Tips and Tricks for Clear Skin

Take a walk through the skincare aisle at your local pharmacy, and you’ll see it….the war on acne is big business.  You can try cleansers, scrubs, masks, toners, 3 part skincare systems, and expensive tools.  Unfortunately, none of these is a sure bet when it comes to getting clear skin.

Some people may think that getting upset over acne is silly.  I mean, it’s just pimples and you’ll outgrow it, right?  Clearly these folks have never suffered chronic acne or they’d know that it is a big deal.  I am not talking about a pimple here and there.  I’m talking about struggling with acne EVERY day.  When you have this problem, it can feel like the world sees your acne instead of YOU.  And usually, no over the counter remedy helps.  Acne is a devious little bitch.


I was blessed.  I sailed through my teen years without more than an occasional zit.  I never understood why people got so upset or worried about their skin.  And then I hit my twenties, and my skin went haywire.  Overnight my skin became a red, rashy mess.  It had the texture of sandpaper, and you could see your reflection in my forehead.  I felt powerless when NOTHING I did helped.  I was mortified when one of my professors offered the unsolicited advice that I try tea tree soap for my skin in front of my classmates.

I know some had it much worse than I did.  My acne was probably moderate rather than severe, but it was consistent, and it is not an exaggeration to say that I tried EVERYTHING.  The only thing that got it remotely under control was a prescription from a dermatologist. Even that was not a 100% solution.

Today, my skin has done a full 180.  I no longer take prescription meds, and I don’t incorporate any anti-acne products into my regimen.  I still get some breakouts, but nothing like before.  I also still worry about the constant breakouts returning because I haven’t forgotten how powerless acne can make you feel.  I’m not sure whether I’ve just outgrown my adult acne or if it has improved because I’m super vigilent about skincare.

Before (and this was the “improved” version when I was on prescription meds):

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Now:

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The point of telling you all of this is that there are some things that I believe make a huge difference.  I’m not going to talk about any products to fight acne because, honestly, I’m not convinced any really work.  I’m also not claiming that following these tips will clear up your chronic acne, but I think these habits help maintain clear skin.  If you’re suffering from serious acne and it’s causing you a significant amount of stress or social anxiety, I’d encourage you to see a professional.  If you’re just looking for some easy (and free!) ways to improve and/or maintain your skin, try these.

1. Consistency is Key – Once you find a skincare regimen that works for you, STICK WITH IT! Don’t try a new product every other day or you’ll never be able to tell what’s working and what’s causing a reaction. Wash your face every night (no excuses).  Oh…and forget about all of the “acne” products for adult acne. A lot of that stuff targeted to teens is just going to irritate your skin and make things worse.  Keep it simple (and consistent!).

2. Watch Out for Stealth Acne Promoters – There are so many things that can cause a flare up that you might not even notice.  Watch how often you touch your face, and don’t even think about popping that zit!  Wash your sheets and pillowcases regularly. Try to limit the amount of hair products that you use.  All of these things deposit bacteria, dirt, and pore-clogging crap on your face. Try to minimize it whenever possible.

3. Evaluate Your Diet – Whenever I’m eating crap, I definitely notice its effects on my skin.  Try to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables while limiting processed and sugary foods.  Another dietary change that I think has made a real difference is cutting back on dairy.  This helps a lot of people because they aren’t exposed to all of the hormones found in most dairy products.

4. Stop Putting So Much Stuff on Your Face – I know, I know. When you’ve got breakouts, you really want to cover them.  But burying yourself in layers of foundation and concealer isn’t doing you any favors. It might work in the short term, but all of that make up is probably making your skin worse in the long run.  Try to limit the makeup you wear on your face to the bare minimum, and remember that you’re beautiful with or without breakouts.

5. Stress Less – I know that right now you’re probably thinking (cue sarcastic tone) “Gee, Lauren. That’s a great idea! And so easy! I’ll do that right now!”  I know that it’s really easy to say “stress less,” but it’s super hard to do.  Find a way to do it anyway.  Whether it’s exercising, meditating, or having sex, do something that takes your mind off everything that’s bothering you.  I bet you’ll see improvement in your skin.  And even if you don’t, at least your doing something good for your body or getting laid.  Either way, you win.

