workshop

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.

fennel confit with orange and bay

Fennel Confit by Olaiya Land

Hello beautiful people,

I’m back in Seattle after seven weeks of teaching and traveling in Europe. I had an amazing time leading workshops with Yossy and Eva and seeing friends in Portugal and Paris. But holy shiz does it feel good to be home after being on the road for so long.

Seeing my home with fresh eyes has been a real gift. Working for myself means a lot of hours logged from home; sometimes all I notice is the laundry that needs folding, the dishes that need washing and the weeds that need pulling. 

Fennel Confit by Olaiya Land

When I walked in the door after this last trip I was overcome with love for our little house. After weeks of sleeping in hotel beds and navigating other people’s rented homes, being in my own house was pure joy. I could see all the time and effort Beau and I have put into making this space a haven and a home. 

Since I got back, I’ve been trying to keep things simple. Waking up without an alarm clock. Afternoon walks in the park. Reading instead of binging on TV. And simple meals like this Fennel Confit with Orange and Bay.

Fennel Confit by Olaiya Land

I made this for the guests of the Paris workshop I hosted with Yossy. It takes almost zero work--just a slow braise in a low oven, during which you can do any number of things (I propose a glass of rosé and a book in the backyard). When it comes out of the oven, the fennel is meltingly tender and infused with the flavors of the the south of France. You can use it as a base for fish or chicken, stir it into a white bean salad, or--my favorite--spoon it straight out of the pan onto slices of baguette then drizzle some of the garlicky olive oil over the top.

I’ll be back soon with images from my travels. In the meantime, I hope this recipe serves as a little reminder to savor all the simple pleasures in your life.

xo,

Olaiya

P.S. For anyone who wants to come cook, shoot and explore in Paris with me this fall, there are still a few spots left in my food & photography workshop with Yossy Arefi!


Fennel Confit with Orange and Bay

  • 3 large fennel bulbs, trimmed and halved
  • Extra-virgin live oil
  • 4-5 strips orange zest
  • 3 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Juice of one orange
  • Kosher or sea salt

*Note: This is delicious served hot or room temperature. It can be made a day in advance and reheated in a low oven or brought to room temperature by removing it from the fridge a few hours before serving.

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Preheat your oven to 350°F (150°C). Place the fennel cut-side-down in an ovenproof baking dish. Drizzle with enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the baking dish by about 1/4 inch (6mm). Add the orange zest, garlic and bay, making sure to submerge them at least partially in the oil. Squeeze the orange juice over the fennel and salt generously.

Cook, basting occasionally with the oil and orange juice, until the fennel is very tender when pierced with a paring knife, about 1 hour. (The time will vary based on how large your fennel bulbs are. For small bulbs, start checking at 30 minutes.) Set aside to cool slightly before slicing as desired and serving with the infused oil and garlic from the pan. 

Makes 6-8 appetizer or first-course servings.

Fennel Confit by Olaiya Land

Upcoming workshops and retreats

Paris Food & Photography Workshop // Sept 2018
ONLY A FEW SPOTS LEFT

Portugal Culinary & Creativity Retreat // Oct 2018
SOLD OUT

Paris workshop spring 2018

Paris food & Photography Workshop // May 2018
SOLD OUT

oaxaca wanderings

oaxaca on millys-kitchen.com
oaxaca on millys-kitchen.com
oaxaca on millys-kitchen.com

I’m home from Oaxaca and what an amazing trip! I went for a photography workshop that turned out to be a little tougher than I'd expected. We rose early and headed to bed late. We shot through heat, dust, smoke and into darkness. We muddled our way through a foreign language to ask total strangers if we could take their portrait. I got a stomach bug. And slammed my finger in a metal door. And one night I drank WAAAAY too much cheap mezcal and danced my ass off at a salsa bar and then had the (second) worst hangover I’ve ever had in my life. It was not pretty. 

oaxaca on millys-kitchen.com
oaxaca on millys-kitchen.com
oaxaca on millys-kitchen.com
oaxaca on millys-kitchen.com

But was it ever worth it.

In addition to the above trials and tribulations, there were visits to some of the most beautiful, vibrant markets I’ve ever seen. A trip to see artisans making paper by hand and coloring it with locally sourced natural dyes. A visit with a group of feisty sisters crafting ceramics using techniques thousands of years old. A bumpy car ride to a palenque where we watched as our hosts smoked woody agave hearts, then mashed, fermented and distilled them into some of the finest mezcal I’ve ever tasted. Everywhere we went, we were greeted warmly and fed heartily. The Oaxacans we met generously shared their stories, their knowledge, their traditions and their tables with us. 

oaxaca on millys-kitchen.com
oaxaca on millys-kitchen.com
oaxaca on millys-kitchen.com
oaxaca on millys-kitchen.com
oaxaca on millys-kitchen.com

Through those sunrise shoots, rides over dirt roads to breathtaking locations, and interactions with the people we met in Oaxaca, I feel I’ve grown as a photographer, too. I learned more from Andrea and Martin in nine days than I would have in a year (or a lifetime) of experimenting on my own. Add to that the generous feedback and advice of my fellow travelers (many of whom I can now call friends) and this trip was truly invaluable.

oaxaca on millys-kitchen.com
oaxaca on millys-kitchen.com
oaxaca on millys-kitchen.com

Oaxaca has changed me a little. The time I spent hearing the stories of such talented, wise, humble women and men in Mexico has left me feeling more connected to people everywhere and more grateful for my time on this earth. Bruised fingers, sleep deprivation, hangovers and all.

oaxaca on millys-kitchen.com
oaxaca on millys-kitchen.com
oaxaca on millys-kitchen.com
oaxaca on millys-kitchen.com
oaxaca on millys-kitchen.com