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How Wonderful Life is Now That Olivia’s In The World

Olivia 1


Oh my goodness, I’ve been meaning to write this post for the longest time.


Guess what?


On June 26 at 1:06pm we welcomed into the world our lil’ munchkin Olivia Larrinaga Carles. When our hearts saw her for the first time, right there n’ there, we instantly knew that life was now finally even better than our wildest dreams. Like that Armageddon song goes, “I don’t want to close my eyes, I don’t want to fall asleep, cuz I’ll miss you baby and I don’t want to miss a thing.”


She weight 7 pounds 10 ounces + measured 49 centimeters long, our little viking, leaving everyone wondering, “How the heck could such a big baby come out of such a small mama.” It must have been the late night banana milkshakes or daddy’s pasta parties, for sure. In any case, Olivia is the most darling little bundle ever. I know every mother says that, but it’s true, baby O truly is the beautifulest thing I’ve ever seen.


In this blog post I want to share with you a glimpse of what life with Olivia has been like this past month – my birth story + the challenges + the awesome parts.


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Olivia 16

Olivia 2


Birth Story

Despite my best intentions to have an all-natural labor + all that pre-natal yoga training n’ medicine ball prep work, I ended up having a C-Section. Olivia’s umbilical cord was strapped across her chest like a Miss Universe name banner (or a seat belt) + every time she wanted to come out, the cord pulled her back in.


Worried about Olivia’s safety, I made the call I never thought I’d make… to allow my doctors to interfere.


I won’t lie, it was hard letting go of the birth I had prepared for + planned. I really wanted to be one of those moms who could proudly say, “Oh yeah, I experienced every emotion of going into labor without an epidural.” I’m not.


I wasn’t even able to keep Olivia with me, kiss her, hold her, rub her tiny little chest against mine, right after she was born. I had to wait it out in the recovery room. And that made me sad. It made me feel guilty. Ashamed to share my birth story even. I wanted to feel it all, not because of any societal pressure, but because I wanted to. I couldn’t.


In the end (and these might be the hormones speaking now), I feel so incredible blessed for the opportunity to be a mom to a perfectly healthy baby girl whose lashes would even make Minnie Mouse jealous. My princess, who grew symbiotically inside my body for 40 weeks + depends on my nourishment, nothing is more sacred + profound + challenging + surprising + exhausting + tender + loving or life-giving as this evolutionary impulse. And no C-Section was able to take that away from me.


I now know that all moms, no matter the type of birth their babies end up choosing, have the hardest and yet the most rewarding job in the world. We should never feel guilty or ashamed, because we are doing our best. And that is ALWAYS enough.


