Posts tagged bloggers
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. 


"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.


"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."


"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.


"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!"


"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.


"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.


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!


"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

6 photo apps to try now

Mobile photography has brought an immediacy, a portability, and a whole new set of creative tools to the art form. I had my eyes opened to six great photography apps while at Alt Summit, thanks to the quirky and knowledgeable presentation of Jon Armstrong (thanks, Jon, for all of your examples and one-of-a-kind insights).

Perhaps you're using these already or this list is all new to you...either way, why not take a gander at these fun photo apps this weekend? At most, you'll be out $2.99, and you can always come back and complain here. :)

Likely, you'll be hooked on some new ways to express your view of the world, and we'll all be asking you, "How did you do that?"


1. Snapseed (Free) - Snapseed has been around since 2012, and its capabilities seem endless. What I love best is the selective adjust mode (with the two-finger scaling). In this tool, you can adjust only pixels of a certain color range and darken or brighten these. I was able to add more intense shadowing to the bottom of the plate and separate the porcelain from the white background in this mode. It's become my favorite app when I want to make dramatic, yet realistic changes to a photo. And with a price tag of free, you might as well see how this one will rock your world.


2. Waterlogue ($2.99) - Waterlogue is making a big splash on some major blogs these days and for good reason. The filters on this app can take your photo through a variety of watercolor techniques for an artist quality reproduction. Beware, this one is addictive and may not be right for all your photos (but go ahead and run them through because it's really fun to see what you can create). I've really enjoyed some still life and portraiture I've seen with Waterlogue, but your photography can easily move to incredible abstraction as well with this one, so fire away!


3. Photo FX ($2.99) - Tiffin has been improving and adding to Photo FX since 2010. For me, it feels very much like a mobile Photoshop. With each filter and adjustment, Photo FX offers you preview versions so that you are able to see your photo as it will appear before you select. I use this one when I want to perfect and tweak small fractions in a composition. You have total control over the final results.



4. VSCOcam (Free): This one wins my trophy for best filters. None of them make your photos look warped or neon, and you can easily adjust the intensity so that nothing feels overdone. If you want a quick app to run your photo through before you pop onto Instagram, get VSCOcam. Also, in app purchases here open up a whole other world of possibilities.




5. Fragment ($1.99): As a graphic designer, this app intrigues me to no end. If you love pattern or geometry, go grab Fragment. With a slider of options, you add and refract shapes within your image to create something new altogether. I've used this to offer some new perspectives to old images and add interest to basic shots.



 6. Studio Design (Free): Want to add type to your image? Or create cool shapes? Add handdrawn elements? Studio Design has packages upon packages of options. Choose a mantra, a texture, a shape, a frame and say what you need to say. Studio also offers the basic effect adjustments and some neat filters, and it's the best I've seen for unique and on trend type overlays.



Okay, okay, what did I miss? What do you have to show off as a mobile photography app we must try??

Also, if we're not buds on Instagram yet, let's do that. Find me at @parscaeli, and I'll find you back. Have a bright weekend, friends. I'm hoping for more than a healthy dose of sunshine!

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:

Donuts, Dresses, & Dirt and Sheri: 12 Blogger Christmas

Happy Monday to you! We're celebrating with style here on Pars Caeli as we march through the 12 days of Christmas with the fabulous ladies of the internet. Today's star is a one-of-a-kind. Sheri Silver writes, bakes, cooks, photographs, styles, and inspires over at Donuts, Dresses and Dirt. She brings the best in gardening, baking and cooking, as well as truly great “finds”.

It's so appropriate that Sheri is our fifth day of Christmas and the classy five golden rings.

A two-part question, I think! I found blogging after almost 10 years of building a business (landscape design) that I was no longer passionate about. I wasn’t ready to give it up yet but felt a strong need to find an outlet for my other interests. A blog felt like a low-key way to “dip a toe” into something new, while I figured out my next steps.

