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

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

I set my alarm for an hour earlier.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Makers have to make AND take:

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

Making does not mean you separate yourself entirely from taking.

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Community is where it's at.

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

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

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

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

I was engaged. Liking, commenting, sharing.

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

Social media is asking us to be social again.

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

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

And we're rarely engaged.

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

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

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

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

XOXO, MJ

P.S. I missed you.

 

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

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

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

It can also be totally intimidating.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WHY?

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

essentials for a great newsletter?

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

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

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

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

Why?

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

HOW DO YOU MAKE A NEWSLETTER REALLY AWESOME?

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

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

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

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

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

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

WHY?

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

WHAT NEWSLETTERS INSPIRE YOU?

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

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

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

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

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

WHY?

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

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

essentials to a great newsletter?

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

WHAT NEWSLETTERS INSPIRE YOU?

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

WHY?

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

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

What kind of information do you include?

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

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

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

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

xoxo, MJ

Three-Year Blogiversary + A Giveaway

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

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

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

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

1. LOVE BIG

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

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

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

Sparkle messages from  The Bannerie : Kind over Nice

Sparkle messages from The Bannerie: Kind over Nice

2. KIND OVER NICE

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

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

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

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

3. You got this

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

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

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

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

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

xoxo, MJ

7 valuable lessons for Pinterest

During the month of May, the sweet Stacy of Kids Stuff World invited me to be a guest pinner on the gigantic collaborative board of the Top 20 Must Follow Pinterest Moms. It's a lovely place full of activities, essays, recipes, and varia of amazing from moms who know their stuff. At the risk of sounding cliche, I was honored just to be asked to post, and I was delighted to share my content!

When you're around people who are really passionate (and good!) at what they do, you can't help but learn from them. Whether you're a momma or not, if you want to grow your following on Pinterest here are seven valuable lessons that I learned.

1. A great pinnable image is where it's at.

Pinterest users gravitate to the vertical format, we know that. We also know that pins with warm colors and no human faces (perhaps it makes it seem too personal if we have images of others) are more likely to be repinned.

I found that sometimes one great, large image worked well.

For our summer bucket list post, I pinned the rainbow watercolor image of the list. The vertical format and bright colors were enough to grab people's attention. It has over 800 pins so far, and it's been exciting to see our list pop up on different boards all over Pinterest.

2. Don't give it all away in your image.

Our summer bucket list pin drew a lot of repin traffic, but it didn't necessarily lead to a lot of traffic back to my blog. Why? I kind of gave away the cow with the milk on that one. No one needs to click into that pin to get the ideas for a summer bucket list, it's all right there before them.

For greater traffic to my site, I found that slightly less informative pins with interesting titles drew more viewers. Take for instance a project pin like the one below. The process for these shirts is hinted at below, but you can't walk away with all the information - you need to click in for more. This pin has generated almost 800 repins so far.

Or consider this one that has seen nearly 400 pins. An interesting idea (to me) with a fun photo, but in order to really get into the concept, you'd have to click to the post on my site.

3. Sometimes you just need the right eyes on your content.

This was the most gratifying piece for me. You mean, they like me? They really like me?

The ideas and projects that I've developed over the last two years, that I thought were so great, were seen by a whole new audience, probably the best audience to receive them. And guess what? These posts were pinned and repinned like I had hoped that they would be!! No longer a small one or two repin, but hundreds?

Sometimes you need the right stage to put on a good show.

Unfortunately, not all of us can pin to boards with hundreds of thousands of followers, but here is a grand old nod to collaboration. Working together with other writers/creators in your genre can help out a ton! I've loved collaborating on group boards for the Mini Cooks series and now the Endless Summer series. Combining our networks has brought so many more eyes to the content we want them to see. Find like minds and create collaborative boards on specific topics.

4. Pinning your stuff to multiple boards is okay.

This is a real matter of skill. The key, I think, is to pay careful attention to your audience. When are they pinning and from what boards are they pinning? Some boards might dominate your traffic. For example, I see interaction on my board Mommy and Daddy School. Many of my followers follow only that board. So, if I were to pin one of my kid craft projects to the DIY & Ideas on Pars Caeli, this audience that follows only one board would miss out on the pin, and I'd miss out on their traffic.

