Women Who Inspire Interview Series: Sara of ShisoDelicious

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Happy Friday, everyone! 

Today, I'm so so SO excited to launch this interview series that I've been cooking up for you guys for several weeks now. As a biweekly complement to my Favorite Friday Finds that is every other week, on the other Fridays I will be sharing an interview with a woman who inspires. 

The idea for this interview series came about from wanting to see the more in-depth sides to the women who are public personalities. So many times, we can all fall down the social media rabbit hole of lusting after others' more seemingly glamorous lives, and we can forget that the person on the other side is simply human too. A human with their own struggles, insecurities, half the hustle you don't see, triumphs, and more. You guys know I'm all about embracing your NOW, rather than the living for the "after" pictures. I wanted to look beyond the pretty feeds and filters into reality.

So, I invited some of my dear blogger and Instagrammer friends to share a more personal look into their lives: their approach to live, what works for them, their perspectives, and struggles, all to hopefully inspire you and give a sense of community. 

To kick things off for the first time, here is the beautiful Sara Popowa of @shisodelicious!

You may have already come across her before on her Instagram, but her inspiring feed is not to be missed. I first found Sara through a mutual friend, the wonderful Heike of @tastyasheck, and we became fast friends.

She felt like a big sister across the pond in London, with her sweet nurturing nature, and she has this wonderful zest for life that I so appreciate. Sara has a loyal, nearly 60k following on her Instagram after immersing herself in the IG foodie community, and her stunning photos of her thoughtful plant-based creations along with her personal story-like captions make her one of my favorites I look forward to see on my feed every day. Without babbling on too much further, I'll let the interview take it from here, as I know I was so very refreshed and inspired after reading her answers!

Quickfire Questions:

Hats you wear:
Designer, artist, food photographer, food-nerd, Instagrammer, geek
First thing you do when you open your eyes in the morning:
Wish I can go back to that dream I was just having.
Last nice thing you did for yourself:
Admitting I was wrong.
3 words to describe your strengths you’re most proud of:
Different, engaged, thorough.
3 characteristics other people use to describe you:
Haha. Lovely, late, organised?
Current book you’re reading:
Just finished ‘This is London’ by journalist Ben Judah who’s gone out and collected stories of, and sometimes lived with, people who have come from all over the world to make a living in London – often in the layers of society that struggle the most. An eye opening and attitude changing book.
Current favorite physical activity:
I’m a long term Bikram yoga fan. But mountain walking is my absolute favourite of recent years – something I can only do when I travel sadly. 
Current color crush:
Winter colours.
Current song on repeat:
Hmm. I’m a music junkie .. my partner A’s current EP ‘Twich’? Echaskech is the band name.
Current thing that never fails to make you smile:
The lovely people and comments from my Instagram community.
Next purchase or experience on the bucket list:
A professional camera body and a killer lens.
Thing you’re most looking forward to right now?
Finishing something I've been working on for the last couple of months.
5 words to describe what love means to you:
Trust, held, respect, oneness, selfless.
Morning bird or night owl?
Most definitely a night owl. 
Coffee or Matcha? (hmmm why do I know Sara's answer to this already)
Coffee for the effect, matcha for the flavour and overall experience.
Sweet or savory?
Favorite lazy girl weekday meal:
Anything that involves putting some random veg in the oven and coming back 45 minutes later. 
5 items always in your purse/bag:
Phone, keys, card wallet, lip balm, bright red matte lip pencil. 

"Get Shit Done"

What is your one signature shortcut or cheat that makes your life run a little smoother?
Making food in batches – that can be granola, soups, rice, pulses – so I know we can eat well without having to cook or prep all the time. Eating well without buying ready-mades is a little more work but it is what I like the best.

Life doesn’t always go according to plan, so we choose our battles. What are your daily non-negotiables?
Cuddles. At least a few minutes a day but preferably more!

What is the most important lesson you’ve taken away from a particularly big achievement or success?
When I throw myself into something without being afraid (or even being aware) of how much work it will be, good things happen. 

What’s a habit you’ve adopted in the past year that has had a significant positive change on your daily routine?
Overnight breakfasts like oats or chia puddings.

