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Tomorrow in my Wish I Knew Wednesday email I’ll be sharing something I do most often with consulting clients: bring more of the owner’s individuality to their business and brand. It is often the key to standing out, being special, and serving customers better. Trust me, the breakthroughs by working on this aspect of business alone can take a business from blah to awesome.

If you’d like to get the email, simply sign up by clicking on the image below. This email list is also where I announce upcoming Workshops and other BWI updates.

(If you have signed up for the BWI newsletter, you will automatically get this series.)

 

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the blogging pyramid decoded

July 31st, 2012   |   Business AdviceLife

 

Today I’d like to return back to The Blogging Pyramid and discuss each level in more detail. After reading all of your amazing thoughts on being truly successful in blogging, I urge everyone to go back and read the thoughts presented in the comment section. They are outstanding.

I especially want to mention Jill’s point: whether we are trying to get a large following or a small, dedicated one, the principals are still the same. So it’s not just about trying to gain more exposure as much as the pyramid demonstrates what blogging well requires overall.

Now I’d like to go through each level in more detail. I hope to do so in a way that will help new bloggers trying to get started, and also connect with those who have been blogging for years.

And before I really get into it, I will say there are dozens (if not hundreds) of great blogs out there that actively defy the levels I will outline. Awesome blogs are first and foremost built upon that tip-top level of soul and uniqueness. If that is executed well, the other levels below may not impact their blog success.

For example, Penelope Trunk does a fantastic job at writing and uniqueness, while she doesn’t publish on a regular schedule or use many images. Meanwhile Seth Godin doesn’t have the prettiest blog design or images, but he posts multiple times a day on fascinating topics. And then there is The Pioneer Woman. She does it all – though I have no idea how with four kids and a ranch to run.

So when you think about a great blog that defies one of these levels, consider what other excellent qualities it has. You don’t have to have a perfectly balanced blog to be successful, just one that has excellence in some (or most) of these areas.

Consistent Posting

At the base level, you have consistency. Bloggers don’t have to post on a perfect rhythm all the time, but readers need to trust that a blog they follow will continue to provide content on a regular basis.

Patricia described this as the Halloween Effect in our NYC Workshop. If you are a kid going trick-or-treating and head up to a house every year for a great King Size Butterfinger and one year find that the house is empty, it’s disappointing. Just like visiting to a blog that stops posting consistently. If you aren’t sure if there will be new content, it makes you less invested in the site as a whole.

So this is the first level of trust that is created between bloggers and readers. It’s not important if it’s daily or weekly. But it does need to be consistent enough for readers to trust that there will be new content frequently enough for them to come back. It’s often suggested that new bloggers should post frequent, high-quality content as much as possible to establish themselves.

I also like that this is the base of the pyramid because I think for new bloggers, it’s easy to underestimate the time it takes to develop great original content on a regular basis. I often consult with business owners who like the “idea” of blogging to increase business, but massively underestimate the time it will take to develop a loyal following on top of their other business priorities. When done right, it can be one of the biggest marketing tools out there. When done inconsistently, it can easily get little response and become a skeleton (aka: an abandoned site that still traces back to the business).

Great Blog Design

After consistency is created, an appealing blog design goes a long way in establishing a blog. If the site looks good at first glance, readers are more confident that the content within the posts will be worthwhile. It doesn’t mean that the site needs to look one specific way – it can be rustic, pretty, professional, beautiful, funny, or modern. But it does need to execute that feeling well.

For blogs focused on writing and ideas, a clean site is great to let the words themselves stand out. A great example of this is Danielle LaPorte. And for a lifestyle or style-focused blog, the design should compliment and extend the brand, but not compete with the content. A great example of this is Design Love Fest.

In 2009 the blog design was usually an afterthought for new bloggers. However in 2012, I believe that if it is done for business or for the intention of making revenue, a blog design should be considered at the start of the site (or as soon as finances allow).

With the boat-load of beautiful blogs out there now, a great design will help gain credibility – but cannot carry the site to huge success all on it’s own.

Engaging Writing and Images

In the lifestyle and photo-heavy blogging world, I sense more and more that one of the main differentiators between sites is original content. Pinterest has been a wonderful attribute, but to truly excel, I think the value of Pinterest should be found in the fact that your own photos can get pinned and shared, rather than just pulling images from the site to use in posts. Camille Styles, for example, does a great line using and creating Pinterest content.

To really have what Caitlin calls “Pin-worthy” photos, DSLR cameras and photo-editing is now becoming the rule rather than the exception. I hate that this is the case, but I do really think it’s true. The more photos there are online, the more high and low quality images there are to choose from. And given the choice, readers will generally seek out the best. iPhone images (like I use here on MML frequently) are also great, but DSLR really does take the cake in lifestyle blogging.

But even if digital cameras and Photoshop are out of your price-point, I don’t think that’s a reason to not have a lifestyle blog. In fact, starting the blog before purchasing the equipment and making that (big) financial investment is a good idea. With so much time, effort, and passion required to have a blog, it’s a good to try it out before spending the cash.

Further, I think the next frontier in lifestyle blogging is great writing. For a while amazing images were king, but as those are becoming commonplace, writing is really the new way to differentiate. Which is great, especially for those who don’t yet own photo equipment.

In the non-lifestyle blogosphere where images aren’t the main attraction, writing is essential (obviously). We need to clearly communicate an idea and sound ourselves at the same time. Finding our voice is a challenge. So far I’ve found that though I don’t personally notice my “voice” in my writing, I’ve been told it’s there.

And think that’s a good thing.

When I started writing on the blog I used to try to “be a good writer and have a good voice.” But really all that did was cause me to mimic the voices of other writers I admired. Oh how I deeply wanted to write like Elizabeth Gilbert! 

But alas, my work will not be portrayed by Julia Roberts. And that’s okay.