Simple Pleasures

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Sometimes it can be easy to forget how good we have it.  We encounter so many messages each day that tell us to pursue more, to acquire more, to BE more.  It’s healthy to want to succeed, but sometimes it can feel like the world is telling us to pursue empty promises in the name of …..what exactly?  It’s so easy to feel like we’re not good enough when we’re constantly comparing ourselves to each other on Facebook, looking at picture-perfect vegan pies on blogs, or even just feeling slightly less accomplished because we only speak one language.

The problem is that even if you tell yourself that you’re not going to buy into this stupid game, there are so many ways to feel like a failure.  We receive so many messages about other people’s “perfect” lives through social networking sites, magazines, and other forms of media these days.  And the truth is that our own lives are usually far from perfect.

Whenever I find myself falling down that rabbit hole, I try to remember all of the beautiful things that I get to experience in the world.  Sure…my house is a total mess right now, my dog is completely neurotic, and I may have gained a couple of pounds, but I’m fortunate enough to have everything that I need.  I have family and friends that love me, the ability to walk, and the good fortune to live in a place and time that allows me to enjoy simple pleasures in comfort.

Think about it.  Who needs Louboutins when you have these?

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What reminds you of all the good things in your life?

Things My Mother Taught Me

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Happy Mother’s Day to all of you with sons, daughters, and fur babies!  I hope that you’ve had an awesome day.  You totally deserve it, you rockstars.  In honor of today, I wanted to do something a bit different and give a shout out to my own mom.  Somehow she managed to impart some pearls of wisdom throughout the years filled with laughs, tears, arguments, and my bad teen fashion choices.  Let’s take this day to celebrate all of the things our moms taught us.

1) Wear Sunscreen – Seriously.  Unless you’re a purse, the crocodile look is never in style.  I tell myself that this piece of advice is why I still get carded frequently.

2) Trust No One – Ok. I might actually take this one a bit far sometimes since I’m paranoid, but I’ve managed to avoid a lot of bad stuff by being aloof and neurotic.

3) But Be Kind To Everyone – I can honestly say that I don’t ever remember my mom making a single sexist, racist, or ageist comment.  She never put down others for being overweight.  She always treats the elderly with respect.  She regularly engages in random acts of kindness for strangers. Basically, my mom taught me that it isn’t cool to be a dick.

4) Treat Yourself the Way You Want to be Treated – In all honesty, I was a pretty spoiled kid.  I probably got way more than I needed, but the good thing about this is that I don’t feel guilty for treating myself.  So many women don’t take care of themselves because they think it’s selfish or they’re waiting for someone else to do it.  Just buy yourself the damn flowers already, ok? You’re worth it.

5) Protect Yourself – This is an important one. Whether it’s learning how to use a gun, practicing safe sex, or telling an overly touchy date “that makes me very uncomfortable,” don’t be afraid to speak up or do the things that you need to do in order to feel safe.

6) The Joy of Cooking is a Wealth of Knowledge – My mom is an awesome cook.  This is NOT a trait that she passed along to me.  Luckily, she did teach me that the next time I forget how to boil water, I can consult The Joy of Cooking.

7) A Good Book is a Girl’s Best Friend – Of all of my childhood hobbies, my love of reading was the one my mom indugled most often.  She took great pride in the fact that both of her children were bookworms, and she always encouraged our love of good books.  I learned early on that I would rather curl up with a great story than go to the hottest party, and I’ve never regretted time spent reading.  I have since regretted many times spent partying.

8) Save for a Rainy Day – I’m lucky to have parents who modeled good money habits.  Although I probably splurge more than necessary, I also recognize the fact that shit happens.  Seriously, people.  Start contributing to your company’s 401(K).  Save a small amount from each paycheck.  Start today.

9) How to Spot Belleek Pottery and Appreciate Antiques – My parents used to sell antiques and dragged me to countless auctions, shops, and dumpster diving trips (don’t judge…you can find awesome stuff on the side of the road).  My point is, I credit my mom with teaching me to love vintage clothes, to know that I’m not a fan of Belleek, and to recognize that some really ugly things can be made beautiful with a little creativity and elbow grease.

