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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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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Charlotte Winter Wonderland

Our very first snow. 

It’s special like a “first kiss”…you’ll always remember it.

And how sweet both experiences have been with Khang.

I didn’t think the snow would ever come. I kept my hopes down, but when work was cancelled that Tuesday morning, I couldn’t contain my excitement.

With the blinds drawn up, I patiently laid in bed. Then found myself dozing off when Khang suddenly texted me, “It’s snowing”. I jumped out of bed and sure enough there it was falling from the sky…SNOW!!

I excitedly ran downstairs, jumping up and down silently with my hands waving in the air as I mouthed “SNOW” to Khang multiple times while he was on a conference call.

He did not know what to do with me. Hah!

My favorite part of the day was running around in circles in our backyard and just giggling to myself as my boots sank into the soft fluffy snow with each step. Such joy. 

This is living. 

As always, Khang, thank you for indulging me in my neverending uncontrollable emotions. You’re the best.

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Home for Christmas

Our first Christmas since moving to Charlotte and it couldn’t have been better! We jam-packed our schedule to see and be with as many family members and friends as possible.

I told myself I was going take photos with Hans to capture all my favorite moments and…it did not happen.

I just get so caught up with all my favorite people and would just rather be “in the moment” with them. Ya’ know?

I’ll do better next time. Maybe with just my camera phone, which is easier to whip out.

But I did convince the Tran Clan to take “dressy photos”. It was a hot mess, but I’m still happy we did it. Photographing 12 people at one time with a self-timer is no easy feat.

We were in our “Christmas Eve mass outfits” (we took these photos on the 22nd) in our parents’ backyard.

I took a few individuals too. Apparently I was having a focus-issue and didn’t know till I got these scans back.

One of the few negatives when shooting film: Not knowing what you did wrong and adjusting right away. But I think I know what I did wrong.

Photo cred: Jill!!
Love my Mommy and Daddy <3
Our best one!! Missing my brother-in-law, Ronald though.
This was our “serious pose” but I think it’s pretty hilarious.
So Jill and I really wanted to take sunset photos and the only day we could make it happen was Christmas Eve right before mass. And well that’s what we did. Ha.

Khang opted to “stay back with Mom so I can drive her to church”.

It was just me, Jill, and the beautiful sunset.

Jill always carrying that “Cali glow” with her. This is probably one of my favorite shots ever. 

And she took beautiful shots of me too!
I planned to take photos of my in-laws too, but Mom was sick and the weather didn’t cooperate with us. Poo. We will try again this year. 

But I did manage to get some sweet shots of our family in New Orleans. 

Side note: St. Roch Market is a must! Not only is the food culturally diverse and delicious, the wonderful atmosphere is high in energy, yet warm in conversations with people from all different paths. 

We were confined to a corner that made everyone face a wall. This made it hard to take photos, so I decided to play paparazzi and took some through the windows. I was trying to get candid shots. 

Missing a bunch of faces. But happy we got to see our cousins!! It’s always a fun time!!

I hope everyone enjoyed the holidays with their loved ones. Khang and I sure did!

Thanks for reading and following along 

with me,

Jules.

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