dump your plans in the trash + roasted figs with mozzarella

Image & Styling: Olaiya Land

Hello BBs!

I’m writing you this week from atop the folding zone of a Brussels laundromat. (Behold the sexy and glamorous life of a world traveler!) Beau and I are here staying with friends and getting a little rest after all the excitement and chaos of Paris last week.

The photography and creativity workshop we hosted there was such a good one! We spent 5 days shooting, eating, drinking and sharing real talk with some amazing women.

Image & Styling: Olaiya Land
Image & Styling: Olaiya Land

This year we were able to rent my friend Zoé’s photography studio. Which turned out to be an absolute game changer.

First, because I didn’t have to schlep a suitcase full of equipment and props from home. (I HATE schlepping. You know the person who will risk breaking a leg carrying 8 grocery bags in from the car up the steps to the house rather than make 2 trips? Yeah, thassss me.)

Second, because I didn’t have to spend a small fortune buying props in Paris. Ok, tbh, I kinda sorta actually love shopping for gorgeous ceramics and linens and tableware in Paris. (Duh.) But then we’re back to that whole schlepping problem…

Third, and most importantly, because working in someone else’s space with someone else’s props and backdrops was a crazy huge creativity boost.

Image & Styling: Olaiya Land

When I’m shooting at home, I always have a general sense of how I want things to go. But working in a new space I had no preconceived vision of how the shoot might go. I didn’t even plan out what I’d be styling and shooting with our guests. I decided to keep things fresh by just hitting my fave Paris market and working with whatever produce looked especially photogenic that day. (Ok, I might have run out of time to plan it all out and decided to wing it.) In the end it was sort of like a cross between Top Chef and Project Runway—but for food photography!

And it turns out planning nothing changed everything.

Image: Olaiya Land

Instead of creating a shot list and laying everything out in my mind, and then literally in the studio, the whole day felt like play. I was able to ask the group: What if we tried backdrop? How do you feel about this color linen? Let’s see if this plate is speaking to us…

Improvising each step opened up space to experiment. And experimentation is the oxygen creativity needs to breathe. The whole process led to unexpected results. Zoé shoots mostly bright and natural. I like the chiaroscuro of strong light, hard shadows and moody jewel tones. Working with Zoé’s tools pushed me out of my usual habits and rhythms and forced me to create in a different way.

And I gotta say, I’m feeling the results pretty hard.

Image & Styling: Olaiya Land
Image & Styling: Olaiya Land

I like to think of this as the universe reminding those of us with control-freak tendencies (oh, hello) that creativity needs both structure and improvisation to take form.

So the next time you’re struggling to come up with a fresh idea or wrap your head around what your next design, photo shoot, blog post or pitch might look like--try loosening the reins for a day. Wipe the slate clear. Head to a new space. Pick up a new set of tools. And see what magic might arise.

Image & Styling: Olaiya Land

Roasted Figs with Mozzarella (a recipe to improvise)

  • 8-12 large or 15-20 small firm-ripe figs
  • fruity olive oil
  • dry white wine
  • 1 lemon or small orange
  • honey
  • crunchy or flaky sea salt
  • 2 balls fresh mozzarella
  • sliced and toasted bread (optional)

Preheat your oven to 500°F/260°C.

Slice 8-12 large or 15-20 small firm-ripe figs in half and place in a roasting pan. Drizzle with a tablespoon or so of fruity olive oil and about 1/4 cup white wine (use water if you don't do alcohol). Add large strips of zest cut with a vegetable peeler from a small lemon or orange then squeeze the juice into the pan. Drizzle with a little honey and top with a pinch of salt. Roast for 10-15 mins (until bubbling). Add a little water at the end to deglaze if the sauce gets too thick.

The roasted figs are delicious over vanilla ice cream, yogurt or cake. (Or eaten warm straight from the pan lol.)

But to make this salad, tear 2 balls of fresh mozzarella into large pieces. Arrange on a serving platter and salt lightly. Arrange the figs and zest over the mozzarella. Drizzle with the juices from the pan and a little more olive oil. Sprinkle lightly with crunchy salt and serve as a salad or on slices of toasted bread (which is an especially delicious breakfast).

Makes about 4 servings.

Image & Styling: Olaiya Land

peach-plum buckle

Image & styling: Olaiya Land
Image & styling: Olaiya Land

I’m celebrating!