What keeps me blogging is how much I love it! While I achieved my initial goal of establishing a platform for all of the things I love, what I didn’t expect was the incredible community that I’ve since discovered. The talented and supportive writers that I am privileged to call co-workers and friends have been a joy and a gift that I cherish each and every day.


Donuts, Dresses and Dirt is a lifestyle blog that gives “voice” to the things I’m passionate about – baking and cooking, gardening, shopping and my adventures in and around NYC both solo and with my family. Here’s where I hang out!

Blog   Facebook   Pinterest   Twitter   Instagram

(Sheri is also a fabulous contributor over at Babble - do not miss her great project over there!)



Assuming your child goes the traditional straight-to-college-finishes-in-four-years route, you will have spent 17 of 22 years dealing with their education. That’s almost 80% of their lives. It’s a marathon, for sure, with scant time for “perspective”. For “taking a step back”. For “looking at the big picture”. Most of the time you’re spinning plates.



The “big” wish is that I always put the same heart and commitment into my blog as I did in the beginning. So easy to get caught up with what’s “hot” or “trending”, or to see a post that gets a lot of traffic and feel compelled to write another one “just like it”. Harder to stay true to my inner voice, but that’s when I put out the posts I’m most proud of. I hope that that voice always rings loud and clear for my readers.

Well of course I’d love to continue to see my readership grow. I’m so lucky to have a loyal and engaged audience and it would be great to expand my reach even further. And I’d love to continue to do more collaborative work with brands. I really enjoy partnering on sponsored posts that are germane to what I write about, and I hope to do more of that in the coming year. I also hope to collaborate with other bloggers as I’ve done this past year – those types of projects are pure joy, and one of the greatest benefits of being part of this lovely blogging community. Finally, I would love to be the new face of Madewell (they could use a 50+ model, don’t you think?)!

What a treat to have Sheri over today! I have been reading her inspiring words for parents and oohing over her recipes for ages. I had the true pleasure of meeting Sheri while in NYC, and she knows how to make a gal feel special - and this lovely trait comes through in her blog as well. This year Sheri became a Babble contributor as well - and it's been wonderful to see more readers enjoy her fabulous work!!

Sheri, Joy, and I will be launching a new series on Cooking with Kids in February, and I feel so lucky to join in with these all stars!!

Open up your blog reader and add to your list!! You'll come back and thank me!!

On the fifth day of Christmas, Pars Caeli gave to me Donuts, Dresses, and Dirt.

On the fourth day of Christmas, Pars Caeli gave to me Design + Life + Kids.

On the third day of Christmas, Pars Caeli gave to me Design Stitch Go.

On the second day of Christmas, Pars Caeli gave to me Trouvé Magazine.

And Lulu the Baker !

xoxo, MJ

PS. Wanna meet a mover and shaker of the interwebs? Come back tomorrow to meet a dynamo!

Design + Life + Kids and Kim: 12 Bloggers Christmas

Happy Sunday, dears! It's delightful to be here with you on a Sunday...maybe a first! I had to pull myself away from our family gatherings to bring you this goodness. We are a quarter of the way along this festive journey on the fourth day of Christmas in the 12 Blogger Christmas.

Today we celebrate Kim of Design + Life + Kids!
Honestly, I needed to feel a little independent from being a stay-at-home mother. I love being home with my daughters and getting to experience every moment with them, but I wanted a creative outlet that was just for me. Does that sound selfish? 
Keeps me blogging?
Ironically... my kids. While not everything I write involves them, many posts do. I probably would never have started DLK if it wasn't for them! I love putting together a great collage, reading about a wonderful design and sharing our experience in the kitchen. There's a great sense of accomplishment when a post goes live.
DESIGN + LIFE + KIDS (DLK) is about looking around and really appreciating what surrounds us. Whether it's a package design, a blanket's detail or an elaborate skyscraper, someone designed it and that's awesome. They're like little dreams that have come to life and we're surrounded by them everywhere.
I'm on most social media as @designlifekids and my favorite spot to share is Instagram!
I've also opened up a new shop on Etsy. Come on over to DLKmarket.
Summer road trip to Nova Scotia. It was a memorable experience in an amazing home: 
Our DIY kitchen renovation... this one is special to me since it is our first major project that I love and get to use everyday:
My husband's favorite mac and cheese recipe... His mother used to make for him and now we share the recipe with our kids. It's so good!
Growth. I did a lot of growing this year within myself and DLK and hope I can encourage that even more this year. I will be contributing on a two great blogs soon and I'm super excited about it! I hope to work with others for contributor posts on DLK as well. I'd love to share new opinions and topics on DLK! 

