Turn That Insecurity Into I’m-So-Fabulous (Meet the Misfits)!

Hey all. Is there something about yourself you’re not fond of? Maybe you’ve got big teeth or a big ol’ booty you wish was smaller. Or maybe you hate wearing glasses and are unable to wear contacts. Or maybe you don’t have much up top (or maybe you have a lot)! We all have insecurities about ourselves – things we wish we could change. And sometimes people tease us for these things. It’s not much fun to be teased about things that make us different. But then again, these things are what make us who we are. And besides, there are other people who share the same insecurities (you’re not the only one!). So why not celebrate what makes us who we are and embrace what we’ve got?

It’s interesting – other people are actually the ones who make us feel insecure about ourselves. We beat up on ourselves and react negatively because of what someone else says or thinks. But isn’t it true that people won’t generally tease or make fun of us if we acknowledge and accept ourselves with love and confidence about who we are? Who teases a confident and loving person and gets satisfaction in the reaction? Nobody.

I want to you to meet the Misfits. My friend Rayelle and her twin sister, Cayla, created this wonderful family of 30 felt dolls to help you and me embrace our insecurities and be proud of and happy with ourselves. Each doll comes with a little storybook – Using rhyme and little humor, Rayelle and Cayla tell you about the doll and why they rock. They look at the positives about things like having some junk in the trunk, a short stature, or a stocky build.

Here are some of the Misfits below. From Frankie Four Eyes to Petite Pauline to Flatty Patty, these dolls share in the all the same insecurities as we do. But they encourage us to take these insecurities and turn them into positives we appreciate about ourselves.

Rayelle and Cayla have been making these clever dolls by hand and selling them for a while now; and they are wildly popular with both kids and adults. But making these dolls by hand is limiting. Not only can they not keep up with production, but to be able to sell them to children there are safety standards that come into play. Therefore, they have set up a project design fundraiser on www.kickstarter.com, a fabulous website dedicated to funding creative projects! If they can raise $12,000 by July 5th they will be able to begin their dream of having their beloved felt dolls manufactured for them, their little storybooks published, and helping to empower children (young and old!) by teaching them to appreciate themselves. Doesn’t this sound like a company you’d be proud to support?

There are just ten days left to raise this amount! But they have gotten a great start so far. And there are rewards for making donations! Depending on the amount you choose to give, Rayelle and Cayla will send you fun Misfits treasures, from Misfits stickers and tote bags to the actual dolls themselves (and you get to pick)! See for yourself. Meet Rayelle and Cayla (and the Misfits) in this video and hear all about their incredibly honorable endeavor – I tried to embed the video on this blog post, but am unable to for some reason so click HERE.

Here’s to loving ourselves for all we are (insecurities and all!) [glasses clink]. Cheers!



Farmers Market Food Geek (and Nettle-Walnut Pesto).

I’m really into cooking lately. It happens in waves. I mean, I cook pretty regularly and enjoy it, but I have been much more excited about it in recent weeks. I mean like food-geek excited where I take photos of what I got and what I made. Like so excited that I text my friend (who is equally as excited about this as I am, by the way) these photos. And then I post them on Instagram after that with plenty of exclamation points!!! [Look!!! Pizza with caramelized onions, balsamic vinegar, canned tomatoes from our garden last summer, asparagus, fresh mozzarella, arugula, and a duck egg!!!] Whooo! I suppose we can conclude that the uber-excitement is because of the availability of delicious, organic/no spray local food right now. The farmers market here is in coming into full swing. I get so super-anxious each year come March or so, pouring over my cookbooks and foodgawker (a great food website!) and making plans and preparations and lists (plenty of lists) for when the first spring harvest shows up at the market and at the food co-op in April. Microgreens, arugula, spinach, stinging nettles, radishes, asparagus, cilantro, baby leeks, onions, oh my…sigh. Why is this so thrilling to me?

I suppose it’s because of the sense of accomplishment I feel when I make something from scratch from ingredients that were grown locally. It feels great to support local people and their hard work. Farmers markets are great fun – it’s so cool to talk to the people who grew or raised the food. Ask them questions and they’ll answer you – and honestly. I mean, how cool is that to actually get your food from people you can see each week and get to know? And to know that the vegetables were harvested within 24 hours? No fluorescent lights. No conveyer belts. No air conditioning. No plastic and Styrofoam-wrapped vegetables that have been sitting there for who knows how long. Sounds like a no-brainer to me. If you can get to a farmers market, that is.

