Simplifying Life + Blog Rebrand to Come

rebrand and simplify

I’m here! I’m alive. I’m not planning on going anywhere. Promise.

March always seems to knock me flat onto my behind, as stated in this post. Typically, my rebound rate is roughly three days and then I’m back to my goofy, upbeat self. This year, I think I took on too much too fast, and I needed to clear my head and regain focus before I could continue with any of it. I spent the weekend of May 3rd at my best friend’s wedding in a tiny town in rural Illinois. And it was perfect, for at least 20 reasons.

Hilariously enough, this tiny country town where I spent the weekend is really only an hour from my house. But being in a simple place where life just isn’t as fast-paced and pressurized made me realize just how much strain I was feeling and how relieving it felt to let it go.

I’m reinventing.

Or really, just hoping to land closer to home this time. I feel like what I was doing here is not really what I want to be doing, or at least not the way I want to do it. I don’t want long, complicated hours of blog post editing. I want simple. I want quick, easy ways to share myself and my ideas and vision with the world. I want to document my life for myself, for my kids, for anyone else who wants to read it. I want to work, but I don’t want to stuff my wild self into a blah 9-5 (or similarly long hours) type of job. That’s the reason I never pursued a full-time job outside home in the first place. I have got to find a way to make this work on terms that fit into my lifestyle. I have got to find ways to reach my goals without stifling the part of me that doesn’t want to be boxed in!

It’s hard knowing where to start as a blogger/designer/hopeful-artist in a niche that is already, frankly, oversaturated. My opinion is that if I can’t contribute anything new or useful to the conversation, I’m going to stay out of it. Good ideas don’t need to be said five different ways by fifty different people.

I really should just accept, once and for all, that I am unconventional and not usually completely understood, that I prefer to lead and not follow, that I am bold and sometimes loud, and sometimes it offends. It’s because I like to push people out of their comfort zones to get to the heart of who they are and to better understand and connect. Some people don’t want their buttons pushed; they’d prefer to stay nestled deep in their cozy box of unexamined living.

I call those people boring.

I find that you can’t have a breakthrough without a bit of tension first. I love discovering more about people, and you can’t get close without asking those uncomfortable questions, without poking people a bit to test their limits and see what’s really underneath. During a conversation with two male friends at a party several months ago, the topic landed on one man’s love life (or lack thereof) and as usual, I started playing therapist, to get to the truth behind why it had been stagnant for so long. With a couple pushy thought-provoking questions, the man’s walls crumbled right before my eyes, and what came pouring out was pure emotion, things that had probably been unsaid for a long time.

The other man said something like, “Wow, you are breaking him wide open!” And he was right. A new form of respect for one another was gained that night, the kind of respect that comes from seeing those hidden vulnerabilities in a person. It’s the kind of connection that can’t be forged without getting your hands a bit messy. And I’d like to think that perhaps that first man is more on his way to getting to where he wants to be, having now been willing to admit these things that were standing in his way.

It’s what I do. I like to connect, not on a superficial level, but on a level that leaves everyone changed for the better. My goal is to grow in knowledge and as a person, and I want to help others achieve that, too. It’s not comfortable. Sometimes there are tinges of pain before the growth. But I cannot do small talk. It’s either get in deep, or don’t get in at all.

I just can’t handle the feeling of doing something halfheartedly. A firecracker like me simply is not cut out for feeling things only halfway.

I'll be updating my branding, blog design, and overall aesthetic in the weeks to come. For now, it's enough for me to know that the change has taken place and is still actively happening. Behind the scenes for now, soon everywhere else.

Look out, world. I’m back.

love, elizabeth

The Heart of Lilibelle Marie: What I Am + What I'm Not

As a newer blogger, I still feel myself struggling to find my voice at times, and to create a cohesive style so that my content and overall message are consistent. I don’t yet know what this blog will turn into—mommy blogging with a side of beauty/fashion? DIY with a bit of lifestyle thrown in? Design focus? Right now, it’s sort of a mashup of all those things—all interests of mine, things I could probably write about with some degree of authority. But I have no idea what shape this blog will start to take as I find more solid footing with it, or what the true focus will end up being.

But I do know who I am at my core, and what I’m about. I’m well aware of the complaints that are out there about other blogs who maybe have lost a bit of their essence as they’ve become successful and able to profit from their blogs. And while I know I can’t please everyone (nor would I want to), it’s been invaluable to look at other bloggers and pick up a few things I want to do—or do NOT want to do. Whether this blog ever becomes anything profitable or highly visible, I don’t want the heart of it all to change. I don’t ever want to compromise the things I believe, no matter what happens in the future.

