Crystal Madrilejos

Design & Creative

One of the exercises that I do in my creative coaching sessions is to come up with a mantra that I repeat to myself as much as I can throughout the week. Everyday, I spend some time in the morning building intentions around that mantra and then reflect on it at the end of the day.

My mantra for my first week was: “I Know the Answer is Here.” This was based on the fact that the reason that I embarked on this creative coaching journey was because I knew I had the answers to the problems I was facing, I just needed someone to help me organize and give me tools to help me clear my head and find them.

There isn’t any formula around how I write about my intentions or reflections. At first, I found it somewhat difficult. I definitely had a few moments of, what the hell does an Intention around “I know the answer is here.” really even mean?! But sometimes, you just have to go with it. I just started writing and it came to me. Sometimes they come in the form of concrete actions other times, just a general approach to my day, or sometimes just pure rambling of almost utter nonsense. But it feels good nonetheless, to just get my thoughts out there.

A gem from this past week was my intention for the last day of the mantra “I Know the Answer is Here” and I felt a little surge of excitement coupled with a big helping of humble pie, when I wrote it – and, yes, I’m going to quote myself:

“I intend to be decisive and focused. I intend to not be overwhelmed by how things initially appear and to not feel as I’ve wasted my time or others but to see that everything is a learning process. I intend to view situations and experiences as a way of growing rather than as a reflection of my shortcoming. I intend to do what I haven’t the past few days and address issues that I’ve put off in fear. I intend to continue feeding my sense of lightness when approaching roadblocks and seeing contrary solutions to my own as ways of learning and listening. Sometimes realizing that I don’t have all the answers, is an answer in itself. I do have the answers in the sense that it is within my capacity to find the answer, but I don’t have to be the one that supplies them all them time.”

This particular intention was very centered around work, but I find that there is a lot of overlap in my approach to work and life. Which makes sense because I’m a creative in my day job, and I can’t separate that creative aspect from my personal life. But not only that, a lot of my creative coaching sessions are not only directing me in how I approach my work at my day job, but how that job itself fits into the life I’m building for the future. It’s all connected.

From here on out, I plan on sharing any Intentions and Reflections in this space. I’m sure you probably don’t care about my intentions to clean the bathroom sink, so I’ll try and spare you some of those mundane details!

{Photo I took of Q + E in our garden, taken this summer}


A little while back I read, “Manage Your Day-To-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus & Sharpen Your Creative Mind” put out by 99U and have been trying to implement some of the things I learned. Here are few thoughts and ideas that have resonated with me and the ways I’ve tried to adjust:

1. Routines helps us make time to be creative by “setting expectations about availability, aligning our workflow with our energy levels, and getting our minds into a regular rhythm of creating.”

Now that the kids are getting a little bit older and a little more set into their own routines, it’s getting a tiny bit easier to squeeze in my own projects. It’s pretty much guaranteed that they will be asleep by 9:30pm (except last week when we were all a bit under the weather), but I’m still trying to figure out my own routine after they are in bed. The main issue being that by that point my energy levels and brain power are almost non-existent. On good nights, the most I can usually manage is yoga, which I consider a success!

In regards to my energy levels, I’ve realized that blogging at night just doesn’t work for me the majority of the time. Or doing anything that requires brain power for that matter. It takes me twice as long to formulate sentences at that point in the night than if I would just wake up early to do it, which I’m working on trying to do more often.

2. Frequency makes starting easier, keeps ideas fresh and keeps the pressure off.

This is right on the nose. I don’t know how many times I’ve had ideas that withered because I waited too long to get them down. Also, after a long break in writing, I do find it harder to come up with the right words to communicate my thoughts the way I want. This is why I have a million notebooks. I’ve also started getting my ideas into digital form as soon as I can (I’ve been using Evernote) But I still need to try and set a regular time aside to just DO.

3. “Conditions to produce one’s craft are rarely ideal, and waiting for everything to be perfect is almost always an exercise in procrastination.”

They should have just tacked on “especially when you have kids.” Conditions are never ideal when your family and kids are the sole focus of your free time. So, I try to take advantage of any bit of solo time I have. Driving to and from work is good for thinking through problems – though not very good for documenting those thoughts. (Unless you use voice memos!) A lot of projects get made during the late hours of the evening (if they don’t require too much problem solving) or early morning or squeezed in during naps on the weekends. Usually with me just standing at the kitchen counter or sitting with all my stuff sprawled across the dining room table. Gone are the days of the designated craft area and table with all my supplies readily available within reach of a curious and naughty 3-year-old!

4. Perfectionism hinders productivity.

This one was a big one for me. It also relates to the tip mentioned above. Waiting for the “perfect conditions” or avoiding projects for fear of not doing it “perfect” – this is me to a tee. Sometimes you just need to put things out there and worry less about it being “perfect” and take pride in the fact that it got done. I’ve learned to let go and just go with the flow when it comes to a lot of things but I still struggle with this daily.

