hidden tuscany


My heart breaks thinking about this trip. It breaks over the fact that we had to leave - that we couldn't stay tucked away forever in that hilltop villa. What bliss. What beauty. We were all so happy there.
More photos and insights from the trip here & here.

picante watermelon salsa


Note: This post was previously published here as a part of my freelance work.

This recipe has one foot in the Mediterranean and another in South America. It’s core is zesty with a spicy cilantro kick, but nuances are added with Greek feta and taming olive oil. The sweet flavor of watermelon shines against the tongue-tingling salty spicy flavor, and the chopped peppers and onion add a little crunch to keep the textural game balanced. Paired with blue corn chips, the dish makes a great party pleaser. 

1/2 a small watermelon (or approx. 5 cups chopped)
1/2 cup feta 
1/4 medium red onion, chopped
5 shishito peppers, cut in half & sliced into small pieces
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup chopped cilantro
2 tbs apple cider vinegar
juice from 1 lemon
2 tbs olive oil
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp red pepper flake
salt & pepper to taste

1. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix. 
2. Let chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 min.
3. Serve with blue corn chips.

the living breathing family


As I get older, I've come to realize a new meaning behind family. I've began to look it at as it's own breathing thing. Like the people that make it up, a family grows and progresses through time. Weaving its own story.

When I was little, I'd sit and listen to accounts of everyone's pasts. I learned about everything: their parents, how they fell in love, the moment when their children were born, and so on. At the time, it was all just tales; none of it concepts that I could fully grasp and understand. 

But as I begin to go through these things myself, I see. I understand how profound it is to fall in love. I get it when people tell me they remember me as a baby. I have a new niece and she's everything to this family. Watching my big brother who used to trap me under the blankets and fart on my face become a father is surreal. I think about the blood flowing through his daughter's veins, and how it's tied to my own. I dream about her future and the journey of watching her grow. Doing so, puts me in the shoes of my aunt who has done the same with me. I realize now what time means, and how it morphs these relationships we have to one another.

When I was little, I never understood how things would change. We go through the toughest moments with our family and sometimes they can be the ones that test us the most. On the other side, nobody knows us better or loves us more. I laugh when I hear myself making a joke that my mother would make, or when I see my brother acting with the same stubbornness that I do. We are inextricably similar in ways that come back to our simplest of spirit. At the same time, we teach each other and grow together through our differences. Love, is being tied together regardless. 

As the years morph, it's not that the bond becomes stronger, we just become more conscious of its existence and its meaning. Watching my direct family grow in lovers and offspring is an exciting new phase that has brought a lot of fun. There will surely be stages after, as there have been for the generations before us. Our job is to keep the family organism alive and breathing. I'm beginning to understand the meaning in doing so.

pickled cabbage spring rolls


Note: This post was previously published here as a part of my freelance work.
I love spring rolls. They’re fun to make, they’re healthy, and they’re delicious. Half the fun is that you can fill them with whatever your heart desires. This particular combination was born when we received a giant head of cabbage in our CSA. It’s not something we eat a lot, so we took to chopping it down and throwing it in jars. A week later, our fridge was full of delicious pickled cabbage, and thus, this yummy hors d’oeuvre. I encourage you to get creative with your spring rolls down the line, but if you’re looking for a solid, fool-proof delicious recipe, here is the perfect one to get you started.
1 cup brown rice
1 cup chopped parsley
1/2 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup sesame oil
2 tbs miso paste
1 package spring roll wrappers
1/2 block tofu
1 red pepper
1/2 avocado

Pickled cabbage:
2 cups water
1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup salt
1 mason jar chopped cabbage
1. At least a week before you want to make the spring rolls, throw chopped cabbage into a mason jar with the rest of the makings, and stick it in the fridge to begin the pickling process.
2. When you’re ready to make the spring rolls, cook off the one cup of brown rice.
3. Once the rice is cooked, stir in parsley, vinegar, sesame oil, and miso. Then let it sit and cool for at least 30 minutes.
4. While rice is cooling, thinly slice tofu and fry the pieces in some sesame oil over a hot flame. Remove and set on a piece of paper towel to absorb the extra grease. 
5. Thinly slice red pepper and avocado, set aside.
6. Now you’re ready to start making the rolls. Fill a bowl or tray with luke warm water. Immerse a rice paper wrapper for about five seconds, so that the entire thing gets wet. Lay the wrapper out on a flat surface, fill with makings (rice, tofu, pepper, avocado, and pickled cabbage), placing ingredients like an oblong mound in the center. To roll it up, first roll the top edge down, then fold in the sides, and roll it towards you, the rest of the way closed. Keep it tight as you do so.
7. Continue until ingredients run out.

harvesting creativity & overcoming setbacks


Note: This work was previously published here as a part of my freelance work.

