Monday Muse: Lauren Kelp

What is your background?
I grew up just outside of Chicago in a very creative family. My mother is a fine artist and my father does ornamental iron downtown, so my sister and I were always knee deep in paints and clay, scripting plays and constructing little worlds. After high school I moved to Waco, Texas for undergraduate at Baylor University where I switched my major as often as I switched my hair color (which is saying something because I went through a very serious burgundy bang phase my freshman year). After studying art in France and the Netherlands for few semesters, I moved back to Texas to graduate, met my husband, and we moved to Austin. 

In Austin, I think I did just about everything except start a band. I helped start a social media company, worked with a fabulous interior designer, helped run a socially responsible jewelry company, and taught equine therapy - it was a busy four years! We then picked up and moved to Arizona for a stint where I started LaurenKelp.com & the Tablemakers Dinner concept. We were there for about a year or so for my husbands MBA program and then packed the car again and headed home to Chicago where we've been since 2015. 

How did you begin your site and Tablemakers Dinner?
Originally, LaurenKelp.com was an interiors blog. We had just learned we had two weeks to move from Austin to Phoenix and the website was a place for me to try and carry over the prop styling business I had in Austin and stay connected through this whirlwind move and it totally turned in to this funny, little respite. We moved to Arizona so that Griffin (my husband) could attend this great international MBA program, and while he was at school, I got to befriend all of his classmates and their spouses. He was one of maybe 10 Americans in the program, so naturally I just started invited everyone over for dinners, weekend barbeques, any possible activity I could think of. It was the best dinner party company you could ask for, with guests from Chile, Costa Rica, Japan, China, Germany, you name it, and I never wanted anyone to leave so I just kept feeding them. 

We were on a graduate school budget, every piece of furniture was either from Craigslist or a hand-me-down, and yet it was one of the happiest times I can remember. Yet when I looked online for entertaining ideas or big recipes, all the entertaining inspiration I saw was gorgeous homes with stunning pools and place cards, absolutely "Pinterest worthy." I wanted to create a space that said, "who cares if you don't have place cards or matching dishes." We wanted to take the pressure off being perfect and let that messy, organic, wabi sabi community come through and be celebrated. 

What inspires the content that you post?
Man, I really wish I could tell you that I was organized and had a plan, and had this enviable editorial calendar or even a rhyme to anything that makes its way on to the website, but I absolutely can't. I think the best, and most vague, answer is that our normal, average, every day life inspired the content. 

We recently just purchased a tiny home in New Buffalo, Michigan that we are fixing up and turning into a lavender farm and so that is driving a lot of the content right now. I have terrible skin and went into a deep dark internet blackhole reading all about the toxic nonsense that is in our makeup so I freaked out, threw everything away and am slowly educating myself (and hopefully some readers) on the good, the bad, and the dishonest of natural/organic/clean beauty products. 

Truthfully, I think that blogging is kind of bizarre and so I want to make LaurenKelp.com as much of an email with old friends as I possible can. You know those friends who you haven't seen in a while and maybe they live in a different city, but there is always an email chain going. A "this is what I am reading, have you heard about this, I am obsessed with this new recipe" email that just never ends and really has no purpose other than we are busy and texting is obnoxious, so let's be 21st-century pen pals...you know, doesn't everyone have one of those? 

We love that you discuss clean beauty! What are some of your favorite products that we should be trying?
Oh man! You guys, how much time do you have? I could talk about this all day! I have terrible skin, so I am a total nut about what I put on my face, but if you are in the market for good clean makeup, Beauty Counter is the way to go. Besides that, download the Think Dirty or EWG app and go through your makeup bag and you will be shocked about what's in your products. Now, don't get me wrong, neither of those apps are perfect, but they are an introduction into the world of ingredients and once you realize your skin is your biggest organ and you are rubbing ingredients that you can't even pronounce all over said organ, you start to pay more attention. 

We are starting to do a big, "use this, not that" column on LaurenKelp.com so stay tuned for that, but if you are looking to make some quick and easy swaps, try these:
Dr. Bronners castille soap or Beauty Counters bar soap instead of your shower gel
Meow Meow Tweet has the most amazing body cream I've ever used (seriously, your skin will never be so soft. It's different than the lotion you are used to, but so much better)
Captain Blankenship has an amazing scrub that works wonders, so kiss that weird plastic ball scrub goodbye
- I am still shopping around and testing for great clean hair products, so if you know of any you love, send those my way!

We chat with a lot of women who find it difficult to take time for themselves. Focusing a lot on wellness and thoughtful living, how do you take time for yourself and focus on self care?
Taking time to care for yourself is so hard. It shouldn't be, it should be so natural and easy, but it's so terribly difficult. I think in the age of doing more, and always being plugged in and connected, and with the 24-hour news/work cycle, it is amazing that we even find time to sleep, let alone get a little down time in. Think about it, you always know where your phone is and if you don't, there is a slight panic that creeps in. It's become an appendage and for better or for worse, it's a part of you. The problem with that appendage is that it needs something from you all the time. A text, a notification, a buzz, a ding, a Facebook live video that you didn't care about at all but now you need to watch...how are you going to take a moment to just breath when something is vying for your attention constantly? 

The best way I know how to start practicing self care is to start setting up boundaries. This could mean putting your phone on Do Not Disturb mode at night (this keeps the notifications at bay without cutting you off completely if something were to happen), making a "no phone in the bedroom" rule (trust me, it might just save your relationship), or putting an end time on computer/tv time at night (we try and shut our computers and turn off the tv at around 8pm every night). All of these things are so simple, you can set a reminder for them on your phone, and I promise they are the baby steps you have been looking for. Once your phone, computer, or tv is out of the way, you can spend time reading, journaling, taking a bath, or just starting at a wall and daydreaming - it's amazing. Once you give your mind a few minutes to relax and wonder and breath without notifications swarming around you all the time, you will be amazed at how you will start to crave tech-free time. 

Ooh, I love this stuff. If you ever want to talk more about it or have questions, send me a note. There is no reason we need to be so sick, tired, and stressed and I think it's time we started giving ourselves a break and each other a pat on the back - you know?