Posts tagged inspiration
5 ways to use social media to boost your creativity

It's just not true that we run out of ideas or we lose our creativity. The more we exercise our creative muscle, the more we are able to produce outstanding results. Nevertheless sometimes we hit walls or feel in a fog. And sometimes social media is accused of bringing us to this state of saturation or complete drought.

I use Facebook, Twitter, and the rest to spur my ideas, and you can, too. Here are five ways to use social media to boost your creativity.

1. If you're on social media, you're likely to have a favorite or at least a favorite for now. As a graphic designer and a visual fiend, I adore Instagram for inspiration. Find the feeds that will make you want to dive into the images and bask in the compositions. Use Instagram to observe all you can. Take note of the tones and shadows, the mood expressed in the images (and how this is achieved), the caption and/or story that accompanies the photography. How can these influence your work? Which posts feel "successful" to you and what elements can you bring to your own creations?

2. Facebook has changed quite a bit in its ten-year history, but it still has the power to put fresh perspectives right on your screen. How so? Start a conversation. For many of us, the majority of our connections still hang out on Facebook. This is a perfect opportunity to reach out and leave messages. Ask questions from your experts and gather collective feelings. Wondering how to find the best new apps? Ask your friends. Looking for fresh ideas on summer vacation? Solicit others thoughts.

3. I find Twitter to be the most charming of the social media that I use. From the silly hashtags that folks post to the easy back-and-forth of short communication to simple sharing of interesting links, Twitter can give you the quick feedback that you seek. I often use my feed to see what is on the minds of influencers and what are the quirkly, less popular, conversations going on that really bring something new to the table. Twitter can also be one of the easiest ways to break a train of thought (in the best way), and redirect you to another concept. It's also incredibly easy to spend endless time on this network so be sure to set your limits.

4. Google+ is an intriguing platform for inspiration. Much like Instagram, it favors the visual, and much like Twitter, you can utilize hashtags to find related information. I use Google+ to search out keywords and see what ideas and images come through. In my experience thus far, I've found a wide breadth of expressions on the same topic, and I've been inspired to think in ever-widening circles just as the platform's process itself implies. Add your post to Google+ and tag it, click on that tag, and read the myriad of other tidbits to broaden your perspective.

5. Pinterest is an amazing source of creativity for some, while others intentionally keep a distance from it when they are looking to imagine. I use Pinterest much like I did college art assignments. Let's say I want to do an Easter egg project - I first look through my board to see what's caught my eye, and in particular I look at pins that have been added to wrap up posts or projects that have a lot of repins.

And then my brainstorming process begins. I think through and write out all of the "obvious" connections to the most popular ideas, and get all of the imitation ideas out. That process of getting it all out allows me to unearth something fresh. In many ways, Pinterest is most helpful in giving me the fodder I need to run the other way, but in the right direction. I go back to my boards to look at other processes folks have used to see how I might incorporate something unexpected to this new effort.

How do you boost your creativity? Do you find social media helpful in this?

Can't wait to hear your thoughts!

xoxo, MJ



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...



Celebrate the Normal: Inside Here

Happy May!! Wednesday is a celebration day around Pars Caeli. I have so loved seeing the images of normal life in your part of the world. Admittedly I check throughout the week via Twitter and Instagram to see and giggle and gawk. Through this process, some of you have really embraced a new approach to looking at your environment; some of you have even changed your perspective on your every day life. High five on all of those!!


This week I can say that Celebrate the Normal has been a reality check for me. The normal I expect every day - from warm hugs from my kids and good morning kisses from my husband to a job that makes me laugh and work hard to a warm home and spring beauty around me - each element has become so much a part of the background of my life. I somehow wake up acting like I deserve all this goodness or rather that I have done something to deserve the normal around me.

And, fact is.

It is all a gift.

My normal is a blessed one (yours is, too).

And I'm determined to move the background into my daily perspective. It's always time to celebrate.

I hope you'll consider offering up a prayer of gratitude for the normal around you. I hope, too, you'll join the party next week. Send photo by Monday midnight via Instagram or Twitter with the hashtag #celebratethenormal.