Creativity can be anything from an art piece, to a written work, to a new business idea. What ties the concept together, in all cases, is that it is an outward translation of something within ourselves. We have thoughts and images running through our heads as well as feelings and emotions reverberating through our bodies. Creativity happens when we connect and utilize our talents to communicate what’s inside, breathing it into existence. Of course, that can be easier said than done.
Tapping into your creativity will not always come without a struggle. Everyone hits ups and downs, the slumps happen, and they can be frustrating. All of a sudden, doubt pours in, you are out of ideas, you’re unhappy with the outcome of your work, or you simply don’t know how to improve.
When handled well, a blockage in creativity can ultimately push you somewhere new. Keep in mind, the momentary frustration is often what propels you forward. Below are tips to overcome the inevitable setbacks. Give them a try, and I promise you’ll find a spark for that inspired flame inside of you. It will be that magical little thing we all call: an idea.
Talk to someone you admire creatively: Let me give a personal example here. A couple weeks ago, I was feeling very stagnant with my photography. I was having trouble making my photos look how I wanted them to, and it not only frustrated me, but lessened the enthusiasm I had to work on photography. Subsequently, I got into conversation with a friend and I told her about what I was feeling and explained the overall effects I was trying to achieve. Her suggestion came so easily and sounded so matter of fact, that it was shocking. Sometimes, you get so stuck in your own mind that you don’t see the obvious alternatives out there. The new perspective opened a whole new door of experimentation. It set me down a new path, brought back my enthusiasm, and pulled me out of the creative slump.
If you don’t have a friend or mentor you can talk to, try meeting someone new. Join a pottery class, travel, go out with a friend you only kind of know, or hell, try reaching out to someone you admire online. The conversation you have doesn’t entirely matter. It can be directly about the skill you’re working on, or just life. Talking to other people spurs new thoughts and ideas. All it takes is that tiny whisper to get the brain going again.
Save what inspires you & search through it: We’re all familiar with Pinterest. It’s a great tool for cataloging your inspiration online, but don’t forget to do some of the same thing in the real world. Save the things you come across that inspire you. Make a folder for tears, posters, and fliers. Keep a shelf of magazines and books that fill your mind with ideas. Display artwork. Keep collections.
Personally, I love beautiful independent magazines. When I’m feeling uninspired, I open Darling or a Kinfolk and flip through. The articles are short, so I can read several at once. Like caffeine, the influx of ideas is a jolt to my mind. It gets things jogging.
When you have a moment of creative frustration, go back and look through your own inspirations. What moved you once, will most likely move you again.
Put pen to paper: Pen on paper is one of the best ways to get your ideas flowing. What comes out is raw and unedited, providing a great starting point for whatever you’re doing. You can try your hand at consistent journaling, or use the medium for brainstorming exercises.
Journaling itself is a great way to stay in touch with life. Even when you think you have nothing to say, just start by writing down the day’s occurrences. It will almost inevitably flow into something more idea or emotion driven. Since being creative really comes back to translating what is inside, this constant practice can serve as the key to inspiration.
You can also try little exercises to get the brain flowing. I love these recommendations here, but give a google search for “creativity exercises” and you’ll find a whole lot more. I actually had a lot of fun searching around and trying my hand at the different games I found. Not the worst thing to have to do when you’re feeling down and challenged.
Get over your insecurity: Sometimes we’re scared to create because we think our work won’t be good enough. The reality is that sometimes you have to mess up in order to learn and get an outcome that you’re happy with. Get over thinking that your skills aren’t good enough, that you idea isn’t original enough, or that you’ll never be as good as your peer. In the end, creativity is about expressing yourself. Don’t be so scared that you don’t let it out. Mess up over and over again. Don’t stop creating, and don’t let your ego get in the way.

Go for a walk (preferably in nature): It has been proven, that moderate exercise increases blood flow to the brain and improves cognitive function. If you’re feeling stuck on a project, it might be worth it to go for a long walk. Bring along your phone, a camera, or a writing pad, so that you can document strokes of inspiration that you have along the way.

Be Patient: Remember that creativity will come,  you just have to be patient. Like there are weeks that you’re more tired than others, there are weeks that you’re more creative. Don’t get frustrated or fed up with yourself. Take all of the steps above, give the creative process time to happen.