The idea that we should write as simply as we can to get an idea across is something I’ve used to help me break the mimicking habit I had years ago. (I think I got the idea from a Hemingway quote.) By doing this, I’ve naturally given up the idea of “trying” to be myself and my voice just naturally emerges within my words.

Though I’m not an expert on writing voice, try to: Say things simply and write often. 

Plus to go an extra step, I think good photography in the writing realm of blogs also can help a blogger separate as well. I went for a long time using very few photos and relied on graphics to depict my topics, but I’ve since switched to using images for the headers most of the time to help keep my writing and content even more unique and personal.

Value, Soul, and Uniqueness

The top two levels of the Blogging Pyramid are discussed in more detail in this post. So I suggest reading that piece for more detail on these two key concepts.

And remember, if blogging is a pursuit for personal reasons, there simply are no rules.

But if there is the goal of readership and a dedicated following of any size, in order to lead, we must first serve.

 

what’s really important

July 30th, 2012   |   Business AdviceLife

 

This weekend Mr. Lively and I stayed with my Grandpa in Kettering, Ohio. Mr. Lively had not yet met this Grandpa or my mom’s side of the family yet. So though Mr. Lively has spoken over the phone a few times with Grandpa, it was time to have a live introduction.

And while the trip was peaceful and fun, I did not expect it to have such a deep impact on me personally.

After spending just a few days with my Grandpa I got a priority realignment, if you will.

While my life and career in Chicago are exciting and meaningful, my priorities have become a bit too muddied.

Working for myself and growing my companies is a huge challenge. Nothing is promised day to day, budgeting is more of an art than a science, and new opportunities (and road blocks) pop up around each new corner.

As things grow, I’m constantly directing a ship that is bigger than I’ve ever sailed before. I learn as I go, without a guarantee of success.

With this much on my plate, even my work/life boundaries cannot completely stem my focus on my businesses.

However, these past few days have helped me snap out of a mixed up priority system.

Over the past year or so I’ve allowed myself to place my career above everything except spirituality and my relationship with Mr. Lively.

Though I admittedly have done a really good job keeping spirituality and my relationship at the top of my list, I have let design and career have higher precedence over family and friends.

Since Mr. Lively and I have family spanning every section of the country, it has been hard for us to see them on a regular basis. Now that we have a car we have more mobility, but still remains a challenge to keep up with everyone.

And even here in Chicago, I find my work commitments can keep me away from friend engagements. Also, to be even more honest, the stress of the businesses leaves me feeling drained. Seeing friends can feel like work.

So I’ve holed up. I’ve spent a lot of time and energy on Mr. Lively and my businesses to the expense of family and friends.

But as Grandpa has shown me, as you move on in life it is your family and friends that matter the most. There is no guarantee that Mr. Lively will be alive with me my entire life and my career will evolve and pass.

And if I only put stock into those two parts of my life, I may be lonely in years to come.

So though I think what I do is great and my love for Mr. Lively is wonderful, I gotta make sure I don’t let my career cast a shadow that blocks out those people who are also very important to me.

 

this week i’m thankful for

July 27th, 2012   |   Life

This week I’m thankful for being a part of my dear friend, Catherine’s wedding. It was a whirlwind weekend in Michigan and now Mr. Lively and I are off to Ohio to spend time with my Grandpa and extended family whom Mr. Lively has not met yet.

The past week has also been full of decorating adventures for the new apartment. Though we won’t be moving until October it seems, I’m still starting to get a vision for the space in my head. We’ve even scored a few items for the new place in the images above. The awesome brass trunk (which is cedar lined) came from the White Elephant thrift store for just $35. I know. We got insanely lucky.

We also snagged a little basket (which almost cost as much as the trunk) for our future puppy’s toys. And we did a little scouting at West Elm and picked our future couch as well (we’ll be selling our big sectional closer to October).

I hope you have a relaxing weekend ahead too. Have a great time and thank you for reading MML!

the blogging pyramid

July 26th, 2012   |   Business AdviceLifeThink About It

For the past few weeks I’ve been pondering Victoria’s thoughts on blogging trends. Though she spoke mostly to the homogenization of fashion and the impact fashion blogs have had, it got me pondering some bigger thoughts about blogging in 2012.

When blogging began (about a decade ago?) there were few people doing it seriously. Since then the progress in content, images, and general sophistication of the blogging community has exploded. Even since 2009 when I began MML, I sense a remarkable difference between the blogging prowess now and then.

With the advances in social media (Twitter, Pinterest, and even Facebook), digital photography, and web design, getting an extremely professional looking blog is easier than ever before (though definitely not always cheap).

And the boom of bloggers have been swiftly upgrading and improving their skills in all of these areas – which has led to a larger volume of high quality blogs.

However, readers still have busy lives and only have a limited amount of time to devote to blog reading each week, thus making them more selective in what they read.

There is an increasing number of great blogs, but still a limited amount of time for a reader to consume them.

So when people are now looking to find and select the blogs they want to follow, they have become more selective out of necessity. They don’t have all day for blogs, so they have to pick the ones they want to read the most. They have become better editors of their own content consumption.

And what blog readers are looking for, I believe, lies in the pyramid I created above. Though there are exceptions to all of these levels, I think that they majority of successful blogs have these elements in spades.

Though I will return to the bottom three levels later, today I’d like to focus on what I believe now truly separates the biggest blogs out there from the pack. And ultimately, these are the things that I’m focusing on personally to continue to grow myself.

To me, value and uniqueness are what really now define blogs with significant followings.

When a blog reader visits a site they are doing so with a purpose: to get value. The value can be anything; beauty, humor, inspiration, ideas, advice, and information are all forms of valuable content. To cultivate a large, dedicated readership there must be great value in the content.

