Posts tagged Alt Summit
How to continue the momentum after a conference

So you're on a conference/retreat/workshop high. The world is at your feet, ready to follow your amazing leadership or get hooked on your fabulous content. You know that at some point this experience will come to an end. How do you keep the inspiration flowing? How can you best transform this momentum into real-life progress?

I had the best time at Alt Summit last week, learning and laughing, and I'm still on an adrenaline rush from all of the creativity that surrounded me!

How to continue the momentum after a conference. 6 practical tips to stay inspired!

How to continue the momentum after a conference. 6 practical tips to stay inspired!

6 Practical tips to stay inspired after you've returned home


You listened to knowledgeable and interesting people whose stories or ideas grabbed your imagination. Did you write down their contact information or exchange a business card? Send that person a tweet, an email, or even a hand-written note and let them know what it was that they shared that stuck with you. You'll find you've made a valuable contact that will continue to inspire and possibly even support you long after your time together.


It's not only the speakers that will continue to inspire you, it's your peers. Pull out that deck of business cards and make notes. Take special note of the ones that interest you. I put mine in a special envelope for future referencing, BUT...

Before you put them away, USE them. Connect with these folks on social media. And do it as soon after the conference as you can so that your connection is as relevant as possible.

3. Take notes on your notes

As soon as you're able (even before you leave), read through your notes and look through your photos, and get all of those brainstorms down. No judgement or evaluation on these ideas, just write, write, write. You can come back later and edit. If you act on these inspirations, you're bound to find some golden nuggets amongst a few weeds.

And if you're like me, writing down important points AGAIN, will help you commit those thoughts you want to keep close to long-term memory.


Maybe it was an inventive business card or a freebie giveaway that encapsulated a theme you don't want to forget. Post that card or frame the print and put it in your everyday space. Let it serve as a continued reminder of what you want to create for yourself.

I'm framing my letterpress print from the ladies of Handmade Mood. Its simple styling says, "I'm kind of a big deal, on my blog." The sass and the ownership (and the sheer talent those three ladies possess) remind me that I can create my own path here on Pars Caeli. I set my own pace and go my own journey.

5. Take an immediate step

Sometimes I return home and get so involved in what is greeting me (smiling children, happy husband, mounds of work, etc.) that I forget to act on all those really important things I said I was going to do when I got home.


So, avoid the self-annoyance and before you walk into your home, take an immediate step in the right direction. Register for the class. Do the thought exercise. Call the potential lead. For me it's been the 5-minute flip and Karen Walrond's vision statement exercise. More on those in future posts!!!

6. Don't hesitate

Be honest with yourself. If this conference or retreat was really inspirational, consider how you'll attend the next one! Or follow the speaker that sparked a new way of thinking. Or purchase the book that everyone referred to. This final step will likely take an investment of money so take some time to decide what out of the entire experience was the most meaningful for you.

And make it happen - again!

You better believe I'll be joining up with my pals from Alt Summit to make and to strategize again. The time together was just too good not to be replicated!

xoxo, MJ

Turn your vision statements into business cards

And now a word about branding.

Lots of great marketers and communicators have lots to say about branding. I have a great deal of thoughts about it myself, and I continue to learn more about best practices for my new small business.

In order to move forward the brand of Pars Caeli, in addition to logos and colors and fonts, I thought through mission and purpose.

As a loose exercise, I started by writing key statements that summed up my purpose and vision. And phrases like Yearn to Create resonated.

Amazing are You.

You are a Piece of Heaven.

Soak in the Goodness.

The amazing company, Minted, gave me the opportunity to create these sharp triple thick two-inch business cards/vision statements. The solidity of the cards feels like the right reflection of where I want to go - strong, positive, and thoughtful.

I'm spending today and tomorrow in Utah to assist with Alt Summit. It's my third conference from Alt, and I learn a ton from the creatives I meet. I'll be showing off great business cards (they are a big deal at Alt), tweeting out great tidbits of expertise on social media/branding/small business, and capturing images of the fanciful and imaginative parties and collaborations that only happen at Alt. I'd love to have you join in the fun via #parscaeli_ALT on Twitter and Instagram.

I'll be back next week to share all that I can!! Until then have a great weekend, friends. Don't forget to check in tomorrow to see what hits The Top!

xoxo, MJ

My Little Addiction jewelry

Image captured by Ellen of Minnow + Co

In case you're wondering, let me reassure you that there are wonderful people in the world.

Generous, kind-hearted, supportive, go-way-out-of-their-way for you kinds of people. And I want to share one with you today.

Melanie does a great many things, among them she is a full-time caregiver for her mother and a pretty amazing jewelry designer and creator. She owns My Little Addiction Etsy shop, where she sells "beautifully simple, timeless jewelry."


When I was invited to become an Alt Rep, I scrambled to get together my wardrobe and accessories. I wanted to wear pieces that would speak to who I am and feature unique craftsmanship. And I thought of Melanie and her great work! I am all about beautifully simple and timeless pieces.

In fact, as a sign of our comraderie, the four of us Alt Reps wore a triad of Melanie's faceted rings on our knuckles as a simple sign that we were in this together...and in this to shine.


She was over the top generous to me and sent along an initial necklace and arrow necklace as well as two beautiful pairs of silver earrings. These pieces are all so beautifully made and have the sort of heft and sparkle that lets you know that she spent careful time and thought to make each piece unique and perfect. 


As I sign of my appreciation to be the recipient of her art, I've added a My Little Addiction button to the sidebar! If you're looking for quality and class, check out her jewelry. And tell her MJ sent you!!

Have a bright weekend, friends. And a lovely Valentine's Day!

xoxo, MJ




Alt Summit 2014: Messages for All

Alright, here it is. The last of my Alt Summit recap posts. Thank you all for joining in the journey and keeping on with me as I hash and rehash what was a wonderful four days for me and this blog.

As my final homage, I'm wrapping up the experience with three quotes that have the most sticky-ness for me.

The first one above is from Salem Stanley, owner and founder of Vacation Races. He spent most of his time sharing Facebook strategies with his eager audience. And when speaking more broadly about how he's grown his business so quickly and so well, he boldly declared that, "If you're not embarassed by your first iteration, you're moving too slow."

And I immediately

felt better.

