Hello, dear friends.

I have been struggling with the idea of what I’m really doing with my very small business. Am I trying to push as hard as I can to build an empire? Or am I okay with just putting my work out there and if people buy things that’s wonderful? Or am I simply a hobbyist?

To give you a bit of a background, this very small business of mine is not booming, not in the slightest. I didn’t sell out of my calendars, nor did I break even (I came very close – thanks to you, dear reader). I didn’t become this “girl boss” website designer, nor did I get overbooked with logo designing and brand consulting. I haven’t had to keep up with watercolor art orders (except when the calendars arrived and I had lots of pre-orders to assemble – again, thanks to you), nor have I been bombarded with commission art.

Is this too honest? I don’t think so. A bit of truth in a world where everyone seems to live this idealistic life might be like a breath of fresh air to some.

Despite all that truth up there, I had the absolute time of my life with the calendar. It gave me a spring in my step every time I finished a new page because I couldn’t wait to hang it in my own house. And of course, hearing other people’s opinions on it always made my day. I shed many many happy tears the day I told you the calendars were available for pre-ordering; my phone buzzed all weekend from the orders coming in and I kept texting Paul new updates while he was at work, completely off-guard by the amount of support you all gave me.

But the truth has also made me think about my “why” for what I’m doing with everything in this very small business. Am I just trying to make money? Do I really enjoy what I’m doing? Do I care about reaching tons of people so I can make money? Is it fun or has it become a chore? If I weren’t making money, would I continue to do what I’m doing? Do I enjoy being on social media and if not, am I simply on there just to promote my very small business? Why am I doing this?

I’ve been bouncing around these questions with kindred spirits, family members, and of course, Paul. Some of them are on the same page as me and instead of wanting to create just to create, we feel this incessant need to make money from our hobbies. I started playing the violin again around Christmas and I kid you not, one of my first thoughts was how can I make money from this. I thought if I got good enough I could create some sort of online course, tutorials, etc. I think there should be a name for this type of thinking, like a disease of some sort. Instead of just enjoying something, I’m quick to turn it into work, a chore, and consequently a burden.

When Paul and I play the “Dream Game” and go back and forth about what dreams we have for our life/lives, my one consistent dream since childhood has been to write/illustrate a book of some sort. But in my head that dream quickly turns into a time-lined project that needs to be posted all over social media and I need to make sure I reach the amount of people needed for a successful book, and yada yada yada yada blah blah blah. It becomes a chore, a looming boulder of burden about to fall on my head.

I crave a simpler life. I need my nights and weekends to be spent doing what I’d like to do and less on what I can do to make money. It’s a deep dark rabbit hole that I don’t enjoy burrowing into. Take this blog for example. For the past 7 years of writing it, I’ve continuously thought with each post I write, will this bring in more people which in turn might turn into more customers? It’s my fault for thinking that way – I’ve let that type of mentality sink in over years from listening to other “girl bosses” who tell people like me to write and create for others, to get people to my blog/website and turn them into dollar signs, to curate my Instagram feed so meticulously so more people will follow me which will lead them to my blog/website which will turn them into dollar signs, to post to social media religiously so more people will engage in my content which will lead them to my blog/website which will turn them into dollar signs…

Enough I say!

So I’ve been digging deep, figuring out what I like best, and determining how I can make it all so much simpler. My guiding question is Would I be doing this if I wasn’t making money? (Money is such “a filthy disgusting word” says P.L Travers in Saving Mr. Banks.)

In short, I’ve removed a lot of services from my main website and am getting rid of Facebook. I rarely post there anymore and when I do, I feel the need to pay for advertising. It was a wonderful platform when I was booking and photographing weddings, but that’s not my priority anymore. (If you’re coming here from Facebook and you want to stay in contact with me and the blog, there’s an area on the right column where you can subscribe with your email (no spam, I promise).) My website is now more of a portfolio for my art and it will direct you to my shop and blog. I still enjoy creating logos so that service is staying there for now. Who knows if I’ll keep it? We shall see.

My online shop remains. I love it and I love creating the art for it. I’m adding photographs to sell – something I’ve had on my to-do list for a long time – and am still eager to teach Photoshop through tutorials and webinars. At one point I toyed with the idea of an in-person watercolor workshop, but I know that is not something I would truly enjoy. At least not now. Who knows what will happen in the future? My Instagram will be used for my own enjoyment. No more needing to see the statistics and no more curating. I’ll showcase my art and projects of course, but the sole purpose of it will be for enjoyment without the looming thought of potential sales.

