building community + a spicy, creamy avocado dip


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

paris food & photography workshop with Yossy Arefi

Paris food and photography retreat with Olaiya Land and Yossy Arefi

I've got big news for you today: I'm teaming up with the super-talented Yossy Arefi of Apt. 2B Baking Co. to bring you a food & photography workshop in Paris this May!

We’ve planned 4 glorious days of cooking, shooting and styling in our light-filled Apartments Actually flat. We’ll visit local markets, boulangeries and cafes as we stroll the streets capturing the light Paris is famous for and tasting the city's best chocolate, coffee, pastries, cheeses and natural wines. And of course we'll gather around the table to share meals both in our beautiful workshop apartment and out and about in Paris.

Paris food and photography retreat with Olaiya Land and Yossy Arefi
Paris food and photography retreat with Olaiya Land and Yossy Arefi

We've designed this workshop for all skill levels. It will be a great opportunity to learn to shoot manually and master the settings on your camera if you’re new to that. More experienced photographers will benefit from our hands-on styling and editing sessions as well as our guided photo tours through the city.

All you need to do is book your ticket, pack your bags and show up. We’ve got all the details covered so you can focus on taking in the incredible beauty of Paris. You’ll leave feeling more confident in your photography skills and full of creative inspiration!

There are only 8 spots available. My last Paris retreat sold out in a week, so treat yourself to one of them before they're gone!



Paris food and photography retreat with Olaiya Land and Yossy Arefi
Paris food and photography retreat with Olaiya Land and Yossy Arefi



your love affair with portugal

portugal culinary retreat via



Hello, friends!

We've reached Day 5 in the Countdown to Portugal! For those of you just joining in today:

Registration for the Portugal culinary retreat opens tomorrow at 10am PST

To celebrate and to share with you all the things I love about Portugal, I’ve been posting to the blog this week about this hidden gem of a country and why you need to mark your calendars and join me for 7 days of sun, wine, seafood and stunning views this October!

Here are links to Day 1Day 2Day 3  and Day 4 in case you missed them.

Today, I'm sharing all the details of the retreat with you. Along with a few more reasons I think you should join me this October. Read on to find out what I've got in store for you, then check back tomorrow at 10am to register and start your love affair with Portugal!

portugal culinary retreat via

I take people to places that awaken our senses. 
Places that remind us how life can be lived.


portugal culinary retreat via

I was not expecting what I found in Portugal.

I went for a photography workshop. I was just passing through for a few days on my way to Paris. It’s sunny, I thought. And I think they have decent wine. Whatever. No big whoop.

But every day I spent in Portugal upended my assumptions and revealed a brand new (and unexpected) passion for this little country that hardly anyone knows about.

But you should.

portugal culinary retreat via
portugal culinary retreat via

I don't say this lightly:

  • You need to feel the Portuguese sun on your shoulders and breathe in the briny scent of the sea.
  • You need to hear the poetry of Portuguese in your ears.
  • You need a break from obsessing about work and bills and obligations and to-do lists.
  • You need to put your feet up and sip crisp vinho verde from a terrace perched over the river Tejo.
  • You need to walk along cobbled streets that curve between pastel-hued houses.
  • You need to visit tiny fishing villages and centuries-old farmhouses and castles by the sea.
  • You deserve to relax. Slow down. Take in the intense beauty of this wondrous country.
portugal culinary retreat via

I fell hard. Head-over-heels. In love with Portugal.

I fell for its soft-ripened cheeses. Smoky charcuterie. Sultry wines. And the seafood!

Portugal is a country that understands seafood. You absolutely need to taste it, fresh off the line.

portugal culinary retreat via

Now I’m on a mission: 

I want everyone (but especially you--my beauty-savoring, culinary friends) to begin your love affair with Portugal.

Consider me your official match-maker.

Any travel tour or guide book can lead you to the typical tourist spots. But that's where everyone goes. And then you return from your vacation needing a vacation since your nerves are fried from all the planning and the the crowds.

That's why a lot of people don't travel as much as they should. It takes a good amount of time and effort to plan the perfect trip. And it can feel like a crap shoot in terms of the actual experience lining up with your dreams.

