeout. (Not a bad way to go either!) And yes, that’s my almost-three-year-old son smashing some food into his mouth on the bottom right-hand corner..

I know the internet likes consistency, so I’ve been trying to figure out a theme to stick with. At this rate, I may be going in the direction of food, but I’ll throw in random thoughts here and there (i.e. often). 🙂

Thanks for reading. Have a great weekend!

*I should clarify that “daily” means Monday through Friday in this case. I didn’t want to add more pressure and set myself up for failure by throwing in the weekends.

Christmas Day

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Family Life, Food, Life


Christmas started off pretty quietly this year. We opened presents and then had breakfast. I was on the slow side all season, so the waffles didn’t get made.

Even though I had waffles on the menu. Oops.

However, the rest of breakfast seemed to be fine for everyone. I was actually pretty surprised at the popularity of the fruit. (On a side note, I dropped off bagels, cream cheese and a bowl of fruit – melon and berries – over the weekend with my neighbor, who just had a baby. Her husband later sent a picture of the kids devouring the fruit. I guess us Midwesterners appreciate a bit of nature’s sugar in the dead of winter!) So yeah, don’t neglect the fruit!

Eggs work too. 🙂

Later that night, we threw an electric skillet on the dining room table and made a Vietnamese cook-it-yourself-beef-and-shrimp fest. It’s something that my family did frequently growing up, but we haven’t done it in many, many years. I forgot about it until I stumbled upon this YouTube video (from Helen’s Recipes). Setting this up was fun and pretty easy.

Vietnamese grilled shrimp on sugarcane (Chao Tom)

I don’t know what happened with my kids that night though because they were both TERRIBLE. Not on their A game. They cried throughout dinner, so my husband and I didn’t get to enjoy much of it. (He really didn’t get to enjoy it after he fell off a chair – an event I forgot about until Jessica reminded me of it last week. LOL.) But it’s something I’d like to pull off next time we have a dinner party as it’s a fun way to interact with your guests.

Later that night, The Kid threw up in bed. That explained why he was off at dinner. We had no explanation for The Girl as she was as healthy as can be. She just wanted to be heard, I guess. 😉 We spent the next day at home letting The Kid rest and get healthy as we had planned going downtown the following morning. Just to foreshadow: we made it downtown.


More on that later. 🙂

Christmas Eve 2017

Posted 2 CommentsPosted in Food, photography

The Girl in front of the tree (which we took down on New Year’s Eve – was that too early?).

I can’t believe Christmas Eve was two weeks ago. Where does the time go? We had a nice holiday this year. My brother & SIL flew into O’Hare at around 5PM on Christmas Eve. The Kid and I went to pick them up. When I approached the airport I got a text from my brother saying they were still waiting for their luggage, so I decided to park in the hourly parking lot. I had no idea the lot was only $2/hour and that baggage claim is basically across the street from the garage.

Now I know!

I didn’t tell our visitors that I parked, so The Kid and I snuck up behind them. It was fun to see the recognition register on their faces when The Kid popped up in front of them. Once, they got their stuff, we headed home and all pitched in to get our dinner on the table.

The menu:
I secretly think I’m Italian, so I like attempting to do The Feast of Seven Fishes every Christmas Eve. We only hit five this year, but we have several more future Christmas Eves to hit our seven. 🙂

Random pictures of the night:

My brother is a motha shucker. (I'm not that much funnier in person.)
My brother is a motha shucker. Can’t hate on him too much this year though since he brought a bottle of Dom Perignon. I’m going to blame the excitement of having such class (ha!) in the house on the fact that I didn’t take too many pictures.



Part of the spread.


Ready to eat!