Olivia 4

Olivia 3

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Some Challenges

  • C-Section Aftermath: Because of the operation, I’ve been a bit handicapped. I can’t do many of the thing a normal human being is meant to do, like bend over + take the stairs (I live in a two-story house) + pick up stuff from the floor + cook + drive + carry things, which is insane, considering I must care for a newborn, who obviously needs things that always seem to be located at the bottom drawer LOL.
  • Breastfeeding: Don’t even get me started with breastfeeding. Breastfeeding makes labor day look like child’s play. I had a dream: To breast feed my mini Tetosaurus Tex exclusively. What Google + every lactation book I read didn’t tell me was how HARD + PAINFUL this would be. Thanks to nipple creams + nursing tea + More Milk Plus capsules + H2O + moral support + hubby’s back massages + mom’s famous “Resbaladera” recipe (which I posted on my Instagram @mayicarles), I’ve been able to survive, one day at a time, without ever having to sterilize a bottle or use formula, but not without meltdowns.
  • Oh No! Spilling Milk: I have nightmares about leaking milk while showering. Dumping that milk down the drain is the most painful thing in the galaxy. Feels like I’m washing away liquid gold. Definitively tear worthy.
  • Sleep Deprivation: These days alarm clocks are a thing in the past. Now, I’ve got my very own wake up cutie pie. And she comes with a revolutionary 100% fail-proof anti-snooze system. If I’m lucky, I’m able to sleep 3 hours a day – 15 minutes here + half an hour there. Olivia sleeps just fine, for 2 hour stretches during the day + 3-4 hour stretches at night, but momma is too excited sewing Frida-style headbands + pinning baby clothes + reading about breast milk storage techniques to sleep when baby sleeps. I need to keep working on this one because I don’t think mama zombie is very sustainable.
  • Unused Furniture: Yeahhhh, so Olivia hates her crib. That can be a problem, right? If you know a good spell to fix that please dial mayicarles@gmail.com or leave a comment below. I will be forever grateful. And the crib will too, she’s feeling so unloved right now. In the meantime, the three of us will happily continue to co-sleep in our king size bed.
  • Nights are Scary:  Days, I feel like I can always manage. Oh man but when the sun is setting + the moon is rising I feel like “Winter is coming”, and hell will break lose. One night, the power went off + I swear to God I didn’t think I was going to make it. I must have breast feed Oli though her ear + put on her pajama backwards. I can’t believe I survived to tell the tale.
  • Not So Basic No More: Even the basic things like eating + showering have become a luxury affair. I can’t remember the last time I  sat down for a nice meal without being interrupted by a diaper change or the last time I had spare time to shave my legs in the shower.
  • Clock is Always Ticking: Now that Olivia is born, I feel like I have a constant mental clock running in your head. OK, I just fed the baby + laid her down, so that gives me 2 hours to grocery shop. Start the time NOW.
  • Limited Wardrobe: I was looking forward to fitting back inside my not-fat clothes after pregnancy, but now days the only outfit criteria is: Will I or will I not be able to get my boob out of my shirt successfully without spilling milk everywhere or damaging myself in the process? Looks like I’ll be wearing that one shirt I’ve got with a zipper + that other button down dress A LOT. Maybe this earns me the right to go online shopping, don’t you think?


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Olivia 19

Olivia 15

Olivia 5

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Olivia 12


On The Bright Side

  • This New Workout Rules: While my friends are busy doing an hour of spinning or Zumba, I’m here laying on my couch, watching So You Think You Can Dance + nursing. And guess who’s burning more calories? That’s right! Breastfeeding, the only weight-loss program that increases your breast size.
  • License to Eat: Through the miracle of breastfeeding, those hamburgers I’m eating are finally going to someone else’s thighs.
  • Smells Like Heaven: The house smells like baby’s bottom. What candle can do that?
  • Ready For Anything: In the event of a zombie Apocalypse, knowing I don’t have to run to the store to buy formula because all Olivia needs are my boobs makes me feel pretty darn epic!
  • I Get To Play Doll Everyday, All Day: Matching dresses with headbands is my new occupation.
  • Look At All Those Gifts My Goodness: I already knew Olivia’s aunties + friends where awesome, but seriously, the amount of gifts she’s received from all over the world is ridiculous + pretty amazing. We’re beyond grateful for all the love + thoughtfulness.
  • Seeing My Mom n’ Dad Get Promoted to Grandparent: Priceless.
  • Best Excuse: I have the best exit strategy in the world. Saying “No Thanks” to things that are not top priority right now has never been so easy + guilt-free. Not that I needed an excuse to say “I’ll pass” in the first place.
  • Look I Can Eat With Only One Hand: Cirque Du Soleil be like… holy Guacamole she’s pretty good!
  • Funny Moments: Like that one time (or more like five times) I realized I’d been walking around the house for half-an-hour with one boob hanging out. Oopsie daisies! Or that other time when hubs had to babysit Olivia for 7 minutes without supervision + when I came back Olivia had chocolate in her hand. WTF?
  • Pediatrician Check-Ins: Felt amazing to see Olivia getting weighed at the doctor’s office + gaining 2 pounds in just one month. Yeah! Look what I did! Mom’s milk power, baby! Cue cheering in my own head as I leap onto an imaginary pedestal + accept my gold medal for most powerful breast milk ever.
  • Support: Motherhood has connected me with so many moms out there. It’s a beautiful thing to compare victories + letdown times with other mothers. Makes me feel like I’m not alone. Like we’re in this, together.
  • I Love My Family: I love my family for making sure my fridge has food + my bathroom has toilet paper. I love my family for caring for Olivia while I’m brushing my teeth or publishing a new Life is Messy Bootcamp lesson. I love my family for guarding the door like Navy Seals so no unwanted guests (like people who are coughing or have dirty hands) could move pass the front line to visit Olivia. I love my family for showing me how to be a mom, not telling me, but SHOWING me. I love my family more than ever!
  • Date Nights Feel Extra Special: They say that when mom + dad are happy, baby is happy. It’s soooo true. There might be a million things changing around us since we became a party of three, but not our commitment to one another. David + I have even made a pact to go on at least one date a week. Going to the movie theater or checking out a new pizza place in town has never felt so romantic + momentous.
  • My Heart Grew BIGGER: I never knew how much I loved my husband until I saw how much he loved our baby. I truly fell even more in love with David when I saw him become a father. Watching him watch her has been the most amazing gift.
  • Magic Powers: I think of breast milk as magic. If my baby is crying + fussy + whimpering + angry + tired, or otherwise not acting like her normal happy self? Time to nurse! Boom, whole new baby. Magic.
  • Doing Nothing: Maternity leave is my fave. Can you say guilt-free Instagram time?


