the love list

Hello!

If you read my last post, you know my trip to Palm Springs left me motivated to be more present in my online and real-life existence. I even decided my word for the year is REAL. (I know it's a little late in the game to be setting goals and intentions for 2017, but we all know late is better than never and all that jazz.) So shit is about to get as real around here as I can manage!

There's so much hyper-curated fakery floating around on the internets, I sort of feel it my duty to share with you--in addition to things I find beautiful and wonderful and inspiring--what my life is really like. This includes the fact that our bed currently looks like a tangled rat's nest of sheets, book, pyjamas, and kitty litter that we can't seem to vacuum out completely. And that, despite all the travel I do, I'm freaking out about my upcoming trip and feeling like I should cancel it all and just stay home and binge-watch Harlots on Hulu (#guiltypleasures). It includes, too, how I pitched such an infantile temper tantrum this morning, I threw a blanket over my husband's head. Like a three year old. No joke.

(Luckily, my real life also includes the fact that I came back to my senses and I have a very chill husband and he forgave me and we ate lunch outside on a picnic blanket under the spring sunshine and shared half a bottle of rosé.)

So my life, like all our lives, vacillates between crap and delight, sometimes multiple times per day. I'm learning to roll with the punches a little better, which is why I'm dedicating this week's Love List to something I'm trying to weave into my life more fully: mindfulness. This week, I give you the resources, articles, apps (and cocktails) that have been helping me feel happier and more present in my life. Enjoy!


- First up is my new crush/hero: Dan Harris. My best friend told me I needed to read his book, 10% Happier. She's a life coach and a pretty savvy lady, so I generally follow her advice. I'm so glad I did. I loved this book! As an over-achieving, stressed-out, skeptical, child of the seventies, I feel like it was written just for me. Dan talks openly about his history of drug use, his all-encompassing ambition to make it in the broadcast news business, the on-air panic attack that led him to meditation, and how mindfulness practice has allowed him to be calmer, happier and more successful in life. It's all served up with a generous amount of wit, humor and self-deprecation, leaving you feeling that if this self-described "fidgety skeptic" can do meditation, so can I. 

 

 

- Which leads me to my next favorite thing lately: Headspace. I've been using this app since reading Dan's book and it does what it says it does: makes meditation simple and helps you clean up all the clutter in your mind and create a little more space for the thoughts, activities and people you want to focus on. Setting aside 10 minutes/day to focus on being mindful is already paying dividends for me in terms of better sleep and stress-management (blanket-throwing tantrums aside). It's definitely worth checking out if you're interested in meditation, but are turned off by all the woo-woo surrounding it and/or don't know where to start.

 

Image by Amanda Paa

Image by Amanda Paa

- Amanda over at Heartbeet Kitchen wrote a great post about her recent trip to Paris. She and her husband booked tickets spontaneously, did very little research and hopped on a plane. They discovered that wandering a city without a to-do list ten miles long is one of the best ways to enjoy a new destination. They wandered the streets on foot, stopped to check out whatever caught their eye and interacted with locals as much as possible.

Here's my favorite part of what Amanda wrote: "Perhaps one of the things I was most moved by was their communication. Simply put, phones were obsolete when people were with one another. Whether that be a bar, restaurant, coffee shop – I literally never ever saw someone with their head buried in a device. They were solely focused on the conversation, the moment. What a wake-up call to the lost beauty of personal connection here in the United States." 

This sounds like the perfect sort of mindful travel to me--being in the moment rather than racing around ticking off the sights you "must" see and the food you "have to" eat. For my upcoming trip to Scotland, I'm going to take a page out of Amanda's book and spend more time wandering without specific goals or destinations in mind!

 

- Since my phone (a.k.a. Devil Device) is often the main thief of my ability to be in the present, I've started using the Moment app to track my usage and set limits on how much phone time I log each day. The non-intrusive notifications it sends after every 15 minutes of me checking social media and/or falling down a wikipedia rabbit hole have really prompted me to put my phone down more often. 