Daily Design – Week 1

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Design, Food, food photography, photography

I thought I’d start using Fridays to share a few things I designed during the week. (We’ll see how this goes!) This week, I kept things simple as 1) I was trying to regroup from the holidays and 2) I became an impromptu sitter to 3 additional children on Tuesday morning when my neighbor went in to deliver her baby (she had a girl! And the girl has 6 older brothers, so this was a happy occasion for everyone!). Wow! Anyway, I kept things simple and went with a food theme because I had these pictures on my memory card and well, I’m always hungry. 🙂island-creek-oysters-are-awesome
1/2/18 – We ordered Island Creek Oysters for Christmas Eve. They were awesome, and I would order from them again! (Definitely a fun idea for a dinner party.) Also the shipment came with instruction cards – I wish I had kept them because the design was on point.
1/3/18 – I’ll admit I stole this phrase from a pair of shrimp socks I got from Target a few months ago.
1/4/18 – Inspired by the pages of Bon Appetit (a magazine that tends to use bold fonts and then outlines the headlines).
need another cup of coffee gif
1/5/18 – Created this morning when I realized it wasn’t a One Coffee type of day.

Thank you for reading – have a great weekend!

Over and out.

Happy 2018!

Posted 2 CommentsPosted in Uncategorized

Hello hello! Happy New Year! I hope the holidays have been good for you and that 2018 is starting off on the right foot. The season went so quickly around here – it was nice and relaxing. My brother and his wife came in Christmas Eve and stayed for a few days. We got into some good eating, more drinking than I thought we would (ha), a little bit of a bug (The Kid had a nice puke session on Christmas Day) and took a little staycation downtown at the Westin Chicago River North. I’ll summarize all that in the coming weeks. Today, I decided to log on to 1) wish everyone a happy 2018 and 2) share my goals/resolutions for this year. Regarding #2, I wonder if it’s smart to share my resolutions on this little blog. I say this as there’s a common perception that sharing your goals with others helps keep you accountable while there’s another school of thought that says that say you’re less likely to achieve your goals if you share them. This latter paradigm comes from Derek Sivers, who I pretty much agree with on most things. And he’s probably/most likely right, but hey, this is the internet. The internet, as Austin Kleon (another person I agree with most of the time) states, is a place to share something small every day. Since one (or more?) of my resolutions will involve sharing my progress, I will go with Austin on this one. (I do have other goals that I’ll keep to myself, so your words have not fallen on deaf ears, Mr. Sivers!) Without further ado, my 2018 Resolutions:


Alright, let me babble about each one for a bit…

1) Sleep 7-8 hours a night. I have been sleeping for 5-6 hours a night for as long as I remember.  And it’s never for any good reason. Someone once suggested that I stayed up because I thought I was going to miss the party (this theory was presented to me long before FOMO became a thing). It’s possible that’s the reason. Then, there was a period where I stayed up late to teach myself the different Adobe programs (I’m a big time InDesign, Premiere and Photoshop user in case you didn’t know!). Now that I have 2 kids, I’d love to be able to blame them and say that they like wake me up in the middle of every night. But that’s not the case at all as my husband is a rock star and pretty much sleep trained them. If I slept as much as my kids did at night (11-12 hours for The Girl and 10-11 hours for The Kid), I’d probably be functioning much better. But nope – as soon as they go to bed, I pick up my phone and iPad with intent of looking up one thing…next thing I know, I’ll look up to see that it’s almost midnight. No bueno. So recently, I decided this had to change. I want to go to bed early (9 or 10 o’clock) and wake up early (I’ll start with 6AM but I want to work my way up to 5AM or earlier). After Christmas I started going to bed at 10PM and waking up at 7AM – I’m pretty sure my body is trying to catch up on (what I think is) two decades of minimal sleep, but maybe 9 hours is my optimal sleep number. We’ll find out. The ultimate goal is to get more sleep so that I wake up, feel refreshed and can start the day by….

