Shani Hillian: Beauty + Wellness Writer

Between the 68 degree weather I experienced in LA during Memorial Day Weekend and the 90 degree weather in North Carolina, I’m confused. I’m sure I’m not the only one, neither! I saw New Yorkers wearing full on coats and ponchos during the Alexander Wang show just this Monday! I’m fully aware the Earth is being impacted by global warming, but I think we all would appreciate clear climate direction. Just saying.

In the midst of the constant changes, keeping up a skin care routine that works for one season can be daunting. But have you ever considered switching up your regimen between seasons like you do your clothing? I had no clue! I decided to chat with my new friend, Shani from Instagram (because, where else). I learned a lot more consideration for your skin between seasons is not only beneficial but easy!

Shani is a holisitic and beauty writer based in New York that adopted self-awareness and healthy practices that she now shares with the world. Her experience within the hair and fashion industry ignited her passion for wellness. Understanding the connection between happiness and health, in the total sense of the word: mind, body, and spirit, Shani spreads her knowledge to others on the pursuit on wholeness. 

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This was a fun interview with gems for both women AND men! I’m a nerd when it comes to learning about anatomy and science so I thoroughly enjoyed Shani’s insight. Read our conversation below and I’m sure you will appreciate it, too!

 

The J Spot: Tell us about yourself!

Shani Hillian: My name is Shani, I’m a wellness advocate, writer, and model based in Brooklyn, NY.

TJS: How did you become interested in skincare?

SH: My interest in skin care began at an early age. I'd see my mom make homemade masks and walk around the house with it while tidying up haha. I started to do the same and I've been obsessed with masking ever since:)

TJS: What made you want to write about skincare?

SH: I'm a licensed cosmetologist and esthetician with some knowledge to share and I dig writing so I decided to pair the two with the hopes of helping some folks live their best life.

TJS: We connected about Hand & Stone. Do you mind telling my readers about your experience working there?

SH: I worked at Hand & Stone Spa very briefly during a transition period in my life of having just moved back to the east coast from Los Angeles. The company was lovely, to be honest. Calming atmosphere, they provided educational classes at the Dermalogica Institute, complimentary, in addition to the credentials you already have. They were great.

TJS: What’s your favorite part about being an esthetician?

SH: My favorite part about being an esthetician is helping people. What's the first thing you notice when you meet someone? Their skin, whether gleams or has blemishes. It's cliché but I want people to love the skin they're in. It's our largest organ, we must take care of it.

TJS: Is there a big difference between men and women’s skin, in terms of the genetic makeup?

SH: Yes, there is a major difference. In addition to having facial hair, there are structural differences between men's skin and women's skin. Androgen (testosterone) stimulation causes an increase in skin thickness, which is why a man's skin is about 25% thicker than a woman's. A man's skin is tougher, oiler and warmer because they have more blood vessels than women. As women, we suffer more, unfortunately. Our skin is thinner,  dryer and more susceptible to dramatic changes. Example: Hormonal changes. Our skin gets drier as we age which is why 98% of all anti-aging, collagen infused products are created for women.

TJS: Is it necessary to use as many products that women use or should we all go the less is more route?

SH: It's subjective, to be honest. I personally go for minimal skin care but that's because I don't have problematic skin and my skin benefits from such a regimen. I've treated people with all types of skin issues and some needed more, some needed less so it just depends on your skin type and what works best for you at that moment.

TJS: How can the weather affect the skin? Is it different living in different regions or should skincare be based on skin type?

SH: The environmental conditions of where you live can impact the way your skin behaves, so paying attention to the weather will determine what type of treatments your skin will need. If you live in the Northeast like me (NYC) where winters are brutal, we are definitely susceptible to developing skin ailments such as eczema, dry skin due to the lack of moisture, chapped lips, and atopical dermatitis, which I've developed this past year. Creams, oils, hydrating masks are your best friend during this time. People that reside in warmer climates tend to sweat more so they can be more acne prone, especially if your skin is naturally oily. Products that aim towards detoxifying will help and opt for an oil-free moisturizer in this climate.

