Meet the Experience Life team, and get a behind-the-scenes look at how the magazine comes together each month.

Monthly Archives: March 2012

Experience Life Magazine

Half-Way There: Checking In on Those Goals

Back in October, I posted a few of the goals I want to accomplish before my 20s come to a close. Now that I’m almost half-way there, I figure it’s time for a check-in — and reality check.

My year as a 29-year-old has been jam-packed so far, and is only getting busier as 2012 progresses. That always seems to happen in the spring, but this year is a bit crazier than ever with two family weddings and all the associated events.  Seeing as my family only has two free weekends from NOW through July 14, I’ve had to revise a few of my ambitions. My original goals are in italics; my progress so far and/or revised goals follow:

  • Complete my third half marathon. UPDATE: I would typically run a half in the spring, but I simply don’t have the time to properly train right now between professional and personal responsibilities. Once the weddings are over and I have my weekends back, I’ll be able to fit in those essential long runs. With that in mind, I will be registering for the Medtronic TC 10 Mile in July — and crossing my fingers that I get in via the online lottery.
  • Complete an individual sprint triathlon and a team International triathlon. UPDATE: Complete a team International triathlon.
  • Begin a 200-hour Yoga Alliance-certified yoga teacher training program. UPDATE: I’m attending an information session on April 24th for a nine-month yoga teacher training that begins in September. Can’t wait!
  • Plant a REAL garden. UPDATE: My husband and I are starting work on our raised garden bed next weekend.
  • Try rock climbing. UPDATE: This one’s still on my list and definitely doable before the big 3-0.
  • Go on a yoga retreat, even if it’s just for a weekend. On a cold January weekend, I attended Blooma‘s level 1 prenatal yoga teacher training. It started on a Thursday night and ran all day Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I consider this a retreat — it was restorative, life-changing and EXACTLY where I was meant to be at that moment. (I’ll share more about this experience in my next blog post.)

I’m pretty pleased with where I stand with my goals right now. I still have a ways to go on a few of them, but I’m having a lot of fun working toward them — and not taking myself too seriously if things don’t go exactly as planned. That mindset supports the intention I’ve been embracing since New Year’s: “Slow down and enjoy.”

Experience Life Magazine

An Ambassador Weekend

In case you’re not familiar with our community ambassador program, last summer we chose six people from our social media networks to help promote the magazine and spread the healthy-living word. In truth, these people (and many others) were already doing these things; we just wanted a way to affiliate their sharing with the magazine and hopefully partner with them in different ways in the future.

I was lucky enough to be on the committee that chose these ambassadors for our pilot program and have worked with them in different ways over the last six months, including sending advance copies of the magazine for preview, video chats, sponsoring subscription giveaways and more.

These two men and four women are an amazing group of people doing some really big things in their respective areas. And, while it’s been a pleasure to meet these people through email, phone and Skype conversations, you have to admit that still, in this day and age, nothing beats a face-to-face encounter.

I have already had the opportunity to meet two of our ambassadors who have Minnesota connections in person: Jill Grunewald lives right here in the Twin Cities and has stopped by the office, and Sarah Kay Hoffman, who lives in California but is originally from Minnesota, has met several of us for coffee when in town visiting in family.

Then, this weekend I had the pleasure of meeting two more of these fantastic people — it was pure coincidence that they were both in town on the same weekend.

First, Melissa Joulwan of The Clothes Make the Girl (@melicious11) stopped by the office with her husband, David, on Friday afternoon to say hi. The two had been in Brainerd, Minn., to check out the first traditional printing of Melissa’s Paleo Cookbook, Well Fed (look for an upcoming giveaway of her book on our site). Once freelance editor, Dave Schimke, found out they live in Austin, Tex., a huge discussion on world-famous BBQ joints in that part of the country ensued, and fun (not to mention hunger pains) was had by all!

Then, on Friday, a few hours before Melissa showed up at the office, I got an email from Chris Dempsey (@dempseypost) saying that he would be flying in to Minneapolis on Saturday. Chris is a sports writer with the Denver Post and was following the Denver Nuggets, who were playing the Timberwolves Sunday afternoon.

Unfortunately, our office doesn’t have weekend hours, so I wasn’t able to introduce him around to the team, but we did meet for dinner on Sunday night (after the Timberwolves had pummeled the Nuggets!) and had a great meal and conversation.

Needless to say, put two journalists at a table together, and the evening consists of questions being hurled back and forth at near-lightening speeds. I found out some really interesting things about what Chris’s job entails: By the time March has ended, Chris will have traveled 22 days out the month, which sounds both exciting and exhausting! And, did you know that sports writers actually writer their entire stories right there at the game? It just never occurred to me.

