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Health

I’ve been thinking about writing this post for a long, long time now. Skin—and, more specifically, adult acne—is something I’ve touched on briefly here and on my old blog, but never really in depth. It’s such a sensitive, personal subject, and it’s hard to talk about. The skin on our faces is so intimate, but we show it to the world every day. I’m constantly trying to reconcile that fact.

I don’t like having my photo taken. I’m OK taking my own photo (which is why most pictures of me also contain a camera and are in reverse), but the second someone else aims a camera at me I feel extremely anxious. I imagine the photographer at home, hours later, zooming in on my skin and discovering all of the many things that are wrong with it. It feels naked; it feels bad. When I take a photo of myself, though, it’s more about the act of taking the picture than it is an examination of my face. It’s safe, and if it looks bad, I can delete it and no one else ever has to know.

It really all comes down to skin. Forget the shape of my nose or the color of my eyes or anything at all about my face, because the only thing I’m seeing when I look in the mirror is whether my skin is flaky or red or if I have a pimple or two or seven. The condition of my skin plays a huge role in defining my confidence, my overall mood and even my productivity on any given day. My rational mind tells me this is ridiculous, but my irrational mind has used personal days to stay home from work because of breakouts. So.

My skin was fine when I was teenager, OK in my early 20s…and then it just got progressively worse. I never used to wear foundation, but my the time I was in my early 30s it was a daily operation. Ridiculous amounts of time spent every morning dotting on teensy amounts of concealer over red marks with a tiny brush, all so no one would have to know my terrible secret. It’s hard to explain this stuff with anyone who doesn’t know what it’s like to deal with adult acne, so if you fall into that camp, please try to cut those of us who have some slack. To be 37 years old and battling breakouts and wrinkles at the same time sucks. It makes you feel like you’re perpetually trapped in a delayed adolescence while simultaneously running out of the years when you’re supposed to look your best. It’s embarrassing. It makes you feel inept and unprofessional and dirty. And you will try anything to make it all better.

So here’s where I’m at right now, and I can say this with confidence: My skin has never looked better. Well, maybe it looked better when I was 15, but this is as good as it’s been in the 22 years since. Every now and then I have a minor breakout, but it’s generally just one small blemish that goes away pretty quickly and doesn’t make my life too horrible while it’s around.

Here’s the rundown:

1. Neutrogena Fresh Foaming Cleanser
This is the least-glamorous face wash I’ve used in my adult life, and I admit I was really skeptical when my dermatologist recommended it to me. I like to use things in pretty packages that are only sold at tiny drugstores or fancy department stores. Again, I know it’s ridiculous, but I’m biased against a cleanser that’s available everywhere for $5. But yeah, my dermatologist was right, and it’s the best thing I’ve ever washed my face with. I actually use it twice at night: Once to do a quick makeup removal, and then again right after to deep-cleanse with my Clarisonic. Speaking of my Clarisonic…

2. Clarisonic Mia
I LOVE MY CLARISONIC. So much. I’ve had it for a couple of years now (it was a Hanukkah present from Daniel, who understands my quest for pore perfection), and we’ve been on a journey together. At first I loved it, and then I hated it, and then I really wanted to like it again, and now I love it and can’t imagine being without it. The trick is finding the right cleanser to use it with. There’s a lot of debate over whether it’s better to use it with a foaming or non-foaming face wash, and I really think it comes down to your skin type. For me, a gentle, foaming, soap-free cleanser works best. I use it every single night.

A couple of notes: I use the replacement brushes made for delicate skin. I can’t see why the new Mia 2 is worth the extra money, so my recommendation is to just go with the original Mia. It’s the cheapest model Clarisonic sells, and it does everything you need it to. I don’t know anything about the cheaper facial brushes that Olay and Neutrogena make, so I can’t advise you there—but I can say that my dermatologist was adamant that I only use a genuine Clarisonic. I already owned one, so fine by me!

✚ EDIT: Reader Tallin commented that SkinStore.com is having a 20% off sale right now that includes the whole Clarisonic line.

3. Ziana Gel
I realize this might be a controversial inclusion since it’s a prescription product that combines a topical antibiotic (clindamycin) with a retinoid (tretinoin), and I hesitated to mention it at all. I’m not big on using antibiotics, and I was initially hesitant to start applying them to my face. I’ve also had bad experiences with prescription retinoids in the past. I think I just got to a point of desperation, though—I weighed my emotional well-being against the potential risks, and I decided to fill the prescription.

