Posts tagged Approaching Joy
For the love of blogging: The artist

What's going on, lovelies? I am so delighted to kick off this new Thursday series on Pars Caeli. As I mentioned last week during Melanie's book tour post, we are celebrating blogging and bloggers all throughout the month of April.

Pars Caeli is one year today (see the very first post)!! And though I'd love to throw some great contests and offer gifts, this blog runs on a $30/month budget so instead I'm bringing you inspiration and wisdom (with some laughs thrown in) as my gift. I've lassoed an amazing cast of bloggers from various backgrounds and experiences; some fresh on the scene and some with years of experience. I hope their passion (and mine) for the great big blogging universe will encourage you to go after your dreams, both big and small.

First up, Paige of Approaching Joy. **Disclaimer: Paige is one of my favorite blogger pals. She and I are headed on a great adventure in AltNYC in June!! One year ago, she was also the lady who pushed me off the blog diving board to click "publish."


I started blogging at Approaching Joy in late January of 2012.  Before that I had kept blogs for a few weeks at a time but always got frustrated when I couldn't make my space "pretty" and gave up quickly thereafter. I actually took a blog design class in conjunction with starting Approaching Joy so design was less frustrating... kind of...


I say "kind of" because, when I was taking that first blog design class I spent anywhere from two to three hours a DAY for two weeks trying to figure out what I wanted my blog to look like.  It bordered on obsessive, and I think my roommates thought I started an illegal drug habit (since I spent most of that time in my room, yelling at my computer.)  I think I even blogged mostly about blog design in that first (icky) period.


Luckily, it was just one of those things that I had to get out of my system and then I could turn my attention to fun stuff.




I keep blogging because (wow, this is going to sound horrible) but I kind of feel like it's my pixel-child.  

Newborn phase: Design, establishing, and not a lot of sleep.  
Toddler phase: Learning what I need to learn.  Links, code, etiquette, tantrums, etc.
Elementary phase: Going out, meeting people, having fun.
Angst-ridden teen phase: Where I'm at now.  Transitioning from blogging "what I should do" into "what I want to do."  Oh yea, total blog rebel over here.



Most of my best inspiration happens while I'm away from the computer. Pinterest is cool but, personally, nothing beats a walk on a trail, a cup of coffee at a local shop, or a drive down a dirt road to really get my creative cogs turning.




I feel like I know the blogger behind the screen in all the blogs I read. At times this means I am interested but intimidated, empathizing over rough spots, or taken aback by someone's hard work.


But always, always, I can see their personality, or else I won't keep reading.


(I choose to answer this question in a "Zombies just ate the Internet" kind of way, instead of a "my computer broke, sad day" kind of way.) If I had to stopping blogging tomorrow, I would lose a sizable chunk of my personal community. The people I've "met" through my blog have become friends and sisters, people who I share inside jokes with, people whose children I care about, people who make me smile on a day when everything else is gray.


Serious sadness.



Outside of the blog I make art (which I am trying to work up the courage to share more often on the blog.)
Outside of the blog I make delicious dinners with my husband.
Outside of the blog I drink way too much caffeine, am allergic to the dogs I love, and try to be kind to everyone I meet.


I'm also trying to start a business that ties art into community and makes it a big part of my region's culture. But that's a big secret that I'm only willing to share with Pars Caeli readers.


Love it!! Thanks, Paige for gracing the pages of Pars Caeli and for your constant support throughout this first year. Follow Paige on Instagram at @approaching_joy to see some of her latest creations. And if you want to have some fun, engage her in some witty banter via Twitter.

Have a bright weekend, friends! I'll be saying a prayer of thanksgiving for each of you that stop by this site. It's been an eye-opening first year, and I hope to share so much more with you over the next 12 months.

xoxo, MJ

Party for Paige

Hi friends! Hi Paige!!

Please excuse our regularly scheduled Simple Tuesday post as we break out and celebrate a grand, old bridal shower (bloggy style) for Paige. For those of you who don't know beautiful Paige, she's an awesome writer and photographer who blogs over at Approaching Joy, and this talented beauty is getting married this weekend. I'm so delighted that Gina asked me, "Wanna do something for Paige?" My quick response? Yes, yes, yes!! Paige, we've gathered some great ladies who wanted to celebrate you!! They'll be joining in the blog hop, too - don't cheat and scroll down...yet.

Paige is a natural community-builder, and she is that girl you know you want to be friends with as soon as you meet her. Paige and I took an Alt Summit class together in early Spring, before I started blogging, and she is my shover. You know, like the person who pushes you out of the plane when you're all suited up and ready to go sky diving but you don't have the guts to actually jump. Yup, that's Paige. She's also been my parachute, supporting me and relying on me (making me feel knowledgeable) throughout this new(ish) adventure in our lives.

I was even blessed enough to receive the hippest wedding invitation ever, and I wish I could make my way to NW Arkansas this weekend...