And when the value of the content is lacking, readers may find themselves disinterested.

Which also leads to the tippy top of the pyramid, the thing that I think differentiates us all as people: uniqueness.

When a blogger is able to tap into their own authenticity and be completely themselves, magic happens.

This of course is most easily shown through original content. An inventive DIY project, touching personal story, reaction to a current event, funny thoughts on motherhood, or stunning images are all unique and can have far-reaching effects.

The homogenization of blogging, if that is indeed happening, perhaps lies in a lack of trust in our own authentic value. We are perhaps a bit too focused on looking at the person next to us rather than within.

Good Morning, world! Caitlin here, back with another Design Your Life interview. When I started helping Jess with this series, I knew right away that I’d want to interview Lauren of Stylized Existence, one of my favorite style blogs. I’m always inspired by Lauren’s commitment to Crossfit, eating well, maintaining her relationship and a full time job, managing her wardrobe consulting business, and looking stunning while doing it all. I’m delighted that she agreed to share her intentions today. Just reading over them gave me a little extra pep in my step this morning. Enjoy!

DESIGN YOUR LIFE: lauren of stylized existence

My boyfriend and I have been together for five years now.  Our relationship has not been perfect, but he has loved me unconditionally from day 1.  I can be difficult, moody, a bad communicator, the list goes on; but all the while, he has treated me with love and respect.  I want to marry this man, and the best thing I can do to prepare myself for an eventual marriage is to respect him through communicating well and as fully as possible, laughing with him, supporting him, and loving him unconditionally.

I am really hard on myself and hold others to similar standards.  I correct people, I judge people, and I expect perfection.  I am aware that these are the worst of my personality traits, so I am actively working on them.  Over the last year I have made the intention to be kinder to myself and others.  Judge less, listen more, critique less, accept more.  The earth would be such a horrible place if everyone did everything how I thought it should be done.  People are unique, and that is what makes this world a lovely place.

Two years ago I discovered CrossFit and Clean-Eating, and my life has never been the same.  On Saturday, I embarked on a 30 day journey (the Whole30) to restore my body.  Though my eating habits are already pretty clean, we’ve had pizza and soft-serve a few too many times lately, and it was time to hit the RESET button.  I intend to treat my body as a temple, including doing Bikram Yoga and other self-healing things on my off days from CrossFit, while fueling my body as cleanly as possible.  I am a more balanced, relaxed, and happy person when I treat my body well.

I have a pretty darn good life.  A great boyfriend, a beautiful home, good friends and family, a good job, and growing side-business, the list goes on.  Yet, too often, I tend to focus on the things I don’t have (an engagement ring, Louboutin heels,  10k blog followers).  This is silly and ridiculous.  I know I have a full life, I just have to remind myself of it more often.

I want my wardrobe consulting business to continue to grow, so I want to continue to focus on creative marketing strategies, unique service offerings, and great results for my customers.  I know I have it in me to grow this business, I  just need to push myself more.  I’ll admit that I get a little lazy – with a full-time job, the gym, and lots of cooking – I am tired by the time I sit down in the evening.  But that’s the wrong attitude – that should be “party time” – time to kick it into full gear and work my butt off.

Check out past DESIGN YOUR LIFE interviews.

Tomorrow on Wish I Knew Wednesday I’m wrapping up my Q&A July by answering 20 questions that I haven’t had a chance to answer this month during What You Wish You Knew.

In order to cover so much ground I’m also making it an interesting challenge. My goal is to answer each question in two sentences or less, getting right to the point for each.

If you’d like to get the email, simply sign up by clicking on the image below. This email list is also where I announce upcoming Workshops and other BWI updates.

(If you have signed up for the BWI newsletter, you will automatically get this series.)

 

the easy road

July 24th, 2012   |   Life

 

here’s to you mr. covey

July 23rd, 2012   |   LifeThink About It

 

Last week while I was busy working and standing up in one of my dearest friend’s wedding, Mr. Stephen Covey passed away.

Though I did not have time to share my feelings at the time, I’d like to do so now. And I also thank those who tweeted and emailed me about the news.

The truth is that without Mr. Covey, and his work, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,* I may never have started MML, discovered my purpose so quickly, or be the person I am today.

I know that may sound a bit extreme. But those who have been reading MML for years know that I have referenced this book and Mr. Covey 48 times over the past three and a half years.

And this isn’t because I’m unique, it’s because he and his book can have a deep, lasting effect on people. His principals are wise and worth mentioning over, and over, and over.

At first, The Seven Habits came into my life in high school* and at the time was a worthwhile read, but one that didn’t seep in too deeply below the surface.

However, years later during an incredibly difficult phase of college, I went through a personality melt-down and found myself without any foundational beliefs or compass to guide me. I questioned all that I believed in and I didn’t know how to begin to craft a life paradigm as an adult.

On a whim during Christmas break I returned home that year and picked up my dusty copy of the teen version* again.

All at once things began to click.

I tore through that copy and that day found a new-found sense of self and direction.

Later, I read the original version of The Seven Habits and was thrilled to see the themes I loved so dearly applied to adult situations as well.

Unlike any other book I’ve read beyond The Bible or A Course in Miracles, this text is so dense it’s worth reading one page or short section at a time. Each habit itself could become a year’s worth of study. And for me, I’ve dwelt within the first three habits for the past seven years.

I deeply believe if I can master these habits to the best of my ability, my life will be transformed. And my experience has proven this to be true.

Though I’m slowly beginning to branch out to work on the last four habits, I still strive daily to be proactive, begin with the end in mind, and put first things first.

When I look back on these last five years out of college running my company day by day, preparing for marriage, and growing as an individual, I cannot help but thank Mr. Covey for all of his guidance. His words and philosophies have helped me navigate difficult challenges in every area of my life. It’s like he’s been with me along the way, pointing me toward the right course of action.