Ahhhhhhhh….now that that’s all out of the way and we’re all on the same page, let’s talk about fun stuff! :)

English Countryside and London | Nikki Jean Tran Blog | nikkitranphotography.com

It’s Paul’s turn to pick our next vacation – I chose South Carolina for our soon-to-happen trip – and that boy got me so stinkin’ excited last night when he was narrowing down his choices. We may or may not be – nothing is official yet – going to Europe next! And it may or may not be – nothing is official yet – places where one sips tea on the regular and visits castles and uses words like ‘loch’…:) :) He’s deciding between possibly Germany vs. possibly a trio of Scotland, Ireland, and England. I won’t get my hopes up, but I’m sure you all know where I’d love to go. :)

And when we’re not dreaming of far-off places, we’re doing the bidding of darling Rusty (he runs the roost over here), trying to defeat each other in Smash Brothers (we bought ourselves a Nintendo Switch for Christmas – best gift ever, the nephews agree), caring for our sprouting herbs, and I’m slowly but surely chipping away at the pile of books I’ve never read/finished. Did you watch Tidying Up with Marie Kondo? If you haven’t it’s a new show on Netflix that is all about recognizing which items in your home bring you joy and which do not. I love a good organizing method and I immersed myself in her show while going through our own home using her method. My books were the hardest to go through (my closet has only about 20-25 items in it now!) and Idiscovered after categorizing them, that there were a lot of books I had never read or had not finished. And yet, I have bought numerous new books online or in stores without truly thinking about if I really needed it. So, many of those newer books I bought recently went in the “Donate” pile and I’m working on going through the “Never Read” pile before I buy another book. Because I’m only reading from that pile, I’ve found a plethora of new worlds and new ways of thinking – books have that kind of magic hidden within. Right now I’m reading The Selected Letters of Laura Ingalls Wilder and I’m becoming even more fascinated by her. I think next will be a good fiction novel, probably the sequel to The Doldrums. (It’s a wonderful children’s book with beautiful illustrations.)

Mark Twain Quote | Nikki Jean Tran Copyright | www.nikkitranphotography.com

I’m learning that one does not need a career to be successful or happy. I was not the type of kid growing up with dreams of being a police officer or dentist or engineer, and apparently I’m not that type of person as I come closer to turning 30. If I can have a job I like and still be able to create and take time to do things that make me happy, then I will have succeeded. Maybe it’s our generation thatHarvesting Basil - Nikki Tran Blog | www.nikkitranphotography.comfeels like we need to make a huge impact and start big businesses and build empires, I’m not quite sure. What I do know is that it’s the tiny snippets of life that bring me joy; tea for two on cold evenings, learning a new piece on the piano, painting with zero expectations, practicing drawing while watching movies with Paul, escaping to new worlds with books, writing down thoughts in my diary while Paul plays the guitar, walks with Rusty as the sun goes down, trying a new recipe while the records play, and caring for as many plants as possible.

So, I shall be trying my hardest to simplify my life. Focusing on the good little things and forgetting about the unnecessary, always with the guiding questions of Will it bring me joy and Would I still do this if I wasn’t getting paid. Even Walt Disney said something similar:

“Money doesn’t excite me, my ideas excite me.”

And that should be enough, right?

It’s dusk, friends. I still have to get ready for the day and Rusty is slowly pushing me off of my own chair. Paul’s still working right across from me – I love when he works from home – and soon it will be dinner time. If you stayed with me all the way through this post, you’re the bee’s knees. Thank you for always reading and always supporting. I’ll try not to bring my woes and worries to the blog from now on. Only playing, no working. I like the sound of that. Stay warm, friends. xoxo

  • Gwen LarsonFebruary 4, 2019 - 4:54 pm

    :) :) :)ReplyCancel

  • Cathy DeimanFebruary 4, 2019 - 12:08 am

    I want to stay connected with you! God bless.ReplyCancel

  • LinneaJanuary 31, 2019 - 8:24 pm

    Isn’t it just the hardest to enjoy the simple things? But there’s people out there that appreciate your endless talents regardless of the monetary value. Although I think you’d make the most LOVELY little book.

    <3ReplyCancel

Hello dear friend! Are you settled in? Perhaps with a big mug of steaming Irish coffee? I hope you’ve all been well, had a lovely holiday season, and are now surviving the frigid cold (my Nana says it’s cold in California when it’s 60 degrees so cold is a relevant term wherever you are). You know, although I’m alone in an old quiet house writing this, I still feel like I’m actually having a conversation with you (one-sided mostly since I’m doing a lot of the talking). I can put together a rough picture of you reading my blog, I imagine you’re a kindred spirit, and if you ever feel like saying hi back, please do! Leave a comment after or send me an email – I promise I’ll write back. This behind-the-scenes life can be a bit lonely and meeting new people online, like I have on Instagram, has been absolutely wonderful. (I’m sure I can’t be the only one who feels this way, right?)

Moving on!