All the essays in this book have great suggestions and tips – though some of them are just hard truths that most people know but don’t want to admit to themselves. For example, the fact that social media is a time suck and distraction (you don’t say?) when you are trying to create.

So, here’s to new routines and finding balance.

For more inspiration on managing your time and creativity, check out these links:

&Kathleen is co-founder of Braid Creative and specializes in coaching for creatives

Elizabeth Saunders is a entrepreneur and self-proclaimed “Time Coach”

Leo Babauta is a creator and writer who focuses on “finding simplicity in the chaos of our lives

How do you manage your day-to-day and find the balance between work, family and side-projects?


Whew! This past month has been a whirlwind. I just wanted to pop in and say “hi!” because I know I’ve been absent here lately. Work has been super busy and, as per usual, I’ve got my plate full of other fun side projects which haven’t left me with any free minutes to just sit and type. My blog RSS reader is up to over 1000 unread items because I haven’t had time to catch up on my regular reads. First world problems, I know.
The intense work days that start early and end late combined with a lack of sleep have finally caught up to me. Ellis is transitioning into going all night without nursing. She has cried for about 20 minutes somewhere around the hours of 2 or 3am for the past few nights. And Quil is in this terrible phase of only wanting to sleep in our bed and he’s an awful bed mate, forever tossing and turning and kicking. It’s been extra hard since Quil and Ellis share a room and we haven’t yet found a balance of them co-existing in that space without one waking the other. I slept horribly last night and when I did sleep I had nightmares of work projects gone awry. Ugh. So, today I felt rundown and just plain exhausted. 
So, tonight I’ve finally able to just (sort of) relax and write this post and work on a little crafty project: Wood Acorns for our Totoro-themed party this Saturday! Q turned 3-years-old last weekend but this Saturday we’re celebrating all the February/March birthdays in my family – there are five.
I found some little wood eggs at the local craft store that I stained to look like the acorns from Totoro. They still need a few finishing touches, but I’ll post finished pictures when they are done.
If you’ve never seen My Neighbor Totoro, I highly recommend it. Quil loves it, as do Andrew and I.

These are some of the treasures we’ve found while digging around the yard and playing in the creek.

Clockwise from top left: Black lump (I’m not sure what this is. We find it all the time in the yard. It’s very light.), broken glass, a shell fossil from the creek, another weird fossil, a piece of white ceramic, another fossil of coral, & a broken piece of china.

If anyone can identify what these things are, especially the black lump, it would be much appreciated!



Buckeyes + Black Walnuts + dried Tomatillo husk + broken robin’s egg + deer antler

I honestly think there is nothing more wondrous, beautiful, and inspiring than the natural world. Rereading that sentence, I realized I probably just ripped off a line from David Attenborough from the Planet Earth documentary series. But it’s true! Whenever we go on walks, Andrew, Quil and I are aways on the lookout for “treasures.” Whether, it’s rocks or feathers or interesting seed pods, we like to collect these little things and display them at home. 
For awhile now, I’ve been meaning to photograph our growing collection in hopes that they can become a regular feature on our blog, since it seems that we’re always finding something new. So, today I finally got around to photographing the first installment of our “Found Treasures.” Hope you enjoy them!

Feathers (collected between 2008 – 2012)
I don’t know what kinds of feathers these are. If anyone has any idea, I would love to know! Aren’t they beautiful?
This Calvin & Hobbes comic pretty much sums up my feelings exactly whenever we find something neat. 
Recently, a family friend and I were laughing about how she went on vacation one year and came home with a suitcase full of rocks. Andrew is slightly concerned about our upcoming vacation to the beach and the amount of shells that may find their way home with us! I’ll do my best to keep it under control.

[Instagram photo I took of things that inspire me]

With the zombie apocalypse forever on the horizon, my sister, Maria, and I have already decided on our rendezvous point if such a thing should ever occur. Obviously, we say this all in good fun. But it actually got me thinking about things… 

At night, laying in bed, I’ve been thinking: What if some sort of catastrophic event were to happen near us? What would we grab before we made our mad dash to our “rendezvous point? I’ve thought about this multiple nights in a row, always considering things like, “maybe we should grab all our shoes, because those things will wear out quick when you’re constantly on the move.” or “I should probably grab my supply of frozen breast milk just in case something were to happen to me, Andrew would be able to feed Ellis.” Finally, one night I turned to Andrew and asked him what he thought. And his answer was simply: “the kids.” Which then got me thinking more…

So with this new year upon us, and everyone high on the prospects of new beginnings and resolutions for the year to come, I’ve decided to jump on this ol’ bandwagon and make a couple of my own.

