Posts in Design
A Few of My Favorite Things + a Giveaway
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You know that feeling.

The feeling you have when you get together with a good friend with whom you've lost touch but always loved and still miss? For me, that situation evokes joy, a sense of home, and GUILT.

Here I am, walking into the coffee shop, seeing you over there. I'm smiling that awkward, so cheesy smile I get. And mostly, I just want to let you know how good it is to see. So good. And somewhere in the middle of my chest, I'm feeling the pang of guilt. :)

You might be wondering, where have I been?

For sure there were times when I wondered the same.

Since I took a leap in June 2016 to spend more time on my business and art, I have been plunging, full force in (mostly) the right direction. And I've struggled to find the just-quite-the-right words to chat about all the things without launching you into a trilogy reading experience of the not-so-important.

But first and foremost, I want to say thanks. 

It is humbling to host a blog that has the same readership whether I write posts every week or every other year!

Thank you for STILL showing up, checking on me, following my micro-blogging on Instagram. Sharing and buying from my shop, Good in Store

And mostly, being a community that has made me want to return to blogging, to sharing, to creating and to connecting.

The lovely ladies pictured below don't know it, but they are the reason I'm back here again. Collaboration is what inspired me to publish my first blog post in April 2012, and it's bringing me back. I've learned that great collaborators are a gift to your business, your art, and, well, your general happiness!! And the internet of 2017 is a different community than the internet of 2012, but the quality of people behind the blogs has not changed. So I'm back to give my readers something extra special and extra awesome.

So TEN of my pals and me have teamed up for our FAVORITE THINGS GIVEAWAY. For the next week, we'll be sharing all of our favorite things that we want to share with you for the holidays!! 

You can enter one, two, or all of the giveaways!!  For my favorite things, here's what I've included in the bundle:

  • A Take Care of One Another super soft sweatshirt
  • A 2018 desktop calendar
  • A three-pack of vinyl stickers
  • 2 placecard frames from the Heart & Home collection with art prints inside
Ready to enter for a chance to win? Follow the instructions on the Rafflecopter and then enter my friend's giveaways BELOW! Thank you so much for entering My Favorite Things giveaway! Don’t forget to stop by and visit my friends for more chances to WIN their awesome giveaways!! My Favorite Things Lovely Indeed | The Merrythought | Squirrelly Minds | Alice + Lois Delineate Your Dwelling | Pars Caeli | Design Improvised | Idle Hands Awake | Lulu the Baker | Cloudy Day Gray | Tell Love + Party
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Click around to all ten giveaways and check out their awesome offerings just like an old school blog hop! The giveaways all close next Tuesday at midnight and winners will be announced next Wednesday!!

Enjoy and good luck and thank you!

It's really good to see you. Really good.

XOXO, MJ

Going Laminate

This post is sponsored by The Home Depot.

Where have you been, friends? It's so good to see you! I'm really looking forward to catching you up on all the going-ons. . . but in the meantime, I'm hopping right back into the swing of things. 

We've been busy, busy around here re-imagining our home. Our suburban colonial was built nearly twenty years ago and though we are only the second owners, we have definitely, errr, made our mark on the place. Take for example, our carpeting. Our second floor has had the original ivory-colored carpeting in the bedrooms and hallways (thankfully not the bathrooms), and ivory it was no more. And despite our vacuuming, spotting, and shampooing, two decades of wear and tear had rendered our carpeting pretty gross. 

Thanks to the good people at The Home Depot, we were able to make a great change!! We selected a beautiful Pergo laminate flooring and installed it ourselves over a series of weekends! I am a lightweight DIY pro. I can craft with the best of them, but ripping out carpeting, pulling up staples, and laying down a floating floor was out of my comfort zone. But there's strength in numbers, and two heads are better than one, so my husband and I (maybe more him than me) set our sights on a whole new look for our entire second floor. Head over to The Home Depot blog to see our how-to and reveal!!

 With a new dog, a renewed love for houseplants, and a 20-year old carpet, I was convinced that we needed new flooring!

With a new dog, a renewed love for houseplants, and a 20-year old carpet, I was convinced that we needed new flooring!

I wanted a clean break from carpet and a fresh feel for our second floor. All of our bedrooms are on the second floor, and our kids sleep and play in their spaces so easy-to-clean was a top priority for me. With our new dog (there she is, that's Cozi!) and new plants, I wanted something durable.

I'm really happy with how the flooring has refreshed our space. 

Our master bedroom had become too much of a catch all for items no longer needed elsewhere. My first big step was a major re-organization. Once we de-cluttered and removed excess, I began to see the potential for this space. Our master has a beautiful vaulted ceiling, plenty of floor space, furniture that I love, and three large windows that brighten the room for most of the day.

 Our master bedroom got a refresh all around with new paint, fresh pillows, and new accents. It feels better than ever!

Our master bedroom got a refresh all around with new paint, fresh pillows, and new accents. It feels better than ever!

Thanks to the recommendation of designer Jeran McConnel, we also decided to repaint our room. It had been cool green shade called Rejuvenation by Sherwin Williams, and we opted for a clean Alabaster shade (also from Sherwin Williams). Alabaster is a warm white that feels like a color and not the blankness that concerned me when we first considered going to white.

We still have a gallery wall to install, and I'm creating a painting for above our bed, but I already love how our once-dated space feels like an artist's loft with the dark floors and white walls. And I am quite partial to artist's spaces.

 Today's laminate, like the beauty of Auburn Scraped Oak from Pergo, feels and looks authentic.

Today's laminate, like the beauty of Auburn Scraped Oak from Pergo, feels and looks authentic.

 I reshaped and recovered our nursery glider with this great fabric from Minted artists. Now it feels as comfortable as ever but has a graphic quality that matures it for our bedroom space.

I reshaped and recovered our nursery glider with this great fabric from Minted artists. Now it feels as comfortable as ever but has a graphic quality that matures it for our bedroom space.

We also re-imagined some furniture in our space like the baby glider. Anyone have one of those??

When our first child was on her way, we wanted one of the infamous baby gliders. Five years later, not only had the glider outlasted its purpose, but we were left with an eyesore. I can't deny that the chair is really comfortable so I attempted to repurpose the glider for the sitting area of our bedroom. I added foam to reshape the traditional lines, and I recovered the whole thing in a graphic pattern from the artists at Minted. Now, along with a floor lamp and great gold pouf, the chair makes a cozy hideaway in front of our windows. It's a lovely spot for morning prayers and journaling as well as a late night retreat for final emails or great books (like this one that I'm loving right now).

 This soft shag rug from The Home Depot grounds the room in comfort, and the translucent curtains remind me of summer even in the perma-gray of winter.

This soft shag rug from The Home Depot grounds the room in comfort, and the translucent curtains remind me of summer even in the perma-gray of winter.

Our new white shag rug grounds the room in comfort and luxury. The philodendron (which I've named Phil) is a great touch of green. I'd forgotten how much I enjoy having plants in my space.

I have more to share!! And I'm looking forward to giving you more peaks into our space. I have some projects that I think you'll love, and I'm happy to be back on the blog with you. Thanks for sticking with me and for supporting this blog and small business for so many years!!

Onward and upward - xoxo, MJ

 

 

I acknowledge that The Home Depot is partnering with me to participate in this Laminate Flooring Installation ("the Program"). As a part of the Program, I am receiving compensation in the form of products and services, for the purpose of promoting The Home Depot. All expressed opinions and experiences are my own words. My post complies with the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) Ethics Code and applicable Federal Trade Commission guidelines.

What three months away has taught me, and how we're all better for smart business decisions
 What three months away has taught me, and how we're all better for smart business decisions

What three months away has taught me, and how we're all better for smart business decisions

I set my alarm for an hour earlier.

This habit is both familiar and distant: waking before my house, in the darkness, to create or to write. More ingrained in me is the pattern of staying up past the goodnights and late shows to finish photo editing, fine tune the wording on a tutorial, or schedule social media for the following hours.

"I haven't blogged in 2016," I told inquisitive and supportive relatives this Easter. I've had compatriots, bloggers I've known in the four years since I started Pars Caeli, asking me how it feels to not blog for so long. The worn-in groove of content ideation, creation, photo styling and production, writing, editing, and strategizing communication became a habit for my creative process and my second (or third or fourth) job.

  What three months away has taught me, and how we're all better for smart business decisions

What three months away has taught me, and how we're all better for smart business decisions

What I don't want to tell you is this: for me, not blogging has meant more sleep, less short- tempered moments with the people I love, laser focus on other aspects of my creative adventure (read here my new book and expanded shop), the highest readership levels and stats I've ever had, and most impactful for me, taking on the scratchy and uncomfortable chair of the consumer. And I don't want to write that for this singular reason: starting this blog four years ago (almost to the date - happy birthday Pars Caeli!!) has gifted me a fierce and deep self knowledge. It's aslo brought into my life powerfully kind and unmistakably talented people, like the ones reading this right now and the ones that come to the forefront of your mind when you think about the type of human you want to be. Blogging has allowed me to share a body of work that never would have been created without the platform and community that we have all spent our *extra time building.

