On Supporting Creative Growth | Pollinate Journal 2.0

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It’s necessary to take a step back sometimes. To pause and review, reflect, adopt a bird’s eye view. To notice the ways in which evolution has occurred. To question whether your present approaches, structures or habits are working. To be thoughtful about what you might be able to shift to help yourself continue to show up, to do the work, to grow.

This December will be four years of Pollinate Journal. In those nearly four years, this blog has undergone a slow and rather significant transformation. If I’m being honest, I think this journal, this ever-evolving work of art, this digital collection of my thoughts and creations finally is what I wanted it to be all along—but didn’t know how to create, when I began it. Didn’t have the confidence to write what my spirit wanted to. Didn’t trust that I knew what to say; that the words would come. Didn’t have the courage to express with unbridled vulnerability. The wisdom to know my thoughts were worth sharing even though I didn’t always feel wise. (Note to you: your thoughts, your art, your work is always worth sharing, even if you don’t feel “enough”—credible enough, educated enough, acknowledged enough, skilled enough, ready enough, whatever enough.)

So, I started with food. My passion and my comfort zone. And I slowly but surely began to pepper in the heart stuff. The “self-help” stuff. The “how can I do this whole life thing better” stuff.

Writing vulnerably in this space, when I first began doing that, was absolutely fucking terrifying. And. There was a persistent truth that I couldn’t shake, which kept stoking the fire of courage within me. Seeing how perpetually we are bombarded with curated, false and perfected projections of “reality” across the many forms of social media with which we engage, the more important it felt to me to disrupt that norm—and the expectation we put on ourselves to adhere to it—with an authentic voice. I kept sinking ever more deeply into the belief that the more we show up in ways that feel vital to our spirits—no matter how terrifying they initially may be—the more we grow a safe space for others to do the same. So I pushed myself to write. To write about fear, about grief, about emotional eating, about grasping and surrender, about self-worth, about standing behind creativity in a time of political chaos, about what it might mean and look like to really show up in this world.

The deeper I got into this type of writing, the further I got from writing about food, and the more difficulty I had reconciling—or interweaving—the two.

But I kept at it. When I could. Over time, the “when I could” kept growing smaller and smaller. Part of that was due to my beginning to work full-time two years ago; part of it was due to the structure I had eventually—inadvertently—set up for myself. As the focus of my writing shifted, I continued to create recipes. But sooner than later, that led to the debilitating self-imposed expectation that every post must have a recipe, beautiful photos, a thoughtful short essay, and a bit of writing about the food, too. It became so much work that I stopped engaging, almost entirely. And Pollinate, its content, its continuous growth, has basically stagnated.

At a certain point, I had to get real with myself: My process wasn’t working.

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I think, for many of us, it is easy to get stuck in a structure, process or expectation we’ve created for ourselves (even if the expectation is about needing to stick to what we imagine others expect from us—of which I am certainly guilty). When you’re in art school, you make work and then you have critiques. You talk about your creations, your concepts, your inspirations and the processes with which you’re engaging that get you there. You have opportunities to contemplate, receive constructive feedback, and revise if needed. When you’re creating in isolation, it can be more difficult to pause. To step outside of yourself and reflect. To see alternate routes. This is also true if you’re just plain stubborn. For the longest time, I succumbed to this structure of content that I had created. Told myself I had to share a recipe in every blog post because that’s why people on Instagram follow me—to see photos of food. But if that’s not what is sparking my interest right now, if that’s not what I feel inspired to share, then what’s the point? Especially if it means I hardly post at all?

So, a few months ago, I finally decided to change. To create a new structure—and with it, a new expectation—for this blog, based on the transformation that has been bubbling up with greater force over time. To own it. To reorient the content in a way that highlights what Pollinate has become, while also making it easier for you to navigate and easier for me to create. I have gone through every post on this blog and separated out the writings from the recipes—henceforth allowing myself to sometimes just write and sometimes just post a recipe. And allowing you to more easily focus your attention on what brings you here.  

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You will now find the content organized as such: an index just for recipes and an index just for writings. Some of the recipes have writing about the ingredients, nutrition or how the recipe came to be that are extensive; others have writing that is super brief. And the writings are, now, just that. Essays. Musings on life, on mental health, on creativity, on spirituality, on wellbeing. On our relationships with our own precious selves and how to make those relationships more compassionate, more present and more full of love.

I suppose, in all of this, the difficult truth I’ve come to is that just because you have historically done something one way doesn’t mean it’s the way you have to continue doing it. It’s quite simple in theory, but much harder to implement. As creatures of habit. As creatures with egos. As creatures who can be stubbornly invested in what we’ve built. But here is another difficult truth: Sometimes undoing is required to move forward. Sometimes you need to fuck what you think people expect of you and dive head and heart-first into what you want for yourself instead. And to get clear about what you can do to help yourself get there. And then, step by step, simply do it.