Working from home or on the go has it’s own set of challenges— what are 1-2 key things you’ve found to help you be most efficient and productive?
Resist breaking my time and concentration up by ‘just checking something online’, or reaching for my phone. Start something and stick to it for a good period of time, then reward yourself with some phone-time. 

Mountains to Climb

Your work is a lot closer to home than most. While most everyone brings home work these days, thanks to emails on phones, blogging actually entails documenting and sharing your everyday. How has that affected your relationships with friends and family?
There has been times where I may have been an ‘aggressive instagrammer’ around my partner or friends – not always appreciated. But generally I feel it’s brought me closer to some of my social circle. By my work being so public, with so much positive feedback, there is a new respect from my wider social circle. Like ‘wow, I had no idea you could do THIS’. That has really increased my confidence.

Have you found that technology- especially with the real-time trend that social media is adopting (Snapchat, IG stories) that it takes away from the experience? 
I try to carefully choose when to include the world through my device. That way I can let it become an experience in itself – a sort of fun documentary. But if you can’t control yourself, if you are constantly looking for what would look cool in your stories/snapchat, then yes, I think you are distancing yourself from your actual self. Switch on, switch off.

From time to time, we all get caught up lusting after others lives— whether it be their travel photos on Instagram, their beautiful home, their adorable husband + babies, their burgeoning career, etc. What do you do when you fall down the rabbit hole of comparison to others in your field?
I indulge in it for a few moments then tell myself to stop being silly. I have enough to be happy and proud of myself and everyone, no matter how fantastic their work is or how great their life seems, they, as everyone, face problems and challenges. 

Do you think you have your shit together? Do you think anyone else does?
Yes and no. Life fluctuates, sometimes we are more 'together' sometimes less. If you really suffer from not having your shit together, you need to help yourself change, or find help.

What’s a personal weakness you’ve overcome (or progressed on) that you’re most proud of? What was that process like?
I used to suffer from being overly judgmental and critical to everything and everyone, including myself. I recognized this as a problem early, especially in how I interacted with others. I didn’t want to be that person. Like anything you want to change about yourself, it’s a practice, something you do every day, all the time, constantly reminding yourself that’s what you are working on. I think as I became less judgmental of others, I also became kinder to myself. And I'm still practicing!

When you’re caught in a moment of overwhelm or chaos, what is the one thing you rely on to ground you?
Cuddles or talk with my partner A, depending on the nature of the overwhelm. If it's an urgent overwhelm when he's not around, then removing myself mentally from what is stressing me out. Force myself to stop reacting to it, move to the present, the daylight, the weather and sounds, my breathing.


What do you think about the phrase “having it all” as a woman?
I think it's a silly phrase! A phrase like that can only be based on a very simplified, generalised view of what it means to be human .. and a woman.

Do you believe that you have to “have it all” to be happy?
Haha, no. But maybe 'having yourself'. Loving yourself in all its complexity.

What is an important thing in life that that you feel like the world is lacking lately and could use more of?
Balance. Education, preferably without the aim of making us into better robots ;) But I could reverse the question – what is there too much of? Greed, selfishness. Lack of awareness of our limited natural resources, and lack of respect for human and animal life in an overpopulated, over consuming, over/under-nourished world. 

What is currently frustrating you the most about your industry?
Generally I’m happy with it! But .. there can be an elitist streak to it which some people within it may fail to recognize? I think it’s important to keep the perspective that life is not just about how good you may feel or look as a result of your diet and exercise – but that we live in a world where not everyone can afford, or even have the education to eat or live like we can. But then again, sustainability and consumer awareness is part of this industry too. So I’m not complaining, and I do get to choose how I'm involved in this industry.

