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a new look for MML
May 31st, 2011     |    Life

Welcome back to MML after my little break! This Memorial Day weekend was just what I needed – and so was the gorgeous weather here in Chicago yesterday. After a super long and intense work week, I recharged (read: napped) during the thunderstorms on Saturday and Sunday. And during the dry moments I Biked the Drive with Mr. Lively, had dinner with a good friend, and did some beach walking and mall shopping.

While I was out of the office last Thursday and Friday, MML got a bit of a makeover as you may have noticed.

It went from this:

To what you see today.

I have had the old look above for more than a year and it has served me very well. It has the feel of many other sites I admire that deal with my favorite topic – home interiors. The chevron background was an obsession which leaked over to my designs and it suited me and MML perfectly.

However, I’ve recently realized that my purpose for MML and the content is not the same as the shelter blogs I read, and that it might be better suited to a different look that better reflects what MML is about – designing a life with intention. And this simpler color story helps focus attention on the words and ideas presented in the posts. I also think it’s fun to give the logo a fresh look, inverting the colors on the header as well.

Hope you like the new look as well!

PS – Brooke Hall of Oh Brooke is the fabulous designer behind MML. I get a lot of inquiries about the layout and I can’t recommend Brooke enough. She’s awesome.

checking in…
May 26th, 2011     |    Life

Phew. What a crazy few weeks. After a great long weekend with girlfriends I came back to complete the work that had accumulated while I was gone and then found myself sidelined by a migraine on Tuesday which knocked me off my feet. Sometimes when you don’t take the time to slow down your body does it for you – forcefully. Then yesterday I worked my butt off to get our back ordered navy totes (they are back in stock!) and other orders out the door.

Today and tomorrow I’ll be out of the office doing some work with an awesome program called Lifebook here in Chicago. I’ll be helping out at a retreat they are putting on to help clients design their life in every way imaginable. It’s kind of like the future letter on steroids. So given two back to back 12+ hour workdays, I’ll be one tired puppy by the start of a very busy, fun-filled Memorial Day weekend.

So, with all that in mind, you may notice things are bit more quiet here on MML until I return to normal next Tuesday. But man, I have a cute DIY project to share next week.

In the meantime, I’d like to announce the winner of the Acute Designs giveaway… Karissa! Congrats, lady! That mustard and cream headband has your name all over it.

an “o”verwhelming thank you
May 25th, 2011     |    Life

Today I’d like to share another more private part of my journey towards making under my life and helping others design lives with intention.

I will warn you, it has to do with the Oprah Winfrey Show (and how I was on it for 2.5 seconds) and I do cry/sniffle through much of it.


Mr. Lively’s Post
May 24th, 2011     |    Life



I am Mr. Lively, I program the internet, ride bikes, listen to records, spend most of my days with Jess, and today I join the blog world for the first time.

Six months ago Jess was a girl with ‘more energy than I know what to do with’ (this is literally what I told my friend after we first met for brunch) and blogging was a completely different planet to me.

I remember the first time I visited Jess’s apartment I came to two very quick realizations. One, she was on a chair organizing a box, within a box, on the top shelf of a cabinet. She really is hyper-organized, and yes, it was concerning at first. Two, her apartment was a lot nicer than mine. Literally the first thing I said when I entered, ‘wow, your apartment should be in a magazine!’ Little did I know…

We started spending a lot of time together and the more I learned about JessLC the business and makeundermylife.com the more I found it interesting. These days I know more about bags, jewelery, chevron, and Sara Richardson then any straight man should.

These days Jess knows more about old music, bikes, and programming then she ever expected. We are nothing if not genuinely interested in each other and it has only brought us closer together. I quickly came to realize why Jess is such an adamant blogger, it’s because she is an adamant talker. We both talk a lot, a whole lot, I don’t know how others deal with it sometimes, but it seems to serve us well. We enjoy spending most of our days doing little else.

It’s hard to believe I’ve only lived in this city for close to nine months. It has been time extremely well spent and it has gotten me in the habit of giving thanks. So thank you Chicago for being such a great city full of opportunity, and thank you to the person I most enjoy seeing this city with, Jess Constable.

A great passage that is echoing in my head this week:

“Great people have a vision of their lives that they practice emulating each and every day.

They go to work on their lives, not just in their lives.

Their lives are spent living out the vision they have of their future, in the present. They compare what they’ve done with what they intended to do. And where there’s a disparity between the two, they don’t wait very long to make up the difference.