For the last three months, in the absence of sharing and promoting my own creations, I've relocated to a less familiar position as a consumer of content–from blog posts to photography to podcasts and audiobooks, movies, performances and more. Allowing myself to take a more passive role has brought me to these two realizations:

  1. Makers have to make AND take.
  2. Community is where it's at.

If you're still with me (what a patient human you are!), let me also move to explain why I think the new changes to spaces like Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest are going to bring a whole lot more joy for those who dive in. But first, point one and two.

1. Makers have to make AND take:

Makers gotta make. As a maker and a friend/supporter to many artists and people who don't-yet-know-they're artists, this resonates with me to my core. Do it for the process is how my friend, Emily Jeffords, describes it. Expressing ideas and emotions in our creations is a singular and wholly communal gift that artists bring to the world.  

Making does not mean you separate yourself entirely from taking.

Heard the advice to stay away from Pinterest if you want to be inspired? Or stop following or reading the work of someone you emulate? The position of maker can often leave you feeling that you must separate yourself from the source(s) that inspire you, that you must create from the sheer emptiness of originality something solitary and unmatched.

And yet, we hope desperately that other makers, our peers, take time to appreciate our work, to feel the value of what we've spent hours to bring to life, whether that be a well styled photograph, a narration of a childhood memory, or a video of a beautiful space. We want others to feel the spark that we might just be avoiding by separating ourselves for the sake of process.

Having three months away has re-reminded me that consuming is a necessary and lovely part of my process. And it's perhaps a part of yours. Taking, in the sense of spending dedicated time and attention, means that I bounce new ideas around in my head, I'm excited to tell other people about what I've seen, and I appreciate others work and the natural world in a new way. When I do it well, consuming allows my gears to downshift and to accept information in a way that my make-make-make posture does not. It's meditative and appreciative and keeps me tender.

And it gives me a seat in this community that leads me to realization number two.

  What three months away has taught me, and how we're all better for smart business decisions

What three months away has taught me, and how we're all better for smart business decisions

2. Community is where it's at.

The businesses of social media, places like Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest, have and will continue to make decisions they deem smart for growing their sales and brand. These mega-million dollar platforms have given each of us tools to communicate and to form communities as introverts and extroverts, from all over the world, in every kind of socio-economic level, and in every life situation imaginable.

Unlike national parks or public libraries, Facebook and the like are businesses in a capitalist society that are adjusting to meet their goals. As a small business owner, I admire and support this. As a communicator and creator, I am slow to change.

Watching these shifts in social media and not needing a tight grip on what they mean for my own stats, I've discovered that these multi million dollar algorithm changes just might lead us to exactly where we need to be.

Five years ago, I posted something on Facebook every day. I would easily converse with family and friends who made comments. Twitter was a place for easy conversation with colleagues and new connections. I wrote tweets, looking for people to respond back. When I joined Pinterest, I'd comment on really great ideas and get comments back from the creators. And Instagram was once a place where I chatted with others on their view of the world and new discoveries.

I was engaged. Liking, commenting, sharing.

And the changes on the horizon for Facebook, Instagram, and others are encouraging us all to return to engagement. 

Social media is asking us to be social again.

I get that it's coming from a lens of ROI and profit margin, however . . .

The double tap, scroll through is not where it's at. Self promotion with no conversation is empty. On one side we complain about the masks and fronts that we see others creating (is that really what her kids look like after a long day? no way their house always looks like that) and comparing ourselves artificially. On another side we gloss over posts and comments, looking for more information, more images, more distractions. More.

And we're rarely engaged.

Let's win at social media AND community with engagement. Let's show creators that we're seeing their efforts. Let's tell the writers that had never thought of the world the way they have. Let's share and reshare great ideas. Let's point out to the world dark spots that need our attention. 

Stretching and reaching out brings life, connection, and hope to our lives. Social media has the capability to enrich our human capacity for community.

I've tried engagement, or rather returned to engagement, in these three months. Community is what made me press publish four years ago, what motivated me to withstand late nights of creating for years, and what brings me back to blogging STILL four years later.

Like, comment, and share. It's going to take you further online and potentially give you a fuller life in the process.

XOXO, MJ

P.S. I missed you.

 

DIY Advent Calendar
 Beautiful paper Advent calendar for the season - grab the free printable!

Beautiful paper Advent calendar for the season - grab the free printable!

Counting down the days until Christmas is just about as much fun as actually celebrating the holiday, right? We have chocolate treat calendars for the kids, and this year I wanted to make something for us adults.

Selecting from the readings in the Advent scriptures, I took out a passage for each day to take us all the way up to Christmas. And at the close of the season (or everyday, if you'd like), there's a beautiful prayer, expressing the real meaning of the season.

 Take yourself through Advent with this beautiful printable calendar!

Take yourself through Advent with this beautiful printable calendar!

Each day is a four inch square design, and the entire printable covers seven sheets of paper. Trim along the edges, and glue to a six inch square of colored paper. This would be beautiful as an all white calendar as well, but we opted for brightly saturated cardstock to accompany the colors in our studio. Pick what best suits your Advent mood! You'll need 6-inch squares to complete the whole calendar.

When folding the larger square's corners, be sure to use a nice sharp edge to make your fold and crease it firmly. This will allow for the squares to have an open and shut quality.

Are you ready to get started? Purchase a 2017 Advent calendar and download!

 Love this printable Advent calendar from Pars Caeli!

Love this printable Advent calendar from Pars Caeli!

xoxo, MJ
 

An Open Letter to Momtrepreneurs & Side Hustlers

Warning: this is a long post that's been marinating for a while. Thanks for sticking with me to the end.

 To anyone who considers themselves a momtrepreneur, a side hustler, or a juggler of more than one main focus: a must read.

To anyone who considers themselves a momtrepreneur, a side hustler, or a juggler of more than one main focus: a must read.

Let's get down to the nitty gritty for a sweet minute, friends. To all of you balancing a full-time job/part-time job/relationship/child(ren)/pets/major projects and something else (likely another one of those things just mentioned), you are doing great work. Your efforts are worthy and noticed and, dare I say, appreciated.

All of the things you want might not be in balance, in fact, you might not be in balance, but you are making progress. You are getting something done, you are adding to the world. 

And the YOU of it all is more important than the final WHATEVER. I feel so confident in that statement that I'm going to make it a big old generalization.

Take care of you. You matter. If the you of you is not here, the whatever is not going to happen or to happen as well as it would with you.

I'm not trying to be cryptic here. Let me say more.

A few things you may or may not know about me:

  1. I've been blogging, designing, networking, project-ing, and shop owning here for almost four years (Hi blogger peeps!) on the side (AKA: side hustle/entrepreneur) which means in real life I create the world of Pars Caeli in the wee small hours of the night, on the weekends, and in the early mornings.  
  2. I have three incredible children (10, 8, and 6), and a husband who refers to me as Beautiful and means it (awesome everywhere but some public settings).
  3. I have a great full-time job as a graphic designer and social media specialist. (Hi coworkers!)

Like many of you, the mix of those three aspects of my life fills me up creatively, spiritually, and emotionally. And like many of you, the combination of those exhausts me, gives me many a sleepless night, and leaves me more prone to any sickness floating around. 

For me, this blog turned business is not a necessity; it doesn't generate sufficient income to do much. It's not a quick fix for my creativity. It's not a portfolio of my talent. 

It is a ton of work. Hours and hours and hours. Most of which are likely to have been better spent in REM sleep, exercise, hobbies (what?), and relaxation (and what the what?). There are many days that I am tired. There are many more days that I wonder how I will find time to do the next thing. There are days when I create a great post on parenting, and I'm a horrible mother. There are days that I create nothing, and I have a good read on my kid's lives. And there are those ever-so-rare days when all the planets (even Pluto that isn't really a planet any more) align and the projects are gorgeous, my kids are content and growing, and I'm a successful employee. I might be able to count those on my fingers.

So, why do it, right? Why have the job and the business? Or the kids and the job? Or whatever your list is.... It's not for the steady blood pressure or minimal aggravation. It's likely not for the fame or the fortune or the record books either.

People have asked me why I started a blog, and I find myself answering that question differently now than I did four years ago. I'm not sure if I'm rewriting history or getting to know myself better, but I thought I started to blog to have a space where I could create whatever I wanted, as well as hold myself accountable to do the activities and projects I wanted to do with my kids and my home.

And it has been that - on many occasions.

I also started to blog to be "in the room" with remarkable, capable, talented, and determined creators. I wanted to challenge myself to do more. And I wanted to challenge myself to learn from people outside of my direct circles, but still incredibly like me. For good or bad, I'm the kind of person who observes a crowd of people, notices dynamics, senses personalities, finds charismatic individuals, and says to myself, "I want to be that person's friend." The energizer, the empathizer, the artist, the satirist, the deep intellectual, the misunderstood, the genuine giver. All of these archetypes have fallen into my must-meet-and-befriend circle.

And I am so, so grateful that I now have a whole gang of people that I admire and I love because of this blog, this after-hours jumbo project. We are in the room together, and somehow over these four years, I've done enough and been enough that I finally feel that I have proven to myself that I am their peer.

Which leads me to why I think I really started this blog.

I needed a space to remind me who I am.

I needed a space to remind me who I want to be.

When I think through and peruse the hundreds of posts I've created through the years, each post seems to fall into one of two categories: a diatribe of who I am or a projection (via project) of who I want to be. 

