Holly: Moving fearlessly forward with faith

Have you ever met someone and instantly admired them?

That was me with Holly.

She graduated one class after me in dental hygiene school so, of course, I saw her around from a distance.

Oh my goodness, just realize I seem like a stalker. Hah!

Let me quickly get to the point here: I continued to admire her kindness and really blown away by her beauty.

Our friendship truly started to develop on a dental mission trip to Belize in 2014, which was life-changing to say the least.

And y’all, the more I got to know her the more I just fell in love with her!

I think what I loved most (on the mission trip) was her strong faith and how she gracefully carried Him in her heart and through her actions.

To put it simply, Holly’s beauty was much more than skin-deep. It flowed to her core and I just marveled at it.

And I continued to do so through good ole’ social media–she resides near Jackson, Mississippi.

So imagine my complete surprise when she began to document her struggles with her body in the past and present.

She also started sharing her journey with fitness and a healthier lifestyle, which is amazing and inspiring to say the least.

She documents it all (good and bad) but in a way that motivates you to not only improve your life and body, but your mind too, which is so so important.

To not judge your progress by the numbers loss alone, but by celebrating the confidence and fearlessness gained.

But still, I was over here in Charlotte still utterly shocked by all her insecurities and flaws she saw in herself.

Now I don’t want to come off as dismissing her opinions and emotions.

Because I did not.

In fact, I tried hard to see what she saw and instantly knew(like when I first met her), in return, I wanted to show her what I saw in her: all that confidence and fearlessness.

A different perspective from someone on the outside.

I wanted to show her through my eyes all the absolute beauty she holds.

Hence this photo session we did in the wee hours of the morning.

It was the best time.

Coffee seemed like a good place to start at the super cute Cultivation Food Hall.

We got right down to business!

Who are we kidding?! There were lots of giggles!

I mean y’all, how does one go about looking so freakin’ gorgeous in athletic wear?!

The lighting here wasn’t ideal, but it says “step into the light” to me. Or dance into it (her last name is Dancy too)! 

Holly,

Thank you thank youuu so much allowing me to capture you and your journey.

My hope is for you to look at these photos and marvel at your beauty inside and out.

You’re an absolute gem.

No matter where you go in life, heed no fear because for you my sweet friend, God has wonderful and beautiful plans for you.

All my love.

Thank you for reading and following along

with me,

Jules.

Postscript: If you yourself are looking for a team to not only hold you accountable, but to motivate and inspire you towards a healthier body and lifestyle, then check out my girl Holly, who I know will lead you towards your goals and so much more!

Here are her Instagram and Facebook pages! And if you’re ready to get started here’s the direct link to join her tribe!

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Nature’s gift: Violet Syrup

It’s that time of year again where violet flowers are wildly blooming and I love seeing the pops of colors on the ground.

But did you know they hold magic? And you can unlock this magic and enjoy in your tummy at the same time?!

I learned about violet syrup last year at a foraging class in Asheville. I tried it right away after I discovered they grew in hoards right in my own backyard!

Khang really enjoyed making mint juleps at Cinco de Mayo last year for our friends and was pretty excited when he heard they were blooming again this year!

Making this is so very easy and fun!

It’s basically like making a simple syrup, but you add violets.

Here’s the recipe:

1:1:1 ratio of water, white sugar, and violets.

For me, I picked 2 cups of violets and used 4 cups of water and sugar. My syrup was pretty but a more mellow color because I split the flower ratio in half. Keep that it mind!

1. Pick the flowers. Please make sure it hasn’t been sprayed with pesticides or around animals that may have relieved themselves. The more, the merrier and vibrant the color. Don’t forget to take a big wiff of the lovely violet scent. This step is important.

2. Clean and rinse with water like you would with cilantro. I usually rinse at least 3 times. Measure how much you have. This will dictate how much water and sugar to use.

Remember the 1:1:1 ratio!

3. Divide evenly into jars or glass containers. It doesn’t have to be glass but you can see all the loveliness better.

4. Pour water in pot, come to boil, lower heat, add sugar, stir till sugar has dissolved completely.

5. Carefully pour into jars of flowers while liquid is still steaming hot. Stir.

6. Let cool. Cover and place in fridge for 24 hours.

7. The next day, use a strainer to remove flowers.

8. Enjoy up to 1 year if it even lasts that long.

What I love about the violet syrup is how the color is natural and you don’t need to use artificial coloring.

Oh and did I mention the syrup turns PINK when you add acidic juices like lemon, orange, and lime!

