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Nikki Jean Tran Blog | Watercolor Artist & Photographer bio picture
  • and welcome to the blog! I'm Nikki, a creative old soul who loves tea time, tip-toeing through gardens, mounds of books, swaying to records, watercolors, sunset walks with Rusty, and star-gazing with Paul. This blog carries snippets of my life with just the two of us - I hope it brings you happiness as you snuggle in with your cup of tea and begin reading. Enjoy, friends! (Latest posts on the right!) --->

Hello dear friends. Is your cup of cocoa ready? Or perhaps your hot cider? I just got back from the grocery store and stopped at Caribou on the way home, so I’m all set to snuggle in and write to you.

It’s already dark outside my windows. Rusty’s lying in front of the space heater, cocooned in his big blue and white sweater. We just bought him his very own plush bathrobe and hopefully it arrives soon – he would live in mine if I let him so we thought, he’s almost 7, he deserves his own. :) And then Paul’s on his way home, riding the bus and avoiding the traffic. After 10 years, I’m still always excited knowing I’m about to see him. 

I can’t type with the TV on or music with words playing the background, so instrumental Christmas music is serenading me as I write. I tried to hold back with the Christmas music but it makes me so happy and doesn’t seem to be ruining my Thanksgiving spirit, so I’d say I’m safe and can listen to my heart’s content. 

I have some fun updates to share with you! If you already follow me on Instagram, then you probably already know most of them, but just in case, hang out with me for just a little longer. :)

First, MY CALENDAR IS BEING SOLD IN A STORE!!! :) :) If you’re ever in the adorable lakeside town of Waconia, just 20 minutes West of Eden Prairie, go stop into Main St. Floral! Visit with Jennifer and buy yourself some fresh flowers and a calendar. ;) That whole town holds a special place in my heart; it’s right next to where our first home was and it was actually the first place we looked for houses. I love everything about Waconia, especially the downtown area; there’s plenty of lovely antique shops, my favorite is Waconia Trading Company which is where half our house is from, there’s an adorable coffee shop, ice-cream shop, a lighthouse-esque lakeside dining restaurant, a brewery, a small-town movie theater…the place has everything. Downtown Waconia is romantic and quaint no matter what season it is. So again, if you’re ever in the area, take an hour or so to enjoy the small-town charm of that beautiful area. And of course, go visit Main St. Floral (tell them I sent you!)

Second, the holidays are just around the corner, so I thought I would offer a helpful add-on to your calendar purchase. Now if you go to order a calendar on my shop, you have the option to add gift-wrapping for only $1. There are six different wrapping paper options, they’re all super cute with simple, clean patterns. Click here to visit the shop and get some Christmas gifts done early! ;)

Third, I’ve been working hard on the 2020 regular calendar (not the children’s yet), and I am loving it. It’s a tiny bit different from the 2019 calendar – the months are my hand-writing instead of watercolor letters, which I think makes it look more clean and uniform, and overall the illustrations seem a bit cleaner and less ‘busy’. Here an example below, inspired by our trip to Costa Rica last month – I hope you like it as much as I do. :)

What do you think?? The theme for the 2020 calendar is ‘Travel’ and I’ve already got the cover designed in my head – stay tuned, friends!!

And lastly, since it’s the holiday season and since you’ve all been with me since the dawn of time, I have a little gift for you. If you noticed the pop-up on your screen when you first arrived at my blog, then you’ll know you can sign up for my mailing list to receive a free download and discount for my shop! If you exited out of it without knowing exactly what it was and would like to sign up, no worries! Just delete your cookies in your internet settings and reload the page (if you exit the pop-up I don’t want to be annoying and keep on asking, which is why it will no longer pop-up in your face when you come to the blog), or you can simply comment with your email address saying you’d like to sign up and I’ll manually add you to my mailing list. I won’t send you spam and daily emails – I think that’s a bit overwhelming, don’t you? I’ll only email you when there’s new products in my store, when I’m offering a special limited discount, or there’s something else exciting on this side of the screen.