2) Designing one thing each day. Sometime in the last year, I flirted with the idea of going into graphic design. I guess it’s not that far of a stretch as my background is in marketing, and while reviewing and editing catalogs and other marketing collateral, I used to spend a little too much time doing the work the the designer should have been doing.  I’ve been getting freelance design work, and it looks like if I had to pick a focus, it’d be on doing page layouts (like newsletters, brochures, catalogs, magazines….basically, anything that requires a page flip). My ultimate goal is to design a cookbook (call me, Giada!!!!). In the meantime, I plan to use this space to share the random things I design. Today’s page layout design is the progress of my New Year’s Resolutions:


3) Learn 1 Vietnamese word a day. This one is personal to me as I’m a first generation Vietnamese-American, and I speak Vietnamese like poo. (“Poo” is actually one of the few words I know. Classy, eh?) During the holidays, we went to hang with my relatives. When we see each other, my aunts and uncles will speak to me in both languages. They typically speak to my husband (who is always the only non-Vietnamese person in the room) in English, but I noticed that this year, some of them were speaking Vietnamese to him. He nodded while looking like a deer in headlights while my aunt or uncle would realize the mistake and repeat the whatever they said but in English. (It’s all pretty comical.) Weird thing is, they don’t extend that courtesy to The Kid and speak to him in Vietnamese. Like his dad, he has no idea what they’re saying. And I’m not faulting my relatives for this – I want them to do this. My kids should know Vietnamese. (They should know Russian – their dad’s nationality – too, but that one is out of my hands for now. One language at a time!) So I’m going to do my part, and try to fix this. My Vietnamese vocabulary is limited, and I’m going to start small by teaching myself one word a day. Sounds silly, but slow and steady wins the race, right? 😉 Actually, the hope is that learning a word a day forces a compound effect to take place. I realized this back in October when I started this goal (I put this aside around Thanksgiving, which is why this goal is finding its way into my NY’s Resolutions). For example, when I came across something like the days of the week, I didn’t just learn “Monday” – I ended up learning each day of the week. Cool! I realize the compound effect might work more easily with certain words than others, but I’m still hopeful it’ll find its way into all this. But I’ll provide my progress at the end of every month…I hope. 🙂

So this post is getting long. Thank you for reading. Again, Happy 2018 – I hope this year is full of good stuff for you. 🙂

Back to editing!

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Travel, Video

Alright, I took too long to get back to editing the clips from our San Francisco trip back in October. But finally got another one done!

The deets -> There was one day we decided to drive up to Berkeley to visit my sister-in-law’s sister (there was a better way to say that, I think) and her little family. On the way, we stopped over at 85C Bakery Cafe – another one of those places I wish we had in the Chicago area (because hello, sea salt tea. Yum!). Decided to keep this video short and sweet.

This is likely my last post before the end of the year, so if I don’t pop in again, I hope everyone has a great holiday. Wishing you all a happy, beautiful and prosperous 2018!

This Past Week

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Giada, Life, photography

Last Friday, my college roommate passed away. She had spent the last 16 years with an MS diagnosis, and while I continue to grieve, I take solace in knowing that she’s at peace. Needless to say, I’ve been in a fog for the past week. I’ve been trying to fight it by keeping my head occupied, which also helps as having quiet time tends to make the tears start up (i.e. every night as I fall asleep….even now as I type this). I’m pretty sure her family is feeling the same way with 10000x more intensity – they were holding up extraordinary well over the weekend. (I always told people that her mom deserves sainthood. I’m more convinced of that now than ever before.) I know that they were thinking how we all felt: that Chris didn’t deserve this. No one does.

Rest in peace, Chris. You are so very missed.

If you have the means, consider donating to the National MS Society or take part in their annual walk in May.


A few pictures from the week:

Breakfast with a lurker.

The Girl in the wake of her mess. (Her brother is hiding from her.)

The Kid & I made a mini gingerbread house earlier in the week. Even though it’s from a kit, we clearly need more practice doing one of these. I decided to take a picture of this mess of a house when Giada nonchalantly made her way into the picture, pretending to offer moral support…but of course, wanting to eat everything that was sitting between us. LOL.

More Giada.

Giada and I take daily walks, but with how things are going (I’m also referring to the dip in temperature), I owe Giada about 6 walks. I also owe it to myself to set up these shots better. 😉

And just because this post deserves a little chuckle….

