Category: Happy!!!


Amidst the plethora of 2017 resolutions and “decide who you want to be this year” and how you can “change everything about yourself” articles, I find that this post will be severely out of place. However, that’s why it actually matters. It isn’t about changing everything about yourself or letting something go or accepting a past failure or turning over a new leaf. It is about continuing to evolve with every day we are blessed with, even when it is depressing, lonely, and hard to breathe. It is about forever forging forward despite all the difficulties and challenges we face in order to grow and achieve our dreams.

Achieving dreams is a different process for everyone. For some, it is go to school, struggle, find an internship and debut in the world. For others, there are a lot of detours along the way. For yet others, school is not even a factor. What they love and are talented in doing doesn’t require any teaching, it’s an intrinsic talent that they polish by actually doing what they love. For a lot of people, a dream is finding something to be passionate about in the first place. Sometimes, we have to explore new avenues to search for a dream. We have to do things and experience things that are out of our comfort zone in order to find what it is we have always been looking for. And sometimes, for some of us, we have more than just one dream.

This post is about how one of my amazing friends inspired me to try something I never thought I would do and it has ended up being one of the most unique experiences of my life. It is about how when we have the courage to pursue our dreams, despite countless setbacks, it is possible to fulfill them and become the people we always wanted to become. It is about me doing something I would have been terrified of doing just a couple years ago – and having a blast doing it. This is the story of a dream becoming a reality.

One of my friends decided to pursue a dream. She created her very own photography business called Ember Faith Photography starting late last year. Her Facebook Page and website are just little steps in the journey towards her achieving her dream. They don’t show you her hard work, joyful enthusiasm and absolute passion for her work. While working a full-time, exhausting job (I know because we work together), being a mother to her beautiful daughter Eden, who I will be showcasing below, and her adorable son Oliver, and going back to school at the same time, she somehow managed to not only start a time-consuming business but excel in her craft.

She has done everything from family portraits, to maternity pictures, to couples photography, to boudoir shoots, to (with me) artsy-ethnic photography, to even a small wedding. I can’t express how fun the shoot we collaborated on was or how mind-blowing the resulting pictures are. I have never seen myself as attractive but Sarah managed to make me feel eclectic, exotic, beautiful and comfortable (even while dancing in an empty parking lot or posing on the street as passerby slowed down to see what was happening XD). I can tell from my own experience that she managed to do the same for all of the people that made a great choice and chose her for their photography sessions.

So, my dear friends, lets go down a road to the realization of a dream and just how beautiful it can be with the pictures that speak for themselves. Here are a few portraits that Sarah did of her daughter Eden, the enchanting flower girl, some time before she began Ember Faith Photography:

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All of the shots of Eden have this certain abstract, almost magical quality to them that make me just get lost in the innocent beauty she has managed to capture here with Eden as the enchanting fairy she is:

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Underlying all those images is the love only a mother can have for her child. Eden being the fascinating model she is certainly doesn’t hurt.

However, there is so much more to showcase that I must move on to these amazing pictures of a very unique wedding photoshoot that absolutely blew me away:

Followed by this great collage of maternity pictures that she made for a friend of ours:

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As well these adorable newborn shots:

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As anyone with any kind of experience taking pictures of children will tell you, it is difficult at best. Sarah, however, makes it look effortless and enchanting as evidenced by the shots of some very different kinds of children below:

Not only is she amazing at making these kids grin from ear to ear and look adorable, she can take the best family portraits I’ve seen in a good long time:

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Not to be remiss, I must showcase her talent for capturing the little special moments between couples of all different kinds as well:

However, none of this encompasses all her talents as a photographer. She and I had the best time collaborating to turn a vision she had into a reality. I was the model, decided on the wardrobe and makeup, and provided some of the looks. She scoped out the locations and brought her enthusiasm and sass. It was absolute magic and I loved every second of it. Here are a few (well sort of) pictures from the shoot we had:

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In front of the wall mural painted by Tyler Kay, a local Houston artist and absolutely phenomenal person: http://www.instgram.com/tylerkay/

I’m sure it is hard to tell from these photos but I’m not normally the type to model on the streets. Sarah made me feel beautiful and valued. I can’t say how much of a confidence boost that was. Below are the pictures where I even danced for her in an empty parking lot:

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After this singular moment in my life, we moved onto another location where we some extremely striking wall art and took a few more pictures that make me question if that is really me in the pictures or if Sarah did some magic and put someone else there in my place:

I think the pictures and their vibrancy speak for themselves. These are all proof of the hard work, the talent, the personality and the artistic eye Sarah is in possession of and is using to the best of her abilities. If y’all ever decide to have a private photoshoot done for yourself, then Ember Faith Photography should definitely be your go-to!

