Don't Quit Your Daydream: From Doodles to Product

"Those lunchbox cards are helping me feel like a great mom and giving me the opportunity to communicate with (my children) mid-day which I really really like. Thank you."

Don't quit your daydream! How one mom took her lunchbox notes from paper bags to product launch.

Don't quit your daydream! How one mom took her lunchbox notes from paper bags to product launch.

This summer was a whirlwind. A major dream came true (with a whole lot of work behind it), and I opened my online shop. I also spent focused time creating precious childhood memories with my three kids in something I called the 18 Summers Challenge (we really only get 18 summers with our kids!! Weep). And something even better than my wildest dreams came to life. In collaboration with The Land of Nod, I created launched my first product - a collection of lunchbox jokes! I present the Lunchtime LOL Notes.

When my oldest daughter went off to full-day Kindergarten, I, like so many parents, added a note to her lunch. After hearing from my daughter about quiet lunch times, I decided to add a joke and doodle to my messages. Teachers and lunch helpers would read them to the table, and everyone got a kick out the silly pictures and corny jokes.

As I searched daily to find something sweet to draw, I wondered if other parents would find it helpful to have an easy way to add something extra to their child's lunch like I was. I started sharing these notes on Instagram and hearing from other moms and teachers who would reuse them with their kids! And it was so exciting to see where in the world and in what ways these notes were used! I loved the idea that I could help other parents connect (in the middle of the day or on a long drive or in a doctor’s office) with their children.

As more and more people commented and shared these illustrated jokes, I began to wonder if I could take them to the next level. Should I produce these on my site? Or furthermore, find a brand who might want to bring this idea to their audience.

I first mapped out what I wanted the lunchbox notes to be: an entire pack ready for 180 days of the school year for parents, cards that had a blank back for parent's personal notes, and special jokes for certain holidays and times of the year.

How do you make your daydream a reality? A story of one mom entrepreneur and her pack of lunchbox jokes, now sold at The Land of Nod.

How do you make your daydream a reality? A story of one mom entrepreneur and her pack of lunchbox jokes, now sold at The Land of Nod.

With these parameters in mind, I thought through my pie-in-the-sky favorite paper, children's, and card companies. Which ones best fit my own aesthetic and hope for these fun notes?

The Land of Nod kept coming to the top of my list. I've purchased many pieces from their collections throughout the years for my children, and I find their products smart, well made, and the right mix of whimsy and art. Blogging throughout the years, I had developed a mother-designer friendship with Danielle, Creative Director for the company. I worked up my biggest entrepreneurial boost of confidence and sent her an email to pitch the idea of lunchbox notes.

And she didn't say no. In fact, she said yes.

And months later I found myself illustrating for not only a brand that I love, but for people who help me make other moms and dads feel awesome. And handle my creation with the kind of positivity and wit that I'd hoped. And it's kind of awesome.

This is not the norm for product creation or working with brands, but every once in a while the heavens align and dreams come true. And there's just no reason why the same couldn't happen to you. Keep dreaming and taking big girl leaps to make those dreams come true.

And get yourself some Lunchtime LOL Notes! They've already sold out once so get your order in soon!!

xoxo, MJ

 

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Your Checklist for Opening a Shop (with free printable)

Do you think you might be ready to open your own shop? Grab this free printable checklist from Pars Caeli.

Do you think you might be ready to open your own shop? Grab this free printable checklist from Pars Caeli.

A dream came true for me this summer. Well, maybe two dreams (I did even imagine number two! More details on that tomorrow).

I opened my very own shop!!

I know that I've been posting on all of my social networks about it so this is not a surprise to many of you. Shop Pars Caeli is open and excited to welcome you through the doors (for reals, go click over). It has been my little girl dream brought to life through my own little girl and brought to the worldwide webs. My eldest daughter is my inspiration and muse and dictator (in the most loving way), and we discuss what would sell well, and what we love. 

In the shop you'll find letterpress greeting cards and prints as well as children's and women's tees all focused on putting a little more fun and a whole lot more goodness into your life. The shop is a direct extension of my art, my sense of humor, and my 3 years of projects and conversations here on the blog. As a graphic designer, I wanted to letterpress prints and cards on the best paper and finest inks, and I simply couldn't resist a little foiling on t-shirts, too.

And our DO GOOD shirts and prints do real good in the world, too! A portion of the profits from every sale support The Sweet Pea Foundation, a non-profit to help children and families in local hospitals.