From the pros I noticed that multiple pins the same post (sometimes different images though) over a series of days and time slots to try to reach different eyes. And as a follower of these pinners, you can either feel turned off to see these pins more than once or perhaps begin to like (feel a moderate sense of peer pressure) these posts more and more when you see them come up in your feed again and again.

5. Use those descriptions for fun or provocative info.

The description of the pin had been pretty lifeless on my pins until I discovered just how much you can make that space work for you! With a great lead-in or teaser, that interesting photograph can become something readers will want to follow. Consider posing questions or alternatively leaving only the most interesting words that will lead your audience. Even a light-hearted joke might do the trick!

6. Keep that 80/20 rule going strong.

No one likes a narcissist. Your readers will get turned off by over posting your own work. Find, cultivate, and repost great work that you find from other creators. Make sure that pins follow your brand and fit with your style, but be sure to promote great work that see and share it abundantly with your audience. And by abundantly, we're thinking 80% of pins from others/brands and 20% of your own content. You'll be surprised by how much more your readers will come to trust you once they see what you are recommending and get to understand your brand identity.

7. Timing really makes a difference.

As I watched the other women set publish their pins, I was surprised to be the first one of the day pinning content. If I pinned a project or parenting post at 2pm, it saw drastically fewer pins than those I posted at 8, 9, or even 10pm (EST).

I caught on (slowly) that the audience I want to hit - busy moms and even busy ladies - weren't pinning until later in the day (largely). Sometimes a recipe or an organizational post would do well early in the morning and early in the week, but projects and longer posts scored higher in the late evening. Additionally, Saturday and Sunday are high pinning times for my audience - and at almost any point of the day - so I tried to save my favorite content for the weekends.

Consider who you want to reach and when they will most likely be on Pinterest. There's a ton of data and pins out there to help you narrow down who pins when, and it's always a good idea to experiment yourself.

I'm so grateful to the opportunity to work alongside these creators, and I'm loving all my new knowledge.

What would you have to add to the must know list of success on Pinterest? I'd love to pin it. :)

xoxo, MJ

Contributing: How it grows you and your blog

If you're a blogger or a maker or a writer, you've likely considered the idea of contributing to another website or blog. There are lots of reasons you might throw your hat in the ring as a contributor: for greater exposure, for compensation, for a connection to creatives you admire. There are other reasons you might decide contributing is not for you: your content under someone else's brand, more work/more timelines, or an imperfect fit of your content with another blog's message.

Pars Caeli is in its second year and is growing steadily from a tiny blog to a flourishing blog. In year two, I've been focusing on two goals for this webhome: cover-expenses revenue and growth. With a DIY/project based blog, I have expenses on materials and hosting, and I need Pars Caeli to be moving me into the black instead of the red, and we're making positive growth in that direction. I also want to grow this year...Grow in a broad sense. Of course, I'd like to reach more readers and become a daily read for more people, but I also want to stretch into new territories and try out some new adventures as a part of this blogging journey.

I decided to follow my heart, as I almost always do, and make some inquiries at blogs that I love. With gazillions of fantastic blogs (and bloggers) out there, it was tough to narrow down. I considered whose content I continually found interesting and whose content resonated with my own. Many contributors go for freelancing in an arena outside of their blog content, and I decided I wanted an even deeper dive into kid projects, parenting, and DIY.

Earlier this year, I became a monthly contributor to Classic Play, an incredible creative site run by Jen Cooper. I've been following Jen for quite a while now (she taught me how to find my voice in an Alt Summit class long time ago), and I even have the pleasure of calling her a friend. Parenting is fun over at Classic Play, and loving your children and dedicating time to be with them is strongly encouraged - and I wanted to be a part of it! Contributing to Classic Play is about networking and reaching a new audience, but I'm there more because I'm really enthusiastic about the mission of positive parenting and creative households. I love seeing my work mingled with Jen's and the other amazing contributors.