Fair warning, this is going to be a long post. I’ve been sitting on a few in my draft folder and I keep putting them off so I decided I’ll just combine them all. It’s been awhile since I’ve been on here and I wanted to tell you all about Thanksgiving, San Diego, Christmas, what’s been going on in the New Year, and all the snippets in between. So, that’s what I’m going to do in one whole sitting. Are you ready? Shall we begin?

The last we chatted I was telling you how nervous I was about preparing our first Thanksgiving dinner. Oh boy, we had such a wonderful time. Paul and I spent the entire morning and early afternoon just the two of us, me making the gravy, him mashing the potatoes, both of us tackling the turkey and cleaning the house. We had Frank, Bing, and Dean on the record player, we sipped wine and beer, Rusty dozed off in front of the heater, and it was all around a very Dear Diary type of day with him.

(I would never throw a potato out the window.)

My family arrived in the afternoon just as the sun was sinking behind the neighbors’ houses across the street: Dad, Mom, and my sister and her boyfriend. (Two darling nephews were at their other family’s side, and my sister-in-law, brother, and other darling nephews were in Virginia for the holidays – we missed them all so much.) Mom and Dad helped in the kitchen, everyone helped put the dishes on the table and pour drinks, and we spent the evening with candles lit, records on, and good food in our bellies. I’d say it was a success. The only thing that needed a lot of improvement was my stuffing. I will not be deterred, however.

In between the holidays we had concerts to attend, family loss to deal with, weekend getaways, sleepovers with little peanuts, and a lovely last-minute trip to visit my Nana and Gramps in San Diego. It was much-needed and so appreciated.

We’ve been out there a few times in the last five years and this was the first time I had gotten to “celebrate” Christmas with them in California. We arrived just a few days before Christmas and were home in time for Christmas Eve at my mom and dad’s. Nana and Gramps always know how to take care of us when we come out. We’re pampered to the nine, had a fully stocked fridge of all good things, listened to Christmas carols, laughed at their stories, drove all over San Diego seeking out the best spots, visited my darling great-uncle, and even had a tiny version of a picnic while watching the sun go down behind the ocean. Nothing but Dear Diary moments the whole time we were there.

(If you don’t feel like looking through a ton of pictures of sunshine and ocean, feel free to scroll down.)

(These were all taken with my phone. I love my phone’s camera.)

The Hotel del Coronado – we could have spent the whole day there.

Old photographs of celebrities and presidents that have stayed in the hotel. Christmas trees. We loved it.

:)

:) :)

Just people relaxing and lying on the grass, looking up at the clouds.

The waves were so fun to watch (and listen to).

Just a couple of gals with our toes in the sand.

Poor Gramps! We all took our shoes and socks off to walk in the water, except him, and we were not expecting the tide to come in as far as it did. We all got soaked up to our knees, including Gramps!! He was a good sport. :)

Whiling away the time sitting in the sun, listening to the waves crash in, and people watching.

Nana loves these flowers. :)

Into Old Town for dinner and shopping. (I bought that bunting (papel picado) for myself and Momma. Love the colors (also inspiration for the October page in your calendar, wink wink. :))

Walked through the first cemetery in San Diego…

Ended up having dinner at one of Grandpa’s favorite spots in Old Town. So good. The next day we went to visit my Uncle Buck, Nana’s older brother. :) :) He’s the sweetest. Look at that smile!

She visits him every week. Love listening to them “bicker” and laugh with each other.

Earlier that day I had picked up Apple Cider Sparkling juice (almost like champagne) and cups so we could cheers as the sun went down at Sunset Cliffs.

The blues! :) :)

We clapped, people cheered, we finished our “champagne” and then headed out to get Chinese food for our Christmas dinner. We ended our last night with them by opening gifts and watching It’s A Wonderful Life. A perfect ending with these two.

If you scrolled past the San Diego trip and I’m just catching up to you, HI! If you’re still hanging in and reading, HELLO!

Let’s keep going, shall we?

Christmas was wonderful, our family was all together again and we had our traditional pasta meal. Everyone brought dishes to share, the floor was packed with presents under the tree, sparkly wine glasses tinked, lots of laughing and cookie eating and hugging.

Here’s the lot of us, Rusty included. :)

The next day we spent another day together in the kitchen, this time with a couple of friends to keep me company while I cooked the Christmas meal we’d be having later with our other friends/neighbors from the old house (including Rusty’s best friend). Kristin and Diller spent most of Christmas morning/early afternoon with us, sipping drinks, eating Christmas Tree Cake (Mom and Dad’s specialty) and leftover Christmas Eve garlic bread (my uncle’s specialty that is now also my specialty :)), and catching up on life. They’re one of the few couples we know that don’t have children and as a result we have a lot in common and there’s always something to dream about with them.

