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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.


P.S. I missed you.


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



It's new and it's old

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

And I kind of feel like a deer in headlights.

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

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

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

I find this whole creative process electrifying.

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

xoxo, MJ

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 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. You can see my personal artwork at  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: 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...



In it for the experts?

On Oct. 15, Martha Stewart was interviewed on Bloomberg. It was one of a zillion interviews she's done. She discussed a variety of topics. Just one topic stood out for me: her thoughts (and her tone) about bloggers.

Who are these bloggers? They're not trained editors and writers at Vogue magazine. I mean, there are bloggers writing recipes that aren't tested, that aren't necessarily very good or are copies of everything that really good editors have created and done. Bloggers create kind of a popularity. But they are not the experts and we have to understand that.

At 72, Martha Stewart is an empire, a brand, and a downright legend. I respect her for her ideas, her hard work, her ability to find talent and surround herself with it, and her seamless transition from a major life-altering event to a thriving, again-active life.

I'm not a Martha groupie; I've never subscribed to her magazine or purchased one of her books (though I was gifted with one that I love!). I will not deny her genius or her many talents. In fact I was so delighted to be at Martha Stewart's headquarters for AltNYC and to experience the environment on innovation that she creates. I completely appreciate all the accomplishments that Gabrielle points out.

I was also, however, confused by her remarks. Or maybe in my own motherly way, I was disappointed. Her comments seemed short-sighted and small. Generally, I think it's just a bad idea to trash your most supportive community.

Later that day I received a PR email. I'm on a list with millions of others, and I was sent this from "Martha."

Hello MJ,

We all start out in different places on the road to expertise.

And it takes tenacity, proficiency, education, endurance, and ambition to go the extra mile. As bloggers, we know this all too well.

I'm disheartened to hear that some of our blogger friends feel that I'm not supportive of what they do. The blogger community is a vibrant and lively place, and I enjoy watching it grow.

In the ever-evolving online community, each day is another opportunity to garner new skills through new experiences. It's like I always say: When you're through changing, you're through.

I'm thrilled to announce that in the coming days, weeks, and months, we'll be incorporating more of the people who inspire us most on the site. People like you -- bloggers and crafters and American makers -- the people who are making a change.

It's important to continue learning, growing, and working together so the world can be a more beautiful place.

Thank you for all your incredible work.


I realized what it was that was really making me itchy about this whole situation.



Bloggers don't = experts or in some way Bloggers should = experts?

Blogging is a means of communication. Like journals, social media posts, works of art, dancing, music...

To be a "blogger" one must use blogging as a main form of communication (fair to say, right?). No expertise required. Just as my technique with oil paints is not evaluated at the cashier desk of Michael's to ensure I'm sufficiently skilled at painting before I can express and share my artwork, my thoughts this way.

From where I sit, the blogosphere has democratized expression. Should I want to share my best recipe for gingerbread cookies or my conversation with my mom last night or anything else, I have the opportunity to send it out into the world - the potential to share it with anyone I can coax to this blog space.

I don't need to be an expert.

In fact, people might just want to learn more BECAUSE I AM NOT an expert.

Martha for all the goodness she's thrown in the direction of handmade and homemade has spotlighted only the most perfect, refined, and pretty. And I'm not denying that she has come to set the standard high and beautiful.

Maybe, too, she's built a bit of pinorexia (see Meg's post and definition on this one) into the blogging community. That every project, recipe, craft must look fabulously styled in order to be trusted and valued...and good.

But for me - me who is far from expert on anything at all - I visit and revisit blogs to see how other-than experts create and live. I won't deny my desire for an aesthetic that appeals; my eye is intoxicated by design and color. But when needed, Google finds the experts for tasks. I find the kindred spirits with whom I want to share a journey, the experience.

These bloggers are (way more often than not) not experts, humble yet confident speakers who are themselves large enough to ride through imperfections and mistakes.

I'll continue to admire the pristeen that Martha Stewart's brand presents, but I won't be putting, expecting, or even desiring that from my favorite blogs or bloggers.

In fact, I hope none of us put perfection as our goal.

