Chicago Thanksgiving Recap

How was everyone's Thanksgiving? Wonderful, I hope.

I'm back from Chicago, where Jason and I had a great time with family and good friends. Highlights of our trip included:
  • Lots of cooking. We made a yummy stuffing which will henceforth be known as the Simon & Garfunkel stuffing because it included copious amounts of parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme).
  • Lots of eating, of course (and maybe some wine drinking too...).
  • Enjoying a houseful of three adorable dogs (my parent's dog Kiwi plus Gatsby and Squirt, the respective pups of several friends who were visiting).
  • Visiting the Art Institute of Chicago and walking around downtown (pictured above).
  • Delicious Mexican food at Fuego. It is seriously the best Mexican food ever...I wish we had one in the DC area.
  • Going on a run with Jason through my parent's neighborhood and doing Zumba with my mom. She was recently certified as a Zumba instructor!
  • Introducing Jason to even more of my mom's relatives. She has a BIG family. As in, 50 first cousins. I think the poor guy is maybe starting to learn some names...
  • Picking up Barbara Kingsolver's latest at the airport to enjoy on the flight home, which I now cannot put down.
Now it's time to start seriously getting ready for Christmas, which is truly one of my favorite times of the year. We picked out a tree and decorated it before we left for Chicago, and it was so nice to come home to it last night. It really gives the condo a home-y, cozy feel. I'll post pictures soon!

Photo of the Chicago River by my sister, Ilse B..



For hot coffee on cold mornings. For bubble baths and fuzzy slippers and cozy scarves. For candlelight and warm, crackling fires, and blankets to cuddle beneath. For striped socks and polka-dot pajamas. For dinner parties and holidays and meals shared together around a table. For pumpkin pie and cranberry relish and mashed potatoes and green bean casserole. For evenings with good friends, drinking wine and telling funny stories till we're laughing so hard we can't remember what we're even laughing about. For wonderful parents who encouraged my creativity and have supported my dreams and decisions, large and small, my entire life. For twitter and blogs and Google, and for the occasional sanity to "unplug" from the computer completely for a little while. For the incredible community of people I've connected with through this blog. For eccentrics and wild women and soul sisters. For Sephora and Anthropologie and Etsy. For Food Network, Mad Men, and The Office. For good books, and magazines, and the unending joy of wandering bookstores for hours. For the ability to run and do yoga. For my breath, my balance, and my good health. For decent skin and naturally curly hair (even if I do straighten it sometimes). For access to good, fresh food. For farmers markets and CSA and the growing sustainable food movement. For increasing awareness of how our food choices affect the planet and our bodies, and for an administration that actually cares about that kind of thing. For a job, period, but especially a job that I love that fulfills me and enables me to be surrounded by art. For the fact that I get to marry a supportive, kind, intelligent (and darn handsome) man who loves to cook, makes me tea for no reason, rubs my feet, installs virus protection software on my computer, anticipates when I need a hug and gives me one before I ask, and generally goes out of his way to make my world a better place in any way he can.

What are you thankful for this year?

Image via Martha Stewart.


Bloggers with Heart: Kaileen Elise

Earlier today, I announced the beginning of a new interview series on Tulips and Tea called Bloggers with Heart, featuring bloggers whose voices resonate with authenticity, sparkle, and soul. I am so excited to introduce you to Kaileen Elise, my first featured Blogger with Heart. I became virtually acquainted with Kaileen Elise a month or two ago after noticing her insightful comments on the posts of mutual blogger friends. I began following her on twitter and reading her beautiful blog, which is filled with upbeat musings, thoughts, recipes, quotes, and other bits of inspiration. As you will see in her answers below, she exudes sincerity, wisdom, and genuine kindness, and her blog is a reflection of these qualities. I am thrilled that Kaileen Elise is my first Blogger with Heart because she truly embodies the phrase. I hope you enjoy her answers as much as I did!

1. Why did you start blogging?

Earlier this summer I joined
twitter and began following a number of inspiring artsy yogini blogs with the help of google reader. Once I began to feel the creative power of so many talented bloggers and tweeters, I wanted to join in on the fun.

I think we all benefit from a sense of community. We all need creative outlets. I have always been a writer and someone who enjoyed sharing journal entries with friends. My blog is really an extension of things I have been doing since I was a little girl.

2. How do you come up with ideas for posts?

It's easy to find inspiration if you are looking for it. I think I struggle more with deciding which posts to write and which to put on the back burner. Sometimes I find an image that I write a post around while other times I find a quote or an idea that I really want to share. The other day I was just sitting at my desk when the inspiration for
this poem came to mind.