Ziana has been amazing. Aside from inflamed blemishes, I’m really prone to clogged pores and closed comedones. After using Ziana (just a tiny, pea-sized amount over my entire face at night) for a week, the improvement in my skin’s texture and clarity was noticeable. After three months, my face was completely clear—and I mean completely. I’ve been using Ziana for a total of six months now, and my skin just looks so much brighter and smoother and healthier. Some of the reviews I read complained of redness and drying, but I didn’t experience any of that. Maybe they were using too much or not using a moisturizer? I don’t know, I can just tell you that it’s been wonderful for my skin.

4. Kiehl’s Creamy Eye Treatment with Avocado
I first wrote about this eye cream four years ago, and I’m still using it now. I usually only put it on at night since it’s a bit too emollient to wear under makeup, but it’s hydrating enough that the effects last even during the day. I’m careful when I wash my face in the morning to not get cleanser around my eyes, though, so maybe it’s just residual amounts that are doing the trick? Whatever it is, I love this stuff. No, it doesn’t cure me of my undereye circles, but it does keep the skin around my eyes soft and dewy-looking, and that’s good enough for me.

5. Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse
I wrote an entire blog post about how much I love this stuff a couple of months ago, so I won’t dwell on it again too long now. The love affair is still going strong! Much like my Clarisonic, this is something I can’t imagine ever not having as part of my skin care routine. I’m forever thankful to Ilenia for recommending it to me! No more dry patches, no more irritation…just soft, happy skin.

So that’s about the size of it. I do also use a sunscreen daily, of course (a spray from Paula’s Choice that was just discontinued, much to my chagrin), as well as Dermalogica Daily Microfoliant when I feel like I need exfoliation, and Peter Thomas Roth Un-Wrinkle Peel Pads if my skin seems dull at all. Nothing else—and yes, that means that my formerly-beloved Mario Badescu is no longer in my life. I have a much simpler routine now, and it’s all come down to finding the right products for me.

I still feel a bit hesitant to publish this post since I know very well that skin is an incredibly personal thing and that everyone will react differently to various products, but I also understand how reassuring it can be to know that someone else is dealing with the same issues. I may not be jumping in front of cameras anytime soon and I still have no plans to ever leave the house without makeup, but at least I can look at my face now and not just see the state of my skin—and when I do, I’m mostly OK with it. Happy, even.

Photograph by Ben Baker

A little more than a week after at least 50 million of us were affected by Hurricane Sandy, Americans are about to go to the polls tomorrow to vote in a very important presidential election at a pivotal point in our history as a nation. We are working against widespread voter suppression—yes, in 2012—grounded in racism and classism, and so much is at stake. This election isn’t just about President Obama’s policies over the next four years, it’s about the fact that there are currently four seated Supreme Court justices in their 70s. Whoever wins this election will likely nominate a new justice, and therein lies the future of our civil rights.

LISTEN UP: Whatever you believe about the U.S. economy and what can and should be done to fix it, we simply cannot legislate away our rights in the mean time. This is not a joke. This is not feeding clichéed lines about choosing the “lesser of two evils.” This is about doing our duty as American citizens to protect each other and ensure that future generations will live in a country with all of the freedoms they deserve. This is about saying NO to hatred, bigotry and discrimination.

I’ve been thinking a lot today about what I wanted to write in this post, but it occurred to me that so much of what I’m feeling is so closely aligned with what my (sensitive, insightful, passionate, well-spoken) friend Daniel wrote on his blog a few days ago…so I’ll let him say it for me. Here’s an excerpt:

I know people who are voting for Republicans. Some of these people I even count as friends. When I talk to them about it, the general response seems to be that they don’t “personally” support discrimination, even if discrimination is central to Republican social policy. Let me be clear: there is nothing more personal than a vote. By voting for Mitt Romney, you are casting a vote for discrimination. You are casting a vote against me, against my family, against equality, against fairness, against love, against freedom, against the promise of liberty and justice for all. A vote for this Republican party, as it stands in 2012, is a vote for discrimination. You are complicit in it, you are supporting it, you are perpetuating it. There is no other way to look at it, and it’s truly heartbreaking to see people I otherwise respect blind to this fact.