Yes, I am completely spoiled. I am truly lucky and feel enormously grateful to have a farmers market like this where I live. Not everyone gets this wonderful opportunity to shop at a beautiful market like I do.

To celebrate spring and my farmer’s market goodies, I’d like to share a recipe with you. I know, I know. This was supposed to be a blog about art, design, love, and life. But, food can be an art. You can design it (or style it), you can love it (!!!) and it is what makes life. So I guess it fits into my categories quite well. Oh, and my disclaimer: I am not a food photographer. I did my best.


I made this last week and it is delicious. I used some on pasta (I used Jovial brand einkhorn pasta) and froze the rest (some, of which I just thawed tonight to spread on a pan bagnat sandwich). Stinging nettles sort of taste like spinach. They have detox qualities, and are rich in vitamins C and B complex, iron, calcium, and other such good stuff.


1 generous bunch of stinging nettles (Don’t pull these out of the bag with your bare hands, by the way. They are called stinging nettles for a reason – they have little hairs that create skin irritation. Now why would you want to eat these?!? Read on…)

3 – 5 cloves of garlic, pressed (Depends on your love of garlic and how big the cloves are)

½ cup or so of walnuts

Juice of 1 lemon

¼ c. nutritional yeast

¾ t. salt

Olive oil


Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add the nettles (I turned the bag inside out and dropped the nettles in so I wouldn’t touch them). Let them boil for a few minutes. This gets rid of the hairs and therefore the sting. Strain the nettles and let them cool.

Press the garlic into a food processor. Add the walnuts, lemon juice, nutritional yeast, and salt. Process until smooth. Add some olive oil (a drizzle or two). Process again.

When the nettles have cooled, remove the big stems. Then squeeze the water out of what you’ll be using in a clean towel. Add to the food processor and process until smooth once again. Add oil as you go until you reach your desired consistency.

Easy! Which is great, because although I like good-quality food, I get impatient if recipes are too involved. I’ve got other things to do too, you know.

Makes enough for 6-8 people for pasta. It freezes beautifully. You can freeze it in cubes (in an ice cube tray) or in a freezer bag.

Be well and happy spring!


Happy Earth Day.

I had a mindful and reflective day today.

I spent the morning meditating, and it felt very gratifying.

I took an interesting tour of a local creamery and learned of their practices as well as where they source their ingredients (local farmers!).

I made a delicious vegan meal from some of the items I bought from the farmers market yesterday and I ate it consciously. It was quite enjoyable to take my time, savour each bite, and consider the flavors and textures in my mouth.

I have been thinking about the Earth – what I already do to help and protect it, and what things I can add and improve upon.

I am excited to plant my container garden this year and have been thinking about it for much of the day.

I feel grateful today that Earth Day is an official holiday that we have been celebrating for 42 years.

I give thanks to the Earth for all it has given me and I hope, through my continuous research and education, that my footprint will become smaller and smaller.

I wish you a Happy Earth Day.

Be Well,


Spring Shrooms.

The best mushroom ever…

Morel mushrooms at my local food co-op. April 2011.

I am deliriously tired and dreaming of pasta with morels. Therefore this week’s post will remain short and sweet! Tell me what you make with morels – I’d like to hear other ideas (vegetarian, preferably). Do you go out and pick them yourself?



Gimme It.

I have a Pinterest account. Yep. I am one of those gals who “pins” images to categorized boards online (but please don’t call me a “pinner” – that’s annoying. I’m not in a club). When I see something online that inspires me with creative ideas, I want to save it. Before Pinterest came along, I’d drag images on to my computer’s desktop with the intention of putting them into well-organized folders for later. Mmm-hmm. Yeah. Never happened. I just ended up with a pile of photos in folders called “random,” “misc.,” and “stuffilike.” Messy. With Pinterest, I have several boards that are nicely organized into all the categories I care about. For example, I have a board called “Kitchen Love” which features fun and exciting ideas for the kitchen of my dreams that I plan to have in the future. Yep. I also have a board called, “Spaces,” containing photos that evoke feelings of relaxation, creativity, and happiness for me in and around the home (something that is so, so important to me). And of course I have a fashion board called, “Style Please,” showing how eclectic I truly am (it depends on my mood – I am a moody Scorpio, FYI). Oh, and I cannot forget “Food [Snob?].” This shows all the delicious food I’ll be making someday in my incredible dream kitchen. Dinner parties!