Moving with the speed of your readers' eyes and interests doesn't always allow for the refinement I strive to have in all my work. But maybe it's more about the process of doing and the interaction with your readers that's more important than the quest for perfectionism.

And that is awesome.

And leads sweetly into my favorite motto of Pinterest from Ben Silbermann,

Keep doing, keep failing, keep going. Good things take a long while to develop.

And this last one summed up the essence of why I blog... and Alt reinforced the necessity and the duty we have to ourselves to be brilliantly who we are for the world to appreciate. Originality is the new hot commodity. Wear yours well. Thanks for the words, Amy Christie:

Where are you finding your inspiration these days?

xoxo, MJ



Alt Summit 2014: The Business Cards

Sometimes I style things to my fancy:

Well, thank you. How did you know? Amazing cards by Melissa Esplin and Miss J. Handmade.

If you've heard one thing about Alt Summit, it might be that the attendees rock their fashion (yes, yes, yes). Or it might be that the art of the business card is in full glory at this conference (oh, diggity). Designers, artists, and creatives put on their best show in two to six inches canvases (or more - hello leggings and scarves) to make one memorable first impression!

This is what some of the madness/goodness, spread over multiple magnetic boards, looks like during the conference; can you spot the Pars Caeli round card with silver leaf?

I'm breaking it down to show off some of my favorites. You know, like the Academy Awards of business cards. That could totally be a thing, and I'd arrive dripping in (borrowed) diamonds.

First off: Cards featuring photography

Take a gander at these lovelies. Beautifully executed scenes, portraits, and products. And that print in the middle? Justin Hackworth on fine art paper.

* 1 Why All the Fuss * 2 Petit a Petit and Family * 3 Make it Productions * 4 Justin Hackworth Photography * 5 Goods by Grinn * 6 Handcraft Your Life * 7 Damask Love * 8 Bella the Blog * 9 Harlem Love Birds * 10 Crafting Connections * 11 Dean Street Society

And now in the category of positive messaging:

Throw mine in this grouping! Those of us gathered here are hoping that our cards make it to a message board, or that, at minimum, the happiness shared lingers a bit longer. Because, you are a rockstar.

* 1 Sparrow Soirees * 2 Caravan Shoppe * 3 #StayWildAlt party * 4 Nan Lawson * 5 Little Retreats * 6 Pars Caeli * 7 Meg in Progress * 8 Approaching Joy * 9 Love from Ginger

Next up: Font fantastics

Some broke out the classic choices. Others used their own handwriting or pulled out special characters. I'm smitten for Design Crush's circle stickers...and you?

* 1 Red Stamp * 2 I heart Cleveland * 3 Design Happens * 4 Pretty Polished Perfect * 5 Design Crush * 6 Commona My House * 7 Katelyn Brooke Designs * 8 It Sweet and Savory * 9 Life In Sketch * 10 Melly Sews * 11 Sarah Hearts * 12 Oh So Beautiful Paper * 13 Candy Kirby Designs * 14 Lisa Yoder * 15 Friday We're In Love

And in the smallest category, the high flying illustrations:

A great drawing gets my attention every time. Honest truth: I'd been eyeing Alma and Mike's new movable business cards since I saw them on the internet. I was not disappointed with these letterpress goodies. And, no, I'm not sharing.

* 1 Ringmaster Mom * 2 Caravan Shoppe * 3 Small for Big * 4 Alexandra Hedin * 5 And We Play * 6 Curly Birds

Patterns surprised me this year with their exuberance:

Brittany and her unforgettable patterned origami card holder? Oh yeah. And Minted associates really had the most amazing paperstock.

* 1 A Golden Afternoon * 2 Design Lotus * 3 The House that Lars Built * 4 My Life at Playtime * 5 Design Life Kids * 6 Minted * 7 Design Improvised * 8 Ivory Kate * 9 Jeanetta Gonzales * 10 Goodly * 11 A Ruffled Life * 12 Even If Nobody Reads This * 13 Anne the Adventurer * 14 Victoria Riza

The most watched: Literal works of art cards

Paintings, objects, tea boxes, and accessories...step back. These makers brought their A game all around. Miss Emily Jeffords even gave fine art reproductions of her oil paintings and signed each and every card. (Friends, go get those lovelies framed!!!)

* 1 Emily Jeffords * 2 Oleander + Palm * 3 Alex Mattox Design * 4 Annie K Blake * 5 Paper & Stitch * 6 The Paper Mama * 7 Moorea Seal * 8 Cricut * 9 Frock Files * 10 This Heart of Mine * 11 Eat Boutique * 12 Minnow + Co

And last but not least, the brave and bold:

Brit + Co laid it on with a drop-dead red. Whimsey Box and Wayfair are neck-and-neck with distinctive hues that stand out long after the initial meeting.

* 1 Furbish Studio * 2 Blogging It Forward * 3 Brit + Co * 4 Whimsey Box * 5 Legal Miss Sunshine * 6 The Road to the Good Life * 7 Made to Shirts * 8 Collectively * 9 Wayfair

If you're not done with the beauty of these cards yet, head over to Moorea's site where she breaks it out by color. Eye candy gorgeousness.

What are your faves? Who's getting the Oscar this year?

xoxo, MJ



Alt Summit 2014: The People

I think I'm turning into an extrovert. I missed you all yesterday not because I'm so tired from the marathon of amazingness that is Alt Summit, but because I am so over-the-top with energy and excitement, I'm having a hard time containing myself into anything that would be slightly useful.

The night before I headed out to the conference, I narrowed down my goals, and the first (and the one in big block letters) was:

Connect with friends.

I had a long list of people I wanted to hug and thank and congratulate. And another list of people that I admire who I knew would be at Alt, upon whom I wanted to try to keep my composure and say a well-formed, "hey," while I freaked out and did the running man in my head.

That didn't really work. The composure thing, that is. Oh well. I did connect with an uber mound of creatives.

All of the incredible photography in this post (save this one) is by Justin Hackworth and Brooke Dennis.

At the top of the list, these crazy good dames. Coming from far - Emily in South Carolina, Paige in Arkansas, Me in Indiana - and the even farther in the snow - Ellen in New Hampshire - we were an unstoppable team of the first-ever Alt Reps. We had each other's backs, eminated warmth and good vibes, and laughed it up every night in our shared suite. So, So, So much fun was had with this trio. I am unbelievably blessed.