For many years I had a small hope that I would one day meet Mr. Covey. I wasn’t sure what I would say to him, exactly. But I knew that I needed to thank him for his profoundly positive effect on my life.

Now that this dream is no longer a reality, I just want to share here how much he meant to me.

Here’s to you, Mr. Covey. May you find peace and know the everlasting effect you’ve had on myself and many others.

 

*Along with his son, Sean Covey’s book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teens which I’ve also read several times over the years.

this week i’m thankful for

July 20th, 2012   |   Life

This week I’m thankful for… all the wonderful support we’ve had.

I will fully admit that I bit off more than I could chew this week. I worked from Sunday afternoon straight until Wednesday evening stopping only for food, sleep, and a serendipitous engagement photo shoot (more on that later). Other than those three things you could find me working at my computer, selling at our Pop Up Shop downtown, or consulting.

Though every fiber of my being would love to complain about it, it was my doing. I decided to launch Jackson the same day as the Pop Up Shop and that meant doing an incredible amount of work all at once. So as my beloved Mr. Covey would say, I chose it and cannot whine.

But regardless of my drained body, mind, and purple eye bags, there is much to celebrate. The launch was a huge success and we are filling orders as fast as we can. And the Pop Up Shop had an unprecedented number of MML readers stop by to say hello. It was amazing to see the tweets, blog posts, and social media blasts customers shared about our little shop.

And perhaps more than all, I appreciate Mr. Lively’s unprompted phone call Thursday morning letting me know that I did a great job this week. All along a little part of my ego has been clamoring for sympathy and kudos for attempting so much this week. But I’ve been cramming that thought deep inside, not letting it escape my lips.

Yet his sweet comments and appreciation brought me to tears. I so needed to hear that and I’m glad I didn’t have a pity party to get it.

And of course, I am so thankful for you. Thank you for reading MML and have a great weekend!

sponsor rate change begins august 10th

July 19th, 2012   |   Life

 

Though I haven’t mentioned anything yet… there are some exciting changes coming to MML this fall. Though my lips are sealed as to the specifics, I can say that big things lie ahead.

In the meantime, I want to give a heads up on ad rates. On August 10th sponsor rates will increase (the last increase was June, 2011).

If you’d like to snag a spot at the current rate, please email me at jess(at)jesslc.com before August 10th to receive the current, lower rate.

 

need, use, and love: for my face

July 19th, 2012   |   Life

 

When it comes to makeup I’m definitely not an expert. I’m more of a shopper cautiously trying out new products every so often.

But despite my lack of prowess in the beauty department, after years of purchasing a variety of tinted moisturizers, I’ve definitely found a favorite.

Tarte’s Smooth Operator tinted moisturizer consistently leaves my skin the healthiest and clearest compared to all others that I’ve tried (Bobby Brown, Laura Mercier, Neutrogena, etc). Due to the power of birth control to counteract my PCOS, I’ve gone from really bad acne to incredibly clear. However, if I miss washing my face a night or two or if I am out sweating in my makeup, I can break out every so often.

But I’ve discovered that when I use Tarte’s Smooth Operator, my skin is at it’s absolute best. Plus, I like that it does a good job evening out my skin tone without masking too much and has SPF built in. I have a face full of freckles and trying to cover them up with a foundation just ends up looking a bit too drastic. Which leaves Tarte at the top of my list when it comes to keeping my natural look a bit more polished.

So while I’ll continue to wander aimlessly down the aisles for other beauty products for years to come, I’ve got my tinted moisturizer locked down.

 

PS – I’ve just taken Liz’s advice and purchased my first NARS blush in Orgasm. I’m already hooked!

need, use, and love: for my hair

July 18th, 2012   |   Life

 

When it comes to my thick, curly hair, I’ve struggled with making it look manageable most of my life. In fact, I tried straightening it when I was in 7th grade for picture day, only to discover that my thick, frizzy “dome” of hair exceeded the width of the picture.

After that debacle, I swore off trying to straighten it until I was a senior in high school. And looked like this instead.

Though I certainly had a character-building adolescence; growing up with braces (for five years, and yes, I did sleep with head-gear at one point), unruly brows (which I later over-tweezed until they formed horizontal commas), and frizzy hair… I’ve come a long way in my 20′s.

But it wasn’t until a few months ago that I discovered the thing which I believe, beyond tweezing my brows properly, has improved my overall appearance the most.

I got a Keratin straightening treatment at Salon Sanjoy.

Which is pretty much like getting a hair transplant — a hair transplant of gorgeous, smooth, silky, healthy locks. 

The process is a bit intensive (you can’t wash your hair for three days) and expensive, but the results have myself and Mr. Lively completely converted.

In fact, in our future budget, Mr. Lively considers the hair treatment a “family expense” since he loves it so much, too.

Plus, the treatment speeds up my blowout time, and is waaaaay easier to manage day-to-day. Unlike many similar treatments, this one is FDA approved and actually good for the hair.

So while I might not ever go for Botox, Lasik, or lipo, I will be straightening my hair with the Keratin treatment for the foreseeable future.

In fact, I deeply love this treatment so much, that if I was ever to have a huge, world-famous talk show, I’d make this one of my favorite things.

In my dream world, I’d be shouting,

“You get a straightening treatment!”

“You get a straightening treatment!”

“You get a straightening treatment!” 

But alas, I’m not that famous. But did get you a little something…

 

MML Reader Special Discount

Since Salon Sanjoy is also an MML sponsor, they have graciously agreed to discount the Keratin process by $100 for MML readers who get the treatment for the first time.

If you call to make an appointment, simply mention that I sent you!