I had a local friend tell me that she felt intimidated to read my blog. "How do you do all of those things? And have a job? And have a family? I could never do that." To which I responded something typical of me, "No worries. I don't really do it all that well. And feel welcome not to read the blog. I totally won't be offended." And she said,

"No, no. I keep coming back to it because I need to have something in my life to aspire to."

And I recall looking away (something I rarely do in conversation) because she put into words a feeling that I had not been able to.

I blog because I want something to aspire to. I blog because I want to be the me that I aspire to. And this process and hard work and creativity and networking and curating lead me to that person. Legitimately. I have seen it and I know this to be true.

 It's ok to stop. It's ok to quit.  It's ok to slow down or reduce or shut off.

It's ok to stop. It's ok to quit.

It's ok to slow down or reduce or shut off.

BUT, let me circle back here - I promise this will make sense...

There are times, perhaps more than I care to acknowledge, that all of the hustle, the emails, the support, and everything else drain me... Maybe they drain you. And let's just call it as it is - it's a LOT. The content creation, the idea editing, the project research, the making, the lighting, the photography and photo editing, the writing and the rewriting, the promoting and repromoting, the reaching out and the responding, the updating and the disclosing.

And the spark of accomplishment can be exciting and sparkly and awesome enough to propel us forward. I am an idea junkie! A great idea can sustain me for days. Keep going, keep going, keep going.

"You've got to keep up, don't slouch on those pins, stay in touch with your audience, when was the last time you posted? Send her an email, rework that content, you should be doing more this..."

And I/we can mistake the spark of accomplishment for good health or wellbeing.

And if the spark even slightly wanes, the truth shows herself.

And she can be angry, dehydrated, hungry, tired, anxious, sad, out of shape, lonely, or the whole mix together.

Because momtrepreneurs and side hustler friends, we can't function on the spark alone. And I feel weird that this is even a thing. But it is for me, and it might be for you. That passion and that desire is oh so sexy and exciting, and we convince ourselves that we can. We can do it all with one more hour, one more post, one more...

I recently talked to someone (entrepreneur) who is uber successful, incredibly gifted, and well on her way to making the profit she deserves for the endless hours she's invested in her business. But she has had such sole focus and drive on her blog/business, that she's forgotten to eat for a day, not left her home for weeks on end, and now finds herself in the hospital for a small health issue that blew up into a larger one because she was so focused on the drive and the business alone.

You matter. If the you of you is not here, the whatever is not going to happen or to happen as well as it would with you. (Fill in your words here.)

We think, I think, we have to push through everything to keep slogging away, perhaps to the detriment of THE REST OF OUR LIVES, entrepreneurs. But we have to have the rest of our lives; we can't forget about the people who love us, the nutrition and the rest that we need, the real life moments we want to experience in real life.

And so I say this from my four years of drive and from the softest spot in my kindred spirit heart:

It's ok to stop.

It's ok to quit.

It's ok to slow down or reduce or shut off.

It's all ok. Whatever that end goal that you're so passionate about is... it is not worth you. Your health, your personality, your smile, your integrity, your zest. 

This is a great big world of the internet, and people love the immediate and the now and the whenever-they-want-it, but if you're not there to supply the content, those people can find what they need elsewhere. It doesn't have to be you working tirelessly. It doesn't have to be you sacrificing yourself for the sake of something that might not really be your goal any more.

And I want you to know that your time and your energy is enough. It doesn't have to be what someone else's was/is. It was yours, and it was solid. And if it ends tomorrow, that does not detract from the inherent goodness of what you have done.

But please know, too, I might be sad, and I might miss you. Because the time that you have spent has meant the world to me and so many others. Because I can see the power of what you create far better than you will ever be able to.

But what you have given is so good that it is enough. Right as it is. Right now.

It is more important in the real world for you to take care of you. Don't let small issues become big ones in your relationships and in your health and in your family because you have been so focused on the other things. You give it your all. And you certainly have all the permissions to take weekends off, to be fully present with your kids, to watch TV, to daydream, to walk the mall, to fast from social media, to do whatever it is you need.

You see, the internet will still be here. The people who need to read and to hear and to aspire to these same things will still be here. Likely, I'll still be here - unless, I too find the need to need to break off and to mend. And for that, I'll have to reread this post a dozen times to convince myself that it's ok...

So I first write it to you.

Thank you for all of your creating, your time, your moments that none of us even know that have been sacrificed to move closer to your aspiration. That journey and all of its by products has enriched our lives and the common good.

Take care of you. You matter.

xoxo, MJ

HOW TO GET THE MOST OUT OF A CREATIVE CONFERENCE
Thank you to my friends at Minted for these beautiful business cards! Check out their gorgeous range of cards, suited for every kind of creative business. Remember that most can be customized by converting your logo to a high resolution picture file and adding it to the "back" of a Minted design.
 Your complete - free printable - checklist for everything you need to know before, during, and after a creative conference to get the most out of it!

Your complete - free printable - checklist for everything you need to know before, during, and after a creative conference to get the most out of it!

Have you taken the leap and attended a creative conference? Putting yourself out there and meeting other professionals who do the same can be a real life-changing and business-broadening experience.

It can also be totally intimidating.

As a semi-veteran and host at a number of conferences, I'm breaking it down for you - to assuage your fears (they will still be there, but we're going to put them over to the side, out of the spotlight) and help you feel ready to get the most out of your (likely) pricey conference ticket.

 Have you made the leap and signed up for a creative conference? How to get yourself ready and get the most out of the experience.

Have you made the leap and signed up for a creative conference? How to get yourself ready and get the most out of the experience.

On the whole, I'm not a big conference proponent. They can be expensive and irrelevant. However, from my experience with creative conferences, if you find the right conference for your niche, you can quickly build community, find your tribe of people, form clever collaborations, connect and gain sponsorship from brands, have a grand old time, and get all the boost you need to keep your creative juices flowing for months to follow.

 Grab your free printable checklist that includes everything you need before + during + follow up for attending a creative conferences.

Grab your free printable checklist that includes everything you need before + during + follow up for attending a creative conferences.

The key is two steps: to find the right creative conference and to make sure you have your act together. How can you do that?

1. Finding the right one - Talk to friends in your sphere (blogging, writing, crafting, etc.) and listen to what they've found valuable. If you don't yet have friends in your arena, follow some relevant hashtags on social media and research the conference pages. Review what speakers have attended, conference locations and fees, and take a look at their mission to see if it applies to you.

And if none of that makes sense, make your own conference!! Well, don't do that yet. BUT, I just returned from my friends' conference called The Hello Sessions. It's a brand new conference held in Portland, Oregon that began as a dream of Melissa and Joy. They wanted something different from what they were experiencing. Sometimes you make your own niche!

2. Make sure you have your act together - When you're in the decision-making dilemma, trying to decide if you press purchase on that ticket, take a deep breath. Are you ready to present yourself and your business to a broader community? If you have even an inkling of a shy yes in there, you're already on your way.

How can you feel more confident and prepared? What do you do when you're at the conference to get the most out of it? How do you return home and hit the ground running?

I've got your complete checklist for the before, the during, and the follow up for a creative conference! You can download it below, or grab it anytime from our sidebar. It's all you need on one paper!!! Grab it now, and share your thoughts on what you feel you still need to do to make that commitment to join in a conference. We'll help you out!

Podcasts In the Spotlight: Hear Motherhood
 Podcasts in the Spotlight: Hear Motherhood. An interview about the new and noteworthy podcast that answers the question, "Can creativity and motherhood coexist?"

Podcasts in the Spotlight: Hear Motherhood. An interview about the new and noteworthy podcast that answers the question, "Can creativity and motherhood coexist?"

Podcasts are sweeping the nation. From the pop cultural phenomena that Serial became to the proliferation of TED talks and NPR favorites. We want to use our time to and fro engaged in learning or listening in a new and fresh way that goes beyond the traditional radio talk show or audio book.

For creatives, podcasts have become another tool in the kit to share brilliance. Should I have a YouTube channel? Should I have a podcast? Should I be on Instagram?

Paige Ray, author of the still lovely Approaching Joy blog, has turned her artistic endeavors to podcasting in the fresh and approachable show called Hear Motherhood. These conversations are set up to answer the question, "Can motherhood and creativity coexist?" If you've been a reader here for more than one post, you know my answer is a big, "Oh, yeeeaaaah!" to this one. Paige warmly captures a mother's struggles and relatable triumphs as each works to answer that question in their daily priorities.

I think you'll find her endearing Arkansas charm and positive tone one that will highlight your listening experience. Mommy Confessions as well as a Creative Momma Tip are a part of every show, too! 

 An interview with Paige Ray is the voice and heart behind the New and Noteworthy podcast entitled: Hear Motherhood. 

An interview with Paige Ray is the voice and heart behind the New and Noteworthy podcast entitled: Hear Motherhood. 

Tell us how you came to be Hear Motherhood?

I am a brand new mom to a beautiful 5-month old boy. This time last year I was convinced that creative life as I knew it was over. In my mind, motherhood was a job so big that it encompassed all of your life. Luckily I soon realized I was surrounded by creative moms who were making both happen beautifully.

 

What turned this into a podcast instead of a blog or a kicking Instagram feed?

