Smoothie of the Month: Hemp Protein Powder

I've been curious about superfood powders for a while, but never really tried any before, mainly because of their cost. I also didn't really know where to start. Most of them don't even sound like something you'd usually eat, which made me even more confused. I did eat some superfoods, like chia seeds, flax seeds, coconut oil. Those are pretty common, not crazy expensive and they are still seeds and oil, so I could guess what they are good for just from their name.

I finally have started somewhere. Recently I became a huge fan of hemp powder. It all started with my new running adventure. This summer I started running regularly and I found mornings to be the best time for a quick run in the park. It feels so good to start my day with a breath of fresh air first thing after getting out of bed. Getting my heart pumping and my body sweating somehow gives me more energy for the rest of the day. Of course, right after the run and quick shower all I want is a jar of fresh green goodness. Now my morning smoothies have also become my post workout smoothies, so I started thinking of how I could make them more protein dense. One day, while browsing the shelves of a newly opened local vegan/health food store, I laid my eyes on a jar of locally grown hemp powder, which was surprisingly not too expensive. I pretty much got hooked right after adding it to my smoothie next morning.

I've heard so many good things about hemp before. It's a really eco-friendly plant to grow and it has so many uses. It's used for making textiles, building materials, some types of paper and so much more. The range of food products that can be made from hemp is also pretty wide: seeds, milks, oils. Hemp is really rich in protein as well as minerals (magnesium, iron and zinc) plus it contains lots of fiber. Seriously, a magic plant. The powder got me pretty excited, so I've been adding it to my smoothies a lot, especially after my morning runs. It doesn't have too strong of a taste on its own, especially mixed with fruit. And it adds even richer green color to the smoothies, which shouldn't really matter, but for some reason it makes me extra happy when my smoothies are rich green color.

This time I made a very simple basic green smoothie using the ingredients I always have laying around in my kitchen. You can add hemp powder to any smoothie you like!

Simple Post Workout Green Smoothie
(serves two)

2 cups leafy greens
2 cups water
2 green apples
1 banana
1 cup frozen mango (or mix of frozen tropical fruits)
2 teaspoons hemp powder

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Enjoy!

Find more smoothie recipes here.

Back to School Gift Guide

back to school gift guide

Have you or your kids or your friends started their school year already? Or are you so crazy about stationery that you just use this time of year as an excuse to stock up on cute supplies? I know I am. It's been a while since I finished my studies, but I still get super excited about all the stationery and paper products popping up everywhere during this time of year. I collected some of my favorite ones here, so if you still need supplies for your school year or want to update your working area, go ahead and get some of these pretties.

1. Sticky blocks by Appree
2. Paper Clips by Areaware
3. Shapes Notebook by Sasha Kretova
4. Wooden Pencil Box by Caran D'Ache
5. Wooden Ruler Cubes by HAY
6. Ring Binders by Ferm Living
7. Engraved Quote Pencil Set by Newton and the Apple
8. Parisina Pencil Cases by Scout & Catalogue

And if you still need notebooks for your study notes, I'd like to remind you, that all the notebooks in my shop have an option of lined pages, which are perfect to keep your notes nice and organized, but are simple enough for you to express your unique style and creativity. Find your perfect book here.

sasha kretova lined notebook

Pretty Postcards

sasha kretova postcards

I had a few postcards printed with my designs a little while ago and I had to share them with you! These are prints of my original linocuts that I designed for my latest notebook collection. I love how these prints, even though printed digitally, still keep the beauty of linocut printing: imperfect lines, uneven coloring, missing corners. I find it so pretty how these are so minimal, contrasting and geometric, but at the same time handmade and imperfect.

I framed one of each kind together in a set and put it on my gallery wall of black and white art above my workspace at home. They look so pretty framed! But they can be posted too, of course, they have a standard postcard back with space for an address and a stamp.

For now if you want them, they'll be coming for free with all the orders placed in my shop, cause I love to give pretty little gifts to my customers!

sasha kretova postcard set sasha kretova framed postcard

Organize: 10 ways to plan and stay productive

sasha kretova's organization tips

Since I've gotten interested in self development, organization and planning, I've been reading lots of books and blogs, watching lots of videos and taking online courses on the subject. Of course all this time I've been talking to my friends and family a lot about it. Lots of people have areas of their life where they need to get more organized and productive, which means there are always things to discuss on those topics and advice to share. Plus we always try to follow up with each other's progress and share what is working and what isn't.

