Jo Sun Luksun

Today, for the first time in a very, very long time, I had an actual desire to blog. The sudden motivation and excitement to sit down and work on a post took me by surprise. All thanks to the precious little boy pictured above and an idea that took me back to the roots of my journey as a photographer.

A friend of mine recently posted on Facebook that she was interested in having lifestyle portraits taken of her family. Her post spurred a lively discussion on what exactly that entailed. “Lifestyle” is one of the many adjectives that have become trite in the realm of portrait photography – these days, people use it to describe just about any photo taken outside of a formal studio. I’ve seen photographers share lifestyle photos of both clients and their own families, ranging from perfectly staged to beautifully raw; I love it all, but have never pursued it as a possible service to offer my own clients.

When I’m shooting for a client, I need a plan. My approach to shooting weddings is all about structure, and even my portrait photography relies on tried-and-true formulas and poses. Showing up to a session without any directions to give? I wouldn’t know what to do with myself, aside from fighting an oncoming anxiety attack. But the type of session she described in her post involved little to no direction at all. It was simply a day in the life – dirty diapers and clutter included.

Real. Candid. Photojournalistic. 

Exactly the type of photos I used to take when I first fell in love with photography, 8 years ago.

Thanks to that Facebook friend, I had a spur of the moment idea this morning – why not try taking some lifestyle photos while visiting my friends Stephen and Sou-Wah?

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I imagine this is a glimpse of what life might look like… with a child of my own.

Jo Sun in Cantonese means “good morning” – it’s one of the simple phrases I’ve picked up while hanging out with this sweet family. I woke up to the pitter patter of Luksun’s footsteps this morning as he ran around the house looking for me. “Jo sun Luksun!” I whispered sleepily as he sidled over to see if I was awake. By the time I had wandered into the living room, playtime had already begun.

First it was a game of getting tangled in his pei pei (blanket), then he prepared to set sail on his quilt. Of course, the voyage required a supply of pre-cut fruit!

Luksun mischievously ate the remaining “chocolate jobies” he located in the pantry – chocolate rolled wafers from Trader Joe’s, called “jobies” after the logs of wood in the tv series Thomas and Friends.

Next he had the idea to hide tou tou, a tiny bunny, underneath the sofa and coffee table. “You’ll never find tou tou!” he shrieked with laughter.

There was a lot of slurping and sipping, both imaginary and real…

“Cheers baba!”

I found myself making mental notes of the funny little things Luksun would say while playing, only to forget them all by the end of the day! We had such a lovely, relaxing morning before heading out to the park. Sou-Wah and Stephen, I had the best time playing and chatting and hanging out with you this week! Luksun, I love being your Aunty.

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I’d like to dedicate this post to Kim, one of the coolest and most creative moms I know; and Hana, whose lifestyle photos of her three children inspire me daily.

The Future Mrs. Fujii

When starting this blog, I didn’t exactly intend to write about things that happened to me. It was meant to be a place to share content that I’ve created – photos I’ve taken, recipes I’ve tried, lists and guides I’ve put together.

But then this bridal shower happened. And even though I had no part in any of it (really, all I did was show up!), it still seemed like something worth writing about. 🙂

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Sou-Wah and Stephen (with 2-year-old Lucas in tow) arrived at my parents’ house at 10 pm with tired but happy smiles. “Don’t come in until I say so!” Sou-Wah shouted at me from the foyer as I built a train track for Lucas in the living room. Stephen grinned at me as he carried in their bags. “I don’t even know what she brought,” he said with a chuckle. “She’s been staying up late all week working on it.”

Soon afterwards, my parents had gotten involved. I could hear a bustle of activity in the front area of the house – bursts of laughter, excited chatter, nails being hammered into the wall. Time passed by, both slowly and quickly. “It’s almost midnight!” I exclaimed. “When can I see it?!”

Sou-Wah wrapped her arms around me and led me out to the foyer, where Stephen was waiting with a camera on hand. She giggled as I gasped in delight. “The Future Mrs. Fujii,” I read aloud in wonder. I walked through the room slowly, taking in every detail. Everywhere I looked, I found another thoughtful touch. It was more than I could have ever imagined.

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The next morning, the house was abuzz with preparations for the event. My parents prepared and plated the food for the guests – my mom had picked up a special flat bread from the local farmer’s market to serve alongside a feast of tasty dishes from Yalla Mediterranean. Meanwhile, Sou-Wah finished up some final touches for the games; Stephen was kind enough to photograph the details before taking Lucas out for some father-son quality time. The party hadn’t even started yet and I already felt showered with love.