10) “Always Be a First-Rate Version of Yourself Instead of a Second-Rate Version of Someone Else” – I think Judy Garland said it best.  My mom always taught me to be myself, even if no one else really “got it.”  I’m sure that she was embarrassed of her kids’ wacky ways more often than not, but she never let on that she was.  Instead, she told me I looked pretty in my wannabe Courtney Love kinderwhore dresses and danced with my brother to songs from Fiddler on the Roof.  My brother and I were always encouraged to be open-minded and curious.  We were taught to stand up for what we believed in, even if it meant standing alone.  And in high school, it usually did.  But the great thing is that the older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve been able to find people whose crazy matches my own.  So let your freak flag fly proud!

Ok…now it’s your turn. What lessons from your mom will you always remember?

Spring Favorites

DSC_0996I originally titled this post March favorites. That should give you a good indication of where brain is at this point. Sadly, I can’t even blame the child this time.

The weather guys, is.a.amazing. I love it, I’m ready for it. We have started eating lighter foods and taking evening walks. I actually took pictures of a cucumber salad that is pretty much a spring/summer staple in our house. Sadly, I only took pictures of half the process. So I will be making that again this week and posting it soon. In lieu of the food recipe I will be showing you some things that I have come to love this spring. I tried to choose a mix of beauty, bath and food items. Let’s get to it!

YES to Coconuts body wash and Cetaphil Lotion

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This body wash is everything to me right now. I love the scent of coconuts anytime but during the spring and summer it’s my go-to scent for body wash. When I smelled this in the store it instantly reminded me of visiting my grandparents in New York and getting coquito from the cart. As far as body wash goes it’s standard. I don’t have a very high standard for body wash. It needs to get me clean, not dry out of my skin and smell good. This does all over those things. The bottle says it’s made with oil. For some reason, I assumed it would be creamy but it is a very runny body wash. My skin was super soft after so I guess it is pretty moisturizing. Let’s be honest though, it’s the scent that got  me. Sadly, the scent did not linger on my skin. I may need to pair it with the lotion.

Cetaphil Lotion

True story, this lotion kind of surprised me. I threw it in my suitcase to use on vacation because the bottle was small. I have been using it every night, before bed, since we got home and my hands are completely smooth. I don’t even know how this little bottle of magic got into my house. Clearly, God felt bad for my sad sally hands and dropped it off. Bonus, Cetaphil is hella cheap. A 16oz bottle is about $11.

Primal Pit Paste and Bare Minerals Complexion Rescue

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Primal Pit Paste is a natural deodorant. I have a bad history with natural deodorant. Normally, they either don’t work or they make me break out in an awful rash. This does neither. I use the scent Thyme and Lemongrass and I can still smell it when I am getting ready for bed. They also make a lavender scent which smells amazing but I feel like I need to reapply by 5PM. The only downside is that it can be hard to find in the store. The one thing that I both love and hate about Pit Paste is that all the ingredients are things I have in my kitchen. Seriously, I should just make it and stop paying someone else to do it.

Bare Mineral Complexion Rescue, like everything else I love, makes my skin less dry. If you haven’t noticed by now I am really preoccupied by how dry my skin is all the time. I didn’t have high hopes for this product. I have tried a lot of Bare Minerals products and not loved or even like any of them. This has light coverage, buildable to medium and hydrates skin. It has weird texture. When you squeeze it out, it looks really creamy but once you start to blend it becomes almost water-like. It gives a very natural look and feels light weight. I think it’s going to be great for summer.

Pantene Co-Wash

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I have a confession: I haven’t shampooed my hair since last November. I switched over to co-washing and never looked back. Co-washing, or conditioner washing, has completely transformed my, you guessed it, dry curly hair. The only downside you have to be careful what kind of styling products you use. Nothing with silicone in it. Co-wash doesn’t have the detergent that regular shampoo does, so it can’t remove silicone buildup. I have tried a lot of brands of co-wash brands, Pantene works just as well, if not better than some salon brands and it’s only $5 for 24oz.