I'm super excited to announce that I'm a brand new collaborator on another blog that I've admired, Modern Parents Messy Kids. Steph's motto over at Modern Parents Messy Kids is "mindful living, effortless style". Her energy and clear vision for a beautiful life are contagious, and as a fellow mom of three, she knows what it means to have a lot on your plate. Steph's letting me utilize some of my design muscles to create some fantastic printables for her readers. With more than 100K Pinterest followers, Steph's posts reach far into an audience I love - busy, awesome moms. As a contributor to MPMK, I also have the opportunity to pin my other projects here on Pars Caeli to the contributor's board, which is an amazing gift!

Contributing is not for everyone, and it may not always be for me. As I grow as a creator and writer, it feels like the right time. If you're looking to contribute as a large source of income or to gain significant followers, you might want to reconsider. Not all sites link back to yours (and if they do, readers are not very likely to follow the author link), and it is the engaging content that you create that brings in the views, not (typically) your authorship alone at the small-to-medium size blog.

You'll still find me here, in my home, Pars Caeli, three days a week (as long as our internet connection stays consistent!). I have unique projects and ideas I want to share with you here. I hope you'll take some adventures with me to these other sights, too! Your readership means the world to me, and I love seeing how you bring some of these pieces of heaven into your life.

 

Inspired by Minted
The products in this post were given by Minted. Ideas and opinions are all mine.

Sometimes this world of blogging is pretty damn awesome. Actually, most of the time (even the long, wee hours of the morning kind of time) it's pretty awesome. And when the amazingness meets up with a friend in need then all sorts of super fireworks go off and real inspiration comes through.

Enter my real life friend, Kelly. Kelly is a rare talent as a completely joyful, totally intelligent, got-it-all-together kind of gal. For the past many years, she's been inspiring children in her role as teacher, and now she's made a leap. She's started to pursue one of her life dreams of becoming a children's author. And girlfriend is good. Like three-books-ready-to-be-published good. So when she said she was headed to a writing conference in NYC, I asked if I could help. How about some swanky business cards?! I have just the place for you to check out.

Enter Minted. Minted describes their work in this way:

"Our purpose in life is to uncover exceptional design from all over the world and bring this to savvy consumers who won't accept anything else."

Kelly and I hopped over to their site to check out the many, many options they had in innovative business card design. As a writer, Kelly wanted something clean but unique.

We discovered this hip Monolith style, available in a variety of colors. It hit the mark. A clear branded touch on one side with a fun pattern on the other and all printed on a super thick paper. And bonus: they come in this class box with a little bit of wit tucked on the inside.

Big thank you to the generous team at Minted for gifting Kelly with these incredible first impressions. Check out just how well these cards turned out from Kelly's perspective.

Happy for me, Kelly was also willing to let me assist with some basic design for her brand new blog. We used the strong direction from her business cards as a great jumping off point for her blog design. The strong font, the color options, the great use of white space all came into play thanks to the Monolith design.

Write, Read, Smile is a fabulous spot for parents and kids that encourages a love for learning all around. There you'll find story starters, great read-alouds, and brilliant recommendations for getting and keeping the young readers and authors in your life interested in words and books. I am so excited for Kelly and all that the future holds.

Inspiration can be found all over. If you're looking for great design, check out Minted! And if you're looking for a great read, click over to Write, Read, Smile.

I feel really fortunate to be here where I am so thank you, too, for reading and commenting and clicking. It all means so much to me. Every day. Thank you.

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!!

 

 

 

 

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.

But.

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!

xoxo,

MJ

Classic Play and Jen:12 Blogger Christmas

Sing it with me now:

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

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

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

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

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

On the sixth day of Christmas, Pars Caeli gave to me Minnow + Co.

On the seventh day of Christmas, Pars Caeli gave to me Bring Joy.

On the eighth day of Christmas, Pars Caeli gave to me Design Improvised.

