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Experience Life Magazine

Sardines, Skyways, Sauerkraut, and Organic Salons

We’ve been slogging through winter for so long here in Minnesota that I’m starting to wonder if we will ever see sun again or if there really is green grass under all that snow and ice.

I’ve reached the point where my anger about and distaste for winter has started transforming into an intense restlessness — the kind that senior editor Anjula Razdan detailed in her 2006 article “Everyday Adventures.”

“When you hear yourself talk about being ‘restless,’ or ‘stuck,’ or you find yourself frustrated by little irritations, you’re probably in need of an adventure,” New York–based writer and workshop leader Judy Wolf told Razdan back in 2006. “If you hear yourself saying something like, ‘I wish I could do that, but …’ then you are definitely overdue.”

Beyond restlessness, other signs that you may need a simple adventure include boredom, apathy, big sighs, and constant frowning.

Sigh. I fit this description perfectly. It was time to get out!

So last weekend — desperate to move despite the below-zero temps — my boyfriend and I decided to walk the skyways of downtown Minneapolis.

We parked in a ramp, and began exploring. It had been years since I’d been in the skyways, and it felt like a mini-adventure.

Sure, most businesses were closed because it was Sunday. Sure, we got lost a few times. But it felt nice to be in a “new” place, when really we were just experiencing the city from a new perspective.

“Everyday adventures are essential because they enrich our lives and help us route our attention away from life’s hassles,” Razdan wrote. “They help us see things with a fresh perspective, and, perhaps best of all, they open the door for us to reenergize our lives with more fun and creativity.”


I took a photo of the first street we crossed as a reference point to find our way back.


We were incredibly lost at this point. Oddly, it made me very happy: It felt a bit like traveling.











Our Sunday outing got me thinking about other “new” things I’d tried recently — like my first ever visit to an organic hair salon. I walked with away with a great cut, and I felt so good about the toxin-free products they used on my hair.  (For more on the importance of using toxin-free personal-care products, check out “Beauty Beware” and “Beauty Makeover.”)

That’s not an adventure, you might be thinking. But according to Wolf, it is:

Even painting your toenails bright pink or wearing a neon-color tie to work qualifies as an everyday adventure, says Wolf, as long as it falls outside your comfort zone. After all, adventure is, above all else, a state of mind, an openness to doing something unfamiliar that has the potential to expand your spirit or your perspective. —”Everyday Adventures

See how easy this everyday adventure thing can be?!

The entryway of Jaide Salon on Nicollet and 47th in Minneapolis, MN.

The entryway of Jaide Salon on Nicollet and 47th in Minneapolis, Minn.









Need another example? After listening to a session on gut health and fermented foods during the The Future of Nutrition Conference a few weeks ago, I decided it was time to incorporate more gut-friendly foods into my diet. So when my coworker and friend, Maggie Fazeli Fard, offered to share some of her sauerkraut and sardines during lunch recently, I gave them a try — and actually liked them. I was floored!

Sardines and sauerkraut. Taken by Maggie.

Sardines and sauerkraut. Taken by Maggie.


Holding up the goods. Taken by Maggie.










All three of my novel — but simple — experiences illustrate how trying something new can bring unexpected happiness and joy. As David Silberkeit, author of  A New Adventure Every Day: 541 Simple Ways to Live With Pizzazz (Sourcebooks, 2002), told Razdan: “Engaging in simple, daily adventures allows us to form supportive bonds and hopeful attitudes that help us through life’s rough patches. It can open us to new possibilities and also help us feel more at ease in a world that sometimes feels rife with uncertainties and instabilities far beyond our control.”

So cheers to you, winter. Here’s to trying new things throughout 2014, exploring new possibilities, feeling more at ease, building resilience, and broadening my perspective to all the beautiful, unique things happening around me each day — even if they’re a bit covered in snow.

TELL US: What new things have you tried recently? Comment below or tweet us at @ExperienceLife. 

Casie Leigh Lukes is Experience Life‘s digital content specialist.

Experience Life Magazine

5 More Meditations for the Workplace

Ahhh, balance!

We recently posted five “stealth meditations” from Sharon Salzberg’s book Real Happiness at Work. Each takes one minute or less and can improve a working day considerably. If you found those helpful, here are five more to try:

“If you are feeling down or discouraged, consider helping someone at work. Science has identified a happiness-helping loop. The more you help, the happier you can be.” (178)

“When walking to a meeting or to lunch, feel your feet against the ground and the sense of your body moving through space. Do not text or take calls while you are doing this.” (188)

“Use doorways consciously. As you come upon that in-between space, feel your feet against the floor, your hand on the knob; touch the doorway you pass through.” (208)

“Look for ways to acknowledge someone’s challenges. Even when you can’t fix things, people appreciate the recognition that the workload is growing, that the new deadline is a killer, that it’s hard to deal with others’ grumpiness.” (222)

“If you find yourself straining to think ‘outside the box’, explore what made up that box. Understanding how you got to where you are is the first step in going beyond that point.” (234)

If you test any of these out and find them helpful, let us know by commenting below or tweeting us @ExperienceLife.