One thing I noticed a lot of people say is that certain advice doesn't work for them. That is definitely true, not all strategies that exist out there work for everyone. That's why there are millions of different strategies for organization, productivity and life improvement. We all have different personalities, different work and life goals, different lifestyles. That's why when you are willing to improve a certain aspect of your life, one of the biggest challenges is to find the strategies that work well for you. One thing I tell people when something doesn't work for them, is that you have to really try it before throwing it away. You can't really know whether something works for you or not unless you tried it for some time in different circumstances. If you tried a strategy for two days and failed, it doesn't necessarily mean it doesn't work for you. It always takes work and lots of self control to change your habits. We might often fail keeping a new habit or a new lifestyle, but the best thing you can do about it is pick yourself up and continue working on your new habit for some time before claiming it's not for you.

For this post I collected 10 basic strategies that work for many people and are a good way to start organizing your days and staying productive. If you are on your way to organize your work and life and learn to get a lot done, I encourage you to implement some of them. And I hope you really give them a try, say, for a month or so. It will be a great learning experience and totally worth it!

1. Keep a weekly or monthly planner

There are many different ways to keep a planner and lots of different types of planners out there. The things that I find the most important in keeping a planner are that it doesn't let me forget things I planned with others and that I can see my weeks at a glance. I don't usually plan my whole days that far ahead, so I use daily to-do lists for that. Usually I keep all the scheduled things in there, such as meetings, appointments, classes. I also add my free time activities: concerts, movies, plans with friends as well as house chores that don't really happen unless I plan them. Planner is a great tool to keep your schedule out of your head and on paper (or in digital form if that's your thing), so you can concentrate on other things.

2. Plan the night before

This is a recent piece of advice I heard from the wonderful Marie Forleo. This strategy is especially good for those who's schedules vary a lot. If you work at different times each day and you have meetings, appointments and projects all over the place, the best thing you can do to stay organized and productive, is plan your day the night before. If you're interested to learn more about this strategy, watch Marie's video. I've tried planning my days this way for a week or so, and it hasn't worked so well for me yet, because most of the time I have no idea how long each of my tasks takes. Probably when I'll have worked at my business for a while longer, I'll know the timing of each task better and I'll be able to implement this way of planning my days like a pro.

3. Have a running to-do list

This is pretty basic and everybody who has taken any steps towards being more productive has tried that. If you haven't kept any type of to-do lists, I encourage you to start. This is what I believe everyone needs to have. There are different types of lists, and different ways to keep them. But you need to keep track of what you're planning to do and what you have already done. It helps concentrate on current tasks and be motivated to continue when you see how much you have already achieved.

4. Daily to-do lists

This is my favorite productivity strategy I've tried so far. I often get overwhelmed by huge running to-do lists, so starting my day with a plan for that day only is much more motivating. I know exactly what my goals for that day are and I don't worry about the crazy amount of things I have to do. I still keep a running to-do list of all the tasks, but I only look at it at the end of the day to track my progress and plan the next day. You can read more about my daily to-do lists in this post and learn how to make tiny notebooks to keep your daily lists in here.

5. A week day for every task

If the type of work you do lets you completely streamline your working process, you could try assigning certain tasks for each day of the week. In my work I do that to a small extent, mostly with tasks related to blogging. I publish a post every Wednesday, so Mondays are usually for writing the post and Tuesdays are for taking photographs and editing. I shared my blog planning tips (and a printable!) in this post. I also try to have my Fridays mostly dedicated to paper work and other tasks that do not require lots of thinking and energy, such as folding paper, reviewing the inventory and so on, because I'd rather spend my energy in the beginning of the week on more creative tasks.

6. Black and white goals

I've heard this tip for the first time from April from Blacksburg Belle (check her out if you're looking for some good creative business advice!) Black and white goals are basically the tasks you give yourself that have to happen no matter what. Making your tasks black and white helps with fighting laziness and procrastination. This is easier for some people than it is for others. I know some people will do whatever they have planned and it comes naturally to them. Others tend to plan things out really well, but then other things come up, you get sucked into other tasks and at the end of the week you look at your initial plan with disappointment and move your tasks to the next week all over again. Sounds familiar? Then you absolutely need to make your most important tasks black and white, and train yourself to do them no matter what. Just do them and don't give yourself other options.