TJS: Tell me about the importance of transitional skincare in between the four seasons. Is there anything people of color specifically need to focus on when it comes to these transitions?

SH: Just like you switch up your wardrobe in accordance with the seasons, you should also be rotating your products to protect your complexion against the elements. Most people also tend to have a seasonal diet whether you're conscious of it or not. We eat fruits and vegetables in abundance during the spring/summer, and hearty foods in fall/winter. The same should apply to your skin. Lighter products during warmer seasons, heavier products during colder seasons. People of color truly benefit from using oils and creams on our skin. It's more than just making sure we're not "ashy" haha, it's cultural and I love that about us. We tend to use the same products all year round as we live by the motto " If it ain't broke, don't fix it". If you're an oil lover like myself, the only thing I would suggest is using a lighter oil in spring/summer like Jojoba oil. It's closest to the natural oils in our skin which will hydrate and nourish without being too heavy and greasy.

 

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TJS: How do you switch up your skincare routine between the seasons?

SH: I tend to exfoliate more( 3x a week) during the warmer seasons and aim towards using detoxifying masks to help balance my sebum levels due to the humidity in the air. During the colder seasons, I exfoliate less (1x a week) because my skin is so dry. I also mask more in the winter (2-3x a week) with intense hydrating masks. That's what works for me.

 

TJS: What’s the biggest mistake someone can make when it comes to skincare or trying products?

SH: The biggest mistake someone can make when it comes to skincare is thinking a regimen is "one size fits all". That is 100% false. Just because a product works for your sister or bestie, doesn't mean it'll work for you. You have to know your skin type (dry, oily, combo) and try products that gear towards that specific type. Don't use oil-based products if you are oily/ance prone trying to achieve that Fenty Glow. You will clog your skin, I promise you and it's never worth it. If you are unsure of what skin type you have, I recommend seeking help from a Board Certified Dermatologist or Licensed Esthetician.

TJS: What are 3 fun facts about skin?

SH: Hmmm, let me think. 3 Fun Facts about skin would be:

+ Sometimes, babies can get acne in their first few weeks of life and it takes up to 6 months for babies to develop their permanent skin tone

+ There are 2 types of Melanin

  • Pheomelanin which is red, yellow tones
  • Eumelanin which is Brown, Black tones

+ Every minute your skin sheds over 30,000 dead cells

TJS: Here on The J Spot, I refer to those closest to me as “My Tribe.” Who is a part of your tribe and how do you they help or contribute to your life?

SH: Oh wow, my soulmates are my tribe. My soulmates include the people closest to me either family, friends or ancestors. I have amazing soulmates I talk to on a daily basis that keep me inspired, they champion with me and ride the waves of life with me. Forever grateful for them.

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You heard her! Don’t sacrifice your skin thinking you’re going to get that natural Fenty highlight with incorrect products! She knows what she’s talking about.

Thank you to our second feature on The J Spot! Shani, it was a pleasure and I can’t wait to see more from you.

Make sure to follow Shani on Instagram: @shanihillian and visit her website:

https://www.shanihillian.com/

Her IG Stories are one of my faves to follow! She has it all: Flawless Skin, flourishing hair, holistic wellness practices and down to Earth...It can’t get any better!

How do you take care of your skin?

Let me know in the comments!

Siraad Dirshe: The Glow Expert

The first guest ever to be featured and exclusively interviewed on The J Spot deserves a proper introduction! *I feel like a teacher at the front of the class, excited to share our special guest*

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Siraad Dirshe is a New York native, writer, and is currently a Beauty Editor for THEE Essence Magazine! She has written for publications such as Refinery 29, Vogue, Teen Vogue, Popsugar, Elle, Nylon, and many other notable platforms regarding skin care. I first learned of Siraad on the 17th episode during the second season of "Black Girl in Om," previously mentioned in Podcasts You Didn't Know You Needed

From that podcast alone, I acquired a huge amount of knowledge regarding skin care practices and the special attention for the largest organ in the body, specifically for women of color. Naturally, I followed her on every social media account possible. The information she spoke about pertaining to products was so impactful that I needed more! Over time, I followed her content, liked her pictures, and watched her Instagram stories. Of course, I replied to her polls, videos, and inquired about products that weren't familiar. Then, one day, I expressed my admiration for her knowledge within the beauty industry and asked if she would like to be highlighted as a woman of color within beauty on The J Spot and she said "yes!" 