I immediately wanted to talk to those women I admired who were successfully being "creative mamas". It was selfish. I wanted to know their secrets. Then I realized that if I could record those conversations I could help other moms and moms-to-be who had the same questions.

 

Why do you think so many are turning or returning to a listening medium like podcasts?

I lost my grandmother this spring right before both my son and this project were born. And though, obviously in different ways, I think she would have been a fan of both. 

Women in her time knew about the power of story and spoken word because the Internet, instant messaging, and even television didn't exist. In our faces paced society it's easy to see why people are looking back to those older mediums... Even if it is through using today's technology. 

 

Tell us what you listen to.

  • I listen to my baby sing when he wakes up at 6am. 
  • I listen to a lot of questionable pop music from the mid 90's. 
  • I listen to audio books and it's the only way most anything gets "read" in my life. 
  • I listen to loads of podcasts.

(Want to hear which podcasts Paige listens to?

Grab the printable list right here.)


What can we look forward to for Hear Motherhood?

More interviews from successful creative women who are willing to pull back the social media curtain and share parts of their real lives. 

More solo shows where I share my heart about the intersection of motherhood and creativity.  

And big dream? I want to be back in a year or so telling what it's like to write for O magazine as well and later put together a retreat for creative moms.  

 

If you're new to podcasts, take a look at Paige's sidebar as she simply explains the super easy process of subscribing. Give yourself the gift of listening in on the conversations over at Hear Motherhood, and let me know what you think!

4 Frame Projects Worth Making
 Frames worth making! These four ideas are easy with great final results.

Frames worth making! These four ideas are easy with great final results.

Between the prints in Shop Pars Caeli, my favorite family and Instagram photos, and my children's prolific artistic creations, I feel like I cannot own enough frames! Gallery walls in every room, anyone?

Easels and photo blocks are my go-to for shelves and tables, but I need some solutions for wall spaces, too. I turned to some of my favorite makers to see how to get it done with style, simplicity, and affordability.

 Easels and blocks are great for shelves. For the walls? 4 fabulous DIY solutions.

Easels and blocks are great for shelves. For the walls? 4 fabulous DIY solutions.

1. MAKE WASHI YOUR FRIEND

If you have not run with wild abandon onto the washi tape train, now is the time, friends!! Maiko created these whimsical frames and geometrics to highlight her fabulous prints. These serve the aesthetic as well as easing any concern over new wall holes or a permanency you might not be ready for.

2. DIP IT FRESH

Have a dingy frame hanging around that needs new life? I love the dipped look just for this reason! Paint half or a diagonal in a fresh color, like white, and it's like a brand new piece. Check out how Nalle created hers.

3. PUT SOME GOLD ON IT

Gold leaf all the things. Even the clipboards! Did you see this DIY on Lovely Indeed? Clipboards are a modern take on the contained frame. These gold ones work especially well in a studio or office space but could brighten even the most buttoned-up living rooms.

 Gorgeous free printable and frame DIY from Oleander + Palm.

Gorgeous free printable and frame DIY from Oleander + Palm.

4. POSTER FRAMES FOR GROWN UPS

This idea is on my must-try list! I love the simplicity and functionality of a great hanging poster frame. Jeran of Oleander and Palm created an amazing alphabet printable as well as a fantastic frame that blends so well with the whole concept. I could see larger prints looking incredible in this style! Even jumbo children's work could reach a new level of sophistication with this DIY.

Have you created any of these styles? Have tips to share?

How do you display all that you want to see?

xoxo, MJ

How to Add Stylish Back to School Organization

*This post is sponsored by Minted. All opinions expressed are my own. Thank you for showing love to the brands that support Pars Caeli!

We're a few weeks into school now. Can you believe it? My 5th, 3rd, and Kindergartener are humming along with their daily schedules and evening activities. And in order for me not to completely use my mind, we have our systems in place. I still find that I lose my phone or forget someone's library book way more than my wishful, maximizing self would like it.

How can we make our days smoother? Less forgetful? Happier? I'm always analyzing and wondering if we could set up our home or our schedule differently to make our days better. So many organizational systems and DIYs are out there (SO, so many, dear Pinterest). However, most of them are not the kind that I want to put in my home. Organization doesn't have to be ugly! Take those cute Minted labels (see above photo) that are saving me many trips to the Lost & Found box. 

 An organized school year is a happy one! Of course, no one wants to skimp on style for the sake of tidy. Here's how to add stylish back to school organization to your home.

An organized school year is a happy one! Of course, no one wants to skimp on style for the sake of tidy. Here's how to add stylish back to school organization to your home.

Inspired by the combo of style and organization, I'm putting these fabulous projects on my fall to do list. They not only make lives more efficient but make (or keep) your home super styling, too. Win!!

1.  GIANT MAGNETIC BOARD

I swoon over this one! We have a chalkboard wall in our kitchen, and I feel like this magnetic board would be the Gandalf version. Michelle of 4Men1Lady has created this command center that's chic, textural, and completely multipurpose.

2. CLIPBOARD HANGER

Clipboards as frames or easels? Bring it on. Why couldn't schedules, calendars, classroom projects be displayed so beautifully? Amy of Delineate Your Dwelling created this piece to hang clipboards, and it's brilliant and sweet on the eyes.

3. FOLDER HOLDER

The papers that need to be kept for reference throughout the school year? Where should those go? We put ours in a folder holder, mounted right next to our exit door (by the garage) and are easy for people of every height. :) I think the way Summer of Simple Stylings beautified hers is perfect. Who wouldn't want to add to this lovely?

4. ORGANIZATION TO VIEW

The passwords, phone numbers, permission slips, special tickets - they also need a home and often one where they can be seen! Laurel of A Bubbly Life has this chic geometric board idea that I think would fit right in.

5. TAKING IT TO THE COFFEE

This project from Lindsay of Shrimp Salad Circus is perfect for the grown ups. Keep your supplies in check, too!! And make the morning rush a breezy, chic moment. Why not keep all your coffee/tea supplies on a gorgeous tray? It's enough to make you feel special and cared for even in the early AM.

What's your favorite way to incorporate organization into your home design?

XOXO, MJ

 

 

Graphic Tees: 5 Ways to Add Them to Your Look
 You can make a graphic tee work in just about any setting. 5 ways to add one to your look!

You can make a graphic tee work in just about any setting. 5 ways to add one to your look!

Images via 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9.

My first graphic tee had a giant, glittery Minnie head on it, and I adored it - so much so that I paired it with everything in my kid wardrobe. And much to my great happiness, the graphic tee trend seems to be back to stay (hip hip hooray!).

In my years as a graphic designer and with my long-time love of sparkly Minnie heads, I've fallen for graphic tees. They give me the freedom to wear exactly what I want to say. And in opening Shop Pars Caeli I've had a ton of fun creating and seeing how you style our designs!

These fresh tees can add interest to a subtle work look as well as express all the feelings for a fun date night. Try these five ways to add them into your wardrobe:

 Do the fancy graphic tee.

Do the fancy graphic tee.

Images via 1. 2. 3. 

1. Pair it with fancy.

The contrast of the ultra-feminine with the sporty casual is so much fun. Consider glamming it all the way with bright heels or a full skirt. Add a statement necklace on top. A skinny maxi is a fab addition for the fall.

2. Make it a cozy layer.

Our graphic tees are all kinds of comfy. They make a great first layer for the chill of winter or even a breezy afternoon at the beach. A graphic tee with some fit look great under cardies, blazers, breezy kimonos.

 Add a foiled graphic tee to your favorite jeans for cozy + awesome. These from Shop Pars Caeli.

Add a foiled graphic tee to your favorite jeans for cozy + awesome. These from Shop Pars Caeli.

Image via 1. 2. 3.

3. Top off the best pair of jeans.

Perhaps the most classic way to style a great shirt is with a favorite pair of jeans. From a sweet pair of skinny jeans to the torn pairs that are all over the runways to a celebratory, colorful set of jeggings, the relaxed, sometimes-witty (and always entertaining) nature of graphic t-shirts make them a sweet companion. 

4. Show off some texture.

Chunky scarves show off against a slick graphic tee. A glossy statement necklace really shines against the backdrop of a matte or even foiled tee. Even loose or textured braids stand out nicely against the simplicity of the classic shirt.

5. Take it to the office. 

Saving my favorite for last, I love wearing my graphic tees to work. I've topped maxis and capris, and added the tops to slim shorts and layered them with blazers. Graphic tees bring your personality to the professional arena!  Making too much of a statement with yours? Add a scarf and military jacket and keep the extra special goodness to yourself!


How do you style your favorite tee? I'm always looking for more ideas! Bring them on.

xoxo, MJ

 

Don't Quit Your Daydream: From Doodles to Product

"Those lunchbox cards are helping me feel like a great mom and giving me the opportunity to communicate with (my children) mid-day which I really really like. Thank you."

 Don't quit your daydream! How one mom took her lunchbox notes from paper bags to product launch.

Don't quit your daydream! How one mom took her lunchbox notes from paper bags to product launch.

This summer was a whirlwind. A major dream came true (with a whole lot of work behind it), and I opened my online shop. I also spent focused time creating precious childhood memories with my three kids in something I called the 18 Summers Challenge (we really only get 18 summers with our kids!! Weep). And something even better than my wildest dreams came to life. In collaboration with The Land of Nod, I created launched my first product - a collection of lunchbox jokes! I present the Lunchtime LOL Notes.