I find nothing as satisfying and humbling as seeing the talents of my friends grow, blossom and stun me with the beauty they produce. Seeing them achieving their dreams and becoming empowered, fulfilled people is such an inspiration amidst the negativity that runs rampant in the world today. I am so, so proud of all of them and am so very grateful that they continue to be part of my life.

A special thanks to Sarah and her amazing work for allowing me to not only feel beautiful for a day but to feel special and unique every time I see the pictures she took of me. Thank you boo!

To all of you out there struggling to make ends meet and feeling down-hearted because nothing ever goes right and you cannot even imagine pursuing that dream you have always had – I know your pain. I know how soul-crushing and difficult and isolating it is. But please, don’t ever give up on yourself. Don’t ever believe the world that assures you that you will never amount to anything. Don’t let your inner demons hold you back.

You Can Do It. I believe more in the power of the human will to accomplish its goals than anything else. May God be with all of you and may you all find success in this new year! Happy 2017!

 

 

 

 

So far, we went to Rome, Assisi, Orvieto, Spello, Florence and Venice together. I suppose it’s now time to introduce to you Padua, Verona and Milano before concluding with Lake Como.

The largest piazza in Italy, Prato della Valle, is surprisingly located in Padua. Just a little ways from the piazza is the Basilica di Sant’Antonio di Padova which is just lovely and also houses a museum of its own.

After that early morning stroll, we ventured onwards and found ourselves in romantic Verona, home to the famous balcony of Juliet and her statue as well as the Arena and several very expensive designer stores all lined on one street. the people of Verona were the most fashion conscious Italians I met outside of Milan.

After a brief time in Verona, we continued to Milano and it’s incredibly different and modern buildings that are a direct result of Milan being bombed during World War II. However, the most recognizable and renowned location in Milan, il Duomo, did not disappoint with its centuries old majesty. The Galleria adjacent to Il Duomo was quite simply one of the most complete collection of exclusive and extremely pricey designers under one figurative roof. Even famous car companies had shops at the Galleria. Behind the Galleria was the famous Opera House and housed in the Galleria is the one artwork I did not get to see – Leonardo’s Last Supper. I wasn’t aware that the tickets had to be bought far in advance and hence did not book myself one. Hopefully, some day I can return to see that historic painting as well.

That regret aside, Milan did not disappoint in its extravagant offerings. It quite reminded me of NYC, just a little less insanely busy. My favorite thing, however, were the roasted nuts being sold by snack carts all over Milan – they were absolutely delicious!

Our activities for the night came to an end after dark and most people returned to the hotel. I returned later that evening to explore the Duomo and visit with a friend. It was perfect.

The next day it rained from morning till night and into my last day in Italy. Unfortunately, it was that day that we had Lake Como on our schedule. I imagine it must be even more amazing during summer, or when it is not raining as it was the entire time we were in the area.

We traveled by bus to the city of Menaggio. From there, we took a boat across Lake Como to Bellagio. We didn’t go to Como itself which was a shame – a friend informed me there was a cheese and chocolate festival at Como that day. However, just exploring Bellagio itself turned out to be great fun for me and though it was raining I still got some beautiful pictures of a place straight out of a fairy tale.

We returned to Milan after those stunning vistas to enjoy another excellent dinner and say our goodbyes. I left Italy the next day. It became an extremely fulfilling and uplifting memory for me.

The beauty of this world and the human mind’s capability to imagine and adapt is endless. Everywhere we went, we encountered warm-hearted, kind and helpful people. I didn’t have a single negative experience with any Italian person. My tour group afforded me a few new good friends and allowed me to meet some kindred spirits.

Italy itself gave me a sense of endlessness. The civilizations repeatedly upended, the many stories associated with every cobblestone, the many different belief systems that came and went, and the astounding art that people created surrounded by the natural beauty of creation – it was a package that is still making me smile with a joyous soul.

