Our Blog

vacation packing with intention

January 31st, 2012   |   ExfoliatingLifeStyleWardrobe

As most people start to prepare for this week’s Super Bowl parties, Mr. Lively and I are starting to get ready for our trip to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico! We will be gone Friday through Monday for a romantic weekend trip that doubles as my Christmas and Valentine’s Day present (I’m a lucky lady!).

I have already got my passport renewed and the rest of the preparation lies mostly in packing for the trip. But rather than waiting until Thursday night at midnight (we have done that before, much to my chagrin), I decided to get on the ball days ahead.

And in true Jess fashion, I’ve decided to see if I can create a more intentional packing process to help me stay prepared, but not burdened by a heavy suitcase full of unused items.

When I travel home for Christmas for a week to see my family I usually find that I have under-packed and feel forced to wear items that aren’t really ideal. But since I’m only heading to Cabo for three days and two nights, I also want to make sure I don’t over-pack due to my excitement to be somewhere warm and tropical.

So here’s what I did today to make sure I have a properly planned wardrobe while I’m away.

The first thing I did was talk with Mr. Lively about what activities we wanted to do while we were at the resort. We debated about whether we wanted to work out while there or not. Since my running shoes and gym clothes could easily take up a decent amount of my checked suitcase, I didn’t want to bring the gear if we weren’t going to really do a workout.

After discussing the workout idea, we nixed it in favor of swimming and relaxing. I have done a great job working out very consistently all month and I think a few days off to enjoy my hard work is ideal. So out went the workout gear from the packing list.

Above you can see what we do intend to do over the long weekend: lots of relaxing, swimming, and dining.

I also checked the weather forecast for Cabo this week. It looks to be about 75*-80* with cooler nights. So I knew that I needed to prepare for warm weather with layering at night.

Then, I pulled out most of my summer wardrobe and looked at all of my options.

Usually when packing, I get about this far and just throw my favorite items into my suitcase. But the end result is usually under or over packing and a lackluster array of outfits during the trip.

Next, I started to try on each item and created my favorite looks. Above you can see the outfits that could be great for dinner, dancing, or exploring. Each one has a layering piece as well in case of air conditioning or cooler temps.

I also made sure I had an outfit to fly back to Chicago in as well as a few other pieces that could be mixed in if I feel a bit more causal during the trip.

One bonus of this step I found was that there were a few items that needed to be steamed or cleaned. Those have been put in a special pile for me to attend to in the next few days so I’m not worried about them while on vacation.

And of course, I couldn’t forget the main event: swimsuits. I had the navy polka dot bikini from J.Crew last year but find that the top is a bit precarious for my chest and is best used only when laying out. So the new orange and black suits will be much better suited to fun at the beach or pool. I got both of the new suits at a huge discount from Lands End Canvas thanks to a recommendation from Jill.

So there you have it! I feel much better prepared for anything that might come up. I plan to use this same process to pack the other peripherals for the trip as well. This will include sunnies, beach towel, books, music, etc.

Viva la Mexico!


recommended read: 100 golden no’s

January 30th, 2012   |   Think About It

The best thing to do with a blog is share the most useful thing you have. And sometimes that useful thing doesn’t always come from yourself.

This afternoon, the best thing I can do is share a wonderful insight from Haley of Tiny Twig, called 100 Golden No’s. I don’t want to give her idea away, so please go read it. It’s very special.

And I have Hope, an MML reader, to thank for the recommendation. Thank you, Hope!

set an intention

January 30th, 2012   |   LifeThink About It

I hope you had a great weekend! I spent my days off relaxing with Mr. Lively and watching Downton Abbey. We are hooked on the drama, intrigue, and dialogue. I can’t be sure, but I think I had a dream that I was part of Downton Abbey myself last night.

Right now I’m headed out the door to check on the iPad 2 case production (still estimating Feb. 1-10th for them to be ready at this point), but I wanted to share something that I think could help myself and hopefully others as well.

The week ahead is full of promise, opportunity, and a chance to fulfill our intentions. So just like in yoga class, I want to set an intention for that I can return back to each day this week and make sure that while I might not do everything perfectly, I might improve in this particular area.

This week I’d like to set an intention to be extra friendly. Though I’m by no means unfriendly, this week I want to be extra kind, interested, alert, and present to friends and strangers.

Do you have an intention for the week? I’d love to hear what it is in the comments, if you like!


life with intention is live!

January 27th, 2012   |   Life

As promised, Life with Intention consulting is live! If you look at the nav bar at the top of MML you’ll see the Life Consulting tabs (if it doesn’t show right away, try refreshing your page).

Along with the introduction, process, and pricing, you’ll see a rare glimpse of Mr. Lively!

Have a great weekend and feel free to email me if you’d like to schedule a Life with Intention consult!


ryan gosling’s advice for MML

January 26th, 2012   |   Business AdviceLife

Recently Ryan Gosling has become somewhat of an internet meme. I thought I’d share his enthusiasm for all those MML readers working on their dream job after the day job ends.

We can all use a little encouragement, right?


original photo credit, current state via MML


Earlier this week I announced the three chosen to work with me one-on-one in Life with Intention consulting. Though I wasn’t able to work with everyone who reached out, below is a brief summary of one of the stories I heard and my response. I hope it is helpful for others in similar shoes as well.

I taught for three months before realizing that teaching wasn’t the career for me.  This was a devastating realization as being a teacher was a big part of my identity. I’ve been trying to figure out what to do for work since then.

My current big dream is to start my own life-coaching business that helps women go after their dreams.

