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Nikki Tran Blog | Designer. Artist. Photographer bio picture
  • Hello Friend…

    and welcome to the blog! I'm Nikki, a creative old soul who loves the romantic things in life. Tea time, tip-toeing through gardens, old and worn books, slow-dancing to records, painting by candelight, lakeside walks with Rusty, and starry-night picnics with Paul. This blog carries snippets of my life with just the two of us - I hope it brings you smiles and happiness as you snuggle in with your cup of tea and begin reading. Enjoy, friends! (Latest posts on the right!) --->

It seems like yesterday we were waking in the early hours of the morning, saying good-bye to Rusty (tearful on my part), and jetting off to the sunshine and ocean views of San Diego. My Nana and Grandpa have been vacationing there ever since I can remember, wisely escaping the wrath of Minnesota winters. Before this year I couldn’t understand why they would ever want to leave Minnesota. Perhaps as I’m getting older I’m slowly understanding the appeal of the “snowbird” life and maybe eventually we’ll follow in their footsteps. It was certainly hard leaving them after only 5 days together and I’ve definitely felt pangs of homesickness for the carefree days we had, exploring bits and pieces of their 6-month hometown.

From venturing out at sunset to Old Town for margaritas and tacos, to ocean-side drinks and people watching, to sunsets on dangerous cliffs, to wearing sweaters while eating apple pie in the mountains, this trip has me by the heart. We couldn’t have asked for more welcoming hosts. Nana had the fridge stocked with all sorts of food – fruit galore, Easter Pizzas (quite the delicacy), key limes pies, wine, beer, hashbrowns. They wanted to show us only the best places in San Diego, taking us to BBQ food and old-fashioned ice-cream and eventually all the way up in the mountains to the best apple pie my Grandpa’s ever had. We stayed up late talking, laughing, telling stories, drinking and reminiscing, until finally us young kids would pass out from sleepiness. (We’re not used to staying up late and walking everywhere – those two are like the Energizer bunny.)

As soon as the plane landed in Minnesota, we couldn’t help but want to turnaround and go back. These trips to visit them continues to remind me how lucky we are to have the relationship we have with them. If you’re lucky enough to have your grandparents around, give them a big hug, ask for a story, and take some time to just be with them. Hugs and kisses to you, Nana and Gramps! Welcome back to Minnesota!! :) xoxo

PS. I decided to leave my big camera at home this time. I wanted to see what my phone could do and my goodness, I was not disappointed. All of these photos are taken with my phone and then lightly edited through a program on my phone as well. Next blog post (Thursday’s!) will be on some tips and tricks when using your phone for photos! Stay tuned, friends! :) (Music as you scroll? Of course!)

Old Town is such a unique and beautiful place – if you’re ever in the area, spend an evening walking around, sip some margaritas, and get lost in the beautiful Mexican culture.

Nana and Gramps enjoying some fruity drinks. :)


There we were, eating chips and spicy salsa, and sipping drinks, and then all of a sudden a live band began playing as the sun sank.

Me and Nana. :)

Dear Gramps. :)

I just love the background and everything about this place.

Isn’t it lovely?!

A rose-covered gate.

One of the days we spent with just the two of us. We stayed at Nana and Gramps’ house the whole trip, but while they went to the flea markets we decided to let fate be our guide and we just explored.

Oh the blues. :)

We decided to start the day at Balboa Park.

We roamed through old buildings…

…through beautiful, sweet-smelling gardens…

…into a conservatory…

…and then found our way to the beach. More drinks!

And of course, people watching.

We walked the boardwalk, got some ice-cream…

…watched the waves crash in…

…ate more ice-cream…

…and then it was time to watch the sunset. I had a goal on this trip: to watch the sunset over the ocean. That’s all I’ve ever wanted, really.

So we drove to Sunset Cliffs (how appropriate of a name). All along the walk to the cliffs were signs saying “Dangerous. Keep away.” Clearly, people would rather watch a sunset.


Goodness. What a view.

That night I wanted to find somewhere special to eat. You know when the most perfect day is happening and you just want to keep the perfectness going? That was how I felt. So we did it. We found an adorable restaurant in a bustling part of town. We ate on the patio with twinkle lights, hanging baskets, and French music playing. We ate duck and delicious comfort foods, and cheered with our wine and beer.

