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

palm springs

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

grapefruit curd tart + how to plan your perfect birthday

Image + styling: Olaiya Land

I had a birthday over the holidays. In honor of which I made myself this grapefruit curd tart. Because grapefruit is one of my favorite flavors. And because grapefruit goes really well with champagne. And because I love champagne.

Some people might think a person shouldn’t have to bake her own birthday dessert. I have to disagree.

We live in an age of endless to-do lists. Tsunamis of work obligations. The creeping suspicion (developed after too many hours on Instagram) that our ass is too big. Or too small. Or not clad in the right brand of aggressively tight workout gear. Or too often glued to our couch as we binge-watch Netflix.

Image + styling: Olaiya Land

Which is why we need a day set aside to remember that everything about us is OK. Beautiful even. Regardless of how few items we’ve checked off our productivity app. Or how our boss feels about our TPS reports. Or the size of our backside.

And what better occasion to proclaim “fuck it” to all the obligations of adulthood and spend the day doing exactly what you want than your birthday?

Yes, it is impractical. Yes, you might feel like you don’t deserve it. Yes, it might even feel a little sinful. And yes, it will be 100% WORTH IT.

To help you fully celebrate yourself, I’ve put together a list of the 10 Birthday Commandments. As someone with a Christmas birthday who still manages to make the day her own, I consider myself something of an expert. Consider this your modern self-care manifesto.

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The 10 Birthday Commandments

  1. Sleep in. Ask your partner to get the kids ready for school. Tell your roommates to wake you under absolutely no circumstances. Because you need plenty of delicious sleep to wake up feeling like the goddess that you are.

  2. Skip work. Yes, I mean it. Take a personal day. Call in sick. Bribe your boss with cronuts for a month. I don’t care. Do whatever it takes to get the whole day to yourself. Remember: work is highly detrimental to the art of celebrating yourself.

  3. Start the day out by eating your favorite things. Chicken and waffles? Pancakes? Leftover pizza? Birthday cake? Yup. Kick that diet mindset to the curb. Nothing is verboten on your b-day. To make your birthday morning extra delightful, make sure you have what you need for said breakfast on hand. Hangry is no way to start the day.

  4. Wear your favorite outfit. Feel like zipping into a skin-tight dress and super high heels that make you feel sexy AF? Do it. Prefer to spend the day in your softest tights and hoodie? It’s all good. Today is a day for living your best life.

  5. Proclaim yourself queen for the day. Seriously. This is a thing we do in my family. When it’s your birthday, you get to choose the food, the music, the pace, the movie. Make sure your friends and fam are on board beforehand though or things could get a little heated.

  6. As Your Royal Highness, you now have permission to fill your day with things you love to do. Get a massage. Take in an art exhibit solo. Hit a spin class to get yourself energized. Have lunch with your best friends at your favorite restaurant. Make it happen!

  7. Buy yourself a present. As nice as it is to receive presents from others, your friends and family are not mind-readers. Only you can buy yourself exactly what you want. Right color. Right size. Right details. Buy yourself something that brings you joy, and feel no guilt.

  8. Let your squad celebrate you. Even if you aren’t used to being the center of attention. Letting your friends and family shower you with love is one of the best parts of having friends and family.

  9. But don’t expect anyone to make your day unforgettable. Don’t get me wrong--a perfectly executed surprise party or a bottle of champagne for two by firelight are pretty special. But unless you are supremely lucky, they aren’t going to happen every single year. Which is why I’m a big fan of taking matters into your own hands. Communication is key. Let those around you know what you want and need on your special day. Then plan some (or all) of the festivities yourself. It’s your day; you get to live it however you like.

  10. Disregard any (or all) of these commandments if they don’t fit your personality. Add your own birthday commandments if you want. The most important thing is that you fill your day with all the things and people you love most. And that you create a moment to celebrate your beautiful, amazing, perfect self.

Image + styling: Olaiya Land

Grapefruit Curd Tart

  • 1/2 recipe pâte sucrée (see below)
  • 1 teaspoon unflavored powdered gelatin
  • 2 tablespoons cold water
  • 160g (3/4 cup + 1 tablespoon) granulated sugar
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 160mL (2/3 cup) freshly-squeezed grapefruit juice
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated grapefruit zest
  • Pinch kosher or sea salt
  • A few drops red food coloring (optional)
  • 70g (5 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut into 5 pieces
  • 240mL (1 cup) heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons powdered sugar (optional)
  • Few thin slices grapefruit to decorate the tart (optional)

Pâte Sucrée

  • 320g (2 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher or flaky sea salt
  • 220g (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
  • 60mL (1/4 cup) ice water, plus more if needed

*Notes: The pâte sucrée can be frozen up to 1 month. Defrost overnight in the refrigerator before proceeding with the recipe.