I’m not sure how to get from here to there.  I think my biggest obstacle is lack of time.  I feel like I’m chained to a desk all day and can’t be on top of my personal things because my creativity is stifled when I’m sitting in a florescent box for 40 hours a week. I also have a little bit of anxiety related to this, wondering how hard it will be, how much courage it will take, how much failure there will be along the way. While I don’t think I lack creativity, passion, or drive in making this happen, I think I may lack financial resources and time necessary to get this off the ground.

I want to make a difference in people’s lives, I want to have an income. And I want to be really good at what I do.

So that’s where I’m at.  Trying to figure it all out and find a path and a purpose while enjoying everything I have in the present.

That is the first step, and the one that progress can now stem from. So that’s great, give yourself a pat on the back.

Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Okay, and because you know what you’d like to do, it’s now time to get to doing it. You have a continuum of choice here: you can take this fast, slow, kinda slow, you name it. If you want to make this all happen “as soon as freaking possible,” that may require you to release the excuses about the day job stifling your energy (it may be true, but you can use your willpower to overcome the urge to relax after the workday is over, or devote Saturday or Sunday to coaching work). To get fired up about the “just go do it and be a midnight hustler” I’d suggest watching some of Gary Vaynerchuk’s keynote speeches. He is a fire starter when it comes to working on a business after work.

By starting to see progress on your coaching after hours, you might get a renewed energy and eventually get some revenue. Which over time, could allow you to take a part-time job to make ends meet as you navigate your way to full-time coaching. Michelle from When I Grow Up Coach is a great example of doing just this and talks about it in her archives in video form. She could be a great source of inspiration as she’s someone who has navigated what you are seeking to do yourself. (Plus, she’s awesome.) : )

Or, if you are looking to take a more gradual approach to the business, you could start by creating a blog and devoting your off time to putting content there and generating a community that could eventually become potential clients. This will still obviously require your time after work, but you could do it at whatever pace you’d like and eventually ramp up to the other steps mentioned above. And the good thing about this is it doesn’t require much investment. In the process of blogging you can keep working your day job and lower your lifestyle so that you can start stashing some of your paycheck to go towards business expenses when you are ready to invest there.

Whatever your choice, fast or slow, making sure you can create the habit of working on your business or blog after work will be the next stepping stone to get where you want to be.

I have watched friends go from jobs to full-time self-employment and I feel like there is some kind of crazy energy that takes them far beyond their normal abilities and helps them push through to get the business started. Perhaps it’s momentum that builds on excitement, but eventually they hit a point where they have just enough financial stability to take the leap and cut the cord to their day or part-time job. Some it took many months, others a few years. But each one did it and you can too, if you just keep going.

: ) So I hope this is helpful and has you fired up to start taking the first baby steps (start a blog, or look into creating a website for the business) to make this happen for you!

the perfect moment

January 25th, 2012   |   LifeThink About It

behind the scenes

January 25th, 2012   |   Life

Today I’m sharing my goals, vision for my life in five years, and other little tidbits you might not know about me over on Vmac + cheese in Victoria’s Behind the Scenes guest series. I also share my love for “fluffy cloud island” which hasn’t made its way onto MML just yet.

And in other news, Karlita introduced me to a great article by Martha Beck for O Magazine that talks about the difference between happiness and excitement. I found it fascinating and has helped me unravel a lot of my own frustrations with my happiness (or lack thereof) at times. Definitely worth checking out.

photo credit


life with intention free consultation decision

January 24th, 2012   |   Life

After reading through the emails I received in response to the Life with Intention consulting I will be starting shortly, I am more convinced than ever that I am on the right track in my life. The emails of those who wanted to be considered for the three free consultation calls were incredible. I was touched by each person’s honesty, bravery, and desire to make their intentions come true.

And of course it goes without saying that the decision to pick just three people to work with was difficult. I just didn’t imagine how hard it would really be. But nevertheless, I have selected the first three people I will work with:

I’d like to thank everyone who reached out and applied (I’ll be emailing you individually soon). I also hope that anyone interested in working with me once the consulting is official reaches out!  I am excited to share my purpose and help people one-on-one in deeper ways than ever before.


Jess LC, incorporated

January 24th, 2012   |   Business Advice

Last Wednesday Jess LC went from being a sole proprietor business to an S-Corporation. I mentioned this on Twitter and several people asked me about the decision and the process itself.

Though I by no means am going to tell anyone what is best for their company structure, I can share a bit of what it’s been like for me. And if you want more specifics, I suggest reading more about incorporating vs. sole proprietorships.

For as long as I’ve had Jess LC, it’s been a sole-proprietorship. It was simpler that way, I wasn’t insanely worried about getting sued (I didn’t have limited liability under my sole-prop), and it didn’t make too much difference on the taxes I owed.

But this year after speaking at length about the decision with my accountant, I decided to form the S-Corp. I will also say right away that many people in Gen Y and Gen X seem to lean toward Limited Liability Companies (LLC). Though my accountant, who is a bit more old school, advised me the S-Corp direction to save money on taxes. It seems that LLCs are helpful for those with partners in their businesses, those dealing with real estate, and businesses with high legal fees. All of which didn’t apply to me.

Before I get into anything too specific, I hope that my advice and content in this post is seen as generally helpful, but not a professional opinion. To be honest, I don’t know too much more than what I share below.

So after you read this and you consider incorporating or creating an LLC, I suggest you talk with your own accountant.