On the ninth day of Christmas, Pars Caeli gave to me Frock Files.

On the tenth day of Christmas, Pars Caeli gave to me Raincoast Creative Salon.

On the eleventh day of Christmas, Pars Caeli gave to me Alexandra Hedin.

And, can I get a drumroll, pleeeeassse....

On the twelfth day of Christmas, Pars Caeli gave to me Classic Play!

First off, I can't believe that this series has come to an end, but nevertheless I am so excited to have Jen here to talk about her fabulous blog (so so much good stuff over their parents) and (hello...) new PBS series, Adventures in Learning.

Classic Play is the place where "having kids is cool" and in order for all that to happen you have to have one amazing mastermind behind it all. Jen has the wit and sincerity we parents need when transitioning children to the next stage of learning or getting into a project with your family. Cooking, playtime, crafts, reading - it's all infused with fun, and Jen's spirited illustrations are the cherry on top!

I guess it started when I had a toy/children's dress up line years ago and thought a blog would be a good promotional tool for it. Along the way, I fell in love with blogging—the conversations, the different skills it required, the friends I made. Eventually, we closed up our shop and I went all in for online publishing. 

What keeps me blogging?

The creative outlet, the opportunities that have arisen from the blog (even if the blog doesn't bring in revenue), the amazing contributors I work with, the pride I feel when I scroll through my site. I know it probably sounds vain, but it just makes me happy to look at and read it. 

Classic Play is a family lifestyle blog for creative types of parents or those who are looking for some creative ideas. I like to say it's always stylish, never fussy. As far as other places to find me? I host a pretty kickin' online series for PBS Parents called Adventures in Learning. It's one of the best parenting shows around. And I'm tooootally not biased at all ;) 

Hmm… this is a tough one!

I think this one, even though it's not a shiny happy piece, because it was the first time I ever tackled criticism. I wanted to ignore it, but I decided to be brave and tackle it head on. I've never done that before.

CORRECTIONS + CRITICISMS

This one was just plain ol' fun and helped me realize what type of parent I wanted to be—the kind who was cool with her kids being themselves

A CLONE TROOPER GOES GROCERY SHOPPING

And this one because I think it was the first time I felt brave enough to share my illustrations with people:

 

I'm going to be honest, I get nervous when I make big wishes; my family is wildly superstitious. But, I'm going to put on my big girl pants and make a wish. *deep breath* I would love to redesign the site to make it more functional. There is SO much fantastic content on there that gets lost in the shuffle. Other than that? I think I'll be happy with continuing to loosen up and experiment more. Blogging has allowed me to grow in so many ways. Hopefully 2014 will bring more of that growth even if it's uncomfortable (eek! I should probably be more careful what I wish for, yeah?)

Jen's energy for life and for motherhood is such an inspiration to me! She embraces everyday learning with ease, and injects a little something extra into every post. Whether you're a parent or not, you'll find inspiration on the overflow over at Classic Play.

Thanks all you beautiful bloggers for letting me feature your writing, your photography, your illustrations, your collages, and your hours and hours of sweat and tears. Blogging is an entire creative process, and I learn so much from ladies like these...

So here's to a wonderful 2014! My bloggy resolution for this year is to read more blogs. And comment more. Blog commenting has become akin to handwriting a personal letter. So I'm bringing it back with a gusto for 2014.

Watch out.

xoxo, MJ

P.S. You just have to come back tomorrow because I have a beautiful story to share with you and one biggo announcement.

P.P.S. #30sketch Day 5, for my middle school self

 

Alexandra of Alexandra Hedin: 12 Blogger Christmas
AHhhhh! Only one more day of Blogger Christmas left!! Trust me, you'll be glad you stayed until the end. Today's feature is Alexandra from Alexandra Hedin. Alexandra whips up parties with drinks, treats, and sweet decor. She also lives in an incredible firehouse and has three totally adorable children.