Kim has a great eye for all things design and delightful! Following along with her DIY kitchen makeover has been crazy good, and I love the clean lines and modern feel she and her husband have created in their new space!! And if you don't know Maya and Senna, her daughters, you are missing out on some adorableness!!

Check in to see her latest travel, her collages on great design, her recipes!! And hop on over to the new Etsy shop, too!! Kim and I collaborated on the idea of the hypertufa pots, and hers turned out so edgy and fabulous.


On the fourth day of Christmas, Pars Caeli gave to me Design + Life + Kids.

On the third day of Christmas, Pars Caeli gave to me Design Stitch Go.

On the second day of Christmas, Pars Caeli gave to me Trouvé Magazine.

And Lulu the Baker !

Happy Sunday, friends! Let's have a great week - I have more presents starting tomorrow with one of the most charming, talented, and real bloggers. You're guaranteed to learn something stunning every time you visit.

Design Stitch Go and Louise: 12 Bloggers Christmas

Are the post-Christmas days getting you down? Bummed to take down the tree? Take a load off and sit back for our third day of Christmas. The lovely Louise of Design Stitch Go (formerly of Laid Off Mom) is here with us today, and she's launching a new creative venture that you will want to get behind. 

I started blogging back in the summer of 2011 as a means of coping with my lay off. I wanted to share my creativity, my words, and bits and pieces of my life. I was always shy or modest about my creative process and my abilities and blogging gave me the confidence to come out of my shell. I've, since then, bonded w/ some amazing women (ahem...MJ being one of 'em!) and I honestly, can't imagine myself NOT blogging =)
What keeps me blogging?
The ability to share with a community, as well as, learn from a community. There's a strong bond among bloggers, and the support and motivation I give and immense and extremely humbling.  
I feel like I've also been able to hone in on myself...what inspires me.A nd more importantly find out who I am, in a creative sense. What my style aesthetic is, and where I excel the most.  
I never realized what a BAD ASS I was at watercolor, til I picked up a paintbrush this year. And it was even more gratifying finding out, through my blog, that other people appreciated my art pieces as well.
I'm actually at the beginning of a new blog: Design Stitch Go but I've been blogging for 2 years at Laid Off Mom.  I've since, turned the lights out on Laid Off Mom, but I'll always think fondly of it and everything I learned from it. Design Stitch Go! is a product of an "a-ha!" moment I had this year....following my love and passion for apparel design and construction.
And I'm always up for a laugh, a giggle or a chat on:
Design Stitch Go! is still in the early set up phase, there are only 2 posts right now haha...but January will bring some great content, so be sure to visit!!  But here's a few posts of apparel that I constructed from my previous blog:
My only wish for my blog in 2014 is "love". To continue to LOVE what I'm doing and share it with everyone! =)
Louise is a sweetheart with talent oozing out of her little finger. From fashion to crafting to painting to interior design, this gal is on top of it. I've been blessed to have Louise on my team for most of my blogging journey - to inspire, to motivate, and to laugh alongside. I am so excited for her new adventure over at Design Stitch Go, and see where she takes the fashion world.
I love this quote from her new about page because it encompasses the ethos of Louise:
Stop by everyday to see what I’m creating or what inspires me!  Or if you need help with your own design projects, I got you girrrl!
2014 is going to be a fabulous year for Louise, so tune in and watch her grow! I hope I can keep up.
xoxo, MJ
P.S. Tomorrow's blogger will encompass design, life, and kids all in one!! Don't miss it!
Lulu the Baker and Melissa: 12 Days of Blogger Christmas

Merry Christmas, lovelies!! I hope that your day of Christmas was filled with goodness and joy. We had a wonderful day in our pajamas, playing with presents and laughing together.