Phew, okay, now here’s what I’ve picked up from my accountant that may be helpful for other people as well:

  • If your worried about getting sued, and you have assets you wouldn’t want to lose in a lawsuit, incorporating or forming an LLC will provide a wall between your personal wealth (home, car, etc.) and the business’ assets. For most people starting small businesses that don’t involve children, safety, chemicals, etc. this may not be a serious concern at first.
  • Sole proprietorships just need a Doing Business As (DBA) in most cases. As well as filing a Schedule C tax return at the end of the year.
  • If your profit (not revenue) is somewhere around $25k-$35k, then incorporating your business may save you money on your taxes. This is because you can create a “salary” for yourself that is below your total profit, and the profit above the “salary” is taxed at a lower rate. When you are a sole-prop all of the profit is taxed at the higher, salary rate.
  • Incorporating for me also made it simpler to create a wall between my personal finances and my business’ cash flow. This means that down the line, when I merge accounts with my future husband, I will have a simpler view of my business vs. my joint accounts.

After I made the decision to incorporate, I then paid my accountant to file the necessary paperwork and walk me step by step through the process. I believe you can also do this online as well, but I don’t know which method is better.

I will say that paying someone else to do the filing is not cheap, but the peace of mind that it is processed properly and I didn’t need to bash my head against a wall trying to figure out how to do it on my own is priceless. Taxes have always thrown me for a loop and give me nightmares from when I filed on my own in college with the business. So now whenever I have a question about moving my sole-prop bank accounts over to the new incorporated bank accounts, I can just pick up the phone and ask him any questions I have.

And if you don’t have an accountant but want to find one, I suggest reaching out to a fellow self-employed friend and ask them who they use or would recommend. That’s how I found my accountant and it’s been a great fit.



move past the clutter

January 23rd, 2012   |   ExfoliatingLife

Forgive me, I’m feeling a bit feisty today.

When I started MML and seriously began to design my life with intention, I focused on exfoliating items that I didn’t need, use, or love. And the content on MML reflected my clutter-free focus as well. But as I continued to pare down my possessions to those which were needed, useful, and loved, I had a revelation:

The clutter is only the weed, not the root of the problem.

Clutter-free is not the end-all be-all when it comes to having a life we love. It is just a sign that we might need to tend to matters that are much deeper than the stuff itself.

The same could be said with excess eating, drinking, shopping, or any addiction. Perpetual clutter can be a symptom of something more serious we need to work on. Just like Geenen Roth’s enlightenment, “it’s not about the stuff.”

And even if clutter is not an addiction (it wasn’t a serious problem in my life, for example) focus on it can still distract us from more important matters.

Getting rid of unnecessary things simply allows us to make physical and psychological space. That space then provides us the capacity to deal with the deeper issues that may be out of balance in our relationships, career, personal life, or spiritual life.

The real work we need to do is beyond our exfoliating and in the realms of thinking with intention, contribution, and love. Those are the things that will transform our quality of life.

So as much as I love a good exfoliation, I am more interested in our progress in the deeper aspects of our lives.


seven rules for intentional love

January 21st, 2012   |   LifeThink About It

This is a guest post by Amber from Blonde & Balanced, a blog about striking a balance in life, health, and money.

7 Ways to Love Intentionally

This June, I wore a fitted, white, satin gown as I walked down the center aisle of my church to marry my then-boyfriend of 4 years.  We met almost 6 years ago when we were hired within weeks of each other at the same accounting company.  (Insert joke here about how we bonded over bean counting!)

In a society where divorce is the norm, my now-husband and I have strived to go against the norm and design our relationship with our own intentions.  We’ve worked hard to not allow outside factors to influence our relationship.  We bring out the best in each other and foster each other’s strengths.  But, it takes intentional work to maintain this kind of relationship.

Here are 7 intentional relationship “rules” we follow to keep our bond strong and exciting:

  1. Keep Secrets.  People are nosey curious.  They’ll wonder why you make the decisions that you do and what your relationship is like behind closed doors.  Keep them wondering by ignoring them.  Your relationship is sacred and special (as corny as it sounds, you have to believe this for it to grow and strengthen), so don’t blab to others about the secrets that lie within.
  2. Have Two Games.  An older and wiser – and very happy – couple once told my husband and I that every happy couple has to play two games together regularly: a board game and an outdoor game.  Too often, you can become like strangers passing in the night with your spouse or significant other, so this allows you to set aside intentional time to grow together as a couple.  My husband and I are already fierce ping-pong players, but we’re working on the board game.  Maybe Words With Friends counts?
  3. Be Spiritual Together.  You don’t have to be religious or even believe in the same thing.  But, if you regularly practice some sort of faith or spiritual practice together, it will bring you closer than you ever thought you could be.  Discussing your thoughts about the bigger picture is very intimate and enlightening.
  4. Let’s Get Physical, Physical!  No explanation necessary.  This is definitely an important component of a strong relationship.  And if there doesn’t seem to be time for it …  make intentional plans for it!
  5. Be Mindful of Health.  Health is a very intimate and sensitive subject, so working together to better one another’s health will bring you closer.  Work out together.  Go on nightly walks.  Play tennis.  Learn to cook a healthy meal together.  Buy a juicer and create some fancy juice recipes.  Apply sunscreen on each other … you get the picture!
  6. Haters Gonna Hate.  There will always be people that want to bring your relationship down.  People hate change and, unfortunately, hate seeing others happy (especially when they are unhappy themselves).  Make it a point to not allow outside factors to influence your relationship.  You both deserve better.
  7. Manners!  With your significant other, it’s easy to let manners go out the door as soon as you get comfortable.  Set the ground rules early on by not calling each other names, not bringing each other down, not criticizing, and being respectful.  It’s hard to do, but there is no doubt that it creates an underlying respect for your significant other that is super important to a lasting relationship.

Love is probably the most significant aspect of our lives, so it only makes sense to approach our relationships intentionally – just like with everything else in our lives!

