A Reintroduction: 10 Things About Me

I’ve done a lot of reflecting lately…mostly what I want to do with the blog, my social media presence, and the types of posts I’ve shared. As I’m going through my archives, I cringe at my first post. It wasn’t even an introduction or something about me. I just dived into a post about a new Anthropologie store in the neighborhood. I would love to delete that post and replace it with a proper introduction but I’m not. I’m keeping it there as a reminder of how far I’ve come or will come with blogging.

When I started this blog in 2013, I was just excited that I found a blog and a domain name that were not taken. I didn’t know much about blogging then (I still don’t). But I really enjoyed reading other people’s blogs. So I figured, why not? Start a blog – take pictures and write something. How hard could that be? But it was really hard. I had a tough time editing photos and putting my thoughts into words…and finding the time! 

My intention was and is not to make blogging a full-time job. I have a full-time job that’s quite demanding but I want to be able to balance my full-time job and the blog. Although I don’t enjoy my job at times, it gives my family financial stability and mostly, it fuels my creativity for nonwork-related things such as blogging and photography. I want the blog to be a space to store and share all that creativity. But I still need to figure out how to manage my time.

There might be a formula out there for starting and running a successful blog (but I think it’s just a lot of hard work and finding your niche).  And there’s a lot of information out there on how to blog, what to do, the common mistakes of blogging, etc. I don’t want model my blog off of someone else’s. I just want it to be a reflection of me. But I know the one mistake I’ve made when I started this blog – not posting a proper introduction.

So here we are, almost four years later. Please allow me to reintroduce myself and consider this a fresh new start to the blog.

10 Things About Me

1 – My favorite thing to do on the weekends is spend time with my family and explore Chicago. The one thing I love about Instagram is that it has inspired me to get out of the house and explore Chicago. Seeing people’s pictures of Chicago as well as other cities around the world has certainly changed my view of architecture, colorful murals, and doors in the city. This love of exploration is what I want to share on the blog.

2 – Leyla is not my birth name. I changed my name when I got naturalized as a US citizen at the age of 18. My given name is My Le (mee-lay), which translates to beautiful tears in Vietnamese. People call me Le (lay) for short. But when people who don’t know me read my name, they call me Myle (mile:) and it used to annoy me. I loved the name “Leyla” when I was a teenager and this is the name everyone calls me now, except my family and childhood friends.

3 – Speaking of names, my nickname that my family calls me is “meo”, which is a cat in Vietnamese. I was born in the year of the cat, according to the Vietnamese zodiac calendar. For Chinese, it’s the rabbit. At an early age, my parents thought I exhibited characteristics of a cat, being that I was born under that sign also was the biggest attribute. So they started calling me “meo.” One time, my aunt saw me at the mall so she walked behind me saying “meo, meo, meo” to get my attention. Then she realized that people were looking at her and probably wondering why she was “meowing”. So she called me by my name instead. I am not a cat person but I do still love my nickname.

4 – I’ve been to Paris five times. Yes, I love it that much there and I plan to go back again. My dream is to spend my summers somewhere in France. To share my love of all things French, I am starting a “Francophile Friday” post (once a month or more) to share some of my favorite French things and find. Stay tuned!

5 – I ran and finished the Chicago marathon in 2009. I want to run it again…soon. Hopefully in 2018.

6 – I laugh when I’m nervous or even at bad jokes (not my husband’s though, I know him too well). I find laughing to be comforting.

7 – I didn’t start drinking coffee until I started my first job out of college.  Now I can’t go a day without coffee. I guess that’s what accounting does to you.

8 – I moved to Chicago in 2001. I didn’t know anyone and told my parents I would move back to New Orleans in a year if I didn’t like it. I’m still here. Now my parents want to move to Chicago.

9 – We named our son “Luke” because I gave my husband four choices – Matthew, Mark, Luke or John. He picked Luke because of Star Wars (of course).

10 – When people ask me what camera I use, I tell them “my eyes.” I’m not a photographer but I like taking pictures of what I see. I purchased my Canon T3i DSLR camera four years ago with the 50 mm lens (the nifty fifty) to mainly take pictures of Luke and hopefully become a professional photographer. As a new parent, I thought I needed to have high quality photos of him (not true now) but sometimes pictures from my iPhone will do.  I’ve learned a lot about photography but I still have so much more to learn to say that I’m a true photographer. So I consider myself a “fauxtographer” or “momtographer”.

And if these 10 things  weren’t enough, I did a similar post on Instagram about two years ago (when I was tagged by an Instagram friend to share some things about me).