I've been so amazed to see the reaction the shop has received in just the first two months!!

Thank you, thank you to all of you who've been buying and loving on social media. And I'm so glad that I finally did it - I planned it out, budgeted, and through and through our customers have been delighted with what they receive!!

But, behind the scenes here, I've also had a few missteps, listened way too long to my inner critic, and still have a whole world of people I want to reach. Opening an online shop is both incredibly easy (e.g.: just press activate the link if you're on Squarespace) and simultaneously complicated with branding and shipping and taxes and inventory and tigers and bears. Oh my.

If you're thinking about opening a shop, selling a product, or know someone who is, I want to help!

Because there's just no sense in us both making the same mistakes, I put together this checklist of things I've done and added in things I should have done so that you get the full spectrum of helpfulness.

Pin this one now and use it as a checklist to get your online shop started!

Pin this one now and use it as a checklist to get your online shop started!

Above is a super quick checklist to think through as you're considering operating and selling a shop. It's a little deceiving since every step requires research, creation, and a real commitment to your passion! But, you can do it - I did!

I've also created an extended printable for you to keep right on your desk (or shoved into your notebook of ideas). Print the checklist here.

Tomorrow I'll be sharing with you that second dream that came true - my very own product with a company I love, The Land of Nod!! The story behind Lunchtime LOL Notes and ideas for you on taking your idea from notebook to reality.

Emoji and checklists to help you open the most fabulous online shop! Grab the free printable, too.

Emoji and checklists to help you open the most fabulous online shop! Grab the free printable, too.

Have you ever thought of opening a shop or done it already? What would you add to help the dreamers?

xoxo, MJ

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7 Ways to Get Back to You in Back to School Season

All opinions expressed are all mine. Thanks for supporting the brands that support Pars Caeli.
Back to school season can be the perfect time to return to you! Try these seven ways to refresh.

Back to school season can be the perfect time to return to you! Try these seven ways to refresh.

We've put a pretty bow around the end of the first week of school here! The final rush for school clothes, supplies, extra sleep, and final hoorahs came to an abrupt end to make way for backpacks, planners, extracurriculars. And though my children were not exhausted after their first day, I was!!

I love back to school season, don't get me wrong. As a former teacher, I get so excited for the year ahead. And as a mom, I love the return to order and a little predictability.

So, now that the kids are happily settled into school, and I've had a few nights of sleep to recover from the back to school prep, I am ready to get back to me a bit. The beauty of having all three in school for the first time is that, although I am still busy with work and the business, I have a little wiggle room for self care and a recharge of spirit.

Maybe this season is a great time for you to get back to you, too! Perhaps you aren't affected by the start of the school year or maybe you're only sending one or two off to school. It doesn't matter. This transition to fall might be just what you need to kick back in to gear. Here are 7 ways to go back to school and back to you:

1. GIVE TIME:

As someone who doesn't go through transitions quickly (or easily), I can safely attest to the need for patience with yourself. A sharp change in schedule or an adjustment to people moving in and out of our lives can cause more disrupt to our day-to-day than we might expect. Give yourself some time to adjust. 

2. Get yourself moving:

Whether you have a wealth of time on your hands now or just a few moments to spare, use them to get yourself up and about. It is oh so tempting to fill our time with more coffee dates or TV or blog reading. But the benefits that come from exercise and being in a new surrounding will redouble their effect on your well-being.

So pair the podcasts and binge watching with a walk, a run, or a yoga class with friends. I've been running during lunch, getting myself out into the fresh air. Do something that makes sense for you.

3. Invest in some beautiful office supplies for you:

Students don't have to be the only ones to get organized! Grab yourself a new organizational tool or a chic daily planner to inspire your commitment to take care of yourself and put your priorities in place.

Wire baskets are a new love of mine, for catching all that doesn't look wonderful sitting in piles and corners of my house.

4. Get your learn on:

Dig in and take on that e-course you've been thinking about! Take a trip to the library or local bookstore and feed your mind with possibilities. Start a new journal or notebook. Spend a few moments where you can in active learning.

5. Take time to laugh with people you love:

Who knows you better than your loved ones? Make a date with your girlfriends, your mom, or your favorite couple and get laughing until your sides hurt. Somehow in the midst of happy tears, I always find myself.