 

 

- Instagram feed of the week: Nitch. Inspiring quotes from amazing people. Plus, beautiful black and white portraits. Always seems to provide little gems of advice at just the right moment.

 

 

- And (of course) a cocktail recipe to help your weekend feel a touch more chilled out. Rhubarb + fennel + vermouth? Yes, please. Head on over to Honestly Yum for the recipe. 

 

Happy weekend and XO!

Olaiya

smoky calendula margaritas

I just got back from five sun-soaked days in Palm Springs. Five days during which, per our tradition, I ditched my devices, hiked, swam, sunned myself and got what felt like a luxurious amount of sleep. 

All that sleep and sunshine and time away from my computer and phone did something magical to my brain. It afforded me the time and perspective to think. Not about laundry and bills and the rising tide of emails in my inbox as I do in my normal life. But really think--about the bigger picture of my relationships and my work and whether I like the direction things are going. Mostly I do. But I discovered that in a few areas (many related to this blog) I definitely do not. With a little distance and space to connect with myself, I realized I’ve started to feel like a phony in my online existence.

For the past several months, I’ve lost my lifelong joy in cooking. I’m constantly thinking about whether recipes will look good on the blog and on instagram, whether people will actually make them, how difficult they’ll be to shoot--instead of simply what I want to eat. My photography, too, has felt staid and unsatisfying. I feel like it’s become sort of advertorial and aggressively pretty as I’ve been prioritizing turning this space into a full-blown business and growing the blog and my followers on social media. My Instagram feed, the victim of too many online marketing classes, has started to feel impersonal and rigidly formulaic. The whole shebang had started to feel like a rather unfulfilling slog. 

And that, friends, is no good. 

I recently read a post by a woman I follow, who’d decided to take a six-month break from Instagram in order to focus on herself and being a better mom, wife and friend. I found it immensely encouraging to hear about someone else’s struggles with the social media monster. It made me feel I’m not the only one unnerved by my constant desire to find Instagrammable moments rather than be present. 

So it feels important to tell you all about how I’ve been feeling and publicly announce my intentions to keep things a little more real around here. I think it will keep me more accountable (thank you!) and I hope it will help anyone else wrestling with similar demons.

For these reasons, and because I just need this space to feel fun again, I’ve decided to scrap all the advice I’ve accumulated over the past 2 ½ years on how to grow your blog/social media following/online business that doesn’t feel like me. If it feels like an opportunity to grow my skills that will push me outside my comfort zone (like the Oaxaca photography workshop I took), that’s one thing. If it feels cheesy and inauthentic, it’s a no-go. 

I don’t care if posts featuring cakes and cookies and ice cream get more likes. I don’t eat those things very often. I don’t care if the prevailing theory of social media is that you should have a highly-curated feed with lots of negative space and a unified “color story”. I want to post what I find beautiful and what makes me happy, in whatever order I feel like. In general, I want less pretty and more real.

To that end, I plan to free myself from the vice-grip of social media. I want to work on developing a photographic style that feels truer to myself. This week I started reading cookbooks for fun again and choosing recipes that appeal to nothing but my own whims and fancies. It was fantastic. 

I want to focus on the parts of my job that bring me real joy: Travel. Leading retreats and workshops. Meeting and collaborating with new folks. Getting people jazzed and confident to cook for themselves and people they love. 

Connecting with other people and encouraging them to do the same is what gives me the most energy--not learning about SEO or fretting over my social media feeds. This realization feels incredibly liberating, like it deserves a little celebration. So this week, I made some desert-inspired Smoky Calendula Margaritas and toasted my new-found freedom. I feel like a huge weight has been lifted. And that’s definitely something worth raising a glass to.