Because if we did blogs would be a whole lot less interesting.

xoxo, MJ


Endless Summer Projects: Memoir Boxes

Hi y'all!

It's time once again to offer you some fresh ideas on how to craft the summer away with your kiddos, and today I have a great rainy day project to engage the whole family. I hope you've been creating along with us and following the other amazing mamas: Alexandra, Melissa, and Jen (put Bloglovin' or Feedly to work and keep up to date with these go getters).

Have you ever returned from vacation or a great outing and wished that you could capture the entire experience? The why didn't I take some video? The I should have written down some of our favorite memories?

Let's write a memoir. Too daunting? Clear your head of the anthology, giant biography kind of dust collector and envision more of a memory collector, short and sweet. A friend and fellow teacher opened up my eyes to the beauty of memoir for capturing our children's stories (and I'm so glad she did!). And you can do it, too, through six simple, well chosen, words. Need some ideas for what I mean? Check out these great examples from Tara and this awesome collection of six-word memoirs.

Our first step was to narrow in on the topic. We chose our far. I asked my three kiddos (ages 8, 6, and 3) to think about all the activities, trips, and experiences we've had thus this summer. We talked as a group initially so that even my littlest could get some ideas of happenings before snacktime today. :)

For my oldest, she could and did write a whole list of everything she enjoyed and filled half a page with sketches and writing. My 5-year old wrote two large sentences, and we talked through a few more ideas as I wrote down some additional words to describe her favorites.

And my youngest and I sat down and drew pictures together of what made him smile about summer. He drew some elements, and I helped with more difficult concepts. See our masterpiece below with one of our butterflies, some squirt tubes, his new bicycle, and a castle.

No matter the skill level, everyone can find a way to enter into the idea gathering. Adapt for what's best suited for each family member.

Once you have ideas down, select 1-5 favorites. This was super tough for my crew, but with a little encouragement and prodding, we were able to find the best.

Here's the challenge! You now have a page of ideas from which to choose...but which ones do you capture? For us and our memories of summer, we decided we didn't need to be comprehensive but focus on moments that we will remember long after summer is gone.

This process was easiest for the youngest. He knew right away what he wanted, and all I had to do was make sure he could count 1-6 and confirm his final writing. My younger daughter needed some help with adjectives to add some interest to her list, but she got into the idea of playing with limited words and giggled through her version of cheerleading accomplishments that turned into "jumping marshmallows." And my oldest decided to go much more with a list with details coming only for her very favorite experience.

Once you have your memoirs written, the accordion book and box will be an easy way to store these treasures.

Find a box that you can use or re-use. We upcycled a brie cheese container and used it mostly because we all loved the circular shape. Each child added some color to the interior and exterior of the box as well.

For the pages of the accordion, I folded cardstock. Each writer used only the right side of the folded card, and we glued the left sides of each under the written-on right sides from another piece to make one long chain of words.

Once the glue dried, I refolded the chain to a back-and-forth accordion fold. I added an extra card on each end so that the expanse of book was a bit wider.

With the folded accordion now assembled, I glued the first and last flap to the insides of the box lid and base.

We added our title on the back as a sneaky way to display the project, without anyone else seeing our special memories.

And when we're ready to store our memories away, we have a great little box fllled with magic to hold them all.

Happy writing and crafting, friends! Don't forget to tag your projects with #endlesssummerprojects and come on back next week for the delightful Jen and her latest project (btw, head over to Camp Classic Play when you're done here. Lots of great ideas!!)

xoxo, MJ

How do I tell you this? I think I have a blog.

If you suddenly started an expansive button collection, consisting of the most majestic, sparkling, and extraordinary buttons, ones that make you proud to collect buttons and including a handful of, you know, mediocre ones you started with... Would you tell your friends? Take pictures of them with fun hashtags?

What if you started a blog, including a year full of posts that include your ideas, ramblings, projects, and collaborations, ones that make you proud to be a writer/designer/photographer/artist as well as a handful of posts that make you say, "Meh."  Would you share it with your family? Send them links to the posts that are your fave?

Do the real people in my life know I have a blog?

Do they read it?