 

Hey guys! It’s Caitlin again, and today I’m bringing you a Design Your Life Interview from a new blogger on the block: Miss Jessica of The State Street Edit. Looking back, I’m not entirely sure how I stumbled across Jessica’s blog but I’m sure glad that I did! Between her adorable outfit posts, strong graphics, pretty photos, and genuine personality, she’s got all the makings of the perfect lifestyle blog. I loved reading about her intentions (there are a couple here that I’d like to add to my own list!) and I hope you enjoy them as well! Have a wonderful day, and I’ll see you next week!

DESIGN YOUR LIFE: Jessica of The State Street Edit

I’m a stereotypical plan-aholic – I like to know exactly what I’ll be doing tomorrow,next week, next year, and in five years! Being spontaneous helps me experience things that aren’t “in the plan.” Those adventures usually end up being the most fun! One day, instead of heading home after grabbing lunch with a friend, I decided to walk around downtown D.C. and see where the streets took me. I ended up exploring the National Portrait Gallery and scored a deal on some adorable shoes that I never would have found had I not been a little spontaneous!

Saying thank you is such a simple and powerful thing. I try to show my gratitude for every small kindness people show me throughout the day – for the baristas at Starbucks, that can be a few times in one morning! By giving thanks I’m able to brighten up someone else’s day and notice all of the little things people do for me, like strangers who hold the elevator door or how my roomie took out the trash again because she knows I hate to. There’s really no faster way to feel appreciative!

I always have to remind myself of this one! In the past, whenever one of my friends had a bad attitude about something or a stranger was being rude, I took it personally and ruined my own experience in the process. Truthfully, as much as someone chatting loudly on their cell in public might bother me, that person’s actions won’t have any effect on my happiness if I don’t want them to. It’s definitely a challenge, but I’ve reduced my stress level tenfold by letting go of what I can’t control about other people’s feelings and actions. Life looks a whole lot sweeter this way!

Lately I’ve been trying to do one thing every week that makes me uncomfortable. Since I’m naturally shy, chatting up a cute guy that lives in my building is usually enough to fill my “totally freaking out” quota for a month! But doing little things that scare you is the best way to grow. When I first joined the staff of my school’s fashion magazine, I was terrified of how I’d measure up to the rest of the super creative and talented people I’d be working with. The first meeting was uncomfortable for sure, but it got easier each week. Next semester I’ll be the editor – that’s a position I never would have stepped up to had I not been gutsy enough to move past my discomfort at that first meeting.

If left to my own devices, I will always wait to do something until the perfect moment arises (and guess what? It never does.) This was especially true when it came to launching my blog – I waited 2+ years to start The State Street Edit because I thought everything needed to be just right if it was going to be successful. But if you wait for the circumstances of your life to be perfect before you do anything, you’ll spend your whole life waiting and coming up with excuses. From now on I’m trying to just jump in – the hiccups along the way only stand to make me better!

Check out past DESIGN YOUR LIFE interviews.

meet the jackson bauble necklace

July 17th, 2012   |   Life

 

Today is a big day for Jess LC. We’ll be running our Pop Up Shop in downtown in Chicago from 9 to 3 today and tomorrow as well as launching our new Jackson Collection online!

We got our inspiration for the new items from our popular Astor Collection launched years ago, but updated them in many new ways with color and function. Which means we are going “classic Jess LC” and moving forward, which makes me very excited.

Our biggest headliner for this collection, and sure to be a shop classic, are the Jackson Bauble Necklaces and Jackson Mini Bauble Necklaces.

These necklaces are beautiful and the best part is they are also functional. Their long ribbons are interchangeable. Which means you can order one or multiple necklaces as well as ribbons and swap them out with each other as often as you like. Which for my (intentional) design sensibility is perfect: I want to get unique color combinations that pop, but also not feel limited to just one look.

For the lookbook, and to help provide color suggestions for customers, we asked some of our favorite bloggers for their favorite combinations. They each hand-picked their look of choice which we have shared on the product pages and in the lookbook.

I’d like to thank: Atlantic-PacificCamille Styles, Coco + KelleyDesign DarlingKendi EverydayOh Joy, and The Everygirl for their beautiful suggestions and design input! You can see all of the combinations they picked on product pages and the lookbook.

Also, this launch is not complete without mentioning the amazing team that helped make the launch happen. Susie, our Jewelry Queen, as always is doing fantastic work with each and every style. In case you didn’t know, she handmakes each and every item of our jewelry for Jess LC. So if you order, she’s the lady working on your items. I’d also like to thank our Jess LC ladies, Caitlin and Kiley, for being willing to be in our lookbook! I shot the photos myself and we had a great time canvassing Navy Pier, the Lincoln Park Green City Market, and Lincoln Park at large.

In fact, both Caitlin and Kiley have their own blogs as well, which I highly recommend checking out.

And of course, feel free to shop the collection and peruse the lookbook!

Tomorrow on Wish I Knew Wednesday I’ll be passing Ker’s question about how to make a business legal over to MML sponsor and new Queen of the Nuts and Bolts for WIKW, Helena Butters of Sweeter CPA.

I first met Helena at a Jess LC trunk show years ago. Since our first meeting she’s left her corporate day job to help creative people form and run businesses, do their taxes, and keep them in the up and up. She’s also got a blog where she shares insight into the nuts and bolts side of business structure as well.

If you’d like to get the email, simply sign up by clicking on the image below. This email list is also where I announce upcoming Workshops and other BWI updates.

(If you have signed up for the BWI newsletter, you will automatically get this series.)

 

 photo by

need, use, and love: my alarm clock

July 16th, 2012   |   Life

 

This week I am taking a cue from my lifestyle blogger friends and sharing current my favorite things. However, since MML is focused on and making under, I’m taking an intentional slant to the series. The things I’ll be sharing this week are all things that I need, use, and love.