When my oldest daughter went off to full-day Kindergarten, I, like so many parents, added a note to her lunch. After hearing from my daughter about quiet lunch times, I decided to add a joke and doodle to my messages. Teachers and lunch helpers would read them to the table, and everyone got a kick out the silly pictures and corny jokes.

As I searched daily to find something sweet to draw, I wondered if other parents would find it helpful to have an easy way to add something extra to their child's lunch like I was. I started sharing these notes on Instagram and hearing from other moms and teachers who would reuse them with their kids! And it was so exciting to see where in the world and in what ways these notes were used! I loved the idea that I could help other parents connect (in the middle of the day or on a long drive or in a doctor’s office) with their children.

As more and more people commented and shared these illustrated jokes, I began to wonder if I could take them to the next level. Should I produce these on my site? Or furthermore, find a brand who might want to bring this idea to their audience.

I first mapped out what I wanted the lunchbox notes to be: an entire pack ready for 180 days of the school year for parents, cards that had a blank back for parent's personal notes, and special jokes for certain holidays and times of the year.

 How do you make your daydream a reality? A story of one mom entrepreneur and her pack of lunchbox jokes, now sold at The Land of Nod.

How do you make your daydream a reality? A story of one mom entrepreneur and her pack of lunchbox jokes, now sold at The Land of Nod.

With these parameters in mind, I thought through my pie-in-the-sky favorite paper, children's, and card companies. Which ones best fit my own aesthetic and hope for these fun notes?

The Land of Nod kept coming to the top of my list. I've purchased many pieces from their collections throughout the years for my children, and I find their products smart, well made, and the right mix of whimsy and art. Blogging throughout the years, I had developed a mother-designer friendship with Danielle, Creative Director for the company. I worked up my biggest entrepreneurial boost of confidence and sent her an email to pitch the idea of lunchbox notes.

And she didn't say no. In fact, she said yes.

And months later I found myself illustrating for not only a brand that I love, but for people who help me make other moms and dads feel awesome. And handle my creation with the kind of positivity and wit that I'd hoped. And it's kind of awesome.

This is not the norm for product creation or working with brands, but every once in a while the heavens align and dreams come true. And there's just no reason why the same couldn't happen to you. Keep dreaming and taking big girl leaps to make those dreams come true.

And get yourself some Lunchtime LOL Notes! They've already sold out once so get your order in soon!!

xoxo, MJ

 

Your Checklist for Opening a Shop (with free printable)
 Do you think you might be ready to open your own shop? Grab this free printable checklist from Pars Caeli.

Do you think you might be ready to open your own shop? Grab this free printable checklist from Pars Caeli.

A dream came true for me this summer. Well, maybe two dreams (I did even imagine number two! More details on that tomorrow).

I opened my very own shop!!

I know that I've been posting on all of my social networks about it so this is not a surprise to many of you. Shop Pars Caeli is open and excited to welcome you through the doors (for reals, go click over). It has been my little girl dream brought to life through my own little girl and brought to the worldwide webs. My eldest daughter is my inspiration and muse and dictator (in the most loving way), and we discuss what would sell well, and what we love. 

In the shop you'll find letterpress greeting cards and prints as well as children's and women's tees all focused on putting a little more fun and a whole lot more goodness into your life. The shop is a direct extension of my art, my sense of humor, and my 3 years of projects and conversations here on the blog. As a graphic designer, I wanted to letterpress prints and cards on the best paper and finest inks, and I simply couldn't resist a little foiling on t-shirts, too.

And our DO GOOD shirts and prints do real good in the world, too! A portion of the profits from every sale support The Sweet Pea Foundation, a non-profit to help children and families in local hospitals.

I've been so amazed to see the reaction the shop has received in just the first two months!!

Thank you, thank you to all of you who've been buying and loving on social media. And I'm so glad that I finally did it - I planned it out, budgeted, and through and through our customers have been delighted with what they receive!!

But, behind the scenes here, I've also had a few missteps, listened way too long to my inner critic, and still have a whole world of people I want to reach. Opening an online shop is both incredibly easy (e.g.: just press activate the link if you're on Squarespace) and simultaneously complicated with branding and shipping and taxes and inventory and tigers and bears. Oh my.

If you're thinking about opening a shop, selling a product, or know someone who is, I want to help!

Because there's just no sense in us both making the same mistakes, I put together this checklist of things I've done and added in things I should have done so that you get the full spectrum of helpfulness.

 Pin this one now and use it as a checklist to get your online shop started!

Pin this one now and use it as a checklist to get your online shop started!

Above is a super quick checklist to think through as you're considering operating and selling a shop. It's a little deceiving since every step requires research, creation, and a real commitment to your passion! But, you can do it - I did!

I've also created an extended printable for you to keep right on your desk (or shoved into your notebook of ideas). Print the checklist here.

Tomorrow I'll be sharing with you that second dream that came true - my very own product with a company I love, The Land of Nod!! The story behind Lunchtime LOL Notes and ideas for you on taking your idea from notebook to reality.

 Emoji and checklists to help you open the most fabulous online shop! Grab the free printable, too.

Emoji and checklists to help you open the most fabulous online shop! Grab the free printable, too.

Have you ever thought of opening a shop or done it already? What would you add to help the dreamers?

xoxo, MJ

Top Tips for a WILDLY SUCCESSFUL Newsletter
 Write an online newsletter? This one's a must read.

Write an online newsletter? This one's a must read.

Get cozy with your coffee, friends. I have a treat for you today!! I've asked my favorite (and very different) newsletter writers to give me the scoop on how to make content really come alive via email newsletter. And their ideas are OH SO GOOD. I hope you'll take a gander and subscribe to all of these newsletters as well as learn for your own writing and digesting of content. Want to know what these stars say are total newsletter no no's? Well, you'll have to subscribe (right over there-->) to the Pars Caeli newsletter to make sure you get those, too! 

First up, Little Farm Media. Subscribe here if you want to take your blog, idea, or business to take off! It's incredible all that Caitlin gives away FREE! Here's Caitlin's advice on the why/what/how of newsletters:

 Ready to take your ideas to the next level? Caitlin, the lady boss of Little Farm Media, will take you from zero to 100 simply through following her FREE newsletter. Get on that. 

Ready to take your ideas to the next level? Caitlin, the lady boss of Little Farm Media, will take you from zero to 100 simply through following her FREE newsletter. Get on that. 

WHY?

"Since beginning my newsletter, I have seen a huge increase in sales and my social media following. I attribute this to increased trust. The more value I offer my subscribers, the more they trust me. I give away as much free content as I can to show my audience that I am an expert in the field of social media. Why would anyone by my e-course if I didn't show them that I know what I'm talking about? The more free content I create, the more money I make."

essentials for a great newsletter?

  1. A freebie - Create something your audience wants to entice them to sign up. Anyone who signs up to my newsletter gets my FREE eBook: "How I Gained 1,000 Pinterest Followers In One Month," instant access to my FREE private Facebook group: Creative Biz Owners, and FREE access to a library of downloadable worksheets, checklists, and templates. 
  2. Branding - Include your logo and keep your color palette consistent. Use a voice that is consistent with your blog and social media.Social Media - Include links to your social media accounts. Give people a reason to follow you. For example, I have photo styling ideas and blogging tips on my Pinterest account, and social media tips on my Instagram.
  3. Social media - Include links and give people a reason to follow you!
Follow away, friends!  LITTLE FARM MEDIA gives fabulous social media tips on INSTAGRAM as well as photo styling ideas and blogging tips on their PINTEREST boards..

Next up, The Hello Sessions newsletter is a beautiful blend of everything the knowledgeable entrepreneur should know with a mix of best friends chatting over coffee that will make you want to hit reply to a newsletter! Subscribe here.

 Smart, funny, and always warm, The Hello Sessions newsletter will brighten your day as well as give you action items to improve your business.

Smart, funny, and always warm, The Hello Sessions newsletter will brighten your day as well as give you action items to improve your business.

Why?

"With our newsletter, we have the breathing room to dive deeper into our themes and news. It's helped people to relate to us, and it's also been really useful in shaping the voice of our brand."

HOW DO YOU MAKE A NEWSLETTER REALLY AWESOME?

"It's so important to give your readers a reason to open your newsletter, whether it's because of your humor, the juicy tips you provide, or motivation to get on with the week. We always want to make sure that our readers feel like we're talking directly to them, because if we could, we totally would craft individual notes to everyone. That sense of honesty is the most important thing. Great writing is hugely helpful."

"The criteria for our newsletter is that it shares something that we would want to hear about, ourselves. Usually, we're sharing things that we've discovered and can't wait to share with everyone, like tips to being more productive, funny/great/crazy things we've read/listened to/watched, or ways to stay motivated. We always want it to feel like the kind of information your blogger friends would send you--like, 'Hey, have you heard about this yet?'"

Sign up to The Hello Sessions newsletter as a great read during your next coffee break, and for even more friendship and learning, head to The Hello Sessions conference in October!