This October, all you need to do is book your ticket, pack your bags and show up! I’ll take care of the rest. You’ll leave Portugal feeling refreshed, reinvigorated and ready to re-enter your life with a joyful new perspective.

portugal culinary retreat via
portugal culinary retreat via

My mission is to create beautiful experiences for people.

Beauty brightens weary perspectives.
Beauty opens hearts and minds.
Beauty shifts priorities from the habitual ho-hum to our true desires.

It slows us down.
Unravels our complications.
Awakens our sleepy creativity.
Opens our eyes to what truly matters and what can fall away...

Traveling to far off places awakens our senses like nothing else can. 

We return to our lives feeling like a veil has been lifted. Things seem more crisp. More purposeful.

More beautiful.

portugal culinary retreat via

People who travel with me enjoy the luxury of ease and authentic, non-touristy, experiences specifically for lovers of beauty and cuisine.

Here's what I have planned for you in Portugal:

  • Two amazing hands-on cooking classes with local chefs
  • Food tours featuring local artisans crafting excellent products with love
  • An excursion to an organic farm in the country where we’ll taste local wines and cheeses, and dine al fresco. 
  • A visit to a fishing village where we’ll learn about centuries-old curing techniques, take a tour of the (lively!) fish market, and visit a tiny, locals-only restaurant for a traditional seafood lunch. Yum!
  • Plenty of opportunities to taste Portugal’s amazing wines and ports and learn how they’re made
  • Several cheese and charcuterie tastings. You will not believe how good the cheese and charcuterie are in Portugal! You’re going to want to fill your suitcases with this stuff.
  • Lots of tasting pastéis de nata and other delicious pastries  
  • Local guides who will lead us to the city’s hidden culinary gems. 
  • Neighborhood walking tours highlighting Portugal’s amazingly beautiful architecture and grand history
  • Visits to some of Lisbon and Porto’s most fantastic shops and markets
  • Delicious breakfasts, Portuguese-style
  • Lunch or dinner every day at local restaurants, traditional and modern 
  • Eight nights of accommodation at boutique hotels in Lisbon and Porto. (Hand-picked by moi, after much deliberation. They’re beautiful.) 
  • A bedroom all to yourself. (So you can chill out when you’re tired of being around other people and get a great night’s sleep.) 
portugal culinary retreat via
  • Transportation within Lisbon and Porto and for all excursions. Taxis! Subways! Trains! Boats! So much adventure!
  • Gratuities for local guides, instructors, drivers, servers and hotel staff. Because we’re nice like that. And because they work hard taking care of the details that make our stay extraordinary.
  • Free time to make your own discoveries. Sometimes the discoveries you stumble on to are the most memorable.
  • Personalized recommendations of Lisbon and Porto sights and shops for your free time--in case you need a little help figuring out what to do.
  • The joy of traveling with a small group of fellow food lovers!
portugal culinary retreat via
"I enjoyed everything! Our group was fun and Olaiya responded easily to our requests for seeing or doing this or that. The food was amazing, and I loved how we walked everywhere, which kept us hungry enough to eat all of the delicious food. The restaurants were carefully chosen and we chatted with each Chef towards the end of our meal. It was delightful!
Enjoying the sites and history fit easily between our planned events. Olaiya was amenable to moving things around based on our interests which made for a very personalized experience.
The trip was so well thought out, organized, and relaxed. I cannot wait for the next Portugal trip and traveling with the wonderful Olaiya!" -- Sonya
portugal culinary retreat via

The Details...

October 3-9, 2016.
The perfect time to visit Portugal, in my opinion.

7 days of eating, drinking, cooking and wandering our way through Lisbon and Porto!

Size of group:
6 (plus me)!

$4497 for seven carefree days of beauty and inspiration. And the food. Did I mention the food?

A 50% deposit is required to reserve your spot. The balance is due two months before we depart.

What's not included:

• Your airline tickets, taxes & baggage fees

• Travel insurance. Which is pretty nifty and I highly advise.

• Room service. 

• Gratuities for restaurant wait staff when you’re not with the group

• Meals when you’re not with the group

• Any activities or items not listed above

Cancellation policy:
Please be sure you can attend before booking. All payments are non-refundable.

portugal culinary retreat via

“The gladdest moment in human life, me thinks, is a departure into unknown lands.”  

– Sir Richard Burton

There are only 3 spots left. One of them is yours.



portugal culinary retreat via