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

the love list

Image: Olaiya Land

Hello beautiful people!

I’ve got a lot of new projects in the works--which is why it’s been a little slow around here lately. But I didn’t want to leave you without some weekend inspiration. So here’s a little Love List to help you kick things off in style!



- I'm getting antsy to take off on my next travel adventure. In the meantime, I scratch my travel itch daily with the gorgeous images Suitcase Magazine posts to their Instagram feed.


- I'm dreaming of making these Blueberry Dark Chocolate Scones from @dinnerwithjulie. Bake up a batch of these and your weekend brunch just got a whole lot sexier.

Image: Julie Van Rosendaal

Image: Julie Van Rosendaal


- I met Jeska and Dean Hearne at a photography workshop in Scotland last year. Not only are these two a super-talented photography duo, they offer a beautifully curated selection of goods by independent designers and makers in their online shop, The Future Kept. I want pretty much every item they've selected for their shop. And I love their "Buy Less. Buy Better." motto. 


- If you're going to be anywhere near Seattle, I suggest you check out my new favorite local restaurant: Le Messe. My friend Sharon turned me onto this new Eastlake gem. Part of me doesn't want to tell anyone about it because I don't want it to get so busy I can't get a reservation. But the other part of me thinks a restaurant with stellar service, inventive small plates and perfectly cooked handmade pasta (at a reasonable price) definitely deserves a shoutout.


- Nothing But the Wax is an online magazine devoted to "telling the untold stories of black millennials through culture, fashion & beauty". It's beautifully designed, provocative and very necessary. Yes, yes, yes to celebrating the beauty, style and intelligence of young black men and women! (P.S. You need their Instagram in your life.)


- And last but not least, it wouldn't be Friday without a cocktail! This Mango and Black Pepper Gin & Tonic is happening as soon as I hit "post". XO and Happy Weekend!

Hey travel lovers! There are still some spots left in my Alentejo, Portugal fall retreat. Click here for the details and to join me in all the deliciousness I have planned!

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.