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!





Life in phone photos: my new studio

statue in petrozavodsk

If you follow me on instagram or facebook you probably already noticed that I've been working at a new place for the past couple of months. I have finally decided it is time to move my work away from home and start interacting with other people every day. I know working at home is a dream for many creatives, but after working that way for months I realized it is not for me. I am quite an introverted person and I don't need to interact with people all the time, it actually drains me. But after staying alone at home for days in a row and not seeing other people but my husband for most of my time I started feeling extremely awkward around people when I got a chance to get out. I felt locked in and pretty lonely. I missed my husband way more than usual and all I could think about was the time he was supposed to come home from work. It was also pretty challenging for me to stick to my business tasks during my work hours. I was easily distracted by dirty dishes, cleaning or things I just like to do when I'm at home. So one day I decided I needed to rent a space I could call "work". Actually I prefer to call it "studio", cause work sounds boooring. I found a really nice shared office in a very beautiful area of Helsinki and rented a table to work next to other creatives. It took me a while to arrange my workspace the way I wanted it before I could show you. It is quite a small space, so it took some planning, but now it feels more or less ready. I haven't photographed a proper "tour" yet, but I've snapped a bunch of phone photos of the space and my process, so here is a peek inside my new studio for you.

By the way, the photo above has nothing to do with my new workspace, but it is so pretty and it is one of my recent phone photos as well, so I wanted to share it with you anyway. This is a statue in Petrozavodsk, Russia. I travelled there to play a show with my band in April and snapped this during our walk along the lake coast. That place is amazing and there are a lot of art pieces gifted to Petrozavodsk from different cities all around the world, but this is my favorite, it looks really cool.



Above you can see my little corner where I work. The tiny table is for all my computer work and the tall table is for hand work, which I like to do standing. I like to have a large space to work on with my hands, so I can fit a bunch of pre-printed and pre-folded paper and cartons and even my laptop if I am watching something while I make. Below are some close ups on my work in progress: printing the covers and binding paper blocks with cotton thread.



And of course cat photos! On the left is my little girl enjoying the sunny days. On the right is the sweetest cat I fell in love with when visiting a cat cafe. We don't have a permanent cat cafe here in Helsinki, but there was a week long one organized by a couple of veterinary organizations and of course we had to visit. It was so nice to have breakfast surrounded with cats peacefully walking around and interacting with visitors each in their own unique way. I especially connected with this beautiful girl, she was really sweet to me and even licked my hand! I missed her for days after that.




My Book Binding Process (Video)



I love peeking at other creatives' processes. It is really inspiring to see how others work and I always get a new kind of appreciation for the products when I see how they are made. Today I would like to virtually invite you into my little studio and see how a hand-bound notebook is born. This is the first video of this kind I've ever made and it was so much fun! My husband helped me a lot with the filming and music. I loved spending time with him doing something new and exciting for my business!

Book binding is a magical craft for me. I love the feel of new untouched paper in my hands. I love the process of turning a pile of paper and carton into a beautiful object that will be useful to someone and inspire them to create something new too. I love holding the ready made book in my hands and admiring how none of them is like the other. When you are making with your hands you create something unique each and every time no matter how many times you repeat the same pattern or technique. There is a special kind of beauty in the little imperfections that you can not repeat.


How I organized my mornings

morning tea

I used to think I was definitely a night owl, and totally not a morning person. It has always been difficult for me so wake up early and I’d stay up really late every night. And I was trying to adjust my life accordingly. I thought that a nine to five kind job was not for me and that I needed to do something where I’d be able to work whenever I feel like.

Then I started working on my own business and realized that mornings were exactly the time I was the most productive. Since I allowed myself to be a night owl I slept through my most productive time. The times I tried to work I ended up mostly procrastinating. When I realized that my time management is not working at all I started following my activities throughout the day. What I noticed was that every night I went to sleep after 2 am, but from 10 pm on I didn’t really do anything productive. I just surfed the internet or watched tv shows for hours in bed. That kind of shocked me, cause I always thought night time was when I am the most active and awake. And yes I was awake indeed, but I could as well be asleep and the results would have been exactly the same.

So I decided it was time for a change. I had to utilize my most productive hours, which was morning and early day time, and use the night time for resting. And guess what? Nowadays I wake up every morning at 6 am, get up at 6.30 and get a lot done before going to work, which gives me great motivation and energy for the workday ahead. Wanna know how I did it? Here are some strategies that worked for me and will surely work for you.