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At this moment of pause, of looking back and moving forward, I’d like to share with you five of my favorite recipes and five of my favorite essays to date:

RECIPES

Black Sesame Tahini Banana Bread
(Best Ever) Browned Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
Asparagus, Caper & Toasted Almond Tartine
Roasted Cauliflower, Dates & Almonds with Herbed Moroccan Saffron Sauce
SQIRL’s “The Sprouty Pod”

WRITINGS

On Self-Doubt, Success & Creating a Meaningful Life
On Coming Home to Yourself
On Turning 30 | Wisdom, Ritual & Grief
On Mindful Eating
On Filling Your Cracks with Gold


Welcome to Pollinate Journal, 2.0. I hope you find softness and stimulation here. Find inspiration. Find activation. Find openings for growth.

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P.S. MORE NEWS: I’M LEADING A WORKSHOP!

I am very exited to announce that I will be leading a workshop in the Bay Area this month for the first time in THREE YEARS!

If you’re in the area, please join me on Sept. 14 from 10a-1p in south SF for Astrology 101.

I realize this workshop topic may feel like a bit of a non-sequitur from my work here. It is ultimately both a reflection and extension of the ways my interests have shifted in the past few years. I’ve been studying astrology both formally and informally for two and a half years and have found it to be a profound tool for increased self-awareness, self-compassion, recalibration and acceptance of both myself and others.

In the workshop, I’ll be breaking down the structure of a full natal birth chart (we all have one! Our sun sign only scratches the surface of our personal astrology). We’ll go over all the signs, the planets and the houses - and learn how to read our own charts within that context. So fun. I promise.

The workshop is being hosted by Open Windows Cooperative in their stunning space in the Bayview. If you are a sucker for natural light, printmaking or creative industrial spaces, the venue alone is reason enough to come ;). Read more about Open Windows Cooperative here.

You can snag your (donation-based) tickets for the workshop HERE !

Hope to see you there <3.

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Spring Green Veggie & Herb Lettuce Cups

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Super simple and fresh, this is essentially a handheld salad that celebrates the early bounties of spring.

I opted to stick with lemon and olive oil for the dressing to let the brightness of the vegetables shine through; if you’re keen to douse the lettuce cups in tahini or have a green goddess or other dressing that you like, definitely do!

Great as a side dish, these lettuce cups can easily become a full meal by mixing in some flaked salmon, chickpeas or other protein of choice. Happy spring!

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Spring Green Veggie & Herb Lettuce Cups
Makes 4 lettuce cups

Ingredients
1/2 bunch asparagus
1/2 lb English peas (in their pod)
1 Meyer lemon
2 Tbsp. pine nuts
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/4 cup mixed herbs (mint, dill, chives, parsley, chervil are some nice options), roughly chopped
1 avocado, sliced
a few handfuls alfalfa sprouts
4 large butter lettuce leaves
salt & pepper

Directions
1. Cut off the bottom woody ends off the asparagus (1”-2” up from the bottom) and discard. Cut each asparagus stalk into 1/4” slivers at an angle and put into a medium sized bowl.
2. Zest the lemon and set zest aside. Squeeze the juice from the entire lemon over the asparagus. Add a couple pinches of salt, toss and set aside.
3. De-pod the English peas, adding the peas to the bowl with the asparagus as you go. Mix the two together.
4. In a small pan, toast the pine nuts over medium-low heat until golden brown, 5-7 minutes, stirring or tossing frequently. Once they’re golden, transfer immediately to a cutting board so they don’t burn. Roughly chop.
5. Add the olive oil, lemon zest, 3 Tbsp. of the chopped herbs and a few grinds of black pepper to the asparagus and peas. Stir to combine. Taste and adjust salt and pepper as needed.
6. Assemble the lettuce cups: In each butter lettuce leaf, place a layer of alfalfa sprouts, slices from 1/4 the avocado, and a couple spoonfuls of the asparagus and pea mixture (and its lemon-oil-herb dressing). Finish off with a few pinches of chopped pine nuts and the remaining fresh herbs.

On Transitions

Ana Mendieta,  Silueta Works in Iowa , 1976-1978. Copyright the Estate of the Artist. Courtesy Richard Saltoun Gallery.

Ana Mendieta, Silueta Works in Iowa, 1976-1978. Copyright the Estate of the Artist. Courtesy Richard Saltoun Gallery.

Confession: I have spent a disproportionate amount of time tethered to my bed lately. Zoned out in front of my computer screen, binge watching the show UnREAL (which is this truly miraculous combination of wry feminist commentary on professional power dynamics/female relationships and unabashed soap opera. I highly recommend). 