Next up - meander with Crafting Connections. This newsletter always slows me down and helps me take a deep breath. If you want to go on a creative journey with some solid guidance, subscribe here

 Crafting Connections' newsletter is practical inspiration, creative support, and real glimpses into the lives of creative folks and families.

Crafting Connections' newsletter is practical inspiration, creative support, and real glimpses into the lives of creative folks and families.

WHY?

"The biggest benefit we've seen from our newsletter is connection. The newsletter, while still reaching a big wide audience, feels more personal. Folks are inviting us into their inbox, and we take that invitation very seriously. We honor that by sending along rich stories and essays sharing our personal creative triumphs and challenges. We don't shy away from those!"

WHAT NEWSLETTERS INSPIRE YOU?

"I love 3191 Miles Apart email newsletter; it is short and sweet, has a few beautiful photographs, and usually a link or two to something that I'm super excited to check out. I'm also pretty excited about the newsletter from the Art of Simple at the moment. Her words never fail to inspire me."

Ready for stories and essays about creativity? Take a look at all that Crafting Connections has to offer.

Want to be a better conversationalist? Working on becoming a more interesting person? Sandra of Raincoast Creative Salon has the newsletter for you. I always leave a read with a tidbit to share at my next cocktail party. Subscribe here.

 Always on point with culture, movies, and fresh ideas, the Raincoast Creative Salon has a newsletter that will make you even more interesting.

Always on point with culture, movies, and fresh ideas, the Raincoast Creative Salon has a newsletter that will make you even more interesting.

WHY?

"What I love about writing a newsletter is that it feels much more intimate and personal than writing a blog post. A blog post feels more magazine-like and appeals to a more general audience. My newsletter is a place where I feel like I can take more risks and be more 'me'. It's my favorite place to write!

The newsletter has definitely allowed me to share my work and get my name out there as a photographer. And it feels more like how blogging felt at the beginning - speaking to individuals rather than standing on a proverbial social media street corner bleating 'look at me, look at me'."

essentials to a great newsletter?

  1. Have a point of viewTake a stand. Show your personality. Be who you are and share your opinions. Don't play it safe. If I want safe, I can read newsstand magazines. 
  2. Know your newsletter's purpose and be explicit about it. Why are you writing your newsletter and does it come across clearly? Are you promoting a class? Are you selling artwork? Are you building a mailing list for a future cookbook? Are you sharing opinions on issues? Are you sharing personal essays? What do you want them to know after reading it? What do you want them to do? Will they make a craft? Talk to their kids? Come to your conference? Manage their time better? Be inspired? Buy your art? Be better parents? Be more creative?
  3. Know your audience. Who is it that you are writing to? You won't attract everyone but who DO you want to read your newsletter?
  4. Add value. Have some expertise? Give it away through free tutorials. Know how to do lettering? Teach how to do a particular letter or word. Have some ideas on better time management? Share them. You're building a long-term relationship that'll take time to establish. Build trust by sharing your knowledge.

WHAT NEWSLETTERS INSPIRE YOU?

Phew - so many different ones! As I look over my list the common thread is a unique, identifiable point-of-view, whether it's original writing or links to other writing or images.

  • Of course Austin Kleon's newsletter. It's personal and even if I don't get to all of the links, I always find something useful and new-to-me.
  • Abernathy - I'm trying to be more diverse in my reading (both fiction and non-fiction). This is an online mag for black men and I subscribe to the newsletter. This one inspires because it takes a stand on issues.
  • Farnam Street Brain Food -  Eclectic links on a variety of subjects. 
  • On Being with Krista Tippett - I listen to the podcast, too. Super thoughtful and inspiring. 
  • Ann Friedman - I love her tag line: "low maintenance lady swagger". Ann writes and links to writing about gender, politics, & culture.
  • The Broad Experience - Issues about women in biz. Love her podcast as well.
  • Abby Glassenberg - She writes about sewing and running a creative business, but her newsletter is so.much.more! Lots of interesting links. 
  • The Jealous Curator - This breaks my "rule" about not just rehashing old content. It's a summary of her blog posts for the week and entirely visual. 

 

Do you see what I mean here? She scans the world for you and finds really interesting perspectives. Get on that subscribe for Raincoast Salon Creative.

Mommas? There's a great new podcast and newsletter in town with Motherhood! Unexpected, funny, and tender.

 A fresh newsletter on the block from Motherhood: The Podcast! Listen. Laugh. Subscribe!

A fresh newsletter on the block from Motherhood: The Podcast! Listen. Laugh. Subscribe!

WHY?

"The ability to connect in a one-on-one basis is amazing. A podcast is a broadcast out into the universe. But an email in your inbox? That's a special intimate thing."

"I think being able to help someone, whether that's through providing a subscriber-only post, a special discount, or a tech resource, is essential. My personal gage is this: If I'm not adding value to someone's inbox there's no reason to press send."

What kind of information do you include?

"As my friend MJ has recently pointed out - I am a storyteller so a lot of my newsletter fits squarely in the 'here's what I'm learning' category. My thinking is this: If I've struggled with a certain thing there's a chance someone else out there could benefit from my experience, so I should share."

Paige writes with freedom and honesty, and I love losing myself in her narrative. Her stories engage and her warm personality comes through the email exchange. Recommend Motherhood: The Podcast to any new mommas you know, too!

I hope you'll subscribe to all five of these newsletters!!! I learn differently from each. Our Pars Caeli newsletter is coming out tomorrow, and I'm excited to offer some fabulous Back to School finds as well as a giant discount at our shop for all subscribers!! Oh, yeah. The good stuff.

Tell me, what newsletters grab your attention and keep it?

xoxo, MJ

DIY Iron-on Pillow

This post is sponsored by AllModern. Thanks for supporting the companies that support Pars Caeli!

 Make a pillow even cuter with an iron-on message! This quick, easy process is a fun way to personalize.

Make a pillow even cuter with an iron-on message! This quick, easy process is a fun way to personalize.

Remember the fabulous 5 Ways to DIY? It's back, and even more awesome than ever. We have taken on pillows with some really wonderful results, and we want to inspire you to try them for yourself with a $250 giveaway from AllModern. How awesome is that?!

The team this challenge includes the fabulous ladies behind Delineate Your Dwelling, Sarah Hearts, Oleander and Palm, and A Bubbly Life. We all ordered a solid colored pillow from AllModern. There were so many color options, and this pillow also has a really well made hidden zipper and removable cover.

What would you do with a beautiful, blank pillow canvas?

This pillow design is a handwritten note. Using my Wacom tablet, I designed the words in Illustrator. Once I had the letters looking as I wanted them to, I created a mirror image of the text for the iron-on sheeting.

I used my Cricut Explore to cut the letters out of the sparkly gold iron-on. You can also cut them out by hand, keeping in mind that they should be a mirror image to work correctly for this project.

Arrange the words on the pillow cover (removing the pillow insert) to make sure you have everything where you'd like them. Using the iron-on material, you simply use a hot iron (steam off) right on the letters for 15-20 sections to make sure that the image is secure!

 Make a pillow even cuter with an iron-on message! This quick, easy process is a fun way to personalize.

Make a pillow even cuter with an iron-on message! This quick, easy process is a fun way to personalize.

I wanted to add some sweet words to mine! Don't gag from the gushy mushy sentiment, but in our early years of marriage, my husband would often sing the country song Good Morning, Beautiful to me. I know. He is charmingly overdone, as I like to say.

 If you're not into sewing, why not try ironing on a fun message? Check out the DIY on Pars Caeli.

If you're not into sewing, why not try ironing on a fun message? Check out the DIY on Pars Caeli.

I love how the sweet message turned out, and our new pillow adds pizzazz to our master bedroom.

Want to give it a try?! Enter our giveaway below. You have a great chance to win $250 to shop at AllModern! All you have to do is tell us in comments what project we should do next for #5WaystoDIY. And follow the Rafflecopter for additional entries (I'd love to see you over on Instagram!!). Contest ends on June 29 and is open to U.S. and Canadian residents.

Get in on the goodness!! And thanks for following along.

xoxo, MJ

Watercolor Resist Banner
 The grand reveal of a resist technique make them a lot of fun for kid creations. Try this process to create a letter banner from washi tape and watercolors.

The grand reveal of a resist technique make them a lot of fun for kid creations. Try this process to create a letter banner from washi tape and watercolors.

We've been out enjoying the weather as much as we can this week, but we've had a lot of rain mixed with warm temperatures so we had some great time indoors working on summer reading and this fun watercolor resist banner for Father's Day.

I'd seen some of the incredible posts that Jean from The Artful Parent has created with resists. We decided to give it a try, making our own letters from washi tape and then applying them to watercolor paper.

 The grand reveal of a resist technique make them a lot of fun for kid creations. Try this process to create a letter banner from washi tape and watercolors.

The grand reveal of a resist technique make them a lot of fun for kid creations. Try this process to create a letter banner from washi tape and watercolors.

Any image or shape can be used. We decided to make our own letterforms to spell out Happy Father's Day. Using parchment paper as backing, we created the letters with tape. Once they were the shape we wanted (good practice for my 5-year old as he solidifies his formation of letters), we trimmed and embellished the edges to add some flair.

Next we stuck each letter to its own piece of watercolor paper. The children decided that they wanted each letter to be one color, and we practiced using the watercolor paints. It was a tough adjustment for some since our usual painting process involves putting a blob of paint on and smoothing it around. Watercolor is much more fluid, and the brushstrokes can be a lovely part of the finished product. We're still working on our technique.