It has something to do with the pigments in violets called anthocyanins which react to the lowered pH. Talk about a cool science lesson for the kids (and adults)!

This is Khang’s favorite reason to use the violet syrup. Hah! He uses it in his cocktails. But I prefer a simple mint lemonade!

The pictures below are based off of this Kentucky Lemonade recipe.

Khang prefers whiskey and garnishing with fresh mint. He used about 3 tablespoons of the syrup.

Mine is virgin and I prefer my mint muddled. I used 4-5 tablespoons because I added substitute the ginger ale with water.

I recommend you measure to taste.

Use your favorite drink recipes! Pour the violet syrup in first, then the lemon (or acid) to really witness that magic!

Also how sweet it would be for Mother’s Day if you made her a pitcher of pink lemonade with real violet flowers, which are edible by the way!

Just an idea. *Wink wink*

Thanks for reading and following along

with me,

Jules.

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Mini Embroidery Hoop: MS Gulf Coast Edition

Khang and I fall in love more and more with Charlotte. Interestingly enough with every visit back to the Coast, we have a deeper and deeper appreciation for where we were raised and grew up.

Maybe it comes with age or moving away. Either way, it’s the best of both worlds!

I’ve been trying to think of different ways to incorporate The Coast and that southern charm into our home. More specifically, things that give us the nostalgic feel of our hometowns of Ocean Springs and Biloxi.

With a little inspiration on Instagram and countless Google image searches…this is what I ultimately came up with. Each piece was stiched free-handed. No patterns. I’m pretty proud!

To say I’ve enjoyed working on this embroidery project would be a total understatement. I was happy to finish but a tad bit sad it’s over.

Here are a few short explanations of each piece:

A is for Apple Pie

My favorite type of pie. But I’ll admit, I enjoy the crust more than the apples.

B is for Beignets

Can you also picture the cloud of powdered sugar delight? And of course, the best beignets are made at Cafe Du Monde and enjoyed under their iconic green and white awning.

C is for Crawfish

Best enjoyed by sucking the heads for all the juicy and spicy flavors. I’m salivating just typing this…

I wasn’t happy with the awning and did it over…this would become a trend because I redid almost every piece at least once. 

D is for Donut

By the only real donut shop, Tatonut, in my hometown of Ocean Springs, Mississippi. To me it’s an unofficial historic landmark. Try their blueberry cake donuts if you can ever get one before it sells out!

E is for Egg

To be specific, a deviled egg with a sprinkle of paprika.

F is for Fleur de lis

The official symbol for our Saints Football Team and honestly, all of New Orleans. Khang’s been cheering them on waaay before Brees. 

G is for Gumbo

When Khang and I lived in Baton Rouge, there were gumbo tasting contests after 5K races. They take their gumbo seriously. And my Mother-in-law makes the best gumbo!

H is for Hot Sauce

The most famous brand back on the Coast would have to be Tabasco. Notice the tiny “T”? It’s still produced on Avery Island in Louisiana.

I is for Ice Cream

The flavor is Mississippi Mud Pie. Oh, I lie, that’s technically my favorite kind of “pie”.

J is for Jazz

This teeny tiny trumpet is in my top three favorite. I mean I love them all, but this one is at the top. Might be because I redid it around SEVEN times! I imagine hearing the slow blues music in my head.

K is for King Cake

Mmmmhmmm. It MUST be decorated with green, purple, and yellow frosting with a plastic baby secretly tucked inside. If honestly doesn’t taste as good if not. 

L is for Lighthouse

This is when I became deeply attached to this project. Not just any lighthouse, but the Gulfport Lighthouse, where Khang asked me to be his wife on the cutest sailboat during sunset in the bay a few days after our 8-year anniversary.

M is for Magnolia Flower

The Mississippi State Flower and Tree! And in my opinion, the most elegant of flowers. When they bloom, I know instantly before actually seeing them due to their distinct scent.

N is for Nuts

(almond, peanut, and walnut)

I am not a fan of nuts. But that does not stop Southerners from using them in so many dishes.

O is for Oyster

Raw, chargrilled, rockefeller…it’s all good! I prefer them raw on a saltine crackers with lemon squeezed on top and a dab of Tabasco.

The oyster underwent many changes…

P is for Pearls

I’ve always had a love for pearls. My promise ring from Khang is actually a pearl. I think every girl should own a nice piece of pearl jewelry.

Q is for Quilt

(Shout-out to Kim for the suggestion)

My super talented sister, Ginni, made me a beautiful crochet quilt about 6 years ago. The colors I used are based on it!