I'm so excited to enjoy another present with you! Over the next 12 days (straight through the weekend), I will be introducing you to twelve fabulous bloggers who write, design, craft, cook, make, and publish some of the most wonderful material on the internet. You'll learn what inspired them to begin, see some of their favorite work, and join in their hopes for 2014.

For those who don't blog, this series might just give you the itch to begin and at the minimum, inspire your everyday. For my fellow bloggers who create, day after day, meaningful, creative, and unbelievable content, I hope that you know how incredible you are, and what a great gift your art is to the rest of us.

Merry Christmas! And to start it off, none other than the incomparable Melissa of Lulu the Baker. You will be amazed!


I started my blog on a whim over 5 years ago because I wanted to participate in an online baking group called The Daring Bakers, and you needed to have a blog to participate! Just in the past couple of years, I feel like I've really discovered this amazing blogging community full of creative, intelligent people, and being part of that community is so rewarding and enriching!

My blog used to just be about cooking and baking, because until a few years ago, I had another blog for projects. But keeping up with both blogs got to be way too much work. Plus I felt like they both represented parts of me and that I needed all of that content in just 1 place instead of scattered all over the internet. Lulu the Baker was never a chore to post on, and when I thought long and hard about it, I didn't want to give that blog up, so that's the one I kept! Since then, it's evolved into more of a lifestyle blog with a focus on food and family.
I'm also guest blogging on the Better Homes & Gardens Style Spotters blog for a few months, and write monthly posts for Ciera Design and Rue Rococo.
I'm really excited about this series I started in October called The Harvest. It is proving challenging, but I love the first post and have a few others in the works right now. My "human interest" posts don't get tons of traffic, but I really love writing them and reading them over and over. Sometimes you just have to post stuff you love!
I had someone tell me (lovingly) at the beginning of the year that I needed to work on my photo styling. I've really taken that comment to heart this year! I've taken a few amazing online workshops on photo styling, and I'm really proud of the strides I've made in just a few short months. I think the photos from this post are really lovely. One of my workshop teachers even told me they were fantastic and that I was a star pupil. As an admitted nerd, that is music to my ears!


A list of my favorite posts wouldn't be complete without The Tale of the Carmelitas! I'd been blogging for a few years without much hullaballoo when I wrote this post. And I think it actually took another year for anyone to notice this recipe. But when it finally hit, it hit with a lot of force. It's still my #1 post of all time, and I'm not sure that will ever change!


I'd love for my blog's voice to really be an extension of myself--always. With all of the sponsorship opportunities and talk of numbers and traffic, it's really easy to lose sight of that. I want my blog to be a happy place that people can look forward to visiting, where they can be inspired for a few moments, and leave with yes, a recipe or project idea, but more importantly, feeling good and happy and peaceful. I feel like that's a tall order!

I've been trying for a while to write a book! I lost my way a little bit this past year; sometimes it's hard to keep yourself motivated when you have an open-ended project like that! But I've been working steadily on it again for the past few months and am really excited to be making headway. Cross your fingers for me!
I also really love collaborating with other bloggers. It's so inspiring to work with talented people. I'd love to have some fun, new blog collaborations this year.
Lastly, I've been wanting to migrate my site from Blogger to Wordpress for so long, and I'm finally going to do it, along with a redesign! I would actually love to have it done this year, but I waited too long and all of the designers I want to work with are booked through January! So keep your eyes peeled in 2014 for a new Lulu the Baker design!


Melissa is so humble and gracious - two of the many things I love about her!! She has become a force to be reckoned with in the blogging universe (she's a regular over at Better Homes and Gardens!). Her creative talents are endless - and her recipes keep me coming back season after season. She is a dedicated mom who is always finding new ways to connect with her kids, and I've been blessed to join in the Endless Summer series with her as well as the Fresh Holiday Traditions!

