Posts in Grown-Up Goodness
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.

 

Kindness Matters and #GoodnessTrending
Adding good news to your feed every Tuesday! Follow Pars Caeli on Facebook.

Adding good news to your feed every Tuesday! Follow Pars Caeli on Facebook.

"What happened in Paris, Mommy? Why do they keep using the word "terrorist" on TV?"

I didn't want to explain a terrorist to my inquisitive 10-year old. I don't know how to, and I desperately wish that we lived in a world where that conversation never needed to happen. But, she's heard the word, and she wants her mother to explain why these horrific events happened to innocent people. "How could someone do that, Mommy?"

I have no good explanation, though in her presence, I tried to seem brave and knowledgeable, so that perhaps the immensity of it all would not overshadow her. "Fear is what they want to evoke," I told her. "It's hard not to be scared. We will mourn, and we will pray, and we will do our best to be peaceful people in our corner of the world. And when we recognize the fear coming up, we will feel it, and find the good. Because good always prevails, always. I am sure of that. And God will strengthen us when we feel helpless and alone. He gave us each other."
A portion of every Do Good product goes to The Sweet Pea Foundation which assists children and their families during hospital stays.

A portion of every Do Good product goes to The Sweet Pea Foundation which assists children and their families during hospital stays.

In an effort to inform and explain, the media covers images and retells stories of threats, attacks, violence, war, and tragedy. All relevant information, all needing to be shared, all compounding for a bleak look at the state of the world.

And despite all that - no, maybe in the face of all that - I see the world that is overflowing with goodness. The poet, Gerard Manley Hopkins said it like this, "The world is charged with the grandeur of God."

It is in the kindnesses that individuals extend to one another, the grand sweeping gestures that impact thousands, and the hopeful discoveries that lead us to believe in a different future. All of these are also happening every day, and in every place. And these acts of goodness need to be shared.

Share the goodness happening in your part of the world by tagging #goodnesstrending

Share the goodness happening in your part of the world by tagging #goodnesstrending

In our very small corner of the world, we're trying to add more goodness to the world. In the shop, a portion of the profits of every "Do Good" product (children's tees, women's tees, and letterpress print) go to help hospitalized children and families through The Sweet Pea Foundation.

And I know that you all are doing this kind of thing in your lives, too!! You're finding ways to stay open to joy, to reach out to those on the margins, and to give to those in need. And we need to share that your good work with the world, lest we all be overcome by the sad news around us and misled to believe that the tragic is all there is.

In honor of Giving Tuesday, this day designated to give to the non-profit of your choosing, we will be sharing goodness every Tuesday over on Facebook (you have to see some of the amazing stories happening there today!!). Let's make every Tuesday one for giving. Tag any of your stories or photos on Twitter or IG with the #goodnesstrending hashtag, and we'll share them on Tuesdays. I challenge you to share these stories with your children and your spouses and your parents and neighbors. Let's remember that goodness is trending. Goodness prevails. 

Perhaps if we can focus on the goodness before us, and share that joy with each other, we might dissipate the darkness, while giving one another a safe hand to hold into the future.

What's something hopeful, something good, happening for you?

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!

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

 

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

7 Ways to Get Back to You in Back to School Season
All opinions expressed are all mine. Thanks for supporting the brands that support Pars Caeli.
Back to school season can be the perfect time to return to you! Try these seven ways to refresh.

Back to school season can be the perfect time to return to you! Try these seven ways to refresh.

We've put a pretty bow around the end of the first week of school here! The final rush for school clothes, supplies, extra sleep, and final hoorahs came to an abrupt end to make way for backpacks, planners, extracurriculars. And though my children were not exhausted after their first day, I was!!

I love back to school season, don't get me wrong. As a former teacher, I get so excited for the year ahead. And as a mom, I love the return to order and a little predictability.

So, now that the kids are happily settled into school, and I've had a few nights of sleep to recover from the back to school prep, I am ready to get back to me a bit. The beauty of having all three in school for the first time is that, although I am still busy with work and the business, I have a little wiggle room for self care and a recharge of spirit.

Maybe this season is a great time for you to get back to you, too! Perhaps you aren't affected by the start of the school year or maybe you're only sending one or two off to school. It doesn't matter. This transition to fall might be just what you need to kick back in to gear. Here are 7 ways to go back to school and back to you:

1. GIVE TIME:

As someone who doesn't go through transitions quickly (or easily), I can safely attest to the need for patience with yourself. A sharp change in schedule or an adjustment to people moving in and out of our lives can cause more disrupt to our day-to-day than we might expect. Give yourself some time to adjust. 