The choice in this election couldn’t be clearer, and not just on this issue. It’s the difference between a president who cares about the future of our education system, our public sector workers, and the social programs that attempt to keep those in need afloat, versus a party who doesn’t. It’s the difference between a president who has regained much of our respect in the world and has a proven record of successful foreign policy experience, versus a candidate with no experience, Bush’s foreign policy advisors, and reckless and wildly inconsistent ideas about the rest of the world. It’s the difference between a president who supports rights for women to receive equal pay for equal work, to have access to contraception, and to seek a safe and legal abortion if necessary, versus a party who would deny all of these rights. It’s a choice between a President who has dug this economy out of the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression versus a party who wants to return to the policies that caused the collapse in the first place. It’s the choice between a president who regards global warming as a real and tangible threat versus a party who thinks the climate change is a hoax, a joke, or both. It’s the difference between a president who doesn’t think you should go broke or die because of medical costs, versus a party that sees only the bottom line for the insurance industry. It’s the choice between a president who believes in equality versus a party who believes so profoundly in discrimination that they would amend our Constitution to reflect their extreme ideology. And that’s just off the top of my head.

Go over to Manhattan Nest to read all of Daniel’s post if you haven’t already. He expresses perfectly why this is such an important election, and why Barack Obama is the right choice to lead this country for the next four years. I hear a lot of talk about being a “values voter,” and that is exactly what I am: I support Obama because I support the civil rights of all Americans. I care about a compassionate future for my country. Those are my values, and my vote supports them.

In Novemeber 2008, we did this. Now let’s go out there and do it again. GO VOTE, AMERICA!

Banner image by Lisa Congdon for the #GoVote project!

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you might have noticed that the setting for just about all of my posts is either Newburgh or New York City. There are never posts about, say, a summer vacation in Paris or even a long weekend in San Francisco. Yes, Evan and I did go to a friend’s wedding in Arizona three years ago, but aside from that—I am still right here, where I always was.

I was born about 100 miles north of NYC, and in the 37 years since, I’ve moved up and down that 100 mile span and haven’t really looked beyond. I did spend some time (about 6 months total) in Los Angeles in my early 20s while in the throes of a long-distance relationship, but New York—specifically the lower and mid-Hudson Valley region into NYC—has always been home.

Maybe it’s because my mother is an immigrant or because my father is a born and bred New Yorker, but I’ve just always had this sense that I’m supposed to be here. Like New York was chosen for me. I love New York so much. It’s hard for me to describe how emotional this city makes me, though this clip spells it out pretty well. I took the photo at the top of this post over the weekend when we were driving down from Newburgh. Every time I see that skyline, I get misty-eyed. Every single time. I don’t remember who said it (maybe Woody Allen), but I’ve heard that New York is a place that makes people nostalgic for the present. That’s so, so true.

The other thing about New York City is that because there’s always so much going on here and because the population is incredibly diverse, it’s easy to start to feel like you’re living in a microcosm of the entire world. In a single afternoon you can have interactions with people from a dozen different cultures all over the planet. You can walk 10 blocks from a midtown office building and be in a grassy oasis at Central Park. Hop on a subway, and in under an hour you’re at Coney Island looking at the Atlantic Ocean. I think having so much here can tend to tamp down what might otherwise be a natural wanderlust. You get comfortable. New York is safe. This city makes sense.

I didn’t travel much growing up. I’ve never really talked to my parents about this, but I can only assume it was because of money—they were both artists, and there were a lot of us kids between the two of them. I don’t know how it would have been possible! So we didn’t go to Disney World or Hawaii or whatever it was other kids in school were doing during their vacations. The summer before I turned 9, though, I went to Sweden with my mother. Just the two of us! We stayed with my aunt and uncle and spent time with my grandmother, who was still living in the tiny Stockholm apartment my mother grew up in. Even though that trip was almost 30 years ago, I remember it so vividly—to the point that I can still recall a pair of lace-up canvas shoes my mother bought me while we were there, and how the cobblestone streets felt through their soles. I remember going to see Ronja Rövardotter in the movie theater, and somehow understanding enough for it to not matter that there of course weren’t any English subtitles. The popcorn came in a cone with Mickey Mouse (excuse me, I mean Musse Pigg) on it.

And that was kind of the end of the idea of traveling for pleasure for me. Between work and school and more work and no money and more work and work and work and general exhaustion and eventually illness, I developed a weird kind of fear of being away from home. I don’t know how to drive (I’ve never driven, in fact—I’m terrified of that, too), so I don’t have that instinct to just get up and go. The prospect of planning a trip is fraught with anxieties over having to make decisions based on things I know nothing about. It’s totally overwhelming. I start thinking about getting lost. About being robbed. About not understanding signs. About becoming so caught up in fear that I’m unable to ask for help. I run through all of these possibilities in my head, and then conclude that I’d be happier just hanging out in New York. So I stay put.