3. The subtitle for your blog is "Every day is an extraordinary adventure," and this sense of optimism really shines through in your posts. How do you maintain such a positive outlook on life?

The subtitle comes from my desire to find ways to make my ordinary life a wonderfully entertaining, completely extraordinary adventure. It's unlikely that I will become America's next supermodel or rocket scientist, but I can aspire to live my own life as amazingly as possible. I think the endless possibilities of life can sometimes be very overwhelming. The focus of my blog is to find ways to add sparkle and joy to our daily lives.

The magical thing about blogging, twitter and the rest of this vast internet is the delay between our thoughts and what we put out into the universe. I don't always have a positive outlook on things, but it is my choice to post something negative or positive. Sometimes when I am feeling especially crummy, I will get on twitter and talk about sending sparkle and glitter to everyone. Giving cheer to others is a small way to shift my mood.

4. In what ways is your blog a reflection of your "real life"?

I do my best not to distinguish between the two. I think it's natural for people to want to draw a line in the sand between their lives on the internet and their lives in the real world, but I would rather not live a double life. I try to approach my blog with the curiosity and courage that any new experience requires.

On my blog, I share insights that I discover in my day-to-day. Conversely, I've found a lot of ways to bring the sparkle and joy from this wonderful community into my daily grind.

5. What is the best thing about blogging?

What a nice segue! Blogging has given me a way to connect with the most amazing tribe of creative beauties. I am madly in love with the creative power that lies within so many of the people I have met through blogging (and twitter).

6. What is the hardest part about blogging?

The biggest hurdle is overcoming the fear of putting pieces of myself out there for everyone to see. I often worry if my posts will be well-received, if my message will come across as I intended or if my thoughts will resonate with others. When start down a negative path, I go back through my blog archives and read some of the amazing comments my readers have left. This helps me remember that I'm not seeking perfection, I'm seeking expression.

7. What does the blogging community mean to you?

Like I mentioned earlier, I am amazed by the blogging community. There are so many supportive, loving and creative individuals who contribute to blogs by writing content, designing pretty sites, taking gorgeous pictures and leaving amazing comments. The community is an endless source of inspiration and motivation.

8. You inspire a lot of people with your insightful and upbeat musings. Which bloggers inspire you and why?

Thank you for the compliment! There are so many who inspire me. Right now I have 271 unread items in my google reader - I follow quite a few blogs these days. It would be easy to just direct you to my blogroll and not name anyone specifically, but that would be taking the easy way out.

A few bloggers who I've followed from the start of my blogging experience are
Kimberly Wilson, Hang on Little Tomato, My Pretty Pennies, Le Love, Gussying Up the Tuttle and City Girl Lifestyle.

Recently, I've discovered
Tulips and Tea,
Heart Piercing Life, Dolce Vita, lovely little things, pencil skirts and pearls, ellecubed and coco+kelly.

9. What else is inspiring you right now?

Making new radio stations on
Pandora, reading The Joy Diet while immersed in a bubble bath, writing blog posts from a corner of my favorite Starbucks on Thursday nights, sipping flavored Chai tea lattes, catching up on blogs, discovering new twitter friends, creating thoughtful holiday presents for friends and family, cutting images and words out of magazines, breathing deep during yoga practice, relaxing in the middle of a hectic work day, snuggling with my mister, waking up early to set my intentions for the day, making packages for other bloggers and discovering new creative adventures.

10. What advice would you give to someone just getting started as a blogger?

Be patient with yourself. Study your favorite blogs. Listen to your voice. Avoid comparing yourself to others. Seek the help of those who you most admire. Ask a friend to help you proofread. Spread your limbs. Connect. Smile when you type. Write posts that you are craving to read.

12. If you had the opportunity to create "the perfect space" space for blogging and other creative pursuits, what would yours look like? (How would it be decorated, what objects would surround you, how would it sound, feel, smell, etc.?)

If the options were endless, and time, money and space were immaterial...

My perfect creative space is the "loft" part of a chic New York City apartment. It is functional, colorful, neat and bright. Paint is splattered on my desk, and lightly scented candles are burning all around me. Bulletin boards full of inspirational quotes and images cover the freshly painted walls. Music is always playing in the background. A fuzzy dark brown flokati rug keeps my toes warm. My MacBook has plenty of desk space to breathe. Pictures of my friends and family surround me. A large white board lists all my plans, goals and aspirations on one wall (like this). A big mug of raspberry green tea latte gives me endless energy. A yoga mat is rolled out in the corner for spontaneous stretching. Magazines are piled on one corner of my desk for easy inspiration. Close by, a bookshelf is home to all the written words I hold dear. My journal is tucked away in my desk drawer for safe keeping. Art supplies are neatly organized and paradoxically scattered around my creative space. It feels like home.