If you have a blog reader like Blog Lovin' or Feedly, add Lulu the Baker to your feed right now, as your first gift of Blogger Christmas!

On the first day of Christmas, Pars Caeli gave to me Lulu the Baker!

xoxo, MJ

PS. On the second day...I'm gifting one of my favorite artists...



12 Bloggers Christmas


Oh, gosh. I've been looking forward to giving this gift to you for about a month! Merry Christmas, readers! I have been so honored and inspired by your comments and dedication to Pars Caeli, and I wanted to get you something extra special.

And so, since I can't affored to send each and every one of you lovelies a goodie bag of cheer, I've called upon twelve of my good blogger pals to sit with you here on Pars Caeli! Over the 12 days of Christmas, the next 12 days - posting all seven days a week - I am bringing to you twelve fabulous women who fill up the internet with ideas, projects, style, and most of all warmth. Collectively they draw hundreds of thousands of readers to learn more about cooking, interior design, child development, party styling, motherhood, womanhood, and joy.

We'll be sharing inspirations, favorite posts, and big old hopes for 2014.

I know you'll enjoy these charmers, and I hope you know much I appreciate your presence here on these pages! Follow along with #12BloggersChristmas on Instagram and Twitter to catch all of the loveliness!

Merry Christmas, friends. May the Christmas season be one of true hope and joy for you and yours.

xoxo, MJ

Amazing Bloggers for Fall

Y'all know I love the blogging community with the supportive, creative, hilarious women I have come to know and appreciate. And when I find excellence I'm just no good at keeping it to myself. I've had a handful of local friends lately ask me for new - and great - blogs to dig into in their spare time. For me, this sort of question is in the same line as tell me about your kids... I could go on and on.

And actually knowing the amazing people behind these blogs makes me love them that much more. If you're looking for recipes that taste and look great, create seasonal decor to inspire, or read the latest adventures of successful, smart, and sassy women...follow one of these greats.


Easy overnight cinnamon pull aparts from Melissa at Lulu the Baker.

Mommy Coddle published by Molly with her incredible pumpkin bread.

Joy sharing family secrets with yummy apple butter over on Frock Files.

Alexandra making things fun with upcycled sweater pumpkins over on Alexandra Hedin.

Gorgeous and good for you roasted carrots from Janae at Bring Joy.

Learn the fall essentials with Amy from This HeArt of Mine.


Now go.. and learn and create... and if you visit these ladies, tell them MJ sent you. :)

Happy weekend, friends. Let's make it a bright one.

xoxo, MJ

Spotlight on Bloggers with Shops

On my life list, along with writing a book and seeing Madonna in concert (not of equivalent ranking, mind you), is to open my own shop. As a little girl, I'd set up elaborate markets and tiny boutiques for my stuffed animals to come through and purchase with their wicker baskets in paw.

So I turn to some go-get-em ladies from the blogosphere as my heroines of on-line shops. These chicas canturn a fabulous post, curate a vintage thrift, and paint an oil like none other. I want them all to succeed beyond their wildest dreams in their neck of virtual so if you're in the market for something unique, take a look-see.


Pretty please do yourself this first favor, follow along with the Painting A Day project going on at my bud, Emily Jefford's blog. Emily is an artist focused on putting her brushes to use to make some dreams come true for her adorable family. And if you are one of those (me! me!) peeps that always stops to watch artists as they create, follow Emily at BeautifulHelloBlog on Instagram where she's been posting videos of paintings in progress.

I look forward to these amazing landscapes each day. She's posting at noon EST, and these are selling fast at $100 so be sure to set your alarm to buy right after she posts.

In addition to these beautiful canvases, Em makes great collage works and gorgeous jewelry...pick up a few of those while you're sniffing around.


