Posts tagged photography
1 Simple way to define your style

My eye is attracted to a lot of different styles. I enjoy mixing feels but also focusing the attention on just one for a strong impact. Let's just say I sometimes feel like I waffle. Perhaps it's just my love for design that I can find the beauty in everything.

In creating a clear vision for Pars Caeli, I wanted to present a clean, bright aesthetic that spoke to me. However, I've kind of been tossing out different ways to see that same thing over the last two years.


Candice of Handmade Mood, a seasoned photographer and expert in images and branding, suggested a very approachable method to define your style. It's called a 5 Minute Flip. The basic idea is to spend five minutes flipping through magazines (use the real paper kind if you can) and pull out every image that catches your eye. Don't think about it too much; just react and respond.

So I grabbed three recent editions of Real Simple and Better Homes & Gardens and set my timer. At the buzzer, I had a stack of images. Because I didn't want to be swayed by the ripped edges, I trimmed all the pages and taped them up in our mini upstairs studio.

As I walked by the wall, I would take down an image that was not as captivating as the rest. Every time I walked by, over a series of days, I would take down more images, until I had a solid group that I did not want to let go.

Here's my animated gif to give you a sense for the process as well as a sneak peek into my helpers and their opinions. It plays through twice...reload the page to see it again.

Find your style through a fun 5-minute flip! Grab your magazines and see what images remain after five days in your view.

Find your style through a fun 5-minute flip! Grab your magazines and see what images remain after five days in your view.

Once I had my final selection of about a dozen images, I tried to step outside of my head to analyze and find out what it was that I loved about these photographs. You should really try this. It's not heavy commitment, and you're bound to learn something new. Here's what I discovered about my preferences.

Find your style through a fun 5-minute flip! Grab your magazines and see what images remain after five days in your view.

Find your style through a fun 5-minute flip! Grab your magazines and see what images remain after five days in your view.

First off, I love photographs that look like designs. I should have been able to predict this, but it was still eye-opening. After spending most of my life in graphic design, I am drawn to order and to visual hierarchies. These images above from Real Simple make me gaze upon ordinary objects in new ways and see them as forms and shadows. I'd love to see them huge, billboard size.

Find your style through a fun 5-minute flip! Grab your magazines and see what images remain after five days in your view.

Find your style through a fun 5-minute flip! Grab your magazines and see what images remain after five days in your view.

I find repetition of forms attractive. I love to receive color information through that repetition. And repetition that almost blends itself into full on pattern is very interesting to me.

Find your style through a fun 5-minute flip! Grab your magazines and see what images remain after five days in your view.

Find your style through a fun 5-minute flip! Grab your magazines and see what images remain after five days in your view.

Digging deeper, I saw that I'm drawn to bright pastels when paired with crisp whites. Simple patterns (stripes and dots) offset these tones well for me. And I am pulled into photographs that project the life I want (hello, Pinterest!). This last grouping was really helpful to me as I think about what images I create for Pars Caeli. I want fresh, feminine, clear, and approachable.

And that was totally painless. I can still love many different kinds of images, but now I know what I'm aiming for in this brand. My images remain on the wall for further reflection, and I'm thinking of doing another 5 Minute Flip for typography because it was so fun. And I love typography.

Give the exercise a try if you're waffling like me and need a sense of your photography, your graphic design, your interior design, or anything else you might be able to gather from the 2D luxuries of a magazine.

Happy dreaming!

xoxo, MJ

The Return of Celebrate the Normal


I visualize holidays, birthdays, parties, big announcements.

But, what if celebrating were a part of our every day experiences. And I mean every day. Little victories and still moments. Have you been taken a back by a great expanse of sky? Or smiled to yourself over the sweet simplicity of a bowl of oatmeal?

Some may call it the mundane, and anything but extraordinary. But these sights and experiences that cause us to pause and appreciate the wonderful normal that we've been given, they deserve celebration. And we can build our capacity to notice and to appreciate by sharing these images and insights with one another.

I first ran this series in 2013, closing it a little more than a year ago. Nearly 500 images have been shared with the tag #celebratethenormal since it began. And though I may have not featured images from this series since last year, many, many photos have been taken that are fabulously ordinary and nearly amazing. For me, it's a prayerful experience to look through the images and appreciate the good gifts of this life and the many ways God has blessed us.

It has also trained my mind's eye to find those moments around me.

And it's time for me to return and to remind myself. I have a whole list of reasons why I need this, maybe you have a list, too. Let's help each other. Let's practice everyday gratitude. Let's share these beautiful moments with each other - because you recognizing the beauty of the spaghetti on your child's cheek will help me to remember to appreciate it on mine. We're in this together.

Beginning next Thursday and running every other Thursday, we'll #CelebratetheNormal here on Pars Caeli, the blog. And every day, I'll be working to find and to relish the beautiful ordinary around me.

Tag your photos on Twitter or Instagram with #celebratethenormal. I'll be showing off some wonderful entries next week.