1. Find a wake up buddy

The hardest thing for me is to actually wake up. When I hear the alarm clock ring all I know is that I want to go back to sleep. Even if there’s something important I have to do, I lose all feeling of responsibility. UNLESS that important thing I have to do is for someone else. Sounds familiar? Then you should find someone with a similar problem and start waking each other up.

For me it was my sister. She had difficulties waking up early enough to make it in time to her morning lectures. So I started calling her every morning to wake her up. Now I am responsible for her success as well and I can't slack on that. I call her every morning and we talk until we are both fully awake. The best way to wake yourself up is to get your brain working and nothing does it better in the morning than just plain chatting to someone. And when your brain is fully awake getting up doesn’t feel so hard anymore. I love that I get to connect with my sister regularly and catch up on things and it is a great bonus. We live in different countries and we are both quite busy, so we don't get to see each other very often.

2. Go to bed early

This makes a huge difference on how easy or difficult it will be to get up in the morning. I tend to get super active in the evening and start doing things I don’t have time for and before I know it it’s too late to get enough sleep. My secret solution is setting a going-to-bed alarm. I set my alarm at 10 pm every weekday night. When it rings it means I have to stop everything and go to bed. Even if I don’t feel sleepy I still go to bed and read a book for a while.

Make it a rule that you have to be in bed 8 hours before your wake up alarm. Even if you don't feel like sleeping. You can do something that calms you down, for example, read or crochet, but do not use your devices! There should be no screen shining into your eyes before you go to sleep. After a while your body gets used to it and you will find your own best time to go to bed. It is not 8 hours for everyone, but that is the average, which is a good starting point.

3. Have a morning routine

When I found out that all humans have a limited amount of willpower per day I was a little bit in panic. I am often really bad with making decisions, which means I have to take as little decisions in the morning as possible. That way I can save that willpower to take the right decisions when it is really important and hopefully have some left to stay off biscuits and potato chips.

Every morning I take time brewing my green tea, blending my green smoothie and preparing my lunchbox to take to work. My breakfast is pretty much the same every morning, so I don’t spend any extra willpower deciding what I’d like to have. I like to prepare recipes for my smoothies ahead, so I don’t have to decide on that, but still have some variety. Yeah, I know, my morning routine mostly includes food-related activities. Well, it does include shower and brushing my teeth, but I don’t have to talk about that, cause for most of us that is the routine we acquired when we were kids. At the moment I am trying to add yoga practice and cleaning to my mornings too. I still don’t do it every day, but I’m getting there. More on that below.

Just remember, habits and routines take time to build. You might fail on keeping up with them several times. Please, don’t give up and say this is not for you. Some of them might not be for you. But you need to take time to realize that. I had a goal to drink green smoothies every day. I failed many times because of not having ingredients at home, because of feeling lazy, because of traveling or having people over. But I was getting better and better at it with time and I was feeling much more healthy and energized when I drank them regularly. Nowadays I somehow always have ingredients (shopping for fruit and greens regularly has also become a habit) and spending time blending them every morning is not even a question. I just do it. But it took time and several failures to get here.

4. Get things done before going to work

I love the feeling of getting to work at 9 am having already accomplished something. It doesn’t have to be anything big. For me it is usually cleaning the apartment for 15-20 minutes. It feels so great to leave and come back to a tidy home. Plus 20 minutes of cleaning every day is much more fun that several-hour-cleaning-sessions on a Sunday. And I know if I leave it for the evening it won't happen.

This can be anything you wish you could do regularly, but never found time to do. If you wanna exercise more, paint or draw, crochet or knit, spend more time with your children, read books. Start getting up a bit earlier and spend 20 minutes every morning doing that thing you really want to do. Make it into a habit over time and you will get so much accomplished before you know it!

5. Exercise

Why would you actually do all this stuff in the morning instead of just sleeping and rushing straight to work? Because you want to stay energized, motivated and in good mood for the rest of the day. Physical activity is one of the best ways to stay focused and productive. Well, I'd say its good food and physical activity. You don’t have to go to a gym or have a 1,5 hour yoga class every morning (but if thats your thing, go ahead, it sounds amazing!) Spend at least 20 minutes doing something active in the morning. If you want to save time you can walk or ride a bicycle to work (I love to bike to work now that its warm outside). If you are ready to wake up a bit earlier, do a short workout or yoga session, go jogging or just dance around your house. Physical activity is an amazing way to wake your body up, stay energized and feel good. Next time you start feeling tired in the middle of the day, try jumping up and down 20 times, walk around the block or dance like crazy to your favorite song instead of getting that cup of coffee. Works like a charm!


