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laurenkellyandoliveRemember last week’s DESIGN YOUR LIFE interviewee, Courtney from Kelly + Olive? This week’s interviewee is Lauren, Courtney’s partner-in-crime business. If you have been following their blog, you are probably as smitten with their design ideas as I am.

In fact, since both Lauren and Courtney live in Chicago(!!) there are all kinds of similarities between us beyond our creativity, love of design, and entrepreneurship. Not to mention I totally know what Lauren is talking about in her “love myself as I am” intention, below. Been there, done that. She’s totally right: if we can’t be satisfied during a Chicago summer, there is no hope for our lonely souls.

Enjoy her intentions and find your everyday happiness!

dive in.

i’m not sure how i ended up here. i moved to chicago from virginia, having only visited the city once…and that was after i had committed to the move. now i have a small business…which i had vaguely dreamed of, but never imagined i would have the guts to go through with. so how did all this happen…? generally i’m a cautious person…i don’t ride motorcycles, drink moonshine or pet strange dogs. so for these things…the big things, the things i know are right but are risky or frightening in some way, it seems best to just dive in. i can’t over think or i’ll talk myself out of a good thing. besides… once you’re in the water, you can make it work.

love myself as i am.

laurenlovemyselfsometimes, i look at old pictures and think…look how thin i was! and my hair looks awesome! i was so cute. now i’m just a mess. but starting tomorrow, i’m going to get it together! i’m going to get in shape! i’ll cook delicious organic homemade meals. i’ll start dressing like better and then i’ll be more popular…and successful…and happy!

now…i’m all about nostalgia for the past… and it’s important to be hopeful for the future, but really, at the time those pictures were taken…i probably thought i was the ugliest, fattest, loser around. and i’m not going to become a whole different person in a snap tomorrow. if i can’t appreciate what i have today… my body, whatever it’s flaws, the fact that i have a job and can feed myself even if it’s lean cuisine, a growing business, the city in the summertime…if i can’t find joy in those things and love myself as i am each day… i will never be satisfied.

everyday happiness.

shiny red toenails. soda in glass bottles. internet videos of cats doing hilarious things.  a windowsill herb garden. waking without an alarm.  ikea. cereal. singing show tunes while driving. colored tights. the way books smell. a good black rollerball pen. thrift stores. magazines. drinking beer while sitting in grass.

enjoy some silence.

there are entire days…weeks!…that i spend without a moment of silence. before i get out of bed, i turn on the radio… then it’s ipod on the train, music at work, tv at home.  i’m a bit of an npr junkie and a news nerd. oh…and lost! and gossip girl…hgtv and rachel maddow! how can i resist all this easily accessible entertainment! plus, a lot of times i use tv or radio noise as company. if i’m home alone, it feels better to have some noise buzzing around. but yesterday…i decided to eat dinner at the dining room table…in silence. the roommates weren’t home. no tv on. no radio. no magazines to flip through. i was feeling really stressed…frantic, fuzzy-brained and grumpy. i thought it might help. it’s funny how uncomfortable i was. i don’t remember the last time i did one thing at a time. in the end, it was really nice. i could totally space out and let my thoughts wander. after dinner, i felt totally relaxed. i did some laundry, worked out…did a bunch of kelly + olive work…usually i just lay on the couch with my laptop on my stomach and the tv in the background until it’s time to go to bed. so now i’ve decided…i will give myself 20 minutes when i get home from work of silence and nothing to turn off my brain for a while and recharge..

listen to my body…it’s talking.

eat when you’re hungry. sleep when you’re tired. why is that so hard?

keep in touch.

laruenandsistercourtney and i are still friends because we both suffer from the same minor social flaw…we are bad at keeping in touch. we went to two different colleges and we talked maybe 6 times in those 4 years. then, when we reunited…we picked right back up like it never happened.

that’s not fair though…it doesn’t work that way with most people i care about. my closest college pals…all live on the east coast. my parents…my little sister, who is about to burst she’s so pregnant right now…live on the east coast. if i want them as a part of my life, not as a part of my past but as part of every day…i need to be better about communication and contact. i want my forthcoming niece to know her aunt lauren…not just because she sends awesome presents…but because she’s an active part of her life. so people…if any of you are reading this, i hereby make this mid-year resolution…i will contact you on your birthday with more than a facebook message, i will call to chat more often than i will text. and who doesn’t love random mail! that’s what funny postcards are for!

dressing charlotte in my favorite new outfit
April 29th, 2009     |    Wardrobe

charlottebluevneckstate st. large square necklace

First, let me apologize on behalf of Charlotte.