6. Be still:

I have been craving stillness lately. Some of us need it more than others, and I know I seek it after a busy period. We had a packed summer, full of fun but still full, and now I'm ready to downshift for a while and recharge in the normal. At the times when I might have worked alongside music, I'm now giving myself an open window and bird noises to minimize the noise and allow myself to be still.

7. Celebrate the new phase:

If we can make national holidays for hot dogs or lemonade, you can certainly create a reason to celebrate you. You might not know what the next phase holds so maybe you celebrate the unknown. Give yourself something special to mark the occasion of restarting. 

What is there worth celebrating? Over here I'm excited to grab a morning coffee every so often with the hubs! 

How will you make the most of this season? How do you get back to you?

xoxo, MJ




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Top Tips for a WILDLY SUCCESSFUL Newsletter

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

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

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

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

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

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

WHY?

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

essentials for a great newsletter?

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

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

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

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

Why?

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

HOW DO YOU MAKE A NEWSLETTER REALLY AWESOME?

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

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

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

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

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

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

WHY?

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

WHAT NEWSLETTERS INSPIRE YOU?

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

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

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

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

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

WHY?

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

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

essentials to a great newsletter?

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

WHAT NEWSLETTERS INSPIRE YOU?

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

WHY?

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

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

What kind of information do you include?

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

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

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

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

xoxo, MJ

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6 Picks for Back to School

Back to school gear is functional and fabulous! See our top picks for the retailers that do it best.

Back to school gear is functional and fabulous! See our top picks for the retailers that do it best.

1. Lunchbox 2. Lunchtime LOL Notes 3. Modern Backpack 4. Water bottle 5. Mini pack 6. Backpack for all

The excitement of school is in the air! It's my favorite time of the year with all the fresh starts that it brings. If you haven't noticed already, you'll soon see all major retailers filling shelves and racks with back to school gear.

For our crew, it's always online shopping that wins out. Not only do we avoid the crowds, but the selections are amazing and coupons abound. 

Here's what my kids will be packing this year:

1. A durable lunchbag: We pack most days, and we have to have a pack that can last through spills, drops, and washes. From our year's of use, I highly recommend the Land's End lunchbags.

2. A great sense of humor: How could I not include my Lunchtime LOL Notes? I partnered with The Land of Nod for my first product - a pack of 180 lunchbox jokes to last year the whole year through. Each one has a full-color illustration and joke with the back side blank for your special message! Hurry and order yours today before they sell out - again!

3. A stylish backpack: My tween wanted something out of the ordinary for her bag this year, and we love what PBTeen had to offer! This vintage inspired polka dot is a classic. I'm highly likely to steal this from her.

4. A strong water bottle: Camelbacks are great for kids, too. These cute designs are available at L.L.Bean, and they withstand the dishwasher oh so well for those of us who avoid hand washing just about everything.

5. The sweetest little thing: The Land of Nod has the most adorable animal packs that you have to scoop up for your darling preschooler. That doggie!!

6. Customization galor: If your child wants a lot of choices and options, Pottery Barn has the best selection we could find. Sizes, patterns, colors, patches, and monograms are all out there to explore. But act fast to be sure you have it all complete come the start of school!

Have you done your shopping yet? Tell me, what's your favorite purchase?

xoxo, MJ

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5 Places in Your Home that can Help Your Child Learn

Use these five places in your home as natural spaces for learning. Some creative ideas you'd never expect, but ones you'll use after reading this post!

Use these five places in your home as natural spaces for learning. Some creative ideas you'd never expect, but ones you'll use after reading this post!

As a teacher alum (AKA former teacher), I'm always interested in finding natural, positive ways that my children can fall in love with learning. We (my husband and I) utilize the summer months and casual moments together to reinforce what happens in the classroom as well as open up new avenues for curiosity and learning.

Your home can be a fun place to bring subject matter to life, and to practice and hone in on the challenges your child might be encountering. Here are 5 places in our home that we use for learning:

Use your stairways as a place to high five review learning concepts like site words and times tables. As she/he goes up the stairs, your child says the problem out loud and then gives a high five to the paper.

Use your stairways as a place to high five review learning concepts like site words and times tables. As she/he goes up the stairs, your child says the problem out loud and then gives a high five to the paper.

1. THE STAIRS:

This is a fun exercise in reviewing new and old information! I saw it over at Creekside Learning, and we had to give a it a try. (Ssshh, don't tell my kids they're learning as they're having fun high-fiving.)