 

If 2014 is going to include some celebrations (big or small), make sure you take a look at Alexandra's goodness.
I left my corporate job when I had a baby in 2008 and needed something to do every day – that wasn't related to the baby. I started a blog towards the end of that year just to keep myself entertained.  It was positively dreadful. I started taking the blog seriously when I realized someone, other than my mother, was reading it regularly. I love sharing information – seeing things that I have created impact the lives of others is what keeps me blogging. Even if it's just inspiring another mother to pour herself a cocktail.  
I believe that colorful people are the most fun people and I believe that everyone should be fun.  On my blog we have fun, we are fun, we love fun.  I hope to inspire readers with recipes, crafts and inspiration that are crazy easy.  It must be easy or no one would do it.  And if no one had fun, life would be tragic.  

My favorite posts are the ones that have inspired other people {and that have gone viral}

ST PATRICK'S DAY JUST PLAIN LUCKY

CHARM HOUR SPIKED APPLE CIDER

My wish for the blog is always the same :: that I will inspire people to do something fun. Whether it's a picnic for dinner with your kids – or a cocktail to toast the weekend.  

Have fun.  Be fun.
Alexandra's magic has been seen recently in Better Homes and Gardens and Land of Nod catalogs. She's planning an extravagant mini-party at Alt Summit, and I can't wait to be a party goer!! Alexandra has some creative adventures up her sleeve for 2014 so tune in for the latest inspiration.

 

On the eleventh day of Christmas, Pars Caeli gave to me Alexandra Hedin.

 

On the tenth day of Christmas, Pars Caeli gave to me Raincoast Creative Salon.

 

On the ninth day of Christmas, Pars Caeli gave to me Frock Files.

On the eighth day of Christmas, Pars Caeli gave to me Design Improvised.

On the seventh day of Christmas, Pars Caeli gave to me Bring Joy.

On the sixth day of Christmas, Pars Caeli gave to me Minnow + Co.

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 !

P.S. Tomorrow's final blogger is the coolest!! Can't wait to reveal this multi-talented woman!!! I'm not even giving hints on this one.

 

P.P.S. #30 Sketch Day 4 - Words that my independent grandmother would say in the last decade of her life. I am just beginning to understand their meaning!

 

Frock Files and Joy: 12 Blogger Christmas

Nine days into the 12 Blogger Christmas, and today I'm giving you one of my very favorites (I mean..they're all my favorites, but...). Joy is so aptly named, and I've been blessed to work on a number of great projects with her. Remember Turn It posts? Or our most recent adventure with Pennies for Love?

In the last year, Joy has made some amazing projects for You Are My Fave as well as opening up her own styling and photography biz, and she is going to take the world by storm in 2014.

I'm lucky to collaborate with her and blessed to call her friend.


I started Frock Files because I wanted a place to be creative and to store creative inspiration within my own parameters. The blog has grown into a much deeper undertaking, in large part because of the friendships I've made with other bloggers along the way. These friends push me to expect more of myself and encourage me just by letting me know they're excited to see what's next.

Frock Files is all about simple ways to create more beauty in your life. I love eating delicious food, dressing up, and making pretty things, and those things are important to me, but in the end it's the experiences in my life -- spending time with great people -- that matter most. So my blog is all about finding easy ways to cook, craft, and get dolled up, so you have more time to do the things you really want to do. My husband and I joke that it's literally a blog about having your cake and eating it too.

Aside from Frock Files, I write about beauty for My Thirty Spot. I also have a photography site called Frock, and I'll be teaching the food styling and photography workshop in a few weeks at Altitude Summit.

Pineapple Coconut Cloud Cake:


A Care Package From Paris:

A Care Package From Paris! from Joy Uyeno on Vimeo.

How to Stop Comparing Yourself to Others:

 


My big hope is for my blog to continue to grow and evolve in interesting ways, while maintaining a genuine spirit of friendship. I'm working on some ideas for the coming months that involve bringing some of the focus to a local level, highlighting independent businesses here in New England, and elsewhere when we travel. I hope that keeping things fresh for both me and my readers is what will allow the blog to thrive.