2. Get yourself moving:

Whether you have a wealth of time on your hands now or just a few moments to spare, use them to get yourself up and about. It is oh so tempting to fill our time with more coffee dates or TV or blog reading. But the benefits that come from exercise and being in a new surrounding will redouble their effect on your well-being.

So pair the podcasts and binge watching with a walk, a run, or a yoga class with friends. I've been running during lunch, getting myself out into the fresh air. Do something that makes sense for you.

3. Invest in some beautiful office supplies for you:

Students don't have to be the only ones to get organized! Grab yourself a new organizational tool or a chic daily planner to inspire your commitment to take care of yourself and put your priorities in place.

Wire baskets are a new love of mine, for catching all that doesn't look wonderful sitting in piles and corners of my house.

4. Get your learn on:

Dig in and take on that e-course you've been thinking about! Take a trip to the library or local bookstore and feed your mind with possibilities. Start a new journal or notebook. Spend a few moments where you can in active learning.

5. Take time to laugh with people you love:

Who knows you better than your loved ones? Make a date with your girlfriends, your mom, or your favorite couple and get laughing until your sides hurt. Somehow in the midst of happy tears, I always find myself.

6. Be still:

I have been craving stillness lately. Some of us need it more than others, and I know I seek it after a busy period. We had a packed summer, full of fun but still full, and now I'm ready to downshift for a while and recharge in the normal. At the times when I might have worked alongside music, I'm now giving myself an open window and bird noises to minimize the noise and allow myself to be still.

7. Celebrate the new phase:

If we can make national holidays for hot dogs or lemonade, you can certainly create a reason to celebrate you. You might not know what the next phase holds so maybe you celebrate the unknown. Give yourself something special to mark the occasion of restarting. 

What is there worth celebrating? Over here I'm excited to grab a morning coffee every so often with the hubs! 

How will you make the most of this season? How do you get back to you?

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

The Challenge of 18 Summers
Join in a summer's full of activities and childhood joys on Pars Caeli. Every week, new ideas for ages 5-10, with supply lists ready a week in advance for big projects.

Join in a summer's full of activities and childhood joys on Pars Caeli. Every week, new ideas for ages 5-10, with supply lists ready a week in advance for big projects.

"Next year, he's off to college, and this is his last real summer at home. I don't know yet what we're going to do. I feel all this pressure, and I want to make it special, make the most of it."

My oldest is only 10, but I felt that same heart pang. I saw the softness in this mother's eyes--she, the amazing parent of eight children, ranging ages 3 to 18--as we chatted during t-ball team pictures. How do we make the most of the time we have with our children, while they're still at home?

I feel that pang a lot when it comes to childhood summers. I want so much the continual carpe diem experiences for my children. The bliss of chasing butterflies matched with the incredible camp that opens their eyes to new possibilities. The right amount of boredom to find the space to create their own adventures. The time making family memories together and traveling to see new places.

"One day you will wake up and there won't be any more time to do the things you've always wanted. Do it now." - Paulo Coelho

And, much like the mom that I was chatting with, I do put a lot of pressure on myself. I have a feeling I'm not the only one.

So how do we do it? Provide the planning and energy to make memories happen and mix it with the ease and the relaxation to allow spontaneity at its best.

Frankly, I'm not sure. I'll likely stress about it and not do enough BUT nevertheless I'm inviting you into our summer journey to try some bucket list activities, to relive some of the joyful activities of our own childhoods, and to experiment with new projects! For newsletter subscribers, I'll send a supply list every Friday so you can join along and preview future ideas. No worries, most projects will include easy items you have right in your home.

And I want to see what you're up to with your children, from infant to college age. How do you make the most of the summer together? Share your tweets and photos using the hashtag #18summerschallenge, and I'll repost select ideas to help us all!! And don't forget to share and to subscribe to be a part of the best summer of childhood.

We can do this, enjoy our times together and make them memorable. Cheers to a wonderful summer ahead.

xoxo, MJ

 

 

How Much Water do you need?
It used to be 8 by 8, but now doctors are recommending something different. How do you know if you're drinking enough and a simple idea to try to help you stay hydrated.

