Scary Simple Cracked Me Open

Versace

Last Monday I woke up with a Polyvore hangover.

I felt like shit, but it was time for MARKD*, and I wanted to call in to catch the last 20 minutes.

And even though my frickin’ neighbors were doing some construction and hammering, like, right on my head at this very moment in time, the poignant words of Erika Lyremark laser-beamed to the core of my being.

(I adore Erika. She’s a business coach extraordinaire, author of Think Like A Stripper, and creator of numerous coaching programs, including *MARKD, a cool but short-lived weekly call-in experiment, which Erika very swiftly shape-shifted into something else shiny and new.)

This was the fourth episode and the question put forth was “Where are you stuck?”

All of its goodness was swirling around with (my headache and) everything else I was still processing from episodes 1, 2 and 3, which I binge-listened to the day before — the first one, in particular, which was built around the notion of “scary simple.”

We were to ask ourselves, “What can you do that’s so simple it’s scary?” Something that you haven’t gotten around to doing despite the fact it’s actually super easy to do? (And why are you making it so hard?)

I couldn’t shake it. I kept thinking about feeling stuck and “scary simple,” and then I distracted myself with non-scary simple chores: I jumped in the shower, put in the laundry and emptied the dishwasher. I organized my drawers, pitched what I no longer love, cleaned out my closet and scrubbed the toilets. I prepped for my father-in-law’s (then) imminent visit, made up the guest bed, swept the front steps… and in the process of me doing all this, especially the cleaning out the closet part, I got reacquainted with an absurdly over-the-top, ostentatious yet beloved Versace-like silk top I own, with lions and tigers and circus performers, oh my!

Since I was in such a funk – and fashion always gets me out of a funk – I put it on while cleaning. I was a silky, purplish, stylish blur in a frenzy of activity, and I knew I had to write about it.

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Polyvore Procrastination

My step-daughter is hip to all the latest digital trends and has had me hooked more times than I care to mention on games, shows, you name it.

It always starts with a subtle “You should try it.” A sideways glance. The hint of a smile.

** College flashback. **

Too curious for my own good, I jump in and I give it a whirl. An hour easily passes by before I realize I haven’t showered, eaten breakfast or peeled my eyes up from beneath my MacBook Air. And, yeah, I’m late for work.

This morning it was Polyvore. I’ve known about it for ages, but its siren call hadn’t grabbed me ’til now.

Maybe it was the rainy morning and the lure of a Thanksgiving contest… plus the fact they make it so damn easy to drag-and-drop pretty pictures – lusty fashion items, overpriced tchotchkes for the seasonally-scented home, make-up, pattern overlays, typography, etc.

Like Canva, Picmonkey, and all the other up-and-coming picture-driven platforms, Polyvore takes the angst out of collage-making and boosts your ego a bit (especially if Illustrator, InDesign or Photoshop have made you wild-eyed, and grey-haired way too soon).

So yeah, “you should try it.”

All the cool kids are doing it.

Clean Eating, Messy-Style

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It’s so true. Life is messy.

And no one celebrates the chaos of it all with more exuberance and joy than Mayi Carles, “a tiny Panamanian artist with a T-Rex heart.”

Her line of “Life Is Messy” digital products is growing like gangbusters – from downloadable whimsical day planners and an app-in-the-making to a wildly successful virtual boot camp designed to whip disorganized entrepreneurs into world-class form.

The latest addition is an illustrated cookbook, stuffed with cheeky illustrations, lush photography, mouth-watering recipes, and tutorials galore – soaking, blending, meal planning and more!

Mayi has poured every ounce of her monumental heart and soul into this mostly plant-based, gluten-free cookbook. Anything but dull, it drips with decadent creativity – kinda like her “Chocolate Caramel Sauce” (page 109) or “Clean Nutella,” found on page 99, made from real hazelnuts, maple syrup, almond milk and cacao powder.

Somehow, some way – pixie dust, magic wand, superhuman awesome sauce? – Mayi has found a way to make dense nutrition a total freakin’ blast.

Tonight, I tried my luck, and ended up laughing my way to licking my plate, with the “Zucchini Fettucine” (page 193) and “Avo-Pesto” (page 195) because it was a wet and dreary San Francisco day. (And nothing says comfort like creamy vegan pasta.)