I was tagged by @diannaman awhile ago to share 15 things about me. At first I was hesitant to share bc I didn't think I had much to share. But I actually have 17! So here goes. 1) I'm a Leo but I don't like to be the center of attention. 2) I'm not a photographer. I just like taking pictures. 3) I check @anthropologie's website EVERYDAY, sometimes more than once a day. 4) I have a very dry sense of humor. It makes me happy to get people to laugh at my humor. 5) I say "I love you" to Luke every day bc growing up in an Asian family, my parents never told us they loved us. Now they do, and I don't know how to react. 6) I was a tomboy growing up until middle school. 7) I met my husband on a blind date (set up by an ex-boyfriend). 8) I'm so used to ordering the same coffee at @starbucks that sometimes I place my coffee order at Chipotle or any fast food place out of habit. I always get a weird look. 9) I collect store shopping bags (paper bags). I have a whole box full. 10) I'm a huge fangirl of portrait photogs. 11) My weekend is incomplete if I don't go to church on Sunday. 12) I think in Vietnamese but speak English. I do this so I don't lose my Vietnamese language skill. 13) Growing up, it used to annoy me when people would say I look so much like my mom. But now I love it and cherish it. 14) My favorite breakfast is cake and coffee. 15) I love bargain hunting. It's a challenge and a reward. 16) I'm a Francophile but can't speak or understand French. 17) I'm turning 40 in August.

A photo posted by Leyla (@secondcitymom) on






My 2017 Goals and Resolutions


Happy New Year!

I’ve been reflecting on 2016 for the past couple of days. The year had its ups and downs but I choose to remember the happy moments like taking a semi-last minute trip to Paris and Disneyland Paris in May and then a week long vacation in Maui in October. I made new friendships and lost a few as well. I took a French class – oui, oui.  I decided in September to start losing weight so I joined Weight Watchers and lost 10 lbs in two months. I still have another 30 lbs to go. I hope I can do it.

I didn’t really make goals in 2016, just ways to keep me hopeful (to have another baby). Obviously, we did not get pregnant or have a baby in 2016 but the one thing I learned was to deal with the sadness of not being able to conceive again. I’ve learned that it’s okay to be vulnerable and be sad. I’m a complicated person. I don’t need to have the appearance of being happy all the time.  Most importantly, I’ve learned to take care of myself and my mental health. I’ve let go of some of insecurities and not worry about how people feel about me. I can’t change them. I can only change how I react to them.

2017 Goals and Resolutions

So for 2017, I’m going to keep taking care of my mental health (and losing weight) and doing some other things (17 to be exact, get it? 2017?)  that will hopefully help me grow while challenging me at the same time.

1. Learn to take better pictures

I recently purchased a new mirrorless camera, the FujiFilm X-T10 Mirrorless Digital Camera to be exact. I need to learn more about this camera and improve my photography skills. So far, there’s been lots of frustration with it.

2. Make this blog about me, not what others expect it to be

Post less but include better content that’s relatable and voice my opinions better.

3. Improve my writing skills

Writing is clearly not my strong suit.

4. Unplug from social media once in awhile

Social media is a great way to meet people but I find myself spending way too much time on it. I need to unplug and spend more quality time with family and friends.

5. Cook more, especially Vietnamese food

I want to cook like my mom. She doesn’t need recipes. She can think of cooking up a dish on a whim. I want to be like my mom.

6. Invite friends over. Host dinner parties

This is when I can use my improved cooking skills.

7. Shop smarter and less

Unsubscribe from shopping emails and unfollow Instagram accounts that promote shopping.

8. Start a capsule wardrobe

This is where the smarter shopping will be helpful.

9. Travel to more North American cities

My list of cities this year are Charleston, SC, Montreal, Quebec, Portland, OR, and LA to San Francisco on the Pacific Coast Highway (in a convertible).

10. More date nights with Charlie and dates with Luke

Go on dates with Charlie once a month and drink lots of champagne. Take a day off of work once a month to have lots of adventures with Luke.

11. Be open to meeting new people
12. Build meaningful friendships and let go of negative ones
13. Don’t go down the comparison rabbit hole

Comparison messes with my creativity and my confidence. It’s hard not to compare when you see so many talented people out there and you realize your house isn’t that nice,  your pictures are not consistent, and your writing about motherhood is terrible. I want Cher to come over to slap you in the face and yell “Snap out of it!” when that happens.

14. Teach Luke Vietnamese

Well, what I do know about speaking the language.

15. Live simpler. Purge what I don’t need more often.
16. Accept what life gives me with grace

Accept what I have and what I cannot have and learn to move on gracefully.