- Amber


life with intention

January 20th, 2012   |   Life

Thank you all so much for the kind words on MML’s third birthday! I am so thankful for them and plan to refer back to them whenever I need a pick me up!

Your encouragement is also extremely well timed as I am working on a new layer to MML and pursuing my purpose: life with intention consulting.

So far consulting with business owners to help grow and define their business intentions has been insanely awesome. But I’ve also been aware that I want to help more than just business owners live a life with intention.

So next week I’ll also be offering one-on-one calls for people about their purpose, life intentions, and other important matters that may not necessarily involve small business.

It’s a bold new step as I have no “official” training, just a passion for helping people move past their doubts and go for what they really, really want in their lives.

I’ve done it in my own life and it is what I am meant to help others do as well.

Though I’m not looking be a life coach specifically, I know I can make a positive impact on people’s lives working with them over the phone (or Skype internationally).

And as a thank you for the first three years of support on MML, I’m offering three people a free one hour call in February. I’ll work with each of the three people one-on-one to help them clarify what might be their purpose and push past any limiting fears and doubts they may have.

Think of me as your biggest fan who will help you go after what you really, truly want.

To pick the three people to get the free consultation, I ask that those interested email me a brief summary explaining their situation and their ultimate intention or purpose. Along with what might be stopping them from making it happen.

Next Tuesday I will announce the three people selected for the free consultations. I’ll also be sharing the information for people to work with me going forward then as well.

Thank you so much again for reading, sharing, and supporting me as I continue to take new steps to make my purpose come to life!



mml turns three

January 19th, 2012   |   LifeThink About It

Three years ago today, I started MML.

January 19th, 2009.

It’s hard to really wrap my head around. When I started the blog (back on Blogger) I had no intention of anyone ever reading what I wrote. I was using it as a way to create a book proposal called Makeunder Your Life and was about exfoliating stuff in the home.

But then three days after starting the blog, Anne of The City Sage commented on a post.

I was dumbfounded.

I mean, I was just sitting in my own corner of the blog world writing a blog for a book proposal and Anne, someone I looked up to and admired, commented on what I had to say!?!?

After wiping the tears of joy from my face, I had a massive realization:

I was trying to help people simplify their lives, and I didn’t need a book proposal to do it.

I just needed a blog.

From that moment on I spent hours upon hours reading about blogging, learning how to make my blog better, and focusing on making better posts and photos.

I also reached out to bloggers who were just starting out, like myself. I became friends with people near and far. Eventually I started having wine dates with a few of my close blog friends like Crystal, Alaina, and Danielle. I went to blogger meet ups every now and then.

And more than anything, I spent a lot of time blogging and talking with bloggers and readers online.

At times, half my day would revolve around crafting a post, editing photos, answering blog emails, reading blogs, commenting, Tweeting, and preparing my content for the next day.

I was on cloud nine.

I went from wanting to help people design lives with intention to actually doing it.

Of course it goes without saying that because I worked for myself and started focusing on selling online more than via wholesale. Which gave me ample room in my day to juggle Jess LC and MML. After all, I designed my life with the intention of letting my day job (Jess LC) fuel my purpose, helping people design lives with intention.

Though I didn’t have much money (I moved to Chicago in 2007 with $750 in savings) and my company was very young, I was over the moon excited to be suddenly making an impact far sooner than I had ever hoped.

For a while, I was obsessed over blog traffic and watched as the numbers grew – sometimes quickly and sometimes painstakingly slowly. Now, I just go back to the numbers when advertisers ask for those stats. My focus these days is on making an impact, not looking at graphs.

Eventually, I outgrew my Blogger layout, and upgraded to WordPress.org. Though I love the layout and functionality that I have, I know that it wasn’t essential to my blog’s success given the amazing new Blogger designers out there like Danielle.

As the years pass, I watch my friends do amazing things with their blogs. Crystal and Anne launched Rue, Alaina and Danielle are releasing The Every Girl next month, Kendi is taking over the world (I kid), Liz is launching her wardrobe consulting, and Cathy is gaining momentum. I’ve also noticed in 2012 that many bloggers have stepped up their game and are producing incredible content that blows me away.

And though it’s easy to look at these amazing women and think that they have it all together and “know what they are doing” – I can assure you from my own life and knowledge of my friends struggles, no one really knows what they are doing. At least not when they start out. Blogging itself is a new field and the people doing it don’t have much precedent or mentorship.

Each one of those people took risks, devoted insane hours to their sites, and never stopped trying to make their content better. So though luck in all areas of life can help, it does not sustain success in blogging. Content does.

Which brings me to today. Though I’m three years into this journey, I am still just as devoted to refining my content as I was when I began. I want to continue to fulfill my purpose in deeper ways.

And while I may not be sure what the future holds for MML, Jess LC, or myself, I know that regardless of what else happens each Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday, as long as I’ve tried to help people design a life with intention here on MML, I did something good.

So thank you for reading and making my dreams come true.


six decor and organizing ideas

January 18th, 2012   |   ExfoliatingLife

Since I just did my big exfoliation a few weeks ago, I thought it might be good to share ways to decorate and organize using items that might already be sitting around.

These little touches around my apartment make me smile each time I see them.


*Tip 5 came from Nate Berkus, but obviously might not be good around small children.



business in the city tonight

January 18th, 2012   |   Business Advice

For those in Chicago, I hope you can stop by for tonight’s Business in the City event! As I’ve mentioned:

  • it is free
  • it has great free food
  • is the perfect place to ask business questions and get answers
  • meet cool people with businesses or business ideas
  • it is extremely low key

All in all, I think starting Business in the City is the best thing that I did in 2011.

