building community + a spicy, creamy avocado dip

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A few days before our trip to Portugal, Beau and I were neck deep in prepping the house for our AirBnB guests, packing and wrapping up work projects. I had slept for approximately three hours the night before and a massive headache was boring its way through my skull. I was in no mood to have guests over.

But the week before, in a moment of “brilliance”, Beau and I had decided that we needed to host a community-building meetup of fellow entrepreneurs and creatives.

So after prepping assorted crudités and a charcuterie plate and a trio of colorful dips, I was slumped on the couch dreading the small talk I would soon be making with a house full of COMPLETE STRANGERS.

(I’ll pause here for a moment to tell you that I am a serious introvert and as such I would pretty much rather have acid thrown in my face than make small talk with strangers—which is what small talk feels like for most introverts anyway. If you want to talk about big ideas or deep emotions or your burning passion for early 17th century postage stamps, I’m game. If you ask me about the weather, I will smile awkwardly and make strange noises and sort of side-scramble away.)

Soooooo. At 5:00 I was sitting on the couch cursing myself for organizing this meet-up and secretly hoping the house would burn down before our guests arrived.

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At 6:15 the doorbell started ringing and one by one, our guests trickled in:

A woman who came all the way from Vancouver, Canada to get feedback and support on her growing food tourism business. A work-from-home mom and illustrator who wants to grow her business now that her daughter is in school. A woman looking to lead a more creative, less perfection-driven life after beating a cancer diagnosis.

And so many others.

We discussed how hard it is to be the CEO, creative director, staff photographer, marketing team and admin all rolled into one when you’re running your own company.

We talked about how isolating and overwhelming it can feel when you’re home alone in front of a blank computer screen trying to bring your vision to life. How tempting it is to answer the very important 3,479 emails in your inbox. Or redo your instagram feed so it forms a perfect patchwork and spells your name backwards if you squint your eyes just right. Instead of filling your creative cup.

We commiserated over the way fear and perfectionism can leave you paralyzed—afraid to create the podcast, take the class, make the prototype or raise your rates.

Everyone shared with incredible honesty and vulnerability. It was about a gazillion times better than I’d imagined. Having the meetup was like getting plugged into a 1000 watt battery. I was high on sisterhood and full of fresh ideas for days afterwards.

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Which got me thinking about how much solopreneurs, small business owners, artists and freelancers miss out on the energy and connection that comes from working in a team.

It’s true we don’t have unreasonable bosses looming over our desks telling us to get it done yesterday. We can hole up on the couch with a bag of chips at 2pm on a Tuesday to watch reruns of The Office if we feel like it. No one is giving us any shit about logging our vacation days.

But we lose the feedback and encouragement of co-workers. There’s no swapping stories around the water cooler. No high-fives and after-work beers to celebrate the completion of a big project. No office kickball league.

And that connection matters.

We all need community. But our perfectionist tendencies sometimes make it hard for us to have it. We need the “perfect” reason to host a meetup or have someone over, the “perfectly” instagrammable dinner party. But I’m here to say fuck that noise. And to encourage you to host an imperfect gathering, here’s a dip you can whip up in 10 minutes flat with ingredients you probably have rolling around in your fridge right now. So you can invite someone over—your neighbor, your new friend, that barista you have a crush on—and have a moment of connecting.

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In that spirit, Beau and I have decided to do a lot more events that bring people together: Meetups for entrepreneurs and creatives looking for their people. Community-building pop-up dinners. Photography workshops focusing not only on technique, but also on how to grow your creative voice. International retreats designed around slow travel, connection and personal growth.

Because as much as I was dreading this meetup in the hours before our guests arrived, it turned out to be brilliant after all. It’s the spark that has me energized to create new experiences and grow our community. The energy that filled my creative cup to overflowing.

Which is what I want for you.

If you are a member of the solitary work-from-home posse, if you spend your days glued to your laptop in a coffee shop or alone with your art in a studio, or if you are just looking for experiences designed to help you lead a more connected and creative life, we have lots of good things coming your way.

Starting with a pop-up dinner in Lisbon in May and a photography workshop in Seattle in July! Details and registration are coming soon. In the meantime, join our First to Know List and get early access to all our events.

I can’t wait to see you there!


Spicy, Creamy, Easy-Peasy Avocado Dip

  • 1 large avocado
  • 1 scallion, sliced
  • 1/4 jalapeño with seeds, sliced
  • Juice of 1/2 a lime
  • Generous pinch of salt
  • 1/4 cup loosely packed cilantro, leaves and stems
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup cream
  • Extra virgin olive oil, to garnish (optional)
  • Black sesame seeds or toasted pepitas, to garnish (optional)

*Notes: If you want a less spicy dip, you can deseed the jalapeño or leave it out altogether.

- This dip keeps well for 3-4 days, tightly covered and refrigerated. But I think the flavor is best on the first day.

- This makes a great salad dressing or sauce for tacos, chicken or fish. Just thin it with a bit more water or cream to your desired consistency.

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Combine all the ingredients in a blender and process on high speed until the dip is completely smooth.. You might need to add a little more water to get the mixture going, depending on the strength of your blender. 