Vanilla Almond Milk and Love Grown Power O’s

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I hated almond milk until this week. Truth. Lauren told me to try the vanilla almond milk and now I am obsessed. She said it tasted like marshmallows and that is the best description. I have been putting it in my ice coffee and it is the best. I have to admit that it is pretty delish on cereal too. Currently I have three gallons of almond milk in my fridge. That is multiple brands of half gallon containers. We are doing a taste off  – post to follow.

Love Grown Power O’s

Let’s cut to the chase – I think this cereal tastes like Cheerios and my wife thinks it tastes like beans. I do not detect any hint of beans. It’s crunchy, delish and healthier than your average cereal which makes me feel better when I snack on it before bed. Combined with vanilla almond milk, it is satisfying sweet snack.

 

Non-toxic Spring Cleaning

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Hey there!

Is anyone else loving this warmer, sunnier weather?  I’m so happy that the snow is finally starting to thaw.  The fresh air makes it so much easier to focus on all those things that I’ve been neglecting over the winter.

Now that it’s getting closer to summer BBQ weather, I have to make sure that my house is ready for company and impromtu parties.  And you know what that means?  Spring cleaning.

One thing that I hate about spring cleaning is the nasty, toxic chemicals that are in almost everything.  I want something that will scour my bathroom, but I’d rather not scour my lungs at the same time.  Luckily, it’s so cheap and easy to make really nice cleaning products at home with safer alternatives.  Today, I’m going to share my favorite recipe for a simple bathroom cleanser.

Supplies:

1 cup baking soda

1/4 cup castile soap (I like Dr. Bronner’s)

1/2 cup water

1-2 tablespoon(s) white vinegar

3/4 tsp essential oil (I use tea tree for its cleansing properties)

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Slowly mix together the baking soda, water, and castile soap.  Next, add the vinegar and essential oil.  Pour the mixture into your container of choice.  I personally like to use a repurposed squirt top bottle (dish soap bottle, shower gel bottle, whatev) because it’s easier to use for cleaning.

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The water and baking soda will separate a bit, so just give your container a little shake before using it.  Take that, soap scum!

 

 

Balancing Act

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As I write this post, I’m recovering from jet lag AND daylight savings.  I got hit with this double whammy because I spent most of the week out in L.A. for my company’s Diversity Summit.  The event was actually really wonderful.  I work for a pretty conservative company, but I have to admit that I’ve never been more proud of it than I was this week.  It was awesome to see my company prove its dedication to diversity and inclusion by recognizing so many awesome individuals.  Our teams were recognized for everything from recruitment events for under-served communities to providing education and support services for transgender individuals and their families.  So the severe exhaustion is worth it this time.

One of the sessions that I got to attend at the summit was about “Women in Leadership.”  A large portion of the session was devoted to finding some semblance of work/life balance.  Now, before I jump into a discussion of balance, I want to get on my soapbox for a minute…….

Why is it that career discussions targeted to women are the only times that I ever hear about “work/life balance?”  This actually really bugs me because the unspoken assumption seems to be that things like family and home are “women’s work.”  Why don’t we help everyone find work/life balance?  I’m sure most men would welcome permission to spend more time with their kids, and I’d bet money that having an equal partner at home would really help women find this elusive “balance” much more easily.

Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, we can move on.  One thing that I really enjoyed about this activity is that it didn’t simply separate things into “work” and “life.”  Instead, it took a much more holistic approach and really focused on the many areas that add up to a fulfilling life: career, money, health, social life, family, personal growth (to include spirituality), and fun.  We rated each category from 1-10 to see where we felt things stand today.  This makes it very clear where your life may be out of balance.

I find that whenever I’m not living up to my own standards in a given area, it’s because I feel like I don’t have enough time.  In reality, it is more like this (just replace “internet” with “Orange is the New Black marathon”):

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The truth is, I don’t have it all figured out. I find that I particularly struggle in the “health” category because I routinely ignore my own good advice.  It’s also OK if everything isn’t always working out like you’ve planned.  Sometimes certain areas just have to take priority over others.  The point is to just be aware of how you’re spending your time so that you can create your own version of success.