While I have been giving into my body’s recent pulls towards sloth-ness unapologetically and with as little judgment as possible, I have also been struck by our recent seasonal energetic shifts. Have felt small jolts of energy, flickers of desire to move, to create. I have been reading a little more and writing a little more.

For the longest time though, I didn’t want to write. I wanted to want to write…but I just couldn’t get there. All I could feel was that wanting and my resistance to the doing. So instead of forcing myself to write for others, instead of wrestling with inspiration that wasn’t there, I decided to write for myself. Decided to get curious about why I was struggling so much to engage with my preferred mode of creative expression.

My fingers tapped onto the screen:
Where is this resistance coming from?

One silent beat and then:
Fear.

—Of what? 

Kept asking myself questions that I then kept answering. Reminded myself of this acronym used often by one of my greatest teachers:

False
Evidence
Appearing
Real

Fear. False beliefs that we internalize. That destabilize. Debilitate. Seduce us into self-sabotage, into drowning our voices, inhibiting our own growth.

Fear that I will not meet my own standards. Fear that my work will not be valued, be recognized. Fear that my ideas are repetitive. Better expressed by other people. So I do not write. I listen to myself give counsel to countless people in my life and I witness my own wisdom. I see them soften and bloom before me. I see, hear, feel how far I have come in my own thinking, my own awareness, my own relationship to the world, to what I believe to be possible, to my own soft heart and self. Yet I cannot write it. I feel stuck. Feel uninspired or without flow.  

Deep inhale.

Deep exhale.

And then, something surprising. Calm. A crack, a small opening that offered a soft shard of light and within it, some clarity. Presence. Allowance of the emergence of something deeper than my cognitive mind. A softening in my tender heart. Fear and release and a glimmer of courage and spark all at once.

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The earth tilts and the dark veil of winter is lifted as the sun, its warmth, its radiant light begins to emerge. It is calling to us. Beckoning us out from our homes, our hibernation, our long journey within. We can harness this energy. We feel awakened, catalyzed by it. Magnetized by the sun, the awakening of the earth and its brilliant blooms that surround us.  

Transitions are, most often, not easy. The sun claims its many extended moments hovering in the sky yet our days are still interspersed with rain. Transitions take grace, take flexibility, take presence. They take moving through discomfort, take meandering routes, take time. Seedlings must be nourished by the sun and the rain alike; can only ever emerge in the exact time they take to do so. They do not grow anxious with their development, do not spite the sun for not blazing more steadily, do not question or argue with the journey they are on.

I have felt the warmth of the sun, seen the delayed dusk of these days, felt my drives shift with the reawakening of the earth around me. I have acknowledged Aries season and the inspired, enthusiastic action it offers, it bolsters, it demands. I have spring cleaned, made exercise and eating vows, recommitted to writing, to creating, to keeping this blog alive. And. I am fucking tired. I feel exhausted in my bones. I am not sleeping well and am processing a whole host of other things in my life.

I am in the infancy of a transition and I want to be at the end.

I want to be recalibrated.

But, dear ones, dear self as well—

The only way to be recalibrated is to ever so slowly recalibrate. And the only way to recalibrate is to first and foremost meet yourself where you are. And then to make a series of small, aligned, manageable choices from there. To be real with yourself about all the weight you’re carrying, the fears, the hopes, the judgments, the love, the dreams. To allow it all. To hold it all with tenderness. To give it space to pour forth from you, to express itself, to move through you. When the river runs through, it clears and it creates anew. You cannot rush your healing. You cannot rush your growth. You cannot rush your creative process, your meeting of milestones, your getting to where you are going. It all takes the time it takes. And. You can support your healing. You can support your growth. You can nurture and bolster and take lovingly the hand of your creative process, your meeting of milestones, your getting to where you are going—to where your divine self and inner light want you to go.

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So, dearest ones, dearest self— 

Let yourself be where you are. Like that liminal space between winter and spring. In the messiness of your transitions. In the darkness and the light. In the exhaustion and the energy; the confidence and self-doubt; the seductive comfort of staying stuck and the deep, fire-y drive to evolve ever forward. Honor that part of your process. Ask yourself what you need to begin to move towards the life you seek to create. Water your soil and douse yourself with sun. Lean into the thoughts, the choices, the practices, the challenges, the connections that nourish you. Be kind to your fear; hear its wounds and its worries. Allow the darkness that is in you and lead it steadfastly towards the light. There is no hurry in this. The transition is the alchemy, the releasing and the creating that will lead you to where you want to go. It is in itself a string of present moments, each divinely perfect in their imperfection, each exactly where you are meant to be.

Happy springtime, all. May this season of renewal stoke all of our fires so that we may shine that light into our own hearts and out into the world <3.

