Sunday, December 8, 2013

christmas around the world: iceland

image by Skarphéðinn Þráinsson  / right image via

A few years ago, R and I heard a story told by David Sedaris and his experience learning about Christmas in The Netherlands (listen to it here).  It was not a Christmas story particularly, but it was fascinating to us to hear about the Christmas traditions and stories of other cultures.  Growing up, I focused on my own Christmas traditions and mythology.  Memorizing "The Night Before Christmas", writing letters to Santa and his elves in the North Pole, putting up a tree filled with handmade ornaments from school.  Also, having never really traveled around the holiday season, I thought that maybe I would do a little research on my own to share throughout the month.  A way to help myself get into the holiday spirit and learn a little more about Christmas traditions around the world.    

I decided to start with Iceland.  R and I recently booked a trip there for March (so exciting, but details another time!), and even though we are not going until March, I have been researching it quite a bit over the last couple of months.

The Icelandic word for Christmas is Jól and is a Norse word and is celebrated on Christmas Eve, where families gather together to eat and exchange gifts.  Many of the traditions are similar to the US, except for a few unique stories associated with the season.  The first is the "Christmas Cat".  Icelandic folklore states that everyone should get a new piece of clothing at Christmastime or risk being eaten by a malicious beast call the "Christmas Cat".  

The other tradition is the 13 Yule Lads.  They are not related to Santa Claus, but are said to live in the forest and come to town one by one each day starting on December 12th through December 23rd (and then leaving one by one after Christmas until January 6th).  Each night, children set out their shoes on their bedroom window sill where the lads leave sweets or small gifts.  

As with every country and culture, holiday celebrations are unique and steeped in traditions, stories and mythology.  Having grown up with my own unique Christmas stories, I loved learning even small tidbits of the Iceland Christmas celebrations.  
image left by Gunnar Sverrison via / image right by via
image left via / image right via  (both via Pinterest)
content "Christmas in Iceland" via

In other updates, I will be in Hong Kong this week.  Follow me on instagram, @teawithhummingbirds for Christmas in HK and other sites.

Friday, November 29, 2013

thankfulness-4 things

Opportunities to see the world.  A sense of adventure.  And a community of people who encourage me to pursue it.
“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously.  And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.”
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
November is quickly wrapping up.  In only a couple of days we will begin the last month of the year and the beginning of the holiday season.  Like most of 2013, the month has gone so quickly, but making a concerted effort to remember those things that I am grateful for in my life has made it feel purposeful.  The actual Thanksgiving holiday is now over, but I hope a habit of thankfulness will continue as we close this year.

Driving up to Oregon on Wednesday, R and I are now enjoying a few days off with dear friends and a season that feels pretty similar to a real winter.  Hiking on ice-covered path yesterday and Moz playing in the snow at Crater Lake is just what I needed to get myself in the mindset of the upcoming holidays and cold months ahead.

To wrap up November, a few final thoughts of thankfulness.

A healthy body and the ability to do what I love.
A true life partner.  One who makes me laugh and grow...and tolerates all sorts of craziness.
A God that guides and directs my life and a Son who is the living example of that love.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

oregon road trip

Photo via
And we're off...

R, Moz and I are headed up north on a road trip to Oregon.  Yes, this will be my 3rd time in 4 months.  I cannot help it.  The place keeps drawing me back.  Of course, it helps that my best friend and her husband live up there.

Normally, R and I would run this turkey trot, eat a random t-day dinner and then head down to Big Sur for this hike.  Instead, we are headed on an 8 hour journey through Northern California.  We have our bags packed, audio book downloaded and snacks for the road.  Please follow along on instagram for all the pics of Northern California and beyond the border, @teawithhummingbirds.

Monday, November 25, 2013

thankfulness: 4 things can be difficult and frustrating at times, but at the end of the day, I am thankful for the challenges it presents and opportunities for growth.
image via
Wow, I am really late in posting this.  I actually had to delete my original post to write everything in past tense...  It has been a bit of a whirlwind last few days prepping for R and I's second Friends-giving dinner party.  I may have slightly over-committed myself, but it turned out to be an amazing night, and I successfully prepared my 2nd turkey.  We're off to Oregon tomorrow night to spend actual Thanksgiving with my best friend.  So even though it is quite late, here are a few things I have been thankful for this week.  