She has been absent the last few weeks from her usual spot on Wednesday mornings due to a short stint in rehab. It turns out her modeling debut, mentioned in her last appearance on Makeunder, launched her on a quick 15-minute tour of fame and fortune. Finding that life on the runway in Milan and Paris was not all sparkle and fun, she turned to drinking. With her petite frame, alcohol spelled disaster (the girl has no legs!). But luckily it did not take long for her to sober up and realize that Jess LC was where she belonged. We welcomed her back with open arms and we are leaving all Pinot Grigio out of her sight (which isn’t hard considering she has no eyes).

As for her new duds, these v-necks are soon to be my new summer uniform. I love the neckline and it looks great with my ever-present cardigans, which are a necessity in air conditioned buildings. For jewelry, I have been pairing my Grandma’s vintage “C” necklace (C for Carol, not Constable) with simple pieces for the State St. and Elm St. collections. The result is laid back but fills the “skin canvas” the deep V provides.

If I was to transition one of these tops for night, I would wear some large hoops or statement earrings and leave the neck bare.

charlotteblackvneckelm st. double leaf necklace

charlottenavyvneckstate st. large circle necklace

i need a blog reader, any suggestions?
April 28th, 2009     |    Life

orangeranunculasThe time has come! I have been thinking about getting a blog reader/RSS feed/something to hold all my daily reads in one simple spot. I tried Google Reader (attached to my email) but I wasn’t crazy about the overall look and layout of the reader. Is there any other, cleaner, simpler, or better readers I should think about?

Any suggestions would be appreciated!

A long, long, long time ago (back in mid-March), Blair at Delight by Design had an awesome post about embellished necklines (photo below found there as well).


After looking at these gorgeous frocks, I thought, “I can do that.” And I made a mental note to buy a shirt and some buttons to recreate this expensive look for pennies. So off I went to Target to get a shirt (I didn’t like the necklines of my existing shirts for this project) and some buttons at Jo Ann’s. When I got started, I was pretty hesitant about the layout but stuck with a symmetrical pattern. The result is underwhelming to say the least. I have tried on the shirt and it just looks so… bare. I think the only hope for reviving this shirt is adding more buttons, but my motivation to head back to Jo Ann’s (which is far away) is waning.

Has anyone else had this kind of let-down after such high hopes for a creative project?

badcraftprojectGuess I should keep my day job and leave the clothing design to Kristin.

Side Note: In case someone looks at this photo and thinks “that’s not that bad, really.” It really is bad, the photo is just being kind.

juggling work and passion
April 27th, 2009     |    Business Advice

While discussing the blog and the business advice posts, one reader mentioned that her full-time job makes it difficult to find time to follow her passion (writing). At first, I didn’t think I shared the “work vs. passion” struggle. I work for myself and choose my hours. But as I invest more time and energy towards MakunderMyLife I am still responsible for running Jess LC, which has meant longer hours and less pay. It has created a transition in my life from jewelry designer to jewelry designer and blogger which has been anything but easy. Therefore, I realized we are really in the same boat, we both are looking for advice and encouragement to continue on this “work and passion” journey.

Today, I found a little video of sunshine (or a cold splash of water, however you want to look at it) for all of us trying to walk both lines. I first wrote about Vaynerchuk’s really long and awesome speech here over the weekend about his success. His video above is only 3 minutes long, but he pretty much sums up what it really takes to juggle both work and purpose for many people. Sure, it may not be an exciting shortcut or “secret sauce,” but I think it’s closer to reality than many of us I would like to think. So in that way it is also a high-five, a cheer to keep working, and moving forward.

One step at a time.

PS- I don’t think I could give up LOST.

cheesecake cupcakes
April 27th, 2009     |    Food

cheesecakecupcakesWhat a great weekend! Despite the erratic Chicago weather, I managed to get my long run completed with my running buddy, Bernard, on a windy 80* Friday and help observe Erwin assemble his bike (shipped from Michigan) on Saturday. We stayed home on Saturday night (recovering from Friday night’s antics) and watched The Namesake. Anyone seen it? 48 hours later I am still not sure what I think of it. On Sunday while dodging rain showers every 20 minutes, I managed to show the newest Jess LC collection, Astor St., to Spare Parts on Broadway. They are the first store to see the collection… and they loved it! The big reveal online will take place on Friday, so stay tuned.