17. Continue to take care of myself and love myself




Let’s Travel! Highlights from a Week in Maui


I can’t believe 2016 is coming to an end so soon!! The year certainly had its ups and downs but one of the highlights of the year was taking a much needed seven day family vacation in Maui. I wanted to share a photo diary of our trip before the end of the year. I’m hoping to post this before the year is over…which is only one more day.

I’ve been to Maui four times now. When people who haven’t been to Maui ask me why we keep going back, I tell them that there’s something about the island. Something mystical. It feels like my soul has been there before. Like I lived there in another life. It just feels like home. The island is warm in climate in and in its people. Everyone is so nice and friendly that you can’t help but be happy when you’re there. I guess that’s the island life?  Whatever the energy is, I know I always want go back and I know that the island will always welcome me back.

If you’re planning a trip to Maui, I recommend reading and bringing Maui Revealed: The Ultimate Guidebook  with you.  We used it on our previous trips and found it to be very helpful.





First off, one of the reasons we love Maui so much is staying at the Grand Wailea. The resort has almost everything you can ask for. But for Luke, it was all about the kiddie pool and slides. He loved it there and thinks we’re going back to Maui every year. Now, if only we can afford it every year.


Early Morning Walks

Obviously we spent a lot of time at the pool and Wailea Beach. But because there was a five hour time difference, we would wake up at around 3 or 4 AM every day. So we made the most of our time and took early morning walks along the beach path. I loved it, especially seeing the island colors in the morning and getting in a good work out. Luke had a chance to pick out some plumerias for me.




I just love his bed head


Kula Pumpkin Patch

Since we were in Maui in the fall, we missed out on some fall activities in Chicago, like going to a pumpkin patch. So decided to a Google search for pumpkin patches in Maui and found Kula Country Farms in the upcountry had a pumpkin patch. I think I was more excited to go than Luke and Charlie. The farm had so many pumpkins and some activities for kids. The view from the pumpkin farms was just gorgeous. I think this was the best pumpkin patch we’d ever been to.




Ali’i Kula Lavender Farm

After missing out on the lavender fields in Provence, I knew I wanted to see the Ali’i Kula Lavender Farm, which was not very far from the Kula Country Farms. The altitude for the lavender farm is quite high but the views and smells from this place were divine. We even stopped by the cafe to enjoy a lavender biscuit and lavender lemonade. Luke rain around the lavender while Charlie and I chased him around. After we left, he was knocked out asleep in the car and even slept through dinner. I guess it was the altitude?




Maui Tropical Plantation

I don’t know we missed this place on our earlier trips but this place was like paradise on earth. We actually came here twice during our trip. Once for dinner at the Mill House and another time just to hang out and have Luke run around. Luke got to quack at the ducks, learn how pineapples are grown, and go into the “jungle.” The view from the restaurant was just incredible. I looks like a scene out of a movie.





Family Photo Shoot

When we were in Maui four years ago, we had Mariah Milan take our family portraits. we loved the portraits so much (here) that we asked her to do one for us this year.  I’ve kept in touch with Mariah via Instagram since we first met so seeing here again was like seeing an old friend. We met Mariah for a sunset photo session at Ulua Beach. The sunset that evening was just magical. You can’t get those colors any where else in the world. I highly recommend a family portrait on any vacation. I see it as a souvenir. Every time I look through the photos, they just bring a smile to my face as I can remember the fun we had that night. For more of our photo shoot, please visit Mariah’s site here.

Maui Family Session at Ulua Beach

Maui Family Session at Ulua Beach


Maui has so many good places to eat. I wish we could stay a whole month so we can try all the restaurants. Since we stayed in Wailea, we tended to stay around the area to eat.

Monkey Pod Kitchen – one of the best Mai Tais on Maui!

Ka’ana Kitchen at the Andaz Hotel. Very kid-friendly. They have toys for kids to play with.

Sam Sato’s – We met Mariah, the photographer, here for breakfast. It’s a local favorite. Try the noodles.

Da Kitchen – It’s near the airport so you can either eat before you get to the hotel or eat before you catch your flight.

Kihei Caffe –Go for breakfast. They take cash only

Leoda’s Kitchen and Pie Shop – The pies! Go for pies!


Mama’s Fish House – A Maui staple. Consistent and great food but is quite pricey.

The Mill House – Located at the Maui Tropical Plantation. The view from the dining room is the best.


Coconut’s Fish Cafe – Oh my…the fish tacos were so good!

Honolulu Coffee Company – Located at the Shops of Wailea. We had our coffee and acai bowls here after our morning walks.