R is for Root Beer Soda

I don’t drink soda now, but when I was younger, Barq’s Root Beer was my favorite and originated in Biloxi! Every now and then, I crave a root beer float!

S is for Sailboating during Sunset

Y’all, basically our proposal story. And it’s Khang’s personal favorite!

T is for Tea

Sweet iced tea of course!

U is for Upside-down Pineapple Cake

As one of my favorite people, Ms. Debbie, advised that it’s best made in an iron skillet. It’s easier to make than stitch!


V is for Vegetable Garden

If you grew up in the South, you either have your own garden or know someone who does. Aren’t they just darling?! The felt turned out better than expected.

W is for Walter Inglis Anderson

This one hits home for me.

Walter Anderson and the Anderson Family had (and still) a significant influence on Ocean Springs. I went back and forth on how to represent him. I remember learning about the 7 motifs he repeatedly used in his paintings and ceramics during my visit to The Walter Anderson Museum(WAMA): straight line, zig-zag line, wavy line, half-circle, 2 half-circle, circle, and spiral. I chose those specific colors to imitate his watercolor paintings.

X is for Xilinous

(Shout-out to my brother, Greg, for this great word)

It’s actually an adjective. The definition is “of, like pertaining to cotton”. The word “cotton” was all I needed. I automatically thought of the cotton flower fields during my drives back and forth from Ole Miss to Starkville to visit Khang.


Y is for Y’all

Um, yeah. Y’all know why!

Z is for Zinnia Flowers

(Shout-out to my fellow Ocean Springsian??, Christine, for this great idea), which are native to the area and come in such colorful varieties.

And that’s it, y’all!

This little project has made its way close to my heart and I get so excited when I think about passing it down to my children and grandchildren.

A Phamily Heirloom for many generations to come.

Thank you thank youuu to all of those who gave suggestions and encouraged me along the way!

Thanks for reading and following along

with me,

Jules.

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Mr. Phamtastic

Khang,

You drive me absolutely crazy. And what’s funny is I drive you even crazier. You’re the only person I know who dislikes making a big deal out of their birthday, so naturally, I like to make up for it.

I know I tell you all the time, but here’s another time for the people in the back, you are the best husband.

Thank youuu for helping me with all my endless projects (and toughing out our disagreements that usually come along!), for immediately calling me out when I’m not being my best and keeping me grounded, for feeding me when I forget, so that the unlucky ones don’t feel my wrath (usually you!), and most of all, for inspiring me to live life like the greatest adventure it is.

I love you, Mr. Phamtastic.

Thank you for being so wonderfully you.

not just on your birthday, but everyday!

Truly yours,

Mrs. Phamtastic

A Fleurty Thirty Celebration

I’m sure you’re here for Khang’s awesome video he made of our vacation in Turks and Caicos Islands!

Keep on scrolling down after the video if you want to read more details about our trip. 

So here it is!

This was more than a vacation. It actually was a double birthday celebration!

We were celebrating my sister-in-law, Ngoc, and cousin-in-law, Kim Oanh, both turning 30!

YES, they were both born on the same day, December 23rd! Kim Oanh arrived during the day and Ngoc came along later that evening.

They call each other “twin cuzzies”. How precious right?!

Khang and I don’t normally prefer beach destinations because we get bored so easily with the sand, but Turks and Caicos was the perfect island for us. Especially with our sweet family!

The thing I love most about TCI is how undeveloped it is.

Now this might sound weird to some, but this means it isn’t littered with highrises (that obstruct views), souvenir shops, and franchises.

Which is the best to me because it keeps the true beauty and upholds the vibrant culture of the gorgeous island territories!

We went to nearly 10 different beach nooks and each one was unique to itself!

We technically went during peak-season, but goshhhh it felt like we nearly had each place to ourselves.

This website was the best source of info for me if you’re interested or planning a trip in the future!

In my opinion, a few absolute musts:

catch the breathtaking sunrises (more than once!),

put your phone or camera down and just take it all in,

dine at Mango Reef Restaurant (black truffle scallops FTW!),

dance your heart out at Danny Buoy’s,

rent a car to get around (big money savings + prepare for left-side driving)

grab a bite and take in the views for an unbelieveable experience at Bugaloos Beach. Y’all, we literally had a table in the water, feet in the sand, and ate conch!

sing “Part of Your World” while searching for seashells!

Just a few snapshots from our amazing trip!

Thanks for reading and following along

with me,

Jules.

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