The idea is this: Trace your hand onto sheets of paper and add facts that you want to remember. Think facts like multiplication tables or sight words. We have two sets up right now - one for my Kindergartener and one for the 3rd grader (see above). As each goes up or down the stairs, they say the problem (e.g.: "4 times 10 equals 40") aloud and then slap the hand. Using their hands and minds in collaboration helps children to reach a new level of connection. And why not have something to do as you go up and down the stairs? High fives!!

2. THE KITCHEN:

Natural opportunities for learning come up all the time in the kitchen! Measuring ingredients and learning fractions go hand in hand. Doubling recipes or halving them bring out the division skills. Authentic world cuisines bring in history and geography. 

We've brought the kids into the kitchen more and more to make great food and to learn great skills. Here are some easy tips on how to have more success (and joy!) with the kids. 

3. THE COMFY CHAIR OR FAVORITE WINDOW:

Sometimes the learning can be very casual and independent, too. Think of the natural places your children go for comfort or rest. For my children, there are comfy chairs near our sunny windows that are always filled with their presence. Not coincidentally we try to keep the shelves and tables near the chairs filled with books that my kids might want to pick up. I'm all for increasing their associations with comfort and reading. :) 

I like to switch out books for the holidays to catch their attention as well as move new series into the space. We also keep our new library reads in this space so that their reading choices are at hand just when they want to reach for them.

4. THE BREAKFAST TABLE:

A lot of our best thinking happens early in the morning, and the breakfast table can be a good environment for learning, too! Sometimes we use our kitchen's chalkboard wall to learn a new word or try a challenge word problem together. If your child is more on the quiet side first thing in the morning, consider leaving out a relevant newspaper article for him/her to read or even a maze to do while enjoying their morning meal.

5. THE GARAGE:

Ok, maybe I'm stretching the definition of home for this one, but for all of you parents out there who spend hours transporting your children every week, you most likely would consider your car an extension of your home. And all that time in transit can be great learning time, too! If motion sickness is not an issue for your child, have them keep a book next to their seat to read as you drive. If it is, consider checking out audio books that you can cue up for errand running and longer trips. 

Keep a BrainQuest pack of questions in the glove compartment that you can ask each other when you're getting gas or driving to school. 

And most importantly, show your children that you're passionate about learning and growing. Join in the fun with them, and you'll also be building special family moments!!

How do you incorporate learning into your home? We're always hoping to add new ideas!

xoxo, MJ

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Create a Constellation Board

Help your children explore the stars with a constellation board! A great craft that brings in geometry and science.

Help your children explore the stars with a constellation board! A great craft that brings in geometry and science.

Summer nights are the perfect time to get out and explore the stars. We've had star gazing on our bucket list, and to kick it off we made a constellation board. Learning the star patterns that can be seen in the night sky as well as some of the stories behind their origins helps the world feel a bit smaller to young minds. If you're looking for some great reading on constellations, check out the picture book, A Zoo in the Sky with its bright and colorful illustrations.

The constellation I can always spot best is Orion the hunter, with his belt of three stars, but that constellation is visible in the winter sky for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere. So I needed to brush up on my knowledge of the star patterns, too! I found the above fabulous constellation map at Mr. Printables, and I think it's the loveliest version I've seen.

From this map, we were able to explore the shapes of the constellations. Some constellations are more faint to the eye than others so we decided to study the original shapes to see if we could find all of the connecting stars. 

Taking this to the next level, we mapped out the shapes ourselves. To make a constellation board, you need:

  • A cork board
  • Pins
  • String in a few different colors
  • Scissors

Beginning with the Summer Triangle, three bright stars in the summer skies, we placed pins on the board and wrapped yarn around them. Tying a tight knot, we trimmed off the excess string. Next, we placed the pins for the stars in Cygnus which became a great lesson in geometry, scale, and art. 

We added the other two constellations that make up the Summer Triangle as well as a few other constellations that my children found particularly interesting because of their names or stories, like Hercules and Pegasus. To create a truly colorful piece of art, we chose a different bright-colored yarn for each constellation. The final product is a beautiful piece of string art that we have hanging for all of us to enjoy during the summer days and nights!

Constellation boards are a colorful, modern way to bring science into art.

Constellation boards are a colorful, modern way to bring science into art.

How do you share the intergalactic beauty with your children?

xoxo, MJ

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Make Sponge Bombs

Sponge bombs are created from strips of household sponges. Follow this easy DIY to make these in a few minutes and play all afternoon long!