Smoky Calendula Margaritas

  • 2 tablespoons calendula petals + additional to serve
  • ¼ cup flaky salt (I used Maldon)
  • ½ cup mezcal
  • ¼ cup calendula simple syrup (see recipe below)
  • ¼ cup freshly-squeezed lime juice
  • ¼ cup freshly-squeezed orange juice
  • Lime wedges, to serve

*Notes: I learned on my trip to Oaxaca that the best quality mezcal is clear, not amber. Do yourself a favor and track down some quality mezcal for these margaritas. I learned the hard way that cheap mezcal is not your friend. If you want to wake up without a killer hangover, buy good mezcal

- You can buy calendula petals online or from an herbalist or health food store. I bought mine at Rainbow Natural Remedies here in Seattle. Marigold petals will also work. If they come as full flower heads, remove the petals from the stems before proceeding.

To make calendula salt: place 2 tablespoons of the calendula petals in a spice grinder and pulse until roughly chopped (you can also do this in a mortar and pestle or molcajete). Transfer to small and bowl and add the salt. Stir to combine and set aside. Stored in an airtight container, the calendula salt will keep indefinitely.)

To make the margaritas: Pour some of the calendula simple syrup into a small plate with a lip. Transfer the calendula salt to a similar plate. Dip the rim of 2 8-oz cocktail glasses into the simple syrup then place the rims of the glasses in the calendula salt and turn to coat evenly. Set aside. 

In a cocktail shaker, combine the mezcal, calendula simple syrup, lime juice, orange juice and a pinch of calendula petals and shake vigorously over ice for 30 seconds. Pour into the prepared glasses. Top with more ice if necessary. Garnish with a lime wedges and serve.

Makes 2 drinks.


Calendula Simple Syrup

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup dried calendula petals

Place the sugar, calendula petals and 1 cup water in a medium saucepan. Bring to the boil over high heat, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar. 

Remove from the heat and set aside to steep for at least 30 minutes, and preferably for an hour or two. Strain through a fine mesh sieve, pressing on the solids to remove as much syrup as possible. Transfer to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

small is beautiful: union coffee

Welcome to the Small is Beautiful Project! 

There are so many creative people doing cool things here in Seattle, I wanted to document some of their projects and share them with all of you. I’ve had this idea kicking around in my brain for a while. But because I’m an introverted hermit, I’ve been dragging my feet on reaching out to people to ask if I could come shoot their portrait and photograph their spaces. 

But I finally got my ass in gear and asked Zack Reinig, the owner of one of my favorite coffee shops, if he'd be part of the SIB Project. Happily, he said yes.

So I give you my inaugural Small is Beautiful story, featuring Union Coffee. The clean lines and organic touches in this light-filled space make it one my favorite work/chill spots in the city. Also, they feature beautiful roasts by Olympia Coffee and pull a mean shot. My Seattle people definitely need to discover this gem of a coffee shop if you don’t know it already!


An interview with Zack Reinig, owner of Union Coffee, coffee shop and experimental space

Mad lib time! People could describe your business as Great Coffee meets Architectural and Sonic Self Indulgence.

What is your background?  
I’m from Eastern Washington originally. I am a musician and came to Seattle in ’94, and very soon thereafter started working as a studio technician and assistant recording engineer at various recording studios in the area. I moved from that to being a freelance recording engineer/producer and moved to New York for a few years. I was producing a band back in Seattle at Jupiter studio in Wallingford during that time and met my future wife, Molly.  She brought a pot roast and cookies to the recording session that day. It was both a completely crazy thing to do, and very, very charming. 

I moved back to Seattle, continued my life in production, playing in bands, and dating Molly for a number of years. I did a few tours of the US, and then at some point, did a tour doing live sound for a friends’ band. I caught on pretty quickly as a live sound engineer, and ended up traveling the world for years with three girls from Olympia/Portland collectively named Sleater-Kinney, and subsequently a New Mexican band called The Shins. Touring was a great education in various cultures' design spaces/rooms/buildings. I often wonder why design firms don’t hire people who have toured a lot. You see so much insane architecture and design when traveling 200,000 miles, year after year while working in the arts.

Anyway, after 15 years in music, and five or six breakups with Molly, I realized it was time to quit music and transition to a more reasonable lifestyle for both of us, if Molly would have me. We got married at Treehouse Point in Fall City in 2011, we had a little girl (Named February Moon Reinig), and I studied law to get some of my logical mind back, having lost it from so many years on the road. We now live in a little house five minutes from the coffee shop.   