In the meantime, we created a colorful banner, which was a lot of fun to peel and reveal. I holepunched the top corners of each letter, trimmed them into a slightly more angular shape, and tied them together for celebrating.

The kids were pretty proud to see their teamwork adding joy and color to our space, and they're ready to paint some more.

Have you tried watercolor resist before? With your children?

xoxo, MJ

P.S. If you're following along with the 18 Summers Challenge, we're making classic balloon rockets tomorrow. Join us!

Displaying Children's Artwork

We are almost in the final countdown until the end of the school year! Our family is limping across the finish line a bit, as we typically do, just worn from the extra activities that seem to pop up to celebrate endings and new beginnings.

Every summer is a new beginning for us, too. We make it a point as a family to try new activities we've been itching to get into, and to make learning all about our passions and curiosities. Mommy and Daddy school, a time for two teacher alums (the hubs and I) to share in the learning enrichment, has been a highlight of our summers since the kiddos were toddlers. You can find all of our posted ideas here.

 The best ways to decorate and to enjoy children's artwork without letting it overtake your home!

The best ways to decorate and to enjoy children's artwork without letting it overtake your home!

With the #18SummersChallenge approaching in June, I have my mind on creating, crafting, and summer bliss! (By the way, have you signed up to join in on that fun yet? Subscribe to our newsletter to get weekly supply lists and great ideas to make the most of summer!)

But, with creating comes a lot more stuff in the house - papers, sculptures, found objects, and more - that need to find a home. I clear out folders for flat work, make room on a side table for three dimensional creations, and ready art display areas to showcase our fun. And I'm always looking creative ways to decorate with our children's work. Artwork created by small hands makes a home warmer and adds a touch of whimsy and life, don't you think?

1. Hanging gallery - We have one of these in our playroom, complete with clothespins. Haeley from Design Improvised made this one along with her daughters, and the whole process would be a fun way to get children involved in putting together their own space!

2. Covered canvas frames - Create Studio assembled a museum in the making with a great collection of frames ready to go for potential pieces. I feel some curating in our future for these painted beauties.

3. Construction paper quick ones - These paper frames are an easy fold and hang solution from Serving Pink Lemonade. Children can practice their cutting skills, too (bonus!).

4. Rail and clips - I love this solution on HGTV for an old school feel. Pair a vintage yardstick with colorful clothespins for a unique hanging display. This would coordinate so well with our playroom/homework area.

5. Fancy string - Taking the hanging gallery to the next level, why not use pom pom fringe or sequin notions? Special ribbons or different colors for each child would add a nice touch, too.

6. Box gallery show - What if you threw a gallery launch? Love this idea from Casa Maria for a pop up installation of kids art! Invite relatives and neighbors over for lemonade as they browse through the latest creations.

7. Cork tiles - The modern edge on this gallery is what caught my attention. Janssen of Everyday Reading has a bright, clean space that is sure to inspire.

8. Stairway gallery - This classic look is brought to today's styles with the crisp white framing that is featured on each artwork. We're currently creating a collection on our stairway with a similar look, and I'm looking forward to sharing it with you all!

9. Rock gallery - These shadow boxes are my fave for taking simple collections (of which we have SO many) to museum-level beauty through repetition of shape or color. I can imagine the shell collection, hama bead art, and eraser assortments finding happy homes in these boxes on display!

 Do Good letterpress 8" x 10" print, available soon in the Shop at Pars Caeli.

Do Good letterpress 8" x 10" print, available soon in the Shop at Pars Caeli.

Our latest display technique are these vintage pants hangers that I purchased from Julia over at Tag & Tibby over a year ago. They are both unique and quirky enough to equal the charm of some of our most unique pieces.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Printable Mother's Day Card

This post is sponsored by Sprout by HP, but the project and thoughts are all mine. Thank you for your support of the brands that support Pars Caeli.

Mother's Day is just a few days away, friends! Are you ready to celebrate the mommas in your life? I've been looking at cards for the passionate mothers I know. And I have to admit that what I found fell a little flat. The racks were filled with more pastels and nostalgia than what fit these go-getter moms that I want to honor.

So I decided it was time to make my own. You know I love printables!  After a quick trip to the store, I was inspired to incorporate the beautiful tones and textures of the citrus, vegetables, and blooms. I mean, peonies!!

Typically I'd need to illustrate these props or photograph them, but with the new Sprout by HP I have greater possibilities. The Sprout is a touchscreen PC with a built-in overhead scanner, and it gives you the freedom to capture both 2D and 3D objects. I can scan anything, flat or dimensional, in a matter of seconds and quickly incorporate it into any design that I've created. I'm a big fan of the touch mat/touch screen combination because they work together so seamlessly and allow an even bigger canvas or the functionality of two work surfaces.

For the Mother's Day card, I wanted to use limes, lemons, artichokes, peonies, nectarines, and kiwis - the most vibrant textures and colors I could find. Putting wax paper on top of the touch mat, I created images of each of the props.

With the touch mat, I could resize, edit, and move around each shape to create just the look I wanted for my design. I love it when work feels like play and the hands-on quality to the Sprout makes everything feel like childhood fun again.

 Mother's Day card made modern. For the passionate, go getter mom in your life! A free printable card from Pars Caeli.

Mother's Day card made modern. For the passionate, go getter mom in your life! A free printable card from Pars Caeli.

I found this wonderful writing from Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., that seemed to fit perfectly. Have you read it before?

Youth fades.
Love droops.
A mother's love outlives them all.
 Mother's Day card made modern. For the passionate, go getter mom in your life! A free printable card from Pars Caeli.

Mother's Day card made modern. For the passionate, go getter mom in your life! A free printable card from Pars Caeli.

Get your free Mother's Day printable card here. It's sized to 5 by 7 inches so that you have plenty of room on the interior to say all that you need to say. So pop in a nice piece of white cardstock and get to writing! Or, if you're looking for something to give? Why not trim this one to the cover alone and frame it?

 Mother's Day card made modern. For the passionate, go getter mom in your life! A free printable card from Pars Caeli.

Mother's Day card made modern. For the passionate, go getter mom in your life! A free printable card from Pars Caeli.

I'm so glad that I was able to see my mother and mother-in-law this past weekend and celebrate together. Mothers are such an important part of our lives, and I'm grateful to have such examples to follow!


What would you create with a Sprout?


Three-Year Blogiversary + A Giveaway

Happy happy days are here!! Pars Caeli is a big three years old. By blog standards, Pars Caeli is an old gal now (9 months being the average lifespan of an active blog), and I can't help but reflect that she's just getting better with age.

As a way of thanking you beautiful people for joining along in any and every part of this journey, I have a fun giveaway of one of The Bannerie's glittery banners. In fact, I treated myself to a few banners that express in gold and glitter just how I'm feeling as we embark on another year of projects, collaborations, reflections, and musings. Here are my top three learnings as we embark on a new year!

 We're only here once so let's love big! Boss babe banner by  The Bannerie .

We're only here once so let's love big! Boss babe banner by The Bannerie.

1. LOVE BIG

I feel pretty strongly on this one in the whole vein of "shower the people you love with love" kind of way. And I love that this blog has given me the kind introduction to a ton of wonderful people. And I've been able to help them with their dreams, and they, in turn, have boosted my goals, too! I feel so fortunate to be able to shine big, bright spotlights on talented makers producing wonderful projects, great pieces of literature, and clever perspectives on the world.

I have a ton of projects that I want to accomplish, and I love that this space is one for me and for others, where we can throw love over all kinds of greatness.

I plan on loving bigger and better as we embark on this third year!

 Sparkle messages from  The Bannerie : Kind over Nice

Sparkle messages from The Bannerie: Kind over Nice

2. KIND OVER NICE

As much as I've loved highlighting and sharing others work, I've learned through collaborations that kindness always matters more than niceties. By that I mean, truly caring for the people with whom you work and genuinely looking to help them in real and powerful ways means so much more than the one off retweet or like here or there.

I'm always up for meeting new people, but I'm sure to keep supporting those whom I've known and trusted. As a "veteran" blogger, I want to help others through the meandering path of success but only in authentic and real ways. Far too many of us use the internet as a place where we are not ourselves, the comment or express emotions that are stronger than what we would deliver in person. And in year three, I'm up for making more kind connections and sincere gestures of support.

 You got this. And you need a banner to remind you. Giveaway happening on Pars Caeli!

You got this. And you need a banner to remind you. Giveaway happening on Pars Caeli!

3. You got this

No, really, you do. I'm grateful that three years of blogging have brought me to here. I've got this. My own brand of fun, whimsy, crafty, mothering, project-making goodness. And you have your own list of comma-spaced awesomeness. And there is space, plenty of space, for both of us.

Pars Caeli has shown me that there are like minds all over the world, and now we have a venue for high fiving and patting each other on the back. And even kicking each other in the pants when necessary.

I want to give you one of The Bannerie's best selling banners with just this message! YOU GOT THIS! I have mine hanging in the studio right now. It's a super helpful mantra for those times when more than my fair share of doubt might creep in.