We all see it— society’s increasing pressure to be so “perfect” — our outfits have to be Instagrammable, our homes have to be Pinterest-worthy, we have to be eating all-organic and healthy, our engagement shoots have to be magazine-worthy, and even our dogs have to have their own following! What are the effects on your life that you’ve noticed because of this dynamic, both negative and positive?
It sort of comes back to the previous question. Keep perspective of how small this 'instagrammable bubble' is. Then it's easy to see through this 'perfect world' and not take it too seriously, just as it's useful to see through advertising. It doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy and admire a lot of those images .. but I see it as art, an idealised, enhanced reality. Throughout human history we have been fascinated with icons, saints, heroes .. it's the same now. It is more intense because more of us make those images, and they're everywhere – we may mistakenly feel that is reality. 
I guess that didn't answer the question! I guess what I'm saying I'm very aware of visual culture, and I play within it because I enjoy it, and it's pushing me to explore  further and better. The major 'bad' effects I feel battled through in my 20s and 30s – I'm much freer now :)

Our Bodies

Define “being healthy” in your perspective.
Not being lazy about yourself. Not getting too comfortable or habitual. 

What is the one thing you’re most thankful for about your body?
It’s quite ‘durable’ .. seems to age slowly. 

How has your perspective on your body changed since 5 or 10 years ago?
Becoming friends with it, truly.

The Hustle

What do you think is unique that you offer to your audience that is lacking out there?
My Bentos? :) #shisobento 

What inspires you most?
Interactions with people, hunger including hunger for beauty, finding ‘shortcuts’ of doing stuff, a need to share, to communicate.

Was there any personal or professional risk involved in your commitment to the blog?
Hahah yes. I lost quite a few design commissions when I started going into intense Instagramming (effectively micro-blogging!). Or rather, I lost my interest in design – for clients. 

What is the key to maintaining your personal aesthetic + brand integrity while working with other brands? 
Saying no. And if I can't/don't want to say no: learning new skills, welcoming the new angles that the client's brief offers and making some my own. 

Do you ever feel like you see the advice out there to “just be yourself! Produce content that makes you happy and the rest will fall in place?”— but reality is, is that there are some parameters for succeeding in these kinds of creative fields. How do you maintain integrity while also still propelling your business forward?
I think an essential quality as a creator is confidence in that you know what is 'good', what is beautiful, what works – according to your own sensibilities! Obviously, you will feel the opposite many times, but it does comes down to you trusting your own discernment. And accept that it takes time to develop that discernment, that confidence, the skills and even the definition of what is 'you'. But you should work really hard at it! Keep practicing!
In terms of how your creative output can be successful .. do something which is in line with what a lot of people like, but that is still niche – your niche. 

How do you see the blogger/influencer space evolving as social media continues to rapidly develop and change?
When I look at the foodie blogger space, I suppose many people want to make this into their full time job. So we will probably see more unique ideas and voices, stemming from the social media/blogger space that become big and mainstream. As businesses and big money get more involved in this space, businesses will become more 'personal' and bloggers more commercial I suppose – well this is already happening but we should see development in that. But anything could happen! It's an interesting slice of reality to be involved in.

Content fatigue is real. Bloggers/IGers take in so much content through their social feeds, and sometimes it can feel like you’re seeing the same stuff over and over. How do you stay innovative with your content and what work you produce?
Have you had enough of bentos yet? ;) I've always been a very changeable person, wanting to try new things all the time and with lots of thoughts buzzing about in my head. So mostly I have lots of ideas, and the micro format of IG helps. I can briefly touch on many subjects and ideas without feeling I need to produce an essay every time. When I do feel I have less ideas about food, I concentrate on photography, when the photography isn't so exciting, I focus on something philosophical. And I'm not afraid to go for days, sometimes weeks posting mostly old images (I have so many ..), those older images may trigger something new, months after it was taken. I go see a lot of art, music, that sort of thing – I find this really inspires and gives me other angles on my everyday. I do take breaks as well – completely off IG for a few days or even weeks. It's essential. 

What is the most rewarding part of what you do?
The sense that everything is in my hands – that I have the possibility to do whatever I want. Which is terrifying too because what if I DON'T do the things I want? Argh :)

A HUGE thanks to Sara for her thoughtful answers to my questions!

I don't know about you guys, but I know I certainly felt a lot more confident and inspired after hopping in her shoes through her words there! All of the beautiful photography in the body of this post is by Shiso Delicious (apart from the garden portraits [shot by Rose de Larrabeiti] + portrait below [shot by Olivia Rubie]), and make sure to check out her beautiful Instagram and her blog