This all might feel overwhelming at first and you might think you will never be able to organize your mornings like that. But believe me, if you told me a year ago that this is what my mornings would be like I would have laughed in your face. You need to think of what is important for you, what your ideal morning looks like and start adding one thing at a time. Remember to be persistent and I promise you will see results!

What do you do in the mornings? Any tips for your favorite ways to start the day? Let me know in the comments!


Sketchbook

sasha kretova sketchbook

Here's another portion of my recent (and not so recent) sketches. As always, they look super simple, but that is how all my creative work starts. I love to keep things simple. These sketches are the kind that I draw when I am not working on any project, idea or collection. I just draw whatever comes to mind. Most of the time nothing special comes out, but I get to practice and the process itself inspires me. From time to time I may even come up with a great idea.

This time, as always, I've been experimenting with a lot of triangular and other geometric shapes and patterns. I've also started practicing some hand lettering. To be honest, my handwriting has never been really pretty. But I'd love to use my own writing in many design elements in my business so I decided I have to start with what I have and keep practicing so that one day it will look pretty. I also found my old sketches from when I was brainstorming for my logo design. On the bottom there are Amsterdam inspired house drawings, which were really fun to draw. Maybe I should ditch my black and white obsession in this one and color those houses, they will look so cute in different colors.

sasha kretova sketchbook
sasha kretova sketchbook
sasha kretova sketchbook
sasha kretova sketchbook


Smoothie of the Month: Strawberry and Mint

strawberry mint smoothie recipe

I'm so happy spring is here! I know its almost summer already, but here in the north it hasn't been that long since we started having warmer days. I've started riding my bicycle to work and I love it! It's really refreshing and a great exercise for the start of the day. Now that it's been warm and sunny I've been craving more fresh and summery tastes in my food. This smoothie is a perfect example. What can taste more summery than strawberry and more fresh than mint? For this one I used frozen strawberries, but I can't wait for summer to start so I could make this drink with fresh ripe strawberries.

strawberry mint smoothie recipe

Strawberry and Mint Smoothie
(serves two)

2 cups leafy greens (e.g. spinach, kale)
2 cups water
2 cups fresh or frozen strawberries
1 banana
8-10 fresh mint leaves

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





My Favorite Pets on Instagram

favorite pets on instagram

This post is more of a fun one and it includes cuteness, lots of it. For a while now I've been planning to share my favorite instagrammers here on the blog. Once I sat down to browse through them I realized many of them have pets and I love seeing photos of them in my feed. I actually remember most of those pets by name and I feel like they are my friends' pets. Yes, I have a weird connection to pets on instagram. So I thought those are the profiles I want to share with you guys, cause I connect to those people in a special way. Probably cause owning a pet is such a great common thing to connect over. Anyways, those are all amazing instagram profiles of extremely talented ladies with beautiful apartments/houses/studios and all the pretty things that they do, so even if you do not have the same weird pet obsession like I do I still think you should check those profiles out.

amelie mancini and ladybird
Amelie Mancini and Ladybird

Amelie is an amazing artist, printmaker and woodworker. I've been admiring her work mostly from her instagram account where she shows a lot of her progress as well as finished pieces. She also shares lots of pictures of her so nicely decorated home and of course her cat Ladybird. Go check the cat bed Amelie made for her, it's beautiful and goes so well in her home.

anna bakhonko and vasilisa
Anna Bakhonko and Vasilisa

Anna is a designer and decorator from Odessa, Ukraine. She makes lots of beautiful things and decorates pretty spaces and her apartment is definitely one of them. Her cat Vasilisa is so elegant and feminine and is really good at posing for photos.

ariele alasko, mazie and mr. c
Ariele Alasko, Mazie and Mr.C

Ariele is the most amazing woodworker out there. I am a huge fan of her work. Her wooden spoons are perfect and I love how she shares peeks at her process and inside her studio all the time on instagram. She has a dog called Mazie and a cat called Mr. C. From Ariele's photos they seem to be complete opposites: Mazie is happy and friendly all the time and Mr. C is super serious. But they seem to be getting along pretty well cuddling with each other all the time.

kelly from little paper planes, jane and justin
Kelly, Jane and Justin

Kelly runs Little Paper Planes shop in San Francisco, where she carries lots of beautiful items from different makers and designers. She's also a designer herself and the collection she's working on right now looks so beautiful and so simple. I love peeking inside her shop and her design process through her instagram account, where she sometimes also shares pictures of her cats Jane and Justin. They look so sweet always hugging each other in their sleep. I wish I had two cats some day and they would be that friendly to each other.