Olivia 11

Olivia 10

Olivia 9

Olivia 8

Olivia 7

Olivia 6

Olivia 18


Thanks for letting me share this magical moment with you. After all you’re my virtual family!


I’m not exactly sure where this new chapter will take me or the natural evolution this blog will undergo, but I’m excited to use this down time with baby Olivia to explore all the abundance that’s possible. Hopefully, you’ll wanna come along for the ride with us, because it won’t feel the same without ya’.


This is it for now.


I’ll be back (said like Terminator).



Mayi Carles

Olivia’s Nursery Reveal

Maternite 4 copy


In case you’re wondering, I’m due any day now!


How do I feel? Well, I’m alternating between crazy excitement about finally meeting baby O + crazy panic about OMG, we’re finally going to meet our little princess and they’re going to expect that we take her home and like, keep her alive n’ stuff.


Last night we went to bed at 2am picking out baby lullabies for Olivia. And David finally made his hospital bag. We’re making progress.


Speaking of progress, I’ve been working on Olivia’s nursery for a few months now. I wanted so badly to finish the room before our little girl arrives, but yesterday I realized: “This room is never gonna be COMPLETELY FINISHED” (Picture me inhaling deeply + exhaling like Drogon from Game of Thrones).


What is a recovering perfectionist to do? I decided to show you Olivia’s nursery anyways, the first of many tours, cuz done is better than perfect, right? Right? Riiiight?


If you’re a mom-to-be like me, or a newish mom who’s still shopping for baby essentials + nesting, I hope this post is somewhat helpful to you. David + I still haven’t tested things out, but after a ton of research + advice from family, close friends and readers, we feel confident Olivia will L-O-V-E her room + all the goodness hidden inside.


Hope you enjoy Olivia’s Nursery Reveal!




But first, let me show you some hideous “Before” pics of the abandoned room, which served the purpose of Room of Requirement (Harry Potter fans raise your hands up high) – a room that magically transformes itself into whatever the seeker needs in that moment in time. To use it you must walk past the area of the door three times, thinking of what you need.


For example, when my biz partner came to visit it was a guest room. Then it mutated into a home office for David. Later it morphed into a trash can… I mean a storage room.


Take a look.









Now, are you ready for the “After” shots? Come on in! No need to tippy-toe just yet, there is no sleeping baby inside just yet.