Small reminders of my travels scattered throughout our apartment.
"Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude."

Good friends.  All of them.
photo via Nirav
Moments of silliness and reminders to not take life too seriously.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

california adventure: glamping at costanoa

I arrived just after dark.  Not a great start to my first glamping experience since I would have to find my tent in blackness, but I suppose watching the sunset over the ocean during the 1 hour drive south of SF was my constellation prize.  I visited Costanoa nearly 2 years before while exploring places nearby our wedding location for rehearsal dinner and places for people to stay.  For that purpose it wasn't exactly what we were looking for, but I had always wanted to return. 

This past weekend was the only one that was semi-free in the 2 upcoming months, so I took advantage for a chance to get away by myself.  It is not something that I would normally do, but over the past few months, I have been feeling a nudge for some time of solitude.

After I had checked in at the front desk, they gave me the key to #27 and sent me on my way. From previous camping experiences, I knew there were reasons why one should show up while there was still sunlight, as I drove by my cabin twice before finally figuring it out.  The night was chilly, as it often is this close to the coast, and I did wonder if I had brought warm enough clothes.  The little cabins truly are tents, made of thick canvas and you can feel the cold air running through it.  However, once inside, it is set up like a tiny, rustic hotel room.  Full size bed, electric lights and a tiny chair and mirror. The experience of "camping" without all the set-up.

Pigeon Point Lighthouse a few miles north
Food was the first thing on my mind, and because I did not pack anything, I headed straight over to the restaurant on the premises.  It was crowded with families staying in the bungalows and the lodge itself, so I sat at the bar chatting with the bartender and eating crab cake sliders {delish!}.  It was still early when I finished {though the darkness can be deceiving when you're camping} I visited the fireplace they have at the comfort station and read.  

Even though I had on multiple layers, the cold finally got to me, so I went back to the tent to read and keep warm under the electric blanket.    When I left SF, I had very grandiose visions of how productive I would be.  How inspired to read and write.  But to be really honest, I found myself very restless and distracted.  I kind of hate to admit this, but by 9:30, I was in bed with the lights out.  

Sunday was another day though, and after getting some coffee at the lodge, I took advantage of the adirondack chairs outside of each bungalow.  Drinking coffee, reading and watching the happenings of the campground.  Including a covey of California quail wandering to and from.

Final to-do on my list was to head out on a hike.  Fortunately, I could leave right from the lodge parking lot, across highway 1 and to a trail leading straight to the beach.  At that time in the morning, the beach was completely empty.  For a natural wanderer, it was the perfect opportunity to take in the views of the ocean and small cliffs along the edge.  An chance to wander and explore, contemplate life and be thankful for the amazing blessing of creation.

Friday, November 15, 2013

thankfulness: 4 things

Beautiful places.  Especially in this place where R and I, where during our hikes, got to know each other more deeply {and he later proposed}.
This weekend I am doing something I have not done in a very long while.  I'm going away by myself. Not for business, not to visit friends, but to spend some time with myself.  Just for the night, but I reserved a tent cabin here and will keep you all posted on the experience of "glamping".  

I am very much a people person.  I get energy from hanging out with friends or family.  But I have begun to notice over the past few months a gentle nudging for some time of solitude.  A chance to spend some time without the distractions of home to write and reflect.  And, let's be honest, I really want to see what this "glamping" experience is really all about.  So, for one night only, I am heading out into a luxe wilderness to fend for myself. 

“Dear old world', she murmured, 'you are very lovely, and I am glad to be alive in you.” 
― L.M. MontgomeryAnne of Green Gables

An abundance of fresh, delicious food!
A small, but treasured tradition of Saturday morning walks.
This crazy group + even more not pictured.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

weekend away: packing list

dress / tote / hat / jacket / necklace / jeans / button-down / sweater / suitcase / tights / boots 

Over the past few months I have been going on a lot of weekend trips.  There have been car trips to Tahoe, jaunts to Oregon and even a short business trip to Arizona.  With each of these trips, I often struggle how to pack efficiently and lightly.  Its only a couple of days, but I want to look stylish and comfortable of course.  With each of these trips, I have been creating a list of easy go-to for travel.  Outfits that will take you through sight-seeing to dinner with friends.  