I spent time with my long-time collaborator and good pal, Joy of Frock Files, and the sweetest roommate, Mere of Not Merely Living. Also Joy taught an amazing photo styling course while at Alt Summit, and girlfriend rocked it.

I met new buddies like Charity from I heart Cleveland, and confirmed just how cool Meg really is (here she's pictured in a frock that her mom made for her IN FIVE DAYS).

I re-remembered just how wonderful it is to be thinking creatively, work collaboratively for a creative venture, dream big with the best of best.

I made a fool of myself when I met artists I've admired like Melissa and Alma and Mike Loveland. C'est la vie.

I cracked up at every story Amy Christie told me (that one is hilarious!), and I declared Oklahoma a state of perma-awesomeness with these design stars, Erin and Rachel.

I high-fived Alexandra for her kickin' party (does anyone do a pony better than she?), and I told Bobbie just what an amazing beauty and writer she is.

I connected with speakers and assisted new attendees. I took WAY more selfies than I ever have and accessorized my little heart out.

I worked alongside these well-known creative super powers, who make the whole magic Alt orb rotate. And I learned a ton just from watching and connecting. Big thanks to Sara and Gabrielle for this premier opportunity.

I got things tangled and untangled again, and I recognized the goodness in this amazing Arkansas heart.

I sat in awe as this artist brought with her crowds of admirers, and took notes as this powerhouse made magic happen through the composition of her words.

This Alt Rep adventure was my nugget of an idea...and I've learned a ton (can't wait to share that), raked in some incredible business cards (sharing those, too), but ultimately...

Without the friends and the connections (new and old), it would have been a great conference at a chic hotel with interesting information.

Instead it was the tops of the top... that Altitude Summit. On the road to success, be sure to take your friends.

xoxo, MJ

P.S. Holla to my gals Maggie and Melissa whose photos weren't in the photostream but whose awesomeness exceeds any snapshots!!





Off we go

Cracka lackin, fire it up. Here we go.

I'm leaving on a jet plane today to begin Alt Summit, and I'm excited to represent a brand and a talented group of people who have assisted me in this blogging journey. All of the outfits are planned with a ton (for me) of accessories packed, shoes ready, cosmetics, and even stacks of business cards.

I'm feverishly writing lunchbox notes for my husband to add to my kiddo's meals while I'm away. I'm going to miss my three biggest cheerleaders. They wonder what all this blog stuff is about. And I try to explain to them the importance of following their dreams and reaching for things they think are out of reach...even if it means we have to be separated for a few days. Large, open eyes stare back, and I know they don't quite understand, but I feel their love sending me off in their biggest open-heart gesture.

My husband has filled the car with gas, tended to every last detail so that I have to think of nothing but getting myself prepared, and he's told me again and again how proud he is of me. That kind of support, love, and enthusiasm is the once-in-a-lifetime treatment that I get every day, and I'm truly thankful for his big shoulders holding me up.

You can catch the happenings over on Instagram (@parscaeli) or via Twitter. I'll be using the #altrep and #PCalt if you search around. :)

Thanks to all of you for your sweet wishes!!

xoxo, MJ

A Warm Welcome to Alt

I'm a dessert before dinner kind of gal, and I have a treat for you, friends.

We all know and love Theresa of Inspiration Coop (if you don't, click on over to see gorgeousness), and I've hoodwinked her into spending some time over on Pars Caeli today. Theresa is a woman of total class, impeccable style, and bubbling-over talent. She's also a very busy lady with a wonderful family and aspirations - and I'm hoping that I can get her back into the giving of blog posts on Inspiration Coop because her brilliance lifts all of us up. Theresa and Sarah were a part of our Alt Rep proposal, and we were all bummed when we found out that T wouldn't be joining us.

But she's here today so let's show her some love as she (per usual) turns the focus on others!

Photo by Justin Hackworth

By now, I hope you've all heard the amazing news that Emily, MJ, Paige, and Ellen are at Alt SLC fulfilling their roles as super-duper, official Alt Reps. (Read more here, if you haven't.) If you're at Alt, make sure to hunt these women down. You may just discover a new best friend. Or, if you're not at Alt, do the next best thing and live vicariously through them. Either way, you will come to quickly realize that this amazing opportunity to represent Alt couldn't have happened to four better - i.e., down-to-earth, gracious, welcoming, collaborative, inclusive, and engaging - women. Before the fantastic four donned their Alt Rep capes and jetted to Salt Lake City, I caught up with them to ask two questions:

1) What are you most looking forward to about attending Alt SLC 2014?

2) If given five minutes to meet/talk with any attendee or speaker at the conference, who is that person?

Without further ado, herewith are their answers...Thank you, ladies:

It's new and it's old

I checked myself three times on yesterday's post. And then I had to confirm again with my husband.

"I have been blogging for two years, right?" say I.

"That's what you said, but I don't think it's been that long," says he.

"No, no, it's definitely been two years...maybe more." I return.

And then I just HAAAD to go back to the old site for Pars Caeli to check on numbers. April 25, 2012 was the first date I had the guts to click the publish checkmark.

Much like other strong relationships in life, blogging feels like I've done it forever and that I'm just starting - simlutaneously.

It's so natural, and sometimes exhausting, to sit down in front of the screen and create a new image, a new series graphic, adjust photos, and prepare social media posts. As I go through my day, I have the blogger instinct running rampid (ooh, this would be a great blog post, or ooh, must get that great sunlight while I still have it for the project). Even when I try to turn it off, I find that it's still there - a need to share, a need to create.


Fact is, I sat in front of this blank rectangle blog box for a few hours last night (while watching TV, scanning social media, doing other work) with nary a word or image to share. I feel like I'm coming upon a great inflection point for me as a blogger (with Alt Reps and contributions in the works) and I have a ton to get done in six days...

And I kind of feel like a deer in headlights.

I'm kind of shocked by this movement forward because I feel like I just got started on this blogging thing, and I don't know what I'm doing. I have so much I want to learn, I have myriads of projects I want to take on, I never feel like a post is totally done.

I've moved beyond the myth of, "if only I had time..." I'm never going to have time, I've stopped imagining what that would be like.