I wasn’t interested in having anything too theme-y or puke pink all over the walls, so I kept it simple with a hint of whimsical, with lots of happy creative things + personal touches made with love, some by yours truly, other by my very talented friends.






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Bear Door Decal from The Gatherer Store

Industrial Wooden Wagon Storage from Restoration Hardware Baby

Daydream Green Wallpaper by Julia Rothman from Hygge & West

You Got A Friend in Me Mixed Media Painting by Mayi Carles

Wooly Plush Rocking Animal from Restoration Hardware Baby

ABC Changer from Pottery Barn Kids.

Hampen Rug from IKEA

Whimsical Felt Mushrooms (custom made) by Felted Decorations

Red Mushroom Ultrasonic Air Humidifier from Duux

Domesticated Trinket Dish from Anthropologie

SoundLink Color Bluetooth Speaker from Bose

Pom Tassel Curtain from Anthropologie

Speckled Wood Curtain Rod from Anthropologie

Queen Bee Tieback from Anthropologie

Bobby Pin Art Print by Rifle Paper Co.

Single Ladies Art Print from United Thread

Pink Pig Art Print by Cori Dantini

Bear and the Bees Art Print by Becky Down

Olivia Fabric Letters (custom made) by my super talented friend Jenny Perez Lee

Fridusha Art Print by Mayi Carles

And Then They Became Three Art Print by Mayi Carles

Mini Felt Cactus Hoop by Mayi Carles

You Are Our Bucket List Sign by Mayi Carles

Love Tree Flag by Mayi Carles

Two Mini Paintings (still in progress) by Mayi Carles

Waiting for Olivia Photograph by Sarah Tyler

Melon Rocking Chair “borrowed” from my mom – This was THE rocker my mom used to breastfeed me! Can you believe it? I just restored + painted it.

Antique Brass Zinnia Handles from Anthropologie

Parisian Side Table from Restoration Hardware Baby

Cloud Pink Pillow from BlaBla

Knit Cotton Pouf from Restoration Hardware Baby

Sparrow Crib from Oeuf

Gold Dot Bedding by The Land of Nod

Felt Tassel Garland by Mayi Carles

Star Wars Mobile by Pink Cheeks Studio




So, how did I do? I think I did pretty good for my first time. I’m really happy with how everything is coming together. Even wrapping up this post is making me cry tears of just the most overwhelming happiness. This is truly the HAPPIEST I’ve ever been in my whole entire life.


Thank you so much for sharing this special part of my life with me. It means so much to be able to put all of this out there so publicly + receive so much kindness back. I’m so grateful for your loving comments + e-mails + gifts in the mail. I feel so blessed to have you in my life… that you’re family. And very very very soon our tribe will be PLUS ONE!!!


Who’s excited?



Mayi Carles

The Things I’ve Learned While Carrying a Little Pea Inside My Pod

Maternite 26


I was celebrating my 32th birthday when I second guessed myself before ordering a third round of mojitos. “It’s been a while since the last time I’ve used my Kotex pads in my beach bag”, I thought to myself.


The next day we were flying to Orlando, Florida to go to Halloween Horror Nights + Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival, so I did what any slightly paranoid human being would do. I took a lab pregnancy test.


It came out positive.


That’s the moment my life changed. In an instant. One minute, I was extremely excited about wine tasting + upside down roller coaster riding. The next, I could only think of one thing:


I’m going to be a mom!!!






Maternite 29


Everything else took the passenger seat.


Now I must confess, before I found out I was expecting, I knew pretty much nothing about pregnancy. I mean, only the basics – the possibility of morning sickness + the importance of belly oils to avoid stretch marks, but other than that, I was clueless. Clue. Less.