I baked this cake in honor of the fact that I am officially done with diets. Hopefully forever.

As I wrote here I have tried pretty much every form of controlling my body known to (wo)man. Starting with disordered eating in my teens all the way through the latest vegan, paleo and keto crazes.

We’re talking ALLLLLLLL the diets. And the un-diets. And the cleanses. And the “lifestyle overhauls”. Always seeking to be thinner. Smaller. To take up less space.

But I am done with that.

Image & styling: Olaiya Land
Image & styling: Olaiya Land

I am done feeling ashamed that I’m not a size 4. I’m done feeling like a failure because I don’t fit the beauty standard laid out by the diet industry. And fashion magazines. And mainstream advertising. I am done waging war on a body that keeps me healthy and strong. That allows me to experience the joy of playing tennis and lifting weights and hiking in the forest. I’m ready to start treating my body like the miraculous gift that it is.

Oddly, Instagram is largely to thank for this new-found liberation. I’ve started following fitness bloggers who value strength and self-acceptance over thinness. (Whassup @shethrivesblog and @anniemiller.co!) And brands that use models of all shapes, sizes, colors and ages. (Hello @chromat and @universalstandard!) And plus size models who show me that you can be sexy and self-confident at any size. (Yes @jenniferatilemile and @jessicavanderleahy!) And anti-diet crusaders who have made me rethink my attitudes toward how I feed and care for myself. (Thank you @susanhyatt and @thefuckitdiet!)

Following all these women who choose to celebrate the female body in all its amazing forms has helped me realize I don’t need to change a single thing about my beautiful body.

And neither do you.

Image & styling: Olaiya Land
Image & styling: Olaiya Land

I know that if you are currently feeling the body shame I felt for years, this message is going to sound like a pile of blissed-out bullshit. I have been there. I mean let’s be honest: I’ve lived there for most of my life.

But something has shifted in me lately. Maybe because I’ve gotten older and a little bit wiser. Maybe because I’ve been spending a lot of time in Europe where I feel more balanced and at ease with myself. Who knows. I’ll take it however it comes.

If some part of you thinks you might want to make peace with your body, I highly recommend you check out the bloggers and Instagrammers I linked to above. Taylor Gage and Caroline Dooner have been especially valuable to me on my path towards greater self-love and acceptance.

And wherever you’re at on the path towards loving and cherishing yourself, celebrating yourself with a cake is never a bad move.

Peach Plum Buckle

  • 225g (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus extra for the pan
  • 250g (1 cup plus 4 tablespoons) sugar, divided
  • 1/2 vanilla bean
  • 215g (1 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour
  • 70g (3/4 cup) almond flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 firm-ripe peaches, sliced 1/2-inch thick
  • 225g (8 oz.) plums, pitted and halved (if small) or sliced cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices (if larger)

*Notes: I love, love, love this cake! I've been making versions of this one since way back in 2006. I almost never make recipes twice. So I guarantee you it's a good one!

- I made this version with cherry plums because we have a cherry plum tree in our front yard. I had never heard of cherry plums until we moved into this house so I don’t think they’re particularly common. I’ve made this with tons of different kinds of plums though and it’s always delicious.

- You can use any variety of stone fruit you like: peaches, nectarines, apricots, plums, cherries, sour cherries (mix these with a little extra sugar if you go that route). Whatever.

- This cake magically gets better and better as it sits. I leave mine covered with a tea towel on the counter and on days 2 and 3 it is PHENOMENAL. (Did I mention I love this cake?)

Image & styling: Olaiya Land

Position a rack in the center of your oven and preheat it to 350°F. Butter a 9-inch cake pan and line the bottom with a round of parchment. Butter the parchment. Then flour the pan, tapping out the excess flour.

Cut the vanilla bean in half and scrape out the seeds with a paring knife. In a small bowl rub the vanilla seeds into 1 cup of the sugar until they are well distributed. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, almond flour, baking powder and salt to remove any lumps. Using a stand mixer, beat the butter until fluffy. Add the cup of vanilla sugar. Beat until well blended. Add the eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. On low speed, add the flour mixture and mix until just incorporated.

Transfer the batter to your pan (it will be VERY thick). Spread the batter evenly in the pan then arrange the fruit over the batter, pressing it down slightly.