11. Five by five. Tell us your five favorite: books, movies, albums, foods, and simple pleasures in life.

Books: The Way of the Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman, Hip Tranquil Chick by Kimberly Wilson, The Giver by Lois Lowry, Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, Blink by Malcom Gladwell

Movies: A Little Princess, Romeo + Juliette, Closer, Best in Show, Anchorman

Albums: Veneer by Jose Gonzalez, The Con by Tegan and Sara, Third Eye Blind's Self-Titled Album, O by Damien Rice, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill by Lauryn Hill

Foods: chips & salsa, fresh fruit, avocados, mashed potatoes, chocolate

Simple pleasures: going to yoga class, snuggling with a loved one, going for a mani/pedi, shopping with a girlfriend, reading a great book (or blog)

13. In five words or less: what is the meaning of life?

To breathe, love and give.

Kaileen Elise currently resides in Raleigh, North Carolina where she explores all things extraordinary. She is a student of life, tea drinker, artist, writer, blogger, yogini, & entrepreneur.

Thanks Kaileen, for sharing your thoughts with us and for blogging with heart!

Image courtesy of Kaileen Elise.

Announcing Bloggers with Heart, a new interview series

I have been so amazed by the incredible sense of community I've found since I began this humble little blog last spring. In just a few months, blogging has connected me with so many inspiring, creative, and soulful folks. It seems like every day I stumble upon a corner of the web where someone is courageously and authentically sharing parts of their world with others. Within the group of bloggers I have grown to love and admire (a group that is constantly growing as I discover new blogs), some voices are funny, some are serious, and some are profound. They all shine in their own unique way and bring joy to my life and the lives of their readers.

So, I am beyond excited to announce the beginning of a new interview series on Tulips and Tea called Bloggers with Heart. Each week, I will select and interview a blogger who shares his or her life in a sincere way with readers. Whether they blog about cooking or yoga or life in general, these are bloggers who are making the blogging community (and dare I say, the world) a better place because of their contribution. Bloggers with soul and sparkle. And most of all, bloggers with heart.

I am thrilled to tell you that the first Bloggers with Heart interview will be posted this afternoon, featuring one of the sweetest and most inspiring bloggers I've "met" (virtually). I just know you guys are going to love her as much as I do!

Oh, and please nominate bloggers for this series by emailing me at ambendorf AT gmail DOT COM. And don't be shy about nominating yourself! I'm not sure how many responses I'll get so I can't promise that I'll be able to feature your suggested blogger, but I would SO appreciate any ideas you have!

Through this series, I hope to spread the word about these wonderful bloggers so that their heartfelt words may touch even more people. I truly hope you enjoy it. Here's to Bloggers with Heart!

Image via foreverness.


Ten ways to eat an avocado

Is there a more perfect food than the avocado? If so, I'd like to know. Mild flavor? Check. Buttery texture? Check. Loads of nutrients? Check. Did I mention that eating avocados can actually make you a happier person?

As an ingredient, avocados make a persuasive argument for culinary minimalism, as they are best enjoyed in simple, unfussy dishes that allow their delicious flavor and texture to take center stage. They are the Audrey Hepburn of the food world: elegant, understated, and effortlessly chic.

And so, without further ado, I present you with {drum roll, please}...

Ten ways to eat an avocado

1. Guacamole, of course. Everyone knows that guacamole is really just an excuse to eat avocado. For simple and amazing guac, take two peeled avocados and mix in a clove of minced garlic, half a diced red onion, 1-2 minced serrano chiles, juice from half a lime, some roughly chopped cilantro, and salt and pepper to taste. Serve with tortilla chips or pita chips.

2. Cut into thin ribbons and layered on top of toasted baguette with a smattering of goat cheese and a sprinkle of diced chives.

3. In a multi-grain pita with tomato, sprouts, and oil & vinegar.

4. Cubed and tossed in a simple salad of arugula, brie, grilled shrimp, and grapes (especially good with a yogurt-cucumber dressing).

5. In a Caprese salad. Layer thinly sliced tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, basil, red onion, and avocado, and drizzle with a high-quality olive oil. Add coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Great for a dinner party.