Anyways, back to the point of this post: cheesecake. I love cheesecake. And I love my good friend, Amy. So combining the two last Thursday for my ‘treat of the week’ was extra special. I found the recipe via Food Gawker which lead me to One Ordinary Day’s Mini Tie-Dyed Cheesecakes. Though the food coloring looked fun, it reminded me a bit too much of the “Garcia” Beanie Baby from middle school, so we left the cake au naturale. The result was delicious. As you can see, I was so excited to eat the little guy that I forgot to take a photo pre-bite. It was worth it.


Tie Dyed Cheesecake

From One Ordinary Day

Cookie Crust

  • 3/4 c. vanilla wafers, crushed into fine crumbs in food processor (photo below)
  • 2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
  • 2 – 2 1/2 Tbsp. melted butter (enough to bring cookie crumbs and sugar together)

Cheesecake Filling

  • 16 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp. almond extract (we skipped this)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 c. sour cream
  • food coloring (we skipped this)

Sour Cream Topping

  • 1/2 c. sour cream
  • 4 tsp. granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract

Line muffin tin with paper liners.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine cookie crumbs and sugar and add enough melted butter to bring mixture together.  Press a spoonful into the bottom of each muffin liner.  Bake for 5-6 minutes or until just golden.  Remove from oven to cool while you make the filling.

Beat cream cheese, sugar, vanilla, and almond extract until smooth.  Add eggs one at a time.  Add sour cream.  Divide filling into 4 bowls and add desired amount of food coloring to each bowl to give you 4 different colors of batter.  Drop by spoonfuls onto cookie crust in muffin liners.  You can use a toothpick to swirl the colors together or just leave them in dollops.  Do not over swirl or the colors will combine.  Tap the tin on the counter top to make sure the filling spreads to the sides.  Return to 350 degree oven and bake until center is almost set but still jiggling a little.  Start checking at 15 minutes.  They will bake between 15-20 minutes, depending on the size of your muffin tin and varying oven temps.

Combine sour cream, sugar, and vanilla extract in a small bowl.  Spread over surface of warm cheesecakes and return to oven for about 5-6 minutes.  Cool on wire rack.  Chill.

cheesecakefoodprocessorWhile Amy “processed” our vanilla wafers, I proceeded to eat about 26 wafers dipped in cream cheese. It was deceptively awesome.


Though I am not normally a “crust person,” this recipe was one of my favorites.

From reading your comments on the Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED speech, it seems many of you (like me) feed off the inspirational stories. Hearing people like Gilbert and Gary Vaynerchuk talk about their path to some pretty incredible accomplishments keeps me pumped. Without a boss or mentor, I “soak” in these speeches for guidance. And as I come across stories in the future that really get me excited I will share them here (most likely on the weekends).

The speech above by Gary Vaynerchuk is looong. Over an hour. Regardless of that, this week I listened to it three times(!) and still could replay it once more for good measure. Vaynerchuk is as he calls it a “triple-C list celebrity” and the woman introducing him referred to him as the “Internet Oprah.” He earned his pseudo-celebrity from his popular Wine Library TV video blog. On top of that, his company has seen incredible growth and he has more energy than a Jack Russell on Red Bull.

So if you are in need of a serious pep talk or a jolt of caffeine: watch his speech. If you are looking forward to a leisurely Saturday afternoon, skip the video and watch it on Monday.

Whew! What a surge of new exfoliations this week! Scroll below to hear about the items people across the country are divesting in the name of order and intention. I think opening up end of the week exfoliations all week long for the giveaway giveaway really helped increase the participation.

Got an exfoliation for next week? Don’t be shy, send me (jess@jesslc.com) a picture, a short description, and a link to your blog/site and it will get posted that Friday.

brookeblankie“Over Easter I was helping my mom tie a quilt for my nephew. It spurred some discussion about how I LOVED my “blankie” when I was little and would drag it with me everywhere. When my blankie had seen it’s final day, I wouldn’t let my mom throw it away {that was far too painful a thought} but I would let her box it up and put it away {in exchange for a NEW blankie, mind you.}. She remembered that she still had it, so we took it out, had a giggle, and tossed it. That thing was so paper thin, it was practically disintegrating. That was my End of the Week Exfoliation; a good memory and some freed up closet room.”


erwinwatch“I’m getting rid of my watch because having four of them is completely unnecessary. Sorry mom.”