So come on by, there is usually a few dozen people who attend and feel free to bring a friend!



@ Next Door, 659 W. Diversey



last call

January 17th, 2012   |   Life

We got a few things back from our photographer which happen to be sold out. These puppies are the last of their kind. So feel free to snatch ‘em up before they are gone for good!

And in other news…

Have you seen the new Rue Mag out today? I spotted our Merci note cards on page 15! Also, on page 68 you’ll find Danielle’s gorgeously tranquil apartment as well.


ways to sell in a new business

January 17th, 2012   |   Business Advice

While talking with my consulting clients about sales and most importantly, increasing them, I often find myself advising them to do one thing before all else:

Pick just two major income streams and stick to learning and growing those avenues first.

You see, there are thousands of ways to make money. And in most businesses, there are at least three to five ways to make sales. For product based businesses you can sell:

  • to stores via wholesale (door to door, sales reps, trade shows)
  • to customers in person (customer referrals, art shows, trunk shows, home parties)
  • to customers online (online shop, Etsy, Ebay, etc.)

And of course, that is just a few of the options.

I find a lot of new business owners at the outset want to pursue and grow every single avenue for sales possible.

Why not make as many sales, in as many ways, as you can?

However, I don’t think that is the best way to approach a new business in most cases.

I advise my clients to consider their intention for their business (What do you want your business to look like? What do you want to spend most of your time doing?), and then pick the two sales avenues that fit their business intention the best.

By learning the ins and outs of just two business avenues, for example online sales and wholesale, I think it helps them narrow their focus, execute at a higher level, and learn more in a shorter time. It takes a lot of work to grow any arm of sales, and to approach every sales avenue with the same effort dillutes the overall effectiveness and prowess of the business owner.

And I also find that by getting really good at two sales avenues, the third sales method eventually comes quite naturally when the first two are being executed at a professional level. By creating a bustling online shop while doing art shows locally, a company could easily be approached by a wholesale customer interested in purchasing for their store.

Or, someone could be so stressed by trying to do everything all at once that they end up accomplishing very little or have less than solid results.

It also goes without saying that a business owner can change their course and intention for their business and decide after pursuing one avenue of sales that they’d like to shift and work toward another. I’ve done this myself with Jess LC. For the first eight years I sold via wholesale and directly to customers. Then in 2009, I shifted away from wholesale towards online selling and have been continuing to narrow, focus, and evolve my sales plan ever since.

At least that’s my two cents.


israeli couscous

January 16th, 2012   |   FoodLife

Though I don’t normally post many any recipes on MML, today I thought I’d share one that has been my new go-to meal for dinner and lunches lately. Admittedly this could easily be a tasty side dish, but I often end up re-heating it on it’s own when I need a light dinner after work.

I first tried the dish at Mr. Lively’s aunt’s home over Thanksgiving. I loved the dish so much I was determined to learn how to create it myself. Something that I don’t often do, which says a lot about this amazing couscous.

The ingredients can be seen above. The recipe that I’ve made very closely follows the recipe on the back of the purple Trader Joe’s Israeli Couscous box. And for about $1.70 for the box, it can be a pretty cheap dish. But for those who don’t live near a TJ’s, you can also make it using non-TJ Israeli Couscous seen in the blue container on the right.

Here’s what you will need to make it the way that I do,

3 tbs butter

1/2 cup pine nuts

1/2 cup shallots, finely chopped

1 1/2 cups Israeli couscous

1 pinch cinnamon

1 3/4 cup water or chicken broth

1/2 tsp salt

First, chop your shallots.

Take 1 Tbs. of the butter and melt it in a large sauce pan on medium/low heat. Add pine nuts to the melted butter and stir occasionally. Once the nuts are browned, put them aside in a small bowl.

Then in the same pot, add the remaining 2 Tbs. butter to the pan and add the shallots. Let the shallots soften and sweat out for a few minutes.

Measure out 1 to 1.5 cups of dry Israeli couscous.

(Bird measuring cups from Urban Outfitters a few seasons ago.)

Add the dry couscous and cinnamon to the pan with the shallots and let them toast a bit until lightly browned.

Then add 1.75 cups of water or chicken broth to the pot. Bring the heat up so that the water or broth comes to a boil.

Once the water is boiling, reduce head to a simmer and cover with a lid.

When the water is mostly absorbed into the couscous, I add my raisins to get them nice and plump. Then, after the remaining liquid is absorbed by the couscous, I add the pine nuts back to the pot and serve.

I’m sure this would also be great with added herbs (TJ’s recipe calls for parsley) or protein like chicken or tofu. But for me, I like it just as it is.


To follow up on my intention to create more positive focus points in my life, I have found two ways so far I’m making my work and money thoughts… lovelier.

My first step is to make a more defined line between work and life. Last year I was shocked to realize I was working 119 hours a week. Immediately after that revelation I instituted a new life intention for myself: no email on nights or weekends. From that point on I was really good about putting a ban on my inbox off hours.

Until the holiday season.

Because Jess LC is such a gift driven company, I decided to relax on my email ban to make sure I dealt with as much as possible before leaving for the holidays.

But I haven’t been back in the email restricted saddle as much as I’d like in 2012. Which has left me thinking dwelling on work most hours of the day. So I’m getting back on the horse and asking you to come with me.

If you would like to join the Email Intervention for January – please comment on this post and share it with friends or co-workers. I explain the pledge in more detail in this post. Those that comment here will get four little emails from me throughout the pledge period which is January 23rd – February 3rd. But of course, I’ll be beginning my ban on email on evenings and weekends starting today at 5pm (feel free to join me today!).