Let us learn from you. Happy snapping!

xoxo, MJ




Fan Girl Friday: Enjoying the Small Things
Van Gogh used paints to portray what inspired him... Me?  I like photos and words.  I invest in this blog not only because I love the art of weaving words and images together to tell a story, but because, in doing so, I find myself looking more deeply for the beauty in life and consequently finding it in more places.
I've accidentally taken (most) of this week off of blogging. I didn't really mean to. Back to school and a new schedule meant I had some spaces of time for me. I was not cramped to blog this what's up with the vacancy of posts?


It seems that I flat out wasted time this week (what?!). I luxuriated in going to bed early, baking cookies, even cleaning some neglected areas of my home. I won't let it happen again. :)


Kelle Hampton was one of my first inspirations as a blogger. Somehow I found her sight, clicked over to her about page, and identified. She had also been a fifth grade teacher; she was a blossoming photographer. She loved her kids.


Her site, Enjoying the Small Things, was and is covered with large, gorgeous images, mostly of her children but also her world through the well-lit, sharp lens of her eye. I've never met Kelle or her children, but I found myself captivated by her images and touched by her words.


She helped me recognize the beauty of honesty on the internet. She as a mom shared her raw feelings and photos of her daughters' birth stories, one more complex than the other. Me as a new mom felt liberated to know that it was okay to feel the whole gamut of emotion as a mother and woman. We are not shut off to feel only joy and rapture; we feel it all. And sharing those challenges and sadnesses and triumphs only brings us closer to one another.


At this moment, I heard the sounds of our birth song begin to fill the room...When You Love Someone.

And I began to cry.

My husband, my friends, my dad, my nurses...all of them smiling...cameras flashing...

One more push.

Oh, this is so hard...

I pushed. I pushed and watched as the tiniest little body came out of me, arms flailing, lungs wailing...and then, they put her in my arms.

...and I knew.

I knew the minute I saw her that she had Down Syndrome and nobody else did. I held her and cried. Cried and panned the room to meet eyes with anyone that would tell me she didn't have it. I held her and looked at her like she wasn't my baby and tried to take it in. And all I can remember of these moments is her face. I will never forget my daughter in my arms, opening her eyes over and over...she locked eyes with mine and stared...bore holes into my soul. 

Love me. Love me. I'm not what you expected, but oh, please love me.

That was the most defining moment of my life. That was the beginning of my story. 

I've followed Kelle's beautiful journey. I've wept happily, wept sadly with someone I've never met, and I related. A piece of her life is captured in her book, Bloom.

I don't often bare my soul here, but I do feel it's a space where I can. And thanks to brave people like Kelle, I know the power that raw and honest has to reach people in a place they didn't know existed.

Thanks, Kelle.

I'm a fan girl.

xoxo, MJ 

Free Printable Back to School Signs

Are you back to school yet? I have a pack of back to school signs for your first day photos that will make them even more memorable. Do you remember what you wanted to be when you were going into fourth grade? Or how about second grade?

Me? (Well, thanks for asking) I wanted to be a ballerina in second grade. And as an upcoming fourth grader, I thought I'd be an artist. Some dreams were closer to reality it turns out, but that doesn't make them any less special.

I love hearing my children's dreams, both big and small. They are each growing fast and sometimes by leaps instead of the increments that I prefer.


I made an entire free set - preschool-12th grade - of printables for our friends over at Modern Parents Messy Kids that capture your child's future dreams as well as their grade for this year's back to school photography. There's even a set in color and black and white so that you can find the right combination for those first day of school duds.

It's the best time of year for social media, and we want to see your first day photos and share in these little's big dreams. Tag your photos #MPMK_bigdreams and share in the sweet joy of childhood wonder. You can catch all my kiddos over there, too.

xoxo, MJ

6 photo apps to try now

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

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

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


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


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


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



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




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



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



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

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

xoxo, MJ



Raincoast Creative Salon and Sandra: 12 Blogger Christmas

Happy Saturday to you!! I have a great read for you to enjoy over a cup of coffee or tea (maybe even a great glass of wine). Today's blogger is Sandra of Raincoast Creative Salon. I first fell in love with her work when she interviewed artists in their work spaces and talked about what inspired them. She is a masterful photographer, and she's always coming up with creative collaborations and approaching new topics for her audiences. Enjoy!!

I started Raincoast Creative Salon in January 2012 because I had recently moved to Vancouver and wanted to make some friends who shared similar creative interests. It also was a commitment to making my own creative work a priority. I had spent far too many years putting my creative life on the backburner.


Two weeks later I zoomed off to the Altitude Design Summit in Salt Lake City where I knew no one! I spent a lot of time leaning against walls getting the guts up to talk to people and made some great friends. 


What keeps me blogging is those same two things. I've built a wonderful creative community (can I tell you even MORE how I love that we are no longer limited by geography for finding our kindreds???). I've spent two years learning photography, photoshop, lightroom, and illustrator. I've learned all sorts of social media and upped my writing game. It's creative - I can do whatever I want. And last month I won second place in the juried Canadian Weblog Awards in the category of arts & culture. 


I'm a food and still life photographer. Raincoast Creative Salon is the online home for what I love: creativity, creative process, art, photography and travel. I also share stories about my own creative projects.
You'll find me on Instagram where I host #foliophoto Instragram projects with Christie of Bedsidesign. In real life I host an evening Salon series in Vancouver, Canada for arty types. And last month Melanie Biehle and I launched We Are the Contributors, a community and publication for creatives.