Instead I'll be sending fabulous wedding thoughts and quiet marriage prayers down your way, Paige. I made a little something for you, taken right from your own webpages of wisdom and wit. I remember reading this for the first time on your blog many months ago and thinking Approaching Joy was named so well! I hope you and your man put your ear to the ground many, many times and recognize the great joy that is headed your way because of all the goodness you put out into the world.

When I got married 10 years ago, we asked our guests to offer some advice on marriage as a part of their response cards. We have them all in one big book now - the wonderfully sweet and outlandishly funny recommendations on how to live well with the one you love. Here's my 2 cents for you.. it may sound familiar.

Paige and I, in one of our many late night email chats, were talking life stuff, and she asked me how I do it all. God bless her, she doesn't see me in real life to know that I don't do it all or I may do it ALL but not so well. My answer was a lot of late night stream of consciousness and some kudos to my husband. My hubby and I have a lot of give and take. I take a lot; he gives a lot. We fill in each other's gaps. Through the thick, gritty nastiness and the floating, beautiful gifts of life, we've learned to laugh. To laugh at ourselves, to laugh at each other (I am an ug-ly cryer), to laugh at the bleakest situations, to laugh at our own shattered brilliances, to laugh at our children and our parenting, too.

If I really could be your fairy godsister and offer you one magical gift, it would be laughter.

Please laugh. It'll bind you together and carry you through. A lot. Let's laugh!

Enjoy the other amazing gifts our friends have brought, Paige. Thank you for being such a spectacular source of joy for me on the interwebs and in real life. Sparkle for me this weekend, will ya?


Make It Monday: DIY Date

Happy Monday, friends! Can you believe we have just one more Monday left in September? I have something really fun to share with you all for Make it Monday!!

This is cordially for you (fellow bloggers, artsy crafty friends, skilled readers who want to give it a go):

What will you do with letters or numbers or ornaments? Keep in mind, this DIY can be electronic or printed/created as an object (have those cardboard letters at Michael's been calling your name, too?) or a framed print.

We've had some great supplies to work with these past few months! September was all about sharing the love. Check out the craft kits we created for the children of St. Jude's Research Hospital. In August we came up with some stylin' projects out of beads, and Louise, to celebrate her birthday, challenged us to give our projects to someone. Our first DIY date included washi tape and an experiment for me (that ended well).

Need some inspiration for this typography DIY? Check out these Pinterest boards:

I really hope you'll consider crafting something with us. It's all about having fun along the way. Reluctant new friends, we want you, too!!


Simple Tuesday.

Did you know that New York Fashion Week is happening as we speak? I would know nothing about this grand happening if it weren't for my dedication to the reality show, Project Runway. Since I began blogging a few months ago, I've found new fashion blogs and bloggers that know how to put together amazing styles. Many of those bloggers are in the prime seats this week in NYC.

I'm following Erin from Apartment 34 on Instagram (you should see the shots she's getting), and I have the inside track on great shows thanks to my buddy, Paige, who is making dreams come true with her own tour of fashion week. Thanks to one of Paige's sponsors, the Moxy Ox, the rest of us can have a free lookbook of Paige's photographs from the shows. Check out that happy link to see how to get yours.

I've been thinking a lot about Paige's journey from Northwest Arkansas to the Big Apple... and thinking about my own dreams for this blog and my career and my family.

Sometimes those big hurdles in front of us can be knocked over by own gust of wind.

Sometimes the giant dream you thought would never come to fruition comes packaged as your own determination.

Sometimes you don't even realize how tall you are until you're in over your head.

Feeling like this today. Thanks T.S. for the great articulation.


Grown-Up Goodness: Blogging Better


Sometimes great things just fall in your lap.

Sometimes they come in lovely, unexpected emails. Like this.

Miss Paige over at Approaching Joy has been so good to me throughout this whole blogging journey, and the goodness just keeps coming. Yep, it's just who she is. And she's got a rocking new URL so go follow that happy link and check out girlfriend!

And, thanks for coming back..because Paige is helping me and all my blogger buds out with a super easy, way for us to blog better...and get the credit and traffic we deserve from all this online goodness.

Here's the beauty herself...and don't forget to watch that Vlog down there where you get to hear her, too!!

I had the opportunity to attend the Word Camp Fayetteville conference recently and highly recommend any kind of tech conference to anyone interested in blogging.  The sense of community there was amazing. If you'd like, you could check out my "How to Rock a Conference" post.   

Okay, enough shameless self plugs.

A big issue discussed by the community at the conference was that of watermarking. Though we all love Pinterest and the awesomeness that it brings to our computer screens, there is always the matter of making sure the original creator/ author / photographer gets the credit. If I were to see a snazzy pinnable from MJ on Pinterest (which I often do) I would want to be able to click on the picture and visit her site.  Chances are I would then fall in love with MJ's writing style and fun personality and be a follower for life.