Anyway, I had a blast meeting Melissa and Chris, and hope that I get a chance to hang out with them again soon. And, for our other two ambassadors, Michael and Lauren, take note: Now it’s your turn to hit the Land of 10,000 Lakes!

Experience Life Magazine

The Penny Pincher’s Guide to Eating Cheap (a.k.a. Notes From My Mother)

I’m sitting across the kitchen table from my mother, who was born and raised in India, as she patiently sifts through dried black beans looking for small stones. And, having just been lectured yet again about what my mother considers to be my ungodly grocery-store bill — she visibly blanches when she witnesses my grocery-store process, that is, throwing things, willy-nilly, into the cart with no regard for prices or meal planning — I’ve decided to devote this blog to a few of the thrifty food lessons I’ve learned from my mom:

  1. Use dried beans. I am an inveterate canned-bean lover (so convenient!), but dried legumes are one of the biggest bargains in the grocery store. Bonus: You won’t be exposing yourself to the toxic chemical BPA (bisphenol-A) found in most canned products. Do take the time to sort those dried beans, though; my mom is at eight small stones and counting.
  2. Don’t throw away stalks, stems, and the like. What other people see as compost, my mother sees as dinner. Broccoli stalks, peeled and sliced or diced, add a hearty texture to any dish, as do the stems of dark leafy greens.
  3. Embrace dried spices. Long recipe lists can be both daunting and expensive, but my mother, who cooks almost exclusively with fresh whole foods, achieves great depth of flavor and brightness by simply using what my husband calls “the Indian spice gun” — that is, turmeric, cumin, coriander, fennel, ginger, and asafoetida powder (available at an Indian market). Whatever your favorite flavor profile, dried spices and herbs are a cheap and easy way to jazz up any meal.
  4. Make your own yogurt. It’s better-tasting, better for you, and you can make it in huge batches. Easier than you think, and you don’t need a fancy yogurt maker (just a little yogurt culture, some milk, a big bowl and an oven).
  5. Butcher your own meat. You can save a lot of money by not buying boneless, skinless cuts of meat. Equally important, you get the actual bones, which impart a deep, rich flavor to stews and soups.
  6. Buy in bulk, especially when things go on sale. This one is pretty self-explanatory. Although I have to say, when I opened the door to my mother’s spare refrigerator yesterday and saw six heads of cabbage, I did think that went a little too far and/or seemed to me to be a sign of the apocalypse. My mother’s defense: “Cabbage was only 19 cents a pound because of St. Patrick’s Day!” (I also draw the line at the whole concept of a spare refrigerator, at least until I turn 65).
Experience Life Magazine

Birkie Fever

Birkie Fever

Another Birkie (the American Birkebeiner ski marathon) has come and gone, a wonder in itself given this winter’s lack of snow.

My Birkie was a roller derby of sorts. My back had been sore for weeks and I wasn’t sure if I could ski the race. I loaded up on ibuprofen all week and had a deep tissue massage to work out the kinks; things seemed to be working well enough to ski the race, so I decided to have fun, go easy, and see how my back felt.

Conditions were perfect — upper teens to 20s, sunny, pretty fast snow, and fast skis. I tried not to go too hard, trying to get a feel for what my body could handle that day. I mostly do freestyle, or skate-skiing, which is how I ski the Birkie. The technique requires a powerful crunching motion in your core, which can aggravate a sore back. So I had to focus on not overdoing that so as to not make my back pain worse. I skied the first half of the 50k race, which is uphill for 23k, and then got a new drink bottle from my Team Birkie support crew at the “OO” feed stop, which is the midpoint of the race. After skiing away with my bottle, I stopped to get some water from a volunteer. At that point some guy who couldn’t stop skied over my skis while I was standing there and knocked me down. I felt a sharp pain shoot through my groin and left leg. After untangling myself I merged back into the race — onward! Then, at another feed station, a guy ran into me from behind. I didn’t turn around to look at him, but I just thought to myself, Come on, people —control yourselves! And then, going around a fast downhill corner, I caught a washed-out classic track and took a spill in the middle of the trail. Luckily I didn’t get hit by other skiers and picked myself up and continued shaking my head over my “take it easy” Birkie.

I was still having a good race and had just climbed “Bitch Hill,” a long uphill climb at 40k, and had started skiing downhill when I hit a crazy patch of something sticky and orange, probably a spilled bottle of sports drink, right in the middle of the trail. I somersaulted nearly off the course and into the woods, and when I landed I was lying on the ground with a broken pole in my right hand. Great! I thought, and then I yelled to the skiers behind me to watch that patch.