Sponge bombs are created from strips of household sponges. Follow this easy DIY to make these in a few minutes and play all afternoon long!

The summer weather has finally turned warm here, and we've been looking for ways to keep cool. I ran across this video from Inner Child Fun and decided we needed to add sponge bombs to our summer projects. Spoiler alert: these take 2 minutes to create!!

Sponge-bomb-supplies

Here's what you need: scissors, three sponges, and a hair tie or rubber band. Cut each sponge vertically into three pieces. You'll then have a total of nine thin strips.

Gather these in your hands, turn a few of the strips to make a round fistful. Tie together with the rubber band or hair tie.

Spread out the strips evenly in the ball and dunk in a cold bowl of water. (Ok, it doesn't have to be cold, but that definitely adds to the drama). We played catch in pairs with the sponge bombs, tracking how many consecutive catches we could make. These are also a lot of fun to throw AT someone in a sponge bomb fight.

Hot weather and time to play? Make some sponge bombs.

Hot weather and time to play? Make some sponge bombs.

And for a fun twist: have one person hold a bowl on their head. They work with a partner to try to catch the sponge bombs in the bowl. Play as teams to see who can catch the most (and get the wettest) in their bowls.

Are you ready to beat the heat?

xoxo, MJ

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DIY US Map Puzzle

Make your own game with this free puzzle pattern of the United States! Use foam to create a game you can use and re-use.

Make your own game with this free puzzle pattern of the United States! Use foam to create a game you can use and re-use.

This post is sponsored by Cricut, but the opinions and ideas are all my own. Thank you for supporting the brands who support Pars Caeli!

Some of my best parties have been the ones where I've planned games for every generation to enjoy! And this fourth of July I'm continuing the success with this fun puzzle activity for guests to take on together.

Create your own map of the U.S.! Use Cricut foam and this free pattern.

Create your own map of the U.S.! Use Cricut foam and this free pattern.

We decided to make ours from foam to give it the weight of a real puzzle, and we added in our patriotic colors to add to the fun. 

Supplies:

Upload the US Map puzzle file to the Cricut Design Space as a vector file. This will create multiple pages of boards with states on them. If you'd like to use less foam (or less colors), you can ungroup the image and consolidate your states onto less sheets.

Replace the normal cutting blade with the deep cut blade. This is super simple: open the latch, release the blade cartridge, press down on the top button to release blade, and insert the new blade. Place the foam on the heavy grip matte. When you select your material on your Cricut Explore, be sure to set the dial to custom, and then on the app, select foam. Also, did you know that the Cricut Explore has a new app for your Iphone? Yup, you can design from anywhere.

Once you've cut all of the pieces from the foam, carefully remove the states from each piece. The Cricut Explore can cut even the smallest states so be careful as you remove them from the larger piece to make sure you capture all the details!

Get the whole crowd involved in this fun foam map puzzle that you can create! Bring the family together as you build our nation. Pinning this for 4th of July parties!

Get the whole crowd involved in this fun foam map puzzle that you can create! Bring the family together as you build our nation. Pinning this for 4th of July parties!

Are you ready to win a Cricut prize pack? Head on over to the Facebook page and click on the Summer Love Tab. Here are the details on the giveaway:

Until Friday, July 3, 2015 , submit through the online Facebook form your answer to this question: Where will you create and/or use the Cricut Design Space™ app for iPhone® this summer? Complete entry details will be available by 9:00 AM MDT June 29, 2015, on the Official Cricut Facebook page. Entrants’ answers must be submitted through the form on the Official Cricut Facebook to be considered, and meet criteria listed in Selection of First Prizes section below.

  • One (1) Weekly Winner will receive: One (1) Cricut Explore One™ Machine, a Brights Cricut® Vinyl Sampler Pack, Cricut® Transfer Tape, a Cricut® Tools Weeder, a Cricut® Material Sample Package (contents will vary) and a $100 gift card from Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores. (Approximate Retail Value: $427.96 USD)
  •  Selection of weekly winners:  A panel of judges will select the top three entries per week from among all eligible entries received.  The top three entries will then be sent to a panel of judges who are bloggers (that’s me) to pick one winner per week based.  The entries will be chosen by each panel of judges based on the following judging criteria:
    • Originality of submitted item
    • Creative use of daily themes (as specified above)
    • Educational value
    • Demonstrates new possibilities for use of Cricut® products
    • *If you will submit a supplement photo through Instagram, you must follow @OfficialCricut on Instagram, use tags of @ OfficialCricut and #CricutSummer and provide your Instagram handle in your entry form on the Facebook page so that Sponsor can match the photo to the entry. A photo is not required to enter or win.