Ana Mendieta,  Imagen de Yagul, from the series Silueta Works in Mexico 1973-1977 , 1973. © The Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection, LLC.

Ana Mendieta, Imagen de Yagul, from the series Silueta Works in Mexico 1973-1977, 1973. © The Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection, LLC.

Vegan Turmeric Eggnog

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I had the pleasure of co-developing this recipe for a project at work and got to make and share it with our entire team (definitely snag Navitas Organics Turmeric Powder and Cashews for this if you can; they’re amazing quality—and I’m not just saying that because I work there!).

Eggnog has loooong been a favorite of mine, but since becoming health-aware and vigilant about checking the ingredients in processed foods, I steer pretty clear of the stuff sold in grocery stores (which is, most often, insanely high in sugar if not also full of junky ingredients).

The added bonus about this recipe is that it is vegan—so everyone can enjoy it—and is refined sugar-free without compromising any of the thick, luscious texture or sweet, nutmeg-y flavor! The taste of the turmeric is subtle but adds a bright golden color and anti-inflammatory benefits, which certainly never hurt this time of year.

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Vegan Turmeric Eggnog
slightly adapted from Will Frolic for Food
serves 2-3

Ingredients
I Cup raw cashews, preferably soaked 4 hours 
4 Medjool dates, pitted
¼ tsp. freshly grated nutmeg 
¼ tsp. cinnamon 
¼ tsp. cardamom 
¼ tsp. turmeric powder
¼ tsp. vanilla extract or paste 
pinch of sea salt 
grind of black pepper 
3 Cups water, hot but not boiling 

Directions
1. Add all ingredients to a high speed blender.
2 Blend on low and then increase to high until smooth and creamy. Garnish with extra cinnamon or nutmeg. Enjoy!

On Navigating (the holidays) with Self-Compassion

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The first blog I wrote, back in 2012, was entirely about food. About the nutritional properties of certain foods and how eating (primarily plant-based) real food facilitates vibrant health. Three years later, I birthed Pollinate with every intention of following the same through lines here. Yet as I grew older and began to weather the personal, professional, physical and emotional storms that adulthood can and often does bring, I learned one of the most important lessons that I’ve yet gleaned in my life:

It doesn’t matter how much healthy food you eat; in order to be truly healthy, you must first and foremost have a healthy relationship with yourself.

And so, my focus shifted.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot these days, as I navigate all the sweets and parties and stressors that have come to typify this season for most of us. The “temptations” that abound and the internal dialogues we have about them—about our allowances of or denials of or relationships to them. How many of us succumb to indulgences, feel badly about it for one reason or another, and then feel compelled to cleanse or deny ourselves certain foods in January to compensate; how the initiation of the new year is always marketed to us as an opportunity—or mandate, really—to develop the “new you,” as if the versions of ourselves who existed previously were faulty, lazy or somehow not enough.

In her weekly newsletter a couple weeks back, Molly Goodson, the co-founder and CEO of the SF women’s club The Assembly, shared what she dubbed an “Anti-guilt guide” for the holidays. The simplicity and lucidity with which she articulated her thoughts struck a chord with me:

Wellness is a tough word because it conjures up one set of behaviors, when in fact it is the intersection of the pieces. Some days the wellness I choose is prioritizing socializing over fitness. Some days it's knowing what I need and going to class instead of the party. This time of year, many days it's eating the damn cookies and going to the event and missing the morning run.

Instead of feeling guilt, feel ownership. The things you choose to do with your time are your wellness. If you continue to check in with your own energy and make the small adjustments to keep that in a good place, you are doing enough. Truly. You know you, so listen to that.

What if we each found space to embrace our choices and accept the non-linear way that wellness looks on a day to day basis. It's a big picture and you're always moving forward. 

Whatever you choose for December to look like — with workouts, with eating, with resting — let's try to take the guilt out of it. The world is heavy enough, so be easy on yourself. 


I loved not only the gentle urging in Goodson’s words for us all to be easier on ourselves, but also the implicit presence in the whole thing. That in order to make choices, without guilt, of what we are to do, we must be actively present with ourselves. Attentive. Mindful. Showing up to the ebb and flow and particular asks of each moment.

I am reminded too, in these times of heightened obligations and opportunities for self-judgment, of one of my favorite descriptions of self-compassion. As described by writer and healer Daphne Rose Kingma:

Self-compassion is a series of choices, a moment by moment conscious turning away from that which will harm your spirit toward that which will nourish and sustain you.

It is choosing, in any particular situation, and over and over again, whether you’ll treat yourself well or beat yourself up; whether you’ll deny yourself or treat yourself as lovingly as you’d treat your child or your most precious friend.