It's hard to narrow it down to three. And looking at the three I picked, they ALL are collaborative posts in some way - I love working with others.


I'm a big fan of series and columns as you get to explore a topic in more depth and from different angles. The first "fave" is my Creative Couples series. I'm fascinated by the creative process of artists. Add in a relationship and you have interviews with couples who are creative AND making it work. It's real and there are useful insights for all of us.


My second fave is the first post in another series that the supremely talented Erin Cassidy did for me called Art One Oh One. The series is a fresh, hip take on the history of modern art and this first post is about Abstract Expressionism.


And my third fave post is the first one in ANOTHER series that I did with Jen Cooper called Talking About Creativity. In this post we bantered about jealousy and got a HUGE response. We're all dealing with it, right?


My biggest wish for my blog is that it's inspiring. First, that it'll inspire people to make creating a regular part of their lives. 


Second, that it'll inspire people to build an online and real life creative community. Even though many of us are extroverted introverts, I believe that we need a creative community to support and share and inspire.



Now that it'll be down in writing, I'd better make these things happen, eh? Seriously, though, my first wish for my blog in 2014 is that it'll be a springboard for more food and still life photography work. My second wish is that is that I'll continue to meet and get to know more creatives. And my third wish is that my blog continues to be a starting point for creative collaborations.
Be sure to add Raincoast Creative Salon to your blog reader and join in some of the new projects that Sandra has on her plate! Undoubtedly she'll be showing off some really yummy bites that she's just created as well.
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 Day 11 Blogger can whip up an amazing celebration! Stop back tomorrow to par-tay!

P.P.S. Today's sketch for the #30sketch project is inspired by the true words of Beth Ables, a featured artist and blogger on Trouve Magazine. If you're a creative of any type, take a quick read. You will nod in agreement with every line.


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 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

Inspiration Drawer: Make Yourself Laugh

Helllooo there. I'm excited, friends. Excited to share a new spot on the blog I'm calling Inspiration Drawer. Did I mention I've moved offices? Yes, I have. Not a big move, just one floor down to a similarly sized office space. And I've taken the opportunity to refresh my work space.

Moving always prompts me to reorganize and declutter (both very needed elements in my worklife), and I've created a fresh spot in my desk I refer to as the inspiration drawer. In it are a mixture of print pieces, catalogs, colors, words, and photographs that have interested me for some reason or another. Previously these items were all over in various files and project boxes. Now I have my treasure trove of ideas all in one spot.

And that's what's coming at you on Wednesdays! Inspiration Drawer. Images, words, and ideas that inspire me...and may just stick with you, too.


Today's idea. Make yourself laugh.

What do have in your office space? Diplomas or family photos? Beautiful paintings or collages of prints?

How do these inspire your work? Or do they?

With my new workspace, I decided a change of mood was in order for my environment. And instead of filling my space with images or open spaces that might bring a sense of peace, I opted for bright colors, a leaning toward the impractical, and a sense of humor.

For example, I used to have framed photos of my children and husband that I would call "the most adorable" images I could find. This time I went through my iPhoto storage to find the images that perpetually make me smile or laugh. I remember these moments with such great joy that just seeing the image allows me to hop right back in time.

I decided I wanted these to be a little larger than life so I sent them off to print at Walgreens. 3 days later, I received my 11 x 14 poster prints on really quality paper for a great price. And I love how the black and white turned out!


Looking forward to sharing more...

What do you keep around your workspace to calm, excite, focus, delight you?

xoxo, MJ

Celebrate the Normal: 2nd to the last

Howdy, friends. We are back after a little time away visiting family throughout the midwest. I don't know if I could call it a vacation, but we did celebrate a whole lot of normal and had a ton of playtime so I can't complain. Please forgive my Thursday absence... sometimes finding time to blog amidst hours of outdoor fun and family time is not so easy (as well as finding wifi connections).

I am happy-sad to let you know that next week will be our last Celebrate the Normal post. This summer Tuesday community days have kept me inspired, surprised, curious, and always grateful. You just never know what the universe (or blog world) will send back when you put out an open request. And I've been nothing but overwhelmed by your generosity of beauty.

Round these parts, we're celebrating our last week before school starts which means some sleepovers with mom (it's still cool), more sibling parties, and an extra helping of chocolate chip pancakes.

Sooo, if you're a diehard contributor, someone who's offered a few photos this summer, or someone who's sat on the sidelines, be sure to tag your photos this week. I put these posts together Monday evening so you've got a whole lotta time to get to enjoying.


Thanks for a dynamic summer. It was one for the books (not sure yet which books, but something of note for sure). #celebratethenormal 

Let's just say that dance parties on a boat are than much more fab. ~ M.J.

