Hidden in the hills of TN

The city has many comforts but the wilderness, it calls to me.

Our trip to the Smokey’s couldn’t have been timed better.

Don’t get me wrong. Charlotte is a great city. We’ve been enjoying it.

But it’s a city. A really big city. The biggest I’ve ever lived in.

And we I desperately needed to get away to the countryside.

Why?

I like to think that I deal with stress pretty well.

However, add the stresses of moving to a new city, new state, new job, and new house…it all adds up and I was quite frankly overwhelmed. 

I felt off.

I listened to my soul and knew I needed to be immersed in Mother Nature.

The deers in my backyard were not going to cut it anymore.

Enter Song Sparrow Hill.

This Airbnb by Tiffanie on her family’s 16+ acre property wins the award for Most Unique and Original.

It’s tucked away in the hills of Tennessee near the North Carolina boarder.

When I saw pictures, I knew it was where I wanted to recharge and refocus.

So we were lead to our campsite by the family’s sweet and protective two dogs, Mangus and Boy.

Apparently the owners bought Boy to tend to their chickens. But once he visited the campsite, he decided to stay there. And so they had to bring another dog to fill his intended position.

I don’t blame Boy. You’ll see why.

Below is the outhouse complete with a solar bag shower, “running sink water”, and a composting toilet. It was nothing short of charming.

Oh! I should mention that ALL of the wood was logged and milled from their property! The craftsmanship is sublime.

Our hosts even baked us “sweet bread” and had fresh eggs waiting. It was meant for breakfast the next morning, but it didn’t last very long. The bread was our dessert after dinner. It finished nicely after our grilled steaks.
I mean look at this freakin’ badass tent!!
We gathered around the campfire until it got too cold.

Y’all it was so perfect. The crisp night. The fire. The warm cup of tea. The stars. Shining brightly above the silhouette of trees surrounding our tent. Perfect.

I didn’t get a photo but there was also a wood burning stove inside the tent. You can see the smoke from the chimney in the photo below. It kept us very toasty throughout the night. 

I think the best thing about this lovely retreat was no cell phone service. 

You may laugh, however I’m not kidding.

Honestly, Khang has been extremely busy with work. This is the most I’ve ever seen him work even in college.

Always talking to his team, responding to emails, or catching up with deadlines and this is all after physically leaving work. He was bringing his work home and I was sick of it. 

While talking well into the night, I teary confessed to him that I secretly wanted to stay there in the enchanting forrest disconnected from the world because our current routine at home wasn’t making me happy. 

I mean, I don’t need that much attention, but the man was working too much. 

He agreed and we came up with a solution together. 

Things are thankfully better. I don’t know how many trips we could’ve taken out there. Hah! 

This last photo was taken with Hans “freelensing”. It’s a technique where you detach the lens from the body of your camera to get different focus points.

Khang said it looks like a painting. I think that’s good haha. Regardless, I love the results and will experiment more.

Until next time, Song Sparrow Hill.

Thank you for being just what we needed and more. 

Thank you for reading and following 

along with me,

Jules.

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Autumn with a side of apples

Y’all, fall fall FALL IS HEREEE!!!

This is going to sound lame, but I never associated Autumn with apples. 

I always thought pumpkins!

And once I found an apple farm nearby, I saw apple-everything recipes everywhere!

So on the First Day of Fall, Khang and I welcomed my favorite season with farm-made apple cider, apple cinnamon donuts, and apple-picking at Apple Hill Orchard in Morganton, NC.

Just an 1.5 hour drive!

We ate those yummy donuts and downed that cider before I even thought about taking photos. Ha.

But we slowed it down and took photos while wondering around the orchards.

The most beautiful Red delicious, Golden delicious, and Cameo apples I’ve ever laid eyes on.

I have a sweet spot for farms/garden/anything-growing. So imagine my delight during my very first time apple-picking trip.

And oh so delicious!

We might’ve eaten one or two straight from the branch.

Below are Cameos and they have a crisp juicy tartness to them.

Khang liked them a lot.
Hmmm, Golden Deliciousness. This variety has a much sweeter taste to them and are great to bake since they hold their firmness. 

I liked them better than the Cameos.

We picked 13 lbs worth of apples for about $15.

I baked three batches of apple tarlets to welcome our neighbors the next day.

They turned out delicious!

In return, one neighbor made us apple bread with a caramel glaze–so freakin’ good! 

Thanks for reading and following along

with me,

Jules. 

Oh and all photos were taken by me and Khang with my Contax645 (Hans!) on Fuji400.

Except for that last one.

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Home sweet home

It’s been awhile, m’friends.

I had every intention to blog the last two months, but life got the best of me.

Khang and I did it.

We freakin’ finally did it.

We move to Charlotte, North Carolina AND purchased our very first house.

After 27 years, another place beside my parents’ house, actually feels like

Home.

Y’all, it’s mind-blowing to me!

I still remember the countless phone calls every night throughout high school, college, our first year apart in different states… talking past the moon, well into dawn planning and dreaming our future together.

Of course some plans have changed over the years, but what remains constant is that the future has and will always include

Us.

I remember wishing I could fast-forward into time so many times.

But our hard work and sacrifices have been beyond worth it.

The journey has been priceless.

But nothing prepared me for the sense of pride in me, Khang, and

Us.

I’ve slowed down certain moments so they’re closely tucked away in my mind…

Khang’s smile in my hands the first time we walked through our house together,

my first nap in the house after cleaning it from top to bottom,

our first time dancing to our wedding song in our house,

just to reminisce a few…

I stand in wonder at all what’s in store for this house and the memories it’ll be filled with for years to come.