7. Break your day into chunks

I've got this advice from Lisa Congdon in her amazing Creative Live course. She is an artist who works on loads of different projects all at once. To make sure she moves forward with each of them every day, she breaks her day in 45 minute chunks and assigns a certain project to each chunk. Depending on the project, some tasks take two or three 45 minute chunks, and for others one per day is enough. This strategy is great to make sure you really concentrate on a task for a certain amount of time, but also take a small break every 45 minutes. Of course, it doesn't have to be 45 minutes, you can choose your own amount of time that it takes for you to really concentrate on one task before you need a break and get to move to the next one. To be honest, I haven't tried this strategy yet, but I find it really interesting and this way of working feels really organized.

8. Start your mornings with a routine that works for you

Morning routines are key to a productive day ahead. Again, they will be different for everyone, but I'm convinced that every person needs a morning routine. This way you can make sure you do not waste any energy deciding what to eat for breakfast or convincing yourself that you aren't too sleepy for a morning workout. Of course everyone will have their own routine and you need to try several things before you know what's your ideal way to start your day. I was convinced I wanted to do 30 minutes of yoga every morning. I love yoga, but somehow I couldn't make myself do it in the morning. My body felt stiff and sleepy and I was bored and impatient during the workout. A few weeks ago I started running outside every morning right after I wake up and I've been loving it! It is the best morning workout ever and it gives me so much energy. All it takes is a few sleepy minutes to put on my running clothes, but once I get outside and take a breath of fresh air, my mood lifts up right away. After just 30 minutes of running I come back a little tired but at the same time full of energy and motivation to do the things I need to and I do them much faster.

9. Make a schedule

This is basically a mix of points 1 and 2. If you like or need to plan far ahead, a clear weekly or even monthly schedule is the key. If a weekly schedule is what works for you, you will need a very good planner, that is large enough to fit all your tasks. First, you'll need to fill in all your appointments and tasks that have to happen at a certain time. Then you add all the tasks you need to do during that week in order of priority, or depending on how long they take, to the slots left in your calendar. If you are planning your weeks that way, I'd suggest leaving some time in the end of each week (or even each day) empty for tasks that might have taken you longer than you expected or got pushed back because of other urgent things. That way you'll be sure you are not planning more than you can handle.

10. Accountability

Are you lacking motivation to complete your tasks or to simply get yourself up in the morning? Many people find it helpful to keep themselves accountable to someone else. This could be simply a fellow creative business owner with similar struggles, who you meet once a week to share your goals and check that you've both achieved them next time. This could also be someone who needs your help with something that you need to improve on. If you are just learning a new skill, start making something for your friends that they really need. It would make building your portfolio so much easier than if you made up projects just for the sake of showing what you can do. The main thing here is that if you do it for someone else you're much more motivated. I use this technique for waking up. I wake my sister up every morning with a skype call and it makes it so much easier to wake myself up too. When I wake up all by myself the sleepy me finds all the things I need to do much less important than the motivated me did the night before, and I end up sleeping much longer.

These are just some of the basic strategies you could try implementing if you're willing to get more organized and productive with you life, work or business. The main point I really wanted to emphasize here is that there is no one strategy that works for everyone in every case. You really need to spend some time finding what works best for you in different situations. And I promise you will learn a lot about yourself on the way and you'll become much better at what you do, so finding your best strategy will not be a waste of time, no matter how long it takes.

The ten tips I listed above is just a starting point. If you've tried them all and still haven't found your ideal workflow, I encourage you to keep researching and trying things out. If you put enough work into it, you will definitely find your unique and perfect way to organize your days and achieve all of your goals.

If you found this useful, check my other posts on organization and productivity:

How I Organized My Mornings
My Secret to Blogging Regularly
How I Organize My Notes and Sketches
5 Tips on Dealing with Procrastination and Laziness

My Studio Tour

sasha kretova studio

I shared in one of my previous posts, that I moved my studio from my home into a new space a couple of months ago. And today I'm finally sharing a tour!

I rented a table in a small store type space, that I share with five other creatives: graphic designers, journalists, photographers. They're all really sweet people and I'm so happy to be working in their company (much more fun than being locked up alone at home!) I am the only one making physical products, so they let me also occupy the window and make a display of all of my notebooks.