1. I do not believe in one-size-fits-all style.

The absolute last thing I want to be is cookie cutter. I’m sure we can all think of a few blogs who closely resemble one another, right down to the identical shoes and bags. It’s as though one person decides what the items-of-the-year will be, and everyone else simply buys those same items and wears them in similar ways so they can appeal to the same fanbase.

I’m not saying that I don’t hop on certain trends (love the full skirt trend), or that I don’t shop at some of the same stores. (I love J.Crew and Kate Spade, which happen to be very popular at the moment.) But what I am saying is that I don’t want to recreate outfits or photography style or home décor that others have already used. I want to do this thing my own way, not follow someone else’s.

2. I do not believe in flashing status items to gain style points.

This goes hand in hand with #1. I do not believe in buying the $2000 “it bag” of the season so I can wear it around and try to solidify myself as stylish. That’s not style; that’s buying an expensive on-trend item and hoping the allure and beauty of that piece transfers to you. Anyone can take their money and do this.

I believe that style should be accessible. I do wear designer or higher-end items a fair bit (bags, shoes, and jeans in particular), but I buy designer in ways that are more realistic for most women. Style trumps label any day, and I frequently shop at places like Target and Goodwill for this reason. My taste is fun and pretty, but attainable.

3. I believe in being honest and REAL.

This means you will only see me photographed in pieces I’m actually wearing. You will only hear me talking about products I use and love. I don’t want to get to the point of “staging” my looks for pictures. I love heels, but let’s be honest—with two kids, I am probably wearing flats at least five days out of the week.

I will never “sell out” for a paycheck, because to be frank, keeping this blog true to ME is more important than profit, and I don’t need the money anyway. I just want to share the things I love and connect with those who share common ground with me.

4. I welcome all opinions.

Make no mistake, this is a place of positivity and I will not tolerate pointless negativity or rudeness. But that doesn’t mean we have to agree about everything, or that I’m looking for constant praise without question. This is also a place of HONESTY. I would hate to think that there is anything my readers and friends could say behind my back that they wouldn’t feel comfortable saying to my face. I am really easy to get along with, I promise.

I am not one of those women who will censor comments in order to maintain a certain image. If you have a differing opinion, or if you have input about what you like/don’t like about my blog, I welcome those comments (or emails, if you’d rather keep it between us). I ask that you be respectful—we all know when we’re saying something to be helpful or because we feel our voice should be heard, vs. saying something just to be condescending and destructive. Use good manners, and you can say whatever you want to me. I would certainly rather hear it personally from you.

5. I am not a clique girl. Never have been and never will be.

I choose my own circle of friends. I don’t automatically like or dislike someone because of others’ opinions. And it kills me when some bloggers will only talk to or collaborate with others who have at least a certain number of followers. These women probably are/were awesome before their blog success made them feel like they have to be so choosy with their friendships!

I’m always open to friendships with anyone who clicks with me! I really don’t care how much or how little social pull someone has. If we have things in common, don’t be afraid to reach out!

That’s what I’ve got for the moment.

I do want to clarify that I don’t think there is anything wrong with big blogs or the more “aspirational lifestyle” fashion bloggers. I follow some of them and generally like them and their content. It’s just not who I am or want to try to be.

I find that it’s easy for the more-aspirational blogs to lose a bit of their humanity along the way. I think that’s sort of a given when the point is to be outside of most people’s realm of what is realistically attainable. I’m not here to hide behind clothes or present a façade of, “Don’t you envy my perfect life?” I’m just documenting the random pieces of my life and things I like, and finding inspiration in other women in the process.

My life is silly and messy and sometimes not as pretty as I would like, but that’s kind of the point. I’m really just a regular girl, trying to fill my life with as much style and inspiration as possible.

love, elizabeth

Having it all + Dropping the ball

I don’t know what it is about March, but it seems to kick my butt every year and leave me feeling down, left behind, and struggling to get back on track. For weeks now, I’ve been reeling, trying to regain the sense of productivity I felt a month or two ago, back when I felt like I was on top of my game. Somewhere along the way, I dropped the ball, and I can’t seem to pick it up again and move forward with the same momentum.

As someone whose interests are numerous and varied, I often struggle with deciding where to place my focus. It can often feel like there is too much to be done, and I can’t figure out where to start. A late night helping a friend turns into sleeping in the next morning because I’m just so tired all the time and can’t seem to get it together enough to get up at 8 am every day, as I know I should. As a mom, I depend heavily on those little pockets of time in order to get things done because I do not (and will not) work a full day; my day is very segmented in order to create balance between getting stuff done and being there for my kids. An extra hour or two of sleep means morning chores that didn’t get finished, emails that didn’t get sent, or daily plans that didn’t get made. So these little tasks trickle down into the afternoon, and then I find myself suddenly looking at the clock at 3 pm, having accomplished nothing as far as actual design/blogging goes, the heart of what I consider to be my “work.” And then I get feeling guilty. Really guilty.