rebecca caridad, sadie and olive
Rebecca Caridad, Sadie and Olive

Rebecca is one of my favorite bloggers. She used to run a small crochet accessories business and now she's an amazing photographer, florist and calligrapher. Her photographs are always so dreamy and so open and honest. She's also a mama to two little poodles Sadie and Olive. Sadly Sadie has recently passed away and I am so sorry for Rebecca's loss. It is always heartbreaking to loose your pet friend. They become part of our families and when they go it's never the same again. So I wanted to include Sadie here, cause when I think of Rebecca I always imagine her with these two sweet little girls.

lindsi from people webs, fig and plum
Lindsi Jensen, Fig and Plum

Lindsi is another talented crochet designer. Her works are simple and beautiful and she shares some of the patterns on her blog so you can make them yourself too. Her pugs Fig and Plum are the cutest. She even dressed Plum to match her own costume on Halloween.

susk and banoo and colin
Susk and Banoo and a cat called Colin

This is my favorite cat on instagram! Colin is amazing, I seriously wish I could meet him one day. His mama is also pretty great, I've been following her for a while now drooling over pictures of her amazing apartment plus I love her sense of humor. I couldn't find her real name anywhere, not sure if she even shares it, but Susk and Banoo are what she and her husband call each other. Check her blog for the full story and many more pictures of Colin.

sasha kretova and notka
Sasha (me!) and Notka

Of course I also had to show you my little princess Notka. She's a very independent lady with a strong character. She won't sit on your lap unless you earned it. And she doesn't like to be hugged and kissed. If she loves you enough she will come and kiss you herself (which is more like lick and bite a little). She loves to sleep and when she's not sleeping she's chasing tiny plastic things (the ones used to seal bread packages) or stealing chocolate from people's table when they're not looking.

Do you have pets? Do you love sharing pictures of them? Show me!


My Secret to Blogging Regularly + A Free Printable

blog planner printable
How often do you find yourself wondering what to write about when you sit down to create your next blog post? Do you find it hard to blog regularly so you end up producing 5 great posts in a row and then staying silent for two months? I know exactly how you feel. I've been there. Now I've been blogging regularly (most of the time) for 6 or 7 months and I am ready to share the secret. Well, not so secret really and pretty obvious, but here is what you need to do to blog regularly and to always have fresh ideas: PLAN. I know, it feels great to be inspired and spontaneous and blog about ideas and projects that are coming from your head right now. And that approach is alright too, but only for a small portion of your posts. If you would like to produce quality content regularly you need to plan it. It makes it so much easier to write great posts on days when you are not super inspired and your head is not exploding with all the great ideas.

Here's how I do it. I've designed a planner for myself to schedule my blog posts and all the things I need to do to create them (photo sessions, writing, editing, researching and buying materials). Usually in the beginning of each month I start planning posts for the next month. For example, in April I've been working on April posts and planning May posts. In May I'll start creating those posts I planned and also print the planner for June and plan new posts. I usually publish my posts on Wednesdays, but I try to leave as little work for Wednesday as possible. In ideal situation I write and take photos on Monday, edit the photos and text on Tuesday and schedule the post to be published on Wednesday. That way if I am running late I still have Wednesday morning to finalize some of the editing. When the post requires some more preparation I might buy materials or test some of the things in the end of the previous week. Some of the posts are more random, for example, for "My Helsinki" posts I take photos whenever I am visiting the place I want to share, and I edit the photos and write the text when it is time to work on that post. Planning helps me to keep blogging even when I am away. When I am traveling I prepare posts beforehand and schedule them to be published on Wednesdays.

Different bloggers do it differently. Some people take a few days in the beginning of the month to write all the posts for that month so that they don't have to think about blogging for the rest of it. Others spend one whole day to deal with all of their blogging tasks for the week. For me it works best when I split each week's post into several days, that way I can also work on other tasks on those days. It does not matter what system works for you. The most important thing is that you find your system and plan plan plan.

To make your blog planning a little easier and more fun I'd like to share my planner with you. It's such a small and simple way to take your blogging to the next level. Even if you've already been pretty organized with your posts, this might be a fresh and fun new way to keep your blogging notes and schedule. The planner has slots for each day for four weeks, and it does not have the dates in it, so you can use it for any month or just start from any day you like. It has two pages to print on front and back. The back page has space for your blogging related to-do lists as well as for brainstorming your blog ideas for next months. Follow the instructions below to print your own blog planner and make sure to let me know in the comments how you organize your blogging routine!

blog planner printable

INSTRUCTIONS

1. Download the pdf HERE
2. Print on an A4 sheet of paper, double sided, scale setting at 100% (if you use letter size you can print on it too, but make sure to fit the image to page instead of scaling to 100%)
3. Fill you schedule in and have fun blogging!