I had about 9k to go and had to pole with my left arm the whole way, losing all my momentum and chance to finish with a good time. And there were still some big, long hills left to climb, as well as the flat 4ks across Lake Hayward and down snow-covered Main Street to the finish line.

Skating and poling with one arm, I gave thanks for those “single stick” (one arm) workouts I’d done earlier in the season with my Team Birkie group. I just kept focusing on enjoying the moment for what it was — an unexpected challenge —and tried to keep my energy output at a measured pace so I could make it to the end. After all, I’d never had to deal with this before and didn’t know what was required of my body.

I’d long forgotten how my back felt — now I was focused on my left arm and if I could keep up the repetition of relying on only it and the skating motions of my legs. I concentrated on just moving forward — I knew I’d eventually finish and it would all be over.

Finally, I made it across the long, flat lake and onto Main Street, where the snow that had been brought in to cover the street had turned into about six inches of deep, sugary corn snow from all the skiers who had passed through it. All you can do is try to maintain your balance, trying to not fall down in front of the cheering crowd, and get to the finish line a few hundreds yards ahead. As I crossed the line, I saw my wife, Kathryn, snapping photos of my relieved but disappointed face. I’d made it through another Birkie with more challenges than I could have imagined. And my back would end up more sore than when I started. Yes, the Birkie always provides a story, and I’m happy to be able to tell one, even though I don’t need that much excitement.

After assuring my wife that my pole was the only thing broken, I made my way to the changing tent, where dry clothes, and warm food awaited. There begins the part of race day where all 9,000 skiers have stories to tell. It also signals the end of one ski season and the beginning of the next, as we begin thinking of how we’ll start training for next year’s race, and the stories we’ll have to tell.

Skiing down Main Street with one pole

After the Birkie, on Hayward's Main Street


Experience Life Magazine

A Behind the Scenes Peek: May and June 2012

We are so excited about the spring and summer issues of Experience Life that we just couldn’t wait any longer to give you a little preview. Enjoy!

Videographer Andrew Putschoegl was game for just about anything the day of our cover shoot with adventurer and mountaineer Squash Falconer (www.squashfalconer.com). He willingly took to the sky, paragliding with camera in hand to catch some action shots for our May 2012 Behind the Scenes video. We can’t help but be a little jealous that Putschoegl gets to do this for work!

(Photo credit: Frank Addelia, Frankie's Lab)

Our fitness editor Jen Sinkler (@jensinkler) traveled to LA for our June 2012 cover and The Workout shoots with Shaun T, creator of the INSANITY fitness series (@shaunTfitness). Based on Jen’s tweet, we believe this photo was taken prior to the workout that Shaun T led her through:

Watch for that video to go live here at ExperienceLife.com in late May. In the meantime, check out our workout and videos pages for some fun and effective workouts you can start doing right now.


Experience Life Magazine

6 Simple Things That Make My Life Better

1. Library — For about six years, I forgot the library existed. Then one day, several years ago, I drove by the library and thought, “Whoa! I can get books there for free.” I’ve been doing that ever since. It’s awesome.

2. Books on tape — For about 20 years, I forgot that you could listen to a book as well as read it on the page. Then about nine months ago I was taking a car trip and thought, “How am I going to pass the time?” Then I thought, “A book on CD!” I checked out a couple murder mysteries (from the library, of course) and it transformed a drive that’s usually a long slog into a suspense-filled pleasure. Now I download books onto my phone and listen all the time: when I walk the dogs, when I do the dishes, when I lay on the sofa staring at the ceiling. It’s awesome.

3. Homemade chai — For about ever, I’ve been a tea drinker, and while I liked the chai I could order in coffeeshops or buy in tetra packs in the grocery store, they were always too sweet for my taste. (I also dislike store-bought boxed chais, which always taste too flat and uninteresting.) Then one day I thought, “Gosh, I bet I can make this at home from scratch.” And I did. And it was awesome. Here’s the loose (adjust any/all ingredients for taste/strength of tea, etc.) recipe I follow:

  • 10-cups water
  • ½ cup black tea
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 15 green cardamom pods, lightly crushed
  • 15 whole cloves
  • about ½- inch grated ginger root
  • about ¼ teaspoon crushed coriander
  • about ¼ teaspoon crushed cumin
  • about ¼ teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • a smidge of ground nutmeg

(For the “crushed” ingredients, I use a mortar and pestle to coarsely crush the whole pod or seed, but you could just buy them already ground, if you wish)

Then I toss it all in a big pot, boil for 20 minutes, strain out the spices, and drink. Sometimes I add a little honey, but most of the time I just drink it straight with a dash of turmeric and extra black pepper.