Taste. Add more salt, lime, or jalapeño if you want. Blend until uniform.

To serve, transfer the dip to a bowl. Use the back of a spoon to make decorative swoops in the dip. Pour a bit of extra virgin olive oil over the dip and top with seeds and a sprinkling of flaky sea salt if you like.

Makes about 1 1/2 to 2 cups dip.

passion fruit parfaits + the beauty of improvisation

Image + styling: Olaiya Land

I had a big post planned for you this week on the importance of improvisation. But then the week turned into an insomnia-induced shitshow that saw me stumbling through my days like a member of the walking dead. So it turns out I’m improvising this post on improvisation. Ta-da!

Is that meta? Karma? The Universe calling my bluff?

I’m not entirely sure. And I’m too sleep deprived to untangle the metaphysical ramifications just now.

Image + styling: Olaiya Land

But here’s what I do know: Last fall we were staying with our friends Cecilia and Michel in Brussels (who, on a side note, are two of the coolest people I know. I mean he’s an actual physicist. And she’s an art historian. And they live in this gorgeous old house full of flea market finds and photographs and friendly cats. We’re talking major #goals here people.) Anyhoo, when we were staying with our way-cooler-than-us friends Cecilia and Michel, Beau and I ended up at the local market trying to figure out what to cook for dinner that would allow us to appear half as cool as they are.

As we wandered around the store cramming our cart full of exotic European ingredients like sheep’s milk yogurt and rye crispbreads and chestnut paste, I spied a bin full of pruney, sad looking passion fruit. Real talk: I had never actually laid hands on a passion fruit before. But I had a vague notion that they were supposed to be wrinkly. The wrinklier, the better even. Also, they were cheap. I tossed the whole binful in my cart and rolled on, triumphant.

Image + styling: Olaiya Land
Image + styling: Olaiya Land

When it came time to actually do something with my prize produce (as opposed to just feeling like a superstar for snagging a bushel of cheap but potentially rotten passion fruit), I was at a loss. I crossed my fingers and cut into one.

The papery shell revealed a center full of black seeds suspended in a neon orange jelly. Sort of like radioactive tadpoles. But it smelled amazing. Not rotten or overripe at all. I gingerly slipped one of the tadpoles into my mouth.

It was like I’d stepped into a tropical jungle. All musky and floral and fruity. More sour and intense than the passion fruit macarons and eclairs and jellies I’d tasted. I bit down on the seed and it shattered between my teeth. It was a crisp, brittle crunchiness that immediately gave way to a flavor explosion. Like the sexiest Pop Rocks you’ve ever tasted. I was hooked.

Image + styling: Olaiya Land
Image + styling: Olaiya Land

I rummaged around the kitchen and was able to unearth some stray containers of coconut yogurt, a jar of honey and a half bag of pistachios. After five minutes of chopping and layering and artful swirling, these passion fruit parfaits were born. They were the hit of the evening.

I’ve since made these for guests of our retreats. For dinner parties. For Beau and I to take down on the couch while binge watching The Office. These parfaits are easy, delicious and come together in less time than it will take you to read this blog post. Making them ideal for almost any occasion.

And they started with a willingness to take a risk on a pile of shriveled discount passion fruit. (Ok, if we’re being honest, a deep love of bargain-basement prices and the desire to impress our friends might have played a part as well.).

Image + styling: Olaiya Land

But the point is, this is where my big, philosophical post on the beauty of improvisation was headed anyway: You can’t control everything and when you try, you lose out on some of life’s sweeter moments.

Which is a lesson I, personally, need to be reminded of daily. So if you need me, I’ll be over here eating passion fruit parfaits and trying to remember that a spur-of-the-moment improvisation is sometimes the surest move.


Passion Fruit Parfaits

  • 8-12 ripe passion fruit (this should be enough for 3-4 parfaits)
  • Coconut yogurt
  • Honey
  • Pistachios, roughly chopped
  • Pinch flaky salt

*Notes: Since this is a post on improvising and since this parfait is super flexible, I’m not going to give you specific quantities. Just taste and sweeten to your liking depending on how sour your passion fruit and yogurt are. Use as much yogurt and pistachios as makes you happy.

- Counterintuitively, the sweetest passion fruit look like they’ve gone bad. They are wrinkled and shriveled but they will smell sweet and fragrant. If you can’t find ripe passion fruit, buy them when their skins are smooth and leave them out on the counter for a week or so to ripen. Here’s a guide to choosing and using passion fruit in case you need a little help.

- If you’re in Seattle, you can buy passion fruit at Uwajimaya. Be forewarned, they are expensive.

- I make homemade coconut yogurt using this recipe, but any coconut yogurt will work. If I’m using store bought, I like Coyo (available at most Whole Foods). You can also use dairy yogurt or a mix of the two. I sometimes use half greek yogurt + half coconut yogurt.

- A few coconut flakes would not be amiss here. And a layer of not-too-sweet granola turns this into a healthy breakfast in my book.

Image + styling: Olaiya Land

Cut the passion fruit in half and scoop the seeds into a small bowl. You can add the honey to the seeds a little bit at a time and stir to combine until you get the sweetness you like. But I’m usually too lazy for that. I just layer my ingredients together and then stir it all together as I eat.