I have this time - whatever handful of minutes here and there to steal - to listen to myself, to offer my ideas and dreams, to put it out there on the page or the post box, if you will.

I find this whole creative process electrifying.

So forgive me if I'm still a bit shocked by it all.

xoxo, MJ

Spreading wings

Hello lovelies!

As you can see, this space around us is going through some construction (still in process - thanks for hanging with me) as I freshen some stylistic qualities on Pars Caeli, keep you up-to-date on the latest, and get ready for a whole lot of exciting for 2014. It's going to be the year to be bold. Pars Caeli's second birthday is coming up, and if I remember from the Hallmark list, the traditional second birthday gift for a blog is wings!!

So let's fly. Two very exciting developments to share with you today!

I'm a new contributor over on one of my fav-o-rite blogs - Classic Play. I have loved Jen's site for years, and my kids love the fun we can have together thanks to the creative ideas shared over on Classic Play!

I'll be over there every month talking about high quality, little time, fun activities you can do with your children. We're calling it Squeeze Time right now, and it'll be a bright spot with handy ideas to make the most of the hour or less we have on those crazy days of parenting and life!

Join me over there at the end of January for my first appearance. :)

And...drumroll, please. Many of you have been asking...

Pars Caeli has made the leap to Facebook! I know, I know, many people are running from Facebook these days. But, if you're over there and want a fresh break from the typical newsfeed, add Pars Caeli to your feed, pretty please? I'll be sharing information over there...and a few unique posts only for my FB friends. I started the page a little less than a week ago, and I already love the simple interactions I can have with readers. So let's have some conversations and keep in touch that way, too!

Thank you, thank you to all of you awesome people who have allowed this space to grow!



Go Out on that Limb: Alt SLC Reps
Photo via Justin Hackworth Photography

Every time I look at this picture, I grin. I grin that big, full-face, cheek-aching grin as seen above (me in stripes). I remember this moment vividly as my new pals and I sipped cocktails on the roof of (just to name drop here) Omnimedia, AKA Martha Stewart's HQs. This was a day in June 2013 known as AltNYC, and it was 24 hours of amazingness in NYC that changed the trajectory of this little blog.

Those ladies - Emily, Paige, Theresa, Ellen - are my people. They are the kind of fountains of spunk, creativity, and heart that you want to bottle up and take with you everywhere. We had a grand adventure in NYC. We were all incredibly appreciative of the opportunities that Alt Summit laid before us, and we had a few (million) ideas on how to make this goodness happen again...

To make a long series of emails, excited phone calls, and FB exchanges succinct, I gathered this group together (+ one Sarah of Sarah Hearts!) to build on an idea I had. If you've spent any time here at Pars Caeli, you know I am all about community and lifting each other up - and we translated that into a kickin' proposal that we titled Alt Ambassadors. We sent it off with a wing and a prayer (and a whole lot of "please, please, please") in August.

Fast forward ----> New Year's Eve. Ellen sends me a very exciting text that she's received an email from Gabrielle (cofounder of Alt) that Gabrielle would like to welcome us to AltSLC as Alt Representatives.


Sorry - disbelief, shock, and sheer joy jammed my neurons and made me unable to think. I had a whole lot of "did that just happen" moments, and then we got the gals together to figure out details. And here's the skinny:

Ellen, Emily, Paige, and I will be acting as Alt Representatives during the SLC conference. We'll be offering the warmth of the collaborative spirit of Alt and connecting new and experienced bloggers, answering questions, and being the ladies you can turn to when you have THAT ridiculous question that you really don't want to have to ask someone else like: where do I pin my business card or where are the sponsors I want to see? It's an incredible opportunity for the four of us, and we are honored to take on this new role. We'll be assisting speakers and greeting creatives in each breakout session. If you are headed to the conference, please come find us - we want to meet you and give you a hug (and tell you that, yes, that outfit is just the right look for the day, you are brilliant).

To get that community vibe going, please follow the Pinterest board that I've started for AltSLC. This board will definitely evolve in the next days to include all the speakers, sponsors, and attendees we can find! We hope it can be an amazing resource for you and also all the others you want to connect with during the conference. All of the Alt Reps can pin to the board so feel welcome to grab any of us to get yourself pinned! I've preloaded about 75 of us that I could find...maybe you're already there... go check!

 And, well, here's the moral of the story for me.

If you have an idea, or if you have a gem of an inkling of an idea, go after it. Try it. Connect with others who can make it happen! Sometimes crazy, amazing things can happen when innovative, intelligent people are listening.

2014 is going to be the year of going after your dreams or thinking up those dreams that you've been pushing off to the side for way too long now.

Please forgive all of the exclamation points in this post!!! I am pumped about this opportunity to work alongside so many people that I respect and admire - and also I get to go to some drop-dread awesome parties in the mix. Wahooo!

xoxo, MJ

P.S. If you're interested in following our journeys in this new experience, follow the hashtag #altrep, because it will likely make you laugh and we are all over making up hashtags. (Runner up hashtag name? AltSaltShakers)

P.P.S. Today's #30Sketch goes with it all:

Pars Caeli takes on AltNYC - the cards

For me the people of AltNYC were the toppers. BUT a very close second were the business cards. I knew before I ever stepped foot in Omnimedia's offices on Thursday that I wanted to get them all. Business cards, the good old-fashioned way to exchange messaging and contact information, are a highlight of Alt conferences. These mini masterpieces are all shapes, sizes, textures, and even scents. With each and every card exchange, I felt like I gained another lovely bit of inspiration, and I got to tell my story to another eager listener (thank you attendees for that).

And after much labor and DIY-ing, I'm delighted to present to you the inaugural Pars Caeli business cards.

Highlights of their creation include printing on watercolor paper and adhering two layers to create the ultimate thickness and applying four layers of silver scratch-off paint. Hand painting each one of these was a commitment and a total joy. The process reminded me of the joy of freehanding. Granted, the glimmer of bliss began to wear off somewhere around coat two of silver paint, but I pushed on through that.

I went with a round design to reference the Alt logo and Martha Stewart logo (grabbing onto the coat tails of greatness). Pars Caeli is all about joy and celebration so I wanted every participant to WIN something. The thought: offer a scratch-off treat that reveals a very special website for attendees to grab a VIPrize.