My workspace is pretty tiny, but after some tweaking I made it work really well for me. I love to stand when I bind my books, fold paper and test new products. For that I bought new legs for the table, that was included in the space I'm renting and made it higher, which also added some extra storage space for my printer and tools underneath. For computer work I added a tiny table on the side, that is just enough for my laptop and planners, or laptop and tablet when I design. I got the white table top custom made by my father-in-law and attached the legs that came initially with the other table onto it. I also added a couple of shelves to keep my tools and materials I need all the time: one attached to the high table and one on the wall. I also have some shelf space in the large shared closet to store my inventory, shipping materials as well as all the paper and carton for making my books.

I love that my table is by the window, I always have lots of light coming in, especially now in the summer. The space seems to be initially designed for a small store, so it has a large floor-to-ceiling window, which lets lots of light in. I'll show you the area, where the studio is located, in one of my next posts. It is a beautiful old neighborhood and I love walking or biking through it on my way to work. Plus the window view is great and there are a lot of tourists walking by and looking at my books :)

Thanks for letting me share!

sasha kretova workspace sasha kretova workroom sasha kretova craft room sasha kretova studio sasha kretova studio sasha kretova studio sasha kretova studio

Smoothie of the month: peach, apple and banana

summer green smoothie recipe

Today I continue my summer fruit inspired smoothie series with another portion of delicious summer goodness. I am crazy about peaches and nectarines, but where I live we get to enjoy them only during summer time. So once I started noticing nice ripened peaches in grocery stores I grabbed a bunch and started making peach smoothies every morning. The combination I am sharing with you today is very basic: apples and bananas are the fruits I always have at home and use in most of my regular morning green smoothies. Once I added peaches to this simple everyday recipe it got this new fresh summer taste I love so much. The tartness of peaches and apples combine beautifully with the sweetness of a banana.

peach green smoothie ingredients

Peach, Apple and Banana Green Smoothie
(serves two)

2 cups leafy greens (I used kale and romaine lettuce)
2 cups water
2-3 peaches, pitted
1 banana
1 granny smith apple

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Enjoy!

My Helsinki: Seurasaari Island

seurasaari island in helsinki

Summer has finally come to my city, so D and I are taking lots of walks and bike rides, and I can't wait to share more photos of Helsinki with you! Last Sunday we decided it's time to finally go to the beach. It is still too cold to swim, but perfect for a picnic on a rock at the shore. Our favorite beach (and the closest to our neighborhood) is on an island called Seurasaari. I am not a fan of city beaches with music, ice cream stands and volleyball. I prefer this one on an island, where it is quiet and surrounded by nature. Plus it's still pretty close to the city and really close to where we live. Just a 10 min bike ride and we get to enjoy the nature and the sound of water splashing over the rocks.

The island is actually a nature park and a museum. It holds a collection of old wooden buildings from all over Finland. I love walking around the island, it feels like a magic tiny village in the middle of the forest. It is full of squirrels and birds and you can feed them too, they get quite friendly sometimes. Last Sunday we had a little picnic on the rocks near the beach and walked around the island afterwards taking some pictures on our way.

seurasaari island in helsinki seurasaari island in helsinki seurasaari island in helsinki seurasaari island in helsinki seurasaari island in helsinki seurasaari island in helsinki seurasaari island in helsinki seurasaari island in helsinki

My top 5 vegan recipe blogs

top 5 vegan recipe blogs

Do you follow nutrition and recipe blogs? I am crazy about food and nutrition and I love learning new things and trying new recipes. But for me, a perfect food blog is hard to find. I like my recipes to not be too time consuming, include the ingredients I can find and of course they have to be vegan. I am also quite picky about food photography, because I like to pin my favorite recipes, and I like my Pinterest boards to be pretty. I found a few blogs that I love following and have tried several recipes from and I'd love to share them with you, so you can try to cook some of the yummy recipes they are sharing.

Nutrition Stripped is my favorite place to get all the information on healthy diet. McKel is amazing at sharing all the information you need to keep your food healthy and get all the nutrients you need. I always go back to her posts when I need to find out sources of certain vitamins or nutrients. Occasionally her recipes include eggs, but most of them are vegan. In addition to recipes and nutrition information, she shares natural beauty tips, fitness and life advice. Her photography and videos are beautiful, I always drool over her kitchen tools and dishes.