It used to be 8 by 8, but now doctors are recommending something different. How do you know if you're drinking enough and a simple idea to try to help you stay hydrated.

One of the great birthday gifts I gave myself this year is the gift of good health. I feel really blessed to have no major ailments, injuries, or physical challenges, but I also have a ways to go to feel fit, healthy, and strong. One area that I'm focusing on in particular is hydration.

How much water do you drink a day? How much liquid in total? I've always wondered if I'm getting enough (though checking out the toilet bowl after a quick pee is a good indication - clear for hydrated, yellow for dehydrated). I know that I need to add more to my daily intake. The old 8 for 8 rule (8, 8-oz glasses of water a day) is a good standby, but I've also been reading that there's more to it than that. So I did some fact finding for us.

Our body weight is made up of about 60 percent water. Everything, every system and organ, depends on water. It flushes out toxins, carries nutrients, and provides moisture - just to name a few all star traits.

It seems that the new recommendation for how much water to ingest varies on your gender, your weight, and your activity levels. Makes sense. The Institute of Medicine recommends about 9 cups (2.2 liters) of total beverages a day for women. Notice that the rec is beverages so that other liquids can/should be consumed as well, particularly to replace important electrolytes that might be lost in physical exertion and sweat. Don't fret, you don't have to down Gatorade. Doctors say adding a bit of sea salt to your drink adds the same beneficial effects.

According to WebMD, "you should try to drink between half an ounce and an ounce of water for each pound you weigh, every day.” So if you weigh 150 pounds for example, you're looking at 75 to 150 ounces of water a day.

I also found this tidbit from USNews that I thought was really helpful:

"The basic equation for determining... is by dividing your body weight in half. So, if you weigh 200 pounds, you would need 100 ounces of water per day if you're not doing anything strenuous. If you're working out, hiking, at a high altitude or outdoors a great deal, you're going to need to add to those 100 ounces."

I can do that!

Try this: write the number of glasses you want to drink up the side of a glass in dry erase marker. As you finish a glass, wipe off the top number to keep track of how many more you'd like to drink!

Try this: write the number of glasses you want to drink up the side of a glass in dry erase marker. As you finish a glass, wipe off the top number to keep track of how many more you'd like to drink!

And here's how I'm keeping track. I measured out eight ounces. Yes, I'm that kind of gal. We have juice glasses that are just about exactly eight ounces. I write the number of glasses that I want to drink up the side of the glass in dry erase marker. As I finish a glass, I rub off the top number with my finger so that I remember how many more I should be drinking. Sometimes us busy moms need helpful ways to keep track of this kind of thing since we can get pulled away by kids, work, or the house at any given moment!

How do you make sure that you're hydrated?

xoxo, MJ



Loving your age
Limited edition Do Good letterpress print will be a part of Shop Pars Caeli later this month!

Limited edition Do Good letterpress print will be a part of Shop Pars Caeli later this month!

So this is the view from four decades on the planet. Today is my birthday, my 40th birthday.

I wasn't completely sure I was going to share that with you.

And that took me down a rabbit hole of why nots.

It seems from my perch that these days aging is set up to be feared, or at least avoided, in our society. We all (me included!) want to look younger, to act younger, to be mistaken for younger than what we really are. Sending wishes of gladness that 40 is the new 20 is a fun way to extend youth.

But what if we went back to the notion that elders are respected and revered?

Or even more what if we entered a whole new era where aging is the best thing there is? Remember how anxious you were to turn from four to five? Or eighteen? 21?

How does Pitbull say it . . . Any day above ground is a great day. (Oh man, I'm quoting Pitbull now.)

Friends, I've lived forty years! And rather than dread it (like I thought I was going to), I feel truly, honestly grateful. I've lived in many different places, had a bountiful number of experiences, and been touched by the most loving individuals. I even given birth to three of them. I've made little and BIG mistakes. I've had to learn from them. I've hurt people and loved people and celebrated people. And I've grown and changed and stayed the same.

I'm more wrinkled and saggy. More tired and cynical. No, I can't jump as high, nor run as fast.

But I am here, friends. I have another day, week, month, and hopefully years to do my best to add love into the world and to be deeply grateful for the gifts I've been given. How amazing!! And I've had 4-0 such opportunities.

I'm not bragging, but being around to love and to be loved for forty birthdays feels like a pretty giant blessing.