But what if that process didn't happen just like that.  What if I saw MJ's image on Pinterest, clicked on it and saw it on another blogger's page?  That blogger (who was really trying to do the right thing because she always heard to credit images where she found them) credited the image back to Pinterest, leaving me am back where I started and not having had a chance to fall in love with MJ. Bummer.

There are two things we can do to prevent such bummers: 

  1. Always, always, always credit images back to their original source.  
    Saying something came from "Pinterest" just isn't good blogging business.
  2. Watermarking.
    If the image the was originally pinned from MJ's sight had a watermark I could easily see that, Google "Pars Caeli", and, of course, fall in love with MJ.

The question is: What's an easy way to watermark my images? 

Check out my video and I will show you how!  Together we can help the world realize that they need to fall in love with our content!  (Also: Click "full screen" to see this video in the way it's supposed to be viewed.)

Unable to display content. Adobe Flash is required.

Isn't that easy?!?

Something that I didn't say in the video but is worth mentioning: The beauty of this is the ease for next time.  Once you have your brush made & saved, go into the brush options and click "Save Brushes".  By doing this, your watermark will come up every time you load Photoshop and from there all it takes is a click.

Last thing:  Don't be like me and watermark every third image.  By making this process easy I hope to personally get a more streamlined photo/image creation process with this always being my last step.

Try it out.  Let me know if it works or if you have any problems.  I'd love to help.


Thank you, Paige!!! I love the ease of a Photoshop brush with my logo. Look out for some crazy good watermarked images, my friends. I'm hoping to see yours, too!!

On this note of blogging better, I have been a very lucky girl this summer in meeting up with amazing blogger ladies like Amy and Melanie. I can't wait to tell you more about these visits in the upcoming weeks. Super affirming and inspirational!


Vlog - DIY Make Your Own Patterned Bookmark from Children's Art

Tra la la la la, we made it! It's Friday, and I'm wrapping up a whole lot of work today. Feels so good.

My buddy, Paige (one of my major blog inspirers) is here today, readers. And she has brought an ah-mazing present! Enjoy, enjoy the first vlog we've had on this here blog...a charming DIY.

Paige is the head honcho over at Approaching Joy (you should also totally follow her on Twitter cause this girl knows how to brighten a day). Okay, let's be honest she's the only honcho, but she's one of those people who dig alone time. If you adore pretty things and slightly offbeat humor and have a propensity to enjoy small beautiful moments in life, you're probably already her friend. Go say "Hi" on her blog or Twitter (just make another tab and come on right back).


Hey guys!!

As a *kid I loved going to the library.  It was a chance to learn about new people and cool places and let my imagination get even wilder. When I found out that the Pars Caeli family loved taking trips to the local library, I instantly knew about a project that would encourage both their reading and artistic skills: A "real" bookmark designed by your children (with some technical help from you) that they will be proud to use all summer.

*Confession: I'm still a proud bookworm.




1.  Have your children use a jumbo marker to draw a simple image using the majority of the space on the  8.5 x 11 piece of printer paper, leaving a one inch border around the paper. (The marker size is important because it will give the image "weight" that is nice later on.)

2. Scan the image onto your computer and open in up into Photoshop or Photoshop Elements.

(After this step my written directions got a little... janky... so I made a screencast that you can watch where I go through every step.  Click on the link below, press play, and then hit the fullscreen button on the bottom right corner to see me in action!)

 Click on these words Bookmark DIY Screencast to watch the simple DIY!


3. Use the Paint Bucket tool and fill in the lines of the scanned image.

4. Crop the image so that the scanned edges are cut off.

5. Save this image.

6. Click the Edit button at the top of the screen and then click "define brush".

It will ask you to name and save the brush.

7. Create a new document that is 3x8.5 inches.

8. Choose the brush tool and select the brush that you just created.

9. When you first select the brush it will be the original size, but, with your child's help, decide how big the shape should be using the size tool to the right of the brush selector. Also, choose a color for the shape.

10. Use your new brush as you would any other to create a pattern or random design to create the background.

*As someone who only has six months of Photoshop experience it took me forever to realize that most brushes aren't supposed to be used as a "click and drag" motion but with a single click instead. Check out these tutorials (




) from

Creature Comforts

for more information on how to use brushes.

11. Use steps 1-7 to create a crush using your child's hand-written name

12. Use the rectangle tool to make a white square at the top of the bookmark.

13. Follow steps 8-10 to choose, adjust and use this second brush to fit into the white square.

14. Print out your bookmark (in color!!) on the white card stock.

15. Punch a hole at the top of your book mark.

16. Thread embroidery floss of similiar colors to your bookmark into the hole.


A brand new personalized bookmark for your kids that will be a keepsake (with both their creativity and their handwriting) for you.

{MJ here. Looovvve it! And, as Paige's friend who's never met her in person (funny how the blogospheres work), I treasure hearing her describe it all. She's a belle from Arkansas, can you tell? So charming. Looks like we're making some bookmarks this weekend!!}