a portugal state of mind

I’m back home after six amazing weeks in Europe. It was a life-changing trip. I know I've written that before, but somehow it's always true. When I travel, I arrive home a different person from the one I left behind on my Seattle doorstep.

If I talk a lot about the transformative power of travel around here, that’s because it never ceases to amaze me. I keep expecting travel to become banal or boring or, at the very least, predictable. It never does.

Time away from home always manages to leave me awestruck at the vast and varied beauty of the world. And humbled at my small place in it.

One of the highlights of this last trip was the ten days I spent in Portugal. This sea-swept, sunny little country seems to take up a bit more real estate in my heart every time I visit!

Lisbon is a painting of bright sun, sparkling river and pastel-hued buildings arrayed along sidewalks paved in cream-colored limestone. To climb one of its many hills and look out over the city is breathtaking. Wandering Lisbon's ancient alleys for something as mundane as lunch with a friend takes on an intoxicating air of mystery. And the locals, at first reserved, are quick to offer a smile and a helpful piece of advice if you take the time to strike up a conversation. 

The rolling, sun-drenched hills of the Alentejo are my second love. This part of Portugal is all golden grasses, vineyards, olive groves and placid cows napping in the shade of cork oak trees. I love bouncing over its dusty roads in our rented car--stopping for lunch at a tiny local taberna or pulling off to buy cherries from the back of a farmer’s truck. Wending our way up a one-lane road to a hilltop castle with stunning 360° views of the valley below always leaves me a bit giddy. Watching the sunset from the terrace of an 19th-century olive oil factory that's been converted into a restaurant leaves one feeling the whole region has been sprinkled in some sort of magical dust. 

I treasure all these golden Portuguese memories. I'm grateful, too, for the effect they have on me once I'm home.
Before this trip, I was running around like a crazy person, trying to jam an unreasonable amount of work into each day. I was stressed and irritable and argumentative (to the point of throwing a blanket on my husband’s head when he refused to acknowledge my infinite wisdom).
That version of me now feels a million miles away. A Portuguese state of mind lingers on, leaving me unable to recall what I was so stressed about exactly. I'm finding it easier to focus on work instead of scrolling manically through Instagram at five minute intervals. I’m energized to dive into creative projects that have been languishing on my mental to-do list. I'm miraculously able to stop working at a reasonable hour these days in order to take walks along the lake with Beau before we head home to open a bottle of wine and throw together a simple dinner. I’m sleeping like a champ.
Travel can do that. 

Which is precisely why I keep exploring. And also why I invite you to come with me. This last trip to Portugal was so inspiring, I want you to experience it for yourself!

I'm thrilled to announce I'm teaming up with my friend Filipe to bring you a week of food, wine, creativity and beauty in sunny Lisbon this October!

Filipe and I have so many amazing experiences planned for you. We've filled this retreat with the sort of people and places no traditional tour guide could take you to--some of our most talented creative and culinary friends and visits to our very favorite, locals-only spots!

You'll cook Portuguese specialties alongside local chefs and sample the custardy sweets the country is famous for. You'll travel to an organic farm and harvest sea urchins by hand at the shore. You'll visit the studios of a jewelry-maker and a ceramicist and learn to make your own wall-hanging with a local artisan. You'll stroll historic streets sampling hyper-local wines, cheeses and other Lisbon specialties.

This is going to be the best trip ever!!! (I'm getting goosebumps just thinking about it.) This retreat is the perfect way to banish burn-out, inject creative inspiration into your life and experience this stunning country.

Registration in now open and I absolutely cannot wait to share my Portugal with you! Click the button below to join us!

small is beautiful: drygoods design

It's time for another installment of Small is Beautiful! For those of you who missed the first one, SIB was born out of a desire to document and share some of the amazing independent businesses and creative projects near and dear to my heart. I also want to provide a space where small business owners can talk about how they got started and the challenges and joys involved in running your own business. Whether you're contemplating taking the leap into setting up shop yourself or just looking for cool places to check out in Seattle, I hope you enjoy hearing their stories.

This week, I'm featuring Drygoods Design. Owner, Keli Faw's ebullient spirit combined with the expertly curated selection of beautiful fabrics and notions makes this a space I love to stop into whenever I'm in Pioneer Square. I've taken several classes here and am always thrilled (and as a novice seamstress--somewhat amazed) at the beautiful garments and accessories I leave with!

An interview with Keli Faw, owner of Drygoods Design fabric shop and sewing studio

Mad lib time! People could describe your business as Pinterest meets reality.