Being deep into fall and the weather getting cooler everyday, you definitely want a couple of layering options.  I always start with my jeans.  My personal go-to are dark wash skinnies.  I can wear them with  flats or boots and the dark wash always looks polished.  Along with that, an easy white button-down and a neutral pull-on sweater, worn separately or together if the weather is cooler.  I also, nearly always pack a dress (and tights for winter).  A super easy knit dress is comfortable and an entire look in 1 garment.  It also gives you the ability to have an option for going out or a nice dinner.

-Easy jacket.  This one is lightweight, but great to layer over a sweater for extra wind protection when out and about.  
-Wide brim hat, sun protection and warmth!
-Statement necklace, which can help bring your white shirt or knit dress up to a whole new level.
-A leather tote (or easy carry bag).   A larger bag is the perfect additional carry-on for a flight and gives you ample room for souvenirs and camera.
-Comfortable shoes: for the fall/winter time, I always bring a pair of boots.  I recently got these, and am LOVING their versatility.
-Small carry-on suitcase.  I am loving the camo print as a way to stand out, but still neutral.

Now, where to go next?!

Monday, November 11, 2013

california adventure: grey whale cove

"And this, our life, exempt from public haunt, finds tongues in trees, bookis in the running brooks, sermons in stones and good in everything."
-William Shakespeare
It was an absolutely gorgeous weekend here in the Bay Area.  Having a very chilly, very foggy summer, it was so nice to enjoy the sunshine and leave home without a jacket.  As I have mentioned in a few other posts, I have been craving quiet time.  These last 2 days came as the perfect opportunity to recover from the previous months of traveling nonstop and preparing for the upcoming holiday craziness.

Friday, November 8, 2013

thankfulness: 4 things

Writing & all the forms that it takes as a source of rest and inspiration
“Rest and be thankful.” 
― William Wordsworth
Since it is now November, and the Thanksgiving holiday is only weeks away, I decided that as a sort of preparation for that time, I wanted to focus on thankfulness.  It has been quite a year; of opportunity, of joy, and of some very hard times.  I have been realizing more and more the importance of maintaining a grateful heart, not only in the big things in my life (though I am extremely thankful for those), but also in those little moments and joy that come each day.  There will be days of pain, of suffering, of sadness; which ultimately make those days of happiness that much more sweet.

I have decided to dedicate the Fridays of November to all those things that I am currently thankful for.  Happy weekend all!

A place of solitude in the middle of the busy city.

Mild weather and a chance to enjoy some time outside while commuting to work every day.

I was painfully reminded this week of how quickly our little loved ones can be taken from us.  Especially thankful of my little furbaby, even if he is a little crazy!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

journey to...portland

Two weeks ago, I took a girls weekend up to Portland, Oregon.  It was my second visit to the Beaver State, and honestly what I was most excited for was an opportunity to experience the true fall season.  Colored leaves and brisk air.  Portland did not disappoint.  We stayed at the Paramount Hotel in the middle of downtown and enjoyed being surrounded by brick buildings and leaf covered sidewalks.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

tea time: a quiet place

via ana carrera
"I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours."
-Henry David Thoreau, Walden: Or, Life in the Woods

Feeling a little scattered and unfocused has left me with a strong desire to hide out in a cabin.  A place that I can read, write and enjoy a quiet scenery.  Away for just a day or so from the constant stream of information and technology.  

Monday, October 21, 2013

California Adventure: Cannery Row

One of my all time favorite authors is John Steinbeck.  I have read many of his books, and love their intriguing stories and the rich Californian history.  He was born in Salinas, CA but Monterey is the location he is mostly associated with.  R's mom was in town this weekend and like most of our family, we have done most of the tourist things here in the city, so we decided Monterey would be a perfect day trip down the coast.  

Friday, October 18, 2013

happy weekend!