The next day we drove a bit to visit my Uncle Buck, Nana’s older brother.

He’s such a wonderful, warm, adorable man. So grateful we got to visit him and see his home. :)

And then we took a trip to the mountain town of Julian. We were their chauffeurs the entire trip (Paul gets carsick). :)

I learned something about myself on this mini road trip: I don’t care for heights. I love rollercoasters and all that jazz, but driving up in the mountains and overlooking the cliffs made me extremely anxious. Who knew?!

Our always calm and steady driver. :)

The cutest little town with the sweetest little pie shop. We had lunch at Julian Pie Company (soup, sandwiches, and pie), strolled along the streets, shopped at the most adorable tearoom (see the next photo), and smelled the sweet-smelling scent of lilacs blooming recklessly over picket fences. I left a bit of my heart in that town.

Just a couple of gals trying on hats and trying to convince ourselves we need everything in this store. :)

And that was our darling trip to San Diego. We miss it already, but we’re planning for our next big trip…DISNEYWORLD!! To say I’m excited is a bit of an understatement. :) Until we meet again, dear friends. Happy Monday. :)

Hello, dear friends! Happy Thursday, top of the evening to you, and all that happy jazz. :) Shall we listen to some music? Yes, let’s. (It will make you smile, I have no doubt. :) It’s also from The Little Prince – check it out on Netflix. It’s a life-changer.)

So, let’s see. Where did we leave off all from all those weeks ago? Oh yes, we were just about to enjoy all that spring has to offer. And I must say, we definitely did. This spring has sprung extra early for us (with a random snowfall at the end of April, but what can we expect from Minnesota?) and we have been filling every sunshine moment with garden plans, walks, bonfires, and outside cooking. We’ve created a new and much bigger vegetable/herb garden right off our deck, over-looking the lake and just beyond the apple tree’s grasp (you can see a bit of it on my Instagram). Paul technically built it, but I definitely did my part from the sidelines, reminding him to straighten certain parts of the fence and demanding the gate swing just so. I like to help, what can I say? :) He did a wonderful job, as usual. It’s a black, rod iron gated garden, complete with the two cutest swinging gates that I plan to hang a gardening hat on. I’ll post some photos when it’s got some things planted. :) But trust me, it’s quite beautiful.

Last time I also let you in on a pretty big secret – I’m starting another small creative business!! Well, I’m happy to say that is still in the works and I’m constantly thinking of ideas for it. I’ve got pages of notes and little thoughts, sketched-out designs, quotes for encouragement, daily reminders, and of course a mess of crossed-out ideas. :) I’ve got a drafted timeline for it all to happen and if I’m being honest with you, sometimes it’s hard to sleep because my head is swimming with ideas and visions for this new little love of mine. Remember when I told you my story on how I got started in photography and how a billion light bulbs went off in my head?? (If you’re rereading it, be kind. I was younger and, in my opinion, still a beginner. ;)) The passion is back and I’m just rolling with it (butterflies officially fluttering in my stomach). I think the thing that is most exciting about this endeavor is that this is going to be an all-around creative business. I’m not just a photographer. I’m so much more but I never thought I could incorporate all my creativity into one basket. Well, I can and I’m going to. This small creative business is going to have a variety of things, including services like branding, web and logo design, products like photography templates, editing videos, designing tutorials, paper products for small businesses, home decor, and a few other exciting things. It’s not all going to come out at once and it will definitely take a LOT of time, but that is my vision and I’m just so thrilled! I want to help other small business owners, other photographers and creatives, and anyone else that I can reach by bringing beautiful and purposeful things into their lives (that means you, friend!).

So, what’s next? A little bit more activity on the blog – I’ve got to resuscitate it back to life. I’ll be keeping you posted on more things from the business, photography, and design side, as well as our day-to-day home adventures. (I’m sure you’re missing Rusty, how could you not? :))

My darling friends, that is all the news I have for you as of right now. It’s now time to snuggle in bed, read some Harry Potter, and dream of new adventures. Until we meet again…:)

Hello dear friends. Happy weekend – let’s start this right with some music. :)

And then let’s skip the part where I give you a really good reason as to why I haven’t been on the blog in awhile and go right to…

Can you believe it?? The weather may not be true to it’s season, but it’s better than snow. (Knock on wood. Always knock on wood in Minnesota.) Soon we’ll be whipping windows open, beating the dust out of rugs, tip-toeing through the gardens, singing along with the birdies (each morning when Rusty goes outside, I notice the birds are getting louder – I’m absolutely loving it), starting the first bonfire, ditching boots for sandals, extending our afternoon walks, swinging on the swing, dining under the stars, and all the good romantic things that Spring so lovingly gives us.