Learning to crochet ~ Elizabeth

Sometimes you just have to spin yourself silly. ~ Meagan

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders, Let me walk upon the waters, Wherever You call me. Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander. And my faith be made stronger, in the presence of my Savior. ~ Brittani

Playtime after home vent training. Needed this! ~ Melanie


This seems like a good idea. ~ Theresa

Have a bright week!

xoxo, MJ




Celebrate the Normal: From afar

Happy Tuesday, dear ones. I'm coming to you from our mini-vacation, AKA: trips to both sets of grandparents. We are living the dream this week and doing nothing but celebrating a whole bunch of normal in impromptu wiffle ball games, time at the pool, family meals, and board games together.

So I couldn't leave you hanging in this of all weeks!

Huge thanks to the artists joining us! I get a big grin on my face every time I sneak over to #celebratethenormal during the week to see all the beauty you've captured. What amazing childhood moments you've framed in time!


Pure. Bath time. Awesomeness. {Creation & photo by Matt Church.} ~ Meagan

Four years ago today you were almost born at Disneyland! Ever since that day, you've made me rethink the impossible and grow in the best possible ways. Love you, Eamesy! ~ Theresa

Brookline in the summertime is one of my favorite things ever. ~ Joy

On top of the world. ~ Lidy

Caught in action ~ jenmygatt

Them: enjoying a rare treat. Us: enjoying the silence. ~ Karen


Ice cream time ~ roglows

Life is delicious ~ erin_lily

Artist at work. Medium: playdoh ~ Brittani

Weeds or flowers? Who cares! ~ Melanie

Cradled carefully to work. nothing will stop me from biting into it and having the juices roll down my face. ~ Becky

Refresh ~ M.J.

Loving all of these!! If you haven't yet joined in to Celebrate the Normal all around you, please tag your images (and if you have been a part of this community come on back next week!). I post artwork on Tuesdays every week. And please, check out the awesome blogs and Etsy shops of these generous individuals.

Let's have a bright week, friends.

Joining you tomorrow with our final Endless Summer Project! Ack, it's almost the middle of August!!

xoxo, MJ

Celebrate the Normal: The contagious

Week 16 and now 310 pictures have been submitted in the Celebrate the Normal series. You all are unbelievable in your keen sense of capturing moments and emotions. I love that this continuum has allowed creators and artists the space to share what could be put in the box of the everyday but is instead elevated to the beautiful.

I'm going to hold you captive for just a moment before I show off this week's captures.

And it's been a recent (though not new) epidemic going around our house.

You may have heard of it; likely you've experienced in extensive ways in your years walking the earth.

It's fear. And it's a strange connection, that place where fear and celebration comingle.

Let me take you through two quick scenarios that happened in my house this week...

Scenario #1: My eldest is fearful of bike riding. The prospect of having to balance on her bicycle and not fall brings her quickly to tears and a whole bunch of anxiety. In fact she's been so terrified that she been talking and talking to her little sister about how dangerous riding a bike is, and she's mentioned and shown off all the bumps and scrapes she's received (and attaching the label - From biking - in her head).

The confidante, her younger sister who last summer was breezing by us all on her two-wheeler with training wheels has developed a new fear of falling from her bike. Her imagination from too-careful listening has made her unable to enjoy riding and now we have two fearful bike riders.

Scenario #2: When my younger daughter gets sick, she most likely suffers from a bad cough or sore throat. During a winter doctor's appointment for an acute case of symptoms, she got to experience the strep swab. The fear that this procedure may happen again has brought a new found concern into our house.

And so when her little brother was sick with a bad cough, and she warned him and warned him about how scary the doctor's office is, and how he'll have to get something down his throat, he began crying at the announcement that he was going to the doctor. He asked amidst his sobs if he'd have to get something in his throat. And a new fear is born.

Fear can be contagious.

When we generalize from our own helplessness and project that others will also develop the same fears we have, we make the transmittal route from one young mind to another a slick and easy pathway.

And yet what is more normal than fear? To think that we will never fear or inadvertently pass along our fear is naive at best.

As someone who has had fear sitting next to me for many years, I have 2 thoughts to share on using fear well.

1. Own it. Stop yourself before you make the blanket statement that snakes are absolutely terrifying, that needles produce the deepest pains, that giant hairy monsters live under your bed in the dark. And turn that fear into a personal story rather than a generalized truth.

I have no psychology in my background, so this is just speaking from my mom life - when fear becomes a personal story that you share and a vulnerability to open, it takes the sting and even the shock away from those around you. And the anxiety has a space to be released. Bonuses all around.

2. I recently heard a mentor talk about stumbling blocks in our lives: disappointment, rejection, fear, etc. Often these roadblocks keep us from becoming and being the people that we want to be. They can also intrude on our sense of the divine and our connection with God.

Plenty of times, I've been too distracted to pray. Sometimes I feel fearful or ashamed that God thinks less of/loves me less. Sometimes I'm angry and convinced that my way would have turned out better.

My mentor suggested, as his mentor had suggested to him... in these times of struggle with silence and with prayer... make it simple.

Are you angry today? Make that your first line of prayer (eg: "God, I am angry today, and I don't understand how to let it go)

Are you scared or ashamed? (eg; "God, I'm scared today. I'm afraid...")

And I have found that beginning with the placement of the fear right in the beginning of my prayer conversation takes away the power that fear sometimes possesses. I dare you to try it.