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Swoon Fest: King Kobbler

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San Francisco’s King Kobbler is soooooo swoonerific. And I can’t believe it’s taken nine years of me living here before I noticed him in all his gold lame glory!

After spotting him in the street today (and begging Dan to drop me off immediately), I rushed to buy one of his peach cobblers and was instantly dubbed “an official Kobblertron of Kobblertroplis” from the King himself.

This dude is committed to his brand! If gold lame weren’t enough, he’s added extra oomph with a yellow-gold shirt and tie, high-tops with metallic accents, neon orange shades (from the future), an overcoat with gold-gilded cape, a velvet crown, a red carpet and his very own meter-maid truck carting his handmade cobblers.

Cobblers? Because they remind him of his grandmother.

And although he was voted this year by SF Weekly as “best in probably delicious desserts,” he says, “I don’t sell desserts. I sell memories.”

Can’t beat that.

Behind The Scenes of My New Brand

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Another huge unveiling on the horizon is my redesigned brand!

I’ve been working with Shauna of We Are Branch and The Blogcademy.

And the co-creative process has been so much fun – especially the moodboard development phase, using Pinterest. The only trick with this is knowing when enough is enough and saying “ta da, that’s it!”

I think making decisions and running with them is tough in general, which is why I’ve been so stop-start with blogging and business-building, but I’ve learned so much being on the client side of the design process. It’s been a rewarding empathy exercise that I’ll definitely bring to future design projects.

Specifically, having compassion around trust, understanding the difficulty in committing, moving forward feeling both giddy with excitement and completely terrified, iterating, letting go, moving forward again, tweaking, deciding a final round, hitting confirm, and then – no looking back – preparing to launch!

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The goal of Brand New Ways is to merge my journalism past with my design consulting present, as a platform for my writing/speaking/teaching future. My site will be a live broadcast of my personal explorations and ever-evolving business offerings.

The tagline, which I love, is “Change Making and Rule Breaking” – again, something Shauna really helped me get to. I would’ve spun on and on and on with the possibilities, searching for the magical words to pinpoint my wide-ranging interests. (Impossible!)

My mission is to expose you to “brand new ways” of doing things, like seeing the world, engaging in life, relating to others, communicating, solving problems, and taking action.

My vision is to help stuck creatives and entrepreneurs break free from limitation and find new levels of awareness and creativity through playful experimentation. (Yeah, it’s a mouthful, but let’s start here and see where it goes!)

I’d absolutely love to hear your thoughts and get some feedback. How’s it look so far? Everything clear? Does it excite you to work with me? And if so… how exactly?

So much more, very soon.
Jx

Behind The Scenes of My Show

IMG_4352-750halftoneLaunch day is drawing nearer, and there’s still so much to do, but I wanted to share some behind-the-scenes shots of my brand spankin’ new show!

The gear and tech side of things was what kept me from keeping-up with podcasting when I first started a year ago. I had a collection of fabulous interviews (captured in person, at Plywood Presents) – using my handy Zoom H4N, which Dan bought for me as a “you go girl” gift – but when the time came to upload, edit, level, boost, tag, publish, write show notes and market the episodes, I fell into a crumpled mess and stopped cold.

Yes, I did release two episodes, the first with Father Gregory Boyle of Homeboy Industries, and the second with Brad Montague of Kid President. I was off to a great start…

But time passed and my show sat in iTunes, collecting dust.

So I decided a few months ago to start over with a clean slate, tighten my tech skills and update my show name. (I’ll announce all the details once I’m up in iTunes, as I’ll need your help in subscribing to the show, and writing glowing reviews, if you feel so moved.)

Here’s my new XLR Sterling condenser mic with a fancy shmancy pop filter:

New XLR mic with fancy shmancy pop filter

And my even fancier recording booth, aka bedroom closet:

My recording booth, aka bedroom closet

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Missouri Part 2: Springfield to St. Louis

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The adventure continues! (Missed Part 1? Start here.)

As I mentioned here and here, I was in Springfield, Missouri last week to catch up with my roaming yoga instructors to complete a missed module of teacher training. Outside the walls of Studio 72, my free time was limited to early morning and evening car rides back and forth from La Quinta, where I chose to rest my weary head.