One of my favorite boards I have, however, is the one called, “Gimme.” It has no cohesiveness. Not really. It is just a pile of photos of things I find fabulous. Only on Pinterest, it’s more organized by default…and I can find the photos again! So, when I find something online that I think is pretty great, but doesn’t really fit into my other categories, I stick it into “Gimme.” Because I am not dreaming or planning for anything in this category. I simply think I should have it. Not that I’ll necessarily get it. Gimme gimme never gets. Right?

Maybe I’ll rename it “Please?”.

Take a look at “Gimme.” and all my other Pinterest boards here.



PS. The above photo is currently my very favorite photo on “Gimme.” I would love to have these lovely little wooden birds from West Elm. They just make me happy.

Introverts are People Too (They Just Don’t Talk as Much as You Do).

Are you an introvert or an extrovert? I myself am most definitely an introvert. I love to take walks by myself and take in the smells and the sounds that surround me. My idea of being social is meeting up with one, or maybe a few good friends for lunch and enjoying quality time talking with each one. “Alone-time” for me is precious and I can become quickly irritated if I’m forced into social situations without time to mentally prepare for them. I become socially awkward and have a hard time talking to new people in these situations. Once I get used to the idea, I’m fine and enjoy it, but I think a lot of times people don’t understand those moments of fumbling for words and fidgeting before I finally begin to open up. Unfortunately, introverts are often misunderstood people. We are commonly thought of as standoffish, aloof, shy, stuck-up, or a combination of all or any of these. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this from people who are now close friends of mine: “When I first met you I thought you were so stuck up.” For a long time growing up, I thought that there must be something wrong with me – I couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t be as animated and talkative and seemingly well-liked as others. I’ve always admired people who can talk to basically anyone. But, I’ve since realized as I’ve become an adult that I simply have an introverted personality and that has its advantages too. Don’t get me wrong, I still have my moments of doubt about that, but for the most part I accept myself as who I am.

I wanted to share this TED Talk by Susan Cain that I found recently. She gives good reason to celebrate introverts and gives encouragement to extroverts to better understand people like me. Please take time to watch it. You’ll be happy you did (and your introverted friends will be happy you did too).

Be Well,


PS. If you are having trouble seeing the video above on your browser or phone, here is a link:

Susan Cain’s TED Talk on “The Power of Introverts.”


Mmmmmac and Cheese, Comfort Me.

Hey everyone. Guess what? I don’t have cable. Do you know what this means? It means that right now (9:19 pm) I am missing the season 5 premiere of my favorite television show – Mad Men. Sigh. I actually don’t care about television that much to be honest. I feel there are more productive ways to spend my time and I haven’t had cable (do they still call it that?) in many years. Plus, I just acquired a television a couple of years ago. I do enjoy film though, so I have Netflix. And Netflix is how I discovered and began watching Mad Men (now an exception to my ‘no television’). I blew through all 4 seasons, sometimes watching a few episodes a night. It’s really that good and yes, I really am that addicted. It’s brilliant.  Anyway, tonight I decided I needed some comfort food to make myself feel better for missing out. Sniff.

So! I wanted to share with you my personal recipe for Vegan Mac and Cheese. Yeah yeah, I know those of you well into watching Don Draper light his 9th Lucky Strike right now don’t really care about my little recipe for mac and cheese, but trust me, you will appreciate this later!

I do not claim to be a photographer, much less a food photographer. Food photos are a challenge! I admire those who’ve learned how to use lighting to their advantage to make food in photos look so wonderfully appealing. I’m sure you can think of some diners and restaurants that have great food but terrible photos of their entrees – they look grey, dreary and unappetizing, right? I hope mine looks okay. I’ve never really practiced how to style food either (another very essential skill to have in food photography). In this photo I stuck a bottle of Clancy’s Hot Sauce in the background which, by the way, is a delicious hot sauce from Ann Arbor, Michigan that is a perfect accompaniment to mac and cheese. In all honesty, I “styled” and snapped this photo in about 15 seconds with my iPhone. Like I said, not a food photographer.

VEGAN MAC & CHEESE (Folks, don’t be afraid of the word “vegan.” It’s not weird. All it means is there are no animal products in here.)