Being so close to the finish line, Olivia could pick her birthday any minute now, I wanted to share with you a few things I’ve learned about pregnancy + becoming a mom + expanding my tolerance for a lot more mess in my life and business. Whether you’re a mom-to-be + new-mom + pro-mom + mom-of-a-furry-creature-or-cactus or wish-to-be-a-mom-one-day, I think you’ll find something of value in this list. Or at the very least you’ll get a good laugh out of some of these.


Maternite 22


Here I go, the things I’ve learned while carrying a little pea inside my pod named Olivia Larrinaga Carles:


1. Being pregnant is a freaking miracle. We lost our first baby. He’s teeny tiny heart stopped beating around the 3-month ultrasound. The pain we experienced, David + I, was inexplicable. It was the first time in my life I couldn’t “fix” what had happened. And that was very hard for me. That feeling of complete impotence. When we got the news we had been given another chance to be parents, we didn’t care if we were having a girl or a boy, if we were having twins or triplets, if the baby was a Scorpio or a Gemini. Nothing mattered but our love for this new life, this MIRACLE, that was growing inside of me. We just felt so incredibly blessed. They say, babies that follow a loss come from the rainbow. I absolutely believe it now!


2. Pregnancy is the happiest reason to feel like crap. Every leg cramp + every food aversion + every sleepless night + every emotional tantrum + every ninja kick that took my breath away in the wee hours of the night… all of it feels irrelevant. I know this may sound masochistic, but I swear, these have been the happiest days of my life.


3. My patience is a limited + precious resource that I now guard with my life. These days, the little patience I have left is exclusively reserved for my family + my community + top priority projects. No guilt or shame about it either. I’m not even looking to optimize my patience or apologize for losing my cool when my buttons are pushed. I’m actually enjoying this new “I give a darn about you, if you’re not worth my energy” attitude. Try it, it’s liberating.


4. Other peoples bad moods + insults + attitude problems no longer ruin my day. It was about time, right?


5. I actually don’t like Oreos that much. I only craved Oreos when they weren’t allowed. When I found out I was pregnant, I let my internal Yedi Council guide my choices. When I removed restrictions + punishment from the equation, I was pleasantly surprised to find out I’m not the Oreo Monster I thought I was. I’m much more of a homemade carrot cake kinda girl. Big revelation.


6. Surrounding myself with people who I like + like me back is so important. Having a loving support system of crazy aunties + grannies to laugh about pregnancy symptoms or ask stupid questions, like whether or not I could take bubble baths while expecting, was the biggest blessing. Simultaneously, I divorced every relationship that cost too much effort + time + head aches + constant disillusionment to maintain. Olivia truly gave me the courage to embrace petite committees and fire every whiny + pessimistic + energy sucking vampire in my life who is dimming my glittery eyes without feeling bad about it.


7. Life is not that complicated. We complicate things by saying “yes” when what we really wanna say is “no”. I thought it would be hard to clear my calendar + stop overcommitting + make room for baby Olivia. It wasn’t. People are actually pretty cool + understanding when you tell them, “I’m flattered beyond measure that you would think of me for _________, but as you can probably tell my priorities are set on baby making right now. I apologize I can’t do this amazing project justice.”


8. Pregnancy is not 9 months, it’s closer to 10 months. I’m kind of neurotic about timing + planning, so finding out the process was an additional month was an unexpected curveball.


9. WOW I’m not completely incapacitated. Pregnancy is not synonymous with being sick. What a breakthrough! Of course I’ve had my Unnecessary Freaking Out Over Nothing Episodes post eating the entire Christmas buffet table or a big ass-burger the size of my face all to myself, but other than that, I was very happy to  find out I was able to go about my day-to-day things as usual. Although I’ve noticed I get more doors opened + everyone seems to want to help me at the grocery store. That’s been nice.