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Crayon Scratch Off Fireworks

Do you remember making crayon scratch offs as a child? Enjoy the same fun with your children with firework art.

Do you remember making crayon scratch offs as a child? Enjoy the same fun with your children with firework art.

Crayon scratch off art is a fun project that shows off the bright colors that lie just below the dark, top layer. The contrast of the bright and dark make a great backdrop for firework art!

Did you make these as a child? I remember pressing so hard against a piece of white paper with my crayons, covering every last bit of white space. And then grabbing the black crayon to cover over it all. 

For this firework art, you'll need:

  • Posterboard or heavy paper
  • Crayons or oil pastels
  • Black tempera or acrylic paint
  • Paintbrush
  • A scratching tool like broken tip pencil or dull pen

Begin by covering your entire paper with color. We wanted to create a firework sky perfect for the fourth of July so we made a spiral of blue and red. Be sure to go all the way to the edges.

PC_crayonscratchoff_firework.jpg

Next, paint on an even coat of the black. Let it dry completely. To be sure that the black is a solid, deep tone, add on another coat of black paint and let it dry. This whole process took less than an hour.

Once dry, take your scraping tool and draw fireworks of various shapes and sizes. Be sure to leave enough black on the paper to illustrate the night sky. Add in bits of sparkle and stars that shine through the shapes that you create.

Keep in mind that sometimes the paint will require a few strokes to remove completely. And some will remain on the poster board, making a scattered fizzle like we all love in our favorite fireworks!

These would be a great craft to set up for the kids at your July 4th celebrations! Fireworks before it even gets dark!

XOXO, MJ

P.S. If you're joining in the 18 Summers Challenge, and making the most out of this summer with your children, join us tomorrow as we make some marbelized paper from shaving cream and food coloring.

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How big is the solar system?

Create a scale model of the universe in your own backyard by pacing off the planets! A great lesson with other fabulous planetary resources.

Create a scale model of the universe in your own backyard by pacing off the planets! A great lesson with other fabulous planetary resources.

You are out of this world! And just how far is that? Our universe is so vast it's almost incomprehensible. Almost!!

Today we're shrinking the universe to fit in your backyard or local park. Using balls and your footsteps, you can explore the distances between planets and the sun. We found this great idea from here on how to imagine the vastness of the universe. We paired the Planet Roll Call chant we found from Scholastic (check out their resource page), and finally, we watched over and over this animated song with fun facts about the solar system. How did I not know that Venus rotates the opposite direction of earth?

Here's what you need to travel with us:

  • The printable above! It has the steps you need to take to walk the distances, learn quick facts about each planet, and colorfully label the 8 planets and the sun
  • 9 balls. If possible, find balls that would be similar to the sizes of the planets. The sun becomes the largest, Jupiter and Saturn should be the next two largest, and the rest get smaller from there, with Mercury as the smallest.
Create a scale model of the universe in your own backyard by pacing off the planets! A great lesson with other fabulous planetary resources.

Create a scale model of the universe in your own backyard by pacing off the planets! A great lesson with other fabulous planetary resources.

Here's our labeling process mid-way through. If you're motivated, you can recreate each ball to look like the planets. For this exercise, we wanted to keep things simple so we taped the names to each of the nine balls.

Beginning with the sun and taking steps from there, we put the planets in order. As a fun example, I asked C to put her finger next to our model earth. This distance across one finger is the relative distance to the moon.

Imagine that's the furthest that any human has traveled thus far! Looking back from Neptune, it seemed almost an invisibly small fraction of the universe.

I found myself understanding the solar system in new ways, too! Thinking about how life might be possible on other planets due to their proximal nature to the sun, but also nearly impossible for many others because of the extreme distances of others.

Also, the sun is our closest star, and the next closest star, Alpha Centauri, is another 200 miles in steps, even in our scaled model. Amazing!! And lots of whoas from the kids.

Our planet exploration was a wonderful reminder of the vastness of the universe and our relatively tiny spot within it.

Give this unusual walk a try and see how much you can discover about the expansive nature of the solar system!

xoxo, MJ

P.S. We're moving onto a study of the night sky through the story of constellations tomorrow! You'll need a corkboard, string/yarn, and some pins/pushpins.

