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Kari Cadenhead: An Artist of Life

Text by: Jessica Ceason

It was one of those circles of events that lead to my meeting Kari. Removing any one piece of the event would have lead to a whole new scenario, and we may have never crossed paths. Knowing the impact she has had on me so far, however, I'm certain the stars would have aligned somehow and that our friendship would have formed by way of inevitability.
© Jessica Ceason Photography

Kari is anything but typical, ordinary, or predictable, from the clothes she wears to the topics she blogs about. It's a home made apron that finishes off her artistically assembled outfit, a strategically placed almond atop a tea flavored vegan cupcake, and the enriching art and learning centers in the living room for her son that make Kari an artist. Her own paintings line her stairwell, and her sewing projects decorate their living space. Kari lives artfully. She is, as I always say, an Artist of Life.

There are people you meet in life that have a presence. They're impressionable and memorable, and through years and distance, you can still hear them laugh or remember the first time you stepped into their homes. They're the ones that ten years and ten lives later, you're still talking about, as if you'd been in each other's company just the day before. They're the ones you wish you could time warp to visit when the miles create separation and the ones you think about when you need life advice, and it seems there's no one else who will listen.

I call a visit to Kari's house, "running away," because it feels like exactly that. A winding road through mountains and valleys will eventually lead you to a tunnel out of which you emerge along the Mosel River and, shortly thereafter, in Kari's village. There's something about exiting the tunnel that leaves you feeling as though you've left your busy life on the other side. Kari lives in a quaint German village on a field-surrounded property she and friends affectionately call "The Compound." There are gardens, trees, animals, flowers, sidewalk chalk drawings, and prayer flags waving in a perpetual breeze. You enter Kari's house, and the smell of cupcakes wafts around you. On a recent visit, Kari put together a garden lunch that looked and tasted as if it was straight out of a magazine complete with cupcakes, quirky, painted furniture, summer entrees, and a handmade ambiance.

Once a consumer of the typical American diet, Kari eventually felt the ill effects of her mass-produced dietary choices. She has since converted herself and her family to an organic, vegetarian palate. Her specialty is cupcakes. Blueberry cardamom, avocado buttercream frosting, and chai tea with vanilla bean are some of her delicate, vegan cake creations. Her cupcakes are purely vegan and completely irresistible. As an aspiring business venture, Kari's "Cupcake Barn" will soon take flight, and I'm convinced that one day, her name will be well known by cupcake aficionados.

© Jessica Ceason Photography
Polite Society:
What was the "final straw" that made you decide to convert yourself and your family to an organic lifestyle?
Kari Cadenhead:
After dealing with several years of endometriosis and immune deficiencies, I learned what pesticides can do to our bodies (acting as estrogens as your body tries to break them down, they can wreak havoc on many different systems within us). This became more pressing as my husband and I began our journey into infertility. It became a simple decision to eliminate these factors from our food, as it was at least one thing we could control.

Over the years, it has become about more than my own health. Now it is about giving my miracle of a son the best chance he can possibly have to become a healthy adult, to avoid the issues his father and I faced. It's about teaching him how to take control of his environment and not letting societal norms, or ignorance, dictate his future. It's ultimately about how we treat ourselves and our planet, doing the best we can with what we have — knowledge, love, and respect.
What inspires you in art, in life and in cooking?
In art I am most influenced by nature. There is a lot that encompasses, such as color, light, texture, the constant renewal of life. I am blown away every time I leave the house by how things are different, vast and perfect. When I do get the time to sit down and paint, it usually pertains to animals or flowers, and it's always colorful.

While I like looking at beautiful art, when it comes to life, I am very utilitarian. The old depression-era saying, "Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without!" really drives me to live a life without waste and with endless thanks for what we are so very fortunate to have. I used to believe that freedom was the most important thing in life, but the past few years have taught me that nothing is more important than gratitude.

As for food! Well, everything above kind of comes together when I cook. It has to be healthy, it has to be simple, and it has to be beautiful… at least taste beautiful! Food is very sentimental for me, and I love to make old family recipes in a new way so as to fit them into our lives at this point. I don't want to give up what I love! Our family and friends revolve around food and eating, and so it has to be good for our bodies AND souls.
What do you love most about living in Europe?
There are an infinite number of things I love about living in Europe. I would say it's impossible to choose one thing and call it the best. That being said, it all comes down to new experiences. Places, people, and even points of view leave their mark. We were uprooted and dropped in the middle of a completely foreign atmosphere, and we managed to embrace it so fully that it feels like home now.
© Jessica Ceason Photography
Simply having this experience together has been life changing for my husband and I. We'll be able to share all of this with our son — as my parents did with me and my grandparents did with my father — in the form of memories recounted and lasting friendships all over the world. The past six years have given me enough good memories and experiences to last me a lifetime, and I can't think of anything better than that!

My heart sinks when I think of the day that is fast approaching where Kari is no longer a twisty, new world drive away. She's unforgettable, though. She has left an impression on me, as well as many others, to always live artfully, and is an inspiration to strive to become a better version of me.