Courtney Helgoe is an Experience Life senior editor.  

Experience Life Magazine

“Stealth Meditations” for the Workplace

Real Happiness at Work by Sharon Salzberg

The book jacket for renowned meditation teacher Sharon Salzberg’s new book. Image via SharonSalzberg.com 

The stress and pressure of the average workplace doesn’t always bring out the best in people, but there’s no better place to develop real equanimity. (It’s kind of like New York City — if you can make peace at work, you can make it anywhere.) Renowned meditation teacher Sharon Salzberg’s new book, Real Happiness at Work: Meditations for Accomplishment, Achievement, and Peace, offers some “stealth meditations” you can build into your workday to help you find grace under pressure a little more easily. Here are a few to try:

“Try to perform a simple, conscious act of kindness each day. It can be as simple as holding an elevator door.” (18)

“Unitask! Focus exclusively on just one thing for a small portion of time. Try setting a timer for 15 minutes, so you can focus without straining.” (34)

“If you’re on a conference call, refrain from checking your email or doing another task at the same time.” (44)

“Every time you feel bored, pay more acute attention to the moment. Are you listening carefully or are you multitasking? Try to be fully present with just one thing.” (51)

“For an upcoming one-on-one conversation, resolve to listen more and speak less.” (144)

TELL US: Do you have any strategies for centering yourself at work? Comment below or tweet us at @ExperienceLife.

Courtney Helgoe a senior editor for Experience Life

Experience Life Magazine

A Bookshelf Makeover Offers Far More Than Just Good Looks


In the April 2012 issue of Experience Lifelife coach Laurie Gerber describes clutter as anything that’s distracting you from the important things in your life. She stated that clutter can be a variety of things from disorganization to worrying, debt, overeating, even gossiping.

I have plenty of clutter in my personal life, the most significant being worry. I worry about everything. I worry about my parents, my siblings, my future, my debt, my image, my health, my relationship. Catch my drift? Everything. My dad always tells me, “quit worrying about it.” So simple, right? Wrong. That comes from the same man who tells me stories about how as a kid he would lose sleep at night worrying about what he was going to feed his pet rabbits. Like father, like daughter I guess.

I have little to no clutter in my work life. My email inbox has folders for everything. I pride myself on never being able to scroll down in my main inbox; emails get put in their appropriate folders immediately after they’ve been tended to. I have highlighters, color coded post-it notes, file folders, tabs and labels on all my work. Oh and the alphabet, the alphabet is my best friend!

As the office manager at Experience Life, I like to keep the office looking tidy and neat. That includes the conference rooms, kitchen, mail station and even a storage room downstairs with archives that no one goes in to but me. Experience Life recently moved into this beautiful new office. Somehow during and after the move the bookshelf up front, a main focal point of the office, was slightly neglected. It’s a gorgeous bookshelf and I couldn’t allow it to be the exception to my tidy and neat expectations.

Because this project was going to take significant time, I wasn’t able to tackle it as soon as I would have liked. In Jessie Sholl’s article, “The Emotional Toll of Clutter,” Vida Ghaffari notes that “clutter is just stagnant energy and where there’s clutter in your home, there will be clutter in you — either physically, mentally or emotionally.” I experienced exactly that as the bookshelf project was low on my priority list while I learned my new position. It was keeping me from most efficiently working on other tasks; the bookshelf clutter was taking a toll.

Ghaffari states that she was delighted with the psychological payoff of decluttering her life. “I’m freer now,” she says, “and clearer, and more focused. I’m ready to do things in life, and I’m no longer held back.” Again, I can relate. Don’t get me wrong, the bookshelf wasn’t stopping me from doing significant things in my life; I could wake up each morning and go on with my day. However, I knew that once the project was complete, I’d feel a lot less anxious at work and I’d be able to give other projects and tasks my undivided attention.

Although I am a self-declared perfectionist, I don’t believe that organization is about perfection; it’s about efficiency, reducing stress and the obvious, reducing clutter. I’ve learned in my own experiences that clutter has an ugly, ugly domino effect. On the surface, an unorganized bookshelf of magazine archives probably doesn’t seem worthy of any discomfort. However, I’m willing to bet that you’d have a different opinion if you and said bookshelf stared each other in the eye all day, every day.