What tips do you have for maintaining balance?

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Beauty Smackdown – Hand Lotion

I’m not sure about you, but I could not be more ready for spring!  I’m so so so so so sick of snow, 11 degree weather, and having to wear boots instead of my cute flats.  I’m also sick of having lizard skin because of the dry winter air.  No matter how hard I try, by the end of winter I always seem to end up with dry, scaly, cracked hands (sexy, I know).  So I’m always on the hunt for the perfect hand cream.

This week, I’m bringing you the first installment of “Beauty Smackdown” with an emphasis on hand creams.  Kris always tells me that I spend too much money on hand lotion, so I hope that my addiction can help you find the perfect cure for dry skin without the empty wallet.

Category 1: Standard

 

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1. J.R. Watkins Shea Butter Hand Cream in Lemon Cream (~$9.49)

Texture – This cream is super, well, creamy without being greasy. It soaks in quickly and you don’t need to use much. My hands instantly felt softer.

Fragrance – This one smells super yummy. I’m generally really sensitive to fragrances, but this has a nice, light, lemon scent that isn’t at all annoying. The only problem is that it makes me a little hungry.

Price – At less than 10 bucks, this is a bargain for something that feels so luxurious.

Other Factors – Paraben-Free, Dye-Free, Phtalate-Free, Propylene Glycol-Free, Not tested on animals (yay)

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5

2. Yu-Be Moisturizing Skin Cream (~$16.00)

Texture – This one has more of a gel-cream texture. It isn’t greasy, but it also doesn’t feel like it moisturizes as well as some of the others. It does leave a nice velvet-y texture, but it might be better in the summer when my skin isn’t quite so dry.

Fragrance – This product has a light camphor smell when first applied. I actually really like it, but it disappears really quickly if you don’t want to smell like a pharmacy.

Price – This product is $16.00 for a 1.25 oz tube which isn’t exactly cheap. But…you don’t need to use a lot.

Other Factors: Formulated without sulfates, synthetic fragrances, synthetic dyes, petro-chemicals and phthalates.

Overall Rating: 3.5 out of 5

3. Josie Maran Whipped Argan Oil Ultra-Hydrating Body Butter in Sweet Citrus (~$35.00)

Texture – As the product name implies, this is by far the most hydrating lotion of the lot. It is also the greasiest due to the argan oil. I personally use this one exclusively at night because it makes my hands oily and shiny. On the flip side, it does make my hands feel like heaven. This is the type of thick lotion you’ll want to slather on before donning cotton gloves at bedtime.

Fragrance – Kris described this one as smelling “like a sweettart.” It’s strong without being cloying. I really like this one.

Price – This is the most expensive cream of the lot. At $35, I’d put this into the “splurge” category for sure. But it is an awfully nice splurge.

Other Factors – Formulated without parabens, sulfates, and phthalates, cruelty-free, vegan

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5

Category 2 : SPF

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1. Aveeno Daily Moisturizing Lotion with Sunscreen, SPF 15 (~$9.43)

Texture – This is a great texture for an everyday lotion. It’s thick, but soaks in pretty quickly. My skin felt much softer and it seemed to last through several hand washings.

Fragrance – Almost non-existant. Aveeno products always seem like the comfort food of personal care. They’re pretty bland, but always make you feel well cared for.

Price – Totally worth it.

Other Factors – Contains colloidal oatmeal which is supposed to be soothing

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5

2. Garnier Skin Renew Dark Spot  Hand Treatment (~$6.99)

Texture – The texture of this lotion is really nice. It feels more like a fluid than a heavy cream. Maybe a little light for dry skin, but I love the way it soaks in almost instantly.

Fragrance – Ok, Garnier. I have to knock off major points in this category. There’s no nice way to say it. This lotion smells like a urinal cake. And the fragrance appears to be fairly long-lasting. It’s not unbearable, but it’s disappointing.

Price – This lotion is a great bargain if you can get past the smell.