Over the last year, I have thought about this first question - a lot. I began this blog to keep me actively creating, not necessarily to keep in touch with people I know or bring myself any level of attention (though I do love me a great big page view at the end of the day).

For the first few weeks of blogging I told only my husband about this new thing. Then I sent a Facebook message to a dozen girlfriends who I thought might be willing to read and follow along. Next I told my parents - admittedly a little heeby-jeeby'd that they'd be seeing all of this, in my very mature 30-something way.

It took me a bit to send the blog address along to my closest friends. Why? I'm not completely sure, but at first, this new adventure was easier to share with strangers than people who loved me. If a random person rejects me or, worse, is just disinterested by my blog, that won't hurt so much.

Well, over the year-and-some that I've opened Pars Caeli, it's become very much a part of my creative process, my inside jokes, my free time (what?), and my joy. And now it's kinda weird that everyone in my life doesn't know about it. But how do you casually bring up, "Oh, I have a blog. And, yes, I post something daily, sometimes a few times a week. Uh, yes, I've been doing this for an entire year. Did I not mention this?"

But honestly? The really brilliant part of this reveal experience is that I've been met with only support.

And that little boost or sometimes big bounce like the one that comes from your boss with jokes like, "you're going to be famous," or statements like "what can we do to help you grow?" ... well, those moments are the cups of crisp, cold water on my overheated, stewing mind. Never underestimate the power of support in the early buds of creativity.

So, friends, I've got a blog. It's not an easy conversation starter, but here it is.

And here are the whole spectrum of answers to this question from charming blogger pals of mine:

Do the real people in your life know about your blog? Do they read it?

xoxo, MJ

PS. Head on over to Twitter and follow all of these lovely tweeple because they are good and decent enough to respond thoughtfully to this request of their time. xo

For the love of blogging: The writer

I just love, love, love Thursdays around here. I get to bring some fabulous people into the spotlight for all of you dearies to see and read. And I saved a might good one for this week.

Do you know Meg? You completely need to if you don't. I was stunned to read that she's only been at this blogging thing a year because her words are timeless. She is an amazing writer who can make me ugly cry and snort snot bubbles of joy (this is a compliment, I promise) as I read through her stories of womanhood, family, and life. Give yourself a Thursday treat and head over to Meg in Progress (after you read this rockin' interview that she offered me whilst nursing for her daughter with pneumonia) to savor her words.





Meg in Progress has been exposing my mediocre attempts at a full life since February of 2012. I have been writing my little ramblings down on other sites since about 2006.

There were two main reasons. First, I am a writer who had forgotten to make time to write. With all the guts and glory of wifedom and motherhood, I was no longer taking the time to do the things that make me feel fulfilled. Creating Meg in Progress was really my way of creating a space where I could go to do what I love and remember who I am. When I am able to plunk a few thoughts down each day, I am a better person when it comes to every other facet of my life.

Secondly (and perhaps most importantly), I think that as women it is high time that we are honest with each other. It is time to share our struggles along with our triumphs. We are part of this vast sisterhood and I think we should take advantage of our community of valiant hearted women. I want women to be able to read about my day-to-day and think, “My goodness, I am not alone.” or better yet, “Man, I thought I was a little crazy, but I read about that Meg in Progress girl and feel MILES better about myself. She is positively loony.”



My biggest mistake is that for awhile I compared myself to other bloggers with some frequency. I mean my goodness, you are all so amazing and it can be so intimidating. I don’t even own a glue gun so I need to stop wishing I was a top craft blogger. Today I walked around with applesauce spilled across my jeans, so the fashion blogger ship has sailed. I became a better blogger when I stopped feeling like everything had to be covered in glitter and designer labels. The whole concept of the Meg in Progress is that I am a very imperfect work in progress. One day I decided to truly embrace that concept and that message. Everything that followed that decision has been more successful and, more importantly, a more accurate reflection of my authentic self.

My crazy, innate, can’t turn it off need to write. Also? The relationships I have developed with readers I have never met. There are so many amazing women out there and I love that blogging has been a way to connect with them.


 A long walk with my two little girls. I always return home with a new story or insight.