Nicki from Life I Design and I met at AltNYC in June, and she convinced me to join in the 30 Day Sketchbook Challenge. Each day for the last thirty days, Nicki has published some amazing black and white sketches in the vein of what you see above. She also added in a few splashes of color (you should go see her tomatoes).

Nicki is retiring some prints from the collection and new work is headed into the shop for the fall so get ready to purchase something charmed for the new teacher or neighbor in your life.


My girl, Julia from Life on Churchill Street has a background in product design and has some great taste for styling, too. She's a crafter and picks up the quintessential objects. In her shop you'll find a smorgaboard of one-of-a-kind children's books, mid-century fancies, and other items you find yourself thinking you "need."

Julia has an adorable family, and they abide in a fresh and vintage space. She was featured over on Design Mom in the Living with Kids series. Go check that out, too.


Lidy somehow manages new motherhood while juggling her blog and crafting up a storm and supporting her store. This lady has a multitude of DIYs to roll up your sleeves and dig into. She also features some vibrant prints in her Etsy shop. I remember when Lidy first opened the shop and hearing all of her excitement about the launch. Pop over to Hello Lidy to see all her fun wares.


Stop over to Mer Mag if you want a clean, creative space that will make you happy to exist. Merrilee is on my list of people I'd like to meet. Her projects are made from everyday objects, and they make me feel like I'm seeing a magician at work behind the scenes.

She's an amazing illustrator, and I find her prints direct and brilliant. Get out your wish list of wall art and click over (don't forget to put yourself on that list).

I tell you what, friends, few things make me happier than seeing good people with great talent succeed -- so let's support the creatives! If you are a blogger and shop owner, please leave your site address below (even if I already know you, I might not know your shop). I'd love to ease on over and possibly feature you over here on Pars Caeli.

Let's have a bright weekend. And give it up for an amazing August.

xoxo, MJ

PS. Keep those #celebratethenormal photos coming!!

quality vintage goods, mid century pieces and children's books. - See more at:

Make It: Washi Tape Frames

Hi there, lovelies. It's wonderful to have you back here again. I missed you at the end of last week, but I promise I've been working some magic behind the scenes to move Pars Caeli to a new level of fabulous.

I had a wonderful birthday - thanks for all the wishes - that was topped off by a fantastic performance of Wicked. Though I'd heard the music and read the book, it was my first time seeing the musical, and I loved it!! Many other special, special moments continued throughout the weekend and into Mother's Day.


I have definitely grown into motherhood and grown from motherhood. Lately as they are now 3, 5, and 8, I find myself staring at my kiddos, amazed at the people they are becoming. Where did these lovely souls come from, and how did I get so lucky to share in life with them? I'm not sure, but I am most definitely humbled and grateful.

And on that note, I have an easy DIY I want to share with you. I made these cheeky notecards with vinyl letters last week that I'm stuffing in packages headed out to some of my favorite bloggers who joined in For the Love of Blogging series.

One of my favorite parts to these bundles are some sacred words.

These inspirational quotes come directly from the writers themselves.

I wanted to create something special for these writers, photographers, artists, and stylists. And as any crafter knows, washi tape is the most forgiving medium around so I was able to adjust and rework the prints as I wanted.


Here's what you need: cardboard, fun paper, glue, washi tape, and a bulldog clip for hanging.

I treasure the words these bloggers shared with me. And I hope they treasure their own words in the same way. Sometimes we discount our own wisdom, don't we? I think with these prints around, it will be a lot harder to do!!


STEP 1: Design your print. Load paper. Print.

STEP 2: Trim print and cardboard to the same size. These are 5x7 but make them in any size you'd like.

STEP 3: Glue paper to cardboard. I used rubber cement just because I love it.


STEP 4: Add washi accents. Make sure that you use the washi tape around the edge to combine the cover the cardboard/paper seam.

STEP 5: Add a washi either right next to the framed edge or a bit closer into the center for more of a matted look.

STEP 6: Attach a bulldog clip for hanging!