Now, the bookshelf is so pretty and easy on the eyes. It’s also made searching the physical archives a lot easier and more streamlined for the rest of the staff. I was instantly relieved of my anxiety at work once this project was complete. It helped me reflect on the clutter of worrying in my personal life too. I have vowed to make a conscious effort to declutter my worried mind- allowing me to think more clearly and stay focused on things that need my full attention- versus worrying about the unknown or things I can’t change. I’m looking forward to the same sense of freedom and clarity that Ghaffari experienced by decluttering. Here’s to decluttering- physically, emotionally and mentally!


The clutter.


The unorganized archives. Those aren’t Runner’s World magazines in that file  on the left and the months of the year don’t go in that order.


The variety of unmatching magazine files were donated.


Ahh, matching magazine files and labels underway.


It’s looking so pretty!


Ta da! The final product.

Experience Life Magazine

What are YOU doing New Year’s morning?

In years past, my response to the above question has always been, “Sleeping in.” After all, like many around the world, I’ve spent many a December 31st out well past midnight, ringing in the New Year with a few cocktails.

I’m still planning to go out and celebrate this year, but I won’t be imbibing or staying out super late for two reasons: 1) I’m expecting my second little one in June and partying to the wee morning hours is just not part of my lifestyle these days; and 2) I’m participating in the Commitment Day fun run/walk in downtown Minneapolis on New Year’s morning.

While I’m obviously thrilled about the first reason, I’m also very excited about the second. I’ll be joining most of my fellow Experience Life team members, as well of thousands of other folks in the Twin Cities and across the country, in showing my commitment to living healthier in 2013 and beyond.

Jocelyn Stone, EL's associate editor, and I rock our new Commitment Day T-shirts

Jocelyn Stone, EL’s associate editor, and I rock our new Commitment Day T-shirts.

Presented by Life Time Fitness, the healthy way of life company AND Experience Life‘s parent organization/publisher, Commitment Day is a nationwide initiative created to inspire healthier choices and behaviors both in the short and long term. Run/walk events will be happening simultaneously in 30-plus cities across the country, with people of all ages and fitness levels participating. (As long as it’s not below zero here in Minnesota, I’ll be pushing my 2-year-old in the BOB!) It’s going to be one of the largest fitness movements to date, and I’m pretty darn excited to be part of it.

With that in mind, I invite you to join the Experience Life team and myself in partaking in the first annual Commitment Day — whether you’re here in the Twin Cities or not (we’ll also have team members representing in Chicago and New York)! Not near a race location? Lace up those sneakers anyway and join us in spirit: It’s all about taking a proactive stand for your health.

To learn more, to register, or to simply share your healthy-living commitments, visit www.commitmentday.com. I hope to see you there!

Experience Life Magazine


The other day I finished joyfully reading Chuck Klosterman’s hilarious, Killing Yourself to Live and was in need of a new book. Since I know my Experience Life teammates do a fair amount of reading for business and pleasure, I knew I could count on them for some compelling suggestions.

Here’s a few of their recommendations:

Managing Editor, Craig Cox just finished reading: 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created. Why did he love Charles C. Mann’s human history? Craig exclaimed (and he’s not much of an exclaimer normally) “Because it explains everything about everything!” I, for one, plan on picking up this historical analysis of “The Columbian Exchange” soon.

Senior Editor, Anjula Razdan recommended Chang-Rae Lee’s novel, Aloftabout life in the Long Island suburbs because it’s “a modern day Ulysses, but much more fun.” How can a story set in a place that looks no fun, be fun? I’ll have to find out by reading the book!

Associate Editor, Jocelyn Stone is reading Brené Brown’s, The Art of Imperfection: Simple Ways to Make Peace with Yourself, for the second time around. When I asked her what makes it so great she said, “It’s like somebody gets me without even knowing me.” The book seems to be every bit as good as Brown’s engaging and enlightening TED Talk on the topic.

Manager of Digital Initiatives, Jamie Martin is currently reading Kelle Hampton’s memoir, Bloom: Finding Beauty in the Unexpected, about how her perspectives changed when her daughter, Nella, was born with Down Syndrome. She likes it because it’s “honestly written, beautifully photographed and it’s a mother’s story, which I really relate to right now.”

Intern, Casie Lukes found Barry Estabrook’s exposé, Tomatoland: How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed Our Most Alluring Fruit, on the history of tomatoes fascinating. The book uses tomatoes as a metaphor for explaining all that’s wrong with the modern agriculture system. I agree with Casie when she stated: “You’ll never look at a grocery store tomato the same way again once you’ve read this book.” We like this book so much we included on our health advocacy microsite, RevolutionaryAct.com, as a must-read resource.

What book(s) have you read lately that inspired, informed or captivated you?