10. Watching Game of Thrones while pregnant is a terrible idea. Baaaaaad indeed.


11. Every dementor has a patronus. All of the changes that happen during pregnancy are so weird that it’s easy to assume there’s a scary new symptom + ache + pain around the corner. But the thing I found surprising is that even the toughest hiccups have remedies. For example, in my 26th week I started experiencing shortness of breath when sleeping on my back. It freaked me out. My doctor recommended adding more pillows + my auntie Aurita gave me this magical Nikken blanket. PUFFF!!! Problem solved! Just like that. I learned that there is always a charm for every curse that stand in the way. Always.


12. Some people… GOSH, are seriously annoying. People suddenly felt like it was appropriate to comment on everything, whether it was my weight + the size of my belly + my diet + even my lifestyle decisions for when Olivia is born. If I need breastfeeding tips + morning sickness tricks or any sort of advice for that matter, I’ll seek it – Google it + enroll in a course + hire a mentor + e-mail a friend or ask my mom. Thank you!


13. People who don’t give unsolicited advice are my favorite kinda of people. Seriously you guys are awesome!


14. People notion of boundaries shift when they find out you’re pregnant. Why? Strangers would randomly grab my stomach + others would over share every detail of their horrifying birth stories. It’s bizarre + I had to keep reminding myself not to take it personally.


15. If I didn’t plan for it, it didn’t happen. I was so forgetful about taking my folic acid + my prenatal vitamins until I got a 7 Day Weekly Pill Box Organizer to store my required supplements. As it turns out, just like with any other important project in life, if it’s not scheduled it doesn’t exist.


16. Having a baby belly is a lot like having Aladdin’s magical lamp, but better. I’ve asked for frozen yogurt in the middle of the day. Granted. I’ve asked for back massages with lavender oil. Granted. I’ve asked for a very specific color of turquoise napkin for my Life is Messy Kitchen Book Launch Party. Granted. I’ve asked for M&M milkshakes. Granted. I’m gonna miss this for sure.


17. Furry creatures know something was up. We have a labrador named Hagrid – Keeper of Keys and Ground of the Larrinaga Carles Headquarters. He’s the size of a jumbo jet + has the personality of an unsupervised puppy dog on sugar high. I was a little nervous when I found out I was pregnant, because he has the tendency to knock you over when he sees you coming with a frisbee. Actually, when he sees you coming, period. But even before we knew a little baby girl was coming, Hagrid strangely became so gentle with me. He stopped tackling me. He suddenly just wanted to cuddle + lick my feet. Something changed that we can’t explain, but I swear, he knew, before we did, that Olivia was coming.


18. Belly oil is my BFF. 


19. Changes are gradual. I assumed that changes to my body would happen suddenly, to the point where it would be difficult to shave my legs or get out of bed. While both of those tasks are becoming increasingly challenging, the changes have been slow. One time, when I was brushing my teeth, I noticed that I was splashing water everywhere. I thought that maybe something was wrong with the faucet, but realized it was my bump that was getting in the way LOL.


20. My choices sculpt our future. There is something about creating life + bringing that life into the world that gives you perspective. Perspective ladies + gentz. I believe our lives are not our own. We are bound to others, past + present. And with each insensible decision + every act of kindness, we give birth to our future. Which is why I’ve been making more environmentally friendly choices, like picking cloth diapers over disposables + installing bamboo flooring instead of something Made in China, and taking greater interest in impacting positive changes in order to leave our Earth a better place for my daughter.


21. As my belly grows, so does my heart. While I’ve always considered David to be sweet, I wouldn’t have necessarily labeled him as a particularly sensitive guy, before I got pregnant. But he was overwhelmingly supportive of me every step of the way + watching him whisper into my belly every morning + sing songs to Olivia (her favorite “La Espera” from Cultura Profetica) + play Deepack Chopra audiotapes on fatherhood + take an interest in the smallest details of our baby’s life, brought out a new side of him that I’m absolutely head over heals about. I didn’t think I could love him any more, but seeing him in his new role as a dad has made me realize I was wrong.