Have you ever framed your own words?

xoxo, MJ

P.S. A brand new Celebrate the Normal is headed your way on Wednesday; don't forget to tag your photos. And, I'll be joining in Anne's Love Yourself in a special Tuesday post tomorrow. Hint: The temptations of Photoshop.

A Book Tour featuring Melanie Biehle

Hello my lovely readers! I have a magnificent surprise for you. I've hoodwinked Melanie of Inward Facing Girl and Genuine Mix into starting her new book tour right here with us on Pars Caeli. For those of you who haven't heard me rave about it yet, let me fill you in on the details. Melanie recently published her e-workbook, Blog with Purpose: It Takes More than Top Knots. If you're not in love just from the title (I was), you soon will be as you click through the powerful exercises and personal stories that will make you laugh out loud.

Other great news...Melanie is kicking off a new Thursday series on Pars Caeli entitled For the Love of Blogging, and she's agreed to answer all of my nitty gritty questions about what keeps her fabulous. Also, if you ever meet her in person, ask her for a hug - she gives the best. Enjoy friends!


I've been blogging since February of 2009. Actually, here's a funny story that I've never told anyone except Drew, and I only told him recently. I started an extremely short-lived blog in 2003 called "Kate in L.A." It was on Blogger and I might have written in it for a month or so (as "Kate") before I deleted it. At that time I was really into screenwriting and Hollywood and movies and I was living in L.A., so it was about local shops and the entertainment business. HA! But back to my real blog. I started that to get back into writing creatively again after leaving the entertainment world. Here's more about it, if you're interested.

Image by Sandra of Raincoast Cottage

Kate in L.A. is pretty funny. Other than that, probably the fact that I had left my name off of my About Me page for two years before I noticed it. :)


It's become such an ingrained part of my life that I can't imagine not doing it. It's like waking up and sleeping and eating. I won't say showering, because I probably blog more often than I shower. TMI? :) 

Ha...actually showering. I keep a notebook in the bathroom now to write down ideas that come to me underneath the suds. I started doing that because once I slipped down after jumping out of the shower and racing off to find a pen and paper to write something down so my poor postpartum brain would have a reminder. Being a blogger can be dangerous, kids.

Almost all of them are written by women (ALMOST) - the writing is strong, the design is good, and/or they reveal personal things as well as share cool stuff.
Wow. Everything would be different. What would I do with all that extra time?! Maybe I could start reading blogs again!  
I can give you a hint.
There's been such a good response to Blog with Purpose that I'm launching an online workshop in mid-April. It's a six-week interactive course all about creating content. There will be exercises, feedback, and a Facebook group for all participants. I'm even trying to work in a way to use Pinterest in one of the exercises because, you know, we like to pin stuff. 
Anything that's based in creativity makes me super excited, and this course is going to help all of us access that place in our brains where the cool stuff comes from. Let's learn how to create unique, fresh, awesome content together! If this sounds fun, be sure to sign up for my email list for more information on registration and launch dates.
Isn't she a charmer? And girlfriend knows her stuff, too. I've been working through the chapters from Blog with Purpose, and I have learned a ton. Melanie has set up a great series of practical, useful exercises that help you move your blog to the next level. I appreciated that her tone is aimed at digging deep and finding what you really want out of your blog and then helping you execute that dream.

Melanie gives you answers to all the questions you've been wanting to ask (how much should I charge? do I need a business blog?) and offers really great what-not-to-dos that have made me blush, knowing I'm a little guilty. No worries, I have a new plan already in place

I hope you'll take a look at her workbook; you can even download a free sample to get a feel for the content!

Big thanks and big hugs to Melanie. Follow Pars Caeli on Twitter to see her next stops on the Book Tour over the next two weeks or check over to get the complete line up on Inward Facing Girl.
xoxo, MJ
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!


Last night was so full of blogging greatness including two wonderful meet-ups and an informative class. I love how this blog keeps me creative, and I adore all the amazing connections I've been able to make. I guess Thomas Merton summed it up pretty well for me.

Great project coming at you next week. And lots of great connections, too.

Have a bright weekend.

xoxo, MJ