So let's celebrate fear this week. When we normalize it and celebrate it, the horror is released, and you and I can, in fact, relate on a deeper, more meaningful level.

It's a family affair! ~ Lidy

First cuddle with her granddaughter ~ erin_lily

July 27 ~ roglows

The sun was setting on my way home and lighting the sky on fire. ~ Mere

Farmer's market love ~ Paige

Big fragrance, saturated color ~ M.J.

Received all these wonderful cards within the past week or so. ~ Brittani

Enjoying fresh air ~ Julia

Love it when packages come with a Thank You ~ Eden

And via Twitter, Dani: Just had a delicious dinner by my favorite chef, . Now watching jr w/my smalls.

Let's have week of bravery, friends!

xoxo, MJ

Celebrate the Normal & the Big, Giant Wonderful

Happy Community Day, friends! Another fabulous edition of Celebrate the Normal is coming at you in just a minute. Before we go to those beauties, I have a question for you.

When was the last time you poured out a big, giant wonderful gesture of love? For your significant person, your kids, your mom ...even your dog? Or maybe this is easier, when was the last time you received a grand, sweeping gift that says, "you mean the whole kit and kaboodle to me." We all repeat the token, "it's the little things that matter..." but what about the really big things?

It's been a busy summer for me, friends, and a busy summer for my kids and hubs. We've done a lot of learning, working, and transporting and had a ton of fun in the process, but all of that awesome can leave one a bit drained and unmotivated to take on domestic rituals. Dishes have sat around too long, floors have cared for their own tribes of dust bunnies, bathrooms (well, I'll leave out the detail here), my laundry room is now our entire basement with clothes just wishing to find a home.

Connect this state of chaos with the responsibility of hosting two sets of wonderful families, both of whom have not been to our home in years, and both of whom we'd love to entertain in our home. I've been working Wednesday evenings in the office, and last Wednesday my hubs was taking care of basic cleaning tasks, bathing children, and getting them to sleep. I arrived home near midnight, promising that I'd set the alarm for super early and finish up what needed to still be done. Of course I said that even as my body was begging for rest, and my mind was well aware that, realistically, there was no way that I was getting even half of the stuff done.

I set the alarm for 4:30 am, and we both snuggled in for a few hours rest.

Bing. Cue my son coming in at 7:15 am to wake me up. I roll over and mutter something of hopeless defeat to my husband. He mutters back, "it's all done."

Not hearing or comprehending, I stumbled off to the shower and attempted to narrow down the home tasks to what I could do in sweeping strokes. Sprinting out of the shower, throwing clothes on my still-wet body, I sort of notice that the bathroom is clean (perhaps I'm just imagining it?), and stammering down the stairs I see the shiny floors, the clean laundry, and I detect a new, fresh smell coming from the kitchen.

I find my husband.

"What? How did this happen?"

Seems that my husband allowed me to fall asleep (which likely took a whole 5-10 seconds) and proceeded to clean, polish, scrub, dust, and reorganize for the next three hours. He then returned to the snuggle (I, of course, had not moved at all), and racked up a whopping 2 hours of sleep.

Friends, I married a sweet man. He showers me with attention and affection, but, even for him, this was a huge, sweeping gesture of love. And for me it was the equivalent of the Christmas commercials with the Lexus SUV all wrapped up with a giant red bow and parked in the snowy driveway.

I love him, and I've been challenged to think, "When will I show my love in big, giant wonderful ways?" How bout you?

July 17 ~ roglows

The kids and I made this "stained glass" piece yesterday. ~ jenmygatt

Lottie's first sparkler ~ Dani

Oatmeal: it's what for dinner. Don't have time to make a big dinner, so it's pumpkin peanut butter oatmeal before we head out the door. The kids think they have hit the jackpot. ~ Meagan

She's a blonde ~ melbella97

Toes in the sand ~ erin_lily

Tomato hues ~ M.J.

Biking in Canada yesterday. I want to buy our own bikes so we can ride around Seattle! ~ Elizabeth

Keep your eyes open for little acts of love coming your way this week, and set into motion your next grand gesture of love! Join us next week for another great round on Celebrate the Normal!

xoxo, MJ

Celebrate the Normal: A spotlight on Habit

Hello, lovelies!! Back am I from a bit of a blog glitch that kept me away on Thursday. Pars Caeli is back to normal, and it's time to celebrate once again! While I've been away on my NYC adventures, we suspended Celebrate the Normal but many of you have kept it going in your own way. And that I can say nothing but a huge WAY TO GO! It delights me so to know that celebrating - seeing the beauty - around you has become a regular habit in your lives.

And that brings us right to where I want us to land today! While at AltNYC, I had the chance to chat with Molly Balint. Molly does a whole bunch of wonderful, and today we're focusing just on a piece. Molly, along with friends Emily and Tara, post and inspire over at the community site Habit. It's a bit of calm, a bit of presence, and a bit of contemplation rolled into one. When I heard about Habit, I knew I wanted to connect it up with our Celebrate the Normal posts!! Here's a bit more from Molly about Habit. Thanks so much for the interview, Mol!!


What inspired the idea of Habit? Tell us the story.