To make it even more difficult (just kidding, I hope), there’s also a place for you to subscribe strictly to see new blog posts. It’s on the right side of your screen and it says ‘Don’t Miss A Blog Post!’ You can simply enter your email underneath and hit ‘Sign Me Up’ and you’ll always get an email whenever I post a new post.

I added these two features because I don’t want to depend on social media to get the word out to you about my business. What happens if Facebook is even more difficult with their algorithms and only 5 people see my posts? Did you know I pay to have my posts advertised so you can see them on Facebook? It’s frustrating, but it’s the only way I get enough of you to see my posts and hopefully come on over here to the blog. The same goes with Instagram – there’s no guarantee you’ll see I’ve blogged unless Instagram’s algorithms allow it. If you sign up on the sidebar for blog posts, you’ll always hear from me without depending on Facebook or Instagram. If you sign up on the pop-up for announcements, you’ll never miss discounts or freebies or new calendars, etc. So, food for thought for those that are interested in staying in touch. :)

Okay, enough preaching! Want to see the free download you’ll get for signing up?? Look below. :) It’s my pumpkin pie recipe and place card templates for your Thanksgiving dinner, or really any dinner during the fall season. :) I’ve already got mine made for next week – we’re hosting Thanksgiving for the very first time and I’m so excited and terrified! We only need to get cranberries at the store and then I think we’ll be stocked. So nerve-wracking!! In a good way, of course. :)

Okay friends, it’s time to go cuddle with Paul, Rusty, and my diary. If I don’t blog next week, I hope you and yours have a fabulous Thanksgiving week! Try not to get trampled in the stores and, if you’re like me, enjoy decorating for Christmas as soon as Thanksgiving ends!! :) :) xoxoxoxo

Hello hello friends! Start with some music? Why yes, let’s.

It’s a crisp fall day on my side of the screen. Rusty’s curled up next to me while I sit and sip tea at the dining room table. The sky is just about crystal clear, the leaves keep swaying down outside the living room windows, there’s a delicious candle lit (called Pumpkin Pinecone, a mix of fall and Christmas – HomeGoods find), meat is thawing for pasta dinner tonight, and Downton Abbey is playing in the background – SPOILER ALERT!! Poor Sybll has just left us. :( :( :(.

Today’s post is going to be one of adventure, friends. Paul and I just got back from one of our most treasured vacations together, Costa Rica.

Each year we take turns picking the vacation spot – I typically choose more tourist-like spots (Walt Disney World, California, Alaska, next up is Charleston…) and Paul typically chooses more laid-back, take-your-drink-with-you-while-you-swim-in-the-ocean locations (Mexico, Jamaica, Costa Rica…). He chose Costa Rica back in March and we’d been looking forward to these lazy days for a very, very long time.

I was doubtful that I could love a place more than Jamaica, after all, that’s where we celebrated our honeymoon and 5-year anniversary. Jamaica is incredibly laid-back, the water is crystal blue, the sand is like powdered sugar, and the food is always delicious.

But, we couldn’t have enjoyed our trip more. Everything was wonderful, exciting, relaxing, fun, entertaining, delicious, carefree, etc. Costa Rica looks nothing like Jamaica; it really does look like you’re walking through Jurassic Park. On occasion when driving through the area, Paul and I would look at each other, point out the window, and say, “There it is…” (If you haven’t seen the movies, that sounds odd I’m sure.)

The beaches of Costa Rica are nothing like Jamaica. They’re black. At first I thought it was just muddy, and then someone told us it’s from the volcanic ash. Volcanoes!! So thrilling! The landscape from the beach was not the typical straight horizontal line of ocean. Instead it was filled with rolling hills topped with rough trees and hanging vines. The tide came in each day, carrying with it mounds of broken coral and seashells. On one particularly rainy day, Paul and I spent much of it in the ocean getting swept in from the tide and waves. It was like a mini roller-coaster and we loved it.