Happiness! A cohesive story telling style. And an honest approach to life. I am not very attracted to blogs that look like perfect catalogues. My Anthro magazine comes in the mail each month and serves that purpose well. I read blogs to learn about and connect with real people.

I would have more time for writing for print publications. Which would be fabulous and also, very, very sad.


I bring home the bacon (mmmm...bacon) by taking on freelance writing projects. I also write for Caravan Shoppe and have some really amazing projects in the works with those fabulous ladies. In May, I am starting a project on womanhood that makes me want to jump up and down with happiness. But my best time (and most of it) is spent with my family. I am blessed with a husband that makes my heart beat and two girls that are made of equal parts sugar and sass. My life is brimming with scraped knees, dirty clothes and love. Right now, I wouldn’t have it any other way.


Meg, thank you for your honest words here and over at Meg in Progress. You lift up the journey of motherhood and open it up for laughter and encouragement. Your bravery inspires me, and your talent pushes me to do more.

Do you know another great blogger that should be featured here? Leave a comment, and you just might see it happen.

xoxo, MJ


For the love of blogging: The budding photographer

I'm just over the moon about these Thursday posts, friends. As part of this continuing series For the Love of Blogging, I'm bringing you a new blogger - the voice and talent behind Little Siddall Studios, Becky. She's a newbie blogger with a lot of spunk...

I was looking for an outlet to rant other than my personal Facebook feed. I've journaled all my life and found that I'm a faster typer than I am a pen writer. However, I still carry a pen and Moleskine wherever I go. I find that I write differently through pen than through the clicking-clack of keys on a keyboard. It's a different kind of creative outlet for me.

Since January of 2012. As noted in this post, it was a goal of mine to stick it out for a year, and I'm so happy I did! Something that started out as a challenge, has turned into one of my constant joys and even further fuelled my desire to go into business for myself.

I think the funniest (nervous laughter) thing was the night I thought I would lose all my blog content. I remember turning to Josh (Mohawk is his name on the blog), bursting into tears and saying “I'm afraid if I push this button, I might delete everything!!!” and luckily for me, I didn't. Was I ever a wreck that night. Oh the early days of blogging - when my mother was my only reader, and I would take 6 pictures of the same thing at the same angle, on a Blackberry. It's amazing how quickly we adapt and learn when we immerse ourselves into uncharted waters.

My need to get my thoughts out of my brain and somewhere that I can reflect and look back on. I am in love with memories. I will re read and re watch things just because. I think there's something magical about reading words with no other voice than the one in your own head. Deciding what tone comes across – and where the pauses are. I keep blogging because, when it comes down to it – I like talking through my writing. Some may like my style, some may not, but regardless, I want to keep it my own. On the business side of things, I'm an entrepreneur at heart and always wanted to go into business for myself. I think we are all curious creatures, just some are more afraid than others to show it. I know I'm afraid at times, but I'm learning to embrace that fear. I think blogging is the perfect outlet for that.



Music and movies. I find I'm inspired by the way something is edited, or the pattern in which an actor chooses to say their lines. I love watching movies alone. I can pause, rewind, write in my notebook like a mad woman, and then play the movie again from where my brain trailed off. When I'm creating a post or brainstorm-writing, I have the stereo turned up – or my headphones on - all different types of music – and probably louder than I should. I can play songs over and over and over again. It can be so peaceful and productive.



I'm slightly ashamed to say that - I judge blogs just like I judge books by their cover. I know, I know, some of you are thinking how dare her! But it's the honest truth. When i'm at the library or bookstore, I'll look for something to read based on how gravitated I am to its cover. There's just so much choice in this world! I need to narrow it down somehow or I'd be on the internet all day and all night. The majority tend to be food and photography focused.  


I'd sleep more and my eyes would probably hurt less from constant staring at the computer screen.


At the moment, I work 4 days a week, full time as a Lead Support Coordinator for a company in Toronto. It pays the bills while I start diving into the deep end with my photography business. Coming from a film & television background, photography has always been a loved hobby but something I am very serious about now. I'm constantly soaking in knowledge wherever I can and of course, practice, practice, practice! Josh and I are in the process of bringing a dog into our family. Never having owned a dog before myself, i'm excited for this new change in our life! Not too sure how Tut, our cat, feels about it though. We'll have to see!