22. Babies erase your loser scripts. I’ve always been a little self-conscious about my thighs. About my spider veins. About cellulite. About how I look when I put on a bikini. Any body issues or insecurities vanished the second I found out we where gonna be a mommy. Olivia just makes those silly thoughts fly away, like clouds with the wind.


23. You really do glow. It’s not just me + my new found over-confidence. Yes moms are excited about becoming moms, but it’s more than that. As it turns out, glowing skin is a very real thing for pregnant women. While pregnant, the amount of blood in our bodies will increase by 50%. The extra blood ends up showing through the skin in many areas, particularly the cheeks. On top of this, our preggo hormones cause the oil glands to become more active, resulting in a softer, shinier appearance. The result is a noticeable glow (aka Mayi feeling like a goddess).


24. The father-to-be is also a little pregnant. You should see us at every wedding we go to. We attack that dessert table like a lion attacks his prey. You could swear we are both pregnant. And David heartburn is nothing to joke about either. Call it sympathetic pregnancy or whatever you want. It’s real And, I happen to think it’s the cutest thing ever!


25. Pinterest is dangerous. Baby clothes + nursery projects + dressing the bump… oh my! It’s already too late for me, but if you can, safe yourself. Run the other way. That place is a trap.


This mama-to-be might have missed out on the mojitos + said sayonara to sushi for nine months, but it was worth every single second of waiting for Olivia. Every. Single. Second.


What about you? What lessons did you learn while expecting? Any funny revelations or big aha moments? Leave a comment below + let me know!



Mayi Carles

The Life is Messy Kitchen Book Launch Party Video

I’m so excited to finally be able to share with you this fun little film, which will take you inside my Life is Messy Kitchen Book Launch Party. 


To watch, click play!



I’m eternally grateful to Uber Shop for hosting this messy celebration + to my ridiculously talented videographer Sarah Tyler, for immortalizing this project + bringing it back home.


And of course none of this would have been possible without you. THANK YOU for throwing your love + support behind a tiny Panamanian artist with a T-Rex dream to make this book come true. I would have burned it all down without you. You did this. I will never forget that!


There’s still time to order your copy of Life is Messy Kitchen. It ships FREE worldwide, but not for much longer!



Mayi Carles

14 Tools I Can’t Live Without (Well, Maybe I Can, But I Don’t Want To)

Mayi Carles


This is a question I get asked pretty much everyday, to share what’s inside my toolbox. Today I’m going to talk about a few of my favorite things – tools I can’t live without. Well, maybe I can live without em’, but I choose not to. 


You might be surprised to see how very little I need, actually. A few basic supplies + very simple platforms that make life a little easier.


But you know what?  At the core of it all, we are already everything. You have you. I’ve got me. Our unique abilities + talents + perspective + skills + ideas + visions + the way we use all that goodness to articulate what we are. Everything else is extra frosting.


Here’s my list of favorite frostings… I mean tools:


1. 0.5 Mechanical Pencil. Got one in my purse + one in my nightstand + one on the car + one inside my beach bag. It’s my writing tool of choice.


2. Micron Ink Pens. When accuracy + minute details + preservation count, there is no pen that stands a chance next to the unparalleled archival quality of Microns. The finer-points are great for technical outline work + the bolder ones are perfect for hand-lettering projects.


3. 8.5″ x 11″ White Paper. Fancy right? Were you expecting me to recommend a glamorous sketch book or art journal? The truth is, I tried using a tablet once + many other gadgets, but I always come back to my plain ol’ blank piece of paper. My illustrations all start there, humbly. And that’s good enough for me.


4. Giant tube of titanium white paint. I usually buy Americana (or Liquitex when it’s on sale.)


5. Of course, other colors too. I splurge on these 3 shades because they’re the ones I use most often in my Design Studio: Natural Buff + Light Portrait Pink + Foliage Green.