Since 2009, I have been making Molly coffee every morning since we moved further than three blocks from our favorite capitol hill coffee shop. In my eyes, “Union” is much more about Molly and my relationship, and our mutual daily discovery of coffee than my street address. Over the years, I learned coffee via a Bialetti, various pourover devices, a vintage La Pavoni manual press, and finally a full on professional espresso machine - futzing with various grinders along the way.

How/when did you get the idea for your current venture? 
A few years ago, I was kicking around various small commercial development ideas that resembled places I had been to in Holland and Japan, where a coffee shop was the center piece to the build-out of a space. I went down the road on a few projects only to be turned away during the final bit of negotiation. I decided that it would make more sense to simplify and focus on what I loved most about the project - coffee, music, and architecture in one small space where I can hang out all day and chat with friends. I knew the coffee and customer experience would have to be outstanding and I wanted to value my baristas as quality craftspeople, because a great barista is definitely the most important piece to pulling a great shot. So I hired, and continue to hire extremely carefully and offer full health benefits, the ability to tour and pursue art, and hopefully one day even paid family leave to baristas working over 28 hours per week, even though I know that would be expensive for a new small business. I designed the space to be very different from anything in Seattle, and did not compromise much at all from my original thought on the build - which took a ton of confidence in my vision.          

On a scale of one to shitting-your-pants, how nervous were you about starting your business? 
Very nervous, and that continues to this day. Only in the very beginning of design of the space did I think “Oh, this shit is eeeasy”. You quickly learn that there are so many x-factors in small business from construction overages to financing/debt, to opening and operations, to juggling life priorities, that you always feel that you are one really bad move from catastrophe. Business is a stressful thing, and I respect anyone who chooses to hang a shingle.  

What's the greatest challenge with your business?  
Patience! I want a great art show to happen in the space tomorrow! I want to have an awesome live music show the next day! I want to have a community speaking event the day after that! There are so many cool things to do - it just takes time to put them together in a way that gives the artists/performers/academics/etc. their just due... all the while running this infant of a business well enough to get the capital to fund more great fun things to do. Did I already say that running a business is hard? Or is it ambition that is hard? Hmmm….   

What do you love most about your business? What brings you the most joy? 
There are these moments that occur where my dream vision for the shop materializes out of thin air. Molly and my girl are hanging out on the couch, some old friend or tour buddy of mine has come in to chat, people are really loving the coffee, there’s a great record on the hifi, and customers are enjoying the design and architecture of the space. It's like - just for a minute or two, everything comes together in perfect rhythm. Those moments are so great.  

What's on your bedside table (be honest)? 
I don’t have a bedside table, but in its place is a cord that I try not to trip over while letting the dog out to pee every night at 2 or 3 am.  

Secret hobby and/or obsession? 
Coffee plantations in sunny locales.   

Favorite city? 
That’s impossible. Osaka for the energy and oddities, Brussels for the music venues, Prague and Barcelona for the Architecture, Nashville for the Ryman Auditorium, Montreal for its European feeling with close proximity to Seattle, Anywhere New Zealand for the weird plant life. Favorite US town - Asheville North Carolina. It has a lot of east coast history and feels very liberal and experimental, with a ton of life wrapped up in such an idyllic looking small town. I love it.    

If you could get in a time machine, zoom back in time and give yourself one piece of advice before starting your business, what would it be? 
That ceiling is going to be expensive!!  

What other local business/project do you think is Small and Beautiful? 
Well, Molly Moon’s [Zack’s wife’s business] is too big to be small at this point, so I have two for you: 1) Prussian Blue in Mount Baker. Dawn is an impossible hurricane of exquisite style and sincerity that you need to know. And by you, I mean everyone. 2) Hello Robin. Catch her at work and sit at Robin’s butcher block island, built to resemble her kitchen at home, and treat yourself to the Robin Wehl experience. To me, Hello Robin will never have true competition because you can't clone Robin.