Self-compassion means looking at yourself with kindness, with a conscious awareness of your sufferings, and in time, with a deep appreciation for the way you have transformed them.


And so, I offer you here a reminder to be gentle with yourself, now and always. To relish the season and the joys—edible or otherwise—that come with it. To cut yourself slack and not feel obligated to say yes to everything. To cultivate wellness in the myriad and unique ways that it looks for you. <3

Roasted Broccolini with Browned Butter Tahini Sauce & Za'atar

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I have been SUPER into roasting broccolini lately, mostly because of how dang easy it is. You literally don’t have to do anything but cut off a bit of the bottoms, toss them in a high-heat oil (refined coconut or avocado oil), season with salt and pepper and BAM, into the oven they go! No peeling, no chopping, no salting and waiting to draw out the excess water…it literally could not be any easier. Add a sauce rich in healthy fats (like the one in this recipe), maybe some hemp seeds, nuts or beans for protein and voilà, you’ve got yourself a meal! Sometimes low maintenance is just what life requires.

For such a simple recipe, this roasted broccolini packs a flavor punch. It makes for a great side dish at special meals and can just as well be eaten for lunch on any given weekday.

Use whole sesame tahini if you’re able (this is my favorite brand). If you’re unfamiliar with tahini or that there are different types out there, you can read up on the amazing ingredient here!

Za’atar is a Middle Eastern spice blend made out of sumac, sesame seeds, thyme and salt. You can totally make your own, or purchase it from a Middle Eastern market or specialty spice shop. I get mine from this local cafe in Berkeley called Bartavelle because it’s the best za’atar I’ve ever had in my life, so. Thanks, Bartavelle! This recipe is also absolutely delicious using roasted Brussels sprouts instead of broccolini. I make both on a regular basis. Go with what your gut tells you :).

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Roasted Broccolini with Browned Butter Tahini Sauce & Za’atar
Serves two hungry people or four as a side

Ingredients
1 bunch broccolini
1 Tbsp. avocado oil, coconut oil or ghee
2 Tbsp. butter (organic & pastured/grass-fed, if possible)
1/4 cup tahini
1/2 Tbsp. lemon juice, fresh squeezed
small clove of garlic, grated on a microplane
1/2 Tbsp. za’atar
sea salt & pepper

Directions
1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Trim the bottom 1/4” of the stems off the broccolini. Toss in oil (you can rub it with your hands if it’s not melted) and season generously with salt and pepper. Lay on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, spreading out the broccolini so that they aren’t overlapping.
2. Roast broccolini for 6-8 minutes, until browning on the bottom. Flip the stalks over on the tray and roast for another 4-6 minutes, until tender.
3. Meanwhile, make the sauce. Melt the butter in a small saucepan on medium-low heat. Swirl the pot consistently as the butter begins to bubble to prevent it from burning. As soon as the butter turns an amber color and brown flecks begin to develop on the bottom of the pot, remove it from the heat. Pour the butter into a heat-proof jar with a lid, using a spatula to scrape all the browned bits into it too.
4. Add the tahini, lemon juice, grated garlic and a hefty pinch of salt to the jar. Shake vigorously. Taste and adjust lemon and salt as needed.
5. Place roasted broccolini on a serving plate. Pour sauce over the broccolini in whatever way your heart desires. Sprinkle evenly with za’atar. Serve immediately.*

*Note: Because butter is solid when cold, this sauce will become very thick once it cools. If you have any sauce leftover, reheat it before using. Alternatively, add water (1 Tbsp. at a time, so as to not compromise the consistency) and shake vigorously until the sauce reaches the consistency of runny honey.

On Letting Yourself Have What You Need

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Goodness, what a week. What weeks. What a lot we have to process. Fires raging throughout California. Evacuations. Homes, community centers, businesses burnt to the ground. Lives taken. Thousands of acres of natural landscape scorched. And the fucking relentless, hate-fueled shootings. The mass shooting at a dance hall in Thousand Oaks, CA. The mass shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh. The mass shooting at a yoga studio in Tallahassee. The mass shooting at a supermarket in Jeffersontown, KY. And the continuing chaos in our country’s capitol (in spite of some groundbreaking, historical wins in the House and gaining back the Democratic majority, neither of which should we lose sight of).

So much loss to process. To hold each other in. To hold while figuring out how to continue to find hope of creating a different world.

On top of grappling with the seeming homeostasis of tragedy and tumult that typifies our current reality, we have…the holidays. Not at all to be compared in likeness to the aforementioned traumas; solely acknowledged in this context as a time, in spite of its best intentions, of additional stress. A time rife with social expectations and obligations; extra financial spending; potentially activated triggers around food; potentially activated triggers around family or lack thereof; and on and on.

It’s a lot.

