right now | get in front of the camera

Here's an idea: this weekend, instead of taking pictures, give your phone or camera to someone else and have them take a picture of you. OR flip the camera around and take a "candid" selfie (like the one pictured above). OR get on Google and search how to use your camera's timer function if you don't know. However you decide to do it, just make the effort to get in front of the camera. If you're like me, you're not super comfortable taking pictures. I'm always self-conscious about them! Well, this isn't French Vogue. It's your life! Pass off the camera and document yourself living it.

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design matters | tips for creativity, part 2

Last week, I shared the first part of this post (HERE, in case you missed it!). I'm elaborating on the tips for creativity I shared on Caylee's blog a few weeks ago. I call these "tips" but really they're more like my mantras for creativity - and really life in general. 

| 4 | Learn something new

I had this listed third on my original list, but I really wanted to write about embracing imperfection last week, so here we are - learn something new at number four on my "revised" list. I love this one because it appeals to both my strengths and weaknesses. I've always enjoyed learning, studying, school, etc. But I'm actually a lot less enthusiastic about actually trying new things. I think this gets back to the perfectionism thing. Trying new things inevitably involves failure. I'm definitely not great at every new thing I attempt. But when it comes to getting creative, I believe that learning something new and actually attempting to do it can be really satisfying.

When I learn something new, I'm forced to stretch my creative muscles. This year, I've been learning to shoot manual with my DSLR (you can read about it here). I took an online course, and I've forced myself to keep my camera in the manual setting. Ugh. It's really, really hard. I'm clunky and slow behind the camera and I never used to feel that way. It's kind of a bummer. But it's also paying off in ways I didn't expect. I'm spending so much less time editing pictures in Photoshop because I'm learning how to take photos I love from the get-go. I've also realized how much I appreciate great photography. Learning this new skill is giving me a greater understanding of my strengths and weaknesses when it comes to taking photos. Rather than just doing what I've always done, I'm working to improve a skill that's important for my work and my life. And while the process is a little painful, I can already tell it's great for my creativity.

The greatest lesson I've learned from all this is to not be afraid to fail. It just doesn't matter! Better to attempt to learn something you've always wanted to try than to never make the attempt at all. You'll never know your strengths and weaknesses without being willing to engage in some level of experimentation. Creativity is actionable - it's more than just day-dreaming. Well, one of the ways I make sure I'm taking action is by learning new things. Besides, it can also just be really fun (like this!).

| 5 | Don't use anyone else's creative work as your yardstick

Comparison kills creativity. Period. A sure-fire way to make sure you won't follow-through on a project is to compare your work to someone else's. Creativity by its nature is unique to the individual or group of individuals who work on a project. My project life albums will look very different from yours, even if we use the same core kit. One thing I love about creative projects is that they're generally multi-faceted. Project life (and memory-keeping in general) involves photo selection and editing (or not), color choices, paper options, handwriting, journaling and more. Hello! That's a lot of stuff! What that means to me is that my work will not look like anyone else's. I think we can probably agree that that's a great thing. Okay, so why do I spend any time at all thinking my "stuff" isn't good enough? Because in gathering inspiration through blogs and Pinterest, I often find myself comparing my work, my photos, my skills to people who may have more time and more experience in any given area.

I really do believe that comparison can end creative endeavors. It can stop creative projects dead in their tracks or it can prevent them from ever getting off the ground. At the end of the day, who cares if my stuff isn't as amazing as someone else's? For one thing, I can't compare my beginning to someone else's middle (thanks, Andrea, for the reminder!). Additionally, I'm the only one who has to live with my creative choices. As with most things in life, they're a work-in-progress, changing as I become more skilled and as my interests shift. My early project life spreads are soooo different from what I do now! Some of those layouts make me cringe a little, but in a good way. I can see how far I've come and they always look like me, not like someone else's pages.

For further inspiration on these tips... 
- Check out Nicole's Classes to learn something new
- Watch this video on comparison if you want a little encouragement
- Read the first part of this post

Is there anything you'd add to the list? Any advice for those of us who get stuck? I'd love to hear your comments!

