smoky calendula margaritas

image: Olaiya Land
image: Olaiya Land

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.

image: Olaiya Land
image: Olaiya Land

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. 

image: Olaiya Land
image: Olaiya Land

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.

image: Olaiya Land
image: Olaiya Land

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.

image: Olaiya Land
image: Olaiya Land
image: Olaiya Land

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. 

image: Olaiya Land

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.

image: Olaiya Land

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.