6. 000 Brushes. Tight, but still flexible. Natural bristle, suited for acrylics. I’ m not loyal to a brand, but I usually know how I want the brush to feel on the canvas + shop accordingly. I usually purchase 20 at a time because they lose their shape quickly, and due to the nature of my work, the moment they get messy hair, they no longer serve their purpose. To give you an idea, I used 38 brushes to complete all the Life is Messy Kitchen illustrations.


7. Plastic Paint Pallets with Paint Wells: Here’s where I pour + mix (or not mix, which is what the independent paint wells are for) my paint colors. I love the way they can be completely wiped clean at the end of the day.


8. Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day Liquid Hand Soap. Essential to clean my hands + my brushes too, believe it or not. I used to get these ugly rashes when cleaning with heavy-duty stuff like turpentine. Not anymore. Love Mrs. Meyer’s. Strong enough to remove tough messes + soft enough for my 10 little fingers. My favorite scent is Lemon Verbena.


9. Image Scanner. These days I use the Canon CanoScan LiDE 120 Color Image Scanner, Canon’s lowest-cost flatbed scanner. Lets me do high-quality image scans without paying extra for film-scanning features or photo editing software I really don’t need.


10. Life is Messy Planners. The organized system for creatives that provides “just enough” structure for your journey to take your brilliant ideas from light bulb to done without becoming a correctional facility, and “just enough” wiggle room to unleash your unique gifts + honor your most valued forms of currency, freedom + happiness. Planners are my BFF. Saved my life a couple of times already. Helped me make room for what truly matters to me + Expecto Patronus any dementor that stands in the way. No wonder it’s not just me using them, but 7 thousand other artists + creatives + innovators + small business owners. Because they were designed by someone who speaks your language… moi.


11. MadMimi. This is the e-mail marketing platform I use to send all my e-mails + stay in touch with my favorite people. It’s very intuitive + allows me to create fully customizable campaigns without making my head hurt. Above all, I’m a loyal customer because of their out-of-this-world customer service. Have never seen anything like it. They reply within minutes (if not seconds) to my needy (and sometimes frantic) e-mails, providing quick answers + solutions to my every question. Makes me wonder, maybe MadMimi is operated by minions. It’s the only explanation for their awesomeness.


12. Harvest. I used to dread invoicing, then I found Harvest. In my opinion, a simpler + much better way to work + run my business. I use Harvest for all my time tracking + billing needs. Managing clients + organizing projects + preparing invoices has never been so ridiculously easy. One of my favorite features is their seamless integration with PayPal + Stripe, making it less annoying for clients to pay with one click + freeing up my time to bake cookies. Win-win.


13. PayPal/Stripe. I use both as my payment processors. PayPal is a trusted brand + has a long history of processing payments on the web. Stripe, well, they are the hottest new payment processor on the block for handling credit card payments in a very secure way. These days, I get about 50% of my orders though PayPal + the other half from Stripe.


14. Creative Cloud. For only $40-something bucks a month, I have all the tools + assets I need to create my best work more efficiently. Creative Cloud includes all-new versions of my favorite desktop apps – including Photoshop + Illustrator. These days, when I’m not editing pictures or cleaning up my illustrations on Photoshop, I’m vectorizing my work or creating printables on Illustration.


That’s what’s on my go-to kit. Really. You will be given 10,000 options at the art supply store + the Mac store + Amazon + everywhere! My advice? Just stick to your gut + your budget + allow your creativity to take over from there.


I know it’s fun to hoard bundles of fancy brushes + expensive software. Trust me, I know. But,  you are your best asset – not the tools. Use what you have. Do what you can.


What tools can’t you live without? Any brands + platforms + hacks you’ve tried + fell in love with?


Giveaway Winner

As promised, today I’m giving away an autographed copy of Life is Messy Kitchen.


And the lucky winner is… Haydee Montemayor!!! Congratulations Haydee. You won. Yay! Please send me an e-mail with your mailing address to ship your gift immediately. So happy for you.


I will be hosting more giveaways very soon, so don’t be sad if you didn’t win, okay?



Mayi Carles