Bruce, Traci, and Harley came later that evening and we had another delicious pasta meal with lots of hugging, laughing, catching up on life, Harley and Rusty snuggling, and as always, ended the night with games and drinks. (We also missed Kraig – our other neighbor who would walk into our house like Kramer in Seinfield – but he was already spoken for.) When we went to bed that night our hearts and bellies were full.

And now it’s the New Year! We’re almost caught up, friends! (Do you need a refill? Go ahead, I’ll wait.)

I suppose life has been more or less the same over here. My calendar sales have dwindled and I did far better than I ever thought I would (thanks to YOU!). They’re officially 50% off, the price is updated on the website so no need for a discount code anymore ($7.50!) If you haven’t gotten yours yet, feel free to hop over to the shop. :)

I’ve been working on a few projects on the days I can muster enough energy. This monotonous gray weather has been sucking all creativity and happiness out of me, so on the days there’s sunshine peeking through our blinds I try to get as much accomplished as I can. Since there haven’t been many sunny days, you can imagine how much I’ve actually gotten done…

I’m stilling working on the 2020 calendar, definitely slowly but still surely. I’m just about finished with the month of May, a tribute to our trip to Seattle last spring where I finally met my kindred spirits and Paul and I explored the streets of Downtown Seattle. I began making July, a nod to our trip to NYC that we took with my brother and his family a few years back…and then I lost the motivation and moved on. I do that sometimes depending on the month but no worries, I always pick it up where I left it and will soon finish. (I started October MONTHS ago…not even close to being finished.)

When I’m not working on things for myself, I’ve been working on something pretty exciting. Paul is finally opening a business!!!! I’m so proud of him, he’s so excited – it’s been a big adventure already and it’s not even open yet! This all started in August with his friend/past co-worker; they’re opening an after-school coding school for kids!! It’s part of a franchise which has definitely helped with preparation. I’ll be working there as the director/manager when it’s all ready to go and in the meantime I’ve been helping with back-end stuff (totally out of my comfort zone but one never grows unless one exits that bubble, right?) So stay tuned, friends! If you’re in the local area I’ll be letting you all know more about it in case you’ve got little kiddos who want to learn to code (ages 7-14). :) :)

And when we’re not working on things that have to get done, we’ve been trying to just enjoy new things. Paul’s been learning the guitar and friends, he is so good. I love listening to him. There have been so many nights when we turn off the TV, Paul grabs his guitar and I grab my latest book, and we sit here with music filling the living room. I absolutely love it. Also, I’ve been trying to learn the violin that Paul bought me over three years ago. I’ve put it on the back-burner even though it’s been a long-time dream of mine, but watching Paul learn the guitar on his own and with YouTube as his guide I became inspired to try again. Although I’m still scratchy and unable to create a consistent vibrato, I just love it. I’m slowly learning the theme to Schindler’s List one step/note at a time. It’s incredibly hard but I know myself, and if I don’t love the song I won’t continue to practice.

The nights are long, friends and I’m itching for spring already. Paul and I headed to Home Depot about a week ago and purchased some little growing pots, soil, a shelf and brackets, and seeds for chives, cilantro, basil, and lavender. Paul put together a little garden shelf right on our kitchen window and now each morning I come downstairs and pretend it’s spring while talking to my little loves. Just yesterday two began to grow, the chives and basil, and I am beyond thrilled. I talk to them, they keep me company in the cold and gray…I’m dreaming in gardens.

I suppose I’ve written a book tonight, haven’t I? You’ve got things you need to do, I should probably peel myself off the couch and take care of some laundry, maybe move a little? :)

I’ll try to pop in again soon – I’m working hard this year to not work when I don’t have to (like on weeknights and weekends), and although I love this blog (and you!), sometimes it feels like work. So, until we meet again, dear friend, stay warm! And if you live somewhere with constant sunshine, feel free to shift that over my way. :) xoxoxo

  • Melanie BeilnerJanuary 27, 2019 - 9:21 pm

    Nikki, it’s so good to see all the good in your life from the last few months! You and Nana and Gramps are my fav! You sound like a really good hostess, too! I used to be a good hostess and I’m working on that part of me again.

    I just got outside to start the Winter Pruning and clearing in the garden beds….it felt so good and I know my plants will love me for it later!

    Can’t wait to see the progress of your little window sill herb garden; I have to say I might copy that idea someday! What’s not to love?

    Cheers Kindred SpiritReplyCancel

  • NanaJanuary 24, 2019 - 8:53 pm

    Sweetie pie please write a book? Your blog has brought back all of the great memories of our time together with the two of you, please come back soon. Love you both very much and tell darling Paul I expect a concert when we come home. See you in April. Love you more:):)ReplyCancel

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