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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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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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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