If you don't know, Siraad is known as the GLOW EXPERT! I expressed to her that the J Spot is a platform for my readers, especially people of color, to have a resource and become inspired to try something new. Her skin is impeccable and I wanted her to explain how my readers could achieve it, too. There's six weeks left in winter! Which means there's six weeks left to obtain glowing, luminous skin. Keep reading to see how!

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The J Spot: I am extremely excited to have the opportunity to interview The Glow Expert, herself! I discovered you from your interview on The Black Girl in Om Podcast. You have an amazing breadth of knowledge regarding skin care, specifically for women of color, that I want all my readers to learn about. The below questions are focused on your insights on skin care, the beauty industry, and being a creative. 

You mentioned in previous interviews that you gravitated towards skincare products instead of makeup. That is so interesting! What motivated this preference?

Siraad Dirshe: Until very recently I never thought I was "good" at makeup, so I was pretty much afraid of it. I also think since beauty brands have historically not created products with us in mind, I never really found colors and tones that complimented my deeper skin tone. So I think skin care just seemed more accessible and easy to understand/use.   

TJS: In your articles, you talk about beauty and self love in your articles. What would you say the correlation is between these two topics?

SD: For me those two things are inextricably linked! When I'm taking 10-15 in the morning or evening to pamper myself with skin products, that's one of the ways I show myself some love. 

TJS: I recently highlighted self-care and its importance. What is your favorite self-care practice?

SD: Oh there are so many self-care practices I love and honestly, I am conscious to ensure that at multiple points in my day I am showing myself some love. Working out, eating foods that make me feel good, reading, spending time with loved ones, listening to music, and of course taking care of my skin are some of my go-tos. 

TJS: How did you accumulate your knowledge regarding skincare, specifically about melanin, which products are best meant for it, etc.?

SD: Because skin care is something I am just completely obsessed with, I never get tired of watching videos, reading articles or listening to podcasts about products and ingredients. So I think the genuine interest and curiosity made it so I was just always learning about it.  

TJS: What’s the most unconventional practice you’ve done or heard people do to improve their skin?

SD: I would say shocking my face (it's not nearly as crazy as it sounds) with an electro current facial or getting a colonic for better looking skin are some of the most interesting things I've done. 

TJS: What would you say the worst skincare practice is?

SD: Not wearing sun screen! Everyone needs to wear it, no matter how deep your skin color is.  

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TJS: You’ve been referred to as The Glow Expert! Can you tell my readers what it takes to get the perfect glow, even in the fall & winter?

SD: In my opinion, the best way to get the perfect glow doesn't have much to do with skin care. Drinking lots of water, eating a balanced diet, working up a sweat a few times a week are the best ways to help your skin glow. But a good moisturizer and an occasional mask is a great idea too. 

TJS: As a black woman, what do you feel your role is within the beauty industry? Do you feel you have a certain responsibility of any kind?

SD: Of course! I feel like it's my responsibility to help make the industry a place where we see ourselves reflected and to shine a light on the issues and people that Black women find relevant and important. 

TJS: What is your biggest challenge as a black writer?

SD: When I was freelancing, I would say it was getting people to respond to my pitches but now that I'm an editor, it's having enough time to respond to the emails I now receive. I want to help those who are trying to break into the industry as much as possible.  

TJS: What would be your advice to anyone looking to enter the beauty industry?

SD: The one piece of advice I would give is to don't be afraid to create your own opportunities -- something I wish I had done more of when I first moved to NYC. Last year, I started freelance writing on a whim (I was bored of my current job and knew I wanted to write in beauty). And lots of hard work later, I'm now working in my dream job. Oh, and don't let one person's no deter you from doing what you want to be do! 

TJS: What inspires you as a creative? 

SD: I find inspiration from other creatives, so I love to listen to music, visit museums, and reading other writers I admire. I also love to travel and experience new cultures, and I always feel inspired after I come back from a trip. 

