My Mom’s Family

My Mom stayed over the last few days, and it was great. I live about an hour away from her and with managing two kids and working from home, sometimes it is hard to find time to just chat with her. Having my Mom over for a couple nights made me remember when I was little, when she would tell me many of her life stories. My Mom’s stories are special and made me understand the woman she became. I decided to write these stories down so my kids can read them in the future so they can also hear these special tales. 

My Mom’s name is Hao Nguyen. She was born in 1956 in Hue, Vietnam. She came from a middle class family. Her family dynamic were a little different than other families though. Her father, my grandfather, had two wives. His name was Tam. My Mom described him to be a very educated and knowledgable man. Back in the day, having a son was very important in Vietnamese culture so the family name could be carried on. His first wive had one son and two daughters, but her son died early due to illness. Because there was no son to carry on his family name, Tam’s parents, my great grandparents, made him marry a second woman. Despite not wanting to do this he still needed to obey his parents’ wishes. His first wife then set out to find a second wife for her husband. 

Okay. A quick thought as I’m writing this out, I couldn’t imagine what his first wife was going through. If I was her, I would not have accepted my in-law’s wishes. I would have left him and brought my kids with me…. Anyway, let’s continue with the story. 

His first wife asked her second or third cousin to marry her husband, and her name is Di, and yes she is my blood grandmother. When Tam married Di, all members including family from the first wife, lived together in one household until Di had her first child. Tam then purchased another home to accommodate both his families. His main house was in the village while his second home was near the city. There was set organized schedule for when Tam would be with each family, but Tam would typically remain in his main home in the village while his first wife’s family and Di’s family would switch houses every six months. This wasn’t always the case since my Mom told me Tam would switch houses himself sometimes. Di and Tam together had six kids (three sons and three daughters). My Mom was the third child. Though Di has six children, Di’s first born son was shot accidentally by a soldier when he was five or six years old. 

I’ve never met my grandfather before so I don’t have any memories with him, but I have memories with both of my grandmothers. I had a better relationship with my step grandmother than my blood grandmother, Di. I remember whenever I visited them, I would sleep with my step grandmother in her room and she would always give me treats. I didn’t have a lot of memories with my blood grandmother, though. She is a good person but she favored her son’s children. Since me and my siblings were born from my Mom, we didn’t receive a lot of attention and she didn’t talk to us much. 

Isn’t it crazy that my Mom grew up in a polygamist family and grew up in a culture where sons were more favored than daughters? I can’t imagine life back then especially being a girl. This makes me appreciate my life so much more since I live in a place and time where men and women are equally the same. If you like her story so far, make sure to follow for more coming. I’m so exited to write more. 

Note: all the stories are true and based on my mother’s memory. This all occurred in the past. Please, no mean comments for my ancestors.


Pho Recipe

This cold weather is perfect for eating Pho with your family! With COVID-19 pandemic going on, going out and eating with a whole family probably isn’t as fun as it used to be, so why not just make Pho at home? I’m original from central Viet Nam (Hue city) and I love Pho but didn’t know how to make good authentic Pho. We just moved into a new home and wanted to learn how to make Pho so I can invite my in-laws over for dinner, who are always excited to try the different Vietnamese foods I cook. My mom taught me how she make her recipe for authentic Pho. Now there are many different recipes for Pho, but I think this recipe tastes delicious and has attributes that make it stand out from your average Vietnamese restaurant pho. Okay! Let’s get started.