The funny thing is, I’ve always kind of thought of myself as being a “worldly” person. I’m interested in art and design and music and books and movies from all over the world, and I’ve never shied away from meeting people from all different backgrounds. I certainly didn’t grow up in a household where nationalism was encouraged, either. By all rights, I should be a world traveler. I should have that wanderlust. I guess it’s just a lifetime of fear and procrastination that’s suppressed those impulses.

I’m about to take a major step in a week and half, though: I’m getting on a plane (uncharacteristically, I’m not afraid of flying!) by myself and going to London for 8 days. I’m going to visit a very good friend of mine. He’s a born Londoner who’s traveled all over the world and lived on two continents—really the opposite of me in that regard! I intentionally haven’t made any plans in advance because I know that will only cause me to feel anxious, so I’m just going to let the trip happen. I’ll figure it out as I go.

I’ve got a renewed passport, a suitcase with wheels and a travel-sized bottle of hairspray, so I’m pretty much ready to go. I’m excited! I’m still nervous about getting lost and being eaten by rabid British squirrels, but deep down I know everything will be fine. Let’s do this thing, world.

I’m still making my way through all of the comments on my post from last Friday about my history (and future) as a blogger, but apart from the responses I’ve been leaving there, I wanted to take a minute to say THANK YOU.

The older I get, the more I realize that fear of being labeled a hypocrite (or a “flip-flopper,” if you want to get political about it) is probably the biggest thing that gets in my way when it comes to making decisions that are open to being judged by others. The fact of the matter is, though, things change. Situations change. People change. Times change. We learn from the people we meet along the way in life, and that’s a positive thing.

Like I said in my post, I’m not exactly sure where I’m headed in terms of advertisements and this blog, but I feel confident that if I do go ahead with it, I will treat that decision seriously and let my personal ethics guide me. There’s not only one existing model to follow when it comes to advertising, and there’s also nothing that says new models and standards can’t be developed. I’m not worried about what other people have or haven’t done—I’m concerned with doing what I believe is honest and worthwhile. I’m also not opposed to learning as I go. (I am a progressive and a modernist, after all!)

Anyway, I’ve said this before but it bears repeating: I have the BEST group of readers and commenters in all of blog-land. I am so incredibly appreciative of those of you who take the time not to just offer support, but to share your own perspective and ideas and concerns with me. As much as I like writing for writing’s sake, I love blogging for community’s sake.

Thank you again. ♡

I started my first blog—an offshoot of my Cure website, Hello Image (RIP)—in 1998. I didn’t call it a blog, though, it was just a journal. This was before the advent of blogging software, and the journal was a static page 50 miles long. Any comments were left as a guestbook entry. It’s funny to think about this stuff now!

About a year later, LiveJournal was launched, and those personal journals started to turn into communities. I maintained a LiveJournal for years, but it was private and restricted to a small group of close friends. I never got involved with the Blogger platform, but in 2001 Movable Type came along…and Absolutely Vile was born. Mena and Ben, the couple behind Movable Type, were Cure fans and had been involved with the online Cure-fan community, which is probably the only reason I was a aware that blogs (ahem, “weblogs”) were even a thing that people were doing at that point. It’s weird how everything is connected!

(If you were an Absolutely Vile reader, you might get a kick out of these old graphics: AV 2001 + AV 2002. Hello, grungetype.)

I updated Absolutely Vile every day—often multiple times a day—for almost four years. That took me right up to 2005, the year that Jason Kottke decided to quit his day job and become a full-time blogger in exchange for donations from readers. Blogging was turning into…something. I wasn’t really sure what that something was at the time, but I knew that I wasn’t really comfortable with it. My blog had always been a place where I could post about anything that was interesting to me or whatever was going on in my life that I felt like sharing. I didn’t have a plan or an agenda, it was all just for fun. Suddenly, though, I started to feel like there were a lot of eyes on me, and a lot of questions about what exactly my blog was about (the answer was always “nothing and everything”). Nasty comments started to become more common, and the demand from readers to see more of my life than I was willing to share became increasingly loud.

So I stopped. I deleted all of the archives and just walked away. I still kept in touch with my friends through my LiveJournal, but I essentially had no public online presence anymore. It was a massive relief.