Our new theme:

This week's theme was Inside Here, and each photo adds a different viewpoint and a spark of beauty, if I do say so.

xoxo, MJ

The Life of Chive from Jen at @jenmygatt on Instagram






                     Book picnic kind of day from Jill of Every Day is an Occasion

look up by Brittani

Happy note found on the Ipad today by MJ of Pars Caeli

Had a visitor during my product photoshoot today from My Little Addiction

#springhassprung from scatt85 on Instagram

Spring beauties from @teddy4775 on Instagram

        Typical Saturday: dance party at Ikea. from Erin of Such Small Steps

Ice cream for dinner tonight. Because we worked hard this weekend and we deserve it - from Rachel of Po Dunk Posh

Playing at the lake from Julia of Life on Churchill St.

Aw, enjoying some memories from last week. Have a great day! from Theresa of Inspiration Coop

Sick girls snuggling in bed like old lady friends... from Lacy of Living on Love

Enjoying the beautiful weather in a sun-filled cafe on the North Shore from Joy of Frock Files

Celebrate the Normal: A New Series

First off, my dears, thank you so much for all the insightful comments throughout the regular (sort of, right?) Tuesday/Wednesday series, Chat It Up. My intent behind the creation of Chat It Up was to have a space to listen and converse like old friends, and you all have been so gracious to engage in all sorts of different topics and posts! Now we're ready to move into something new, and I'm excited!!

Can I share something I've been trying to work around for a while?

I lead a normal life.


Alright, there. I said it.

I'm married and a mother of three children. I have a full-time job in communications. I drive (wait for it) a dark blue minivan (ahk, the horror! :)). I don't have a lot of opportunity to travel. I don't eat at amazing restaurants often or bring together meals that would amaze you. I haven't (yet) created photoready interior spaces to gawk at or crafted something that would stop you in your tracks.


I have a knack for appreciating the mundane and celebrating the ordinary. Perhaps it's my Catholic faith and my love for Ordinary Time over the high points of Easter and Christmas. Or perhaps it's my desire to always support the underdog, the underappreciated around us. Or maybe it's because this is my life, the one I've been graced with, the one I've worked quite hard to create, and I love this normal.

When I began taking art lessons in high school, my first instruction was to begin really seeing and looking at everything. Noticing shadows and changes in tone. Examining the saturation of light and the details of texture once overlooked. I remember driving home that afternoon and finding the lines created by telephone wires and the pattern that emerged from the curbside rocks all freshly intriguing.

So here's where you come in.

Tell me, are you normal, too? Hipsters and desperate housewives need not apply.

Every Wednesday on Pars Caeli, I'll be celebrating the normal and ordinary through words and photographs and images. I'd love for you to join me because it's a hashtag party.

Snap away on Instagram and use this hashtag - #celebratethenormal - to capture the beauty of the ordinary around you. Images of people, places, and things are all welcome. In fact, you might be one of those 'Grammers who is more about the caption than the photo so bring that on, too!! I'll be featuring these beauties on Wednesdays (along with links to your account and/or blog if you're cool with that. If you'd prefer to submit anonymously, too, please do).

You've got the whole week, and I'll check in every Monday at midnight to pick some selections for that week's Celebrate the Normal.

What's your extraordinary normal look like? Show me. I bet we can elevate it to something pretty amazing.

xoxo, MJ

Chat It Up: Inspiration Spots

I've been slowly reconfiguring and reimagining our formal living room into an art space for the entire family. It's always had oversized, comfortable couches and a warm floor-to-ceiling window. It now has a piano, and our children's craft table, and my office armoire. Courtesy of Amazon, a wall hook arrived yesterday so that my husband's guitar can adorn the wall.

When I want to dream or write or clear my head, I find myself gravitating to this room. It's free of children's toys, dirty dishes, and unfolded laundry.

And I believe the intentionality of creating a space for a particular purpose has encouraged me to USE it for a particular purpose. My oldest, M, while practicing a new song on the piano, turned to me and said, "Mommy, I just love this room." I nodded in agreement.

With the neverending winter we've experienced in the Midwest, the art room has become my cozy haven. In warm weather, I typically perch myself on our back deck, underneath the blue umbrella that matches the skies I adore.

I've been reading more and more from the writers and bloggers I love, and I keep hearing them tell me to   find a space to create (or make a space where I can create). For some, it's been a local coffee shop or a library. For others, it's a park or their studio/office space at home.