Oh, that avocado photo! Thank you Becky for joining in the conversation and celebrating the love of blogging. Head on over to Becky's space, Little Siddall Studios to gawk at her photos and follow her journey!

That's it from me, friends. Have a bright weekend... and rest up. We have a whole lot of fun to be had next week.

xoxo, MJ

For the love of blogging: The artist

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

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

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


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


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


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




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

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



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




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


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


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


Serious sadness.



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


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


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

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

xoxo, MJ

You're a really special 1 in 385 million to me.

Dear Blog,

It's almost your one-year anniversary, and I have to break it to you - you've hit middle-age. You see, in the blogosphere, a meager nine months is the average active lifespan of a blog. After this period most blogs are left by the wayside, abandoned URLs with low click rates and limited posts. Fact is, dear blog, you're one in 385 million blogs already out in cyberspace. And more than 100,000 of you are started every. single. day.

But, stats aside, my beloved web home, you have become a living, breathing creative space. And most days I find myself refreshed by your clarity of focus, relaxed in your organized aesthetic, and warmed by the generosity of those who also come to visit this address.

Let me share with you a few things I've learned and loved about our near-year together.


Paint the walls orange with blue polka dots

Blogging is freedom. I can express myself and any old way I'm feeling or thinking. I can choose to be positive and upbeat, silly and childish, serious and heavy, or none of the above. I can post seven times a day or take a month off (sorry about that December to January stint). My blog can be exactly what I want it to be at any old time of the day or night - and really, there's nothing else in my life for which I can say this.


Get a plan, stick to the plan and stray from the plan

I've learned that an editorial calendar is essential to successful blogging. What's this, you ask? That rough sketch of an outline where the daily posts are mapped out and regular series return on the same days week after week. I have written it out and crossed it off, and I have stuck to the proposed plan with a soothing rhythm and joy. Readers come back to see what they want to see on a regularized basis. But also I've received those inspiring emails or the middle-of-the-shower brilliant ideas that make me crumple the schedule in the cupholder and try something totally different. And I can do that, and it's all good, all welcome here in this space.


Make holes in the walls

I feel like the couch would look better over on that wall. Oh, wait, it's a sleeper sofa, and I'm here by myself, and there's a staircase in the way. This n e v e r happens with the blog. Enter through the back door and move that widget over, convert from one to three column design, add an instagram feed. And then change it all next week when I want a look that reflects something fresh and new. In blogging, invigorating design is encouraged and rewarded. Let your readers know that you're thinking of them and switch your look around.


Be a pal

Mom was right on this one. Be a friend to the bloggers you meet. Blogging success like any other success in life is about making real connections. You have to be willing and engaged in visiting, chatting, commenting, liking, posting, and retweeting all the goodness see others doing. Oh, and you can't just be in it to up your own numbers. That's the fastest way to becoming a blog has-been. Through this writing adventure, I've connected with amazing ladies from around the world, and I've been inspired to be more and do more.


The more you, the better

What makes you stand out amongst the 384,999,999 others? The you-ness. Blogs are inversely lovely to mass consumption, eg: the more you can be authentically, uniquely you, the better your blog can be. Find and use your voice. Hone in on it. Craft photographs as only you would see them. Overlay that fantastic font you know says wow. The world needs your blog.

There are already 99,999 other copycats arriving by sundown.


So Pars Caeli, you might be middle-aged in blog years, but you're always fresh, rewarding, and a wee bit intoxicating to me. Hugs to you, interweb cozy. Can't wait to see what's cooking for the terrible twos.

xoxo, MJ

PS. What do you love mostest about your blog?


A tri- to try

Did you know that my Friday loveliness is inspired by a much bigger and more glamorous bloggers? Have you seen The Glitter Guide? Every Friday they post five fun, often magical, things to try over the weekend. They always have gorgeous images and fabulous ideas. Check them out.

My Fridays offer you a Tri- to Try, 3 ideas/projects/thoughts that might inspire you to venture into something new or re-explore something old. And, I always love to throw in 3 (sometimes silly) reasons to celebrate over the weekend.