evastapler“Let me begin by saying that I LOVE office supplies!  BUT this is just ridiculous!  Why I need a 100 page stapler is beyond me … and therefore it’s time to let go!  It was passed on to me from a co-worker and being the office supply lover that I am I quickly adopted it into my cube.  In my exfoliation high from last week I decided to expand the exfoliation goodness to the office and thought this was a great candidate.  I have donated the stapler to the copy room.  After all it is company property so I would feel bad donating it outside of the company.  Adios stapler!”


kristinrunningshirt“I received this shirt my sophomore year in college as a new pledge to Gamma Phi Beta. I deactivated from the sorority my senior year but for some reason have kept this as a long sleeve for running (at least that’s what I told myself) but honestly its a bit short and I never wear it.”


timbike“I’d purchased this bike over a year ago for $75. Lately, I’d been neglecting maintenance on the bike, knowing I was ready for a change. The back brake wasn’t functioning properly and the gear shift was similarly acting up. It culminated last Friday afternoon when I dented a rim and blew a tire doing some extreme urban biking (that’s code for dodging Chicago potholes). As I was enjoying a piece of pie at Noble Tree, the thought came to me: “I’m going to exfoliate that bike.” When I walked outside to leave, I simply pulled off the bike lock, leaving the bike on a busy sidewalk in Chicago. Normally, I wouldn’t simply abandon something like that. But as anyone who lives in an urban environment knows, the bike probably lasted a matter of minutes before a bike repair junkie spotted it and claimed it for their own. As for me, I took the bus home and two days later I trekked out to Schaumburg and picked up this beauty. Bike riding has never been more fun.”


exfoliationfrozenfoodMy exfoliation this week is long over due expired. I know frozen things don’t really spoil but these items are all circa October 2008 and the chance that I will actually eat them is small nonexistent. Out they go.

courtneypictureOn Monday I was wandering around the blog neighborhood and I stumbled upon Kelly + Olive via a link on Joanna’s Cup of Jo. In 3.2 seconds I realized the following:

  1. Courtney and Lauren’s site is adorable and they live in Chicago(!!).
  2. They have really reasonable and practical interior design packages and a great blog where they have neat DIY ideas.
  3. I want to be their friend (while being as not-creepy as possible for only knowing someone for 3.2 seconds).
  4. They would be perfect to interview for DESIGN YOUR LIFE.

Below are Courtney’s intentions (Lauren’s come next week). As you will see she has a great perspective on life and the most adorable little Frenchie that I may steal if I ever have the pleasure of meeting her.

On second thought, that’s probably not a good idea if I really intend for #3 (above) to actually happen.

courtneyfriendbe yourself.

i am not a natural at this.  i work on it, daily.  through my blog, and through my design work.  from the things that i spend my time doing to what i put on my body, i’m always asking, is this me?  am i being influenced by something right now?  and it’s hard, because sometimes you’ll choose something and someone you care about won’t like it, and you have to be okay with that, and stand your ground.  i have to know that my perspective, my voice, my taste, is valuable, if only to me.

courtneydogremember the little things that make me happy.

folded laundry.  big gulps, just when you need them.  white paint.  things i have that members of my family have made, just for me.  home.  my french bulldog, lola.  a thank you from a client.  homemade bread.  an undiscovered thrift store.  sometimes it’s good just to make a list and pull it out when you need it.

everything will be ok.

starting k + o was and still is a big risk.  but we were open to it, and i feel like, as wooey as it sounds, we ordered the pie, and the universe is delivering.  personally, i struggle with depression, and that can make EVERYTHING seem like a mountain i have to climb.  i repeat this like a mantra.  i write it on a sticky note and put it by my computer.  and it helps.

courtneychairhunt for treasure.

even if you can’t afford to buy, sometimes “shopping” is the best medicine.  about once a week i take a couple of hours and go somewhere to look at stuff.  doesn’t matter where.  sometimes i’ll go to target, or a pretty park, a thrift store, a farmer’s market, even just to trader joe’s.  i go by myself and i just look and take it all in.  it helps me clear out the cobwebs.  i get inspired by beautiful packaging, or the colors of the leaves.  i always come back feeling better.

cut it out.

if it’s unnecessary, if it is more work than it needs to be, if it pushes your buttons, if it’s ugly, if it, in any way, falls into the category of DO NOT LIKE:  get rid of it.  cut it out.  life is too stressful to be dealing with those tiny little things that make it all seem that much worse.  sometimes you have to wait for the right moment to streamline your client tracking system or replace the stained couch, but when you do have the energy, go for it.  that makes those harder days soooo much better.  also doughnuts for dinner is a good idea.

mini makeover: dresser before and after
April 22nd, 2009     |    Style

dresserbeforeHave you ever had a corner of your home that you just ignore and pretend it’s not there? Well, this dresser was that corner in my apartment. Sure it was functional, hey, it wasn’t even horrible to look at. In fact, since it was so-so it was almost harder to motivate myself to do something about it. I wasn’t terrified by how it looked and I could easily have left it this way.