Though I often talk about exfoliating the items we don’t need, use, or love, that doesn’t mean that we cannot enjoy our intentional items very much.

In fact, it’s the whole point.

Keep the good and exfoliate the bad as often as needed.

Today’s item is actually connected to a recent intention Mr. Lively and I have made: we are doing our best to keep electronics out of our bedroom.

This means no TV, laptop, iPad (though we do sometimes cheat), and cell phones.

For many years I have used my cell phone as my alarm. But this smart phone also tempts me to check stats, emails, comments, Twitter, blogs, you name it. When I can’t sleep, just before bed, or even first thing in the morning I have to fight the urge to get connected instantly.

Which leaves me distracted in one of the most potentially peaceful parts of my life.

So for months I searched for a great alarm clock that would hit all my criteria: good looking, easy to use, pleasant-sounding, alarm ready, non-ticking, and glow in the dark.

I searched for quite awhile to no avail.

… Until my friend Kim introduced me to The Big Ben. It has all the features I desired and is relatively reasonably priced, considering my high standards for looks and function.

After waiting for it to be re-stocked for a few months, Mr. Lively and I have been enjoying it for a few weeks now.

At first it felt a bit strange to be without instant communication in the bedroom. But the more that I get used to the phone charging overnight in the living room, the more I realize that I don’t need it next to me atalltimes.

If I were to review the clock, I’d give it four out of five stars compared to the phone. But this is only because I have to change the alarm setting each time I want it to go off, unlike a phone which you can program multiple alarm times at once. But really, it’s a small price to pay for a more peaceful bedroom.

(He also comes in a few different colors, which is always nice!)

 

this week i’m thankful for

July 13th, 2012   |   Life

There are lots of things to be thankful for this week. The first one being that MML is back! The site was randomly down yesterday. But thankfully, it’s all straightened out now.

In addition, Mr. Livley’s parents gifted us their Prius as they upgraded to a newer model(!). Since we don’t have a car (I haven’t had one since high school), we are feeling very thankful.

And at Jess LC we’ve been shooting our newest collection’s lookbook to debut next week and preparing for our Pop Up Shop next Tuesday and Wednesday.

Also, despite the never-ending juggle between business consulting, Jess LC, and MML during my workdays, I even landed myself on that patio to do nothing one evening as well. Major victory.

Though the nothingness has been extremely helpful, I’ve also noticed the power that checking my email only three times each workday can have. I feel calmer, more productive, and happier when I stick to this plan. However, I’ll be honest and say that I’ve slid out of the strictness that I held to this intention in the beginning of this summer and I’m paying the price. I really want to recommit to this intention, so I’m sharing it here with you. Next week I’ll report back on how I’m doing.

Have a great weekend and thank you for reading MML!

 

Good morning, everyone! Caitlin here, and I’m back once again with today’s Design Your Life Interview.

You know this lovely lady as the blogger behind Breakfast at Toast, co-founder and editor of that little website for women that people can’t stop talking about (The Everygirl), and loving mother to Buddy (the rescue pup that is always popping up on your instagram feed). I’m so glad that she carved a little time into her constantly busy schedule to share her intentions with us today, and I know you will be too.

DESIGN YOUR LIFE: Danielle of Breakfast at Toast and The Everygirl

It has never been a secret that prior to moving to Chicago I was living at my mom’s house in LA because I couldn’t afford an apartment and a car, was in a relationship that wasn’t moving forward, and had grown apart from most of my friends. I was so unhappy. I shared my story here, but long story short, I decided t o start over in Chicago. I woke up in tears for a week or two before the move and was terrified of making such a big change, but it was the best thing I ever did. I have since started a new business (The Everygirl), have made lots of wonderful friends, and I’ve even had time to figure out who I am and what I want out of life.

One night in January 2011, I found myself sitting in Alaina Kaczmarski’s living room with Alaina and Jess (Constable). The concept of The Everygirl was brought up, but it was not until Alaina and I had our first meeting In August 2011 that things started happening. The mission was clear for both of us, but figuring out the design, name, content, and how the site would run wasn’t easy! I have never put so much of myself into anything, but it has been so worth working late nights and weekends. I have met some amazing women, made a new best friend, and am behind a site that is inspiring girls everyday.

I used to spend way too much time working (and I still do), but I have been much better about giving myself some down time. Delegating (to our interns) and asking for help have done wonders for my mental health. And taking time to relax/unwind on the weekends has changed my life. Everyone needs a little down time.

Make what you love a part of your daily life. I enjoy decorating my apartment, photography, and pretty much any aspect of design. If there is something you’re interested in, find a way to make it a part of your life.

Being healthy is very important to me. I’ve tried it all (boxing, yoga, spinning, plain old cardio, rowing, etc.). Seven weeks ago, I started CrossFit and I have never felt better. Having an outlet where I am able to take an hour to do something for me, connect with great people, and feel better about myself is so crucial for my physical and mental health.

Appreciate the small things. It is the little things (puppies, someone saying hello on the street, living in a beautiful city, good friends, etc. that make life worth living. It is so easy to focus on the negative, but as cheesy as this may sound, taking time to look at the kindness and beauty that surrounds you will do wonders for your soul.

First photo by Stoffer Photography. All other photos by Danielle Moss.

In this week’s WIKW email I’ll be sharing my honest take on a thought-provoking subscriber question. Cara asked, how do you determine what is a good business idea vs. what is a flop?

If you’d like to get the email, simply sign up by clicking on the image below. This email list is also where I announce upcoming Workshops and other BWI updates.

(If you have signed up for the BWI newsletter, you will automatically get this series.)

nothing is something

July 9th, 2012   |   LifeThink About It

 

After a few weeks of feeling my mental peace shaken (a bit of smurgging had resurfaced), I was feeling pretty insecure and low this weekend.