For those who don’t know, we were both born and raised in good ole’ Mississippi, where roots are deeply planted.

People don’t usually move far away.

But Khang and I, well we have always known we wanted to live somewhere different from our upbringings.

That’s not to say I’m not proud, I boastfully declare where I’m from each time asked and even when I’m not.

If you haven’t figured already, we’re simply eager to explore different lands with different people.

What better time than now?

Who knows, we might decide later on that it absolutely sucks.

And that’s okay. But we want to discover and figure all that out on our own.

So when Khang applied for a new job position within his company and GOT IT…it just seemed like the right time and place.

Driving 2 to 3 hours in any direction from Charlotte and finding ourselves at the beach, near a lake, or even up in the Smokey Mountains seems pretty crazy wonderful to us.

Never short of a new adventure, I am so excited for this next journey together.

I know it’s going to push us and challenge our marriage in incredible ways we never thought possible.

And I just can’t wait for it all. All of it.

I mean it took us over 30 minutes the other day to install our first set of blinds. Ha.

So hang tight y’all.

Thanks for reading and following along

with me,

Jules.

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Life in film

Hey y’all!

Life’s been super busy (but good) around here lately.

I’ll elaborate later when my feet stop for a minute or two.

But during all the chaos, I’ve been snapping away.

Or at least trying to.

I wish I took the time to take more.

These are all personal shots of my Family.

So they mean a lot to me.


My brother-in-law, Greg, picked this magnolia after Ngoc and I mentioned how pretty they were blooming nearby their apartment back in April.

Of course, I took a few photos.

This was my favorite.

The rest are from my time in Nebraska for my cousin’s wedding and our quick weekend trip to Austin.

I didn’t get to capture my favorite moments in Nebraska like listening to my aunts retell childhood stories in Vietnam,

talking till 4am with my sweet baby cousin, 

flipping through old family albums and laughing at the hairdo choices,

praying together around my Grandpa’s grave.

and always being just an arm length’s away from one of my many loud-all-up-in-your-business-but-you-love-them-anyways relatives. 

But I’m reminded of those fun times with these shots.

It felt good to visit Lincoln again after 12 years.

Gosh, it was work to carry Hans in the summer heat of Texas. 

Temperatures reached the three digits! 

It was worth it though.
We played with the self-timer. 

Khang is getting particularly good at taking photos of me.

I recommend everyone picking up a camera and just start capturing your significant other.

I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the results.

Khang concentrates so hard with each photo. 

I was laughing at how serious he was on “focusing” Hans. Ha.

Thanks for reading and following along

with me,

Jules.

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One year! Yay!

So Khang and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary last week in Austin, TX!

Taken with my Nexus camera phone.

Y’all, it’s been awhile since we celebrated a “first-anything” so I was very excited during the days leading up to June 25.

We decided to write a letter to each other every year on our anniversaries.

Not only will it be wonderful to read the letters down the road, but I also picture our grandchildren reading them.

And well that’s something worth cherishing.

I won’t blog my letter, but I’ll express my feelings on our marriage this past year.

Fair warning, extremely mushy-gushy reading ahead.

One year.

People asked me countless times,

“How’s married life?”

“Any surprises about Khang you didn’t know about before?”

12 years in and I’m still learning new things about Khang and I expect that to never change.

Marriage has (so far) been sweet bliss.

Everytime I think about my love for him, I marvel about how much it has grown since Day One of “puppy love”.

I’ve wondered if my love will ever stop growing because I love him so so much.

And in those moments couldn’t imagine to ever love him more.

When I was writing my letter to Khang,

I realized it’s his love that forces my love to widen and grow.

His love has and will never stop growing.

It constantly forces my heart to shift and expand to hold all the love he has for me.

And it’s the most amazingly beautiful thing to look forward to the rest of our lives together.

Now don’t get me wrong, we had our trials this past year and still continue to.

However we’ve learned by now that with all the challenges bring more strength between us.

And it sounds crazy, but I get excited when we get into a disagreement because it’s another opportunity for us to understand each other on a deeper level.

I vowed my life to this man forever, so of course I’m going to put all my effort and love into it.

Which leads me to the “most surprising” thing about Khang post-marriage.

To be honest, I kinda always thought I put more effort into our relationship than Khang.

I didn’t hold it against him or anything, but I took pride in myself that I was responsible for the majority of the happy balance in our relationship.

Because I thought I was the one who sacrificed more, compromised more, understood more…

I was wrong.

I can’t explain exactly when I realize this or what made me see it, but one day it came to me and I saw it all at once.

I saw all the effort and care Khang provided and wondered in awe at his kindness and love for me, our marriage, and our life.

He puts so much of himself into us.

And I was oblivious to it.

I felt so dumb and self-absorbed to have never noticed how much work he truly puts into our relationship.

Maybe it was being married that finally made me see it.

But gosh I feel so blessed to have the best husband in the world for me.

Okay, I’ll stop.

Here are some photos I took of Khang at our AirBnB in Austin.

He didn’t really want me to because he’s not “good” yet, but me being me wanted to document our life during this time.

He’s been at the strings for a good month now and I enjoy watching him enjoy himself.

Taken, of course, with Hans.

Hope you guys have start noticing the difference between digital and film now.

Portra 800 rated at 200.

He may or may not still be playing the guitar next year, but I’ll only look back on these photos and hear the lovely and not-so-lovely sounds in my head of the misplayed and on-key notes he tried so hard to play.

Thanks for reading and following along

with me,

Jules.

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