I am unspeakably affluent -
rich with ideas, with resources, with love.

There’s so little I need to consume —
and infinite ways to contribute.

These mantras stopped me in my blog-reading tracks this afternoon on Alexandra Franzen’s recent post (discovered via Michelle yesterday). They are great ways for me to refocus when the costs for incorporating Jess LC, paying my last two quarters of 2011 tax estimates, and ordering new materials weighs me down.

So here’s to a relaxing, email free, positively focused weekend!

free January desktop wallpaper

January 13th, 2012   |   LifeThink About It

download full-size image

I am sorry that this January’s wallpaper is coming two weeks into the month, but better late than never, right? To make it just a bit sweeter, I made two options this time. The first is more traditional MML wallpaper style, and the second, is a more artistic one using a faded photo I took of New York’s Grand Central Terminal’s ceiling when I was in New York City over the holidays.

download full-size image

If you like them, feel free to download the full size white and green wallpaper or the Grand Central wallpaper. It’s my little intentional treat for you.

The quote itself comes from an MML reader on the MML FB wall from a few weeks ago. Thanks, Lisa V. for the quote and inspiration!

When she shared a Thoreau quote I knew it was the one for January. I’ve had a special relationship with my second History boyfriend (my first History BF is Benjamin Franklin), Henry David, since high school. Thoreau was actually my quote in my high school graduation book: “Once I forgot all I learned, then I began to know.”



focus points

January 12th, 2012   |   LifeThink About It

This post has been swirling in my head since I made my intentions and wrote my 2012 Future Letter.

What I didn’t expect was to be in such dire need of this advice myself at this very moment.

You see, I digest a lot of spiritual, self-help(ish), business, and intention material. About 40% of the books, tv shows, podcasts, and blogs I consume focus on these themes. It’s a personal passion that has been a part of me my whole life and serves my purpose pretty well, too.

Some passionate accountants have been tracking expenses since they were a kid. Where as I was nicknamed Inner Peace on my seventh grade basketball team and my AIM screen name in high school was InnerPeace40. Yeah, I was that cool.

But back to the point: in all of the messages I have absorbed, one theme has been bubbling to the surface lately: we have the power to choose what we think and say, which will impact how we will eventually feel.

The opposite of this would be to think and believe whatever silly, mindless, hurtful, or fearful thing pops in our head and believe it as fact. I personally don’t regulate my thoughts that much, and therefore have more of these negative thoughts than I’d like.

And I want to change that.

To make this metal shift, I have realized that I am going to need to start observing my thoughts more carefully and find out where my attention lies. Just like in yoga class, I want to start noticing my thoughts at my desk, in my bed, on the bus, and while blow drying my hair.

Naturally, I fluctuate between positive moods and negative ones. And there is a symbiotic relationship between the mood I’m feeling and the thoughts I’m having. Both fuel one another.

So by changing what I’m thinking about, I’m hoping that I can over time influence my mood and reactions to things that happen day to day.

However, the first thing that comes to mind is affirmations. Then I immediately think of hippy dippy crystals, meditation chant circles, and Vegan ice cream sundaes.

Not that there is anything wrong with those things, but despite my new-age childhood nickname, I don’t relate to them naturally. Though spiritual, I don’t balance my chakras and therefore, I associate affirmations with things that don’t feel like me.

So to change that, I chose to look at the same habit in a different way. I “re-branded,” if you will, the idea of affirmations and came up with a term that sits with me a bit better: focus points.

Since we naturally always have a focus point, whether it’s chosen or not, we can stop and identify what we are centering on. And then we can choose to shift the focus to a more positive one, if needed.

For myself personally, I’m hoping to shift my focus point when I’m feeling stressed out or thinking about work after hours, to more positive beliefs about the situation or more presence.

I also have a theory that I’m excited to test out: I think I have the ability to get much more enjoyment out of fun things like hanging out with friends or Mr. Lively if I just take a moment to reflect on the fun I’m having and the moment that I’m experiencing.

Too often I don’t let really cool experiences sink in. I can be distracted by a negative focus point in a totally different area of my life that is completely separate from the present, fun, moment. By reflecting, even in the good times, on my focus point, I think I’ll enjoy life more.



throw out 100 things (part two)

January 11th, 2012   |   Exfoliating

To wrap up the Throw Out 100 Things of 2012, I have the second half of the 100 items below.

It’s been great to hear how many people are doing some pretty major exfoliations in their own homes. If you blog about your purge, please feel free to share a link to it on the MML Facebook wall so we can all get a peek at your process.

I have a feeling there are going to be a lot of great finds in the Goodwill stores thanks to the MML community in the next few weeks!

51. Outdated phone charger
52. Old hand lotion
53. Holiday box
54. Anthropologie box
55. Old post cards
56. Blow dryer extension
57. Old business cards
58. Makeup pouch
59. Wine opener
60. Candle decor

61. Headband
62. Top coat
63. Chap sticks
64. Broken sunglasses
65. Running watch
66. Headphones
67. USB Card
68. Broken iPod
69. Eraser
70. Mint container

71. Belt
72. Shoes
73. Belt
74. Workout capris
75. Skirt
76. T-shirt
77. Jacket
78. Stripe scarf
79. Swim suit
80. Worn out gloves

81. Vase
82. Candles
83. Home spray
84. Mercury pine cone
85. Mini bar bottle
86. Birch branches (in the bag because they are messy)
87. Dead holiday lights
88. Ceramic hand
89. Old house keys
90. Ornaments

91. Shoes
92. Health book
93. Mineral makeup
94. Extra silverware
95. Cardigan
96. Orange paper
97. Catalog
98. Scarf
99. Silk scarf
100. Tweed jacket



my pet hearts Jess LC challenge

January 10th, 2012   |   Life

Discount codes and winner will be announced January 19th on the Jess LC FB wall.



throw out 100 things (part one)

January 10th, 2012   |   ExfoliatingLife

Over the holiday break I took a day to compile a collection of 100 items in my apartment that I don’t need, use, or love. I have done the Throw Out 50 Things challenge many times (again, and again) over the past three years. It is inspired by Gail Blanke’s book, Throw Out Fifty Things. Though I never read the book, I knew the practice was a great one for making under.