 

This year, I'd really like to improve further on my photography skills and introduce more video content to the blog -- helped along by investing in a new DSLR! I've been drooling over a particular camera for the past few months and I'm hoping to purchase one in the first quarter of this year.

I also want to remember to enjoy my blog. It's so easy to get stuck in what I should be doing, rather than what's fun and interesting. That's a surefire way to begin thinking of blogging as an obligation, when my wish is for it to always be something I do because I love doing it.
It feels so good to celebrate the hard work of truly talented and kind people. Joy and I will be teaming up with the great Sheri Silver in February for a special series...run to your pantry and be sure to tune in!

On the ninth day of Christmas, Pars Caeli gave to me Frock Files.

On the eighth day of Christmas, Pars Caeli gave to me Design Improvised.

On the seventh day of Christmas, Pars Caeli gave to me Bring Joy.

On the sixth day of Christmas, Pars Caeli gave to me Minnow + Co.

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 !

P.S. Coming to you tomorrow an artist, musician, and conversationalist extraordinaire.

P.P.S. Today's #30Sketch

Design Improvised and Haeley: 12 Blogger Christmas
Welcome to Day 8 of the 12 days of Blogger Christmas! I adore celebrating the tremendous work of talented people so thanks for indulging me in all this fun!!

 

All 12 ladies featured in this series make blogging look effortless and today's designer, artist, publisher, marketer is no exception. Haeley is the mastermind behind Design Improvised, and she's always filled with good ideas and approachable design (who can resist a pom pom balloon?)

 

Design Improvised is really just a natural extension of all the things I have loved doing for as long as I can remember. Even when I was working 60+ hours a week as a management consultant, my favorite thing to do on the weekends was to clip ideas out of my home magazines and use them as inspiration for DIY projects around the house. I left consulting 4 years ago upon the birth of my first daughter and started the blog shortly after that as a way for me to catalog some of the projects I’d done and share them with family and friends.

I knew I really wanted to stay home with my daughters while they’re young, however it was also really hard for me to give up my professional identity and goals. In many ways, my blog has filled that gap by giving me something to continue to grow and evolve while serving as a creative outlet. 

 


Design Improvised focuses on easy, accessible home decor & entertaining projects that make a big impact. As a mom of a two-year-old and a four-year-old, I have very small windows of time to work on projects. Almost everything I make can be done in under an hour for under $20. I use simple materials and avoid power tools (unless you classify my beloved glue gun as a power tool!).

 

Design Improvised's projects have been featured on Apartment Therapy, Daily Candy, Babble, and Better Homes and Gardens among others. In addition to writing at Design Improvised, I contribute to The Land of Nod and Hayneedle blogs. 

 


Pom Pom Balloons - this particular project went viral and continues to be the most popular DIY on my blog. It is at the essence of what my blog is all about - simple projects that make a big impact. Who would've thought you could hot glue pom poms to a balloon to transform them, but it works and you can whip them up in minutes before a party!

My Craft Room / Office Reveal - after spending years crafting at the kitchen table, with my craft supplies taking over most of the living space, it was a dream come true to get my own dedicated craft space upon our move to a new home this summer. I had dreamed up what this space would be like well in advance of the move, and it was so fun to see it come to life. My girls and I are in there daily making a mess, and I love every minute of it.

Dress Up Birthday Party - I love planning our girls' birthday parties and I try to make them special events without going over the top with the decor and budget. My daughter Stella's recent 4th birthday dress up party is a great example of my favorite type of party - filled with simple DIY touches that don't break the bank.

 

I would love for Design Improvised to be considered one of the top sources of inspiration for achievable, easy DIY projects that anyone can do! However, I’ve never really considered growing my blog as an end-goal in itself, I’ve always seen it more as a means to an end. A couple years from now, I’d like to be working full time again, but in a role that lets me combine my business background with my creative passions. If Design Improvised can open up opportunities to do that, I will consider it a huge success!