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DIY Iron-on Pillow

This post is sponsored by AllModern. Thanks for supporting the companies that support Pars Caeli!

Make a pillow even cuter with an iron-on message! This quick, easy process is a fun way to personalize.

Make a pillow even cuter with an iron-on message! This quick, easy process is a fun way to personalize.

Remember the fabulous 5 Ways to DIY? It's back, and even more awesome than ever. We have taken on pillows with some really wonderful results, and we want to inspire you to try them for yourself with a $250 giveaway from AllModern. How awesome is that?!

The team this challenge includes the fabulous ladies behind Delineate Your Dwelling, Sarah Hearts, Oleander and Palm, and A Bubbly Life. We all ordered a solid colored pillow from AllModern. There were so many color options, and this pillow also has a really well made hidden zipper and removable cover.

What would you do with a beautiful, blank pillow canvas?

This pillow design is a handwritten note. Using my Wacom tablet, I designed the words in Illustrator. Once I had the letters looking as I wanted them to, I created a mirror image of the text for the iron-on sheeting.

I used my Cricut Explore to cut the letters out of the sparkly gold iron-on. You can also cut them out by hand, keeping in mind that they should be a mirror image to work correctly for this project.

Arrange the words on the pillow cover (removing the pillow insert) to make sure you have everything where you'd like them. Using the iron-on material, you simply use a hot iron (steam off) right on the letters for 15-20 sections to make sure that the image is secure!

Make a pillow even cuter with an iron-on message! This quick, easy process is a fun way to personalize.

Make a pillow even cuter with an iron-on message! This quick, easy process is a fun way to personalize.

I wanted to add some sweet words to mine! Don't gag from the gushy mushy sentiment, but in our early years of marriage, my husband would often sing the country song Good Morning, Beautiful to me. I know. He is charmingly overdone, as I like to say.

If you're not into sewing, why not try ironing on a fun message? Check out the DIY on Pars Caeli.

If you're not into sewing, why not try ironing on a fun message? Check out the DIY on Pars Caeli.

I love how the sweet message turned out, and our new pillow adds pizzazz to our master bedroom.

Want to give it a try?! Enter our giveaway below. You have a great chance to win $250 to shop at AllModern! All you have to do is tell us in comments what project we should do next for #5WaystoDIY. And follow the Rafflecopter for additional entries (I'd love to see you over on Instagram!!). Contest ends on June 29 and is open to U.S. and Canadian residents.

Get in on the goodness!! And thanks for following along.

xoxo, MJ

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Balloon Rockets

Watch how the force of air leaving a balloon can launch a rocket!

Watch how the force of air leaving a balloon can launch a rocket!

Balloons are always around our house, usually used for balloon volleyball, and today we're transforming them into rockets! Have you launched a balloon rocket before? It's a simple way to show cause and effect and a fun way to have races in the backyard (or in the living room on a rainy/snowy day).

Watch how the force of air leaving a balloon can launch a rocket!

Watch how the force of air leaving a balloon can launch a rocket!

To make your own you'll need, balloons, scissors, string, a straw, tape (we used packing tape to make sure our straw and balloon stayed together), and an image of rocket. We drew ours on some poster board. Any image you create or print will work just fine as long as it's not too heavy.

Select an elevated course to use: we decided to go from the post on our back deck which is three stairs off the ground down to the grass. If you're indoors, you can go from a cabinet handle or a railing to the floor. With the rope, I tied one end around a deck post. On the other end I threaded half of a straw through until it reached back up top to the post. That straw piece is your rocket launcher and keeps your balloon from swirling and twirling all over the place.

Grab a helper or secure the lower end of the rope. My son was all about assisting on this one! Next, blow up the balloon. Blow it all the way up and hold the end tight. Do not tie it off.

While keeping it securely closed with your hand, add the rocket to the top with tape. We rolled some tape on the back of the rocket beforehand so it was easy to do quickly. Put tape around the straw as well so that it attaches well to the balloon. We lost a few rockets when the balloons became detached from the straws.

The best part of this activity for me was seeing his excited face at the other end of the line! "Come on, Mom, another rocket!!"

Make a dramatic countdown - 10. 9. 8.... And all at once, release your grip on the end of the balloon and let your rocket shoot out! Make sure your string is tight, your straw is straight, and your balloon is really full of air to get the most our your rocket launch!

Enjoy, enjoy!

XOXO, MJ

P.S. We're forming constellations tomorrow with pins, string, and a corkboard!