Other Factors – None

Overall Rating: 2.5 out of 5

3. Supergoop! Forever Young Hand Cream ($12.00)

Texture – I have really mixed feelings about this hand cream. It seems to do a good job, but leaves me feeling a bit oily and shiny. I can’t decide whether or not the high spf makes up for this.

Fragrance – Meh. Not bad. It just sort of smells like salt water to me.

Price – $12.00 will get you a pretty small tube. Again, the only thing really setting this one apart is the high SPF.

Other Factors – Formulated without parabens, sulfates, and phthalates, cruelty-free

Overall Rating: 3 out of 5

 

Now it’s your turn, please leave a comment of some of your favorite hand creams!

 

 

 

32 Before 32

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Hi Lovelies!

For my post today, I thought I’d do something a bit different. My birthday is coming up, and each year I make a list of things that I want to experience over the course of the year. I’ve been doing this for a couple of years now, and I originally got the idea from another blog. (I’m fairly certain that it was from A Beautiful Mess: abeautifulmess.com).

So here’s the idea..
When I was 29, I created a list “30 Things to Do Before 30.” The following year, you update your number so it becomes “31 Things to Do Before 31.” And so on and so forth. I really enjoy this exercise for a few reasons:

1. It helps keep you from becoming complacent. If you feel like you do everything well then you’re probably not challenging yourself. Essentially, my yearly list is 30+ things that prove I suck at stuff. But that’s the beauty of it….By making time to try new things, I’m giving myself permission to not be perfect. For example, I spent a lazy afternoon this past year making homemade marshmallows for my girlfriend, Kris. She loves marshmallows. After all was said and done, I proudly marked it off my list as we dumped my masterpiece into the garbage. We had a blast.

2. It is a way to give focus to your interests. There are so many things that I want to do in life, but I always seem to find myself doing the same things over and over again out of habit. Dinner and a movie is easy, but it can really feel like I’m just phoning it in. Having a list of new experiences makes it easy for me to find simple ways to break out of my comfort zone. If I have a free day, I can just look at my list and have a number of ideas to keep things exciting. This list was the reason that I got the brilliant idea to go to the indoor trampoline park for my 30th birthday party. As I entered this new decade of my life, I wanted something that wasn’t too “grown-up,” and it was perfect. If you’ve ever thought of doing something, but werent’ sure because you thought it seemed intimidating or felt like you were “too old,” “too out of shape,” or “too whatever,” put it on your list! You never know until you try.

3. Sometimes, it just works. Generally speaking, I fumble my way through my experiences hoping not to injure or make a fool of myself. But occasionally, I find a way to make my life easier, more fun, and better through experimentation. Probably one of the simplest goals that I had was simply to “wear a dress.” That’s it. So easy, but it was something that felt really awkward for me. So I forced myself to get one to wear to work one day. LIFE CHANGING! Getting ready for work has never been so easy.

I don’t look at this exercise as another set of things that I SHOULD do, but instead just think of it as a fun way to experiment with things that I WANT to do. Fill your list with simple things that can be tried and crossed off instead of long-range goals. The idea is to stay open to experience, not feel like you have to get your PhD in physics, lose 100 lbs., and run your first marathon (unless that’s your thing). To be honest, I’m lucky if I ever do even 10 of the items on my list, but I figure it’s more than I would have done otherwise. Some items get carried over to the following year and some items get dropped because they no longer interest me.

The point is, I finally got around to going to a ballet (several now that I’ve started), taking barre classes, fixing a broken process at work, trying some DIY recipes, and volunteering my time to a worthy cause. Of course, I’ve also failed to become fluent in French, finish reading “Watership Down,” and I’m still too much of a sissy to ride a horse. But maybe I’ll have better luck this year.

I recommend adding experiences from a variety of areas to your list. For instance, spread them out across personal style, career, intellectual pursuits, and play. A few of my top ones for the coming year are:

1. Take a certification course
2. Buy a nice, structured bag (because at some point you have to be a grownup)
3. Rock some floral Doc Martens (because you never want to grow up completely)
4. Go play paintball
5. Travel someplace new

What about you? I’d love for you to leave a comment and let me know what new things you want to try!

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