Habit is part journal, part photography project, part community center.  Emily and I were inspired to start Habit in 2008 at a time when we were both feeling the urge to document our daily lives - beyond blog posts and creative projects and big milestones.  We were both capturing bits of our daily lives regularly with photography, but we saw the value of words as an accompaniment to those photographs.  We had both struggled with journaling over the years, and really just wanted a regular practice - a habit - something we could sustain in the midst of our busy lives.

At the same time, we were aware of the need for community.  We knew that our busy lives can be isolating - whether we're raising children or starting careers or moving or facing family challenges, and we felt that this practice - this habit - might have broad appeal.



How often do you post? Can anyone submit material?

We publish new posts at habit just about every single day.  There is only one post each day, but each day's post includes photos and words from a variety of people.  Emily, Tara, and I are posting all year round, and each month we have anywhere between three and twenty guests posting with us.  Most months, it's a small curated group of guests, and some months (like December) we have large groups of guests.  Our guests are specially invited and our groups carefully curated each month. Once or twice each year we open the Habit Blog up to any and all contributors by way of our flickr pool, where we invite everyone to participate.


In your work with this experience of gratitude, what 's struck you most?

Habit is very much about awareness as much as it's about gratitude.  It is our hope that, through this practice of mindfulness, of noticing, of recording, that we cultivate within ourselves and within our community, an awareness of the beauty and goodness that surrounds us all everyday, even in the midst of trials and tribulations.  We often hear from our guests and our readers that this practice of noticing the small details, of recording these bits of our days, does lead to a shift in perspective, to an increased ability to find gratitude in the midst of what are sometimes our messy daily lives.


How do you change your lens of busy to one of attentiveness in your everyday?

Part of the idea behind habit is our desire and determination to pay attention to the everyday - without making it a chore - and this is part of the beauty of the habit blog. Even the act of picking up our cameras, sitting down to wrap a few words around our day, causes you to slow down, catch your breath and reflect. Even if its just for a fleeting moment.

For our guest posters, it's a manageable task to record a single photo and 30 words.  For our readers, it's a meaningful reminder that capturing our daily life doesn't have to be limited to lengthy journal entries and elaborate scrapbooks. For all of us, it's about being part of something larger than ourselves and finding the connection and community that emerges among these varied voices which draws us all together.


I've found myself clicking through the pages and pages of Habit and soaking in the imagery. It's a great spot to land when you want a clear head. Big thanks to the uber-talented Molly for hopping over to Pars Caeli today.

So, let's strike up Celebrate the Normal once again. Invite some friends to tag along, too! Remember to post your photos on Instagram or Twitter with the hashtag #celebratethenormal. One photo from every artist is featured here on Tuesdays. In honor of the good work done over at Habit, our theme this week will be:

And let me share some of the great work that was happening while we've been apart. Big thanks to Jen, Meagan, Julia, and Brittani for these gifts.

Chalky goodness ~ Meagan


Sometimes you just have to run in the rain ~ Meagan

Just some summer solstice and clothespins ~ Jen


Thankful for this view today ~ Julia

Artistic week ~ Brittani

Spiderweb and morning dew ~ Jen

Off we go to capture and celebrate!!

Have a bright week, my friends. If you're up for a little sketching this month, join in the Sketching Project over at Life I Design. I'll be joining in along with Kim. Follow along with the hashtag #30daysketchbookchallenge

Celebrate the Normal: Makes Me Smile


Hello friends! How was your four-day weekend? Even if you didn't have the joy of total downtime for 96 hours (but who was counting?), we've been apart, and I'm hoping you've had some time to celebrate.

I have some fun surprises headed your way this week including a summertime series beginning tomorrow and continuing every Wednesday with fabulous blogging mommas that you know...

So, I'm rolling Celebrate the Normal to Tuesdays because I could use a little gratitude to start my week off right.

And it never fails, every week, I am happily overcome with the art that comes my way through this series and the moments that you share with all of us. Some new artists have joined the fun this week, and you won't be disappointed by the things that "make me smile" from their points of view.

For my four-day I took Friday off to have some fun in Chicago with family. Despite the cold, we managed a very good time at Navy Pier and putt putt. Time back home was spent with barbecues and gardening, shopping and snuggling.

Here I am being a goof in front of the Museum of Contemporary Art and their giant, rotating installation art. I felt like I owned it.

And I was reminded, as only a great art museum parking lot can show you, that inspiration is found all around, even on the thick columns of garage structures. Here's this week's thought for you, artists:

So, here's to seeing things differently from how they really are - with Makes Me Smile...

It's the most wonderful time of the year...~ Erin

{I Dislike} ... having weeds in the yard/garden. ... but seriously just look at how perfect and delicate, though resilient, the weed really is. ~ Jen at jenmygatt on Instagram

Summer plantings make me smile! ~ teddy4775 on Instagram

Green. On a perfect spring day. ~ Ricky

Such a sleepy puppy #oscargram ~ Paige


Another pretty package ready for shipping tomorrow! ~ Melanie

Funny conversations while enjoying some milk and cookies. This makes me smile. ~ Karen

The product of a great time ~ MJ

Pure joy. My job makes me smile. #blessed ~ Brittani

Wonder Filled Grace. ~ Michelle

I hope that you all will continue (or start) joining us as we appreciate the crazy, messed up, wonderful, normal life around us. You might be surprised by how much the simple gesture of capturing an image can add joy to your every day.