I have a thing for Spring. I was born in it, the colors are my favorites, Spring smells are the bee’s knees, the best sports begin in spring, thunderstorms and the pitter-patter of rain is divine, summer vacation is just around the corner, and you get to breathe that breath of new life. Do you smell that? When you walk outside and can actually enjoy it for the first time in months and you inhale deeply and you think, “Ahh! Spring at last!” It happened to me Thursday. I walked out of work after being inside all day, breathed in, looked up, and smiled. It smelled so good! Rain, grass, mud!! The first breath of life after a long, dormant season in the winter months of Minnesota. (Alaskans and other northern survivors above us, you are the ultimate troopers.)

As the wave of new life begins rippling through, I’ve been getting used to another new job. Yes, I know. I just can’t seem to sit still! However, this job is the puzzle piece I needed to complete my little life plan. As you know, a year ago (almost exactly) I decided that I would be retiring from wedding photography. Then came the inevitable question, Now What? I began looking for a variety of jobs I thought I might like (one can never know until one tries said job – that is my motto) and applied to a bunch of different places. I heard back from a little dentist office in the heart of the small town that so lovingly holds a piece of my heart. Of course I took it and I’m so glad I did. I met wonderful people and it gave me the confidence I needed to take the next job at a middle school (when one works from home for so long, one tends to lose confidence in people skills and general work abilities) which is where I’ve been until the last few weeks. And the reason I am at my current job now is so much because of my previous job in the middle school library. I am now the district-wide Media Specialist!! I’m going for my Masters in School & Library Information and I’ve taken on the ginormous role of managing 8 different schools!! So you see, each little step from a year ago has gotten me here and if you were to tell me last February (when I was crying and hiding away in my closet deciding whether or not to quit the “dream job”) that I would be here, I would have stopped crying in shock and thought you were nuts. But here I am and I love it.

Having a stable career in a setting that I love has now given me the opportunity to do something I’ve been wanting to do for such a long time. I’ve tried being a one-career type of woman but that lifestyle just doesn’t suit me. I need more. I need a balance. So while I spend my days learning the ins and outs of this new book-loving job, I spend some of my evenings and weekends lost in dreams of another creative business.

What would you say if I told you I’m working towards being a small-business owner yet again? One that specializes in designing beautiful things like watercolor home decor, Photoshop editing actions for photographers, and websites and logos and brands for like-minded business owners? If there’s one thing I miss about having a small business, it’s the excitement of creating and building that brand with beautiful, uniquely me types of things. (When people tell me they see “my blue” somewhere and think of me, I get all giddy inside!) Clearly I’ve already started the Photoshop actions part (back in 2013!) and I’ve been showing you snippets of my watercolors, but it’s going to be wonderful (for my sanity) to umbrella it all under one name – Nikki Tran Art & Design. So, that’s all I’ll say about that for now (but guess what?! The business cards have been made and shipped and the website domain has been bought! Tiny steps, friends!). :)

Along with new life, this blog needs a little spring cleaning. I’ve updated the categories to be simpler (or so I think) and I’ll be weeding through old posts, changing some design things here and there, and just letting her know I still like her and want to keep her feeling fresh. She’s been so good to me these past 5 years – she deserves to be dolled up again. :)

And so do you! It’s Spring! Go outside, get some fresh air! Breathe in some rain! If you live somewhere where your garden is always growing, pick some flowers! If not, grocery store gardens are always handy! Go for a walk! Play fetch with your puppy! Watch the stars come out! Say good-night to Mr. Moon! Feed the birds! And take that long awaited book you have on your shelf and go outside to finally enjoy it under the sunshine. Xoxo


  • NanaMarch 25, 2017 - 11:16 pm

    I just love reading your blog.Sweetie pie there is nothing you can’t accomplish,you are one talented young beautiful lady.I’m waiting for you to write a book.Love you more???ReplyCancel