But finally I decided that “good enough” wasn’t “good enough” anymore. By moving just a few pieces like the earring organizer and small dish to other parts of the closet and adding a flower print which I already had (but had never framed), the nook is totally transformed.

Do you have a not-so-nice-nook like this in your own home?

If so, see if you can do your own mini makeover with 5 minutes and $20. Send me a before and after shot to jess@jesslc.com and I will post it here as well.


off the chain update: name the color combo!
April 21st, 2009     |    Life

astorsneakpeekTime for a sneak peek! This necklace is our first design from our upcoming Astor St. Collection for Jess LC (for a limited time it will be available on Studio 1423).

The full collection will be on Jess LC early May but in the meantime we need your help naming this new color combo. The fuchsia and yellow beads are died jade and honey jade, respectively. Some color combo names we tossed around were ‘sangria’ and ‘sorbet.’ But we aren’t sold on either title and think it’s best left to your wonderful and creative minds. So leave a comment with your color combo names and hopefully the summery shades will be no longer named after alcoholic beverages and low-cal desserts.

Below are a few pieces that will coordinate with the Astor collection but will be sold exclusively on Studio 1423 – they are a great deal so snag them while you can!

studiofuchsiadoubledropfuchsia earringsstudiocoraldoubledropcoral earrings

studiojetdoubledropjet earrings

when to hire: business advice
April 21st, 2009     |    Business Advice

pigcar2First of all, sorry for the random pig car photo, it relates to nothing that will be mentioned in this post. I just happened to see it twice on Saturday in two different parts of town and thought it needed to be shared.

Okay, back to business (literally). Chic Sensibility asked this question yesterday:

When did you first decide that you needed employees other than your sales reps? How many did you start with and how many do you have now?

This is a great question that I am sure many other designers are wondering themselves. My own experience with adding additional people to Jess LC has been pretty deliberate and slow for two reasons. First, I have grown the business since I was 15, and didn’t need extra help until I took the company full-time. And secondly, I don’t have any capital outside of Jess LC revenue to pay for employees, so the choice to hire is based entirely on growth. Personally, I have really liked that my growth has driven the scale of the employees because it also has followed the arc of my ability. As I have become better at operating the business and managing employees, I have been able to add more.

Back in August of 2007 I moved to Chicago and launched Jess LC full-time, as you probably well know by now. From August to December, I was a complete one-woman show. I did everything from hole punching the necklace tags, to making the jewelry, to writing store orders. It was exhausting, but it was how I was comfortable running the business and I couldn’t afford any more help.

In January 2008 I took on my first serious sales representatives and also secured my first intern. Shortly after that I also added Gertie, my first part-time lady to help fill all the store orders that the sales team started to bring in. It was pretty natural. When I got more orders than I could handle alone, I got someone to help me complete them. And the intern was a huge help as well. By the time January rolled around, I realized there were certain parts of the business I had to do, and others were just time suckers.

My Must Do’s:

  • Maintain relationship with reps and store owners
  • Track of orders and processing payments
  • Ordering supplies
  • Design new collections
  • Lead the Jess LC team
  • Web design
  • Emails and communication
  • Accounting

My Time Suckers:

  • Making each individual piece of jewelry for store orders
  • Making jewelry tags
  • Tracking inventory
  • Organizing paperwork
  • Training employees

The time suckers that could be completed by interns or part-time employees were delegated. It was an adjustment at first. My perfectionism would prohibit me at times from giving up control but over time I realized the ladies I work with are incredibly talented and capable of handling anything. I don’t have to do it all. In fact, there were projects I gave them where I described how the end result should function, and they used their imaginations and turned the project into something well beyond it’s original function.

Over the course of January 2008 to April 2009 we have had a fluctuating team of three interns and four part-time jewelry makers. This size has ebbed and flowed with the sales seasons. I haven’t made the leap to adding full-time employees yet, but in the future I would love to have someone help manage the day to day activities. It’s a work in progress and I am happy that I have grown the company to include more people. We get much more accomplished this way but I also love working with the girls on my team more than I like making two dozen necklaces.

PS- Check back later this afternoon for a sneak peek at one of our newest Jess LC collections, we need your help naming one of the color combinations!













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