God is Good limited edition letterpress print will soon be available at Shop Pars Caeli.

God is Good limited edition letterpress print will soon be available at Shop Pars Caeli.

One of my great blessings is this space right here where I can share what's on my mind, in my heart, and all over my studio floor. I'm so honored to have you lovelies over here, and I so so appreciate your support and encouragement.

So let's celebrate another year!! Are you brave enough to share your age?

xoxo, MJ

 

5 Gifts to Give Yourself this Mother's Day

Of this I am convinced: there are an infinite number of ways to be a wonderful mother. There's no secret recipe or way that you need to adapt your personality. Your children need all the you-ness you've got.

We mommas can be hard on ourselves. We can focus on what needs to be done more than the goodness that is. And Mother's Day is a fabulous time for us to breathe, to step back, and to bask in the joy that is each of us (remember that?).

With that in mind, with you in mind, here are five gifts to give yourself for the special day.

1. The space for calm or silence

Mothering is loud, messy, and constant. And those three aspects are amazing - when taken in good doses. Give yourself time away (even if it's 10 minutes with music) to inhale deeply all that awaits you and to exhale all that has been. Some of us love the stillness of silence and other would be calmer with our favorite tunes blasting. Whatever gives you a break, take it.

2. The space for physical relaxation

Children can physically wear you out. Mother's Day is the right time to go for a long walk, a good run, an extended massage, a magical bath. Reward your body for all the effort it goes through in the everyday experience of motherhood.

3. The opportunity for a fresh look

You give of yourself and sometimes (only sometimes) you make time to be good, really good to yourself. Look at yourself with fresh eyes! Try out some new colors, a different hairstyle, a red lipstick. Granted, these changes are only surface level, but sometimes actually seeing yourself look different allows you to free up some of those preconceived ideas of who you are.

4. The time to relish

I usually want to spend happy time with my kids on Mother's Day, but tantrums, activity schedules, lack of sleep, and a handful of other things can make the day feel like it's out to get me, rather than celebrate me.

For your Mother's Day, you may or may not choose to be with your children. Regardless of this, give yourself the time to remember wonderful moments in the lives of each of your children. Imagine the scenes again that brought easy laughter to you and your children. And reflect on your positive role in their lives.

5. The time for creativity

Time to fill up your bucket. Are you a reader? Love to journal? A big movie buff? Being a great mother means you make time to develop you. Children need strong role models, right? Show them that learning and using your God-given talents is important to you, too.

And get out the oil paints. Or scrapbook supplies. Or leotards.

Give yourself some extra presents this year. You deserve it, momma.

xoxo, MJ

 

#Mother

Motherhood has been on my mind more than usual. With pals becoming new moms, turning the page onto a new decade myself, and Mother's Day upon us, I've been seeing motherhood from a lot of different angles.

Join our Mother gang because mothering is hard enough without friends. In love and support of all mothers.

Join our Mother gang because mothering is hard enough without friends. In love and support of all mothers.

I will not judge; I will love instead.

I've always wanted to be a mother and pictured myself as one. I've been formulating what that picture looks like since I was a little girl. In many ways, all that I've learned, I learned through the lens of wanting to teach it to my future children. I have evaluated the world, other people, and myself through this lens of the best mother.

And in that light, I have critiqued other parenting styles and choices. And when I became a new momma, I was super critical of myself. Am I doing this right? Is she sleeping enough or too much? Should I be nursing more or less? Do I keep her stimulated or too much so? So many questions ran through my head, judging every move I made.

I will not judge; I will love instead.

We had our second child when our first was two, and I heard others judgments. Are you ready for another? How many are you going to have? I think two years is too close. I think two years is too far apart. How old are you now? Are you really going back to work?

Adding to my own self evals (that were still coming up less than glowing), I heard the voices of "them" - those people who don't really matter in our regular lives but we somehow give power to when we're making important life choices.

I will not judge; I will love instead.

I'm a mom, three times over now. My oldest has been on this earth a decade now, and my youngest can speak in paragraphs. My inner critic is quieter or has a better sense of humor. And the "them" have evolved with new faces and new questions/advice/unhelpful observations.

And I see moms making the same, the opposite, or slightly similar choices to my own. And whether it be my age, my faith, my exhaustion, or my wisdom...

I just want to love them.