It’s a lot in and of itself. And. It’s especially overwhelming during this time of year when our natural inclination is not actually to be hyper-social, but to turn inwards. With the shorter days, the extension of darkness, winter’s slower, more contemplative energy emerging as we draw nearer to her dawn, the fibers of our being that are energetically tied to the earth are asking us to slow down, too. To rest. To get ready for our winter hibernation, as metaphoric as that may be. I wrote about this energetic shift and what it asks of us around this time last year. The trouble is, what the earth is asking of us now and what society is asking of us now are in rather direct conflict with one another.

Which is why it is paramount—especially at this time—that you give yourself permission to take care of yourself.

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We all process things differently. Some of us recharge and recalibrate by being around and in conversation with other people. Some of us need solitude and quiet spaces to regroup. The array of ways that ‘taking care of myself’ can look are vast and are all entirely valid.

Let yourself have what you need to take care of yourself.

If you don’t already know what the spaces or activities are that help you process, reset and recharge, I invite you to sit in stillness for a handful of minutes, focus your attention on your breath, and see what arises. What ideas, what longings, what images in your mind’s eye. Stillness is essential, for it is in stillness that the intuitive wisdom of our bodies has space to emerge and where our attention has the opportunity to listen.

Maybe taking care of yourself looks like spending half an hour out in nature, by yourself or with someone dear to you. Maybe it looks like a hot bath with Epsom salts and essential oils. Maybe it looks like going to a dance class or a restorative yoga class—engaging in some form of cathartic movement. Maybe it looks like meditating. Maybe it looks like journaling. Whatever you need to slow down and reconnect with yourself is of utmost importance in these trying and demanding times.

And while we’re getting comfortable with the practice of giving ourselves what we need to take care of ourselves, here’s another gentle reminder: You have the right to say no. To invitations. To cooking requests. To eating any food item. To demands of your attention, your presence, your time. Acting in alignment with your bandwidth, your desires and your needs is a huge part of showing up as your authentic self. We so often agree to things out of a desire to please others (or, in the inverse, out of a fear of displeasing others or “falling short”); yet this only breeds resentment and exhaustion within ourselves. Boundaries are an essential aspect of self-care. You can say “no,” still be kind about how you articulate it, and maintain your positive relationships all the while.

As we practice this prioritization of self-care, we will be better equipped to empower others to take care of themselves, too. Better equipped to honor each other’s individual needs—even within these next couple months of heightened obligations and expectations—and especially within these trying times.

Take good care, dear ones. <3.

Pickled Peach, Burrata & Pea Shoot Salad with Creamy Basil Hemp Dressing

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Yikes, September! I'm squeezing in this summery salad as the darkness is setting upon our days a little earlier and the evenings are marked with the beginnings of chill. Hopefully you still have peaches at your farmers market or local grocer! (In California, we're spoiled.)

This is a truly simple salad that presents itself as fancy AF. The sweet-tang of the pickled peaches plays well off the creaminess of the burrata, crunch of the pepitas and brightness of the sprouts and herb-y dressing.

The dressing, made creamy thanks to the small yet mighty hemp seeds, is packed with essential omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids AND contributes complete protein to the dish! Hemp seeds are actually a nutritionally amazing food, y'all. Peaches can be pickled a couple days in advance. Enjoy!

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Pickled Peach, Burrata & Pea Shoot Salad with Creamy Basil Hemp Dressing
Serves four

Ingredients
Pickled Peaches
1 large yellow peach, slightly firm, sliced into 12 wedges
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup raw honey
1/2 Tbsp. Kosher salt
1 bay leaf
1 cinnamon stick
5 whole cloves
16oz Mason jar and lid, preferably with a wide mouth

Creamy Basil Hemp Dressing
1/2 cup hemp seeds
6 large basil leaves
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1/2 Tbsp. cold-pressed olive oil
1/2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 giant pinch salt

Toasted Pepitas (Pumpkin Seeds)
1/4 cup raw pepitas

Salad
1 container pea shoots
2 burrata balls
12 slices pickled peaches (recipe above)
Creamy Basil Hemp Dressing (recipe above)
Salt & pepper, to serve

Directions
1. Make the pickled peaches: In a small pot, combine all the pickled peach ingredients except the peaches. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and stir occasionally until the honey and salt are fully dissolved. Let cool 10 minutes. While the brine is cooling, squeeze the peach wedges in the Mason jar. Pour the brine over the peaches, cover, and let stand at least 20 minutes.*
2. Make the dressing: In a high speed blender, pour 1/2 cup of filtered water and add all the dressing ingredients. Start blending on low, increase to high and blend until all the ingredients have become emulsified and smooth. Taste; add salt if necessary.
3. Toast the pepitas: In a dry frying pan (i.e., without oil), toast the pepitas over medium heat for about 5 minutes, flipping occasionally via shaking the pan. Pull from the heat as soon as they become aromatic and start to make intermittent popping sounds. Transfer to a plate to cool.
3. Assemble the salad: Layer handfuls of pea shoots, torn bits of burrata and a few pickled peaches on each plate. Pour dressing over the salad. Top with toasted pepitas, a pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper.