Recipe Serving Size:

8 servings

Ingredient :

  • 4-5 lbs of beef bones
  • 1/2 of a whole chicken
  • ox tails (optional)
  • Slices of beef (optional)
  • Chicken flavor powder
  • Pho Ga flavor blocks
  • fish sauce
  • black pepper
  • 3 rock sugar rocks
  • 1 daikon radish
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 1-2 purple onion
  • Thai basal
  • Green onion
  • Cilantro (option)
  • 1 bag of bean sprouts
  • 2 limes
  • 3 bags of Pho noodles
  • sriracha sauce
  • Hoisin sauce


-making stock :

To make the stock (broth) You will need to clean the beef bones and oxtail first. To clean it you will have to boil them for 5-10 minutes in a pot of water. You will then throw away that water and rinse the bones and oxtail. After you’ve rinsed them, you will boil the bone and oxtail together for 5-6 hours. I used a 20 quart pot.

the beef bones and oxtail after you clean

During the stock making process, I put one big yellow onion, the daikon (make sure you peel it first) , 1 tablespoon of chicken powder, 3 pieces medium sized rock sugar rocks and 1 tablespoons of salt. Add a few cups of water here and there since you lose water during the 5 hours of boiling. I use low-medium heat.

Make sure to use a ladle to remove the bubbles and the frothy things floating at the top of the broth you boil it.

After you boil the bones and oxtail for 4 hours and would like to add chicken, clean the chicken in boiling water (the same steps for the beef bones) and in a different pot. After that you will just put the chicken in the same pot as the beef bones and continue with boiling it for another 40 mins.

Once the chicken is cooked through, you will take the chicken out, and let it cool down. Once cooled, shred the meat from the bone to serve with pho later.

Take the beef bones, daikon and onion out from the pot and throw it away. Leave the oxtail inside so it can get tender.


Smash 1 -2 purple onion with black pepper, and mix it with 1/3 cup of fish sauce and mix it with the broth. Add 1 pack (4 cubes) of chicken pho ga flavoring blocks to the pot. Mix it together. As you are flavoring, make sure to taste it as you go and add extra flavoring to your liking.

The broth is now finished and you just need to boil the pho noodle. Boil it with water for about 3 mins each serving/bowl. Add Thai basal, beansprouts, chicken meat or slice beef, Sriracha sauce, Hoisin sauce and a squeeze of lime.

Pour the broth into a bowl and it’s ready to eat. Traditionally my family has also put the ox tail in the bowl as well which tastes great. Now enjoy a bowl of delicious and authentic Pho for this cold weather!!

Process of building our small home

It has been a while since I’ve posted anything on my blog. Life has been a little hectic over here. It is a little difficult to keep up with blogging when you have a toddler and are running a business and now the addition of being pregnant with our second baby. But I wanted to get back to writing blogs and be more active on here.

We moved into our new home we just built in a couple weeks ago, so I thought I would write about the process of how we built our home. I never thought that I would build a home. I always thought building a home would be way more expensive and more complicated than buying a preexisting home. About 10 months ago, when we decided to buy a home, we only thought to look into the realtor market for an old home to buy. We spent about a month looking at homes but we didn’t like any of them. None of the home had things we were looking for that made them dealbreakers . But we saw a few builders posting their model homes and floor plans on the market place and began looking into it. We really liked one particular builder’s floor plans; plus we loved the idea of customizing/designing our own home. So we decided to build our home instead. Below are a few steps we took to build our home.

  1. Discuss it with your real estate agent.

Real estate agents can provide you information on homes that fit your style and price range or even help you find builders. The agent we worked with was very knowledgeable about different builders and where they’re building. We told our agent which city we wanted to live in and gave details for the kind of home we wanted to live in as well as a price range and she was able to recommend a builder right away. Although real estate agents help out a lot, you should do a lot of research on your own. We spent days look into different builders and read tons of reviews online as well as looking at the builder’s website. What you really want to look for is if the builder builds quality homes. I’m sure most want a quality, long-lasting home. Even if it is not your forever home, you’ll want a quality home so you could sell it in the future.