To walk up while they are fighting with the onesie diaper change. To high five while they're trying to wrestle with the toddler in the carseat. To hug when the child screams loudly and repeatedly in the middle of Church. To offer knowing respect when the tween spouts off disrespect. To hold hands as the middle schooler takes first steps into high school. To hold our breath on the first night that curfew is actually used.

I will not judge; I will love instead.

You always wanted to be a mom.

You weren’t sure you wanted children.

 

You work.

You stay at home.

You do both.

 

You cook.

You have the pizza guy on speed dial.

 

You breastfed.

You bottle fed.

 

You craft the day away.

You buy pre-made Valentines.

 

You lost the baby weight.

You just call it weight now.

 

You think motherhood is rewarding.

You think motherhood is challenging.

You think both.

 

Yet...

We are paralyzed by the thought of them growing up.

We worry if they’re getting enough vegetables.

We cry.

We wish for just five minutes of silence.

We fear we aren’t doing it right.

We understand our own mothers now.

We yearn for unsolicited hugs.

We feel guilty.

We stand in awe at their accomplishments, big and small.

We grieve when another has lost a child. 

We love hard.

We have a common thread.

And it is #mother

I'm joining in the #MotherMovement. It's an effort begun by Sara Moore, and it begins with the statement above called the #MotherManifesto. It's a commitment to lift up all mothers. To stop the mommy wars and the bickering. To support. To listen. To love.

I will not judge; I will love instead.

There's a lovely Mother Gang of incredible women steering the ship, and we'd love you to join in. You're a #motherlover, aren't you? We're real people who find mothering hard and amazing and exhausting and worth it.

Head over to Mother Manifesto to read more about this movement!! You'll see more about it here on Pars Caeli over the next months. And we have a pretty kicking giveaway coming up next week, too.

Put aside your differences to lift all mothers up   and support them in whatever way they need.    Commit to the #mother community, to the village   we always hear about, that we all need as mothers to make it through with our sanity.

Put aside your differences to lift all mothers up and support them in whatever way they need.  Commit to the #mother community, to the village we always hear about, that we all need as mothers to make it through with our sanity.

JOIN OUR MOM GANG. BECAUSE MOTHERHOOD IS HARD ENOUGH WITHOUT FRIENDS.

And to all mothers out there, you are loved.

xoxo, MJ

How to Recover from Vacation
Re-entry back to reality is never easy. Here are a handful of practical tips to get you enjoying life at home again.

Re-entry back to reality is never easy. Here are a handful of practical tips to get you enjoying life at home again.

A fabulous trip away to somewhere tropical/relaxing/exciting/adventurous that made you feel ecstatic/in love/rejuvenated/calm. And now you have returned home . . . but almost all of you wants to be away and still on vacation. Don't get me wrong, home is where the heart is, but sometimes that heart needs a change or a rest.

Today, I'm writing this post for me and for you. I've had this blog window open, ready to write all about how I bounced back into real life, since we, my husband and I (sans kids) returned from a whirlwind trip to New York City with friends nearly ten days ago. My pal, Emer, and I had always imagined that we'd celebrate our 40th birthdays in NYC together. Emer and I are long-time friends, but an ocean has kept us away from frequent visits, she being a native-born Irish beauty, now living back home, married, with three little boys. However, all the planets did align, and we were somehow able to make a grand double date of a 3-day weekend and take on the town.

So, in writing this for the both of us, I did some searching around to see how other good people kick themselves back into gear. The Happy Gal has ideas for how to keep your family on track and your home in order before and after vacation. These are awesome and ambitious. Road Warrior Voices has a great idea to return from your trip a day early to give yourself time to do laundry and to ease back into routine. The site has a useful list of ideas for longer vacations but one not quite as practical for a long weekend vacation.

Here are my top four ideas to get you back into your groove after a wonderful time away:

1. Remember that this does not have to be the only trip and plan for the next:

Perhaps you might be feeling a sense of disappointment, the post-Christmas blues sort of feeling, that now the time you'd be looking forward to is over. Plan the next time for wonderful! Whether it's a 2-week international excursion or a quick roadtrip away, give yourself something new (and doable) to look forward to! It's good for the mojo and keeps you pushing forward, rather than looking behind.

2. Capture a memory or experience in a special way and keep it in front of you:

Souvenir shops are big money makers for a reason! Whether you found something(s) precious on your journey or snapped oodles of photos, make sure that you put those reminders in prominent places in your life. By this I DON'T mean your display shelf. Pop a silly photo in your wallet or pin the cute card to your bulletin board at work. Walgreen's has great deals on black-and-white, super large prints if you want to plaster something large on your wall. Chatbooks are my new favorite way to capture your Instagram photos in a beautiful way!