While I usually spent time with Mr. Lively instead of dealing with the negative self-talk head on, I found myself alone yesterday as Mr. Lively spent the day with his friend.

At first I thought it might be good for me to do some worry flashcards to get all my ego-y thoughts down on paper and systematically de-mystify them. But instead, on a whim, I ended up grabbing some books and a beach towel and sat on a beach chair on my apartment building’s roof-deck.

As I reclined and opened the book with the quiet white noise of the city around me and the branches swaying, I felt instantly more peaceful. I had no where to be, no one to talk to, nothing pressing to think about.

I started to re-read the second half of The Seven Habits (again), my mind quieted down. It rested. The sticky tangle of negative thoughts evaporated as I sat on that patio, away from my routine.

Eventually I did some meditation and prayer too. That’s when my mind really melted.

Though I like to think that I have a strong sense of balance in my life, I came to understand yesterday afternoon that just because I don’t work a million hours a week or check my email often doesn’t automatically mean that I’m really relaxed or balanced.

I need to make Doing Nothing a high priority for my well-being to truly flourish. For me, that doesn’t mean sitting and watching tv or even reading blogs. To me it now means going somewhere quiet and doing something quiet. 

I need to be still. 

I need to be still much more often than I am now.

So to make this intention a habit, I created a little Nothing Bag, to encourage me to go back on that patio multiple times a week.

Now all I need to do is grab that pre-packed bag from my closet,

and head down to the patio. No other prep required.

The wonderful thing about a Nothing Bag is that it can be used anywhere, anytime. No patio is needed, just a quiet space and the intention to be still.

 

this week i’m thankful for

July 6th, 2012   |   Life

This week I’m thankful for so much! After a very fun shopping trip with Cathy last Friday and the celebrations on the Fourth, it’s been a whirlwind of fireworks, swimming in Lake Michigan, and heat. I’ve never been more thankful for air conditioning in my life (though it sometimes doesn’t work that much, the little that it does, I very much appreciate).

I also received an exciting piece of mail: The new Chicago Luxe Magazine with a little feature about myself and my favorite things and Chicago destinations.

At first I didn’t really think that the water color, though adorable, really looked like me. I’m not usually that pulled together and I don’t have killer heels like that.

But then I realized that the very next day after getting the magazine, I wore this:

Coincident? I’m honestly not sure. It wasn’t planned at all, so at most it was subconscious. But either way, I’ll take it.

Have a great weekend and thank you so much for reading MML this week! Stay cool!

 

middle thankful for photo by

 

This week I’m over on The Everygirl sharing what I’ve learned about being in a healthy and real relationship. In order to push past crazy Pinterest-esque expectations of what finding my Prince Charming would feel like, I did a lot of spiritual work in the past year. During the process, I discovered three truths about positive relationships I never truly understood before.

I hope you enjoy!

 

photo via and via
Happy Fourth of July, everyone! It’s Caitlin again, and I’m back with a familiar face for today’s DESIGN YOUR LIFE interview: the wonderful and talented Maggie of Maggie Rose Interiors. A little while back, Maggie was a dream reporter here on MML, chronicling the launch of her interior decorating business in Seattle, so I thought it would be fun to check back in and have her share her intentions today. Hope you all enjoy! Have a safe holiday!
As an entrepreneur, it’s easy to feel at though I must be constantly working in order to be successful. But whenever I get into that cycle, I end up frazzled, forgetful, stressed, and I don’t do my best work. I take most evenings off, which means I don’t schedule meetings for that time, I don’t blog, I don’t reply to emails. Of course, some evenings end up being work evenings, but I try to make them the exception. On weekends, I try to make one day a get-out-of-the-apartment day and get away from the computer and spend time with friends or Ryan. During the week, I don’t hesitate to schedule coffee or lunch dates with girlfriends (some of whom are also entrepreneurs, others have wacky work schedules). After a morning of slogging through email or getting frustrated with a floor plan, a break with a good friend, fresh air, and good food are often fuel for a productive afternoon!
Ryan and I have been a couple for six and a half years and have lived together for three years. It could be easy to take him for granted but I try hard not to do that. Of course I’m not the perfect girlfriend – I whine, and I get crabby, the apartment gets (and stays) messy, and he sees me in pjs during daylight hours more that I care to admit. But I like to spend time doing things that I think he’ll appreciate. I cook dinner most weeknights even though I don’t really like to cook. I like to put his laundry away. I ask him about his work. I send him pictures and links throughout the day that I think he’d enjoy. We hug and kiss and say “I love you” multiple times a day. I try to let him know that I support what he wants to do career-wise and life-wise. I make it a point to not bad-mouth him to anyone, ever. I’m never going to be perfect at any of these things (he’s reading this I’m sure saying, “There are unfolded clothes in the bedroom right now!”, but it’s something I’m always working on because I cherish him and want him to feel loved the way I do.
This is something that I feel is currently lacking in my life – a healthy attitude toward food and exercise. I have a major sweet tooth, and a taste for cheese. I’ve put on weight that I’m not comfortable with (I don’t feel like ME, you know?) but I am not a good dieter. Diets make me feel deprived! The few times I’ve managed to lose weight with a diet I always gain it back. I think the key for me is moderation. Eating cake and cheese but just LESS. More fruits and veggies. More water. Smaller portions of pasta. And the real challenge – adding exercise. I’ve never been athletic and I hate running. But I’ve enjoyed some gym machines and I’ve enjoyed yoga and (very non-competitive) tennis. So I’ve decided that I’m going to suck it up and join a cheap basic gym near us that I can walk to, and schedule time to exercise in my planner. I’m tired of feeling like the image of who I am doesn’t match the physical reality, and I miss a lot of my cute clothes (yes, I have skinny jeans and they will be my marker for getting back to my old self). But I want this to be a LIFESTYLE, not a diet, not an overnight change. Eating better and being fit are things that I want to become habit.
I’m a timid person. I’m shy, I worry. I’m mostly risk-adverse. But I’m learning to take chances. The good things in life come from stepping outside my comfort zone – I met Ryan when a friend of mine made it impossible for me to say no to a trip to Canada with a bunch of people I didn’t know (something I definitely would not have done). I started a blog. I quit my day job! From small risks (emailing a magazine editor with a story idea) to large risks (getting married, moving to a new city!) I want to embrace change and the unknown. Yes, bad things might happen, but the alternative is staying stagnant, never accomplishing anything, and settling only for what is offered to me? No thanks. And when I do take a chance, I celebrate no matter what the outcome. Even just stretching my comfort zone is worthy of a celebratory manicure.
I don’t like to admit it, but I’m pretty impatient. I am always looking ahead to the future. Once I joked that I think I was born as a 35 year old soul and have just been waiting to catch up to myself. But instead of enjoying the “future” once I get there, I’m already looking ahead to the next thing. I’ve made a point recently to try to slow down and be present in the joy of the NOW. The easiest way for me to do this is to pay attention to details and simple moments. The smell of coffee brewing. The sound of waves rolling in from the ocean. My cat Thisbe purring. Holding hands with Ryan. Zeroing in on the little things helps me to realize how wonderful every day is and how much I really do enjoy my life. And the more I can do that, the more I think my other intentions will start to fall into place too.

