community

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.)

Sooooo, 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.

let's do this: the first ever milly's meet-up

Image: Olaiya Land

When I was laid up with the über-flu over the holidays, I spent a lot of time thinking about the direction I want this blog to take. (Funny how shitty circumstances can have positive outcomes.) One of my goals for 2018 is to make this space function like more of a community and a catalyst inspiring us all to design creative, beautiful and satisfying lives for ourselves.

I asked you to reach out and let me know what sorts of events, activities and content you'd like to see more of. Tons of you generously took the time to respond. You asked for more international retreats, Seattle- and US-based workshops, and talks with other kick-ass women on how to craft your ideal life. 

Image: Olaiya Land

First of all, I love all these ideas--thank you! Also, I want to let you know I have all of the above projects in the works for this year. (High five!)

While I'm working on recruiting a roster of amazing women to come talk about their lives and career paths, I thought I'd kick things off with a cocktail hour meet-up so those of us who live in/near Seattle can get to know each other.  

Image: Olaiya Land

So on March 15 I'm hosting the first ever Milly's Meet-Up. We'll gather at Book Larder in Fremont for an after-work happy hour featuring natural wines and bites provided by yours truly. The price is $10 and 100% of the ticket price will be donated to Facing Homelessness.

So grab a friend or two who's into food, photography, travel or just meeting new folks and come say hi at Book Larder on the 15th! 

Image: Olaiya Land

The Details...

Date
March 15, 2018

Time
6.30-7.30pm

Location
Book Larder
4252 Fremont Ave North
Seattle, WA

What
This meet up is for lovers of food, travel, photography, for those interested in crafting a creative life or who just want to meet new people. Your donation entitles you to one drink and an assortment of light bites (provided by yours truly). 100% of the ticket price will be donated to Facing Homelessness. People of all ages, genders, ethnic backgrounds and sexual orientations are welcome.

See you on the 15th!

Image: Olaiya Land

keep going. it gets better.

Image: Olaiya Land

Hello and Happy 2018!

I know this is a little late in the month to be wishing you well for the new year, but I decided I needed to step away from the blog for a minute to do some New Year’s reflecting.

I turned 43 over the holidays. There’s a piece of me that thinks I should not be posting that information to the internets. But given the current epidemic of sexism and discrimination in this country, there’s a piece of me that feels it’s more important than ever to stand up and be who you really are. 

As I was thinking about all this and whether to “out” myself as over 40, I realized reaching this point in my life has some distinct advantages. Like the fact that I finally accept and love myself. But, good lord, has it been a long road getting here!

Image: Olaiya Land

As a chubby bi-racial kid growing up in white America, I always believed I had to be better-than to get by. So I stayed vigilant. I demanded straight A’s of myself from the first grade on. I wanted to be beautiful, skinny, popular. So I worked multiple after-school jobs to buy myself the “right” clothes. I joined the pom pom squad so boys would notice me. I got up 3 hours before school to straighten my hair. I started dieting and jumping rope in our basement late at night for hours each week like some sort of brown, female version of Rocky Balboa. When dieting didn’t work as flawlessly as I’d hoped, I started making myself throw up. 

Attending the hallowed (and uber-privileged) halls of Yale University didn’t help things. I excelled at school by white-knuckling my way through every class, obsessively pushing myself to study just a little harder. On the outside, I looked like I had my shit together. I had friends. I was getting good grades. My professors liked me. On the inside, I was a self-hating wreck with abysmal self-esteem and a crippling eating disorder.

Image: Olaiya Land
Image: Olaiya Land
Image: Olaiya Land
Image: Olaiya Land

Twenty years later, talking about this time in my life still makes me cringe inside. But I’m sharing this because I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in having felt this way. There are thousands of other women out there, if not more, who have at some point felt the same pressure to do it all. To be beautiful and sexy and capable and smart and strong and independent and earn money hand over fist. I look around me and I see women silently pushing themselves to the point of cracking under the pressure for perfection and fear of judgement. I’m pretty sure social media isn’t helping. 

So I’m writing today with some advice for anyone out there feeling this way: Muster as much self-kindness and love as you can and keep going. It gets better. 

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Image: Olaiya Land
Image: Olaiya Land
Image: Olaiya Land

For some of us, happiness is a gift we’re born with. But most people have to work at it. That’s another thing I’ve learned in these 43 years; happiness takes work. 

It involves trying lots of things. And failing miserably at some. And forgiving yourself when you fall down. I think of it like a spiral staircase. We want to take an express elevator from the ground floor to the penthouse. But life doesn’t work that way. Instead, we take a verrrrrry long spiral staircase, looping around and around making the same mistakes many times over, but learning something new with each time around and always finding ourselves a little higher than we were before.

Image: Olaiya Land

At 43, I feel more creative and engaged with my own life than ever. I’m excited about the possibility each day holds. I care less about what people think and so I’m free to like myself the way I am. I’ve learned how to say no to toxic people and pointless obligations. I’ve learned how to trust myself. 

Which doesn’t mean I’m walking around Cloud 9 with a shit-eating grin on my face. I make mistakes and get mad about things that aren’t important. I swear like a sailor. Sometimes I’m jealous of what other people have. My feelings get hurt. But at most moments of most days, when I think about my life, I am happy.

Image: Olaiya Land
Image: Olaiya Land
Image: Olaiya Land
Image: Olaiya Land
Image: Olaiya Land

For a while now, I’ve been feeling the need to pivot this blog towards something more meaningful than new recipes. Because I am who I am, there will always be food. I still think cooking for others and gathering friends around your table is one of the most life-affirming things you can do. And taking the time to feed yourself delicious, nourishing food is deeply satisfying.

There will also be posts on how to travel better and more often. Experiencing new cultures and connecting with people who are different from us, leaves us more open-minded. Shaking off our day-to-day routines provides fresh perspectives and insights. Tasting new flavors and seeing unfamiliar sights leaves us creatively energized and we come home our best selves, refreshed and inspired to try new things.

Image: Olaiya Land
Image: Olaiya Land
Stand Up and Be Who You Are-25.jpgImage: Olaiya Land

There will be posts on making your house (or apartment or RV or yurt) feel like a home. There will be posts on engaging with the beauty of art, design, fashion and nature. There will be ideas for how to take better care of your body, mind and soul. 

Image: Olaiya Land
Image: Olaiya Land
Image: Olaiya Land
Image: Olaiya Land

Going forward, I’m envisioning this blog as an offbeat lifestyle magazine devoted to helping foster meaningful human connections through food, travel, art and design. 

I’ve got a new name in the works to reflect the shift. I’m also dreaming up ways this space could feel like more of a community and help like-minded people come together for discussion, friendship and inspiration. I’m thinking: forums, meet-ups, dinners and retreats devoted to sparking the creative genius inside all of us. 

Image: Olaiya Land
Image: Olaiya Land
Image: Olaiya Land
Image: Olaiya Land

This blog would be nothing without all of you. So I want to hear back in the comments from every single one of you (yes, my fellow introverted lurkers, even you) about what sorts of topics, events, workshops and retreats would bring more joy to your life this year! 

Because I want to devote this space to helping women from 23 to 83, and every perfect age in between, design a beautiful, creative, more satisfying life.

Image: Olaiya Land