2 cups whole wheat elbow macaroni (I get mine in bulk at my local food co-op)

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cup whole wheat flour (also in bulk section at my local food co-op)

1 and 3/4 cups boiling water

3/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes (yep, bulk section, my local food co-op)

2 cloves of garlic, pressed

salt and pepper to taste


Boil pasta until al dente, drain, and set aside.

Boil at least 2 cups of water in a tea pot.

In medium saucepan, add olive oil and flour. Mix well with a wooden spoon on medium-low heat. Mix continuously for about a minute or so. Add 1 and 3/4 cups of the boiling water from the tea pot to the olive oil and flour, mixing the entire time. This is called making a “roux” (a classic part of French cooking). The roux should thicken shortly after adding the water. Still stirring, add the nutritional yeast. Nutritional yeast is responsible for the cheesy flavor and is a great source of vitamin B12. It is a common ingredient in vegan cooking (and tastes great sprinkled on popcorn too, by the way). Add the pressed garlic and the salt and pepper to taste. Finally, add the cooked macaroni and reheat.

If you want to, you can:

1. Pour the mac and cheese into a casserole dish and top with Panko (or another type of bread crumbs). Stick it in the oven for about 30 minutes at 350 degrees F.

2. Add kale! Yes, kale. Just stick some kale in a food processor for a few seconds and then mix it with the mac and cheese. Great way to eat your greens.

3. Add hot sauce. I am partial to Clancy’s (mentioned above) or Sriracha.

This mac and cheese can be paired with braised kale (recipe here) for a delicious and healthy vegan meal.

Nom nom,


Helsinki’s Fabulous Street Style.

Need some fashion inspiration? Like looking at photos? Like people watching? Need another site to distract you from your work besides (some of my favorites) The Sartorialist, Pinterest, foodgawker, and Etsy?

[Yes, please!!!]

I have the perfect solution for you. Check out Hel Looks! Created by Liisa Jokinen and Sampo Karjalainen in 2005, it’s a faaaabulous fashion blog featuring the street style of people in Helsinki. It’s SO cool. I could look at it for hours. Seriously, it’s one of my favorite fashion blogs ever. The people on this blog have the most intriguing and unique looks. Love, love, love the expression! Creativity galore! One aspect I especially enjoy about Hel Looks is getting to read about the personal story behind each look. Next to each photo is the pictured person’s name, age, what they’re wearing, and their inspirations. Here is an example, taken from my [beloved] iPhone:

I have been crazy-busy this week and am exhausted. We have family obligations today and this week, so I will keep this post short today. But I hope you take some time to take a peek at this engaging blog. Cool, cool, cool!!

Be Well (and creative),


Read, Listen, Eat.

It doesn’t really matter what your religious or political views are; and you might not necessarily agree with everything Joel Salatin says (or how he says it), but this book is worth reading, and you WILL get something positive out of it. Not all of us can (or desire to) live on a farm raising livestock like Salatin and his family do. But the whole point of this inspiring book is to encourage us to get in touch with our food supply (once again), think about, question, and learn where it all comes from and how it was raised and grown, and to do something in order to make for a healthier life for animals, people, and the environment. He also gives great ideas on how to do what you can where you live like composting (yes, you can compost right in your apartment), gardening (even the tiniest garden makes a difference and is very satisfying on many levels), and voting with your buying dollar (one of the biggest powers we have to change things).

These four guys from Nashville that make up the rock band, MONA, toured in the UK last year, have been featured in Rolling Stone magazine, were given a shout-out at last year’s MTV Music Awards as the band to watch, released their self-titled album here in the U.S. on February 28th (released May of last year in the UK – we had to wait!), played live last week on both Jay Leno and Conan, and their single, “Shooting the Moon” was featured this past week as the Single of the Week on iTunes. Whew! Check them out -they are now currently on tour in the U.S. (see cities and dates here). And don’t miss out –  their single on iTunes is available for FREE download until Monday, March 5, 2012 at 11:59 pm. Of course, the entire album is also available on iTunes, or you can look for it in record stores starting March 6th.

Photo from A Year From Oak Cottage

Mountains of braised kale!

My friend introduced me to braised kale couple of years ago. Since then, each time I get over to her place (which is not often enough, by the way), she makes it because we both love it so much. I cook a lot (and I’m a big vegetable eater), but oddly I never asked her how to make it and never looked it up (OR paid attention while she was preparing it because we’re too busy talking and catching up). I guess I never knew it was called “braised” either. But this past weekend I was at her house and I finally asked her how she makes it. She told me and it’s so easy!