3. Get (back) to sleep and healthy eating:

Upon returning home, I was hit with a sinus infection *BOOM* which, in turn, prompted me to eat less healthy (what, Sonic burgers don't cure sinus headaches?). Being under the weather did force me to sleep more, which was helpful as I don't sleep much before trips (trying to get everything together) or on them (trying to enjoy every moment). I also allow myself to indulge in high calorie decadence when I'm traveling so I usually come home feeling full-er than I left so returning to salads and green smoothies has helped everything feel back on track.

4. Find small ways to relive the experience and share it with those around you:

What was the best part of your trip? The deep sea diving? The long stroll along the river bank? The amazing book you were finally able to read? Share those!! While no one REALLY wants to see all of your vacation photos, your coworker might be looking to hear about a great, new location to visit or your neighbor enjoy the book recommendation. And seeing them experience something you loved helps amplify the joy of the journey, too. Even simple things like texting a photo of your vacation time together can help transport your loved one back to a beautiful memory.

When was the last time you spent some time away? Even if it's only for an afternoon, you'll be surprised by how much joy you can sustain from the experience!

xoxo, MJ

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

8 Ways to Bring Spring into Your Home today
Spring is here, but it might not look or feel like it where you are. 8 easy ways to bring spring into your home today!

Spring is here, but it might not look or feel like it where you are. 8 easy ways to bring spring into your home today!

The snow has melted, and our house is surrounded by a lovely lawn of brown grass and bare branches. Spring is here, but it seems that winter is still trying to steal the show. I find myself looking for green buds and soft breezes that are not yet ready to arrive. Here are 8 simple ways to bring spring into your life:

1. Plant some Easter grass

The fun of seeing grass grow in the middle of your living space is such a thrill! Yes, I just admitted that I enjoy watching grass grow. For us it's going to be many months before our lawn can provide the green lush feel. And with wheat grass, you can quickly see the natural process develop over a period of days. Your grocery or bulk store likely has the seed, and any bright or unexpected container will add to the fun!

2. Add colorful touches to your interior

Now is the perfect time to prep your spaces for spring with burst of color in pillows, throws, tablecloths, and more! You might even feel ready to make something beautiful like these yarn art pieces from Oleander and Palm. I love these flower votives from This Heart of Mine to make any meal feel like a special garden party.

3. Fill your home with favorite natural scents

Hyancinths say "you've made it through another winter" to me! And I adore them for it. I pick one up from the store this time of year to add that irresistible scent to our space. I'm also really excited about lavender and citrus aromas so I often keep some on simmer while we're working and playing around the kitchen. It's a simple way that I convince my brain that spring freshness is here.

Bring the glam to Easter eggs with some silver leafing! Way easier than you think it might be.

Bring the glam to Easter eggs with some silver leafing! Way easier than you think it might be.

4. Get outside

Even if it's still cold or snowy or gray or drizzly (or any of the other excuses I provide) put on your coat and gloves and get outside. The ground is getting softer, the birds are tuning their voices, and the smells are changing. My children know I love the aroma of fresh, brown dirt, and in turn

5. Add color back into your wardrobe

Sometimes winter inspires (!) me to wear a lot of gray, accented with brown or black. I know, not the most interesting look. Come March, I'm ready to break out the floral head scarves, brightly colored flats, and prints that contain more than one tone. If the blooms are quite ready to break ground yet, go ahead and coax them out with your own shades of awesome. Joy's selections for spring are right up my alley, and I'm going to try my hand at some color blocking nails, too!

Bring the glam to Easter eggs with some silver leafing! Way easier than you think it might be.

Bring the glam to Easter eggs with some silver leafing! Way easier than you think it might be.

6. Force some flowering branches

This is one you can do even as the frost is around. Spring bouquets filled with branches of wisteria, dogwood, and more are a gift of early spring. Steph has some wonderful tips on how and when to cut these so that you get the most flowering for interior spaces.

7. Change up your station

It's a great time to change up your playlist and pop on the tunes that make you feel lighter, happier, and give you an extra kick to your step. Pretty soon we'll be in the heat of summer, windows down and music blaring. But for now, we welcome in spring with optimistic flavor and music!