Next week, we're focusing on the goodness right around you:

Have a bright week, everyone. Hope to see you back tomorrow for the grand beginning of something wonderful!

xoxo, MJ

Celebrate the Normal: This is my life

Hola, friends. It's Wednesday of a short week around here. We're off to Chicago for a bit of the holiday weekend to celebrate C's 6th birthday. She's a huge fan of Navy Pier so off we go this Friday!

What are you doing for the holiday weekend?

Even if you're not taking any grand trips, promise to celebrate the ordinary moments.

“And while it takes courage to achieve greatness, it takes more courage to find fulfillment in being ordinary. For the joys that last have little relationship to achievement, to standing one step higher on the victory platform. What is the adventure in being ordinary? It is daring to love just for the pleasure of giving it away. It is venturing to give new life and to nurture it to maturity. It is working hard for the pure joy of being tired at the end of the day. It is caring and sharing and giving and loving…” ~ Marilyn Thomsen

This is my life. My wish come true. ~ MJ

Looking up when things are looking down. ~ Paige

Man, I need a drink. ~ Marilynn

Random love notes from Hubs after a rough day. This is my life. ~ MyLittleAddiction

Gearing up for ice cream cone days on Cape Ann. ~ Joy

Sometimes you just need to take a day off. ~ Brittani

Enjoying a peaceful cup of coffee with just the birds and my chimes for company. ~ H at teddy4775 on Instgram

The boy on his bike ~ Julia

Teacher Appreciation Week begins today for us. Celebrating some special people. ~ Theresa

Water drops on leaf / so fresh and clear, round, and bright / gives life to nature ~ Jen as JenMygatt on Instagram


Gigantic thank yous to the incredible artists who joined the party this week. You embody Marilyn's words, "daring to love just for the pleasure of giving it away."

I hope you'll snap a few shots of your week ahead and tag them with #celebratethenormal.

Next week we're going head first into joy with the theme:

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

Celebrate the Normal: Today is

Hello lovelies.

It's not a normal day around here.

my birthday.

I will be celebrating with a full day of good, hard work, a trip to Starbucks to contemplate all the beauty in my life, a journey to the dress rehearsal for my two daughters' ballet performance, and a date with my hubby to see Wicked and follow that up with drinks & dessert.

This is not normal.

But I am celebrating.

And I'm so grateful to all of you who are celebrating with me. These photos are more amazing every week!! Only the best for you, dear readers, only the best.


The day I wait for all year, in which I happen upon the first peonies of the season from Joy.

Come out little Ladybug by Jen at @jenmygatt on Instagram

Criss-crossing the skies on a perfect day by @teddy4775 on Instagram

Wish I could stay in bed and read all day. Oh well, happy Monday! from Theresa

A bit of green in a styrofoam cup. I love preschool projects. from Julia

Today is library day #myfavorite by Paige

More eggs! by Meagan

Today was perfect, even with its meltdowns and strikeouts. The cool lake breezes and easy child smiles took it over the top by MJ

Inside here by Lacy

Peaceful end to a very busy weekend. by Brittani

Birthday cheesecake for my niece two nights in a row? Why not #shedeservesit by MyLittleAddiction

Thank you for allowing me to open and share my happiness and struggles with you. I am so blessed.

Have a treat for me today, won't you?

xoxo, MJ‎

P.S. Join in the party next week to #celebratethenormal. Our theme will be:


For the love of blogging: The stylist

Welcome back to this favorite series of mine, friends!! Today I'm bringing you a true talent and an incredibly put-together lady, Mrs. Erin Hiemstra of Apartment 34

Erin is a digital communications expert, fashion and décor enthusiast, and a stylist who has transformed her passions into her career. She went full-time last year to pursue her dreams of working with creative clients such as Rue Magazine, Trophy Cupcakes, Mark and Graham and Chloe Rose Boutique among others (yeah, she's that awesome).

Back in the day (AKA fall 2012), Erin was kind enough to recognize Pars Caeli as one of her Noteworthy Newbies, and I'm delighted to have the chance to have her over here with us to peek into her blogging journey.

Enjoy the images and Erin's adventure!

Apartment 34 was originally meant to chronicle the renovation of my first condo in Seattle, a renovation that has never taken place! Six years later I now live in San Francisco and the blog as blossomed into a full lifestyle site and I couldn't be happier.

Just look at my early posts. Horrible image quality, atrocious writing. My whole first year could be considered a mistake but it was my authentic voice at the time.


There are so many reasons I've kept up my blog for so long. First is getting to constantly talk about topics I love and have real passion for - styling, design, fashion, food, travel. I really do find all these things so critical to a well lived life. And then there is the amazing community of bloggers I consider myself lucky to be a part of. I've made true and long lasting friendships with people from all around the world through this crazy blogging experiment. And finally I blog for my readers. I feel an obligation to them - to deliver something fun, interesting and new everyday.

I look for inspiration absolutely everywhere - my files, bookmarks and pins go on for days. Something I hear about from a friend. Everything is a potential blog post!