I do think it looks nice to have a layer of yogurt on topped with a few pistachios, a drizzle of honey and a pinch of salt. But that’s just me. There really is no way to go wrong here.

If you want to get fancy, you can do 2 (or more) layers of each ingredient.

how to thrive in hustle culture

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A week ago I was sitting poolside in Palm Spring working my way through the New York Times and next-leveling my tan. I’m the sort of Times reader who’s in it for the fun stuff: the Magazine, the Travel section, Arts & Leisure. Maybe the Book Review if I’m feeling intellectual. So I had no intention of perusing the Business section.

But then, from behind my movie-star sunglasses I spied a fascinating title: “The Drudge Report: How did millennial workaholism become an aspirational lifestyle?” I’m obsessed with all psychological phenomena having to do with millennials (You’re so mysterious! Such exotic birds.) and I’m on an absolute crusade against the busy-ness epidemic that’s engulfed our era. There was no way I wasn’t going to read a paragraph or two.

Fifteen minutes later, I had devoured the whole 3-page spread with my mouth hanging wide open, huffing and harrumphing and muttering Can you believe this shit?!? under my breath like someone’s grouchy uncle Al.

This piece on the rise of Hustle Culture exposed my non-millennial brain to such pithy phrases as Rise and Grind, Hustle Harder, and (a personal favorite) Don’t stop when you’re tired. Stop when you’re done.

Or perhaps: when you’re bleeding out of your eyeballs?

What in the actual fuck is happening here people?

If a whole (very large, very influenceable) segment of the population is buying into the #ThankGodIt’sMonday war cry of workaholism, we’ve got a problem.

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Now I’m not advocating we while away our days eating Taco Bell and watching reality TV on the couch. Or join some giant hippie commune that devotes itself to brewing organic kombucha and smoking copious quantities of pot. (Unless of course that’s your jam, in which case, turn on, tune in and carry on.)

I get it. I’ve been there. I graduated from college with a bachelor’s in Anxiety, Insecurity and Overwork. I’m no stranger to 80+ hour workweeks and an insouciant, I’ll-sleep-when-I’m-dead outlook on life.

But here’s the thing. If I was miraculously transported back in time (a common daydream of mine, by the way—I spend a lot of time fantasizing about how much of a badass I’d be if I went through college with the knowledge and confidence of a 40-year-old), I’d do it SO DIFFERENTLY.

Image: Olaiya Land

First of all, I wouldn’t be obsessed with graduating summa cum laude from an Ivy League institution. Back in the day, I thought this meant something. I’m embarrassed to admit, I thought it meant everything. And I sacrificed my health and happiness to make it happen. If I was an undergrad again, I’d learn for the love of learning. I’d coast in areas that didn’t matter. I’d realize that there’s no degree in the world that unlocks the secret of a good life.

Next up, I’d worship at the temple of sleep. I’d get a solid 8-9 hours every night. I often wonder how much saner and less anxious a person I’d have been 20 years ago if I’d given even half a fuck about getting enough sleep. Needing sleep is not a marker of weakness or work ethic. Despite what Elon Musk might have to say on the matter, sleep and rest are the building blocks of wellbeing and mental performance. (Also, have you seen Elon Musk lately? No offense to the guy since he does seem to be a legit genius and all, but he’s looking a bit worse for wear.)

This time-traveling message in a bottle to myself would also include the advice to pursue balance and to work smarter instead of longer, or even harder. There’s a time and a place for hard work and even long hours, but killing yourself 24/7 and venerating it as “crushing life” will catch up with you eventually. Sending work emails at 3 AM to impress your manager is not the answer. Scarfing a soggy ham sandwich hunched over your keyboard like Quasimodo does not make you a Bawse.

Image: Olaiya Land

I’m not alone on this BTW. As the author of our Times article mentions, there’s a lot of “data showing long hours improve neither productivity nor creativity.”

And still we cling to the myth that the answer is to “hustle harder”.

What if the answer was actually to “hustle smarter”? Or nuttier still, to stop “hustling” all together? What if the key to a happy, fulfilling life was to both look for work you find fulfilling in some way (let’s be real: not every individual on the planet is going to “do what they love”) and to seek the value in the work that you do? Almost all jobs can be done with dignity and pride, especially if you focus on how they help others, or make the world a little brighter.

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What if the Big Secret was not to make work the driver of your every action and the justification for living a stressed-out, social-media-scrolling existence?

I’m going to balance precariously on a fairly unpopular limb and say the answer is to create space for things like reading the New York Times poolside in Palm Springs. For charting the hidden corners of Paris with your camera at dawn. With no laptop and no phone and all your social media accounts uninstalled.

The answer is to make time for escaping to places that fill you with wonder and delight. Whether that means wandering the world for a year or taking a sunny afternoon off for a backyard picnic with your kids. It doesn’t have to be fancy. And it doesn’t have to be far. The road to greater productivity and creativity is paved with Out of Office notifications. Because the key to doing great things, in life and at work, is to create the space to actually have great ideas.

Image: Olaiya Land