What is your background? 
I came out of college during an economic downturn so I headed back to retail and then as the economy improved I moved to corporate communications, PR, and marketing.

How/when did you get the idea for your current venture? 
Strangely enough, the current version of Drygoods was not originally in my mind's eye or plans. I started out as an online-only shop where I also made things to sell. I couldn't find fabric locally that I loved on a regular basis for my own line of goods so I decided I could take matters into my own hands. From there, it became more about getting the fabric to customers than the line of goods and then creating a retail experience that was not found elsewhere. After watching the power of our customers learning from each other, it just made sense to launch the studio and classes.

On a scale of one to shitting-your-pants, how nervous were you about starting your business?
Initially, it was a three because the growth and expansion were very organic, all the while keeping my day job for a couple of years. I launched Drygoods a month before my second child was born knowing that it was now or never. And at that point, it was just me. When it came to opening a retail outpost a little less than a year later, it came at one of the worst possible times in my life. My father was terminally ill but I knew that if I didn't go for it, I would always wonder what if. He passed away a month before I opened the shop. It was crazy and dark, especially with two young children and frequently traveling husband but it's strange how adaptable we are. 

The first few months of having a retail presence were almost a blur. Then it became easier, but it's taken years to get a true handle on all that I need to do and do it well. As Drygoods has grown, the stakes are higher. Knowing that you have people relying on you for their livelihood, it's much more sobering.  Since then though, the scale has shifted much more to stress and freaking out, especially when it became clear we had to move from Ballard to another neighborhood. However, our move to Pioneer Square was a really good move. Not only is it a beautiful space, it's also central to so many parts of the city and we were incredibly fortunate that so many of our Ballard customers kept coming to see us.

What's the greatest challenge with your business? 
Managing the manic nature of retail. One day is amazing, the next can be the worst. In this city, we're competing with the weather, city events, and the purchasing behaviors that major online retailers are driving. We have an amazing customer community but we are not invincible.

What do you love most about your business? What brings you the most joy? 
I love watching our customers and students react the same way we feel about fabric and/or completing a project. Watching someone catch the sewing and/or craft bug is so rewarding. And making the buying decisions around fabric. It's almost always like Christmas morning when a shipment arrives.

What's on your bedside table (be honest)? 
A few travel books for the US (my kids and I are scheduled to go on a four-week road trip this summer), the Hillbilly Elegy, the Alexander Hamilton biography, a bunch of receipts, my current knitting project, and my tarot decks

Secret hobby and/or obsession? 
It's not so secret but my cathartic moments away from the shop are found knitting, cooking, and working in our yard.

Favorite city? 
That might be the hardest of questions. In Europe - Paris, Stockholm, and Lisbon. The US - NYC and San Fran

If you could get in a time machine, zoom back into the past and give yourself one piece of advice before starting your business, what would it be? 
Okay, this is the hardest question :). I think it would be to start it earlier and diving in sooner with a more concrete version versus going from an organic, "let's see how this goes" point of view. However, at the same time, it's hard to wish for another directive. I think of all the incredible people I've met through this all and I would hate that all the good and the bad didn't potentially happen because I took a different course of action about the business.

What other local business/project do you think is Small and Beautiful? 
Some of my favorite places to shop are Re-Soul in Ballard, Phinney Books, Velouria, Clover Toys, and The Palm Room

oil-poached salmon with roasted beets and garlicky cauliflower puree


I landed in Glasgow a few hours ago and am now writing you from the the corner of a wood-paneled Scottish pub. I’ve crossed eight time zones on zero sleep--so I’m feeling simultaneously exhausted and hopped up--and I’m starting to wonder if chasing a huge coffee with a glass of red wine is as effective a jet lag cure as it seemed at the outset!

When I first arrive in a new city with no clue of how to get around or where to find a good meal or what to do with myself, I am beset by a panicky sense of dread. Right now, for example, I’m surrounded by gentlemen leafing through the local paper, sipping pints and speaking in a Glaswegian accent so thick I can barely make out what they’re saying. Not only do I feel like a crazy person from the jet lag, I feel completely out of my element. 

But, I think getting outside my comfort zone is important. 

I always come back with new ideas to incorporate into my Seattle life and new creative inspiration. Which is why I’ve been thinking a lot about how to incorporate a sense of exploration into my life even when I’m not traveling--how to experiment and take risks and step outside my comfort bubble at home. 