I was so over the moon about these, and I eagerly handed my very first card to Paige in our Hotel Americano suite just before we were about to leave for our sponsored dinners on Wednesday evening. Paige, the ever-supportive enthusiast, quickly began to scratch at the silver paint.



Scratch, scritch.

My stomach sank. As Paige scraped off the silver paint, off came the watercolor paper and the ink that posted the website that made the whole concept click. 

Seriously? What. am. I. going. to do. Time? 5:30 with dinner to begin at 6:30 where cards will be exchanged.

I could have bawled right there. I know it sounds ridiculous but part of me wanted to pull an all out fit, think 4-year old tantrum, and pout.

BUT, I had Paige. See angelic human below.

And one really great friend is worth more than a Times Square ad space.

Instead of pulling a childish fit, I laughed. Heartily and almost hysterically. And Paige laughed, too. And in 2 minutes we were brainstorming ridiculous solutions. And laughing at every turn.

I texted my husband on the issue. He urged me to rally. To pretty please rally. He offered the story that the lottery would not release the real solution/ingredients for the official scratch-off formula so this was a bit of a gag. Eh, I give him credit for storytelling in a second's notice.

Paige stopped her preparations for dinner.

Sat down with me and a great big pile of business cards and...

We began to handwrite the messages around the circle of the cards. "Head on over to to grab your treat. xo" was written again and again. And you better believe that Paige will forever know how to spell her Latin terms.

We'd finished about 15 when we realized we had to get in a cab and get to dinner. I needed more than 15 for dinner.

Again, Super Paige to the rescue. In the backseat of the most tumultuous cab ride, Paige and I attempted to handwrite messages on every single card. With grace and wit, she set me at ease, got right to the task, and had me planning for when I might finish off the once overwhelming task.

And you know what, friends? I owned it. Every person who received a Pars Caeli card got a quick, funny recap of the escapade. Maybe the humanity of it or maybe the wit or even the sweetness of friendship will resonate with folks... and make my cards that much more memorable.

I know it's a story I'll be telling my grandkids. Friendship sticks...even when the silver lining gets scratched off.

And now to the rest of the amazingness, the cards of Alt NYC. First up amazing objects. Really ladies? You rock.

Catch that swimming minnow from Ellen? And that circle lovely from Amy?

I just can't help it - the charm of Paper Mama's wooden dog pin had me. Handmade. No, really.

And onto the color and photography cards. I received so many letterpress and fabulously thick cards (my fave).

Haeley over at Design Improvised even gave us the ingredients for an Alt business card garland. Genius!!

Alexandra's letterpress vintage charm was just gorgeous and right on message.

And the black and white set. Such great classic and crisp cards here. Theresa's washi tape envelope had me at wow.

Shall I offer a favorite? Or shall I pull a mom answer out and say I love them all, just differently.

Nope. Leslie Fandrich, your cards are even more beautiful in person than in stunning photography. Your hand-drawn illustrations brought to letterpress are gorgeous and my very favorite.

Who topped your list? I'd love to hear.

And before I forget, let me share with you another installment in the fun Endless Summer Projects series. This week Melissa of Lulu the Baker is creating mini masterpieces in an easy how-to that we can all handle with our kiddos. My older children are beginning to notice art more and more, and thanks to an art memory game we have, they've each established their own lists of favorite painters and illustrators. I know they'll enjoy creating some appreciated masterpieces to life for our home!

Thanks, Melissa!! Alexandra has a great project headed our way next week, and she's taking us right out to the backyard. Join in.

xoxo, MJ

PS. AltNYC friends, the site is open. Please go to and enter your info so I can send along your prize!!
PPS. Take a look at Obsession Session's quick take on the cards via Vine.

Pars Caeli takes on AltNYC - the people

Indulge me, please, friends. I have stories to tell from my first ever trip to New York City and AltNYC!! Amidst these recollections are some gems of wisdom from giants in the blogging industry, lovely images from the one and only Justin Hackworth (thanks Atly for sponsoring these amazing photos), and the buds of a few really great ideas that will be coming your way in the next few months.

To sum up my experience, this. Yes, this is how huge my grin was for the vast majority of my journey. Meeting friends that I've been corresponding with for months and jumping on new opportunities. Thanks to Paige for capturing the essense of me in NYC, and thanks to Emily for those incredible earrings.

From the numerous emails back and forth before purchasing tickets down to the final sentimental hugs goodbye, Paige and Emily made AltNYC an easy-breezy, glamourous, and downright hilarious trip for me, and I'm so glad we decided to triple up in our queen suite and make a glamping escapade out of the whole thing. See below: beautiful roommates with attitude

In addition to saving my business card future and giving me an insiders look at Brooklyn (these stories still to come), these two had my back and were the extra boost that I needed to power through that gasping feeling I woke up with the morning of AltNYC - AKA I'm going to Martha's offices this morning, ack!

For those of you not in the know on Alt, Altitude Summit was started by Gabrielle Blair and her sister Sarah a handful of years ago. Originally the conference was offered as a multiple-day event in Salt Lake City. Now, it's tranformed into events in NYC and San Francisco as well as an entirely digital conference focused on design, social media, and the best of creative content.

Gabrielle's blog, Design Mom, was the very first blog I followed, and one of the few definitive things I wanted to accomplish during my time at Alt was to meet Gabrielle.

During a break on Thursday, when poor Gabby was trying to catch up on a few emails, I totally interrupted her, showed off my lack of shame, and thanked her for the years of inspiration. I am a total believer that you have to support the people and organizations that you love, and it was on my bucket list to give my girl a hug, in real life.


And yes, she is that classy in real life, too.

Before AltNYC I began collecting all the blog and blogger info I could get my mouse on to tag it on a Pinterest board. Check out all the amazingness that went along with me to AltNYC over here on Pinterest. Turned out that Joy's tip on looking like my profile picture for the conference was a hugely helpful one!! Gals from all over were able to identify my bun and stripes, and I was greeted with so, so many warm, "Oh, you're MJ.."s.