Green Kitchen Stories is my favorite place for video recipes. I love video recipes! Luise and David make the most beautiful recipe videos I've ever seen and I can watch them over and over again. Everything looks so delicious and you can see their love and passion for natural ingredients through every shot they take. This blog is vegetarian, so the recipes sometimes include eggs or cheese, but plenty of them are vegan.

Veggieful blog has the cutest photography and adorable veggie illustrations! This is also a 100% vegan blog, which makes it easy to pick any recipe to try. I especially love their baked desserts, like cakes and cupcakes, cause those are sometimes hard to find vegan recipes for.

Gratitude and Greens is a beautiful blog with loads of plant based recipes as well as thoughts on mindfulness, gratitude, health and green living. Genevieve shares mostly vegan recipes and even if some of them include non-vegan ingredients she makes sure to include vegan substitute options. She's really into organic and local whole foods and her recipes reflect that.

Chocochili is a Finnish recipe blog, so if you can't read Finnish prepare to use some Google Translate. Elina, the author of the blog, is one of the most influential people in the local vegan cooking scene here. She had written a couple of vegan cookbooks, and they are pretty amazing too. I'm especially happy that she is a local recipe blogger, because with her recipes I'm always sure that I can use exactly the same ingredients she does. She even shares advice on where to find certain ingredients, if they are not available in regular grocery stores.

So these are the main places I search for new cooking ideas. Do you have favorite healthy eating, vegan friendly recipe blogs? I'd love to know!

New collection available now!

sasha kretova tartu collection

Exciting news! I have finally finished working on my new collection of notebooks and am ready to show it to you. I am in love with these notebooks, they have so much character! I used my signature binding technique, that I use in my classic notebooks, and it is amazing, because it lets the notebooks open flat. I also added a cotton spine to them, which makes them more durable. As all of my products, they are made of recycled paper and carton, so they are both stylish and eco-friendly.

sasha kretova tartu collection

This collection is very near and dear to my heart, because it reminds me of very inspiring time in my life that I spent in Tartu, Estonia last year. I talked about it in my post about why I decided to work on my creative business full time. I spent a month at an art residence, where I got to be one on one with my art surrounded by creativity and inspiration. That experience gave a starting point to finding my purpose and realizing what I am good at and what is it that I love to do the most. I am extremely grateful for that time in my life and this collection reflects that. I used the designs I created in Tartu during that month and hand-printed them on the covers of these books.

sasha kretova tartu collection

This collection is all about learning, trying new things and being inspired by the process itself. To create these designs I learned linocut technique and I was so inspired by the process that I let the material lead me. I did not plan anything ahead, I just took the tools and got cutting. The process was very meditative, but also really creative. I learned to be in the moment with my own work and really appreciate the process of doing what I truly enjoy and that was an amazing experience.

sasha kretova tartu collection You can purchase these notebooks from my shop here, or on Etsy here. They come with either plain or lined pages, so you can choose the one which is the most suitable for your creative process. The paper is nice and thick, so you can use pens and sharpies and they won't show through. At the moment there is a limited amount of these notebooks available, so act fast if you want one!

Smoothie of the Month: melon, kiwi and lime

melon kiwi lime smoothie recipe

For me summer time is fruit time. I do eat fruit during other times of year, but in summer so many more fruits are in season, they become cheaper and most of them taste much better than in winter. That's why in this month's smoothie I decided to combine fruits that I only eat in summer: melons and golden kiwis. I am crazy about golden kiwis, even though I am not a fan of the regular ones. I always wait for the summer so I can enjoy them, cause they are not even sold over here in winter time. I have a weird relationship with melons though, sometimes I like them and other times not so much. But I definitely love them in my smoothies, they add a creamy texture and enhance the taste of other fruits. I also added lime juice for extra freshness and tart taste. So if you like your drinks sour feel free to squeeze two limes into this smoothie. If tart drinks is not your thing, reduce to only one lime or skip it altogether and add a sweetener, like maple syrup.

This smoothie is super fresh and summery, the taste of it makes me want to go to the beach, even though it is still too cold for that here in Helsinki. Hopefully is gets warmer soon and I can make this smoothie to enjoy on the beach.

melon kiwi lime smoothie ingredients

Melon, Kiwi and Lime Green Smoothie
(serves two)

2 cups leafy greens (I used romaine lettuce for this one)
2 cups water
1/2 small melon of your favorite variety
2 golden kiwis
juice of 1-2 limes
maple syrup or other sweetener (optional)

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Enjoy!