Lately, I’ve been experimenting with my photography, trying out new techniques to figure out what I find most compelling. Just like traveling, shooting this week’s recipe was uncomfortable at first. I felt overwhelmed and unsure of which direction to go. But once I started trying out different color schemes and compositions and lighting, it started to flow and feel more like an adventure than a nerve-racking foray into uncharted territory. 

It’s a good reminder that taking risks and venturing into the unknown keeps me growing and moving forward, even when I fear I’m sticking out like a sore American thumb and want to slink back to the hotel for a nap.

I’m heading to northern Scotland in a few days for my friend Natasha’s photography workshop. So I’ll be checking in with you next week from the Highlands. Until then, I hope you keep exploring--whether in your own living room or half-way around the globe.

Oil-Poached Salmon with Roasted Beets and Garlicky Cauliflower Puree

  • 1 lb wild salmon (I used king)
  • Good quality extra virgin olive oil (amount will vary depending on the size of your pan)
  • 1 spring onion, halved lengthwise
  • 2-3 sprigs each parsley, tarragon and dill (feel free to substitute other herbs)
  • 4 1-inch strips lemon zest
  • 1 recipe Garlicky Cauliflower Puree (see below)
  • 1 recipe Roasted Beets (see below)
  • 2 tablespoon roughly chopped dill, to serve
  • 2 tablespoons finely sliced scallion (green part only), to serve
  • 1 tablespoon, torn mint leaves, to serve

*Notes: This technique works well with any flaky fish. Cod and halibut are good choices if you prefer whitefish. Feel free to use whatever herbs you like.

Place the salmon in a single layer in a deep saucepan or saute pan. Cover with olive oil and add the spring onion, herbs and lemon zest. Cover and cook on low heat until the salmon is just cooked through. Times will vary significantly depending on the thickness of your salmon, so start checking after 15 minutes or so. Remove the salmon from the oil and transfer to a large plate or platter. Salt generously and set aside to cool. Strain the oil through a fine mesh sieve and discard the solids. (You can use the strained oil in the cauliflower puree and the roasted beets. Refrigerated, the oil will keep for a day or two. Freeze or discard any strained oil that you don’t use within this window.)

When you’re ready to serve, spread the cauliflower puree on a serving platter. Arrange the sliced beets and salmon over the puree. Sprinkle with salt and top with the dill, scallions and mint. Can be served warm or at room temperature. 

Makes 4-6 servings.

Garlicky Cauliflower Puree

  • 1 large head cauliflower (about 2 lbs.), cut into ½-inch pieces 
  • 1 cup blanched slivered almonds
  • Coarse sea salt
  • 1-2 cloves garlic
  • 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • ½ cup good quality extra virgin olive oil (can be the strained olive oil leftover from poaching the salmon)

Place the cauliflower and almonds in a stock pot and add ½ cup water. Bring the water to the boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the cauliflower is very tender, 30-35 minutes. Remove the lid in the last 5 or so minutes of cooking to allow any water in the bottom of the pot to evaporate.

Transfer the cauliflower and almonds to a blender or food processor along with a generous pinch of salt, 1 clove of garlic and the red wine vinegar. Process on high speed, stopping to scrape down the sides as necessary, until very smooth. Taste and add the other garlic clove if your puree isn’t as garlicky as you’d like. With the motor running, drizzle the olive oil into the blender or food processor in a thin stream. Process until the oil is completely emulsified and the mixture is smooth. Taste and add more salt, if necessary. Set aside.

Makes 4-6 servings.

Roasted Beets

  • 4-5 medium beets (1 to 1 ¼ lbs), greens removed
  • Olive oil, for drizzling
  • Coarse sea salt
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 teaspoon allspice berries
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, plus more to taste

Preheat your oven to 400°F.

Place the beets in a non-reactive baking dish. Drizzle with a little olive oil. Sprinkle with the salt. Place the cinnamon, allspice and garlic in the dish. Add the water and vinegar. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and roast for 45-60 minutes, until tender at the center when pierced with a paring knife. Set aside. Strain the cinnamon stick, allspice berries and garlic from the juices in the bottom of the baking dish. Discard the solids and keep the beet cooking liquid.

When the beets are cool enough to handle, remove the skins (use latex gloves or paper towels to avoid staining your hands) and cut into quarters or large dice. Place the cut beets in a non-reactive bowl and toss with their cooking liquid. Adjust seasonings, adding more red wine vinegar, salt and olive oil to taste.

Makes 4-6 servings.