TJS: Here at The J Spot, I refer to the people in my inner circle who support and guide me as my “Tribe.” Who would you consider your tribe?

SD: I have a tribe of 'sisters' (biological and not), that I could not imagine doing life without. They inspire, challenge and support me! 

TJS: You write for major publications, such as Essence, Elle, Vogue, Glamour, and many more. What would be the pinnacle writing experience to highlight the complexity and diversity of black women?

SD: Oh man, I'm not sure about that one! Maybe writing a book?  

TJS: Lastly, what are your top 3 skincare tips for women? Do you have any for men? 

SD: 1. Wear sunscreen 2. Wash your face at night 3. Drink lots of water!  

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I want to thank Siraad for taking the time to answer the above questions. Make sure to follow her on Instagram @sdirshe and read her article on Essence.com and BlackGirlInOm.com

I learned so much and I hope my readers did, too! Please like this post, share, and leave your comments below on your favorite skincare practices! I'd love to hear your thoughts!

World Tour: Series Part 4 - Los Angeles

For many who do not know, I was born and raised in Los Angeles and although I call North Carolina my place of residency now, I try to go back to visit my family as often as I can. More recently, I visited just to have fun but this visit was definitely a trip to check on my family and my best friend. 

As soon as I landed, I met up with my favorite people! My aunt and uncle. It was my Uncle's 70th birthday and I was excited to celebrate with them. As tradition, they always make reservations at Houston's. Although I used to go when I lived with them, it has almost been 5 years since I last went. I love my aunt and uncle because they may be seasoned with age but they are young at heart. They travel all the time, they're retired, educated, and well established. Honestly, they're goals. They don't have any children so I don't mind being spoiled by them from time to time. 

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I believe this dinner was the first time they saw me in a different light and more as an adult. We touched on topics regarding police brutality, net neutrality, 45, all the way to social media, how it works, what are influencers, etc. etc. It was nice to teach them about how my generation interacts and informs one another via social networking. My uncle and I also had a slight debate regarding his concern for my generation's plan of action with the current state of the world. I'm sure I could insert that [here] but then this post will be never-ending. Either way, with the help of my aunt as the mediator and translator (haha), we were able to see each others' point of views. In reality, my uncle and I are very much alike and if anything, this brings us closer. As always, dinner was amazing and I had a great time. 

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Upon arrival to my best friend, Aaryn's, house I was greeted with birthday presents! Little did she know I put Mario Bedescu's toners on my Christmas List! I was elated! She also gave me the book salt. by Nayyirah Waheed and I can't wait to finish it. I'm sure it will force me to deal with some "subconcious feelings that have not been addressed" but we'll cross that bridge when we get there. Last, but certainly not least, I got Pantone postcards! Pantone is a color matching system used in different industries but primarily printing. So, if I were to have a logo with a specific color code, I could use that code on a variety of items such as business cards, websites, shirts, banner, etc. Pantone Books, which include thousands of colors, cost thousands of dollars. To see at least 100 in postcard form was super cool and new! I'm not sure how I will use them yet but I'm thinking for inspiration boards or photo shoot concepts.

My friends own homes! What do yours do? HA! I'm laughing but it's not a joke. It was so cool and super inspiring to see my oldest friend accomplish a huge goal of purchasing her own home. It reminds me that stability is attainable!

Saturday Night we had dinner at Rush Street in Culver City. Great ambience, cool lighting, and great food. We decided to share different appetizers: Spicy Ahi Tacos, Mesquite Turkey Sliders, Fried Jumbo Shrimp with Cajun Tartar Sauce, and their infamous Mac n Cheese.  Highly Recommend!

Saturday Night we had dinner at Rush Street in Culver City. Great ambience, cool lighting, and great food. We decided to share different appetizers: Spicy Ahi Tacos, Mesquite Turkey Sliders, Fried Jumbo Shrimp with Cajun Tartar Sauce, and their infamous Mac n Cheese. Highly Recommend!

I'm always here for cool lighting.

I'm always here for cool lighting.