The Boss Babe banner giveaway is on until Sunday. And it's very easy to enter!! Pass the giveaway along to someone else as a fun gesture to show your love in big ways.

Thank you for joining in this journey and for celebrating the everyday kinds of wonderful that make life amazing. Can't wait to step into year three!

xoxo, MJ

How to Start a Shop: A Totally Useful Interview with Four Entrepreneurs
 Ever thought of starting your own shop? Read this first - advice from four amazing entrepreneurs.

Ever thought of starting your own shop? Read this first - advice from four amazing entrepreneurs.

Have you ever thought of selling your creations? Maybe having your own store? I am excited and delighted to try it for myself, and I'm a strong believer that in starting a new journey you need to talk to those who have gone before you.

And so I asked four of my favorites over for a virtual coffee.  Meet Lacy, founder of Madre Beads, a hot new boutique with non-toxic wooden jewelry for kids and women. And Kim, creator of Design Life Kids, a fast-growing treasure trove of hip and hot fashions for your home, your children, and yourself.  Meet Emily, painter and creator of Emily Jeffords Studios, a beautiful escape from the mundane where you can find original paintings, prints, and creative consultations. And finally, Gilit of The Bannerie, maker of glittery, fun-filled messages for all your celebrations.

1. What prompted you to open a shop?

I love the wide variety of inspiration in these answers! Where would you find yourself?

GILIT:

Sometimes everyone around you sees something about you before you do.

In this case I had been told for years that I should sell my stuff and start a business, but how intimidating does that sound? In the months before I started, my daughter was home with me, and the jobs I was looking for needed someone to work nights and weekends. I wasn't willing to do that anymore. I needed a job, I have a strong drive to create, and I've always dreamed of having my own shop. So I did it.

LACY:

As a mom of three, I was continually frustrated with the jewelry options for mothers. Nearly all of the jewelry I had wasn't baby-friendly. Sharp metal certainly didn't belong in in my baby's mouth, and everything else I had hurt my neck when she pulled and yanked at it. I started playing around with some designs and did a bunch of research to find the best baby-friendly beads and finally came up with a concept I loved. Now, I make playful jewelry that moms can wear with the comfort of knowing their babes can enjoy pulling, tugging, sucking and chewing on it, too.

 See more beautiful artwork at EmilyJeffords.com

See more beautiful artwork at EmilyJeffords.com

EMILY:

I opened my Etsy shop right after my college first art show.  I had a nice body of work built up from my college days and needed a place to document, share, and send it off into the world.  

KIM:

I wanted to fulfill a dream after the loss of my husband.

I wanted to set an example for my girls to make the best of this life we have and not be afraid to go after your dreams no matter how hard they seem and how much work it might entail.
 Find the hip and the modern over at Design Life Kids.

Find the hip and the modern over at Design Life Kids.

2. How long has the shop been open? What did you sell initially?

LACY:

My shop has only been opened for less than a month!

GILIT:

It's going to be a year! Initially I was ALL over the place with every banner that I ever made and with anything that anyone asked me for even when I didn't want to make it. I always felt it wasn't the right move, but it took time for me to figure out what was the right move, which was to brand and focus.

KIM:

I opened DLK on October 1, 2014. I focused mostly on children's clothing and a few toys but have expanded into a fun collection of modern housewares and decor!

 Fresh messages in all that glitters are the specialty of The Bannerie.

Fresh messages in all that glitters are the specialty of The Bannerie.

3. How did you get the word out about your shop?

EMILY:

After my first baby was born, I was a stay-at-home mom, loving every moment, but I felt that I needed a challenge. I decided that I would create a painting-a-day and sell the paintings in my Etsy shop! Back then, Etsy was a much smaller place. I also blogged every day, showing my work to my natural market and reaching a few new people. This circle grew and became something small, but very supportive.  

LACY:

I began spreading the word about Madre Beads on Instagram. For the first few months, I gave sneak peeks that I hoped would lure customers in. I think the anticipation really got people excited!

 Find fabulous wooden beads like these at Lacy's new store, Madre Beads.

Find fabulous wooden beads like these at Lacy's new store, Madre Beads.

GILIT:

Definitely though my blog and Instagram. That plus Pinterest are my biggest referrers,

Free social media is a small business owner's best friend!

KIM:

Instagram was my support system and has become my best way to reach customers. Having a consistent aesthetic and being authentic has always been important to me there.

 

5. What's the best advice you can give to entrepreneurs considering starting a shop?

KIM:

Start small with inventory. It's better to sell out than it is to sit on it. And breathe... being an entrepreneur really requires passion and dedication, but it's really an awesome experience if you can keep it fun.

EMILY:

The best advice I was given as a young artist, counting every single penny: Invest in photography.  You can do it yourself, and you can totally DIY good styling, but invest time and thought in the execution and money in a good camera.  Photography sells online. 

Give your work the credit it deserves! 

LACY:

Plan way in advance and do your absolute best. I have started other small business before, on a whim, with no plan or purpose in site. As you can imagine, those businesses didn't do so hot. With Madre Beads, I took my time. I did research. I learned from my mistakes. I got feedback from friends. I made surveys and asked questions. I worked hard to develop my brand, even before I began making all of my products. I'm always putting myself in the customer's shoes.

"If I saw this photo, would I like it?" "Would I buy this?" Would I pin this?" "Would I give this as a gift?"

GILIT:

JUST DO IT! It's so easy to get caught in the planning and research stage, but go for it! You don't even need to publicize it right away. Take your time, get it set up, and slowly start spreading the word. The more you do it, the more confident you will feel (hopefully!)

Also, be prepared to work hard. It's not like being your own boss means you get to stop and have coffee whenever you want, it means you are in charge of EVERYTHING.

Even if it feels like you don't have a minute to breathe, or you won't be at your best, remember that you have to take care of yourself first and foremost.


Thanks so much, Lacy, Emily, Kim, and Gilit!! I loved hearing the origins of some of my favorite shops.

What advice would you offer?

xoxo, MJ



1 Simple way to define your style

My eye is attracted to a lot of different styles. I enjoy mixing feels but also focusing the attention on just one for a strong impact. Let's just say I sometimes feel like I waffle. Perhaps it's just my love for design that I can find the beauty in everything.

In creating a clear vision for Pars Caeli, I wanted to present a clean, bright aesthetic that spoke to me. However, I've kind of been tossing out different ways to see that same thing over the last two years.

Until.

Candice of Handmade Mood, a seasoned photographer and expert in images and branding, suggested a very approachable method to define your style. It's called a 5 Minute Flip. The basic idea is to spend five minutes flipping through magazines (use the real paper kind if you can) and pull out every image that catches your eye. Don't think about it too much; just react and respond.

So I grabbed three recent editions of Real Simple and Better Homes & Gardens and set my timer. At the buzzer, I had a stack of images. Because I didn't want to be swayed by the ripped edges, I trimmed all the pages and taped them up in our mini upstairs studio.

As I walked by the wall, I would take down an image that was not as captivating as the rest. Every time I walked by, over a series of days, I would take down more images, until I had a solid group that I did not want to let go.

Here's my animated gif to give you a sense for the process as well as a sneak peek into my helpers and their opinions. It plays through twice...reload the page to see it again.

 Find your style through a fun 5-minute flip! Grab your magazines and see what images remain after five days in your view.

Find your style through a fun 5-minute flip! Grab your magazines and see what images remain after five days in your view.

Once I had my final selection of about a dozen images, I tried to step outside of my head to analyze and find out what it was that I loved about these photographs. You should really try this. It's not heavy commitment, and you're bound to learn something new. Here's what I discovered about my preferences.

 Find your style through a fun 5-minute flip! Grab your magazines and see what images remain after five days in your view.

Find your style through a fun 5-minute flip! Grab your magazines and see what images remain after five days in your view.

First off, I love photographs that look like designs. I should have been able to predict this, but it was still eye-opening. After spending most of my life in graphic design, I am drawn to order and to visual hierarchies. These images above from Real Simple make me gaze upon ordinary objects in new ways and see them as forms and shadows. I'd love to see them huge, billboard size.

 Find your style through a fun 5-minute flip! Grab your magazines and see what images remain after five days in your view.

Find your style through a fun 5-minute flip! Grab your magazines and see what images remain after five days in your view.

I find repetition of forms attractive. I love to receive color information through that repetition. And repetition that almost blends itself into full on pattern is very interesting to me.

 Find your style through a fun 5-minute flip! Grab your magazines and see what images remain after five days in your view.

Find your style through a fun 5-minute flip! Grab your magazines and see what images remain after five days in your view.

Digging deeper, I saw that I'm drawn to bright pastels when paired with crisp whites. Simple patterns (stripes and dots) offset these tones well for me. And I am pulled into photographs that project the life I want (hello, Pinterest!). This last grouping was really helpful to me as I think about what images I create for Pars Caeli. I want fresh, feminine, clear, and approachable.

And that was totally painless. I can still love many different kinds of images, but now I know what I'm aiming for in this brand. My images remain on the wall for further reflection, and I'm thinking of doing another 5 Minute Flip for typography because it was so fun. And I love typography.

Give the exercise a try if you're waffling like me and need a sense of your photography, your graphic design, your interior design, or anything else you might be able to gather from the 2D luxuries of a magazine.

Happy dreaming!

xoxo, MJ