Friday thoughts

Happy Friday!  As some of you may have noticed, I published an "About" page on my blog this morning, and then realized that it showed up in Google Reader, which I hadn't intended.  I just felt the need to explain that - since it probably seemed pretty random if you read it thinking it was a "normal" post!

'm really excited this morning because my first post is up at Tranquility du Jour!  If you'd like, you can hop on over there and read my tips for making the most of your next farmers' market outing...one of my favorite summertime activities.

his weekend, the weather is supposed to be just gorgeous in the Washington, DC area, so I'm planning to take full advantage by:

Trading in my treadmill routine for an outdoor run through the park
Enjoying my morning chai on the deck
Taking my laptop out to the deck to work on projects al fresco
Opening the windows to let fresh air into our home
Checking out animals the National Zoo
Taking in a pro baseball game (as part of Jason's company's annual summer gathering)

I'm not usually a big fan of baseball, but there's something sort of fun about the whole stadium experience, isn't there?  I find that I'm actually looking forward to it!

How do you take advantage of lovely weather?  Any fun and exciting weekend plans?  I'd love to hear.

Image via Leslie Thomson


An announcement + a new look

Exciting news today!  I am delighted to announce that Kimberly Wilson has invited me to serve as a contributing writer for her yoga and lifestyle blog, Tranquility du Jour.  The last Friday of each month, I will post a column musing on a food-related topic.  If you're a regular reader of Tulips & Tea, you probably know that I am passionate about cooking and eating good food, made from wholesome and healthy ingredients.  I am thrilled to have the chance to explore these interests further via Tranquility du Jour, of which I'm a long-time devoted reader.  My first post goes live this Friday.  I would be oh-so-flattered if you would give it a look-see!

Secondly, I'm pleased to unveil a new, more minimalist look for Tulips & Tea.  Maybe it's the especially hot and muggy summer we've had; whatever the reason, I felt the urge to shed some layers, metaphorically speaking.  I'm still putting the finishing touches on the new design, so stay tuned for a few new additions to the site, coming soon!


Farmers' market tomatoes + bruschetta recipe

This past weekend, we braved the scorching heat to visit the Anne Arundel County Farmers' Market.  Ever since we returned from Italy, I've been searching for tomatoes as flavorful as the ones we enjoyed during our trip.  Fortunately, the local farmers' markets abound with these savory fruits, particularly during the summer months.  I picked up a couple dozen of the largest cherry tomatoes I've ever seen, along with several heirloom varieties.
Is there anything better than biting into a juicy ripe tomato on a hot day?  Personally, I can't think of a thing.

ut fresh bruschetta made with aforementioned tomatoes runs a close second.  Tomatoes, with their delicate savory-sweet flavor, are perfect for casual summertime recipes.  And with their boost of lycopene (an antioxidant) and their high water content (helping to keep you hydrated!), they're as good for your body as they are delicious.  Make this bruschetta with the best-looking farmers' market tomatoes you can find.  Almost any kind of tomatoes will work, provided they're more sweet than tart.  (And some heirloom varieties can be rather tart, so ask your tomato vendor if you're unsure.)

ruschetta with Farmers' Market Tomatoes

About 1.5 lbs ripe organic tomatoes (again, almost any kind will work, but I personally like super sweet cherry tomatoes)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
6-8 fresh basil leaves, chopped (you will usually find fresh basil at the farmers' market during the summer months)
Coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

ix ingredients together in a bowl.  It doesn't get much simpler than that, does it?  Some recipes will have you remove the tomato skins and seeds first, but I don't mind the added texture, so I usually don't bother with that.

f course, the traditional bruschetta preparation is to spoon this tomato mixture atop slices of baguette that have been brushed with olive oil and rubbed with garlic before being toasted or grilled.  But, just as often, I'll use it to top off a big mixed greens salad or a as a substitute for marinara sauce on a plate of whole grain pasta, sometimes adding artichoke hearts or Greek olives to the mix

What's your favorite summertime recipe? 



Italy, Part 3: Chianti, Tuscany

After spending a few days in the Cinque Terre, we hopped a bus to the Chianti region of Tuscany.  I've read Frances Mayes' books and have heard friends and family members wax poetic about this land of surreal beauty.  Still, I was not prepared for how deeply and completely in love I would fall with the Tuscan countryside.
We hiked right through lush vineyards and picturesque olive groves.
I couldn't believe such a divine place existed.  I kept thinking to myself, Wow, this kind of beauty exists right here, on Planet Earth!  How lucky are we humans?
We stayed at the Villa le Barone, one of the many Tuscan villas which dot the landscape.  
This was the view from the window of our room: a small hill town called Radda (and a very large Cypress tree).

One afternoon, I got back from a hike early and decided to take a stroll through the villa's serene little rose garden.
Another stunning view while hiking.
In one of the small hill towns, we came across a farmer selling eggplant, sugar snap peas, and endless varieties of tomato in all different shades of red, orange, and yellow.
Jason leading the charge.
The last afternoon, our tour leaders prepared the most incredible Italian picnic lunch. Above, a mixed greens salad with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, salumi, and grapes.  The bottle in the foreground is Vin Santo, a type of sweet dessert wine traditionally paired with cantucci (which we know as biscotti).
Slices of juicy beefsteak tomatoes, paired with fresh basil and ricotta.
The best veggie platter ever: eggplant, roasted red and yellow pepper, sundried tomatoes, peppadew stuffed with fresh tuna and capers, mixed olives and grilled artichokes.