There is nothing quite like getting more than you bargained for, especially if it is a pleasant surprise. Italy was much, much more than I had imagined and I didn’t even see all of it. Pisa and Naples were sorely missed. However, everywhere I went, I saw one thing every Italian had in common – a pride in their people and in their heritage, as well as very, very big hearts. I’m sure others have experienced different but I am simply sharing what I experienced.

If I were to live away from the States, Italy is where I would want to create a new home. If you can go, please do visit Italy. It is worth every penny.

For staying with me until the end of my journey, grazie! And because this journey has come to its end, Ciao!

May 2017 bring you many pleasant surprises!

I realize this is my second post today but I’m feeling fairly prolific at the moment. And this moment won’t be denied. So here it is.

The little things in life sometimes mean more than the more obvious and seemingly more important things. Let me illustrate.

My sister is an amazing person. She works hard, thinks deep, could probably win Jeopardy, loves pandas and the outdoors, takes amazing photographs and has a tendency to be a night owl. All of these things and many more make her who she is. She is also so very kind and generous that she has had to build a wall to protect herself from the cruelty of a world that tramples kindness and takes great advantage of generosity.

But the little things she does for me really mean so much to me. She brightens up my days with a series of little surprises that keep me grateful for having a sister like her. She did it again today and really brought a smile to my face. I would like to share some of these little things she has gotten me that nean so much to me with all of you.

Let me start with this:

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Beautiful cacti

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My terrarium…sorry for the bad lighting

This, my friends, is the sweet little terrarium my sister built especially for me. I absolutely adore it! Just look at that vibrant cactus flower and the other artistically arranged cacti! Totally love it (and her of course).

Going further, I present to you exhibit B:

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Yes, I am a proud Who! I’m 11th Doctor will always have both my hearts ❤❤

She was so generous she bought me both the 11th Doctor from Doctor Who and Deadpool!!!! As is apparent, I am a bug fan of both the characters and the people who portray them. I was incredibly delighted to receive both!

Today, she surprised me with these beauties:

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Left: intricately embroidered cloth cover notebook. Right: an adorable story of a kitten 😍

I am seriously in love with journals and notebooks and pens and nice paper…you get the picture. However, I don’t normally splurge on any of it because I am practical enough to realize that I don’t use it on a normal basis. I love leather bound journals and unique and artistic notebooks, so this was the best of surprises. Pictured on the left above is a gorgeous little notebook bound in thick embroidered cloth and held together by a wooden spine. The pages inside are good quality as well. I am going to preserve it forever. It’s soooo cute.

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If you are a LOTR fan you will understand 😁

Next to the fantastically gorgeous notebook above is a little storybook about a kitten that didn’t want to let the owner knit mittens. I swear I died and went to soft kitty heaven. It’s so skdhrieokngueomgn Adorable!!!! 😄

All of these little things are Things, but I see all the love and care and thoughtfulness put into each and every one of these and today I just wanted to appreciate all she does and is. There are many other things she has gifted me with but, for me, the greatest gift of all will always be having her for a sister. Love you 4everzzzz lil sis! ❤

I had a really long, tough day at work today. I got home feeling like a zombie, run over and killed and then run over again for good measure. I got home ready to collapse into a grumpy mess. But a really sweet gesture from a really wonderful friend turned my night around in an instant.

I present to you my friend Monique Pham’s blog, a testament to her culinary poweress and a great place for amazing recipes! 

In my head, she is the Baking Queen, a sweet sister and an extremely thoughtful friend. Today, when I was ready for my horrible day to stretch into a horrible night, she did something incredibly sweet – she brought me a cake she had baked earlier today. And it wasn’t just any cake either. I give you the Spring Cake, as beautiful as it is delicious!

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Gorgeous spring cake, complete with chocolate,flowers and edible herbs! Noms!!!

This gorgeous creation is one in a long line of many innovative, delicious, aesthetically outstanding culinary achievements.

She has made many cakes, tarts, truffles and macaroons in the years I have had the pleasure of her company but occasionally she out does herself as evidenced below by the few I have stopped to take a picture of before diving headfirst into the bliss that is her baking.