*Store pickled peaches in refrigerator if you make them in advance or have leftovers.

On Filling Your Cracks with Gold

Nadja, “Never Let Me Go III”.

Nadja, “Never Let Me Go III”.

"All the art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go and holding on."
—Henry Havelock Ellis

At certain times throughout our lives, we find ourselves at crossroads. Faced with difficult decisions. To continue or to cease. To cling or to abandon. To stay or to go. We choose what is worth fighting for. In these instances, we must notice the quality of our effort: When effort is required, is it is emerging from a deep, internal drive, or is it forced, not easeful? When moving through the challenge or mending what seems broken, is there possibility of fruit bearing at the other side? 

Letting go is often one of the hardest things to do in this life. Letting go of ideas, hopes, work, people. Things we have cared for, tended to, envisioned for ourselves. We are creatures of connection, of attachment. Oftentimes we keep on keeping on with something that isn't aligned with our greatest good or intentions for self because we feel like we 'should'. Like others—peers, parents, colleagues, society, hell, even our own judging selves—expect us to. Because we think we have invested too much to give up. To release. To relinquish. Because we have become attached to the parts of our identities that have become, in our minds, inextricable from that thing. Yet we fail to realize that sometimes, releasing something from our lives (be it a person, a project, an expectation, a judgment, a story we tell ourselves about ourselves) is one of the most freeing things we can possibly do. One of the most vital actions to create space for whatever the great unknown will bring next; what we will sink into, encounter, find anew to fill ourselves up. What new opportunity, new connection, new compassion or love for self we will find. Ashes have the capacity fertilize our soul's soil and in rich soil, new things grow.

And yet. There is a flip side to this coin. The shadow side of release is running away. Burning as an act of avoidance. A refusal to do the work, pick up the pieces, to stand in the fire; to face the hard truths that may in fact be the things to bring you to and through your evolution. Sometimes, holding on is key. Staying when all the hurt and pain and fear in you wants to leave. To bolt. Wants to make excuses or cut ties or drown yourself in distractions. Showing up to meaningful people or projects or ambitions when they are challenging takes as much courage and vulnerability as walking away. The key is developing the presence, awareness and discerning muscle of intuition to know when to hold on and when to let go. And to trust that even when a meaningful thing seems broken, if you show up with compassion and integrity and a willingness to do the work, there is often great brilliance on the other side. 

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Kintsugi: the ancient Japanese art of mending what is broken. There is a beautiful metaphor here. In this practice, shattered pottery is restored by affixing pieces back together with a paste of lacquer mixed with powdered platinum, silver or gold. What were initially flawless ceramics, then fractured pieces of a thing once whole, become transformed: whole again yet different, polished clay laced with webs of lustrous precious metals.

This ancient practice of repair operates on multiple visual and philosophical levels. Highlighting the cracks with shimmering metals, it punctuates the history, the once brokenness of the thing. It draws precious attention to its evolution rather than attempting to make the object appear as though it was never damaged at all. Rather than negating its life and transformation, it makes them unapologetically visible.

Kintsugi. This tradition of mending by the weaving of gold also, counterintuitively, elevates the value of the once-broken object: it is made more beautiful, more precious, more valuable, because of the breakage and repair it endured. 

There is no shame in feeling broken. Or in having once felt broken. Or in feeling something you worked to build has broken. Fissures let light in. Our healing and our relationships to our scars help make us who we are.

The founder of modern chemistry, a French nobleman and intellectual named Antoine Lavoiser, once said, "Nothing is created, nothing is lost, everything transforms." This is as true for the world on a molecular level as it is for ourselves, in our lives. The question is how we come to and facilitate the transformations. When do we choose to stay and work through a challenge, an argument, a situation, a project or a relationship that seems—or maybe in some ways is—broken? To embrace what emerges in our lives and hold it tenderly rather than negate or disengage from it? And when do we choose, from our place of centeredness and highest self, to let go? And in both instances, what do we use for our gold?