During the two years that I stopped blogging publicly, Evan and I decided to leave Brooklyn (where we’d been living rather unhappily in a noisy loft in Red Hook) and move upstate to Beacon, rent a house for a year, go through a lot of real estate drama, move into my mother’s basement temporarily, and, finally, buy a Victorian fixer-upper in the City of Newburgh. If you’ve never been a blogger that distinction of public vs. private might not mean much, but in retrospect I am very glad that we did all of those things without having any input from strangers. For better or worse, I don’t know if we’d have made the same decisions we did if we’d stopped to listen to other people’s opinions. Yes, I did keep writing in my LiveJournal, but it’s different when it’s just close friends reading your words. I didn’t feel like “a blogger” during that time period.

Two big things happened in the world of blogging during my absence: Everyone left Movable Type and switched to WordPress…and bloggers started to make money. Sometimes a lot of money. It became commonplace for blogs to have ads on them, and sponsored posts also eventually became de rigueur. Full-time blogging was becoming a reality for a number of people, and everyone and their brother and their mother had a blog.

Despite swearing that I’d never do it again, I started to really miss blogging. Once we’d closed on the house (a long, arduous process), it seemed like the kind of renovations ahead of us were probably worth publicly documenting. And so, in the spring of 2006, I started Door Sixteen. For a couple of months, I quietly blogged about electrical work and re-plastering and such, and then I panicked. What was I doing? Did I really want to share this? Did I actually want people to read it? What was I even writing about? I wasn’t sure. So I stopped.

Fast forward to July 2007, and I was, of course, missing blogging again. So I made a commitment to restart Door Sixteen, but to only blog about the house. Period. No personal stuff, no makeup, no pictures of myself…just the house. I also made a firm decision to not monetize my writing, since it seemed at odds with my desire to remain slightly anonymous and to let my house be a home to turn the experience into a money-making enterprise. That was about as much thought went into it, really. I never plan posts, I don’t schedule anything, I have no sense of obligation to document everything I do, and if something doesn’t feel right to me, I stay away from it.

And now here we are another five years later, and I still love blogging. I love the sense of community it fosters, not only with my fellow bloggers, but with readers who engage in commentary. I love being able to share things I come across that I like with a bunch of other people who might like those things, too. I love doing what I can to demystify what’s involved with (slowly, slowly, slowly) renovating an old house. And yeah, as much as I tried to avoid it this time around, I love talking about makeup and music and movies and dogs and food and coffee. More than anything, though, I love to write. Before I figured out that I’m supposed to be a designer, I was pretty sure I’d be a writer. That didn’t happen, but I do still get a lot of satisfaction out of expressing myself textually as well as visually. The act of writing helps me to understand myself more, and sometimes just writing a post about the simplest thing brings me some insight that I might not have arrived at just by sitting in a chair and thinking.

I love blogging. I hate the word “blog”/”blogging,” but I guess we’re stuck with it. It just sounds so…phlegm-y.

(Is anyone still reading this? I know I’m rambling here, but I’m going with it.)

So where do I go from here? I’ve been blogging for fourteen years. That’s a long time! I don’t worry that I’ll run out of things to talk about (I never shut up!), but it is becoming increasingly hard for me to carve out the time it takes to put together worthwhile blog posts. I work in an office doing this all day long, and then I come home and do this until the wee hours—and then I sleep a little bit and wake up to do it all over again. I love designing stuff, don’t get me wrong, but man alive is it easy to get stretched thin. Everything takes at least five times longer than I think it’s going to, and I hate saying no…and, well, I’m not sure how well I’ve actually learned these lessons I wrote about last year.

This is what I do know: I want to blog more. I don’t want to slip into patterns where I’m letting weeks pass between posts. If I really do love doing this (and I do!), I want to do it as best as I can and in a meaningful way. I need to figure out to make that happen. At a minimum, I need to be able to stop doing so much freelance work in the evenings/nights/mornings/weekends.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about whether I should start accepting some advertisements from independent businesses. I know that’s probably shocking to a lot of you reading this, but I’m not going to shy away from talking about it. My approach to this kind of thing has to be totally transparent or else I feel creepy! I’ve had a lot of conversations about this subject with blogging friends of mine over the past few months, and all of them (whether they accept ads on their blogs or not) have been really supportive and encouraging of me going in that direction. I need to figure it out for myself, though—not just whether it’s OK or not OK for me to do, but where I fall within the realm of OK-ness and how this all fits into the scheme of things where my personal ethics are concerned.

So I’m working on it. I care a lot about the integrity of my voice and my opinions, and I don’t want to violate any trust I’ve built up with my readers—with you—over the years. It’s a tough area, I know. I promise not to be shady about it, regardless of what I decide to do.