I met dozens and dozens of incredible, creative, passionate bloggers (who also design, write, mother, photograph, style, travel, and bake), and I was completely inspired by the buzz of energy that filled the gigantic room. The extrovert in me was so charged I couldn't fall asleep til 3 AM following the conversations with ladies like this (all photos by Justin Hackworth; he's the man):

Okay, Martha and I didn't actually have a conversation, but she did stop by, and I was a bit overwhelmed!

Laicie of 1000 Threads (class and warmth)

Leslie Fandrich and Jen of Classic Play (cool, confident kids)

The ladies of ObsessSesh (hilarious and down to earth)

Amy and Alexandra and Molly and Mariah

As well as dozens of other gals for whom I don't have photos!!

And these gals on the rooftop of Martha's HQs

Emily, Paige, Theresa, and Ellen

All of these beauties taught me a little something different, and if I could, I'd wade in the diversity and freshness we all brought to the table. Spunk, passion, intelligence, and an incredible eye for design.

That's what I found in the people of AltNYC.

Tomorrow, my friends, I have the business cards that will delight you, and I'll tell you the tale of the cards that almost weren't. Stay tuned on Thursday to learn great ideas that you can apply to your life (blogger or not) from AltNYC.

Kisses to all,


PS. If you want to see even more of the experience from my view, head over to Instagram and follow #parscaeliatAltNYC to see start to finish.

PPS. Thanks again to Justin for these gorgeous photographs!!

Altitude Summit New York City

Ahhhhhhh and EEEEEEk. Sorry to greet you with such outbursts this morning, but I'm HERE friends. This thing that I've been contemplating and pondering and wishing about, it's here. And I'm here in New York City for the first time ever.

Super big thanks to my hubs who has loved this blog into being through his abundant support and encouragement. This whole experience is a treat for me planned out by him. Thank you, dear.

Hugs and kisses to my kiddos who are gonna make my time away no less than exciting for him, too. Listen to your father.

I'm reposting the reflection I did from my armchair during AltSLC. I've been an #altsummitwannabe for a while so enjoy the tongue-in-cheek rendition.

If you want a window into what's going on live, join me over on Instagram at @parscaeli. Hoping to snag some great photos. You can also follow the hashtag #ParsCaeliatAltNYC.

Wish me luck!

xoxo, MJ


Originally posted January 2013:

As many of you know, I'm a big fan of Alt Summit. I've followed founder and co-owner, Gabrielle Blair, for years, and I've learned oodles from their online classes through the Alt Channel. I actually purchased a ticket to Alt NYC and had to cancel out. To me the brand that Alt has established is one of unique, fresh, over-the-top creativity, unsurpassed in its innovation and attention to detail.

I blog for fun, to connect with lovelies around the world, to stay inspired... so I can't say, like many of my blogger buds, that heading to Utah for a few days was a noteworthy and important business expense. I kinda just wanted to go to dance the night away with friends and be wowed by the great business cards and keynotes. Maybe bring back some signature swag. Is that so wrong?

In my head, no.

However, 2013 was not my year for Alt SLC.

If you follow Pars Caeli on Instagram (yeah, come on over, I have some really corny jokes for you), you saw my ode to the magnificence and rockstar partying through the hashtag "altsummitwannabe." Yes, yes, I do use humor as a coping mechanism. For example, I did enjoy this round table discussion but maybe not as much as I would have if Jen and Sandra were leading it.

My networking opportunities? Well, not so Alt fab.

But, at least I could add my homage to blogging through my fashion choices (while my ladies touted a much grander sense of style...)

Big, big thanks to my tweeps who played along and offered their own glimpses into what an Alt Summit Wannabe's world looks like.

Honesty here? Despite getting a nibble from sponsors, I knew I couldn't attend Alt SLC this year when I found out the date. Why? My daughter, C, age five, had her first ballet performance on Saturday. Until now she's been overcome by stagefright despite her amazing natural abilities and love for dance (no bias here). So, though I was swayed by the glamour and the glitter, I knew I had to be in the auditorium seat with my loud clapping hands and gleaming smile to cheer on my favorite new ballerina.

That doesn't keep me from getting all that I can from the photos, quotes, and detailed recaps floated out on my favorite blogs. And when you find something this good, well, you just have to share it.

You'll find below an unmatched list of amazing recaps for those of you who fell into the Alt Summit Wannabe category and for you beautiful attendees, too. Have a missed some awesomeness that must be shared? Post it in the comments, and I'll update the blog roll here.

  • You're gonna wanna read all 73 of these lessons from And Then We Saved learned
  • Catherine shows off her outfits over on Walking with Cake
  • Even amazing bloggers like Megan need a burst of inspiration. Read how she got her groove back over at the Fresh Exchange
  • The dynamo Melanie recaps the highlights we can all take away over on Inward Facing Girl
  • Over at Mama love Papa, Morgan admits (we already knew it) her great affinity and talent in photo booths and pinpoints great speakers
  • Adina from Gluten Free Travelette throws down some bulleted lists you don't want to miss
  • Gabriel, AKA the Artful Desperado, offers some advice we don't often hear on Alt
  • Erin from Art Social has everything you need to know
  • Mariah has the skinny on how to make amazing photos with props on Oh, What Love Studios
  • Designer Rachel of Pencil Shavings Studio put together an awesome takeaway menu from her time
  • A brilliant recap of mega talent, Stefan Sagmeister's naked keynote from Sandra at Raincoast Cottage
  • And don't miss Sandra's notes from her roundtable with Jen from Classic Play: Makers Gotta Make
  • Two great posts from Erika of Foxtrot Press to keep us thinking and engaged, check here and here
  • The Curbly viewpoint offered by Alicia
  • All sorts of inspiration and notes from PJ over at Bunny and Dolly
  • You better believe that bloggers hustle harder, and Amber over at Damask Love has all the info
  • Kristiina reveals 5 things she didn't expect to learn over on a Typical Housecat
  • Cal has great photos and insights from her experience. Check them out over at Call Me Cal
  • Speaking of awesome photos, you gotta check out Karen's over at Chookooloonks
  • Jill of Terra Savvy shares some lovely thoughts on Alt the second time around
  • You must see Brittany from the House of that Lars Built unbelievable hat (and all the other fun)
  • The New Diplomat's Wife says it all in five quotes
  • Little Lessy takes you through each day's lessons with great graphics, too.
  • Lisa of Elembee breaks it all down in two posts for us, find here and here
  • Need Alt survival tips? Get them from our girl Squirrelly Minds, Tan
  • Lauren gives us the deets on her outfits and her takeways on Stylized Existence
  • Allison of Engaged and Inspired shares her snapshots
  • Party like its Alt SLC from the one and only Kelly of StudioDIY
  • Leslie reminds us of the power of friendship through her experiences at Alt and making new connections over on her blog Leslie Fandrich
  • Side note: she also took photos of some of my favorite Alt people - go check out those gorgeous gals
  • A must-see: Sheri's showcase of the Alt business cards over on Donuts, Dresses, and Dirt
  • Joy tells it like no other and reminds us to be our truest selves and shares the secrets from successful bloggers on Frock Files

** Hugs to all of you beautiful people who have come back to check on things while I've been away. Did I tell you that I've missed you?