I would love to continue to grow my readership, make enough income from blogging to cover my girls' preschool costs, and carve out a few more hours each week towards DIYing!
P.S. I'm once again joining in 30 days of sketching Elizabeth, Nicki, Kim, Melanie, and more will be posting their sketches on Instagram, #30sketches, and I'll be sharing mine in the post script throughout January! See all of the sketches over here on Pinterest.

P.P.S. Tomorrow I'm bringing to you a women of style, great taste, huge talent... and the cutest pup on the internet!

On the eighth day of Christmas, Pars Caeli gave to me Design Improvised.

On the seventh day of Christmas, Pars Caeli gave to me Bring Joy.

On the sixth day of Christmas, Pars Caeli gave to me Minnow + Co.

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 !

Bring Joy and Janae: 12 Blogger Christmas

Happy New Year, pals!! It's 2014 - how did that happen? Thank you for all of your reading and applauding through 2013 for this here blog. Because of your support some fabulous changes are happening in 2014, and I can't wait to share a few things I've been keeping on the hush hush. May 2014 be a year of lasting hope and endless possibilities!

On this seventh day of Christmas, I'm BRINGing you JOY. If you have not yet discovered the force that is Janae from Bring Joy, let me convince you.

I wanted to share recipes & helps answer questions about my dietary choice to go vegan. When I first began blogging nearly 5 years ago, the www was a totally different place. Pinterest didn't exist. There was no such thing as a Facebook fan page. Twitter was just in its baby phase. So much has changed, but the reason I began is the reason I continue--to connect with others & to share. 

 

My blog has evolved over the years (as I hope all blogs do!) to be more than just a blog about being vegan & sharing recipes. I like to share snippets of family life, share how we're striving to be frugal & get out of debt, & discuss issues about relationships & parenting. I keep blogging, honestly, because of my readers. I have some readers who have stuck around since the beginning, & my interactions with them are my fuel to keep going. I love learning from them, & feel honored to have such a thoughtful, smart audience. 
The essence of my blog is sharing, community, with an emphasis on thoughtful, purposeful living. In a few words, I'd like to think I & my readers discuss ways in which to bring more joy to living, particularly as it relates to food, family, & money decisions. 
I don’t know. Except I do. Because I’m a woman & I’ve been guilty as anyone of this. In the past 6 months or so, I’ve been quietly working on changing my mindset. Striving to realize that my value as a woman, as a person, does not have anything to do with the shape of my body, or the size of my jeans. It’s hard to fight against this though, in our culture, where we’re sold this idea that a woman’s power or strength at least in part, is derived from the shape & size of her body.
Image courtesy of Freshly Picked
I just want to continue interacting with my readers in a very mindful, intimate way. I love nothing more than to receive emails & comments from readers that teach me something, or open my eyes in a new way. I feel like blogging is the 21st century version of extreme pen pal-ing. I get to interact on a regular basis from people all over the world, & not just any kind of people--some truly fabulous & wonderful people. 
When you head over to Bring Joy, you will quickly notice how engaged Janae is with her audience. Her smart, relevant, and challenging content stretches the gamut from frugal living to healthy eating to marriage and parenting conversations. And she has an almost magical way of beginning a conversation you want to be sure to join. So many times when I'm reading a post from Bring Joy, I find myself internally nodding and thinking "YES!" as I read her well selected content.
Janae's food photography is pretty awesome as well. Click on over to Bring Joy - and let's make it a habit to do so often in this great new year - 2014!

On the seventh day of Christmas, Pars Caeli gave to me Bring Joy.

On the sixth day of Christmas, Pars Caeli gave to me Minnow + Co.

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 !

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!)

 

THERE GOES MY HERO:

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.

BIRTHDAY LAYER CAKE:

WOKE UP, IT WAS A CHELSEA MORNING

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 SheriSilver.com 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. 

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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 =)
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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 experience...is 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.  
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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.
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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.
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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:
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CHILDREN'S COATS
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.
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xoxo, MJ
P.S. Tomorrow's blogger will encompass design, life, and kids all in one!! Don't miss it!
Trouvé Magazine and Emily: 12 Blogger Christmas

Welcome back, friends, to the 12 Blogger Christmas! I was so delighted to have Melissa of Lulu the Baker join us for the first day of Christmas!! Thank you again, Melissa.