It was ranked highly by customers on travel websites and the staff very sweetly made the effort to greet guests with sidewalk chalk sentiments, but I was underwhelmed by the rest of the experience: the scripted delivery at check-in (my pet peeve, vs. a free-flowing, natural exchange); unavailable water – for free, let alone to buy (only lemon- or raspberry-flavored for sale); rowdy neighbors in the middle of the night; weak coffee in the morning.

I don’t mean to sound like a nagging bore, for real. I’m sharing because I care about these things and know that a strong brand is one that leaves you feeling fabulous. On leaving La Quinta, I felt “meh.”

But everything changed the second I hit the back roads with my rental car and discovered some extraordinary sights!

First, on leaving Springfield, I passed a magnificent bike fence built by “BYK MAN.” He told me he started it a few years ago when he noticed his little daughter bursting out of the house towards the road to get the daily mail. He thought a few old bikes would be enough of a barricade to keep her safe from traffic, and over time he added more – some he found himself; some he received as gifts from the kindness of strangers.

It’s become quite the conversation starter!

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From there, I was eastbound to St. Louis, passing roadside billboards (promoting guns, god and fireworks mostly) and attractions like the Jesse James Wax Museum, a Vintage Toy Museum, and the “Route 66 Rocker,” the world’s largest!

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Swoon Fest: Baublebar Customer Service

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Okay, let’s be real. Who doesn’t love to be called gorgeous? And to be warmly invited to a party and then gifted a sweet surprise?

Baublebar is brilliant.

They’ve cleverly branded their welcome gift a (hashtag) “swatsurprise,” where SWAT stands for Service With Accessorizing Talent, an acronym for their stylist team, always eager and ready to serve up tasty combos of jewels, chains, spikes and beads – to your personal liking.

They’ve also mastered what every great burlesque dancer knows (and builds her business on): the slow reveal; the tease; the art of seduction.

Here’s what I mean: on opening my delivery this morning, I was like a kid on Christmas morning. First, the hot pink and chartreuse, the silky black bag, snazzy striped tissue, and a “Hello, gorgeous” greeting with a gold chain gift.

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Then the thoughtful “Do’s and Don’ts” for caring for my new purchase and a sticker of enthusiasm – YAY! – cheering me on, building anticipation even further (and strategically endorsing my decision to support their business). Win-win.

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And finally, the full monty. My shiny, perfect Shoshanna Amulet in Opal. Which of course I had to wear immediately and honor with an impromptu photo shoot!

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Missouri Part 1: St. Louis to Springfield

citymuseum6On my trip to the American heartland last week, I did what I always do: I seized the chance to travel as an exciting opportunity to explore!

It’s one of my absolute favorite things to do, and it’s increasingly feeling like an area of personal genius. (I always took my sense of adventure for granted and didn’t regard it as anything particularly special, but people tell me otherwise.)

So although I was headed to Missouri because of a yoga workshop in Springfield, Missouri (as part of my teacher training), I opted NOT to fly into Springfield because, in my mind, it’d limit my lay of the land. Instead, I looked for neighboring sights to see, things to do, roadside attractions to visit, weird Americana… anything that would be out of the ordinary with the potential to deliver a novel, non-touristy experience.

In doing some research, I learned about a shrine to the Black Madonna, somewhere on back country roads at the foothills of the Ozarks. Done! Decision made. I’d fly SFO-STL, stay the night at an Airbnb in St. Louis, then drive to Springfield the next morning, stopping at the shrine en route.

But first, St. Louis!

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My seat mate on the flight there said his city was well known for the iconic arch, the Cardinals sports team and Anheuser-Busch, but lesser known for City Museum, “a scrapyard playground for kids of all ages, including adult kids.”

Our plane touched down as it was getting dark and although I drove to City Museum as fast as I could, the doors had already closed. Here’s what I was able to see:

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From here, I went to Seedz, a lovely little vegetarian restaurant, and then to the Cherokee Arts District before calling it a night. (It was nice to see t-shirt shop STL-Style showing their support for the protestors in Ferguson, MO.)

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