So let's chat it up. Where is your inspiration spot? And if you need one, what must this space have to allow you the freedom to embrace fresh ideas?


 PS. Wanna see my gatherings for a great office space? Check this board.

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


The first ever Pars Caeli button. Made especially for the redesign of coming in a few days. You'll want to check it there because some of my favorite new bloggers also have their beautiful badges appearing on Louise's lovely site.


We finished up a trend-setting, wonderful first week of school here. I survived! Oh, and my kiddos are all loving their new teachers, school supplies (very important), and classmates.

This weekend holds some fun celebrations at Church and a whole lot of togetherness with good people, and I'm looking forward to it! What are you up to this weekend?

Let's watch a good movie tonight (any ideas?) and thank Thomas Edison for patenting the motion picture camera on this day in 1891. On Saturday find a way to connect with someone you've hurt or left out and give them a big bear hug. You'll be in full celebration of Kiss and Make Up Day, August 25. Sunday is all about the special canines in our lives as National Dog Day is marked. Spend some special time with your dog or take some time to visit a rescue center for those dogs in need of a home.

Need some other ideas?


Sincerely, Kinsey made this cool, rustic board to post photos, clippings, memories, and even some succulents. I have just the place where I'd love to hang one of these. Rotating display areas are so fun!


Danyelle always amazes me with these great kiddo projects that come from handy objects that she transforms into gloriously designed goodies. She converted a serving tray into a marble maze, and it looks like the kind of present you'd be proud to give your own or someone else's eager child.


I am on a hair kick right now. Typically I cut my hair as the weather turns colder and let it grow in the summer (weirdo). So Camille posted a handy tutorial on volume and curls, and I had to favorite it. Camille has such style that I find myself clicking through a lot of her posts. Give yourself permission to do the same this weekend!

Let's have a bright weekend, friends!


Grown-Up Goodness: Honoring Time

There they are. Three backpacks ready to head off to school tomorrow. My three little people leave the roost together to begin preschool, kindergarten, and second grade adventures. They are excited, slightly nervous, and really, really ready to go.

I am their mom. I'm a former teacher with a zest for learning. I'm an artist who sees the beauty in this moment. And I'm still a little bit of an emotional wreck.


We're coming to the close of all things summer around here. I'll be changing up my editorial calendar to reflect some new themes for Fall. Not quite sure what I'm moving onto next...but some wonderful things are headed this way.

I've always considered this time of year one of the most hopeful. I've been tied to the school calendar my whole life, and August means the return of something new. A guarantee of a fresh start.

And yet, the start of one thing means the close of another.

As I (nagged) told my children yesterday, this is the last summer that they will be 7, 5, and 2...enjoy it...enjoy each other...right as you are now.

And as the words came spluttering out, I wondered how much I'm heeding my own words? This has been my summer, too, with its goals, wants, successes, failures, and missed opportunities. There is so much I still would have loved to have crammed into these weeks. Time has been wasted on needless worries.

And so then insert helpful advice sent along from a friend...

I hope these words offer you a warm smile, a little relief, and a sense of peace as they did for me.

I believe it's very important that we honor the beginnings and the endings in life. And not just the big ones, but the smalls, too (the end of a season, the start of new classes and new projects, the loss of a dream, the birth of new friendships). We have to find time to celebrate them, to feel them, and to reflect upon them, allowing their wisdom to carry us forward into the next stage, the next hurdle, the next adventure.

I'm spending time today honoring all that has been and trying to wrap my head and love around all that has been missed or lost for the sake of the promise and the good.

Now is always the right time, friends. Let's celebrate it together.








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.

Because sometimes inspiration is contagious

I'm a new blogger (as you know), and in trying to get my comments section to work, the original post was deleted.

All for the greater glory, right?

My very supportive kiddos created some great bags inspired by their momma's frantic efforts to get everything ready for the Approaching Joy guest post. Before I know it, they'll be blogging divas and divos (!) themselves.

It's been wonderful to pour my creative energies into this, and my littles definitely took note.

Go ahead and go boldly in the direction of your dreams (Thoreau)...because you might take a few others with you. It's contagious.

P.S. I hope you'll join me back here for this great little DIY and ideas on what to get a friend on the move!