Of course, Aaryn and I had to do brunch on a Sunday because well..duh. I have been crowned as The Mimosa Queen and it is only fitting that we indulge in bottomless rounds for   five dollars   to start the day off right at Market Provisions in the Fairfax District.

Of course, Aaryn and I had to do brunch on a Sunday because well..duh. I have been crowned as The Mimosa Queen and it is only fitting that we indulge in bottomless rounds for five dollars to start the day off right at Market Provisions in the Fairfax District.

This is actually a moment that needed to be documented because I don't even like eggs, let alone fried eggs. But their "Breakfast Sandwich" with roasted turkey, melted gruyere, bacon, grilled onions, lemon aioli + 2 fried eggs on ciabatta was impeccable. 

This is actually a moment that needed to be documented because I don't even like eggs, let alone fried eggs. But their "Breakfast Sandwich" with roasted turkey, melted gruyere, bacon, grilled onions, lemon aioli + 2 fried eggs on ciabatta was impeccable. 

Did someone say "Happy Hour?" Maragaritas, of course.

Did someone say "Happy Hour?" Maragaritas, of course.

Tacos...in LA...Mandatory. Aaryn pretty much ordered her favorites for the table but I think we have two chicken street tacos, guacamole, lamb barbacoa skillet wit lamb slow roasted in an adobo sauce marinade , and calamari. 

Tacos...in LA...Mandatory. Aaryn pretty much ordered her favorites for the table but I think we have two chicken street tacos, guacamole, lamb barbacoa skillet wit lamb slow roasted in an adobo sauce marinade , and calamari. 

The view on Stocker will never get old.

The view on Stocker will never get old.

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I'm a sucker for views and landscapes so I'm sure you won't mind the obligatory airplane scenic pictures. I would be grateful because there are more where those came from.

It never fails. I come to LA, get comfortable, my skin clears up, I adapt a natural glow and then BOOM I'm on the next flight back to North Carolina with 30 degree weather. Despite the worst Mercury Retrograde that I've ever experienced taking place in all three cities, this was the best trip in a while. I got to see my aunt and uncle, my best friend, and my grandpa (not pictured). I need to start planning my next one soon. But after this tour, I'm thinking I should stay put for a while. Actually, I'll be honest with myself, traveling for a living would be the dream.

While on this "world tour," I did attend a few events that will be separate posts so make sure to check back soon! Have you ever been to any of the cities mentioned? If so, leave comments on your favorite places! Maybe even recommend a restaurant, store, or museum for me to stop by the next time I'm in town. 

10 Self- Care Practices to Get Your Week Started

Take it from me, Mondays are not easy. It can be difficult to get into work mode after not abiding by a schedule for a couple of days. Whether it's a Monday or your first day back from a vacation, look at some of the practices I use to get my mind right for the week.