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packing a carry-on for three

The last time I flew with a child was a year ago. I was 8 weeks pregnant and Ben was just turning two and I had three other adults to help. Tomorrow I'm flying from Oakland to Chicago with the two boys. Ben's nearly three years old and Owen's three months. And I'm doing it alone. Insert deer-in-headlights emoticon! I'm actually pretty excited about it. I haven't been to Chicago in years, and we're spending a night in Evanston, so I'll get to show Nick and the kids around Northwestern, my college alma mater. We're spending a week on Lake Michigan with a bunch of friends, which will be awesome. The trip out there is going to be challenging, but it'll be well worth it. 

I'm carrying a double umbrella stroller, a backpack and two kids onto the plane. I want to be prepared for sure, but I don't want to go overboard. I decided to take my triathlon backpack because it's comfortable to carry, it's roomy and it has a ton of pockets and compartments. I'm not exactly sure how this works if, say, I have to go to the bathroom. I'm sure I'll figure it out! 

As of right now, here's what's in my carry-on bag:

for me
a Clif bar (for a snack) + some sour gummy worms (for morale)
an extra clean t-shirt (in case of a spit-up or blow-out situation)
fully-charged iPhone loaded up with podcasts and music
phone charger + earbuds
favorite lip balm (eos)
antibacterial wipes for cleaning armrests, seatbelts and tray tables
laptop completely shut down inside a sleeve (I'll pack the charger)
contact lens case with solution + glasses (just in case)
large ziplock bags for dirty clothes and corralling like-items

for the toddler
favorite blanket (known as "medit" in our house)
full change of clothes including extra undies
3-4 little cars and/or trains
iPad loaded up with toddler-friendly shows
kid-friendly headphones
iPad charger
sippy cup or water bottle
snacks (applesauce pouches, goldfish and fruit snacks)
crayons and a mini-notepad or coloring book
a small packet of wipes for hands and face

for the baby
Aden and Anais blanket
Ergo baby carrier
burp cloths (he's a happy spitter)
bottle, formula + bottle of water
nursing cover (just in case - still nursing, just hoping not to on the plane)
several diapers
a package of wipes for diaper changes
two extra onesies for spit-up situations
two pacifiers with clips

Am I missing anything? Please comment and let me know! Happy weekending, and safe travels this summer!

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summer reading | books

I'm spending next week on Lake Michigan and hoping to get some reading in this week. I've been picking up my Kindle a lot more this summer, so here are some of the things I've read and am planning to read.

#Girlboss / am I the last person to read this one?
Bread and Wine / love the sample on my Kindle, hoping to love the book
Still Alice / heavy, sad, hopeful, amazing. loved it.
Divergent / will be listening to this on the plane while I'm holding Owen in my lap
The March of Folly / one of my faves from my favorite historian. may read it again.
Mom, Inc. / I'm a mom and I work from home, so I'm thinking this is relevant
The Island / really anything by Elin Hilderbrand counts as a summer read
Bird by Bird / I've always loved to write, and I've always wanted to read this one on writing
Crazy Busy / read this already, but I may read it again - it's faith-based, short and sweet
The One and Only / another beach read that sounded fun

What's on your summer reading list? I'd love your recommendations!

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how I started setting meaningful goals

About eight months ago, at the end of 2013, I stumbled upon Lara Casey's blog series on setting goals. I was super-intrigued by the concept of goal-setting and making things happen, and I was ripe for the experience (more on that later). I got my hands on a set of her Powersheets and started going through them. Before setting even one goal, she has you go through a series of exercises geared toward helping you define what's most important. At first glance, I thought some of these worksheets were silly, but I filled out all of them because, really, what did I have to lose? 

I learned that the things I wanted (a great marriage, a successful business, an orderly home, less stress, more joy) all stemmed from core values I had that I hadn't really articulated. The things I wanted were goals. The reasons I wanted them were my values. After some soul-searching, some chats with my sister and Nick, some writing, and some time alone (not always easy), I have a much more clear idea of what's important to me and why it's important. 

What does this have to do with goal-setting? Well, for me, it's where setting meaningful goals started. Once I defined my core values (things like faith, relationships, peace, health, productivity, creativity, simplicity), I could begin setting goals that I was actually motivated to accomplish. 