- The tart shell can be baked a day in advance. Cool it completely in the pan then wrap tightly in plastic wrap until you’re ready to fill it.

- I prefer to top the tart with the whipped cream just before serving. But it can be assembled and topped with the whipped cream up to a day in advance without losing much in terms of texture. If you go this route, be sure to use powdered sugar in the whipped cream as it helps stabilize it. Place the tart on a large plate and invert a large bowl over the top to protect the whipped cream before putting it in the fridge. (This is also how I stored the leftovers.)

- Remove the tart from the fridge 30 minutes before serving.

Image + styling: Olaiya Land

For the crust: Pulse the flour, sugar and salt in a food processor to combine. Add the butter and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal, about 10 seconds. Add the yolks and pulse to just combine. With the machine running, add the ice water in a slow, steady stream through feed tube until the dough just holds together (no longer than 20 seconds). Check the dough by stopping the machine then pinching some of the dough together in your hand. It should come together into a ball when you squeeze it. Don’t wait for the dough to come together in the machine.

Turn the dough out onto a clean work surface. Gather it together into a ball then divide the dough in half. Shape each half into a 1/2-inch thick disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least an hour (and up to 2 days).

Roll out one disk of dough to roughly 1/4-inch thickness. Transfer the dough to an 8-inch shallow, removable-bottom tart pan. Lift and press it into the edges of the pan. Do not stretch the dough into the edges as this will make your crust shrink as it bakes. Trim the edges of the crust. One trick I use is to press the sides down into the flutes of the tart pan to make them a little thicker then the bottom. I use a rolling pin to roll over the top of the tart, trimming off any excess dough. Then I use my fingers to push the sides up just slightly past the top edge of the pan. Use a fork to prick holes evenly over the bottom of the tart (this is called docking). Place the tart pan in the freezer until the dough is frozen solid (15-20 minutes).

When you are ready to bake the tart shell, arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat it to 400°F (205°C). Line the frozen shell with parchment paper and then fill it with pie weights (I use beans. You can also use rice.)

Bake the shell until the edges are starting to brown, about 25 minutes. Carefully remove the parchment and pie weights (they will be very hot), reduce the oven to 375°F (190°C) and continue to bake until the center is golden brown and dry, about 15 minutes more. (Cover the edges with aluminum foil if they are darkening too quickly.) Transfer the tart shell to a wire rack and cool completely in the pan. When you’re ready to fill the cooled tart shell, carefully remove it from the tart pan and place it on a serving plate.

For the curd: Whisk together the gelatin and cold water in a small bowl, and set aside to let the gelatin absorb the water. Set a fine mesh sieve over a medium bowl and set aside.

Place the sugar, eggs, juices, zest and salt in a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Whisk well to combine. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring often, until just warm to the touch. Add 1 piece of the butter and cook, stirring constantly with a heatproof spatula to prevent scorching, until the butter is almost melted. Repeat with the remaining pieces of butter. If using, add food coloring 1 drop at a time, stirring well after each addition, until you reach your desired color.

Cook the mixture, whisking frequently, until it thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon. If you want to use a candy thermometer, cook the curd until it reaches 175° F (79°C).

Once the curd thickens, remove the pan from the heat and pour the curd through the fine mesh strainer into the bowl to remove any bits of cooked egg. Microwave the small bowl of gelatin for 10 seconds, until it is liquid. Add the liquefied gelatin to the bowl of grapefruit curd and whisk well.

Pour the curd into the baked and cooled tart shell and transfer it to the refrigerator. Chill until the curd is set, at least an hour.

To serve: Place the cream and powdered sugar (if using) in a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat at medium-high speed until firm peaks form. Take care not to overwhip the cream. Mound the whipped cream in the middle of the chilled tart and spread with the back of a spoon to make decorative swoops. Arrange the grapefruit slices over the whipped cream and serve.

Makes 1 8-inch tart

Pâte Sucrée recipe from Martha Stewart’s Cooking School. Curd recipe adapted from SugarHero!

Image + styling: Olaiya Land