But this time I felt like stepping it up a notch and going for a full 100.

And though not super easy, it felt good to purge some items that weren’t getting used.

For those who might be too intimated by 100 items, I recommend trying the habit I created in 2009 of exfoliating one item per week. I called it my End of the Week Exfoliation. This practice is easy, and pretty much pain free for even the most clutter prone of people.

And of course, it goes without saying that the items don’t all end up in the landfill, I first make sure to donate, pass on, or recycle every item that I can. But at the same time, I don’t keep something around my home just because I feel guilty about throwing it away. At some point it will end up in the trash if it’s not usable any longer in any other way. So the cautionary tale here is to be very intentional about the purchases we make in the first place.

When I first compiled the items to exfoliate, my Christmas tree was still up from the holidays. I think the time between Christmas and New Years Eve is going to be my new time to do a thorough exfoliation each year. It feels great to lighten up my space after receiving a few new items from the holidays.

Here’s what I don’t want for Christmas really looks like:

Not pretty, huh?

Here’s the break down of the first fifty items that weren’t being properly used, needed, or loved in my home:

1. Holiday gift bags
2. Used notebooks
3. Business cards
4. Pant hanger
5. Magazines
6. Outdated address labels
7. Interview portfolio
8. Stickers
9. Cordless phone
10. 2011 calender

11. Running shorts
12. Bra
13. Panty hose
14. Sports bras
15. Tank top
16. Tank top
17. Tank top
18. T-shirt
19. Race tank
20. Running pants

21. Trash can
22. Business card book
23. Stuffed animal
24. Outdated glasses
25. Camera box
26. Point and shoot camera
27. Cork squares
28. Old receipts
29. Folder
30. Jewelry organizer portfolio

31. Extra Tupperware
32. Old cutting board
33. Old cocoa mix
34. Plastic boxes
35. Glass plate
36. Glass jars
37. Coaster
38. Vintage tray
39. Hershey’s Kisses
40. Glass tray

41. Printed shell
42. Printed top
43. Button down
44. Printed top
45. Vintage silk top
46. T-shirt
47. T-shirt
48. Tank top
49. Tank top
50. Cardigan

I’ll be back later with the other half of my 100 things!


MML gets a new look

January 9th, 2012   |   Life

Though I normally don’t work over the weekends, this last one was an exception.

Mr. Lively generously devoted his Saturday to helping me spruce up things on MML. Since moving to WordPress.org two and a half years ago, I’ve made tweaks to the blog look, but nothing this major.

Last week the blog looked something like this:

Which wasn’t all that bad, but wasn’t looking as fresh as I’d like.

So out went the logo, coral header, and outdated nav bar. And in came a lighter, fresher, more “designer-y” look.

I’m in love.

It got me so excited that I did some spring winter cleaning on the additional pages and images on the nav bar on Sunday.

This along with my new camera skills (still in the making) is getting me pretty excited for MML in 2012.

I have a good feeling about MML this year. And I thank you for sticking with me!

(PS – for those who are seeing things weirdly on the site, please try refreshing your browser to clear any old memory stored.)


business in the city dates

January 7th, 2012   |   Business Advice

We have our new dates lined up for the next three months of Business in the City! The next one is this Wednesday, January 18th from 6:30-8:00 and the next two events are as follows:

As I’ve mentioned in the past, Business in the City is a meet up group I run in Chicago at Next Door once a month. The event is totally free and catered by the folks at Next Door who also do a live tweet session of the event as well for non-Chicagoans.

The format is really simple and anyone one who has a business idea or has started a business is welcome to come. We first introduce ourselves and our businesses/concepts and then open things up to Q+A. Each month we continue to grow the group – right now we are sitting around two dozen people and we also have a Facebook group for people share and connect away from the meetings as well. Please feel free to bring friends as well!

Here’s a pic of the snazzy Next Door for those who haven’t seen it yet.

I hope I see you on the 18th!

photo via


how I’m going paperless in 2012

January 6th, 2012   |   ExfoliatingLife

Up to this point I have been a devoted paper to-do list and calendar girl – because when my palm pilot in ninth grade lost all of my information, I vowed only to use ink.

However, over Thanksgiving I thought that I lost my planner on a train back from St. Louis which caused a level yellow panic. I instantly regretted that my information was all tied up in that little pink book.

So with that in mind, I am stepping back into the realm of the online appointment books in 2012, and I’m liking the results.

To make this transition as easy as possible, I’ve found a few great apps and systems that might be helpful for others who are doing the same paper to web shift.

Because I run an online business and blog, it makes the most sense to keep everything I do on the internet. I have had a Macbook Pro for several years and when I launched the iPad covers for Jess LC, I got an iPad2 to make sure I knew what the heck I wanted the design to look like. And I recently switched from an Android phone to the iPhone 4s to keep things streamlined. I now love the iPhone interface much more than my old Android.

With the advent of iCloud and other systems that work over the web, the computer, iPad, and phone are all updated wirelessly and reflect the same appointments and to-dos, which is incredible. Losing my phone won’t mean that I lost all of my appointments and data like it did when I only had a hard-copy appointment book.