Whenever the kids do something bad, my husband and I will usually tell them to stop the offense or there will be a time out. When they continue to do that something bad, my brother – if he’s around – will egg them on and say, “Yes, show your parents who’s boss. DOMINATE.” So here’s the shirt I “designed” for the family for Christmas:


I say “designed” because there is some serious clip art action going on there, lol. I can’t wait to see the final product.

Happy Weekend, everyone. 🙂

November Pictures

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Giada, Life, photography

Hi hi!

Everyday I keep reminding myself that I still have to edit the rest of my San Francisco videos as well as an event I did at the Shedd Aquarium last month. I am muy behind on getting to them, but I am going to try to get one video done this month! I have had my hands tied with freelance work (yay!) and the kids (my 2.5 year old is a handful. I want to chalk it up to his age – and gender [“He’s a boy! Of course he has this much energy,” people tell me], but I’ve seen other kids/boys his age….it’s totally him). November and December have also been about catching up with friends – I feel like there has been an endless fun train of outings and dinner parties…where I don’t pull out my camera. Doh! So in lieu of a blog post about a place or event, here are a few of my favorite Project 365 photos from November:


And let’s end with Giada:

“Where’s the snow????”

Thanksgiving Follow Up

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Life

Thanksgiving table

I wrote my last post feeling good that I wrote it, but not feeling great about the uncertainty of how the day would turn out. I did what I could to focus on the positive, but I couldn’t shake my anxiety. That usually leads me to do nonsensical things. So on Thursday morning, I woke up and announced to my husband that we were going to do a first annual family Turkey Trot. He gave me a look of alarm. (WTF, his face seemed to be screaming. I didn’t sign up for any sort of exercise program this year!!!) I reassured him that I thought we should just run to the corner and back.

A family photo before our 1st Annual .000001K Turkey Trot

I won’t lie – this was fun! I’m going to push everyone to go a little further next year though, lol. Then, we called my dad who lives in Florida. Talked to him for a bit, wishing him a Happy Thanksgiving. Then, FaceTimed my brother, who was sitting at the airport ready to take a flight to Vietnam. (He does Thanksgiving big, ha.) Since my family does Thanksgiving dinner at 6PM, I had to feed the kids a little lunch before putting them down for a nap. With the anxiety still eating at me, I took Giada on a walk…and then came home to watch The Real Housewives of Orange County on Hulu. (I know, I know….We all have our vices!) A few episodes of Tamra and Vicki yelling took the edge off a bit, but I was still a bundle of nerves. My husband knew this and kept reassuring me that everything was going to be okay. “They’re you’re family. They love you and want to see the kids.” For as often as I tell him that he’s wrong not right in his assessment, he was absolutely spot on this year.

Thanksgiving turned out to be a really good night.

I have no idea what changed. Either my aunts and uncles realized that they needed a softer approach with me, or maybe I came in with a different perspective but everything went really well this year. We talked. We laughed. And my kids were the headliners as The Kid ran all over the place, smiling and hugging everyone while The Girl cried the first hour when anyone -other than my husband or me – tried to hold her. (She did warm up by the end of the night.) The food was awesome. I learned a couple of new Vietnamese words (I’m trying to learn one new word a day), including liver and (a word that could be loosely translated to) rugrat. All in all, a fun night & we made plans to get together again as a family next month. We left at around 11PM, smiles on our faces and leftovers in the trunk.

The next day, we went to my friend’s place for Thanksgiving Part II. This is a friend I grew up with (our parents were friends), and honestly, I committed to her Thanksgiving because I was deathly afraid something would go awry with my family and I wanted at least one good Thanksgiving for 2017. Luckily, it was another great night. All the kids ran around and the adults all appreciated the neverending pours of wine. And the food…omg, the food. So good. (My friend is an awesome cook.) This family is also Vietnamese, so I learned two more words/phrases on this night (“Calm down” and gravy…actually, there was a lengthy discussion for gravy, so there were two debated translations for gravy. Ha ha.) Because The Girl was starting to show signs of being tired, we were the first to leave at 11. Before I left, my friend’s dad took my hand and said, “You know, I have watched you grow up and I value your friendship with my daughter. You and your family are my family, and I hope you know that you are like one of my daughters.” I was holding The Girl with tears streaming down my face. I turned around to see my friend with the same amount of moisture trickling down her cheeks. She pulled me in and said, “We are sisters, Diana.” Despite wanting to kill them for making me cry (I kid, I kid), I will say that this was one of the best Thanksgivings I’ve ever had – 2017 did not fail and in fact, my anxiety was a wasted emotion. My guard is down and remains down. I am relieved and look forward to next year’s festivities.