The go to work on their lives, not just in their lives.

I believe it’s the difference between great people and everyone else that great people create their lives actively, while everyone else is created by their lives, passively waiting to see where life takes them next.

The difference between the two is the difference between living fully and just existing.

The difference between the two is living intentionally and living by accident.”

-  Michael E. Gerber, The E-Myth Revisited, page 139

Ready to start designing a life with intention? Here’s a great place to start.

my new little addiction
May 20th, 2011     |    Life

I have a new addiction. Though I have a hard time keeping up with blogging, email, Facebook, and Twitter on a daily basis, I am finding Pinterest easy, simple, (and best of all) low-maintenance.

For those who aren’t familiar with the wonderous Pinterest (yet), you simply “pin” images to an online bulliten board of sorts. You can create as many boards as you’d like and you can also see what other people you follow are pinning themselves.

I immediately locked on to how great this site could be for my “inspiration broad” files that sit dormant and largely unused on my computer. It also saves the link back to where the image came from, you can “window shop” to your heart’s content and always be able to find exactly where to buy that cute pillow you found on etsy.

My Pinterest boards are here and you can feel free to follow, re-pin, and check out what I’m digging right now on the web. I’ve set up my boards so far to include Mental Notes – posts I’d like to come back to that relate to designing a life with intention, Products I Love – items I adore on the web, and Home Inspiration for my first home. I also created a place to thank those who have pinned Jess LC photos too.

— By the way, today I’m off to Ann Arbor to have a girls weekend with my college girl friends. It’s going to be a blast.


[I made the image above, but I got the Pinterest logo here]

Here are May’s DIY DESIGN YOUR LIFE interviews! As a reminder, you are welcome to participate in this series by posting your DESIGN YOUR LIFE on your blog and sharing the link with me (jess @ jesslc.com). It will be posted on that month’s DIY DYL post as seen below with Megan and Jennifer.


Megan’s post is on Studio M.M.E.

Jennifer’s post is on Queen’s Voice.

Want to find out more about the DIY DESIGN YOUR LIFE monthly feature? Keep reading.

Jess LC trunk show (tomorrow)
May 18th, 2011     |    Life

For those who are in Chicago and want to check out the new bag collection in person, please stop by Macy’s (on State St) tomorrow between 5:30-7:30. I’ll be there with bags and selected jewelry for the evening on the third floor. Or, if you are an MML reader just wanting to chat in person, these events are the perfect place to do so, so please don’t feel obligated to shop, chatting is welcome.

And I’d also like to give a huge hug to everyone who has helped spread the word about Jess LC bags! We have had a fantastic response to the bags from our existing customers in person and online, but the word on the street (and web) is that we are still a jewelry company only. After 12 years of jewelry design that’s no big surprise, but we are doing our best to help the buzz about bags spread to those who may not have heard about our newest endeavor.

Today we have a sponsor interview and giveaway with the lovely Regina, founder and designer of Acute Designs. Her shop is the perfect mix of affordable handmade baubles for hair, neck, wrists, and shoes. Below Regina shares how she used her creativity and passion for accessories to launch a full-time business after breaking out of a j-o-b.

(She also a great design site and food blog as well.) Enjoy!

On your blog you mention that you wanted to quit your j-o-b and do what you love. Can you quickly summarize that journey so we can know how Acute Designs came to be?

Since graduating college 8 years ago, I floated from job to job not really knowing what I wanted to do.  I assumed just making a decent paycheck was good enough, until I realized I needed a purpose.  Two years ago I was stuck in the most soul-sucking job imaginable and I knew I needed a change.

Every day at work, I would fuel my creative outlet by writing, reading blogs, and researching.  Eventually I decided it would be “fun” to start an Etsy shop as a hobby.  Within a week, I knew that I wanted designing, creating, selling, and writing to be more than a hobby.  I wanted it to be my full time job.

It took me a year of planning and saving to get to the point where I could quit my job – which is what I did about six months ago.  I have never looked back nor regretted it for a minute!

What do you love most about designing your accessories?  What about the business side of things?

My favorite thing is playing around and coming up with new designs.  I get inspiration from everywhere – movies, tv, art, my favorite designers, and so on.  When I get an idea for a new design, I love the process of creating the first one and seeing the finished product.

I also enjoy the business side of running my own business.  I am a numbers person and find a weird amount of delight in creating spread sheets.  I have been known to spend an entire Friday night tracking numbers and sales on various spread sheets!