For example:

As I mentioned before, I was ready to change some things at the end of 2013. I felt crummy, overwhelmed, down and just kind of apathetic at the end of last year. I was pregnant and exhausted. When I did things around the house, I found myself spending lots of energy "keeping score," if you know what I mean. Hello, destructive. So the big goal was to change my attitude. Fine. But why? Because my attitude was affecting my relationships with the most important people in my life. Once I articulated that, I knew there was more at stake than just how I felt on a daily basis.

Here's how I broke it down: So the big goal (or the what) was to "improve my attitude." The reason (the why) was because my attitude was negatively affecting my relationships. And the small goals (the how) would be how I could make progress toward that big goal. In this case, I began with the small goal of spending a little time alone each morning, either reading or writing or just having a cup of coffee. The days I was able to do it, I noticed a difference in how I felt throughout the day. I couldn't do it everyday, but that's okay. It started to make a difference just recognizing that I needed time alone each day. In turn, I was more patient with my family and less overwhelmed in general.

I think goal-setting is a really personal endeavor. It's personal because while our "why" may be the same (i.e. we value health) and our "what" may even be the same (i.e. focus on personal fitness), our "how" - the meat and potatoes of our goal-setting - will be different (i.e. Kelsey will be doing CrossFit everyday while I may get out for a walk a couple times a week... maybe!). 
If you're curious about this stuff (values vs. goals), there's a ton of it on the web. Here are a few specific posts, books and blogs that have been helpful for me:

Lara Casey's series on making things happen
Powersheets by Lara Casey
Jess Lively's blog plus this post on setting intentions
This book is fun and inspiring
A great read for mornings over coffee
In case you missed it: my post on setting small goals

Do you set goals? Have you thought about or noticed the connection between the goals that tend to stick and your values? 

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summer vacation style

Easy, breezy, a little boho, and very inexpensive. I'll be away for two weeks beginning this weekend, and as I packed this week, I realized there's kind of a theme happening with my summer vacation wardrobe. Most of my pre-baby clothes are still a liiiiiitle big snug, so I bought a couple of new things so I'd be comfy while on vacay, including a pair of super-soft grey skinnies that set me back $7.80 (literally - check them out). It was necessary. And cheap. What are you wearing this summer?


top photo: cut-offs (similar) | sunglasses (similar) | sandals DV by Dolce Vita | top found here
bottom photo: jeans | top found here | Timex watch | similar flip-flops here

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currently podcasting

A couple months ago I got completely hooked on podcasts after listening to Elise Blaha Cripe's new-ish podcast, Elise Gets Crafty. I use the iTunes podcast app on my phone to subscribe, download and listen to them. Here are a few of my current favorite shows and episodes:
Elise Gets Crafty / Obviously! This one's all about small business, creativity, blogging, etc. I particularly love Elise's conversations with Ann-Marie Espinoza about owning a small business. I also love episodes 10 and 16, which both introduced me to women I didn't already know and deal with topics as varied as the National Stationery Show and yoga photography. So fun.

Mom and Dad are Fighting / This is Slate's parenting podcast featuring a mom and a dad, both editors at Slate - not parents to the same kids. I really like this one. It's funny and honest. In each episode, they discuss a couple of parent-y news stories and share triumphs and failures (hilarious and relatable). I've enjoyed all the episodes, but I thought this one about the stigma of having, and being, an only child was particularly interesting.
Joy the Baker / I also recently started listening to this one and I'm completely hooked. Joy and Tracy have been doing the podcast thing for a few years now, and the two of them just chit-chat away for the entire episode. I love it. They strike me as sweet and real and fun. And hilarious. The episode with Deb from Smitten Kitchen had me rolling. Good news for summer road trips: tons of archived episodes.
The Lively Show / Jess Lively's podcast features inspiring interviews with really interesting people, many of whom are brand new to me. She "introduced" me to Liz Schneider of Sequins + Stripes (which is now a daily read for me) and I loved her interview with one of my fave design bloggers - Victoria Smith of SF Girl by Bay. 

After the Jump / This is Grace Bonney's podcast. I've read Design*Sponge for years, and it's been really cool to be able to listen to its founder's take on all kinds of things: running a business, branding, design and life in general. I love love loved the episode she did on choosing your words wisely. I find Grace to be honest, witty and knowledgeable. This is a good one.

What about you? Are you podcasting? What are your favorites?

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