AltNYC, the party before the party

After years of following along with the events, classes, and conferences put on by Alt Summit, I am taking a leap (in my yellow heels) and going to AltNYC. Needless to say, I am over-the-top excited about this gathering of fabulous bloggers, interesting sponsors, and experiencing Martha's HQ for the first time (I'm sure she'll invite me back).

I've been doing some behind-the-scenes research to get this party started, and I've started a fabulous list of blogs and authors who are headed to NYC on June 20.

Head over to my Pinterest page and follow the AltNYC board. I've opened it up so that you can pin your blog, and we can all get to know each other before we ever hit the big city. (And you won't be creaped out if I know your name before we meet.) Leave a comment with your email address or send me a direct message on Twitter (@parscaeli), and I'll invite you to pin. Please add the names of other bloggers you know who are attending!

I am delighted to feel all this talent in one spot! If you're not headed to AltNYC, follow along here to see what it's like to experience not only Alt, but NYC for the first time through Pars Caeli. Yikes!

xoxo, MJ

PS. Go grab the code for your badge over on the Alt love pages. I'll be looking for your yellow circles proclaiming I'm headed to AltNYC!

PPS. You can also send me an email at to get access to the board!

A tri- to try

Hellllooo, Friday! Fall is in the air here. With temps in the 50s this week, we broke out the cardigans, pulled up the knee socks, and took in deep long breaths of air filled with smoky leaf scents. Perfect-o.

We're welcoming some visitors this weekend for fall football fun and taking some time just to hang out and make some family memories. How about you?

A big thank you to all you good people who take a minute or six or fifteen (thanks, dear husband) minutes out of your day to stop over here to Pars Caeli and check out what's going on. I'm celebrating you today on World Gratitude Day. Maybe tomorrow you and me should head over to the zoo to spread the thankfulness to the pachyderms on Elephant Appreciation Day (really? I had no idea). Sunday will be the perfect day for a family game event and join in the fun for National Checkers Day.

Here are three great autumn activities for you or your kiddos to try this weekend:



To my dear friends in hot, warm, or just not fall climate regions, let's make these super swirly and fun leaves. I love how Kelly marbled the shaving cream (yes) and paint. All the beauty of the autumn colors plus all the fun of crafting with shaving cream. Yes, yes, yes.


The melty striped triangles just hit our supermarket shelves. I don't love candy corn (anyone get the Nick Jr Moose A Moose reference?), but I love the look of the white, orange, and yellow stripes for the season. Katie Brown did a great round-up of candy corn decorating ideas that has convinced me to change a few of my pumpkins...


If you haven't noticed, I have a yellow spot right over there in the left column for Alt! Alt Summit and now the Alt Channel and the Alt blog are fabulous resources for bloggers, designers, photographers, cool people, and stylists. I have made amazing connections and learned a ton from the dozen or so Alt Channel classes (very affordable at $15/class) I've taken. For blogging inspiration and business advice check out the new Alt blog.

I really appreciated this post from Victoria Hudgins on Setting Up and Styling a DIY. And this one too by Mike Loveland on Photoshop tricks. And scratch off business cards are really the coolest.

I wish you a bright weekend, friends.



Breaking it out

Hi friends! It's Thursday, also known as day two of the school year and almost-Friday here! All three of my kiddos had wonderful first days, and I feel really blessed by the gift of great teachers. I've also been gifted with a few extra professional projects that are keeping me bus-y.

...Though I enjoyed chatting it up on Twitter (are we hanging out there together?) and Instagram last night with all my pals who are in New York City today for the Alt NYC conference and all of the rest of us who are not able to be there to soak up the amazingness of the event hosted in Martha Stewart's HQ.

I'm joining in Susannah Conway's August Break. These are my anniversary roses from the hubby. They resemble my bridal bouquet, and I swear I've taken a few dozen shots of these sunset tones.

In blogging land here at Pars Caeli, I know there's a lot of Happiness Project to be shared. The timing of vacation followed by the start of school and added with mounds of work leaves little room for big blog posts and sleep. :)


I'm getting a great Tri- to Try ready for tomorrow. See you then!


Mommy and Daddy School: Creativity

Hello, friends! Happy Wednesday to you. It's a beautiful day here in Pars Caeli. We're talking about creativity for Mommy and Daddy School, and I'm sharing more about me and my family over at the loveliness of Classic Play. Have you visited before? Please, go take a gander.

I had the pleasure of learning from Jen Cooper during her Alt Summit class (that girls knows her stuff on great writing), and, when she asked me to come on over to be a part of her Creative Family Series, I (jumped out of my skin) and said yes, yes, yes!!

As a parent, I look for ways to cultivate creativity in my children. More accurately, however, I don't need to find ways to inspire them (they are bubbling over with ideas and energy), but I do foster avenues for channeling creativity and a solid foundation from whence they can feel confident to explore their God-given talents.

How do you nurture your creativity? Were you raised in a creative home? What do you do when you feel lacking in inspiration? These and more great questions were a part of my interview with Jen. Here's a teaser to get it started. I'd LOVE to hear your thoughts!! And, thank you, thank you, to Jen for offering me the opportunity to write about a subject I so adore. Such an honor.

Now walk on over... XOXO, MJ

Creativity? How would you define it?

For me, creativity is the making of the new–anything from a re-creation to an inventive solution to a masterpiece. I have yet to meet a person that I wouldn’t consider creative. Creativity isn’t special pixie dust reserved for the brilliant artists of the world. We’re all born with it, and some of us cultivate it in broader ways than others.