We went zip-lining through the rainforest, something I’ve always wanted to do since making my bucket list when I was 17. One of the six lines we went on is the longest line in Costa Rica. They call it the ‘Superman’ line because you lay down like Superman, arms out. face first, plunging across the trees at 70mph for one whole mile. It was surreal and something we’d love to do again and again. At the end, we walked across a rope bridge that hovered over sun-bathing crocodiles, then dropped 30ft onto a plush mat. Exhilarating, friends. Paul wants me to go skydiving now…(he went over 10 years ago…I think I’m too old now.)

We learned how coffee and real chocolate is made. We saw a young man make it in front of us, showing us the varying stages of the bean’s lives, and then we even got to make our own chocolate. Surrounded by a botanical garden with banana trees, we sat in rocking chairs in a replica of a 100-year-old home, and sipped our fresh coffee and ate our tiny tins of homemade chocolate.

Enough talking, time to enjoy the photos! I took my big camera, but because of the rain I only brought it out one day. The rest are taken with our cell phones. I hope you enjoy seeing snippets of this beautiful place, Secrets Papagayo!! Happy Wednesday, friends!! xoxo

The view from our room. Let’s start the day with some sunshine, shall we? (It rained every single day, but we didn’t care. We loved it anyways.)

That’s our room on the top right. The resort is set up in sections. Most people had to take a shuttle to get to the main area, but we got lucky and only had one hill to walk up and down.

We liked to frequent the adorable cafe daily, sometimes twice a day. Their mochas were wonderful.

The view from the top of our hill.

Tide is still out, time to gather seashells.

The coffee shop.

See the black? Not mud, just volcanic ash. :) :)

It’s time for an adventure so we must go back up the hill to the main lobby…

Take in the view – you might not make it back here after this day’s adventure.

On the road, humming Jurassic Park to ourselves…

Before the mighty journey…

To calm the nerves we visited the animal sanctuary during jaguar feeding time.

No more stalling. Time to fly.

This was our “warm-up” line…

We’ve reached the top. Do I look scared? I’m crying on the inside.

Paul dangling in mid-air.

Farewell!!

I will not cry. I will not cry…

Good-bye, dear friends!!

The other lines are like baby lines now. Piece of cake.

They thought it would kind to feed us after that rush of excitement. Our view from the luncheon.

Enough adventuring. Let’s go back to the resort – the sun is peeking through!

Time for a stiff drink.

Tide’s all the way in – if you want to get to the spa, you’ll have to take the shuttle. The path from the beach is underwater!

Magical.

It’s getting dark. Let’s get ready for dinner. But perhaps some coffee first?

Our 7-year anniversary night.

It’s raining all day on our last day. Should we just sit here? No! We must swim in the ocean all day!! And that’s what we did.

Our last dinner – I tried sushi and I loved it!

Happy together, sad to leave.

On our way to the airport, the lovely driver stopped at a fruit cart and bought us all Costa Rican fruits! Tastes like a grape. :)

And that’s it, friends!! Happy Wednesday and happy early weekend!! :) :) xoxo

  • NanaOctober 25, 2018 - 5:25 pm

    Thanks for sharing it with us. I truly enjoyed every picture, I felt like I was right there with you,you always make it so exciting..Love you more..Come out and visit us we miss you.Nana ???ReplyCancel

    • NikkiNovember 15, 2018 - 12:26 pm

      Hi Nana! Thank you so much for always visiting my blog. :) Love you more – can’t wait to see you both. :)ReplyCancel

Hello, dear friends. Do you have your cup of tea? Perhaps a mug of coffee? Are you ready to see my final wedding?

If you’ve been following me for the past year or so, you’d already know I’m officially retired from weddings and other photography sessions. However, after announcing my retirement in 2016 two lovely brides slipped through the sliding door; Linnea and MaryRose. (You can read about Linnea’s beautiful July wedding here.)