Ahh, Friday has finally arrived.  I am not sure about everyone else, but it has been one long week.  It continues to be beautiful weather though out here in SF, so very excited for the upcoming weekend.  R's mom is coming into town (yay!), so I see some SF exploring and good eats in our near future!  We have intentions to make the drive down to the Monterey Aquarium and the Cannery Row.  I have been informed I cannot ask to go to the John Steinbeck Wax Museum, but Ghirardelli hot chocolate, yes please!

Happy weekend!

Thursday, October 17, 2013 Portland

Next weekend, I am taking a girls trip up to Portland!  I have never been and am so excited to explore our neighbor to the North.  Living out on the west coast for so many years, I would have imagined myself getting to Oregon a lot sooner than 2013.  My friend and I were busy planning all of our to-do's (Voodoo Donuts, food carts, Nike!), but I would love any suggestions on must-sees or off the beaten path adventures to try out while I am there.  Particularly any local shops, eats or breweries!

Visit: Portland!

Read: "Wild" by Cheryl Strayed.  This does not fully take place in Portland, but I loved reading this memoir/trekking guide to the PCT.  

Wear: A cozy sweater for all those chilly rainy days.  This one is from Mexchic.  A company dedicated to supporting local artisans in Mexico.

Watch: Portlandia.  An easy out I know.  However, I will admit that I am not been a huge fan.  I love the idea (and the fun catchphrases), but the sketches last a little too long in their awkwardness for me to fully enjoy.  However, I did find this amazing article of how Portlandia ruined hipster life.

portland image via-{Pinterest}

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

tea time: some thoughts on busy

"But the Lord answered, 'Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things.  Only one thing is important.  Mary has chosen the better thing and it will never be taken away from her."
-Luke 10: 41-42 (NCV)

image via

This is definitely a stray from my usual type of post, but I have been somewhat bombarded lately with the idea of busyness.  When I was in my 3rd year of college, I had a brief time where I was completely and utterly overwhelmed (who hasn't?).  I was in school, working and various leadership positions on campus.  All things that I absolutely loved.  But at the same time I was preparing to go to Guatemala {my first international trip} with a group from my church.  We were going to stay with a local missionary family in the town of San Pedro and help to run a vacation bible school / soccer camp.  In so many ways, I was thrilled and excited for the opportunity.  But a few weeks before we left, I had a breakdown and insisted that I could not go.  I was just too busy!

But God had other plans for me.  In the forms of reading material/journaling (always an indicator for me) and a dear friend reminding me that this was a trip where he insisting that I would find the relief I so desperately sought.  So, I went.  And I found the most amazing type of rest.  Though we were there to help run a day camp, it happened to be only in the afternoon.  In the mornings and evenings, we had free time to do what we wished.  We went for runs in the morning through town, and I spent many, many hours laying in a hammock; napping and listening to music (on a discman...does that age me?).  It was a wake-up call for me; you can be productive and purposeful, but there should always be a place for rest.  Rest that comes in many, many forms.  It comes in ways that we most need it.  Sleeping, reading, journaling, going for runs or long walks in the woods

It was also at that time that I really learned what the story was about that I quoted above.  Martha, in all of her busyness and preparations (all great things by the way) had forgotten how to take a moment of quietness.  To simply sit and listen.

I have come back to this story and my time in Guatemala, time and time again.  These last couple of years have been particularly overwhelming for me.  An amazing, unforgettable last couple of years, but a tiredness has accompanied it nonetheless.  But over the last few days, I have been reminded of this story again.  It came up while I was reading and journaling a couple days ago, and then again in this article (and here and here).  Our lives are incredibly "busy".  We continue to cram things into every last minute, look up time management articles (that could be just me) and try to figure out how to be more productive.  But sometimes, its about stepping back.  Saying that it is ok to spend an entire morning on the balcony drinking a cup of tea, or going out for a run up Bernal Hill in the early morning.  It is mostly in these moments that we experience what it is like to simply sit at His feet.  