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


Jun10_DrinkHealth1.jpgLast week, after the official launch of the magazine’s new healthy-living app, I decided to use the “101 Ways to Be Healthy” to help me improve my own life. Because the last few weeks have been challenging for me for several reasons, I decided that, rather than using the “Surprise Me!” option, I would consciously choose one of the 101 Ways that would be easy for me to integrate into my life. With that in mind, I figured, what could be easier than #40: Drink a lot of H20?

Or so I thought. The first thing I did was read “How to Hydrate,” from our December 2007 issue, to find out exactly how much was “a lot of water.” The article states that the Institute of Medicine in Washington, D.C., recommends at least 91 ounces a day for women and 125 ounces for men. It sure seemed like a lot, almost 50 percent more than the typical “eight 8-ounce glasses a day” that everybody seems to know. But if an organization as official-sounding as the Institute of Medicine is recommending it, who am I to second-guess? (Note: one of our editors checked their Web site a few weeks ago and, while the original article is four years old, the Institute still stands by those recommendations.)

I’m into my second week, and I have to admit that it’s been difficult. The most that I drank during the first week was 44 ounces. That was on the first day, and the numbers decreased every day from there. And I even like water! It’s really all I drink, and I carry a water bottle with me wherever I go. But I realized that I only reach for that bottle when I feel thirsty, and at that point I’m probably already pretty dehydrated, according to what I’ve been reading. I knew that I would have to make more a conscious effort to drink regularly throughout the day, rather than relying of physical clues.

So, I decided first thing Monday morning to give myself a hydration head start: I drank 24 ounces of water right after I woke up. Within my first hour at work, I had drunk probably another 12 ounces. I was feeling pretty good about my progress so far and continued that way throughout the day. But even by late morning, I was seeing drawbacks from such a drastic spike in my water intake: by 11:15, I had already used the bathroom three times (I joked with my coworkers that I might be more productive if I moved my desk in there), I swear I felt like I had water in my ears, and not only was I not hungry, my stomach was so full that I even felt a little sick. I did nothing but snack all day long.

But I was determined to finish the day out meeting my goal, and I did. By that evening I had reached 91 ounces and, weirdly enough, later that night I felt thirsty and probably drank another six ounces. But yesterday I was practically aquaphobic — I’d be surprised if I drank even eight ounces for the day.

I think I’ve taken away two things from this first revolutionary attempt to be healthy: Lasting change, like many things, is often a lot easier and more manageable in small chunks. For somebody who drinks and average of 24-30 ounces of water a day, 44 ounces last week was a substantial improvement. I need to take the time to celebrate that success instead of pushing myself to double that amount and turn myself off water altogether.

Also, I need to remember to listen to my body more. I tend to take recommended amounts and measurements very literally, never accounting for individual factors. From what I understand, that’s why I’ll never be a fabulous cook, but I could be an amazing baker if I wanted. I find it hard to believe that anything that makes you feel sick is good. Apparently, 91 ounces of water was too much for me, at least at this point. As I increase the amount of water I drink gradually, I need to be cognizant of that tipping point where I go from feeling healthier to feeling nauseated. And if that amount is 91 ounces or more, so be it. But if it’s less, I need to trust that my body is serving me correctly.

If you’ve downloaded the app and have been (or are planning to) use it to make healthy changes, I would love to hear how it’s working for you!

Experience Life Magazine

We’re ALREADY Planning for 2012

A couple of interesting facts that you may not know about us: 1) We plan each issue of Experience Life about six months in advance; and 2) At any given time, we have four to five issues in process.

Right now, for instance, the July/August issue is at the printer, September is being finalized, October is moving through fact checking and copy proofing to design, November articles are being edited, and December is being written by a slew of freelancers scattered across the country. Whew! To keep track of everything, our whole team meets on a weekly basis to check-in.

It all really starts, though, at our bi-annual planning meetings, held in June and December. At those all-day meetings, we brainstorm issue themes and articles ideas for anywhere from three to six issues (it depends on how quickly we slate content for each one). 

This past week, we had our bi-annual meeting of the year and made significant headway planning themes and the first three issues of 2012. Let me just say, there’s lots of good stuff coming! 

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Like years past, we traveled off-site, this time to the Cooks of Crocus Hill on Grand Avenue in St. Paul. Not only was it a great space to let the creative juices flow, but the food was absolutely delicious. The chefs prepared our lunch in the open kitchen adjacent to the meeting space, and the aromas that wafted over to our side of the room were amazing — many of us were hungry well before our scheduled lunch as a result. Thank goodness for a breakfast spread and snacks!

Although I can’t share the details of what we planned just yet, here a few shots of our day at the Cooks of Crocus Hill — enjoy!

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From top: The entrance to the Cooks of Crocus Hill; the EL team enjoys the breakfast nosh; the Cooks of Crocus Hill kitchen; planning is lots of fun with this group!
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