6. Avocado bruschetta. Finely dice 2 avocados and add 2 chopped scallions, juice from half a lime, a tablespoon of white wine vinegar, 2 tablespoons olive oil, one minced garlic clove, 2 teaspoons cayenne-based hot sauce, and salt and pepper to taste. Serve over toasted baguette slices. For a fancier version, serve this on top of seared tuna steaks or mixed with sushi-grade raw tuna for avocado-tuna tartare.

7. As a ABLT (Avocado, Bacon, Lettuce, and Tomato) sandwich. Vegetarians, substitute swiss cheese for the bacon.

8. Mashed with lemon juice, salt, and pepper on some freshly-toasted rye bread. (This makes a healthy and yummy breakfast.)

9. Diced, in an omelette with cheddar cheese, scallions, and mushrooms, topped with salsa fresca.

10. And, for the ultimate minimalist treat: scooped straight from the peel, with a tiny sprinkle of salt.

Extra credit weekend assignment: Make a nourishing and all-natural avocado face mask for healthy and glowing skin.

What's your favorite way to eat an avocado?

Images via Flickr user AZwebear.


Imagining World

"In my dream, the angel shrugged & said, If we fail this time, it will be a failure of imagination & then she placed the world gently in the palm of my hand."

-Brian Andreas, Imagining World

Photo by Flickr user Emma Cherry.


Turquoise Inspiration

I've always had a thing for the color turquoise. There's a calm serenity to it, and yet it simultaneously hints at a vibrant and earthy exoticism. It makes me think of warm nights, dancing till dawn, the shimmer of dangly earrings in the moonlight, and the ocean. It can liven up a neutral palette, pair with other jewel tones, or stand on its own. In jewelry form, turquoise is the perfect accessory for everything from jeans and a t-shirt to a little black dress. It's timeless, yet always feels current. It's pretty much the perfect color.

Apparently, I'm not alone with my turquoise obsession. I recently stumbled upon the delightful House of Turquoise and its sister shopping blog Everything Turquoise, and I literally can't pull myself away. I am practically drooling over here.

Any fellow turquoise lovers out there?


Bruce Mau's Incomplete Manifesto for Growth

Do you ever come across words so electric that a little jolt of adrenaline actually rushes through your veins? I recently discovered Bruce Mau's powerful and stunningly lucid Incomplete Manifesto for Growth (via the archives of the equally electrifying Danielle LaPorte, whose brilliance deserves and will get its own post here soon).

For those unfamiliar, Bruce Mau is a world-renowned visionary designer and innovator, whose creative genius spans interdisciplinary projects as far-reaching as creating a new visual identify for MoMA; incorporating a vision for global sustainability into the culture and business of Coca-Cola; and launching The Massive Change Project, a movement to "explore the legacy and potential, the promise and power of design in improving the welfare of humanity."

In short, Bruce embodies the sort of forward-thinking creative thinker who will pretty much rule the world in the not-too-distant future, and his Incomplete Manifesto for Growth is a compendium of the principles and beliefs that fuel his approach. Whether applied to design, business, or life, his words ring true and fierce.

It's well worth reading the whole list, but here are some of my personal favorites (all taken verbatim from right here):

Allow events to change you. You have to be willing to grow. Growth is different from something that happens to you. You produce it. You live it. The prerequisites for growth: the openness to experience events and the willingness to be changed by them.

Forget about good.
Good is a known quantity. Good is what we all agree on. Growth is not necessarily good. Growth is an exploration of unlit recesses that may or may not yield to our research. As long as you stick to good you'll never have real growth.

Capture accidents. The wrong answer is the right answer in search of a different question. Collect wrong answers as part of the process. Ask different questions.

Begin anywhere. John Cage tells us that not knowing where to begin is a common form of paralysis. His advice: begin anywhere.

Collaborate. The space between people working together is filled with conflict, friction, strife, exhilaration, delight, and vast creative potential.

Take field trips. The bandwidth of the world is greater than that of your TV set, or the Internet, or even a totally immersive, interactive, dynamically rendered, object-oriented, real-time, computer graphic–simulated environment.

Coffee breaks, cab rides, green rooms. Real growth often happens outside of where we intend it to, in the interstitial spaces – what Dr. Seuss calls "the waiting place." Hans Ulrich Obrist once organized a science and art conference with all of the infrastructure of a conference – the parties, chats, lunches, airport arrivals – but with no actual conference. Apparently it was hugely successful and spawned many ongoing collaborations.

For those of you who have read the list (seriously go read it right now!), what do you think? Which are your favorites? Are there any that you disagree with or that make you uncomfortable? I'm super curious to hear your thoughts.