The hardest part of this whole business thing is that I am a fairly shy person.  I have a hard time approaching store owners or buyers in order to sell my products wholesale.  I also tend to hold back in promoting myself.  I think this is a combination of being shy and a fear of rejection – both of which are normal but are things I need to work on in order to grow my business.

Your shop is overflowing with gorgeous accessories of all kinds! How do you determine what accessory style to jump into next?

I try to provide a lot of variety and price points in order to appeal to wide range of customers.  Also, I make things I love and if they sell, I make more and expand on the item that is selling.  For example in January, I started selling cream rosebud earrings.  They sold like crazy, so I expanded into various styles of flower earrings in an array of colors and these have been extremely popular.

I also do a lot of market research and try my best to determine trends for the upcoming seasons.  I attempt to appeal to the market without compromising my personal creativity.

What is your overall vision for Acute Designs into the future?

My current goal for Acute Designs is to expand my wholesale deals.  Currently, I sell in four stores around the country and by the end of the year, my goal is for my designs to be sold in at least ten stores.  I want that to continue to grow in the next year.

My long term goal is to expand from handmade accessories into clothing.  I feel that there is a huge value in handmade and/or local made goods and I want my brand to embody this notion.

In addition to designing and selling, I am also a freelance writer and spend a large portion of my week blogging and guest blogging and would like to continue writing and eventually write a book.

What do you recommend for a newbie Etsy designer who wants to get their shop off the ground?

My advice is to treat it as if it is your own website.  Do not assume that you will get business just because you are on Etsy.  The biggest mistake I see with new sellers is that they open a shop, throw in a few items and expect people to come.  The shop needs to be promoted, both online and off line. Success is a huge possibility, but you have to put the time and effort in… just like anything!

Acute Designs Giveaway – $20 Shop Credit

To win a $20 credit to Acute Designs, simply visit the shop and come back to this post leaving a comment about which item you most covet from the collection.

The winner will be randomly selected and announced on this post next Tuesday (5/24).

[credit for model photos]

dear purpose seeker,
May 16th, 2011     |    LifeThink About It

Over the past few weeks I’ve received several emails from MML readers who are in the process of finding their purpose and next stage in their life. This murky and dark time can be overwhelming, scary, and seeking advice usually seems to be the best course of action. “If I don’t know what I’m supposed to do yet, maybe someone else can help me figure it out.” But the complete truth is only you know the answer to what you are supposed to do, it comes from deep down inside. Time, reflection, and making under our lives allows us to hear and follow the voice from within.

Today and tomorrow I will share letters I have written to Purpose Seekers in hopes that others facing similar situations will see a bit of themselves in the letters and find a calm place to stop and reflect during their journey. Enjoy!

Dear Purpose Seeker,

It was great hearing your story – you have lived quite an adventure and you should be proud of yourself for jumping into so many awesome opportunities so quickly, at such a young age. I think this is going to serve you well in the future, and something to be proud of first and foremost.

That said, I think it goes without saying that I have no magical potion for you (not that you expected one) that can help you with the next phase of your life and finding your purpose. In fact, no one has the answer. It actually lies deep in your gut in a quiet and calm place. If that voice inside deep down hasn’t whispered it to you yet – then it’s just a matter of time (don’t we wish we can just hurry that process up a bit! – unfortunately we can’t).

It definitely sounds like your life is in transition after the relationship and that is okay. I went through a similar phase last year – it was incredibly tough, but I quickly found for me, it was the best thing that could have happened to me in the long run – I just had to simply have faith and believe that was the case before I actually saw that it was true.

So… my recommendations while you are going through this period of unknowing include reading this post about the same topic, finding a way to help others doing something you love – for free. Yep, start helping people in some way that you enjoy to help get your ego off the constant merry-go-round of “what about me? what is going on? why don’t I know my purpose yet? blah, blah, blah” that voice inside your head that is jumping up and down scared is just your ego thinking that it’s easy for people to find their purposes (it’s often not) and tells you that you should be able to figure this out by now (you don’t have to).

You are young, you are adventurous! Don’t let the scared little ego voice in your head let you feel badly about what you have done and where you are going. Recognize that you are going to be working theoretically for decades and that you can do one thing now and change direction when you find out more of your purpose from your spirit! And your life is not defined in and of itself by what you do in your “working hours” there is so much more to your life, you can always start cultivating the other areas so that you are able to enjoy everyday along this journey. Live in this moment, in the not knowing, and have faith that it’s working out for the best.

