Not there, but here.

Up until four months ago, I pictured myself flying away on November the twenty-third to volunteer as a dental hygienist on a hospital ship along the West coastline of Africa.

All my paperwork was submitted and accepted, immunizations done, and close loved ones (mostly) excited for me.

But life happens.

Curveballs are thrown.

I made the reluctant decision to withdraw from serving with Mercy Ships.

And I had to make a choice on whether to answer life with anger or love.

I found comfort in the latter.

So today on November twenty-ninth, two thousand and eighteen,

I am not there in Africa, but here.

Here with my baby sister, Joy, celebrating with a lighthouse tour, tea time, strolls in charming New Orleans in our (Christmas-themed) rain boots  and magical lights for her twenty-eighth birthday.

Here in my childhood bedroom, reeling in all the sweet moments from this past week.

Here where I felt like a tourist in my own hometown as I watched the sunrise and sunset, ate my favorite biscuits at Greenhouse on Porter, and finally toured the Walter Anderson Museum of Art.

Here laughing and wildly talking with my hands at lunch and dinner with family and friends all the while getting past the usual pleasantries and actually catching up with their lives.

Here as I am reminded again for the hundreth time just how blessed I am for this beautiful life of mine and the people in it.

Here where God knew I would be all along and just

how thankful I would feel.

So Mercy Ships, I’ll try to catch you again next year all in due time.

Happiest Thanksgiving y’all and thank you for reading and following along

with me,

Jules.

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Gindrew Elopement

Rewind to roughly two months ago when my sister, Ginni, called me to ask if I would help plan her courthouse wedding in Las Vegas.

Of course, I excitedly said, “YES!”

Ginni causally mentioned hiring a photographer and quickly squeezed in they thought of asking me to take photos but declined that notion because they wanted me to enjoy the ceremony and not stress.

Um.

Immediately, I asked for more details of the day and very strongly volunteered my services. Hah. And Khang’s! (more on that later)

Maybe I’m biased, but this is probably one of my “Top Three” favorite sessions-to-date.

After their very sweet and intimate ceremony in front of 15 witnesses, the new Mr. and Mrs. decided to take their offical “married photos” at the very beautiful Red Rocks about 20 minutes away.

And my oh me, I was the luckiest to been able to capture it all!

But let’s start with some pre-ceremony shots. I could do an entire post on just all the lovely little details alone.

My brilliant and creative genius of a sister, Jill of OMAC, is responsible for all the calligraphy and handlettering designs.

I knew exactly how I wanted to take these photos when I saw all the cacti in the yard of our Airbnb.

Each guest had their very own wooden namecard and Marvel action figure with a personal quote from that hero.

The bride and groom loved it all!!

You can check out their Marvel-themed engagement session too!

Okay, if you’re not into all the casinos and city hustle…drive 20 minutes out to Red Rocks for a beautiful scenic drive and hike one of the many trails if you’re feeling up to it!

I definitely would have if I did not have sandals on.

Oh yes, Jill designed their “book elopement announcement” too!

Y’all, how freaking gorgeous right?!?!

I died. Died. After seeing these scans for the first time!

I think my favorite part of the day was when Andrew finally put Ginni’s wedding ring on her finger.

She could not wait to wear it and was so so happy and giddy when he vowed it on.

Done. Absolutely done with these two.

Well until they ask me to photograph them again. Hah!

You know the saying, “Love loves to love love”?

Well that’s me times 100.

And then when you see it on film…

Done.

I’m done.

Thanks for reading and following along

with me,

Jules.

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Khangology: Third Edition

Khang to me: You find beauty in ordinary things. Do not lose this ability.

Wait… am I ordinary?


When you see a child, that’s love.


I can’t wait to go back to the wilderness. *Howls


Me: You just kissed my eyeball?!

Khang: I don’t discriminate your body parts.


*Part of his speech at his brother’s wedding

Someone once told me that a successful marriage is similar to a triangle. At the bottom, you have the husband (Tuan) in one corner and at the other, you have the wife (Maria). You both are working towards the center to the top, which represents Christ. And as you grow closer in God you also grow closer to together.


Khang (Serious): Happy anniversary my love.

Me (Super confused): Ummm, it’s not our anniversary today. 

Khang (Still serious): Everyday is a celebration of our love. 


You can also read his first edition and second edition

Warmly,

Jules

Eating poetry

To think we almost chickened out and missed the most ahhhmazing culinary experience of our lives.

But we didn’t and I’m so very thankful for these two wonderful human beings here because they made it happen. I just sat in the backseat. Hah!

Jill and I basically planned a Mexico Food Tour for our day trip to Tijuana, Puerto Nuevo and Valle De Guadalupe.

And mis amigos, it was delicious!

Big disclaimer: I am no professional food critic. This is just about my experience and I’m describing it in the best way I know.

After a day full of food (we seriously ate lobsters 2 hours before), we ended it with our last meal at Animalón.

Animalón was recommended to me by my sister-in-law’s wedding coordinator that I just met a few days prior. He made it sound like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity so I knew I had to go.

 We drove down a bumpy dirt road for over a mile in the middle of Mexico’s wine country-Valle de Guadalupe. I honestly started to question my recommendation. I hyped it up all day even though I had never been and didn’t even know the menu.