Image via Bruce Mau Design.


Wine-tasting tour

On Saturday, I was fortunate enough to take part in a wine-tasting tour to celebrate the birthdays of two friends.

We visited four wineries along the Frederick Wine Trail.

The day was filled with laughter, beautiful scenery, and lots of wine-tasting. It was quite a lovely time!

Nikki and birthday girls Lindsay and Maggie

Me and Nikki. (Nikki is Jason's sister and one of my bridesmaids. She's pretty rad.)

We had fun learning about the different kinds of wine. My favorite winery was Linganore Winecellars, set on 70 acres of lush estate vineyards. It was so gorgeous, and the wines were amazing. If you are ever in the area, definitely check it out!

I snapped some shots of the surrounding area.

The countryside around Linganore Winecellars was absolutely breathtaking.

Bubbly and balloons in the limo.

The season's last grapes at Elk Run Vineyards.

Beautiful flowers at Elk Run Vineyards.

(Did I mention we are thinking of making this an annual tradition? 'Cause we are.)


This weekend

Why not...

Bake a loaf of spiced pumpkin bread; visit a thrift store and find something fun for under $10; get your favorite sweaters out of storage and put away your summer clothes; write a handwritten letter to someone you've been meaning to catch up with; get a rosemary plant and make toasted rosemary pecans; make a fun playlist; ignore the dishes in the sink; volunteer at an animal shelter; delete old and unused files from your computer's hard drive; tell someone you love how much they mean to you; donate something to charity; try a calming yoga post (this is a good place to start if you're new to yoga); try dark nail polish for a touch of glamour; download an educational podcast from iTunesU; design a new header for your blog; write down five things you're thankful for; have an Audrey Hepburn movie marathon (here's a list); sip white wine in your pajamas; light a cinnamon soy candle; brew some hazelnut coffee; make a pot of chicken noodle soup; don a colorful scarf and some fabulously dangly earrings; re-purpose old tea tins as flower vases...

(You can find more fun weekend suggestions here.)

What kind of magic are you making this weekend? I want to hear about it!

Image via Kim Ficaro.


Mood Indigo

My friends, I have been having one of those weeks. You know the ones, right? Where you just feel "off," for no discernible reason. For starters, I have been absolutely exhausted. I typically have a pretty decent energy level, but Tuesday night I fell asleep at 8:30 pm and last night I couldn't keep my eyes open past 9:00 pm. And still, I feel tired. Then there's the headache that's been cropping up along with some other random aches and pains. This, combined with some other annoyances, has made me a less-than-happy (and ok, sorta cranky) camper. I'm calling it my Mood Indigo, a reference to one of my favorite bluesy jazz tunes by Duke Ellington. (Doesn't the color indigo just conjure up all kinds of moodiness?)

I'm planning a weekend of fun, rejuvenation, and self-care in hopes that it will snap me out of this funky indigo mood. Here's the agenda so far.

Date night with Jason. We're going to see Fantastic Mr. Fox (SO excited for this!), and then cooking a yummy, healthy dinner. Haven't decided exactly what yet, but I'm envisioning some kind of shrimp and veggies in a spicy tomato sauce over whole wheat pasta. After dinner, some gentle yoga followed by a bath and some reading then early to bed.

Going on a wine tasting tour (to four different wineries!) for a friend's birthday. We are going to be chauffeured around in a limo. Fancy, huh? I can't wait! After the wine tasting (and a nap!), I hope to hit the gym for a gentle workout. Maybe I'll swim some laps. I've been itching to try out our gym's gorgeous pool.

This is going to be my day of rejuvenation/self-care. I'm going to wake up early and hit the gym for an intense workout and then some time in the sauna. The rest of the day will be spent nurturing some new creative projects and indulging in some serious relaxation. Think tea sipping, journaling, restorative yoga, yummy scented candles, and a self-pedicure to the sound of some mellow tunes.

I'm hoping that I'll emerge on the other side of this weekend feeling refreshed and a little bit more like myself.

How do you take care of yourself when you're feeling less-than-stellar? Any words of wisdom for me dear readers?

Edit: I guess Fantastic Mr. Fox isn't coming out this weekend, as I thought. Sorry if I confused anyone...


Under my umbrella

Do you think the fact that it's supposed to rain non-stop for the next three days warrants investing in one of these beautiful umbrellas from Wisteria?

I just love the bright colors and pretty patterns.

Such a fun umbrella would brighten the dreariest of days, don't you think?

Photo of Bohemian Parasol via Wisteria.


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