Bake the cake until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 80-90 minutes. Cool the cake in the pan on a rack for 20 minutes. Run a small knife between the cake and the pan to loosen it. Then turn the cake out onto a large plate. Remove the parchment paper. Place another large plate or serving platter on top of the cake. Using both hands, hold both plates firmly together and flip the cake again, plum side up. Cool completely before serving.

Makes 8-10 servings

Adapted from Bon Appetit

Image & styling: Olaiya Land

herbal white port & tonic

Image and styling: Olaiya Land

I just got back from almost 3 months of working and traveling in Portugal, France and Belgium. The thing I’ve been thinking about most since we got home is how opening myself up to life’s many pleasures on this trip has helped me feel more connected to myself and my creative voice.⠀

I'm the sort of person who tends to slowly tighten the screws until I'm white-knuckling everything and completely miserable. ⠀

I've tried pretty much all the forms of controlling my body and my life: No carbs. Slow carbs. Keto. Beautiful-Mind-level calorie tracking spreadsheets. Mandatory 5am runs. Hours on the treadmill and the elliptical. 16-hour days. 80-hour weeks. Draconian budgets. Juice cleanses. And prescriptive "lifestyle makeovers". So much restricting in so many forms. So much denying myself kindness and pleasure in the name of “self improvement”.

The time I've spent traveling has helped me slowly let go of a restrictive, control-obsessed mindset and offer myself more freedom and joy. When you’re far from home, you’re forced to surrender a bit of control. Grocery stores don’t carry the food you’re used to. Shops keep different hours. Life flows at a different pace.

Image and styling: Olaiya Land

It feels completely reasonable to have pain au chocolat for breakfast if you feel like it. Maybe a pastel de nata with your afternoon coffee. Walking becomes your main mode of transportation. You spend many idle hours on the terrace of your favorite cafe drinking espresso and people-watching. Your work hours shift to leave time for naps and dinners with friends. You drink more wine.

Plus, none of our european friends give two shits about working out all the time. Or drinking protein smoothies. Or spending a gazillion hours a week on work. Our friend Filipe surfs because he loves the ocean. Michel and Cecilia ride their bikes to work and go for long walks in the forest by their house on the weekends. Matilde and Mafalda get around Porto on foot. Sara does yoga. They all eat pastries and drink wine without having any sort of public freak out or the need to talk about how they’re being “naughty”.

After the last 3 months of living a looser, slower, more pleasure-focused lifestyle, I am feeling more relaxed and approving of myself than I ever have. I'm enjoying my work. I'm sleeping well for the first time in years. And Beau and I have had so many ideas for new ways to run our business and build community.⠀

Image and styling: Olaiya Land

If you're feeling like you need to have everything under control all the time, I feel you. I have lived there most of my life. ⠀

But here's a little reminder that pleasure and joy are the sparks that will keep you burning bright for years to come. Loosening the reigns a bit might even get you closer to your goals than doubling down on the hours you spend in the office and the gym.

To help you lean into living a more pleasure-filled life, here’s a super easy recipe for a Herbal White Port and Tonic cocktail. My friend Filipe and I served it at our pop up dinner in Lisbon and it was the perfect drink for a warm night. I hope you carve out some time this weekend to mix up one of these, kick your feet up, turn your phone off and watch the world go by.

If you want to lean into pleasure in a big way, join me in Paris this October for a 6-day photography & creativity workshop! You’ll step out of your day-to-day rhythms, hone your photography skills and get fresh inspiration from being in one of the world’s most beautiful cities.

And of course there will be daily doses of buttery croissants, dark chocolate, cave-aged cheeses and natural wines. Because, Paris.

Click here to find your next yes.

Herbal White Port and Tonic

  • 1/4 cup (60 ML) dry white port
  • 1/2 cup (120 ML) tonic water
  • Pinch pink peppercorns
  • Pinch fennel seeds
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme

*Note: We made these with Quinta do Infantado white port and Schweppes tonic water. I don’t think there’s any need to use a premium tonic water in this cocktail since the flavors of the port and herbs are fairly strong and would hide the nuances of a more subtle tonic.

Fill and 8 ounce (240 ML) glass with ice. Pour the port and the tonic over the ice. Stir. Top with a pinch of pink peppercorns, a pinch of fennel seeds and the fresh thyme sprig.

Makes 1 cocktail

Image and styling: Olaiya Land