But first: Christmas. 🙂


Thanks for following along.

Thanksgiving Anxiety

Posted 1 CommentPosted in Life


Have I ever mentioned that Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday? I mean, the food…so it goes without saying. And in my family, it’s traditional Thanksgiving food PLUS Vietnamese food. The spread is awesome. The company, on the other hand….well….The last few years have been a little tough as we’ve spent them with my relatives, who are a little bit on the honest side. One Thanksgiving, for example, my aunt told me that my food was only good enough for my dog. I laughed, and although I acknowledge I can be a little sensitive, I still thought that was a little too harsh for a joke. After another Thanksgiving, my cousin sent me a picture of a turkey her mom (my aunt – the same one) had made and said that her mom said her turkey was better than mine. Geez. So last year, I tried to get away from all of it. A Rest Year if you will, but somehow got roped back into it. This year, same thing. This year, however, will be something of a Judgement Day to check my tolerance for their behavior (because let’s face it: maybe their actions are fine and I’m the one getting worked up over nothing) – it’ll pretty much determine if it’s time for my little family to do our own festivities from here on out. I hope that things go smoothly, but in case they don’t, here are a few (coping) strategies that I have or will employ:

  • First thing’s first: write down your worries. Take a pen and a piece of paper, write down what specifically is bothering you. I don’t think writing a blog post (like this) will be that therapeutic but writing something down on paper (as I did above) is a good way for you to come face-to-face with the issue. Allowing yourself additional time to brainstorm solutions (and also writing them down!) is even better.
  • Don’t react. I came from a family of instant reactors – someone says something and we freakin’ fly off the handle. As a result, I have witnessed/heard of some stuff going down within The Nguyen Clan that would make Jerry Springer blush. In any case, when your Uncle Charles tells you that you’re incapable of having a second child because you need to devote more time to the first (yes, this was said to me when I was 38 weeks pregnant with #2 and yes, I changed the name of the real uncle) yelling back probably isn’t the best solution, especially as there are kids around….as well as adults (that you’re related to) also watching…and smirking as they live for this kind of drama. Instead, try counting to ten before responding. I just read somewhere that it helps to have a drink in your hand. Then, you can sip while counting to ten before reacting – and it looks natural. The 10 count is supposed to prevent you from saying the wrong thing. Use this time to calm down and think of a smart/clever/sarcastic response to shut it down. Oh, and keep the drink in your hand. No throwing allowed.
  • Or disengage & leave the room. Truth to told, this is what I did with Uncle Charles (after staring him down for 3 seconds – I didn’t know about the 10 count rule at the time!). I went to the other room and sat with the kids. Kids are the best company sometimes. 🙂 Or if things get really bad, politely say your good-byes and leave. Nothing wrong with that.
  • Change your perspective. You can either spin the whole thing into a positive (“I’m lucky that I have a large family that wants to spend the holidays with me”) or try to understand where your relatives are coming from. For me, I know that my aunts and uncles come from an emotionally stunted upbringing and it’s easier for them to say the things they say instead of the positive, supportive things I want them to hear. They don’t know any other way, and I have to try to do my best to be the change I want to see in my family. (Thanks, Gandhi. Or not?)

And those are my thoughts. I hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving and the day ends with full bellies and even fuller hearts. XOXOXOXOXO.

By the way, I lied. This post was kinda therapeutic. And also: Emotional Intelligence 2.0 is pretty much that book that helped me with the tips mentioned below. A good read for anyone dealing with people on a regular basis (so yeah, that kinda means all of us, lol).

stop motion of Emotional Intelligence 2.0