In fact, if you do believe in any faith I would also turn to that and reflect, journal, pray, or meditate along the way. Documenting your thoughts once or twice a week over time will help you see that you are finding out more and more about what you do want – this will not be a black and white process. When I don’t know what to do (happens all the time) this is the first place that I turn to and honestly, where I spend most of my time until the answers I seek are revealed in some way in my life.

And if all else fails, start reading The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. That’s what I did when I was in the dark about my life five or six years ago and through studying the first three habits for several years my life has honestly changed enormously. Or read any other kind of personal development book that hits home for you (here’s my bookshelf). Start being a better “you” and you’ll find your purpose will will begin to unfold and you’ll be better able to accomplish the tasks ahead.

With all my love and faith,

dream report update!
May 13th, 2011     |    Life

Midnight hustler still. : )

This post is a lot harder than I thought it was going to be. Which can really just sum up what our dream report has been about. Starting a small business is hard. Starting a small business with your husband is crazy. Good thing we both like a challenge and we’re both a little crazy.

I woke up abnormally early this morning, so excited about our launch. Which really is just a unveiling of our website and blog. But please know that there will be hor d’ourves and cocktails flowing at the Skeen household all day long for this event. (AKA we’ve got some granola bars, mixed nuts and 1% milk, call if you’re interested in this party).

But before I go and share our new site I wanted to say thank you. Thank you to Jess for letting us wax not-so-poetically here on her blog and for the encouragement that she gave us each week after our posts. (If you need a swift kick of encouragement in the pants, Jess is your girl.) And thank you to you all — for sticking this journey out with us and finding nice things to say along the way. You don’t know how encouraging you’ve been with your emails and comments, so thank you. If you believe in karma, I’ve got a feeling that good things are headed your way.

Since taking a hiatus from dream report posts, with (almost) everything in place, we only had one more thing to conquer: the website. I told Bryan building a business is like building a house — you lay the foundation for your business, building the walls of what you want it to be. But your website — your website is the paint and furniture in the house. It’s what makes the house come alive, feel complete. So that’s what we’ve been doing — painting our walls and moving into a brand new website and blog. When we started working on our blog, we wanted to make it feel cozy and loved. And since starting our dream report, we’ve booked a few shoots as the Photographers Skeen that we want share with you. After all, every house needs pictures on the wall, right?

So without further ado, we’re inviting you in. Friends and family, we welcome you into our new home.


Launch party is in session, 1% milk for everyone!

Thank you again for the love and support!

— The Photographers Skeen

the shine project
May 12th, 2011     |    Life

Ashley LeMieux recently tapped me and introduced her amazing service organization, The Shine Project, and asked to share it here on MML. After finding out more about the group I was all ears and wanted her to personally share the project’s mission and current endeavors. You can find more info on her blog, ashlemieux.blogspot.com as well. Enjoy!

The Shine Project

Just so we’re a little more acquainted, my name is Ashley,
and I want to inspire the WORLD.

Raise your hand if you’ve ever had a dream,
and you didn’t reach it.
Don’t be shy, no one can actually see you raising your hand at your computer,
unless your in your work cubicle or something.
Then this might be awkward.
Why do all of us have a goal that has been left unfulfilled?
Why do we sell ourselves short of our potential?
This is why I created The Shine Project.
To give daily motivation,
and weekly challenges,
that push us out of our comfort zone to stop making excuses

Now, think about the last time you went out of your way,
to help someone.
The Shine Project is also a source of motivation to push us
to give light to those around us who are in need.
Think of what the world would be like,
if everyone did one thoughtful thing for someone else every day.
I want The Shine Project to change the world.

Come join The Shine Project team.
Motivate yourself, feel good about what you can accomplish,
and lift the burdens of those around you.
I have created SHINE necklaces so we all can have a daily reminder of our purpose.
$1 for each necklace sold goes into The Shine Project Scholarship Fund,
which will be rewarded to an inner city high school student to help them pay for college.

This week’s Shine Challenge is to evaluate your “circle of influence”.
Are you up for it?
I just revealed the new direction of The Shine Project, which will allow YOU to
be a SHINE group service leader in your community. To unite us, I
created SHINE t-shirts that are also up for sale on my blog!
The second ever group SHINE project will be in San Diego, June 11th.
I’d love to have you come help clean the beaches with us!
Come join me at ashlemieux.blogspot.com
And go ahead,
let the world see you SHINE.













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