Unfortunately we weren’t able to find anyone to photograph the shower as it happened, but my mom and Sou-Wah did manage to take a few snaps on their phones during the games. (No one likes having their picture taken while eating anyway!) Stephen did an amazing job documenting the decor – you can see for yourself what a labor of love it was.

The lovely little welcome area, featuring an Instax station, “Tip Jar”, and the wonderful banner that inspired the title of this post!

We received our engagement photos just days before the event. The timing could not be more perfect. As soon as I shared the good news with Sou-Wah, I received a stern demand: “Please email all of them now. Immediately, young lady!” As it turns out, both she and my mom had printed photos from the shoot to use as decor. These photos on display were chosen and framed by my mom. 🙂

While admiring this adorable banner, I asked Sou-Wah if it came with an alphabet of letters to arrange as you please. “Did you think it was store-bought?!” She laughed. “I made that!”

… as in, she cut out every single pennant and letter. Uhh… yeah. *cue jaw drop*

I loved each and every piece of decor, but this inspiration board may have been my favorite. The visual mix of colors, words, and textures was just so pleasing to look at!

How cute is that sign, with a countdown and everything! It even included the hashtag Garrick made up as a joke! One of the games (pictured on the right) was to guess my age for every photo displayed on the board. It was a tough game… The highest score was 3/10. Hahaha.

At the Instax selfie station, you could choose from an assortment of washi tape, stickers, or frames to decorate your picture with before hanging it on the banner.

Out of all the guests, I’ve known Courtney the longest – we’ve been friends for 20 years (!!). She generously offered to provide awesome Sephora goodies as favors for the shower and I was secretly jealous of the guests! 😛 I didn’t get a chance to peek at what was inside the bags, but there miiiight be an extra one left. I’ll definitely update this with photos if and when I get the chance.

These beautiful garden roses came from my parents’ backyard!

My future last name was sprinkled all throughout the shower in subtle (and not-so-subtle) ways. I had a lot of fun finding it in unexpected places, like the tag and print outs for the Tip Jar. Guests could leave tips and marriage advice in the jar. One of my favorite tips was from Courtney: “The secret to a happy marriage is always making sure you are well fed.” Solid advice.

Mom, Aunty Anna, and the lunch spread.

The dishes catered from Yalla Mediterranean were a big hit!

There was baklava for dessert. 🙂

This hilarious lottery game involved handing an envelope to each guest. We all opened the envelopes at once to see who “found the groom”! Among the possible eligible bachelors were Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio, Zac Efron, Joseph Gordon-Levitt,  and Grumpy Cat, to name a few. Kathy ended up finding Garrick (looking very handsome in a tux by the way) and won the prize!

The final game of the day was a quiz to see if anyone knew me better than the groom. Everyone filled out a quiz with 15 questions and when they were done, I answered the questions aloud. Sou-Wah (with the help of best man Henry) managed to pull off ANOTHER big surprise and showed us a video of Garrick answering the questions! I had no idea she had contacted him at all and it was so fun for him to be involved, even through a pre-recorded video. He put forth a good effort, but Andrea got more questions right than he did. 😛

After games, we spent the afternoon mingling, enjoying tea & coffee, and snacking on more baklava and macarons. I received lots of kitchenware and serveware which I’m excited to put to good use! There were also a few handmade gifts that Stephen helped me photograph.

My bridesmaid Andrea painted this adorable painting of Maui, complete with our initials and wedding date. I have always admired Andrea’s artwork and I’m thrilled to now call one my own! It’s already on display in my living room. 🙂

The oh-so-crafty Sou-Wah not only made this super cute jewelry box – she also HAND STAMPED my future last name onto a necklace for me. (As if she didn’t already do enough for the shower!!)

 My beautiful mother who graciously took on all the behind-the-scenes work of hosting the shower – cleaning the house, providing the food, setting the tables, arranging fresh flowers, etc.

Everyone says I look just like her. #twinsies

Me, Lucas, and Sou-Wah (aka Wonder Woman). I only have a vague idea of how many hours and how much effort you put into making this bridal shower extra special. It is one of the nicest things anyone has ever done for me. I am so, so grateful that God brought us together when we moved to LA. I love you jie jie!

The entire day from beginning to end felt like my birthday (… actually, maybe this was better. I don’t have birthday parties like this!). Thank you to my friends and family for making me feel so special and loved! It’s such an exciting time in our lives and I’m forever grateful to have the support of my loved ones. 🙂

Photos courtesy of Stephen Anthony Photography.