On the second day of Christmas, I'm giving you something so much better than two calling birds (what does that mean anyway?)! Please offer a warm welcome to Emily of EmilyJeffords.com and now Trouvé magazine! It's a brand new magazine, and it is just spectacular in look and feel.

On the second day of Christmas, Pars Caeli gave to me, Emily of Trouvé!

I had a deep need for a vibrant creative community. I am an artist, mother of two, and while I have many intensely creative friends, I needed a an outlet to document and develop my own personal artistic inspiration. What I didn't realize when starting Beautiful Hello Blog, was that I would learn far more about myself and would be challenged creatively as an artist because of blogging. The community and creativity that have come because of I "put myself out there" have been incredible - far greater than I imagined.

My first blog Beautiful Hello, lead into my current creative baby: Trouvé Magazine which celebrates the creative lifestyle and the people who live it. This new magazine has already taken my breath away and inspired every aspect of my life. This is a new magazine I began with my dear friend (and crazy good designer) Amanda Marko.  

Keeps you blogging?  We featured a musician, John French, in issue one of Trouvé Magazine.  He said something that stopped me in my tracks and really resonated with me:  

"One of the largest struggles with being alive is the need to be understood by the people around you."

This is why I blog and write and paint, and mother, and sing, and cook, and CREATE.  To be understood - and to understand myself.  I do this through my artwork, painting nearly every day, and through Trouvé Magazine.  

 

Trouvé Magazine celebrates the creative lifestyle & those who live it. It is a bi-monthly digital magazine featuring makers, designers, artists, and creative recipes, gatherings, and projects. www.TrouveMag.com. You can see my personal artwork at www.EmilyJeffords.com  You can also find me (over posting?) on Instagram (@TrouveMag), Twitter (@TrouveMag), and Facebook.

The beginning of my Painting-A-Day project last summer was a very raw and scary time for me.  The community surrounded me and supported & loved my artwork was completely remarkable and beautiful. You can read about the beginning of that story here: http://beautifulhelloblog.com/2013/07/22/painting-a-day/ Spoiler alert: the blogging and creative community are wonderful, and I love them.

 

Getting to learn more about other artists and creative people is so encouraging to me (I'm - we're - not alone!  There are other people as unusual and passionate as we are!)  The interview with artist Britt Bass on Trouvé Mag is a perfect example.

 

I guess you could call this a VERRRRY love post:  The Trouvé Magazine Issue One.  Hands DOWN the most amazing thing I have had a hand in publishing online ever.  It is full of remarkable stories, creativity, and inspiration. None of this silly, overly perfect stuff - just real people, living real creative lives, and we get to share them within our pages. That is a HUGE honor and one I'm very proud of.  

We would like Trouvé to be a creative household name - a place that conjures up thoughts of inspiration, success stories, real beauty, and true creativity.  

 

To get to meet, photograph, and feature a few of my design/art heroes. It's totally going to happen.... Watch out Molly Jacques.  ;)

Emily and I had the pleasure of first meeting in New York City for AltNYC. I was her apprentice, trying to absorb all her art and city knowledge, and laughing, laughing as we roomed with the inimitable Paige of Approaching Joy. Emily is a true artist, finding beauty wherever she goes, and spreading it, too. In the year I've had following her work, I've seen a true breadth and depth in her talents. I'm a proud owner of an Emily Jeffords oil painting!!

From jewelry to collage to oils to graphic design, her creativity just bubbles over. Emily honors the makers in each one of us, too, with her generous, warm spirit. Trouvé Magazine is a gorgeous new enterprise for she and Amanda, and I spent a lovely hour perusing the stylized photography and interesting articles. If you have not yet subscribed to the new magazine, hop on over now and get on the long list!

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

And Lulu the Baker !

xoxo, MJ

PS. Tomorrow brings us into the world of fashion!!

 

 

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...