It would be one thing if I were choosing lots of quality time with my kids over these other things I care about, but no, they’re not getting the best me, either. When I fall behind, every area of my life takes the hit. I’m trying (and often failing) to dedicate myself enough to any one thing in order to give it my best; instead, I’m spreading myself all over the place, just trying to get caught up, and feeling like there is just not enough time for all the things I care about.

“You can do anything, but not everything.” I wish I knew where the quote originated, but it’s something I have to stop and remind myself constantly. I am going through a phase where design, something I love dearly, is taking a backseat, for reasons I can’t quite place. It’s just the way things are happening. What seems to be pushed more toward the front is blogging, and connecting with others through social media such as Instagram, and if this is what matters to me, then I should embrace it and put more of myself into them for now. These are things I care about as well, and I’m not unhappy about spending my time this way—I’m just a bit bummed that time spent on one interest always seems to come at the expense of another.

I am going to have to get super-crazy-organized again, because letting my heart decide, on a day to day basis, what I want to spend my time doing that day is just not working for my professional goals. Doing what I want to do in the moment may feel more manageable as it’s happening, but overall this method is overwhelming me and not making my heart happy.

love, elizabeth

Goodwill Haul: J.Crew, Gap, Target, + More!

In my March Obsessions post, I mentioned Goodwill and the amazing finds I've had there lately. I have become a big, big fan of shopping at Goodwill, and I am someone who probably could be described as a bit of a label snob. So whether you're an avid Goodwill shopper, haven't been to one in years, or just think it's not for you, this post is to give you an idea of the sorts of things I've found at mine and why you should be paying a visit to the Goodwill in your area! At the bottom, I've also created a list of tips for anyone hoping to find great stuff at Goodwill, based on my own experiences so far. I'm quickly becoming sort of a Goodwill expert, at least according to my friends!

Details of my trip:

I was amazed to find brand new (with tags!) and like-new high-quality, name-brand stuff at many different locations. I'm fortunate enough to have three separate locations within about 5 miles from my house, so this opens up the selection of stuff available to me. In the Chicago suburbs (where I live), there are locations all over the place, so if I'm willing to drive an extra 20-30 minutes, the options are virtually endless. Everything I'm featuring here today was purchased during the weekend of March 28-30, and I went to 7 stores in total, all within a 15 mile radius of my house. Several of these items were purchased during a 20% off sale.

The Goods:

Look at all this stuff!

For Me:
1. Navy skirt (DIYed to turn into a pencil skirt from an ankle-length) | $3.99
2. Dee&Ray peplum top | $2.39
3. Gap red gingham button-down | $3.19
4. American Eagle green striped button-down | $3.19
*5. Target white long-sleeved tee | $2.39
6. Target yellow cardigan | $4.99
*7. Target red girls skirt | $ 2.99
*8. Target black girls skirt | $2.99
9. Old Navy polka dot cardigan | $3.99
10. Target patterned shorts | $3.99
11. Gap plaid button-down | $3.99
12. J.Crew pink striped top | $3.19
Not pictured: Green H&M skirt ($3.19) and *Purple boatneck tee from Target ($1.59). Because I am a dumdum who forgot to grab these for the picture.

For Averie:
*1. Target navy girls skirt | $3.99
*2. Target turquoise pajama pants | $3.19
3. The Children's Place jeans | $2.39
4. The Children's Place jeans | $2.39
5. Eddie Bauer green button-down | $2.39
*6. Target red girls skirt | $2.39
*7. Target pink girls skirt | $2.99
*8. Target gray girls jeans | $2.39
9. J.Crew Crewcuts girls dress | $2.39
*10. Target green girls coat | $3.19

* = Brand new with tags on!
(And yes, I buy bigger kids' clothes too, if I find good deals. My kids are growing and will fit in them someday!)

Grand Total for Everything, pre-tax: $73.76!

A Few Tips on Shopping Goodwill:

1. Go often!
I've had trips where I leave with a few or no items, and others where I was loaded down with great finds. It all depends on when you go and what is in stock, especially since there is new stuff coming in every day. Goodwill doesn't keep anything in their store for longer than three weeks, so every three weeks it's a completely new store! If you have access to more than one Goodwill, go to as many as possible. Every few weeks, I like to make a day out of just hitting multiple stores in the area.

2. Find out when the best deals are!
At the stores near me, certain tag colors are marked down 50% on certain days. (These are the pieces that are nearing the end of their three weeks in the store, and at the stores here, they get marked down on their last Sunday & Monday in the store.) I think this is a pretty standard Goodwill practice. Ask at the stores near you to find out if there are special discounts on certain days.