Thanks for listening. ♡

If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram, then you probably already know that for the past few months I’ve been drinking an awful lot of juice. Green juice, beet juice, carrot juice, pear juice, pineapple juice…JUICE. Not the stuff you buy in a bottle, but freshly pressed, nutrient and mineral-rich whole, raw, unpasteurized juice. I can’t get enough of it.

Beyond just drinking an occasional glass of juice here and there, I’ve actually gone as far as doing two juice “cleanses,” each three days in duration. If you’re not familiar with the world of juice cleansing, the most basic premise is that for a specific length of time you consume nothing but freshly pressed juices—no solid foods at all. (Note: This is not the same thing as Master Cleanse or any of the other lemon-water cleanses. With a juice cleanse you are typically consuming between 1000 and 1500 calories per day—it’s not a starvation diet.)

I’m not sure exactly what initially put the thought of doing a juice cleanse in my head, but the first time I did it I was coming off a run of eating really, really poorly and drinking more coffee every day than I really care to admit. I desperately felt like I needed to “reset” my eating habits, rid myself of cravings for things my body doesn’t want or need, and put myself on a generally healthy path of eating well.

I can only speak for myself here, but I know that when I stop consuming something for several days at a time, generally no longer crave it anymore. This was certainly true when I gave up dairy a couple of years ago, and when I gave up all artificial sweeteners a year before that. I basically don’t have a sweet tooth anymore. My hope with doing a juice cleanse was that I’d rid myself of the constant cravings for fries, bagels, coffee…all of the things I love that are fine in moderation, but bad news when consumed excessively. If you’ve hit a point where you’re consuming three bagels, a large order of tater tots, and a couple of gigantic iced coffees on a typical Saturday, there’s a problem. (Hello, myths of veganism!)

Rather than run out and buy a juicer right away, I decided to see what kind of options are available locally for fresh juice cleanses. The answer is A LOT, at least in New York City. After much Googling, Yelping, Twittering and speaking to actual live humans, I decided to go with BluePrintCleanse. They deliver for free in NYC, and their prices are pretty much in line with the rest of the juicing companies in this area.

I chose the mid-level cleanse, Foundation, and ordered a three-day supply. I scheduled the delivery a few days in advance so I’d have time to prepare (basically limiting my diet primarily to raw fruits and veggies and cutting out caffeine—since I already have a vegan diet, it was really just a matter of eliminating the processed foods, since meat and dairy obviously aren’t a part of my life), and had everything delivered to my office. The fresh juices BluePrintCleanse sells are raw and unpasteurized, so they have a very short shelf life—they’ll only delivery three days’ worth at a time, and it all needs to be refrigerated immediately. They arrived in a cardboard box with tons of ice packs and a free cooler bag sized for transporting a few bottles at a time.

And so I was off! Honestly, it wasn’t that big of a deal for me in terms of self-control. I already love green juice so the taste wasn’t an issue (if anything, I found the pineapple-based juice a little too sweet, but I’m definitely in the minority), and it’s such a large volume of fluids that I really wasn’t hungry at all. A lot of people say they feel a desperate need to chew while cleansing, but that didn’t happen to me. My digestion was fine as well. The only really torturous part was giving up coffee, but even that was only horrible (headaches, exhaustion, moodiness) for the first two days when I was preparing for the cleanse. By the time I was on day three of drinking juice, I wasn’t even thinking about coffee. I wasn’t even really thinking about food, frankly—I kind of wanted to just keep drinking juice forever.

How did I feel during the cleanse? The first day I felt a little tired, but I suspect that was lingering caffeine withdrawal. Generally speaking, I felt GREAT. I slept really well, I didn’t feel bloated or “stuffed,” and more than anything, I had a sense of control. That might sound a little weird, but I don’t like feeling like I have no self-control when it comes to food. Either you understand where I’m coming from with that or you don’t, I guess. At any rate, I like being disciplined about what I put into my body. Moderation is hard for me when it comes to eating.

Then day four arrived, the morning after my last juice. Time to break the cleanse! The first thing I ate was some cut mango with sea salt, and it was delicious. It tasted so flavorful and satisfying. I also had a tiny cup of coffee, and let me tell you—if you stop consuming all caffeine for a week, that first cup is an AMAZING thing. I wanted to crawl inside of that cup and live there forever. How nice to actually LOVE a cup of coffee again and not just feel compelled to drink it out of necessity or routine!

