30 Rocks!

“On my honor, I solemnly swear to set forth on the path of adventure.”

This is the first sentence to the Jules Scout Creed.

Let me explain.

I love adventure. I love exploring new lands. I love discovering myself through Mother Nature. 

More so, I love experiencing it all with loved ones.

And the PERFECT human beings joined me on a grand adventure for my thirtieth birthday weekend.

These are our stories. (Dun-Dun)

Normally I don’t like to make a big deal out of my birthday.

Because honestly, I celebrate it every day. 

Cheesy I know, but it’s the truth. 

But I randomly decided to just go for it and planned, planned, and planned! Very happily. 

Our itinerary was simple but ambitious: 

Glamping in a Hogan (hut) in the middle of the desert on Navajo reservation with no electricity, water, and wifi. 

Highlights included: Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend, Zion National Park, and Grand Canyon National Park. 

Regardless of how much I planned, it was beyond my wildest dreams

Because no matter how much I planned, nothing prepared me for the many many special moments throughout this trip. 

Most of those precious moments I’ll keep to myself and between the other seven, but here are a few I’d like to share with you:

We were on the road for roughly 16 hours over the course of 3 days. The beautiful views and heart-to-heart talks made our drives easier.

Early on I thought of gift ideas for my peeps as a “thank you” for embarking on this grand adventure.

With all we hope to achieve, I felt like we were girl and boy scouts, so I bought each person a bandana with enamel pins (badges!) that represented our entire weekend.

Everyone took them to heart and it set the entire mood of our adventure together! You’ll see us wearing them in all our photos!

They called themselves “Jules Scouts” I was their leader of Troop 30.

So cuteeee!

Our living situation was pretty rough. Not going to lie. Mainly because we couldn’t shower at all…it was too cold at night.

I felt really bad for everyone.

With that being said, I loved staying in our Hogan.

I loved hiking to the ridge to catch the sunrise both mornings.

Yes, it was challenging to wake up every 30 minutes to keep our fire alive in the wood burning stove during the night,

but I loved it soooo much.

I love camping.

Once you can get over the feeling of being dirty, then you appreciate everything around you.

I took multiple nightly strolls by myself when I had to use the bathroom and each time I would spin around to take it all in.

Filled with too much excitement, I barely slept at night and watched the fire glow from inside the stove.

I laid in my cot and admired the wood constructed from inside our Hogan.

Again, taking it all in. 

The absolute feeling of pure ease and calmness.

Our first outing was the slot canyons. Different from Lower or Upper Antelope Canyon.

If you have questions, then just send me a message and I’ll explain why we decided to go with the much less-crowded and very beautiful Canyon-X.

Photos do not provide justice.

In fact, all the places we went to don’t in the least bit.

Later that day, we hiked in Zion National Park on the Overlook Trail.

It’s definitely one of my favorite trails to date. I didn’t take much photos, but that’s okay just shows how much I enjoyed the hike.

This view was waiting for us at the end.

Horseshoe Bend and Grand Canyon National Park were on our last day (Sunday), but not before s’mores over a warm campfire on our last night.

A very special night that I’ll remember forever.

I keep playing everything I saw and heard over and over in my head.

Definitely a “happy place” for me.

After a final group hike to watch the sunrise on our last morning, we filled our tummies with warm homemade Navajo tea and packed up to head towards Horseshoe Bend.

The position of the sun made it hard for photos, but Horseshoe Bend really surprised me by its size and beauty.

My favorite part was laying on our bellies at the edge and peering into the Colorado River!

Then we made our way West to our Final Frontier.

The first time we all saw (except Khang because he was driving) the Grand Canyon was priceless.

We all simultaneously brokeout into “WOWs!!!!!”

The majesty of it completely caught me off guard. Makes sense why they call it “Grand”!

Worthy of its name.

Due to time (we had a 10pm flight to catch later that evening) we decided to hike the Bright Angel Trail for 20 minutes. No stops for photos so we could take in the views and 40 minutes to hike back with photos.

Also to set away time to have our official Jules Scouts “final pinning ceremony”.

I stood on a rock, had my scouts declare our creed.

Then I asked each of them to “step forth for their final pin of the Grand Canyon National Park”.

Not going to lie, we looked and sounded like a cult.

But I loved every freaking single second of it! 

And that’s a wrap!

Still so so much I left out, but I want to end this post with the actual day of my birthday (Monday).

I slept on the plane and landed at 6:30am in Charlotte. I had to be at work by 9:30am. That East Coast life.

I cried on my drive to work. Not because I was sad that my wonderful weekend ended or because I didn’t want to go to work.

Quite the opposite. 

My heart was so full, happy and overwhelmed with joy.

Happy for the time I spent with my loved ones, but mostly happy for all my family and friends in my life.

Grateful for a job I love and not once thought about “calling-out” because I care about my patients.

Life is so good.

And I’m beyond thankful for these past 30 years and look forward to the next 30 more.

So please, spare me the “oh you’re getting old” and the “dread crap” because I’m not having it.

Not at all. 

Thank you for reading and following along

with me,

Jules.

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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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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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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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