Tomorrow brings the mid-week… and along with the Fourth of July there will be a new Wish I Knew Wednesday email!

This month I’m answering Wish I Knew Wednesday email subscriber questions. Starting with Monika’s about sales reps and getting into stores. So if you wanna find out how I did it, please subscribe!

If you’d like to get the email, simply sign up by clicking on the image below. This email list is also where I announce upcoming Workshops and other BWI updates.

(If you have signed up for the BWI newsletter, you will automatically get this series.)

 

download full-size white wallpaper here

This July I’ve got a brand new free down-loadable wallpaper for you! This one hits close to home for me. As so many exciting things are happening this July, August, September, October, November, and December…. I gotta live in my now house and life instead of wishing away the weeks until the next fun thing happens.

So when I stumbled upon this quote by Jackson Kiddard on TDL about patience and the journey, I knew it was something worth looking at each day this July.

download full-size flower wallpaper here

And by popular request, I made an image version of the quote as well.

Enjoy!

 

Today I’d like to introduce one of MML’s newest sponsors, Jada, of the touching and heartfelt blog, Minestrone Soup for the Teenage Soul. Below you will find her honest and sincere account of love that I am sure many can relate to at one point or another in their lives.

Jada, thank you for sharing yourself with us today.

(You can find and follow Jada here.)

 

Modern Love Essay, Nora Ephron & Infidelity

When my sister told me that Nora Ephron passed away, I couldn’t help but immediately look up You’ve Got Mail”on Netflix. I was incredibly sadden to hear about her death. Nora Ephron was such an inspiring and intelligent woman, where her talent and passion was clearly visible in her films and writing. She always seemed to enlighten the young and old souls of women, with her heartwarming movies about love and friendship.

I remembered watching “You’ve Got Mail” on a Saturday night in my dorm room, stuffing my face with cookie dough ice cream and crying over a cross country runner who had broken my heart. After “You’ve Got Mail”, I proceeded to watch more  Nora Ephron films like “Sleepless in Seattle” and “When Harry Met Sally.” A little more ice cream was consumed too.

The boy that broke my heart was tall, had a few tattoos, a love for independent films, and a charming way with his words. My heart was in a vulnerable stage, where I knew I was falling for the wrong guy. I just wanted to not want him. He was bad news.

I cried over this boy. My heart ached. I felt hopeless. Watching three romantic comedies didn’t really help at all. I wanted to be Meg Ryan, live in New York, own an independent bookstore, and fall in love.

In the end, I knew I was only doing harm to myself and him. His words were almost manipulative and charming at the same time. He was hurting a lot of people, especially me. I never knew when he was telling the truth or a lie. He didn’t have any respect for himself, where he just constantly had no care for what he was doing.

My American literature professor from spring semester mentioned Sylvia Plath’s relationship with Ted Hughes, and how they had an unbelievably complicated and unhealthy relationship. I hated everything about it. It lingered in my mind as I was with him. I only thought of myself as Rachel from “Something Borrowed,” where all she wanted was to be loved. Or was it just the false attention that I was receiving?

But I thought to myself, no. Don’t be selfish. Don’t be the boy that is causing this pain to you. I didn’t want any of that. It was all taboo, and I ran away from it immediately before anything ever happen. I was in a vulnerable stage, where someone had severely broken my heart before to make me act this stupidly. I didn’t want to cause the same pain that I felt before.

Nora Ephron said, “It’s always hard to remember love – years pass and you say to yourself, Was I really in love, or was I just kidding myself? Was I really in love, or was I just pretending he was the man of my dreams? Was I really in love, or was I just desperate?” I felt a strong affection towards him. I swooned. I fell real hard, but it was most certainly not love.

I didn’t want complications. Just love. Good, faithful, love. The past has failed me with bringing unfaithful love in my life, but I can’t wait to find it with someone who will bring me the right kind of love. That sweet, simple, love. As good as sitting on a park bench in Central Park, and reading “Pride and Prejudice”  kinda love.

 

the daily love

July 2nd, 2012   |   Life

Last Friday I watched the video above and was struck by the spiritual wisdom and energy of Mastin Kip. It’s a great interview. Though it’s thirty minutes long, it’s worth every minute.

I’ve also been diving into Mastin’s mega-blog, The Daily Love and I’m really loving it so far.

So if you have a chance today, I suggest checking Mastin and TDL out!

 

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