If ever you're feeling stuck or uncertain about a difficulty in your life, about whether to continue or relinquish, to stay or to go, sit with yourself and your breath for awhile. Simply sit. Let all of the anxiety of the situation fall away. Cultivate internal calm to the best of your ability. Tell yourself you are okay right now. And once you are feeling centered and grounded, just listen. Tune into your heart, your intuition. Notice how your body feels when you think about the difficulty or conflict at hand. Notice what emerges with as much compassion and non-judgment as you are able. Stay with the unfolding so that you can begin to identify what is necessary to move through it. Ask yourself what you (and the situation) need. More self-love. Deeper listening. More empathy, for yourself and for others. Patience. Trust. Vulnerability. Courage. Creativity. A shift in mindset. A release of judgment or expectation. Presence. All of the ways that we can fill our cracks with gold.

And know that on the other side, you will be shifted, changed, grown and transformed, even if in the smallest way. And always ever whole.

 
Claire Knapp, “Kintsugi Concept #1.” Saatchi Gallery.

Claire Knapp, “Kintsugi Concept #1.” Saatchi Gallery.

 

Rosemary Honey Cashew Butter | An Ode to Homemade, Edible Gifts

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For a brief yet impressing moment in time, I thought about starting a nut butter company. That was certainly one of the biggest curve balls of my life to date: coming out of a year devoted to completing my Masters in Contemporary Art Theory with a desire to become a fancy flavored nut butter entrepreneur.

It made as much sense to me – in context of my life at the time – as it was absolutely crazy. The part that made sense was this: Making nut butter from scratch was one of the most magical endeavors I undertook that year, during which I not only achieved my MA but also taught myself how to cook. Witnessing the nuts transform from solid to liquid astounded me, their natural oils releasing and completely altering their physical composition due to nothing more than an aggressively spinning blade. (Clearly I had no idea how much oil nuts contain.) What's more, it felt empowering. This food product that I had understood comes from a jar at the supermarket much the way an apple comes from the branch of an apple tree, I could make at home?! This meant I could not only control the quality of the nut butter but also the additional ingredients that defined it. The opportunities for creative deliciousness were endless! Maple cinnamon almond butter! Chai spice pecan butter! Or even something sweet and herbal, like...rosemary honey cashew butter.  

The part that was absolutely crazy about my nut butter entrepreneur pipe dream was, well, everything else.

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All of the holiday gifts I gave that year were food related. Educational. Homemade. I wrote out instructions for my parents (on graph paper with a wealth of colored pens) on how to make my favorite Oilve Oil and Maple Granola – customizable and refined sugar-free! – along with a "voucher" for a lesson where we would make it together. I made variety after variety of nut butter, some based on my preferences and some based on theirs. The gifts may have taken a bit more time than purchasing things online, but I could tell that they were deeply appreciated and meaningful. Unique. Imbued with creativity and care. 

The other great thing about gifting nut butter is that, if you are looking to give small gifts to many people, you can make a big batch with no more effort than making a small batch! Just saying.

While my dream of bringing inspired nut butters to foodies everywhere eventually fell by the wayside, I would be remiss to not mention that when I gave my former housemate a taste of this Rosemary Honey Cashew Butter the first time I made it, she literally freaked out and insisted that I start selling it at farmers markets immediately.  Even if you're skeptical and rosemary is not typically your thing, I encourage you to approach this one with an open mind. You may just find yourself surprised.

I hope everyone has a joyful and delicious holiday season – one that is nourishing in every sense of the word. Take time for yourself when you need it. Relish the sweets and listen to your body so you know when you should maybe ease up a little (that's, erm, some advice to myself that I thought maybe some of you may also relate to). Stretch in the mornings. Return to your breath in stressful times. Sink into the beauty of the season, in actions, words and things. Take good care. 

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Rosemary-Honey Cashew Butter
Makes about 1 cup.  Scale up for a larger batch.
Originally published on my 2012 blog, which I am not linking to because looking at it is like looking at your old yearbook photos, but which I am mentioning because, citations. 

Ingredients
2 cups raw cashews
2 tsp. fresh rosemary
2 tsp. raw honey
1/2 tsp. fine sea salt or pink Himalayan salt
1 tsp. cold-pressed sunflower oil, optional (for more runny cashew butter; it is quite thick otherwise)

Directions
1.  Preheat oven to 300°F.
2.  Spread cashews on a baking sheet and roast for 15-20 minutes, until fragrant. Stir a few times during roasting.
3.  Let cool for 5 minutes.
4.  Place cashews in food processor fitted with an S-blade and blend until the nuts turn into a smooth 'butter'. This could take anywhere from 5-15 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
5.  Add rosemary and salt and process for another minute or two.
6.  In a small saucepan, melt honey over low heat until it is completely liquefied – much thinner than its syrupy state. Add to nut butter and process for another minute until fully combined. The nut butter will clump up again; keep the blade running until it returns to its smooth state.
7.  If you prefer your cashew butter even creamier, add the 1 tsp. of a sunflower oil.
8.  Carefully remove blade from food processor. Transfer nut butter to a glass jar with a lid and store in the fridge.