4. Old-fashioned reading — Yep, I could read all my news on the computer, or on the iPad, or on my phone. But when the weekend rolls around, I like my news and articles the old-fashioned way: on paper. It feels slower, easier, more absorbable. Plus, my eyes get a break from all the pixels.

5. Piano lessons — I’m never going to be Chopin, but its fun. And it makes me feel smarter.

6. Dogs — Because they like to cuddle and take long walks. Also, they can double as your piano teacher.

Experience Life Magazine

Share and Share Alike

“How can I stand before you in silent symbols with open palms?” ― Cameron Conaway, Caged: Memoirs of a Cage-Fighting Poet

One of the things I love about my job is having the space and encouragement to write the occasional blog post. At Experience Life, we often share our personal, real-life experiences (which often inform article ideas) to help our readers create and live their most satisfying lives. That involves being willing to explore some dark places so you can be more aware and conscious in your every day life.

I’ve never shied away from exploring my “dark” spaces. Last month, I sorted through boxes in my storage unit in Utah trying to decide what to keep and what to get rid of after a year. It was literally a “dark” place as the light bulb above my unit was burned out. As is often the case when you dig through the past, I unearthed some pleasant and not-so-pleasant memories.

For example, I found a photograph of the step-cousin that sexually abused me. I felt many things at that moment. Sadness for the loss of innocence experienced by my eight-year-old self. Pride, that at 39, I finally feel I can remember that experience without reliving it.

Later in a different box, I found a poem I had written about a time he had abused me on Thanksgiving. I finally realized why it is not one of my favorite holidays. But, this year, I intend to reclaim it as a time of sharing food, thanks and love with my family and friends.

I found other poems in the box as well. I’ve been carrying them with me over the past few weeks along with some new ones I’ve written. I keep reading them and seeing a timeline of my life laid out in the carefully chosen words on each page. A capsule of me then and now. Sometimes it seems like so much and so little has changed.

Last weekend, I sat on a bed in a room in a cute little bed and breakfast in Embarrass, MN with my fantastic girlfriend reviewing the poems:

“What are you doing?” she asked.
“Reading some poems I’ve written. I feel ready to do something with them,” I responded.
She nodded a silent affirmation.
“I’d like it if you’d read them some time. I like them, but they never seem good enough,” I said.
Are you sure that’s true or are you just being hard on yourself?” she asked.
“It’s hard for me to tell the difference sometimes,” I answered.

She then offered some poignant advice. Share them with a lot of people from all walks of life and ask them to give you their thoughts. Of course, she’s right. That’s exactly why I’ve been carrying them around with me for the past few weeks.

I realize I shouldn’t be afraid to share this group of poems, because I’ve been sharing poems for years. But, I didn’t fully realize just how often I’ve done so until recently. Poems are the way that I share things best. They’re my no-holds-barred innermost thoughts and feelings. They are the space where I work things out. They are where I allow myself to be “not fine.”

Within the past year, I’ve gotten several poems back from my friend Jane that I gave her over the years. And, a few months back, my friend Vince sent me several poetry books I had made over a decade ago that he held on to. I didn’t have copies of them anymore. I still remember the day I got them in the mail. The kindness he extended to me by sending them back made me cry.

I put the books aside for a few weeks. I was waiting until I felt the time was right to delve into them again. One day, I was feeling really sad and alone and couldn’t pinpoint why. It was nearing midnight. I couldn’t sleep.

I pulled one of the books off of my nightstand and opened it randomly. It was a poem I had written the day that my mom died. I read it and felt the same feelings of loss, abandonment, guilt and sadness I felt the day I wrote it. But, I felt them differently. Then, I realized that it was October 23rd, 2011: 14 years to the date that my mother passed away.

I didn’t know what to do, but I remembered the promise I had made to myself a few months earlier: to do things differently than I had been. So, I took a picture of the poem and posted it on Facebook.










In about two minutes, I had several supportive comments on the poem, many thanks for sharing as well as reminders about how much I was loved. My sharing allowed me to feel how many wonderful people I have in my life. And, my act of sharing helped me realize that  I’m not the eight-year-old scared and suffering in silence anymore or  the 25-year-old searching to understand the meaning of life and death.

It’s true that people respect it when you have the courage to share. Maybe they even get inspired to share something about themselves with you. Even though I struggle with doing so, I vow to do more sharing in 2012 and beyond. It can be scary, but once you give voice to something beyond fear, you get somewhere amazing.

Here’s to sharing!

is a triumphant
sinking West
bathing the day’s
loose ends
in spectacular
ribbons of light.

Putting us on notice
that nothing lasts
and that if we grasp
too tightly
all we’re left with
are threads.