Monday, October 14, 2013

California Adventure-Presidio

"We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure.  There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open."
-Jawaharal Nehru
There are many, many times that I catch myself longing to be somewhere else.  To be out in the world, exploring a new place.  There are also many times that I need to remind myself to sit still.  To be grounded and to enjoy what is at my own doorstep.  

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Journey to: Bend, Oregon

I apologize for the extended absence.  In these last few weeks, I have been on 2 continents, 4 states and my day job has kept me preoccupied in the days in between.  Needless to say it has been a crazy beginning of fall.

A few weeks ago, R and I journeyed up north to visit my best friend.  Neither one of us had been to Oregon, but my friend loves it since moving there last year.  Also, it is very difficult to turn down the opportunity to spend some time in an actual summer climate, so we hopped on a plane for a weekend away.

Friday, August 16, 2013

happy weekend!

After a long couple of weeks, R, Moz and I are headed out for an overnight trip in the wilderness for the first time all summer.  With only a few more weeks left (though in SF it hasn't really started yet), we are escaping the urban atmosphere for lakes, mountain air and warm meadows.  It will also be an excellent opportunity for the 3 of us to get some much needed strenuous hiking in.  With busy schedules and gloomy weather, we have not been getting outside nearly as we would like.
Happy {nature-filled} weekend!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

dreaming of...stealing away to a reading nook

“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.” 
― C.S. Lewis
The last few weeks have been really crazy and stressful.  I find myself during the day dreaming of going home and spending hours reading a favorite book.  Long days at the office and distractions at home often keep me from doing it.  At times, it feels like vegging out with a good movie or binge watching a TV show would be the perfect way to unwind.  However, I have noticed that the evenings I spend quietly, lounging in my favorite chair enjoying a hot cup of tea (or, admittedly often times a beer) leave me more refreshed and rejuvenated for the following days' challenges.  The busy schedule does not seem to be letting up for a while yet, so I will continue to dream of small, quiet spaces to enjoy my latest must-read.

via-Raining Sheep

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

i spy: fashion + sweatpants

left, right
The latest trend...dressing up your sweats.  Whether it is a plain sweatshirt with an amazing graphic tucked into a lace skirt, a jeweled neckline with a chambray shirt and jeans or a slim fitting sweatpant with heels, the latest fashion trend is all about comfort. 

I will admit that I was kind of hesitant to jump on this particular bandwagon.  The idea of fleece fabrication for the longest time has been oversized hooded sweatshirts with your college logo.  However, I bought my first crew neck sweatshirt earlier this year from Old Navy and I LOVE it.  Less formal and tougher than a sweater, it is the perfect lightweight piece.  I have worn it on the weekends with boyfriend jeans and TOMS, or to work with a statement necklace and skirt.  I decided today I would fully embrace the trend, and with fall just around the corner, share a few that embody the new version of sweats.


Sunday, August 11, 2013

California Adventure: swimming holes

A couple weeks ago, R and I took a short road trip to the central Sierras in search of a swimming hole.  I know that may sound ridiculous, to drive over 3 hours to go swimming in a river.  But summers in SF can get pretty winter-like at times, which leads us in search of sunshine, hot weather and cool, refreshing pools.

Years ago, R and I had visited Mushroom Hole, a local swimming hole off the Middle Yuba River and a short hike from the main road.  We had intentions of revisiting this same place, until after over an hour searching for the trail head (hidden amongst the brush), we were deterred when we ran into a long, barbed wire fence that blocked off the trail to the river.

Back at the car, we went back to our guide book, Day Trips with a Splash, and found another local favorite, Oregon Creek, back up the road about 7 miles.  After another short detour down the wrong trail, we were feeling a little bit desperate that our entire trip would be in vain.  Nearing the early evening, we found our destination.  Oregon Creek is a group of small pools and waterfalls down a dusty path and filled with shade-covering trees.  The water was cool and flowing over polished, moss-covered rocks, creating natural slides.  If you're searching for a place for solitude, this is not the destination.  Scattered across the smooth rocks were small groups of people enjoying the sunshine splitting through the cracks in the tree canopy.  After such a long trip in the car; R, Moz and I basked on the sunny rocks, dipped into the clear water and overall enjoyed a Saturday afternoon getaway from the city.    

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