How have things been post-cleanse? Pretty great, actually. My diet is incredible now! I eat really, really well—tons of veggies, fresh fruits and whole grains. I constantly crave raw vegetables. Sometimes I lie in bed and fantasize about kale. Really. On the few occasions when I’ve eaten poorly, I don’t feel good afterward. Not sick, but not good. I find myself thinking a lot about what the foods I eat can do for me nutritionally rather than how they’ll make me feel emotionally—and that’s a good place to be. I’ve lost about 20 pounds in the past three months (!) without even trying; a nice side benefit for sure, even though that wasn’t my goal.

I know there’s a lot of pseudo-science out there are about the benefits of fasting and cleansing and “detoxing,” and while I don’t know how much I buy into some of the more wild claims, I do know what juice cleansing has done for me, and I plan to make it a regular part of my life. I’m thinking maybe once every season? I’m also going to buy a juicer now that I’m confident it won’t just sit around gathering dust.

If you have ANY questions about my experience with juice cleansing, please feel free to ask. I hadn’t planned to blog about it when I started, but after getting so many questions on Twitter and Instagram, I figured there must be some more interested people out there! I’m definitely not an expert, but I’m happy to share what I do know. I’d also love to hear from others who have done juice cleanses, or even those of you who are just fellow juice fanatics!

SIDE NOTE:
BluePrintCleanse is actually having a 21% off sale on Fab this week, so if you’re interested in trying it out at a discount, this is a good opportunity. If you don’t already have a membership, this link will function as an invitation to join.

On a related note, have you seen Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead yet? It’s basically a documentary about the wonders of juicing. It’s a little bit overly-inspirational (what can I say, I’m a born cynic), but sometimes that’s a good thing. If nothing else, it’ll make you feel like you can have some control over your physical health and well-being by taking very simple and direct measures. It’s a good movie, and you can watch it for free. Worth the hour and a half.

I know, this post is a bit overdue! Chances are you’ve already heard on Twitter or seen another blog post, but two weekends ago, I hosted a sleepover party at my house with Victoria, Lisa and Jenna. I’ve never had so many overnight guests before! We had such a wonderful time. I wish I had more photos to share, but for some reason I tend to not think about picking up my camera when I’m with friends. I wish that weren’t the case, because it’s so nice to have visual memories of time spent together.

Breakfast on Sunday was exactly how I like it to be: perfect tofu scramble, collard greens, bagels from Beacon Bakery across the river, vegan sausages…and plenty of coffee, of course. There are fewer things that make me feel happier than preparing food for people and feeding them in my home.

On Saturday night, we all made ancho lentil tacos together. It was truly a collaborative effort (FYI, Lisa makes a mean guacamole!), and it felt really good to have a bunch of people in my kitchen. It’s hard for me to let go on control sometimes and allow guests to help me (even with stuff like washing dishes!), but I forced myself to just let it go for the weekend—and it was soooooo worth it.

We ate dessert (coconut milk ice cream and cookies!) in the garden. VERY exciting! We’ve been working on the garden for years now, and a lack of time, budget and resources have meant it’s been very slow going. Until that weekend, I’d never really spent any time in the garden just relaxing and enjoying myself. It’s only been a place for hauling, digging and sweating. The garden is still far from being done, but I’m glad I didn’t label it off-limits—something I tend to do with parts of my house that aren’t “perfect.”

(Hanging up those globe lights helped a lot. They’re just $12 cheapies from Target, but they added so much cozy atmosphere!)

I can’t say enough how much I love my friends. Having so much time together just felt right. I’d met all of them before, but being all in one place at the same time was very special. It wasn’t about networking or blogging or work or any of that stuff. It was just about talking, relaxing, watching movies, eating, staying up late and being friends. I didn’t want to say goodbye.

It’s funny, people are so critical of Twitter and blogs and how the internet supposedly takes us out of “real life,” but if I’m speaking truthfully, the internet (Twitter in particular) is the reason I actually have any semblance of a real-world social life. I’ve made a lot of friends online over the past 15 years, and a great many of them have become very real parts of my life—online and off. (And before the internet, I made lots of friends through writing letters with penpals.) Some of us just aren’t good at getting to know new people face-to-face. I’m one of those people. And that’s OK. Most of my friends are like that, too.

Lisa, Jenna and Victoria each wrote a post with pictures about our weekend together. They’re all much better photographers than me!