And, so, without further adieu...

Are you fully living out Lazy Day today? Yes, that's right, August 10th is officially Lazy Day. You have my permission to lie on the couch in your jammies. But get ready because Saturday is calling you to the ballpark to remember the historical day in 1929 when Babe Ruth became the first person to hit 500 home runs in his career. Take a crack at hitting it over the fences. Sunday is Middle Child's Day so don't forget that middle child (again) in your life. Make sure you let them sit between you and your significant other...embrace the middle.



I was really inspired by this post, and a little in awe of the writing frankly, and I can't not pass it along to you. It came to me via Beth Rago, and it's kind of been in my head this week. Here's an appetizer of Jeff Goins writing. Make sure your order the main entree.

Good stories involve conflict, which is a nice word for pain. People don’t become heroes without sacrifice, and as creatures of comfort, this is the last thing we want to endure.

Surely, our stories don’t have to require suffering in order them to be good — do they? They do, indeed.


I have had this post bookmarked for a while. It's just so smart, and I use it as a resource. Karen offers seven different ways to style your bookshelves. And they're all beautiful. I find it kind of amazing.


It's almost back-to-school time around here, and I'm deep into backpacks, supply lists, and clothing. I've also been thinking more and more about writing letters to all of my children's new teachers this year. I want to give them a head's up on what wonderful, wacky kiddos are headed their way. As a former teacher, I know that I would have loved knowing more about my students early in the year...before I uncovered, I mean discovered it all myself. I'm also thinking that one of these small, crafty presents might be a fun way to start off the school year right. I think the highlighter present is corny fun! Thanks, Tip Junkie!

Have a bright weekend, friends! We're headed on a little vacation to the big city next week, but I hope to still post some loveliness for you. More details here after the enjoyable summer weekend...


PS. Those chunky beads will be making an apperance over at Laid Off Mom's next DIY date. Can't wait to show you!

A tri- to try because you're cool

 Happy Friday, friends. It's been a fun, fun week here at Pars Caeli. This photo sums it up for me. My hubby brought home roses and rootbeer to celebrate the blog week (are you following me on Instagram? Come check it out at @parscaeli). He is so supportive and, even after 15+ years of love, finds new ways to insert joy into my day. And do you see those rolls of washi tape wonderful? Yes, those are soon to be transformed into my DIY meet-up with Laid Off Mom. Check her site on Monday to see the really cute desktop lovely I created that I think you might just fancy. Lastly, I'm trying to honor my homework commitment from the photo class with Justin Hackworth that I took through the Alt Channel this week. I am loving my new camera.

We're still moving in and working through some kinks in the new site. A big shout-out to the ah-mazing team of support known as Squarespace. The 24/7 advertised assistance is really accurate, and I love that (and need it) as a hobby blogger. I vow to get Disqus up and running by next week because I just miss talking to you guys!!

This weekend will you be celebrating over the moon by honoring the anniversary of the first lunar landing on Friday? If not, be sure to toast Robin Williams on Saturday, his birthday. The kiddos and I just watched Alladin for the first time together, and he's just so good in that one. And dear, dear parents, this Sunday is Parents' Day (yes, it's an official holiday since 1994). It's a day to honor the hard work and goodness that is the everyday of parenthood. How will we celebrate it? Yes, with a date just to ourselves.

This week's Tri- to Try is a mix of fun and inspiration just for you fabulous people who keep on coming back.


Really, my favorite drink is chocolate milk, but that's not as fun when gathered around the table with friends. So, I have for you the best margarita recipe. The bit of extra time it takes to make the perfect blend is worth it. Yes, it is.

My go-to drink is a margarita on the rocks with salt. Lots of salt. And, yes, I have been known (in the nicest way) to send back my margarita for more salt.

Joanna Goddard of Cup of Jo featured a delicious recipe from Kate of Cookie + Kate for the perfect recipe.

Let's toast the goodness that awaits us.


A Beautiful Mess always has something interesting popping up, and this post on brightening photos caught my eye. I use Photoshop and Illustrator every day in my professional life, but I haven't used Photoshop for this purpose too often.

It's an easy tip that really makes a big difference.