My first “resolution” is based on Andrew’s simple, honest, and sensible answer to my nonsensical question. This is the year that I really start taking a hard look at the things that matter and only accumulate/consume/surround myself with things that are useful and inspirational. I hesitate to use the term “minimal” because it doesn’t really fit me, rather I’m going to lean towards the term “meaningful.” I’m tired of thinking about things and stuff and where it goes. Or where it will go in the future. I give up on meaningless stuff!

Which leads me to my next resolution: To be more present and, ultimately, more patient. With myself, with Andrew, with the kids, with the pace of our lives, and with all those things I see on the horizon but can’t quite make out clearly. I don’t know how many times I’ve said to Andrew in the past, “I feel like we’re always waiting. When do we get to start our lives?” – to which Andrew always replies, “We already have!” And he’s right. So this year, I resolve to stop waiting.

Oh and to blog more :)

What are you resolving to do this year?

Looking at my post from the other day, I was slightly depressed by not having any new photos to post (the one I posted was old and already posted to my Instagram account…boooring.) Since getting an iPhone I’ve been extra lazy about breaking out the real camera to take photos. Bad technology! Bad, bad! Ha!

Anyhoo, this post is an update on the baby blanket that I’ve been working on for the past 3 months or so. I found The Forever Baby Blanket pattern on one of my favorite crafting/fiber/blog sites, The Purl Bee.  I just wanted something super simple that I could zone out while doing or just sit and not have to be 100% focused on some elaborate pattern. I’m also relatively new to knitting so I didn’t want to be overwhelmed when I knew that the time I had to dedicate to crafting was going to be limited.

This blanket turned out to be just what I needed. The pattern itself is really simple, but not boring. It’s a rib knit so it’s thick and squishy with a lot of texture. My color inspiration came from these blocks (minus the gold + a lighter grey):

I’m still on the fence as to whether I’m going to use black. I bought some with the intention of using it, but when I put all the colors together it seemed too bold to me. Incorporating the lighter grey helps, but we’ll see. I’m winging it for the time being.

I didn’t use any fancy yarns (which I’m slightly regretting) but my reasoning was that 1.) I wanted to see if I was committed enough to finish an entire blanket and 2.) I was unsure if my skills justified using something a bit pricier. However, part of me is glad that I didn’t splurge on this particular project. I did mess up a bunch in the beginning when I was trying to catch my knitting stride so there are definitely some imperfections. I would have been super pissed if I bought nice yarn and wasn’t completely happy with how it turned out. But now that I feel a lot more confident in my skills, I think for my future projects I won’t’ feel intimidated spending a little more on better quality materials.

I’m hoping one day to have some of Andrew’s parents Alpaca wool processed and have someone spin it into yarn for me. Now THAT, my friends, would be super fancy.


Hello! As you’ve probably noticed, I haven’t been posting that often as of late. Or maybe you haven’t noticed because you gave up on this here old blog. Ha! Either way. I don’t like to blog unless I actually have something good to post. I’m sure most of you aren’t coming here to read about the mundane details of my life. Like the fact that I WISH I had some dental floss on me right now.

But anyway, one thing that I really did want to post about was the fact that I finally jumped on the bandwagon and got a Pinterest account! Some of you may be familiar with it, some of you not. From their site:

“Pinterest lets you organize and share all the beautiful things you find on the web.”

Basically.  It’s really great and fun and slightly addicting. Now I don’t have random folders on my computer desktop labeled “I want” or “fun stuff.” Enough of that! If you want to follow me and see the things that I find, please do by clicking that button below.

Follow Me on Pinterest

There are too many awesome things out there! And if you were wondering about the “why’s” and the “how’s” of Pinterest. The lovely ladies over at Braid Creative have made a fun little video about just those things.

How To Pinterest from Braid Creative on Vimeo.

Let me know if you have an account so I can check YOU out!


We recently cleaned off our side porch (finally!) because it was starting to look like Sanford & Son out there. During the cold season it sort of becomes a catch all for anything we can’t figure out what to do with. Recycling getting out of control? Throw it on the porch! Old busted laptop taking up space? Throw it on the porch! And it doesn’t help that you can see all this junk from the street! Ugh, what must the neighbors think? I’m sure they could care less, actually.

Baby boy is an outdoor baby and being outside soothes him. We decided to make a little haven for him to play and hang out. We swept and sprayed and scrubbed then put down an outdoor rug to cozy it up a bit. He loves it! Now we just need to get some compact space saving furniture (it’s only about 6 feet wide) and we can hang out there all summer long. I went looking for porch inspiration and found some real winners. Seriously. Our porch is not nearly as big and spacious as any of these, but a girl can dream right?

Porch images via Remodalista, Coastal Living, & Pintrest 

How awesome is that porch swing/bed thing? I would love that, but I would be scared of spiders spinning webs under the pillows and blankets and such.  And I just imagine it would feel… damp, no? Spiders in your damp porch bed = when reality meets fantasy.