I remember the exact night when Mary called me, her excited voice squealing through the phone; ’twas a misty foggy night in December of 2013 and I had just finished an engagement session in Downtown Stillwater. Her and Byron had just been looking at rings and a wedding was definitely in their future. So over the last few years, our lunches and coffee dates and HomeGoods shopping trips have consisted of wedding planning, future dreams and goals, life’s ups and downs, and reminiscing about the year we met, when I had first moved to St. Cloud to be near Paul when he moved away for college.

As she was taking over my shift at Walgreens one night nearly 10 years ago, she told me Paul was definitely going to propose, she could just feel it. A few days later I came back with a shiny new diamond on my finger and our wedding planning chats began taking place in the break room at work, on shopping trips in St. Cloud, and during long drives to teach Saturday morning pre-school classes together.

She’s the type of friend where distance is irrelevant and time spent apart creates zero strife in our relationship. Each time we get together we catch up where we left off, cheering each other on in life’s accomplishments and always being a bad influence on each other when shopping for unnecessary HomeGoods treasures (mostly things for our dogs). I’m so thankful to still have her in my life after all these years. I’m thankful we became friends when we were silly teenagers (even though at the time we disagreed on Team Jacob or Team Edward (we were 19, don’t judge)) and that she was there when Paul and I were married seven years ago, and that she always tries to motivate me to exercise (she has dragged me to kickboxing classes against my will – it’s her way of loving me), and that she trusted me enough to photograph her beautiful wedding day (and fed me mimosas during, too :)).

I love her and Byron together. Byron is completely genuine. He’s kind, he’s crazy about Mary, he spoils their dogs, he’s incredibly hard-working, he’s hilarious – I couldn’t be more happy that my wonderful friend has found a wonderful person to ride the ride of life with. I love you both and I hope you enjoy your sneak peek. Xoxo times a million.

PS. You’ll see Paul in here, but guess what?? This was my first and only time shooting a wedding alone!! Ahh!

My beautiful friend.

Love them all.

:) :) :)

They held the entire day in their wooded backyard, down a windy country road with lots of crunchy leaves.

Everything was done with love, even the flowers were from her friend’s garden.

First look. :)

:) :) :)

Happy tears, of course. :)

The colors were so bold – loved them.

Her smile is so infectious. :)

Love them both.

PUPPIES!!!

:) :) :)

What every bride wants to do when she gets to the end of the aisle. :)

It was a bit chilly so the boys lent their coats to the girls. :)

Byron’s brother performed the ceremony – so much laughter and smiles and happy tears.

Just married!!!

Paul and I were huge fans of the puppies, especially Hagrid who reminded us of Rusty. :)

It looks like I don’t have eyeballs in that photo, but trust me, they’re there.

:) :) :)

It’s always so sweet when a momma joins the dance.

So sweet. :)

…and I can’t wait to watch them live happily ever after.

  • Melanie BeilnerNovember 5, 2018 - 11:03 pm

    Hi Nikki,
    I miss you!!!!!

    I’ve only been off Instagram a week and I feel lost at sea! I decided to do some blog reading and find all my favorites again; kind of fun and relaxing! I love this bride’s hair and the red dresses just pop! how fun! I read your post about your Costa Rica trip and those zip lines look crazy fun too!

    I’m trying to figure out my creativity and narrow down what in the world I do!!! I’m frustrated with myself cause everyday I think of new ideas. Selling my creativity has never gone over well with me.

    I want to connect with you once in a while….what are you up to?ReplyCancel

    • NikkiNovember 15, 2018 - 12:27 pm

      Melanie!!! I miss you!! Kindred spirits are essential for getting through the day and I’ve been missing mine! :( I’m so glad you’re taking off for yourself – I totally understand and have been trying to be a bit more distant on my social media realms.

      I’m so glad you enjoyed this post – I can’t wait for the day when we can all take an adventure together (Montana, here we come!!!).

      Time for another kindred spirit chat. What say you?! :) xoxoxoxoxoReplyCancel