Have you always considered yourself creative?

I snicker at this, but, yes, I think I have. In times of challenge, I’ve always hung my hat on my creativity. I’m the youngest of three...

A tri- to try in Photography


Terrific! It's Friday. What's going on this weekend? Don't let Friday the 13th get you down. Throw a superstition party and let everyone reveal their most believable superstitions (of course select your favorite Friday the 13th to watch as well). Celebrate with crepes on Saturday in honor of Bastille Day, and don't forget to head to explore some art and to pay homage to Rembrandt on his birthday (we'll be doing it!).


Here's a trifecta of awesomeness all wrapped around photography for you to try this weekend. My new camera is going to get broken over the next few days in prep for the Alt Channel class I'm taking on Tuesday with Justin Hackworth. Join me, and we'll both become pros at our DSLRs (I really do want to see all the great shots you capture of your kids! I promise).


(Not necessarily captured here.) I've got a need for some higher quality headshots/self-portraits. I am so horrible at finding a shot that I like, and I kind of find the whole process a drag. I found three simple reminders from a fellow blogger heading out to a blogging conference (where lots of photos are taken) that I want to pass on.



Have you tried this?


Angle yourself towards the camera, drop your shoulders, and lean into the camera, putting your weight slightly on your front foot.

I'm going to try it. I'll let you know how it goes. :)



Dave Cooper, talented hubs of Jen Cooper, over at Classic Play has some awesome suggestions on how to take better family photos.  

My fave is #2:

2. Let it happen naturally and capture it. Your family is a living thing that moves. You need to move as well. Capture real moments. These are so much more rewarding to look at a month from now, a year from now, 10 years from now. Have you ever heard someone say “Remember that time we all stood up from the picnic table and stood in a line and you took that picture? That was fun. We should do that again.”?

There's more goodness over at Classic Play. Go and write down all that he has to say!




I'm discovering, with my new large camera, that a strap is essential. And though I don't mind loudly publicizing Canon, I'd like to go for something more special. Bri Emery over at DesignLoveFest posted a wonderful tut on crafting your own camera strap. Have you seen it? Go check it out.


Race you to Michael's for all the supplies!!

Do you have any great photography tips you can send my way? How do you make great art and look good doing it?

Thanks for a great week! Don't forget to enter our giveaway held in conjunction with the Playful Learning. Tell your friends, too. Winners chosen on Monday!

Until soon, XOXO, MJ

A Spectacular Look for your Blog

  • Pleasing hierarchy of organization through color or font
  • Strong, clean banner or heading
  • Crisp, colorful photos

These are the top three design elements that draw me into a website or blog. How about you? Have you ever thought about what keeps you coming back, besides content, to certain sites for news, ideas, or inspiration?

the original banner for this webhome

Through the great people of Alt Summit, I had the opportunity to learn from the talented Laurie Smithwick, cofounder of Kirtsy and owner of a design studio in Charlotte called LEAP design. I learned a ton, and I adored how she moved us from fine art examples to blog designs - a great recap of art history connected to our modern-day experience of art through computer screen.

Laurie had example upon example to illustrate her points, and already I know I'm not going to do her fabulous skills justice, but here are five simple, doable, put-it-in-your-purse takeaways for your own designs. And, if you can, sign up (for just $15) to take a class with her. You will be delighted you did. Seriously, delight.

1. Use your hotspots

Our literate brains are patterned to follow a certain path, and we transfer that information when "reading" the web. Generally we are drawn to the upper left corner, and then to the right top and then left side bar. Using eye-tracking heat maps (fancy pants technology), researchers have learned our routines so use this natural flow to your advantage (eg: set up your space to have focal points in these three areas). Or, if you choose not to have this flow (and Laurie gave us a lot of great designs that don't), think about the focus areas that you want your readers to follow. 

I like to think of it as a hierarchy of dot to dots. Where should the reader begin, continue, and end?

2. Become friends with white space

Did that emptiness there bother you? Did I lose you in the vast wasteland of white?

And there's an example of white space not helping.

But most of the time, white or empty space can allow your readers to enter into the space. If there's too much happening within the design of the page, there's no place for the eye to go. 

Laurie quoted Channel’s stupendous advice, "Look in the mirror before you leave, and take something away." I was inspired and went right to Blogger to add some easy, breezy white space to Pars Caeli. It feels like a great welcome mat to me.

3. "Your fonts are talking behind your back."

Direct quote from Miss Laurie. 

And, I knew they were. Fonts communicate the mood and style on your blog. Choose them carefully and choose them minimally, like 1 or 2, and at most 3. 

A classic serif font makes happy friends with a strong sans serif. For Pars Caeli, I decided that Didot (serif) and Bebas (sans serif) should be best friends forever. Sometimes we invite other whimsical fonts over for a playdate (like Learning Curve over on the right), just to make sure we're staying social and meeting new font friends.

Need to get out and meet some new fonts? Try some of these Laurie recommends:

4. Color, the short list

Color is powerful. Use the force wisely. Colors are not there to merely decorate your web space, but they can also play a unique function in guiding your reader through a site.  Are all your post titles in the same color? Does that connect to your menu or to your Instagram feed?

Readers want a way to organize their time in your space. Help them through the use of 1-5 consistent, beautiful colors.

I was torn on this one, and actually asked Laurie, "what if your banner has more than five colors, could that still work?" Funny enough, she took the time after class to come on over to Pars Caeli.

Here's one of my favorite tweets: "And your site is so lovely. I especially like your favicon! Beautiful work." 

I love my little cloud.

5. Look no further than your lunch for color inspiration

Seriously, she had made the most beautiful lunch. Greens, purples, earthy browns. And she used to make color palettes from a photo

Other great places for color palettes?

I found this color scheme through Design Seeds after salivating and daydreaming through 100s of great choices. I really have to set a time limit on myself when I hop over there to Design Seeds.

So there you have it, my friends. Ready to recreate and subtract? Even if you're not a blogger or web guru, consider how your fashion, stationery, magazine, and interior design choices follow many of these same guidelines. 

Put it in your purse and take it away.

Thanks for stopping over. It's been really wonderful to have you here.