2. Schedule a time to go see the model homes with your agent.

Seeing a model home is an opportunity to look at the builder’s craftsmanship. You’ll see the quality of the home as well as how their floor plans look in person. Before going to see the model home make sure to do look through the builder website. Look at the different floor plans you would like to see then sort out the floor plan you are more likely to pick as your future home. List all the questions so you can ask the builder when they show you the model homes. Make sure your agent is present so she or he can assist you since they’ll be asking a lot of questions as well. The model home will be built to look nice, so many of the rooms, cabinets, and appliances are upgraded and cost more than the standard included items. It’s a good idea to ask the builder what features in the home are upgrades.

3. Pick a floor plan and build your home.

After you go see the model home, and you like what the builder has to offer, you will pick a floor plan that fits your budget. Make sure to calculate the upgrades you would like to add to the house, because they add up. Once you pick a plan you will meet with your agent and builder again to sign all the the documents. After you’ve signed the papers it will take about 3-4 weeks to get to your home design appointment. At the design appointment will get to design your home the way you like home. You will be guided through what are features are included in the home and what features are upgrades. They will tell you the exact price for all the upgrades and also help you stay within the budget as well. After the design appointment, it takes about 1-2 months for the city to approve your home. Depending on the city you’re moving to, this may take longer. After the city approves your home plans the builders should begin construction on the home soon after. We completely moved into our new home 5 months after the start of construction, but completion times may vary between builders and floor plans.

The building process was very smooth and it came faster than we thought. What I loved about building a home was the process of building and getting to be the first people live in your home. Also it was probably cheaper than buying a prebuilt house. Let me know below if you have any questions 🙂

Neutral Brown Lightroom Mobile Presets

When it comes to editing photos it can be difficult. Thanks to presets, you only need one click and a few adjustments to your photos and you are good to go! In the past month I have been working hard on these new presets. I’m all about neutral tones for my photos. I can’t wait to share this with you!

Like I said earlier, I love photos that are neutral in tone. Neutral colors and feels have been so trendy throughout instagram feeds and I have to agree that neutral tones never gets old. So here are a few presets I have been working on the past month.

Neutral Brown Lightroom Mobile Presets includes 4 presets: Acorn, Chestnut, Terra, and Auburn.

Shop Preset:

  1. Acorn Preset

This preset works great with both outdoor and indoor photos that bring the neutral clean tone to your photos. Here are a few before and after pictures using the Acorn preset.

Tip: Adjust the exposure and highlight to match with what you want. With outdoor pictures you can adjust the saturation of the orange color to get what you want.

2. Terra Preset

The Terra Preset works great if you love the browner tones in your photos. This preset is my favorite for outdoor pictures.

Tip: Adjust the saturation of the green color if you want turn up green colors of your photos

3. Chestnut Preset

This preset is similar to the Acorn Preset, but slightly different in that it is a has a brighter neutral tone feel.

Tip: Adjust the exposure to get what you want for your photos.

4. Auburn Preset

This is a deep brown tone. I personally like using this on photos with little light, such as cloudy day photos.

Tip: Adjust the saturation up and down for the orange and red colors to match what you want.

Please keep in mind that they may require some tweaks to suit each individual image, as the final results can vary from one photo to the next depending on the lighting, shadow, colors, tones and your camera settings.

** How to install dng file to Lightroom Mobile**

After you download the DNG files. Go to your Lightroom app, then click on the + icon, where you can import photos to Lightroom, and select the DNG files. All the DNG files will show up blank white, but after you import all of them into Lightroom, it will show the cover picture for each preset. The final step is to click on the selected DNG files picture on the Lightroom app, then create the preset where you can write down the name of the preset. Then you are good to use the preset.

If your phone is using ISO13 and cant import the DNG files from your camera roll to your lightroom app. This is what you need to do

  1. After you downloaded the DNG files to your camera roll. Save it to files -> add the files to “Pages”
  2. Go to Lightroom App, create an album, then add the DNG files from Pages to that album.
  3. The final step is to click on the selected DNG files picture on the Lightroom app, then create the preset where you can write down the name of the preset.

Shop Preset: