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New City, New Life

March 13, 2015

Since writing about freelancing and career doubt, I started working full time for Dagher Printing. It was a great experience and I learned so much about the print industry and strengthened my skills as a graphic designer. While there, we won an American Graphic Design Award from GDUSA magazine on an octagon-shaped brochure I designed. I now understand the things that usually held me back from using a local printer, like what kind of paper stock to use and how to prepare files for die cutting and special inks. I am armed with knowledge that will help in my business and career in the future.

After a little over a year in Jacksonville it was time for us to move on again. I enjoyed our time in Jax and will truly miss being near the ocean and our family. However, it’s very important to me that we stay close to our parents and our new home is a lot closer to both sides, mine and Will’s.

We are now in the Music City, Nashville!

We’ve been here for only 2 weeks and I’m already seeing signs that we made the right choice. I feel more motivated to pursue my passions, even while searching for a full-time position. I’m starting to check more things off my 101 in 1001 list: Just last week I had the opportunity to be an extra on ABC’s “Nashville” and met some great new friends! Will loves sports and we have enjoyed going to the Predators hockey games and the SEC basketball tournament. We are attending church at Covenant Presbyterian and have found our lives enriched by the messages we hear each week. We’ve been so blessed during this short time and I can’t wait to see what’s in store for us next.

(Photo via Tracy Guarino)


Interview with Etsy Conversations Podcast

April 14, 2014

I had the pleasure of doing a second interview on the Etsy Conversations Podcast last week, this time with new host Ijeoma! She has done a wonderful job growing the podcast and I had so much fun talking with her about running an Etsy business. Head over to this post to listen.

If you haven’t heard of the podcast before, check out the other episodes too. It’s so inspiring to listen to interviews with fellow Etsy shop owners! They are always looking for new guests to have on the show. Apply here if you’re interested.


Top 10 Books I Want to Read in 2014

January 27, 2014

As of this month, I have already read 2 books this year! I read a lot of ebooks through my library and they tend to be randomly available. As a result, I usually end up with 3 books at a time that expire after 14 days. Then there are the printed books I check out at the library and on my shelves at home, so I have ADD associated with finishing them all. This year I want to finish the books I’ve started as well as read the ones that have been at the top of my list for a while. Here’s my top 10 list for this year, 5 to finish and 5 to read.

Books to Finish:

  1. The Girl Who Was on Fire: Your Favorite Authors on Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games Trilogy
  2. The Vampire Diaries: The Return: Shadow Souls by L. J. Smith
  3. Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen
  4. The Scorch Trials (Maze Runner, Book 2) by James Dashner
  5. The Power of a Praying Woman by Stormie Omartian

Books to Read:

  1. Start: Punch Fear in the Face, Escape Average and Do Work that Matters by Jon Acuff
  2. Divergent by Veronica Roth
  3. Refuse to Choose!: Use All of Your Interests, Passions, and Hobbies to Create the Life and Career of Your Dreams by Barbara Sher
  4. The Total Money Makeover: Classic Edition: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness by Dave Ramsey
  5. The Renaissance Soul: Life Design for People with Too Many Passions to Pick Just One by Margaret Lobenstine

I added a spot in the sidebar featuring the books I’m currently reading so you can follow along if you like. I’m unsure if I will start doing book reviews again – I’m more interested in reading as much as possible than writing about what I have read. You can find my past book reviews here. I’m very active on Goodreads, so you can always check my bookshelf to see what else I have read.

If you see any books on my lists that you really want my opinion on, leave a comment or shoot me an email. I may even decide to write a post in response to your questions!


Freelance Lifestyle Journey

January 15, 2014

In the last four months of 2013, I had the opportunity to start my freelance lifestyle. I was a nanny to my sweet nephew Wyatt, I became the print designer for Creative Types and designed an alumni publication for Mount Notre Dame. I started to see a lot of growth in the client side of my business, however I soon realized I had lost sight of why I wanted to start a business in the first place. I had ignored my goals with the hurry do-it-now demands on my time from others. I realize this is part of the job, but I was approaching new work with the wrong mindset. I learned a lot about time management and self-discipline, yet something was missing. Then I visited my website and discovered that I hadn’t updated since October… meaning I updated my blog more when I was a full-time employee!

Personal and family priorities have also come into play that seem more important than being my own boss. These are things that make me willing to go back to an office where I am guaranteed a paycheck every week. It is tempting to me for many reasons. It seems I could reach financial goals faster with a combination of the two – plus I would have to focus and be picky about what projects to take on. As Jon Acuff puts it in Quitter, I would get my “NOs” back, so I could focus on what I truly want my business to be. Also, I’m in a new city where I know few people other than family. The number one way I met people in Cincinnati was through my jobs and my husband’s job. I miss my Ohio friends dearly, and I want to find my people in Jax. There are some great companies here, and I feel a pull to try working for one of them. I have to remind myself that by working as a freelancer, I can pursue contract positions with them and still have some flexibility.

I’m getting mixed opinions from the people around me. Some don’t understand what I’m doing and encourage me to look for a full-time job. Others are adamant that I keep working hard on my business and it will pay off big in the long run. My own opinion changes from day to day. Among the confusing feedback, I do know one thing: I need to be more mindful about what I take on, most importantly giving myself time to grow the parts of my business I’ve been neglecting. I love working from home, but I need to be more proactive with my time. I want to focus on client work in the mornings and use the afternoon to do internal business work, personal projects, read business books, or create handmade products for my shop. If I have a slow or busy day, I can switch it up. That’s the beauty of working on my business full-time, and it would be hard to give that up.

Thoughts? Are some goals worth temporarily sacrificing your dream, or do you believe in pursuing the freelance life for as long as possible?


101 Goals in 1001 Days

October 21, 2013

I started keeping a life list as a teenager, after reading an article in Seventeen about Mandy Moore’s “60 Things I Want to Do Before I’m 30.” I’ve always been a dreamer with big, sometimes unattainable goals, but these kept me going when I was bored with small town life. Now I’m 25, and I still keep a list, though my interests have changed from “Get a spot on the cheerleading squad” and “Become a movie actress” to owning a business and getting out of debt. The monster dream goals are still there, just different. I’ve found I don’t make much progress without accountability and deadlines, so when I read Patti Murphy’s 101 Things in 1001 Days, I was inspired to create my own and share it with you!

Finish date: Friday, July 8, 2016

I figured that date out here.

  1. Write a list of 101 things
  2. Inspire someone else to write their own list – let me know if you do!
  3. Share on my blog 20 of the 101 things accomplished
  4. Sell my work in a retail store
  5. Have my art displayed in a public place of business
  6. Try 10 new restaurants // Bento Cafe, Cantina Laredo (Nov 2013), Secret Garden Cafe, zetaDaruma (Dec 2013), Copper, The Blind Rabbit, The Verandah (Jan 2014), Safe Harbor, MOJO Kitchen (Mar 2014)
  7. Get involved with the Pi Beta Phi alum club in Jacksonville // Christmas brunch (Dec 2013)
  8. Attend an Alabama Football Game Watch Party
  9. Go to a Zumba Class
  10. Design and order new business cards
  11. Plan a trip to Europe
  12. Collaborate with a brand I love // Started working for Dave Ramsey’s Live Events team (2015)
  13. Audition for an acting role // Cast as Extra on ABC’s “Nashville!” (S3:E19 & S4:E4)
  14. Find a church we love in Jacksonville
  15. Explore our new city of Jacksonville
  16. Run a 5K race each year // The Color Run Cincinnati (2013)
  17. Create a series of paintings
  18. Set up a weekly workout schedule
  19. Organize my digital photos
  20. Organize my iTunes music
  21. Complete Baby Step 2 of the Total Money Makeover, a.k.a. pay off our loans
  22. Learn to play 5 songs on my guitar
  23. Make and list 100 items in my Etsy store // currently 12
  24. List more items in my shop on Society6 
  25. Participate in The Sketchbook Project
  26. Create our wedding photo book with Blurb
  27. Take a surfing lesson
  28. Enter the Minted Design Challenge // decided this is not something I want to do, see for my reasoning. 
  29. Learn basic sewing tricks
  30. Take a Spanish course // Beginner course on
  31. Finish a painting
  32. Illustrate a children’s book
  33. Take a tennis lesson
  34. Swim with dolphins
  35. Write an article for a magazine
  36. Go white water rafting
  37. Eat macarons
  38. Attend a Dance Trance class
  39. Take a ballroom dance class
  40. Set up and decorate our new condo in Jacksonville
  41. Attend 5 craft shows as a vendor
  42. Launch a collaborative series on my blog
  43. Attend a blogging conference // Business Boutique Nashville 2015 (not blogging, but it definitely counts!)
  44. Attend Pi Beta Phi Convention in Chicago // missed 2015, couldn’t afford! Adding to next list for 2017
  45. Connect with other bloggers in my area
  46. Visit 3 new states in the US // North Carolina (2014), Texas (2016)
  47. Visit 10 new cities // Toronto and Niagara Falls, Canada (July 2014); Gainesville, FL; Charlotte, NC (2014), Dallas, TX (2016)
  48. Get professional photography done for my business
  49. Have a friend or professional take a portrait for my website
  50. Learn to take better photos
  51. Ride a hot air balloon
  52. Do yoga on the beach
  53. Start my newsletter
  54. Hire an intern or employee
  55. Have my studio or apartment published on a major blog or online magazine
  56. Publish an E-Book
  57. Visit a bar featured on Bar Rescue
  58. Make a media kit for my blog
  59. Visit 3 local breweries // Seven Bridges, Zeta Brewing Co (Jacksonville 2014),
  60. Go to a music festival
  61. Purchase a new desk(s) // Goodwill find for $20!
  62. Be able to do 40 push-ups without stopping
  63. Make 5 DIY items from Pinterest
  64. Make 10 recipes from Pinterest // 1. Crockpot Chicken and Dumplings 2. Easy Chicken Santa Fe 3. Orange Chicken Stirfry 4. Cheesy Sausage Tortellini 5. Slow Cooker Teriyaki Chicken (didn’t like) 6. Spinach and Artichoke Melts 7. Rolled Banana Snacks
  65. Collaborate with another blogger
  66. Take trapeze lessons
  67. Start Baby Step 3 of the Total Money Makeover (a.k.a. 3-6 months of emergency savings)
  68. Create a series of paintings
  69. Open a retirement account (Roth IRA or 401K)
  70. See Cirque du Soleil
  71. Buy nice beach flip-flops // early birthday gift! (April 2014)
  72. Buy and maintain live indoor plants
  73. Attend a show at fashion week
  74. Take a self defense class
  75. Take a course to improve my business
  76. Read 10 non-fiction books // Creative, Inc, The FabYOUList, The $1000 Challenge, Getting Things Done, The Renaissance Soul, #GIRLBOSS, Start: Punch Fear in the Face, Escape Average and Do Work That Matters, Heaven is for Real (2014), Lean In, The Money Answer Book (2015)
  77. Read 10 fiction books // Legends (2013), 13 Alabama Ghosts & Jeffrey, Alice in Tumblr-land, The Girl Who Was on Fire, Shadow Souls, Across the Universe, A Million Suns, Shades of Earth, Divergent, The Tail of Emily Windsnap (2014)
  78. Volunteer at an animal shelter
  79. Raise money for MDA
  80. Build a second website for a personal project // She Rates Fitness
  81. Finish a scrapbook
  82. Finish one journal or sketchbook
  83. Attend an AIGA event // Mentor Match May 2015
  84. Take outfit photos and post them on the blog
  85. Decorate and furnish our guest room / office
  86. Decorate and furnish my new workspace
  87. Buy and install curtain rods 
  88. Buy new coffee table and end tables
  89. Bake cupcakes
  90. Host a dinner party
  91. Create an organizing solution for the new pantry
  92. Save money to buy a house // Spring Hill, TN (May 2016)
  93. Plan and decorate a party for a client
  94. Design a full website for a client
  95. Design a wedding stationery suite for a client
  96. Establish a relationship with a local printer // Dagher Printing (Mar 2014)
  97. Work outside whenever possible // When I was freelancing in Jacksonville; my fave spots were the local beach Starbucks and the tiki hut picnic table at our condo.
  98. Create DIY projects for my home and take photos of the progress
  99. This one is a *Secret // Can’t tell, this goes with secret below : )
  100. This one is also a **Secret
  101. Put $10 in savings for each goal accomplished

Happy Third Anniversary, Will!

June 5, 2013

Will and I were married three years ago today! It’s hard to believe so much time has passed already! These are a couple of my favorite photos from our wedding day. I shared our wedding video last year if you want to see more!

I’m currently in Ft. Lauderdale enjoying a day off before we board our cruise in the morning, sailing to Key West and Cozumel. I can barely contain my excitement!

For Will: I’m so blessed to be married to my best friend and love of my life. We have made it this far and I can’t wait to see what’s in store for us next. I love you!

Photo by Megan Forehand Photography.


Catch Up + Vacation!

June 1, 2013

It’s been a crazy few weeks in April and May! I enjoyed my time off in April so much that I failed to take many photos for Instagram and Facebook. No sign of slowing down until next week, when I will be aboard the Carnival Victory cruise to Key West and Cozumel for our Anniversary! I’m flying into Ft. Lauderdale on Tuesday night, I’ll have a beach day while Will is at work on Wednesday, then we are going to see Fall Out Boy at Miami Beach that night! I’m loving their new album, give it a listen if you haven’t heard it yet. Our cruise leaves on Thursday and I’m hoping to relax and unwind free of internet and cell phones – but no worries, I will take photos this time!

Here is what has been going on with me:

  • Remember my baby shower moodboard that I shared a couple months back? We hosted our woodland themed baby shower in Ann Arbor, MI in April and everything turned out great! I’ve been aluding to this post for a while now, so I promise to share all details about the invitation, decor, and favors when I get back!
  • Since mom-to-be Cheryl lives in Jacksonville, we took a road trip down from Michigan to bring down all her baby gifts. It was a fun girls trip with many stops along the way, including a hiking day in Gatlinburg, TN and lunch and a quick visit with a friend in Greenville, SC! I added 2 new states to my visited list – the Carolinas! While in Jacksonville we relaxed at Ponte Vedra Spa and spent a lot of time at the beach and visiting family – it was wonderful.
  • We took our annual friends trip to the Kentucky Derby in May, which was great fun as always! Unfortunately, it rained the entire time while we were under a makeshift fort in the infield, but it made for a lot of great memories, and more reasons to drink mint juleps!
  • Last week I shared my first guest post about Alabama for Elembee’s Across the USA series, make sure to check it out!
  • I’m participating in It’s A Banner Day at Hygienic Art in New London, CT which opens today! This exhibition is put on by one of my favorite design bloggers Patti Murphy and her sister Kat. I created a banner titled “Just BE,” which you can see in the banner gallery on the website. It has 4 flags in fun colors, that read “BE Spontaneous. BE Adventurous. BE Humorous. BE Generous.” That’s a reminder that I need sometimes, so I thought it was a great theme for my submission. I wish I lived close enough to attend – how cool that something I designed is being displayed in a state I haven’t even visited yet?!
  • In the rest of my free time I’ve been doing a lot of spring cleaning and decluttering in our condo – it feels great not having as much junk and I have dropped off at least 1 bag to Goodwill each week – while avoiding going inside to collect more stuff!

I’m super pumped about my cruise, I’ll have tons more to share when I return! Hope you are having a great weekend everyone : )

(Photo source)


Name Changes

March 1, 2013

Changes, changes… the change I’m really wanting right now is for spring to arrive, and for all the trees to bloom like this photo. It snowed yesterday, then promptly melted again so it was just gloomy and wet. It looks like I’ll have to settle with virtual changes for now.

I want to thank my readers for your patience as I try to find my writing style and the purpose for this blog. After much deliberating, I finally decided to run everything under one identity. I will no longer be writing under the title Creative Seeker. Obviously, I had a problem with the name deep down, because I never got around to finishing the header design! From now on, the blog will go under the name Mare Design + Boutique to make all of my projects consistent and to simplify by maintaining one website rather than several. I’ve updated the facebook link and I will be adding new posts in the Mare Boutique fan page. If you are subscribed via feed readers you should still receive updates and going to will still direct you to the homepage. Over the next few weeks I’ll be working on updating the design and pages to reflect the new name. I’m excited for this change and I hope you will like the new look!

In addition to the new blog name, I have a few exciting things in the works:

  • My sister-in-law is expecting a baby in June! – I’m currently designing a baby shower invite and helping plan the shower in April – we’re going with a woodland animals theme and I’m looking forward to seeing it all come together!
  • I’m a featured Etsy shop owner on Etsy Conversations Podcast! I’ve been waiting for them to update the website, but you can listen to my interview on iTunes or mp3. The episode is called “Mare Boutique shopkeeper interview.”
  • Mare Boutique shop launch coming up next week – there will be a re-opening sale… more details soon.
  • Our dog Cody is being featured in the March issue of Frontgate catalog! If you get it in the mail, he’s on page 108 : )
  • Planning a trip to Jackson, Mississippi in March for my grandmother’s 90th birthday – we’ll be there a few extra days so we have some fun plans for a long weekend.
  • Writing my first guest post, can’t wait to share it with you!
  • Looking forward to a Mary Kay facial with friends this weekend! It will be cold out, so it will be a nice way to spend a Saturday afternoon indoors.

I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend! Stay warm, spring will be here soon!

Photo by Paul Istoan.


Organize in 2013

February 25, 2013

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My theme word for 2013 is Organize. This is always something I am striving for, but crammed in with all my other aspirations, it never seems to happen. This is going to be a big year, so I’ll need to be organized.

A couple of websites that I have been following for motivation and tips to get organized are FlyLady and Simplify 101. They have a lot of free advice and printables to help you on your organizing journey. I plan to focus on decluttering and organizing a different area of my home each month.

Decluttering my home is the first step to having a clear mind so I can start on other projects. I started decluttering at the beginning of January and am steadily making progress as the month of February comes to a close. Starting this month, I am participating in a 40 Bags in 40 Days challenge – more on that in the next post. So far I have made quite a dent in my clutter, so there won’t be many before and after photos, but it’s great to know that I’ve made progress.

As I remove the clutter in my home and establish routines to maintain order, I expect to find that I have more time and energy for my top 10 goals:

1. Launch Mare Design Boutique – first step is the boutique, then onward to making the rest of my business consistent
2. Improve and update this website regularly – this goes hand in hand with the above, as you will see soon enough
3. Eat healthier – continued from 2012… by trying new recipes, building a meal plan rotation, buying healthy food and actually eating it
4. Exercise regularly – continued from 2012… at home workouts, running outside when the weather is nice, and try new classes!
5. Have a clean home with only possessions that we use and love – decluttering is the only way for this to happen!
6. Find more time for creativity – I sometimes get too caught up in cleaning and maintaining my home so I need to make a point to create more for the sake of it
7. Get more sleep – continued from 2012… track how much sleep I am getting and aim for at least 8 hours a night
8. Make more time for God and church – continued from 2012… We have been going to church more this year and hope to continue it
9. Make my wedding photo book – our 3rd anniversary is in June so I want to do this before the year is up!
10. Appreciate my surroundings and take time to explore – sometimes when you have lived somewhere for a while, you forget to try new things and continue exploring your surroundings. I intend to try new restaurants and shops and discover new outdoor adventures

Your turn: Do you have a word for 2013? What have you been doing to make progress on your goals? Let me know in the comments!