Sure enough, we entered through a gate into a multi-restaurant community surrrounded by grapevines. 

Then we spotted the hundred year old oak tree.

This was the place.

The restaurant sat underneath the majestic tree. 

I think Jill and Khang thought I was  crazy when I described of a restaurant underneath a centry old tree. But when we walked through the enterence, I could tell immediately that they were enchanted by it just like me. 

Y’all, I know I use this word often but it was magical.

We were the only customers there, which made it even more special. We didn’t shy away from walking everywhere to take in every detail. 

Our server was Jonathan and he was excellent! He went above and beyond with exceptional customer service from explaining all the food items to giving us a clean plate for each new dish because we were eating family style. 

The hostess sat us in the center, but any seat would have been perfect. I was in awe of the low-hanging oak branches and intimate rustic decor. Animalón was very well thought-out in every way possible.

Jill and Khang were still full from lobsters and their 3+ glasses of wine, but I was hungry so I encouraged us to order multiple dishes. The two of them soon found their appetites after one taste. 

We ordered the scallops for starters. I wish I took a picture of the menu, but I’ll try my best to describe it from memory. 

First off, their presentation was gorgeous! Like edible art–full of colors and textures. 

The scallops were small, however each bite was full of flavor that forced my tastebuds on a crazy ride through multiple layers of scallop, vingery-ness, and heat from the peppers. The scallops laid in a jalapeno-infused sauce that I slurped it all up–it was so delicious!

After that I wished we went with the 7-course preset menu. Next time.

The squash risotto did not dissapoint. Smooth and creamy just right to where I would not get tired of eating it if it were my only dish. (I usually tire of the mushiness of risotto) Of course it was adorned with fresh squash blossoms and microgreens.

After our day full of seafood, we decided to go all in with a nearly 3 lb tomahawk steak (their smallest). Yes, it was as good as it looks if not better. It came with bone marrow (and small spoons), bone marrow reduction dipping sauce, potato mousse, and perfectly roasted tricolor carrots. 

Khang said it was better than the one he ate in Las Vegas.

We didn’t finish it because we were so full, but of course I was saving room for dessert!

I want to mention that their cocktails were amazing! I am not a drinker, but I loved my lavender strawberry mint mixer. Here’s a photo of how it looked after I was done drinking it. So pretty!

Khang alone ordered four cocktails and actually went up to the bartender to ask for his secrets! 

We ordered made from scratch strawberry ice cream with homemade graham cracker crumbles and out-of-this world “milk crackers” that just melted in our mouths. 

So good that we ordered a second dessert: Their version of s’mores. Everything homemade, but the liquor threw me off a bit. The chocolate saved it for me with its silky and savory richness. 

And that’s all folks! Not only were our tummies and eyes full but so were our hearts.

I truly believe this will ever be my only restaurant post–that’s how inpired I was by Animalón. I don’t see how any place will ever top it.

Oh and I almost forgot to mention: We met the Executive Chef, Oscar Torres! He came to our table and introduced himself. I actually stood up to shake his hand because goshhhh I was meeting a genuis! 

We showered him with compliments and he instantly credited his “wonderful crew” for everything, which was so humbling! 

He shared with us a little about his background. His father actually owned a restaurant and he started off washing dishes. So this guy knows how things and people work from the ground up. 

I remember distinctively when Chef Oscar said, “We’re hoping to make some noise around here in Baja.”

I have complete faith that he and his amazing team will indeed do just that. 

Thank you for reading and following along

with me,

Jules.

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Feels like she was just three yesterday.

I knew it was coming. Khang knew it was coming.

We all knew.

But that doesn’t mean we would be ready.

Phuong Cecilia Pham is officially a senior!!! *Squeals 

She was three when Khang and I first starting “talking”. And I still remember that cool February night when I officially met her.

Khang used her to spray silly string at me during the Vietnamese New Year festival to catch my attention.

I mean he already had it, but his super adorable sister didn’t hurt.

Fast forward to that July, Phuong was sitting right between Khang and I in the back seat while his oldest sister, Kim, drove us on our one-month anniversary date at Al Fresco’s in Ocean Springs. She somehow managed again to sneak between us as we held her hands walking into the restaurant.

I could go on and on… especially during those early years.

But I’ll spare you the stories from the past 13 years. 

Except with one more of my latest conversation with her. Somehow we ended up talking for a few hours about everything and nothing like friends, college, dating and such.

I won’t go into details but later on that evening, I told Khang that we didn’t need to worry about Phuong anymore,”She has a good head on her shoulders.”

And I meant it.

She gave mature and very thoughtful opinions during our little talk and it honestly took me by surprise.

I’m so proud of the beautiful, smart, funny, and caring person she has become. 

Stopping there because I’m tearing up already. Blahhhh.

Sooo we lucked out with the opportunity to take senior portraits in Washington DC and San Diego! Yep, this is the West & East Coast Edition.

The Gulf Coast Edition coming soon when she walks across that stage in May! 

I stopped many times to tell her just how pretty she looked. I mean c’mon!!!

What a fun end to our sessions in Sunny San Diego!

And because I’m feeling very nostalgic. A photo of us at my senior prom circa 2008.

Phuong, 

Um yeahs, I’m not going to do this yet…my eyes are swelling up already. I love you very much. 

Always, 

Barney

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