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  1. Get a good playlist going
    • Music is literally my saving grace. It's my therapy, it's my friend, and sometimes puts me in check! But Spotify gets me ALL THE WAY TOGETHER! Apple Music and Tidal just haven't gotten the right algorithm to my liking. This morning, I woke up to a new playlist curated by Lauren Ash from Black Girl In Om entitled "woke + well." I love it! I've been listening it all day. 
    • Also, make sure to check out my friend Mieko's website to access all of her playlists for all of your listening needs. She's really dope and her love for music is so apparent, it's amazing! This LA native, now New York mover & shaker has a playlist for any mood. https://www.mieko.space
    • Lastly, I just started using a playlist for rain sounds on Spotify and it puts me right to sleep. I highly recommend this if you have trouble falling asleep. "This is: Rain"
  2. Plan Out Your Outfits
    • Trust me, if you aren't a morning person like myself, this is a huge help! I used to "see how my mood was in the morning" and let's just say the way my sleep schedule is set up, that never worked out. Do yourself a favor and pick out your clothes like your mom used to do in elementary.
  3. Take Time to ACTUALLY Wind Down
    • If you just hop in the bed, in my experience, your mind will be racing, thinking of a million different things. Get in the habit of setting a routine. Put new linen on your bed, and light a candle, and take a bath and rinse off in the shower (hygiene, people). This will definitely ease your mind and put you in a relaxed state.
  4. Read
    • Pick a designated time: during the day, right before bed, or first thing in the morning. Reading can really enhance your mind, your vocabulary, and get your mind off reality. I'm personally in the midst of reading rupi kaur's, Milk and Honey and The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. I believe if I read more now that I am not in school, my verbiage and writing will improve.
  5. Watch Your Favorite Youtuber/Interview with Your Favorite Musician
    • You can gain great insight and inspiration by listening to interview. Please see: Jay-Z, ET the Hip Hop Preacher, Nicki Minaj, Angela Rye, Dr. Dre, Tupac, Diddy, & Oprah
    • Ted Talks!
    • My fav you tubers: Charisse Christine + Kayla LaShae
    • Or you can be weird like me and watch cleaning videos. They're so satisfying! lol and they give great tips Check out this video by StyledBy Casanova
  6. Wash Day
    • Hair or Clothes, you choose. I find it super relaxing 
  7. Catch Up on Your Favorite TV Show
    • Recently, I discovered a plug to give me the link for all 8 seasons of Girlfriends on Youtube. Excuse me, while I try to maintain my excitement. Comment your favorite tv show at the moment!
  8. Self- Reflection
    • This might include prayer or journaling Whatever clears your mind and releases the negative energy you deal with on a day to day basis...choose that.
  9. Brew Tea
    • It might sound weird, especially you aren’t into tea like myself. But, there is literally a tea for everything. I have one to get me to sleep, one to wake me up in the morning, one for stomach aches, and the list goes on and on. It's one of my favorite beverages.
  10. Do NOTHING
    • Absolutely nothing! Sometimes you don't realize how much energy you exert until you just sit down. somewhere.

Let me know in the comments if these tips are helpful or if you already do some of the practices mentioned! 

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The Alchemist

Think I Got it Covered for the Weekend

*Sings Weekend By Sza*

Preface: This post will be all over the place because that's how my weekend was!

This weekend I went from absolutely no plans to booked AND busy! It seems like adulting after graduation is just as busy when I was in school. I initially didn't have solidified plans other than washing my hair and doing laundry but that quickly changed. I wanted to throw a birthday party for my two friends, I went out both Friday and Saturday night, went to Trap Yoga & ate goooood. I had an eventful weekend to say the least. 

I started my weekend on Thursday and met up with an old co-worker from my retail days at Banana Republic! I can tell you now that I am very annoying when it comes to choosing where to eat *insert typical meme about indecisive women.* She suggested Crafted, The Art of the Taco! I heard a lot of great things about the restaurant and was excited to try their Baja Chicken Tacos! I highly recommend it. Their guacamole is on point and authentic (v. important)! Hopefully, I can taste one of their mojitos during happy hour in the near future. For this day, I stuck with my water and admired her drink since I had to go back to the office.

 
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Of course I'm extra. Not only do I refer to my friends and inner circle as "My Tribe" because it takes a village haha but I volunteered to host a birthday gathering. Even though the birthday shindig, wasn't technically a party, I wanted to make my friends feel special! The result, a few bottles of spirits, decorations, burning some sage and these flyers! I think they're pretty dope if I do say so myself. I try to be as Pinterest-inspired as possible which ultimately landed me in target to decorate. I love a good photographic background so I made my 2nd installation (still a work in progress) featuring one of the Virgo babies. 

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Spontaneously, Saturday morning I decided to attend Trap Yoga in Charlotte and whatever you're thinking, multiply by 5! It was the perfect balance between ratchet and zen. Leave a comment if you want me to talk more about Trap Yoga Bae and the safe space she created for women of color to practice yoga!

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Since I was in Charlotte, I took a self-care moment and spent the day with myself! I was so relaxed after yoga but I needed to eat. I finally tried Chopt Creative Salad Company, a restaurant I bookmarked on Instagram. I never thought I would cherish a salad so much and for $14, I better!...Damn, guacamole. At least I had a snack later so technically it was 1 1/2 meals. Justification, is key people. Aside from the high price tag, I would go back! 

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I definitely had an eventful weekend, to say the least! Let's see if that's the case next weekend. Where did you do? Tell me below this post or let me know on social media!