I'm always drawn to someone with a beautiful well-designed aesthetic, gorgeous imagery, interesting fresh ideas and/or a compelling story. I'm a speed blog reader so there are few that get me to pause and dive in deep but I love it when they do.

I wouldn't even know what to do with myself. My brain is now so trained to always be scouting for the blog. I would have more time to read novels, watch movies and sleep though. 


I turned Apartment 34 into to my full time job last year, but the blog is only one component of my business.

I use my first career in PR & marketing to offer influencer marketing consulting services to lifestyle brands. In a nutshell, I know help brands I love work with the bloggers I love in creative and mutually beneficial ways. It's the ultimate win-win! I also moonlight as a stylist from time to time. I love helping a brand create a visual look or work with a magazine to style a really compelling shoot. I don't call it my profession though - it's more my little side project!

Oh, my, goodness. Erin has style just oozing from her veins. Thank you so much for sharing your journey with us, Erin, and for setting a great example for what full-time blogging/consulting work can look like. It's a delight to have you over!!


If you're having trouble with the comments here, please feel welcome to send me an email at or tweet me a note to @parscaeli

Celebrate the Normal: Contributor's Art


Hello, my dears. Oh, this world. The tragic events in Boston remind me that life is fast and sad and amazing, and that we all need to stick together. The life that we get used to, the life we call normal can all disappear in just a moment, sometimes leaving us with a feeling of loss and a wonder for why we hadn't noticed the goodness before.

So, we're sticking together here at Pars Caeli. We're making a community of appreciators, of lovers, of doers and thinkers, of artists and creatives, of mothers and friends, of those who celebrate the normal.

I have been so touched by all the submissions I received in this first week!! Yeah, I'm blessed with talented friends. Woot for me!

Really clear to me as well is that normal is not ordinary. When put inside the frame for viewing, these moments in time become elevated experiences to savor.

Clear to me as well, we have much to celebrate. We see that in the littles around us and the natural beauties in the environment. It's such a gift to be able to perceive a bit of the world through another's eyes... so big thanks for all of our artists this week. Please scroll down and enjoy these endearing images (and go visit some great blogs while you're at it!!).

Are you ready to join in the fun? This week we'll be focusing on viewing the exterior. The prompt is:

Please take your photos and use the hashtag #celebratethenormal. One submission from each artist will be featured next Wednesday. Be sure to get snapping before Monday at midnight! You need not be on Instagram to participate. :) Tweet it out - #celebratethenormal and invite your friends, too.

Lucky by M.J. of Pars Caeli
Palm tree gazing by Louise of Laid Off Mom.
Just Another Wednesday from Instagram superstar and friend, Jen Mygatt. Follow her work on Instagram at @jenmygatt
A little spring bouquet of happiness c/o Trader Joe's by Theresa of Inspiration Coop
"This appeared one morning recently on our deck. Let us wait for the peeps and #celebratethenormal" from one of my BFFs
Sunlight.. from Julia of Life on Churchill St.
Wagon ride from Jill of Every Day is an Occasion.
Bath time by Colleen Duggan

Colleen created a great post around the topic with some other great photos that you'll want to see. My favorite line from the piece,

"If I ever become a Saint (Hey, a girl can dream, can't she?), I want to be the Patron Saint of the Beautiful Ordinary."

No worries, Colleen, I'll totally vote for that!


Here's to gratitude right here, right now.

xoxo, MJ


Itty Bitty Lovelies in Phone Photography

Welcome to a great week! How was your weekend? We watched C play her first outdoor soccer game and shivered as the hail came down on us, but then Sunday gave us warm, sunny skies (nearly 70 degrees), and we had some time for softball, some making, and even a run! Fitness, I will find you yet.

It's Monday, and Itty Bitty Lovelies is all about photography today - specifically, great photos from your phone. First off, are we buds over on Instagram yet? I'm @parscaeli, and I am on the hunt for some beautiful captures of the ordinary. Post your photos of the beautiful and mundane around you with the hashtag #celebratethenormal. The first round of shared photos will be posted on Wednesday (with a fun new prompt, too).

I'm always hoping to craft better photos and find something really interesting to share. Here are some reads to help you follow me on my quest to become iPhone photo amazing.

1. Quick tips to use your tech the right way

Kimberly at A Night Owl Blog has some reminders and great new info on photos from the phone. Things I discovered: how the HDR setting can make evening shots sing. I always wondered what that meant.

2. Filter something fantastic

I admit it, I find the myriad of filter choices for phone photography ridiculously fun. Veronica has seven photo editing apps to show off. What I love is the ways she shows the same photograph going through all the editing selections. I've seen more and more of VSCO CAM and PictTapGo. Which one did you fancy?

3. Bring Instagram to your screen

I loved this idea of bringing Instagram right to your desktop.. and you don't even have to be actively using the technology. Would you want to see your friend's photos refresh as you go throughout the day? Check out this find from Cool Mom Tech.


We have a busy week ahead with family heading our way for my oldest's First Communion. Crossing fingers for pleasant weather!! What's on your plate this week?

Let's make it a good one!

xoxo, MJ