I simply don’t enjoy anyone else’s cake as much anymore. I have good reason not to. Look at all these goodies in this screenshot from her Instagram @momobakescake. Please do show her some love if you love what you see as much as I do!

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Monique, I know this blog wasn’t written with your knowledge but I just had to tell the world how amazing you are. Thank you dear friend, you and your love of food have really brought so much light into my life. Your love and caring really makes our lives so much brighter. Thank you!

For all you foodies, order a cake or two from her. She bakes a large variety of other desserts too. I promise you won’t be disappointed!

A couple of weekends ago, I had the good fortune of having a day off on a beautiful spring day. As everyone who has ever lived in Houston will tell you, days like that are few and far between. Deciding to take advantage of the day, I had the pleasure of visiting the First Saturday Arts Market located in our Heights area. The outdoor market hosts different vendors each month, though many are repeat offenders and have become as familiar to us as we have to them with our frequent visits.

I have been a lover of the arts for a very long time and visit art related events whenever time and my budget allow me to. This visit was one of the most rewarding ones I have ever had.

On that beautiful day, I enjoyed a wonderful and unique flavor of shaved ice (I had the pomegranate and Blackberrys, with actual Blackberry chunks visible!) It was delicious, it was in an attractive cup, and it was a great conversation starter and attention grabber for myself and my companion. Many of the vendors wanted to know where we had gotten the shaved ice, how it tasted, what flavors we got, and if we would be holding on to the flower shaped plastic cups, and what we would make out of these cups…the conversation was lively and long and thoroughly enjoyable!

We browsed through several shoes, admiring their work and I was even able to take pictures of several of the pieces (with permission from the artists of course). While I couldn’t bring most of them home with me, I would like to promote their work in my own small way here, so here are a few of my loves from that day! 

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The red abstract was titled “Birds of Paradise” by LeeAnne Domangue and completely took my breath away! I really wish I could have brought that one home with me

The work with raised medium of flower on blue background was done by Joella Guaraglia Wheeler as was the painting of the flower in four tiles. I loved chatting with her and finding out about the different mediums she has been working with. Incredible person and an incredible artist!

The elephant was titled “Layered Beauty” and was done by the same artist that made the painting of the Wolf, Christina Todaro. Every artwork by her was exquisite both in detail and in imagery. She had journals covered in this beautiful art as well as several prints. For anyone who likes this art, I definitely recommend her.

I also had the chance to admire and eventually purchase some lovely pottery that day. I bought a gift for a friend and brought the rest home for the family. These beautiful pieces are all handmade and look great on my kitchen table! Thank you Delafield Pottery!

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The crowning achievement of the day’s adventure to the market came after all this uplifting beauty. I became the proud owner of an absolutely inspiring painting titled the “Uphill Climb” by  C.S. Ellington.

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The story behind this painting is quite intriguing. I first saw the painting back in November, loved it and couldn’t afford it. The artist told me how someone had approached her for that painting asking her what it meant shortly after that but she hadon’t been able to reply simply because she didn’t yet know. After contemplating for a few weeks and taking the painting with her to several markets she realized what it meant to her: choosing the hard path because it is the correct one even when a different path would have been easier. 

In her own words, “It is about choosing the more difficult things in life and how that is often the right thing (to do).” 

Now, I had agreed to purchase the painting long before she explained any of its history to me. When she did tell me all the history and meaning behind it, I fell even more in love with the painting that seemed to portray everything that had come to pass and the crossroads I was at at that point in time. I just knew then that the painting had been mine all long. It was just waiting for me to reach out and take ownership of it. The connection was real.

It inspired me so much that I ended up writing a post on it on a different blog titled Uphill Climb. If you are interested, please do take a look at the story of my Uphill Climb.

We didn’t end the day there but the rest is a story for another day and another blog post. Needless to say, it was quite the invigorating and refreshing experience. For all of you out there that love art, please explore the local art culture in your community. I guarantee it will infuse you with the most creative and intense of thoughts. For those of you who are new to the world of art appreciation or are still on the fence about whether or not looking at these works is worth your time, just give it a try. I did and I have never looked back.

Though I am not an artist in any way, shape or form, the art world continues to be one of the most rewarding experiences life has to offer. Inspiration is everywhere. Art displays often become my muses.

Here is to art, to outdoor markets and to amazing memories! Cheers!