And of course, bread.

I couldn't have asked for a lovelier place to conclude our honeymoon.  I've already decided that a return trip to Italy is really the only proper way to celebrate all of our future anniversaries...  


Italy, Part 2: Cinque Terre

After our time in Florence, we took a train to La Spezia where we met up with our Backroads tour group for a week of hiking in the Cinque Terre and the Chianti region of Tuscany.  I loved Florence, but the serene hillside trails and stunning vistas of the Cinque Terre were a welcome respite after the hustle and bustle of the big city.    
We hiked between 5 and 10 miles each day, oftentimes on quite hilly terrain.  The physical activity was tiring, but in a really satisfying sort of way.  Hiking in such beautiful surroundings felt almost meditative.  And I'm pretty sure I've never slept better in my entire life! 
Incredible view from the trail
The port at Santa Margarita Ligure, a town near the Cinque Terre
A view of Riomaggiore, one of the pastel-hued towns that comprise the Cinque Terre (which means "Five Lands").
Another view from the trail
We took a boat to dinner at Locanda Lorena, a waterfront restaurant located on a private island across from the town of Portovenere.
Beautiful hydrangea in shades of baby pink and periwinkle
The water is so blue...I was mesmerized.
The view from our table at dinner in Portovenere
The hiking was tough at times (there were some serious hills), but it was well worth it for views like this one, of Vernazza another one of the Cinque Terre villages.
Pretty bushels of lavender for sale in Santa Margarita Ligure.

I'm so glad we decided to do the hiking trip, as there really is no better way to see this region than to walk right through it.  There really aren't words for how beautiful it is, but hopefully I've captured some sense of it in these photos.

Up next...Tuscany!



Italy, Part 1: Florence

Hello!  After an incredible honeymoon, we're back in the states and already missing our beautiful time in Italy. The scenery, the art, the gorgeous language, the food...oh my, the food.  Let's just say it was a very good thing we did LOTS of hiking on the second leg of our trip!  As promised, I snapped a great many photos, and I'll be sharing highlights over the next couple of days.  (I will also do a little food-centric roundup with descriptions of favorite restaurants/meals...methinks la buona cucina deserves its own dedicated post, no?)  

Let's start with Florence, shall we?  We spent three nights in this beautiful city.
I couldn't get enough of the Florence skyline.  The first photo is a sunset view of the Ponte Vecchio, with the city lights twinkling across the Arno river.
A view of the city from the Piazzale Michelangelo.
Another sunset view of the Arno.
And again, from the Piazzale Michelangelo.
The Duomo, as seen from Piazzale Michelangelo, framed by moody blue-gray hills.  Dusk is truly magical in this city.
Strolling along the river, near the Ponte Vecchio.
We loved walking along the river and across the city's numerous bridges.
Husband looking handsome.
Sculpture outside the Museo del Bargello
The perfect picnic lunch: chewy whole grain focaccia and caprese salad from the Mercato Centrale.

We visited all of the major museums as well...the Uffizi, the Accademia (where Michelangelo's David resides), the Palazzo Pitti, etc., but since the museums generally don't allow photography (or flash photography anyway), we're a bit lacking in photos from those places.

Stay tuned for highlights from the Liguria region (Cinque Terre, Santa Margarita Ligure, Portofino) tomorrow!

Ciao (I can't stop saying it yet, so please indulge me for another day or so...),


And...we're off!

Lovelies, we'll be on our honeymoon till July 16th.  See you later this month!  (And yes, I promise to take lots of pictures!)


Image via Casa Miraglio


Wishing you a sparkly weekend

Happy Friday!  What do you all have planned for the long weekend?  Tonight, we're headed to Baltimore to grab some sushi and see Adam's show at the 8x10.  (As you may recall, Adam is Jason's good friend and an incredibly talented singer...check him out!)  On Sunday, we may have a few friends over for a laid-back little gathering.  Other than that, we'll be busy getting ready for our trip to Italy!

ishing you a happy and safe 4th of July!  P.S.  Thanks for all your wonderful Italy recommendations - you gals are the best.


Image via Plastic Sfoonss


Icing on the cake

Thank you all so much for your sweet comments and well wishes.  Here's another favorite moment from the reception.  Doesn't it look like I have one lady arm and one man arm because of the way Jason's arm is angled around me?

Now we're excitedly preparing for our honeymoon!  We leave next Wednesday and stay through July 16 - I couldn't be more excited.  I have been obsessing over
this gelato place in Florence, which one of my co-workers said we must try.  I'm a bit crazy for gelato, so this will undoubtedly be one of the highlights of our trip!

If any of you have been to Florence, Cinque Terre, or the Chianti region of Tuscany - any can't-miss recommendations



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