My real-life friend and blogger, Colleen (remember she did that great post on loving your neighbor) has put her mind and her life into motion to write her first (of many I'm sure) book. I am so excited for her; now is the time. She's a momma of five who homeschools, blogs, photographs, and makes me laugh and reflect through it all. She's done some great reading on the art of writing, and she has pulled 3 memorable quotes that will make you write richer content with greater purpose.

Wishing you a bright weekend, friends. We have no major plans other than some time together, and right about now that feels pretty major.





Where did my voice go? I must find it.

Happy Friday! We did it.

I'm shifting into high gears next week with lots of time in the office, and while I'm preoccupied there will be some superheroes over here, sitting behind the keyboard at Pars Caeli. They hail from Ireland, Italy, as well as the Northeast and deep South of the beautiful USA (what a lovely melting pot) and these ladies have come armed with dazzling photos, DIYs, calls to action, and even a fancy pants Vlog (first one here ever!!) to keep you coming back for more. Yes, I am cool by association.

I will be popping in to relieve my stress and to say hey so please, please be sure to continue your happy commenting trend. And when I do return, I'm coming back with fireworks ablazin' with a great giveaway and a pool party for the 4th on this here blog (I hope my Mac can handle all that chlorine).

Before we head into the weekend, let me leave you with some great ideas I glistened from my new friend, Jennifer Cooper. Jen is a super talented lady, founder/designer behind Ellie Bellie Kids, editor of Classic Play, and a generous teacher over at the Alt Channel. I was a fortunate student in her class, Writing and Finding Your Voice, and I want to share some great takeaways for you and your writing (whether it be blog, papers, emails, books, or tweets!).

One thing before I give you these 5 golden rings...true confession: before starting a blog, I never really thought about the fact that I'd have to WRITE it. My mom said to me, "The blog will be a great way for you to write and share your ideas." I say, "Well, I don't always have to write. Sometimes I'll just share pictures or things I love or, you know, other stuff." My eloquence started early. And so, here I am, baby blogger, totally in the tornado of writing an ample amount, every day.

Who knew?

Oh, wait, you all did, didn't you? Well, why didn't you tell me?

So, get our those handbags, here's what we've got.

1. Less is more.

I can be a total stream of consciousness kind of girl, and I need to fight that tendency people are precious and your time is the best. So this is a good reminder. Less is fresh.

2. You want to have a certain level of intimacy with your audience.

While shirking away from challenging topics and leaving out the gory details might make for happier posts, the writer needs to establish an intimacy with the reader. I think this is why the "Things I'm Afraid to Tell You" blogging series really hits it out of the park. It feels like we're all up late together eating Suzy Qs in our PJs. 

3. Remind your readers who you are – recap your best posts or your philospophy.

Sometimes I forget that you're not in my head. And so reiterating why I started a series of posts or explaining why my family decided to do something in particular would be helpful to move the story along and connect the dots (I always enjoyed the alphabetical connect the dots as much as the numbered ones, how about you?).

4.  Carry a notebook.

I started doing this when I started blogging, and I find it really helpful to catch thought bubbles that burst way too quickly. And I have to prohibit any to do lists in such notebook otherwise it brings stress instead of inspiration. 
 **this one is my fave: 

5.  A great idea poorly written is better than a bad idea written brilliantly.

Jen has oodles of other ideas and great recommendations on folks who do this well.  Pop over tomorrow night when she's at it again. Check it here. Grab yourself a glass of red wine and get ready to learn. I think you might just find your voice.

Happy weekend, friends. I hope it's a bright one. Meetcha here on Monday where we'll be living La Bella Vita. Do not miss it. :)


P.S. For those of you interested, I'm starting a new weekly series focusing on faith and family. Once I graduate out of the baby blogger phase, and understand feeds and menus more, you'll be able to subscribe to this feature in particular. Until then I'll just try to remind you. "Ready to Pray" will link to the readings of the week and offer an activity and/or questions you can use with your kiddos (or yourself) to help them understand and engage in Mass. I haven't quite decided what's the best day to post these so I welcome your feedback there. This first installment will be coming at you on Saturday!! Happy inspires.