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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Put your pinky rings up to the…Rocky Mountains!

If you’re wondering why I’m always blogging about my adventures a few weeks late, it’s because I must send my film rolls to a specialty lab in Utah, The FINDlab, to get developed and processed.

And I wait.

I patiently wait for their email with my precious scans.

It’s always worth the wait.

Especially these from my trip in Colorado.

Just a little background info: The trip was originally planned by my sister Jill, who wanted to see Bruno Mars. Our good friend, Linh (who lives near Denver) and my best friend Michelle joined in and thus our EPIC GIRLS VACAY was on! We bought concert tickets and flight tickets about 8 months in advanced. We even had coordinated outfits ready for Bruno!

Long story short, I received an email announcing Bruno Mars postponing his concert two nights before showtime!

We were SO bummed out! I’ll admit that I haven’t listened to one of his songs since.

But with a group like ours, we made the best of it.

Surely y’all know by now how much I love being outdoors. I could’ve hiked multiple times a day. Colorado is beautiful.

Lucky for us, we were in good company because Linh’s boyfriend, Justin, was basically our tour guide.

And what I love more than Mother Nature herself is the love and appreciation others have for her too.

Justin 100% has that awe and wonder for the wilderness.

Once again, I can never truly capture the beauty in front of me, but Hans and I had a fun time trying.

I only regret not getting in front of everyone more to get shots of their faces. Stopping to take photos often, I pretty much stayed behind the crew most of the time. Hence lots of “behind shots”. Ha.

Our first hike was at Eldorado Canyon Park.

If you look closely at the towering sandstone cliffs, you’ll notice light green patches. I didn’t photoshop that! It’s the growth of lichen communities, which take over a decade to grow.Cool and amazing how those Douglas firs just grow on the cliffs.
This photo was intentional to show how giant the boulders compared to us. To be fair, Michelle and Jill are “fun-size”. 

Bear Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park is next! We woke up at 5:30 am to beat the weekend crowds and won! It was freezing, but the sun came out soon enough.Blurry but what cuties!Bear Lake wasn’t really a “hike”. It was more like a casual stroll around the lake with multiple lookouts for perfect photo opportunities like the one below!Light light light. Glorious sunlight.

After Bear Lake and the warm sun, we felt good enough to hike towards Bertha Falls.

So onward we went…and no, I promise I’m not a creeper that’s always stalking her sister from behind. Hah! Like I mentioned earlier, I was caboose. Waterfalls are breathtaking, but a frozen waterfall? A whole ‘nother level!One of the great things about long drives in Denver are the scenic views. Michelle is a genius and probably had the best seat!
Later that day we explored downtown Boulder. The historic architecture was more charming than I was expecting.
I also scored a tiny treasure– 1899 antique world map that I can’t wait to hang up once I make up my mind about how to decorate our home.And I couldn’t resist this adorable home, which is The Pridehouse that supports LGBTQ communities in Boulder County.
Ended our eventful day with these pretty sunset clouds.
Okay, last full day in Colorado.

We went to Red Rocks and almost didn’t because it started to snow…I’m so happy we did.

Just scroll down. You’ll see why.

Barely anyone there.

So quiet.

So serene.

The snow and fog made it even more of a treat. 

It’s like a poem.

I personally preferred my visit this time than the time before, where it was so loud and packed with people.

I promised myself that first time that one day I would experience a concert at Red Rocks. It just one of those Bucket List places.

Overwhelmed? So many photos but I had to share all of it. Hope y’all enjoyed them as much as I did taking them.

If you’ve been undecided on whether to visit Colorado or not. Just go. You won’t regret it one bit. Go anywhere there. You’ll sure to be awestruck with its beauty.

Uber thanks to Linh and Justin for being great hosts to me, Jill, and Michelle! I would totally understand if y’all never leave Broomfield. Just another great reason to come visit. Not that we would really need one!

Thanks for reading and following

along with me,

Jules.

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Fall in the Great Smokies

After a wonderful night at Song Sparrow Hill, we woke up refreshed, ate breakfast, then hesitantly followed Boy and Mangus down the hill back to our car.

We didn’t want to leave! I regretted not booking a second night especially what was to follow later on that evening.

Our next stop was Max Patch Mountain in Pisgah National Forest.

The rocky and narrow winding roads were nerve-wrecking. I felt so bad for Khang’s car tires.

Oh but the views were gorgeous like the one below!

The fall colors peeked through more and more as we got higher in elevation. And so did my excitement!

Parking was ridiculous but the trail was short and pretty straight forward. And so was the steep incline hiking up! It brought back memories from Patagonia.

We were treated with 360º panoramic views!!
The colors were ahhhhmazing!!

And then we took a nap right there. 

Fun fact: I can nap anywhere, anytime. Ask my family and friends. 

Afterwards we walked around to enjoy the colors some more.

We also played with Hans’ self-timer and got a winning picture of us both for our Christmas card this year!  

Here is another attempt at freelensing. 

During my research, I read about the sunsets at Max Patch and really wanted to watch it. 

But we still had about 4 hours till sun down. I was growing hungry too so we decided to hike back down to the car to eat. 

The plan would be to hike back up Max Patch with all our camping gear and set up shop for the night.

Well… unfortunately, when we returned to the car, Khang realized his battery was DEAD.

It was partly my fault. When I’m excited, I tend to rush things and I rushed Khang…well you know how that works…

Fortunately for us, we had jumper cables and the owners of the car parked in front of us came back from their hike and helped jumpstart our car! Lucky stars I tell ya’!

So we drove back down the winding roads to AutoZone to have the battery checked just in case.

Car battery looked fine so…back up the mountain we drove. Khang was basically pro at this point.

And then we carried about 30 pounds of equipment/food/water/clothes back up Max Patch in time to watch the sunset.

Whew! I remember feeling so happy and relieved that we made it to our last stop for the day.

Or so we thought.

So Khang set up the tent while I took photos. 

I swear my husband could be a model.

Y’all, he is NOT posing. This was him setting up while glancing at a family trying to fly a kite.

Finally, we sat in our tent eating our favorite: Salami, boursin cheese, and crackers for dinner. 

And enjoyed the sunset in the old but Great Smoky Mountains.

I’ll never grow tired of Mother Nature’s beauty!

Wish I could say that was the end to an exhausting but exciting day. 

It wasn’t. 

Long story short, the sun took all the warmth with it and we weren’t quite prepared for the 40º temperatures. We thought we could brave the cold but it was miserable. 

So at around 8, we decided to pack all our stuff, hike back down, and drove home.

We were in our warm bed by midnight.

Hey, we tried. Really really tried. 

Another story for our future children. Hah!

Thanks for reading and following 

along with me,

Jules.

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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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