Also, the Goodwills near me get their shipments from Target on Tuesdays. Yes, that's right--Target's clearance merchandise that doesn't sell after a given amount of time is sent to Goodwill stores and sold even cheaper. Ask your Goodwill when stores in the area such as Target drop off their merchandise. Some of those items go quickly, so it pays to know when it's coming so you can get there early!

3. Take the time to go through everything.
Some finds, like a patterned top or sweater, will catch your eye right away. Others might be hiding, so take the time and go through piece by piece, looking at both the style itself and the brand. One of the coolest things I found was a brand new (WITH TAGS) J.Crew shift dress, for $5. It was hiding in with women's tops and may not have been found at all if I hadn't been browsing the whole rack. Sadly, it was an XS and I'm more like a XXS, so it did not make it home with me. (Total first world problem, I know.) When I went back a few days later, it was already gone. Somebody found the deal of a lifetime!

4. Grab anything/everything that strikes your fancy right away! Then try it all on.
Sometimes I'm amazed that certain items are still sitting on the racks at all. If you find something interesting, even if you're not sure, pick it up right away! You don't want someone else to grab it while you're wandering the store, thinking about it.

5. Some of the best deals are the fixer-upper pieces.
One of my now-favorite skirts, a navy blue cotton pencil skirt, started out as a frumpy ankle-length, picture your middle-aged teachers in the 1990s. It fit beautifully in the waist, so I brought it home, took it in on the sides, and hemmed it. I've also found cheap pants that I turned into shorts. I'm really a pretty novice seamstress, but even those basic sewing skills open up a world of possibilities for pieces that would be perfect with a little tweaking. So even if something is a little longer or a little wider than you'd like (flared jeans, for example), those pieces are easy to transform into skinnier or more flattering pieces. Pay more attention to quality, brand, and condition of the item, and decide if a few quick alterations could make it more wearable.

What do you think of thrifting? Have you had any luck with Goodwill? What were your best finds?

love, elizabeth

March Obsessions: 5 Things That Are Making Life Awesome

Even though I’ve been counting down to spring for at least three months now, part of me still can’t believe it’s already April. Bring on spring and summer, and sunny warm weather!

Here, for your viewing pleasure and/or shopping inspiration, are a few things I discovered (or rediscovered) and loved in March.

1. Goodwill stores

This gets the #1 spot because of the simple joy it has brought me. There have been at least ten trips in the last month, and each trip has yielded some amazing finds. I’m talking name brand plaid and gingham button-down shirts for both me and Averie, J.Crew tops and dresses, super cute cardigans (some with TAGS STILL ON), several skirts (including a couple old-lady skirts which I DIYed and made into cute minis), jeans and a brand new green coat for Averie, and plenty of Target stuff with tags still on! (Did you know Target sends their clearance merch to Goodwill if it doesn’t sell after a certain amount of time? Now you do, and this is a realization that will change your life!) I’m going to do a separate write-up about all our finds and what our total was, but until then, just know that we ended up with ridiculous amounts of cute stuff, most of it brand new/never worn, and we paid no more than $50 for all of these trips combined. Being thrifty has never felt (or looked) so good.

2. Revlon Just Bitten Kissable Balm Stain

Come on, you knew this was going to make the list. I already reviewed this little gem HERE, so check that out if you want deets about it. I have to reiterate that you need these.

3. H+M gold chain bracelet

Anything gold is my lover right now, and chains have been everywhere for a few months now. H&M caught onto that trend, and for under $5, this cute bracelet (that goes with EVERYTHING) can become part of your collection, too.

4. MAC Eyeshadows: Carbon and Brown Down

I was fortunate enough to find these at a Cosmetics Company Outlet store. Carbon is MAC’s flagship black, and a shade which I obviously feel every woman should own. This one is double awesome because it was released as a jumbo size with the Year of the Snake collection last year, a genius move on the part of MAC since it’s such a popular and versatile shade. Brown Down is just a gorgeous matte chocolate brown, extremely wearable for everyday and very buildable for smokier looks as well. Both would definitely make it onto my “stranded on a desert island” list of products.

MAC Carbon + MAC Brown Down

5. Maybelline One by One mascara

This one took me by surprise. I found it on sale at Osco, and since I’m always on the hunt for mascaras which will change my life, decided to give it a try. The formula is perfect—neither flaky nor goopy, and it stays put. The individual-lash-defining power of this mascara is incredible, as you may be led to believe by the name. I make a habit of layering mascaras, and I’ve been using this as my first mascara, followed by ELF 3-in-1 on the ends to add a bit of length because I love crazy sexpot eyelashes. Really, though, this mascara nails it all on its own.

Robby approves.

There it is! What products have you been loving lately? Let me know!

love, elizabeth