Here is a run down of the go-to apps that work seamlessly across all of my tech gadgets that I highly recommend:

This one is popular and obviously a no-brainer. I like that I can see it in month view:

And in day view:

Best of all, it isn’t too tedious to enter the appointments in on the phone and the reminder alerts are a nice feature that you can turn on or off. Once I enter it on either my computer, phone, or iPad, the appointment appears on all three devices immediately.

For me, the major drawback of the Google Calender is that I can’t just make a trusty to-do list. There is a standard Reminder app on the iPhone which can help. But I am now personally obsessed with TeuxDeux. TeuxDeux is available on your computer for free and they have designed a simple and beautiful app for the iPhone for $2.99. I’m not one to normally spend money on iPhone apps, but this puppy is worth it’s price tag and then some.

I can make daily to-do lists:

And if I don’t accomplish the to-do list item today, it will automatically transfer to the next day. Also, any updates I make on the computer or iPhone version of the app sync automatically to both platforms. TeuxDeux allows you to place to-d0 lists into the future as well. They have a great, short video explaining how it works on their homepage.

In addition to the daily to-do lists, there are also Someday to-do lists. I have one for blog post ideas, another for intentional obsession items I’d like to buy, and a third for errands. These lists are more by topic than date which is great for more long-term planning.

Lastly, the app I use the most is called Flip Board. It is a free app for the iPhone and iPad which Mr. Lively got me hooked on.

They have tons of links to news, sports, business, etc. in an extremely intuitive and beautiful format. But rather than flip through news on the app, I spend my time using it for….

My Google Reader! It makes my blog reader beyond beautiful and shares posts in a way that the desktop and phone Google Reader totally fails at. In a way, I feel like I have my own custom magazine constantly updating all of the blogs that I read and enjoy.

And lastly, I love my monthly background as well, courtesy of PuglyPixel.

Anyone else out there using web devices to keep their appointments? Any other apps that we should check out?

my miracle book

January 5th, 2012   |   Business AdviceLifeThink About It

One of my 2012 intentions is to start a Miracle Book (inspired by Joyce Meyer). When starting a business (or taking on any new risk), there is a ton of uncertainty and fear of the unknown. There are always doubts about what can be accomplished or if ends will meet. But in my four years of full-time business, I have not once found a time where things didn’t pull through – even if it was at the very last second. 

But no matter how many wins, twists of fate, or miracles happen in my business, I inevitably reach a new obstacle that seems insurmountable.

So my new intention is to write down each of the miracles that happen in my business (or life) that at one point seemed improbable. Then, when I have a new Goliath to face, I can pull out my trusty Miracle Book and remind myself that I have had many challenges in the past which ended in positive outcomes.

I look forward to re-reading this book years from now. I can’t wait to see all the impossible stuff that will come true.


appreciation and stuff

January 4th, 2012   |   ExfoliatingLife

A few weeks ago I got my first iPhone (with a white and gold polka dot case from Kate Spade) and a fancy-schmancy camera.

I felt unbelievably lucky and blessed.

For 48 hours.

After the first two days, the wonder and excitement wore off much quicker than I expected. I mean, I really wanted these things and now I had them.

But they made me happy for an insanely short amount of time.

I write a blog that is about simplifying life and exfoliating clutter. So I know very well that things don’t make us happy (in fact, they can often lead to the opposite when they aren’t intentional). Heck, I want to write a book about the concept.

Stuff does not equal happiness. I get it.

But I still hoped just a little bit that my new toys would make me blissful for at least a few months. Heck, I would have settled for just a week (or two).

Yet the glow only lasted the length of a weekend. Whah wa.

But while pondering the disappointing pleasure high, I found a seed of truth:

Stuff doesn’t make people happy. The appreciation of stuff makes people happy. 

Yep, go ahead and tweet it.

What I’ve realized is that the things themselves aren’t going to help me live happily ever after just by sitting on a shelf looking cute. Only by actively being grateful and appreciating the things that I have, will I reap an unending supply of warm and fuzzies. The simple act of appreciating in my mind causes the spike I am seeking. Not the things themselves.

This is fantastic news because not only does this mean that I can get pleasure from appreciating my new tech tools, I can also get pleasure from all of the other things I have and love that have been around here for much longer.

And in general, I don’t need to constantly get new things to make myself happy. I just need to make sure I don’t take the blessings in my life for granted to begin with.

I know this isn’t rocket science, and people talk about appreciating people and relationships all the time. I just never really recognized that it applies to stuff as well and that the actual happiness is coming from the act of appreciating itself, not the object or person in question.


Reach Out

Want to learn how to live from Values-based intentions?

I run an online course, Life With Intention Online, to share exactly how to do just that. Sign up for updates and special bonuses here. (The next class will most likely begin in late 2015.)

Want to sponsor The Lively Show?

If you would like to get sponsorship information for The Lively Show, please submit your information here.

Want to submit yourself or someone else as a guest for The Lively Show?

Would you or someone you know make a great Lively Show guest? Please submit yourself or someone else here.

Guest post + blog advertising policy.

Due to the format of my work, I do not accept guest posts or blog advertising (sponsorship is only available for The Lively Show podcast and you can get more info by submitting here).

Have a question about your Intention Tattoo order?

Have a question about your intention tattoo order? Please email Ashley at jess(at)jesslc(dot)com directly.


Yay! Message sent.
Error! Please validate your fields.
© 2014 Jess Lively Creative Inc. // I'm an Amazon Affiliate - Which means Amazon items (like books) I genuinely recommend may earn me a commission. //