1. New York weekend at Lisa Congdon’s blog, Today is Going to Be Awesome.

2. Slumber party weekend at Jenna Park’s blog, Sweet Fine Day.

3. Unexpected guests at Victoria Smith’s blog, sfgirlbybay.*

*Victoria actually took a WHOLE BUNCH of photos from all over my house, so it’s sort of like an updated house tour. I know I’m kind of stingy with photos of my house lately (I guess because I haven’t been working on many projects), so if you’d like to see how it looks these days, head over! This is the first time anyone other than me has photographed my house, and I’m honored that Victoria found my home worthy of sharing on her beautiful blog.

I’m puttering around the Brooklyn apartment this 3-day weekend, still getting over the remains of a head cold and avoiding the flash thunderstorms we’ve been having around here lately. I’m determined to use the time to get this place looking better. I made a to-do list I think is pretty realistic.

Clean/vacuum/etc.
Order new sconce for bathroom
Mount hanging rail in kitchen Hmmm, I actually think we don’t need it…
HANG STUFF ON THE WALLS
Install closet shelving
Organize closets
Pack up winter clothes
✚ Figure out how to hide the electrical panel (I need to think about it more)
✚ Plan food for the week (I’ll do that tomorrow)
DON’T DRINK COFFEE

Yeah. So. That last thing. Coffee. Not drinking it. I know, I know. I have a reputation as being a bit of a coffee fiend, and it’s no joke. I’m not one of those people who drinks cup after cup, but I definitely have at least one giant cup of the stuff a day—and more often than not, two giant cups. Or maybe three. I don’t really need it to get going in the morning, but I cannot make it past noon without coffee if I want to avoid developing a massive, throbbing headache that never fails to make me think I’m dying. Then I have a coffee, and everything is better.

Next week is going to be a bit of a “detox” test for me, though. I’m doing a three-day BluePrint Cleanse and eating raw food for three days on either side, and I want to cut out caffeine completely for a full week. It’s a bit of a reset, really—I need to get myself back on track with eating well. I don’t really believe in temporary “cleansing,” but mentally I do think that having a regimented diet for a set period of time is a very good thing for me. I’ve been eating way too much packaged, processed food lately (seitan, frozen veggie burgers, Spicy Sweet Chili Doritos…you get the picture), and I just don’t feel good.

I’ll let you know how THAT goes, and I’ll take photos of the apartment as it comes together, too. I’m excited about both things!

→ “It’s Always Worth It” print by Lisa Congdon

You know, it’s funny—a year ago today, we spent New Year’s Eve at home, eating nachos, drinking wine and painting the living room black. And also watching Lifetime movies, even though I didn’t mention that in my post. This year we’re at home, we’re eating cookies, drinking coffee (me) and vegan white Russians (Evan), and painting the dining room black. And watching Saturday Night Fever. Progress!

Our stove has been busted for a while (the top burners were usable, but not the oven) so roasting and baking stuff has been impossible lately. This morning the repair guy came ($130 for what literally took about 5 seconds and involved tapping a knob with the back of a screwdriver…ugh), so tonight I made the most of the restored service and made a really good dinner to send off 2011.

For the main dish, I made Hottie Black Eyed Peas and Collard Greens (SO GOOD…but then every recipe Isa writes is awesome) and a side of roasted carrots. I’m usually not big on cooked carrots, but seriously, these were AMAZING. The key is cutting them thinly enough and roasting them long enough that they get tender (not mushy!) and caramelized and crispy at the edges.

ROASTED CARROTS (vegan)
Make however much you want!

You need: Carrots, olive oil, garlic, coarse salt.

Step 1: Preheat the oven to 375°F and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
Step 2: Peel some carrots. Cut them into strips that are roughly 1/2″ thick and 2–3″ long.
Step 3. Put the carrots in a mixing bowl.
Step 4. Add a few glugs of olive oil (how much depends on the amount of carrots you’re making) and some coarse salt. Toss to coat!
Step 5: Slice a few cloves of garlic in half lengthwise. Toss into the mix.
Step 6: Spread everything out on the cookie sheet and roast for 40—50 minutes. Just keep an eye on them. You want nicely shriveled and maybe even a little charred here and there, but not burnt to a crisp.
Step 7: YUM.

For dessert, I made Mexican Hot Chocolate Snickerdoodles. OMG. Like I said, everything Isa comes up with is magic, and these are no exception. They’re nice and soft and chewy, chocolatey, and just the right amount of spicy. Mine didn’t get all crackly on top like hers did (maybe because I used coconut oil instead of canola oil), but ooooooohhhhh. So good.

Alright, it’s time for me to get back to my paintbrush. Happy New Year, everybody! Best wishes for a happy and healthy and productive 2012.