I’m very familiar with kale. But to think I’ve been either steaming it, baking it (kale chips), or sticking it in stews all this time instead of braising it! I just never knew to do this braising thing. I am not a meat eater (apparently braising is a great way to cook tougher cuts of meat), nor am I from the south where braised greens are a lovely tradition (and historically seasoned with smoked pork and sugar – or so I’ve read), so “braised” was never a term I knew or paid attention to.

But now that I’ve learned and made it myself, I crave braised kale every day. The texture is chewy and wonderful, the flavor is savory and slightly bitter, and it’s easy and fast to prepare. I’ve made it three times this past week!

Here is my version of vegan braised kale:


2 T. extra virgin olive oil

4 pressed garlic cloves

1 cup hot water with about 1.5 tsp. Better Than Bouillon, Vegetarian, No Chicken Base

1 large bunch kale, stems removed and chopped

salt and pepper

In a large skillet, warm olive oil until glistening. Add pressed garlic and brown for about 30 seconds to a minute (until very fragrant). Add kale and coat with the oil and garlic. Let sit, stirring every so often until kale starts to get soft and wilted. In the meantime, prepare bouillon. Add bouillon to skillet. Stir once in a while, until wilted yet still bright green. Add a little salt and pepper to taste.

If you read the book, listen to the album, and/or make braised kale, I’d love to know.

Be Well,


If I Were a Tree… [life.]

"Three Birches" by Joyce Koskenmaki

I think birch trees are pretty amazing. They are handsome trees, with their unique, papery bark and dancing leaves of brilliant green. But besides their ornamental quality, they are also a great resource for helping to nourish and heal the body, mind, and spirit.

Did you know birch trees are edible? They produce sap and this sap can be boiled down to make syrup, just like a maple tree. Ever hear of “birch beer?” For those of you that haven’t, it’s a soda drink similar in taste to root beer that is made from birch syrup and it’s delicious (try Boylan brand, or if you’re feeling super-adventurous and happen to have access to birch sap, make your own). The sap itself, by the way, contains nutrients such as Vitamin C, potassium, calcium, iron, and some amino acids.

The healing properties of birch trees are numerous. The sap can be made into tonics for antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, and anti-itching treatments. The leaves can be used to make a diuretic tea and is supposed to keep our kidneys and urinary tract healthy. The twigs can be boiled and softened and used on cuts and wounds. The bark and the twigs are also edible, although I think animals get more satisfaction out of the flavor than we would!

Bundles of green birch boughs can be used to make a “vihta” (pronounced just how it looks – vih-tah). The vihta is traditionally used in the Finnish sauna to increase circulation by slapping the skin with it. The wonderful fresh scent of the vihta combined with the steam rising off the hot rocks on the stove makes for a most therapeutic sauna session for the skin, breath, and mind. Birch wood is also the preferred wood for sauna stoves, as it burns well and hot but lasts a long time.

On breezy summer nights, there really is nothing as relaxing and restful as sleeping in a room with the windows open to a forest of graceful birch trees. The leaves flutter rhythmically and make the softest lullaby. This is great help for anxiety and insomnia (both of which, unfortunately, I suffer from).

The Finnish word for ‘birch’ is “koivu” (pronounced coy-voo). The silver birch is the national tree of Finland. And although I am not from Finland, I am from the “Finn Hook,” which is a region of the United States populated by the highest concentration of Finnish people, likely due to the fact that the climate and geography (ie. plenty of birch trees, pine trees, lakes) are pretty much the same (by the way, a finn hook is also a clever massage tool made in Finland – it’s made of birch). My family tells me I am 100% Finnish, yet I was born in the United States. I’m the fifth generation, in fact. So yes, I am American. . .but I am also a Finn.

The birch tree is poised, graceful, and full of healing properties for the body, the mind, and the spirit. It stands tall and gives all of itself to benefit others. If I were a tree, I’d be a birch tree. A Finnish-American tree. A “Koivu Tree.”

If you were a tree, what tree would you be?

Be well,


PS. Please visit www.joycekoskenmaki.com for more information on Joyce Koskenmaki and her incredible art work. Unfortunately, this piece I’ve featured today on my blog is no longer available (ugh, I really want it and I can’t have it!), but there are other great works available. Check it out!