8. Make silver leafed eggs

Here's what we're up to right now to bring spring to our home - silver leafing eggs! I love the effect of leafing - whether it's gold, silver, or copper - and Easter eggs go to the next level when wearing a little extra bling. I used a bag of artificial colored eggs from the craft store, some leafing medium (an adhesive ready for the job), and the silver leafing. The metal comes in super thin sheets and is ultra delicate so if you want to apply a lot of leafing, be sure to use tweezers to tear your sheets. I wanted the leafing to allow color to peak in and out of the surface tones so I applied the adhesive in random wiggly patterns. Using my fingers, I patted one inch sections on to the egg and carefully removed excess along the way. Once all the leafing was applied, I went back with the adhesive to make sure edges were smoothed down. These eggs glisten all on their own!

Are you as ready for spring as I am? How do you change over to the new season in yoru home?

xoxo, MJ

Welcome Baby Party Decorations

This post is sponsored by Munchkin. Ideas and musings all from me. Thanks for supporting our sponsors.

Throwing a baby shower or a party for a new mom? Use toys and gear as a part of the decorations for a bright surprise that a new mom can put right to use!

Throwing a baby shower or a party for a new mom? Use toys and gear as a part of the decorations for a bright surprise that a new mom can put right to use!

All this week we're Celebrating the Little Things in a fabulous party for new mom, Amy Christie, creator of This Heart of Mine. Amy is so talented and funny (what a whit!), and a fabulous mom of three now. Even more than a baby shower, we wanted to say congratulations momma on a job well done!! Let's celebrate life.

Jen decked out the present table with the sweetest ribbon chandelier where visitors and guests can leave their well wishes for the new baby. Melissa prepared a gourmet PB&J buffet that is positively amazing (I'm a huge peanut butter and jelly fan).

I'm bringing the party supplies! I was inspired by the cool gadgets and toys of Munchkin to make our own decor from items that Amy can use long after the party ends.

Add vinyl letters to basic balloons to say exactly what you want. Love these colors.

Add vinyl letters to basic balloons to say exactly what you want. Love these colors.

I love adding simple white letters (stickers or vinyl) to plain balloons! To hold the balloons in place, I put simple glasses on top of the string and added colorful yarn pom poms.

The kids can get involved in party prep with simple garlands like the one below. My kids created these for the party in a few minutes from some white thread and cut colored paper. These act like mobiles and add movement and playfulness.

Get the siblings involved in making the party! These simple banners are made from paper rectangles taped onto white thread. Color infusion!!

Get the siblings involved in making the party! These simple banners are made from paper rectangles taped onto white thread. Color infusion!!

Grippy dots for the tub or coasters that stay right where you want them? I loved putting these out for a fun table runner down the table. My children have also loved pretending with the grippy dots - they been pancakes at our imaginary pancake food truck (what a great idea, huh?) and a masterful indoor hopscotch pattern in the hallway.

Bath letters were calling my name for a special message. Amy's children have given her newborn the nickname, Pipsqueak. So cute! Using some floral wire, I attached these bathtub letters together to shower on the love. The wire leaves only small holes in the sides of the letters, and they're ready to be used in big sister's or big brother's bath.

Grippy dots for the tub turn into table runners and coasters. Letters for the bath tub become the special messages you want to send!

Grippy dots for the tub turn into table runners and coasters. Letters for the bath tub become the special messages you want to send!

Decorating the tables, the Miracle Cups decked out in dots! We are big fans of these cups that don't spill and can be used from any side. They are the hippest water bottles for my 7- and 10-year olds in their bright shades. For the party, we removed the lid, and slid in a glass to hold the flowers and keep the sippy clean. The dots were added for the party but can be easily removed for washing and further use!

Add dot stickers or vinyl circles to these bright cups and they become fun floral centerpieces.

Add dot stickers or vinyl circles to these bright cups and they become fun floral centerpieces.

We're over on Munchkin's Instagram feed this week, too, showing how we cherish the little things in our lives and celebrate parenthood! Stop on over and say hi.

Congratulations Amy on Pipsqueak's arrival! We love him already.

xoxo, MJ

 

Munchkin rids the world of the mundane by developing clever, innovative solutions that make family life safe, easier, and more fun. You can find their products at Munchkin.com, Target, Babies’R’Us, Walmart, and Amazon. It’s the little things!