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Watercolor Resist Banner

The grand reveal of a resist technique make them a lot of fun for kid creations. Try this process to create a letter banner from washi tape and watercolors.

The grand reveal of a resist technique make them a lot of fun for kid creations. Try this process to create a letter banner from washi tape and watercolors.

We've been out enjoying the weather as much as we can this week, but we've had a lot of rain mixed with warm temperatures so we had some great time indoors working on summer reading and this fun watercolor resist banner for Father's Day.

I'd seen some of the incredible posts that Jean from The Artful Parent has created with resists. We decided to give it a try, making our own letters from washi tape and then applying them to watercolor paper.

The grand reveal of a resist technique make them a lot of fun for kid creations. Try this process to create a letter banner from washi tape and watercolors.

The grand reveal of a resist technique make them a lot of fun for kid creations. Try this process to create a letter banner from washi tape and watercolors.

Any image or shape can be used. We decided to make our own letterforms to spell out Happy Father's Day. Using parchment paper as backing, we created the letters with tape. Once they were the shape we wanted (good practice for my 5-year old as he solidifies his formation of letters), we trimmed and embellished the edges to add some flair.

Next we stuck each letter to its own piece of watercolor paper. The children decided that they wanted each letter to be one color, and we practiced using the watercolor paints. It was a tough adjustment for some since our usual painting process involves putting a blob of paint on and smoothing it around. Watercolor is much more fluid, and the brushstrokes can be a lovely part of the finished product. We're still working on our technique.

In the meantime, we created a colorful banner, which was a lot of fun to peel and reveal. I holepunched the top corners of each letter, trimmed them into a slightly more angular shape, and tied them together for celebrating.

The kids were pretty proud to see their teamwork adding joy and color to our space, and they're ready to paint some more.

Have you tried watercolor resist before? With your children?

xoxo, MJ

P.S. If you're following along with the 18 Summers Challenge, we're making classic balloon rockets tomorrow. Join us!

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The Best Biggest Bubbles

These bubbles are amazing! A must-try for summer. Great for any age.

These bubbles are amazing! A must-try for summer. Great for any age.

Bubbles.

If they aren't the quintessential childhood amusement, they're pretty close. I've seen some fantastic images on Pinterest of these amazing giant bubbles, and I wanted to include some of these in our 18 Summers Challenge. There are a TON of great options for the perfect blend of liquids for the bubble solution as well as just the right wands to make. Our favorite is Valerie's, from Inner Child Fun. Head over to her site (and then come right back) to see the fabulous videos on how to make a great wand and the perfect bubble solution!

The best 30 minutes we've spent all summer - creating these bubble wands and magic solution from Inner Child Fun. You have to give these a whirl!

The best 30 minutes we've spent all summer - creating these bubble wands and magic solution from Inner Child Fun. You have to give these a whirl!

I sort of assumed that this kind of project was one that would either take a long time (nope) or not really work for little hands (totally wrong). And I know I say it a lot, but this is one you really do need to try. All three kiddos were loving bubble creation for almost an hour, and I was asking if I could please have a turn, too!

Use household string to measure one arm length and cut. Measure another for the entire wingspan. With the long string in hand, thread on a metal washer. Tie strings to eyehooks on dowel rods, and you're ready to roll!

Use household string to measure one arm length and cut. Measure another for the entire wingspan. With the long string in hand, thread on a metal washer. Tie strings to eyehooks on dowel rods, and you're ready to roll!

We took a trip to the hardware store to get all we needed:

  • One 3/8" dowel rod (I cut this in half with a steak knife because they are both thin and soft enough wood, and I was not ready to break out the power tools) So you have two wands from the one dowel.
  • Two small eye hooks (you can easily hand screw these in)
  • Household string
  • One metal washer
  • Scissors
  • Paint, markers, glitter to make the wands super fabulous

Screw one eye hook into one end of each dowel. Measure one arm span and cut the string. Measure the full arm span, and cut another string. Tie each end of the short string onto the eye hooks. Thread a metal washer through the long string and tie both ends into the eye hooks. The washer will slide freely on the string.

I told the kids they could decorate their wands, and they went hog wild! My oldest created an abstract bubble pattern on the ends of hers, and my youngest drew stripes up and down his. And my middle child spent an hour to create a fantastical rainbow set. Pretty beautiful stuff, even without the bubbles.

Once your bubble wands are made, your children are going to want to get right to making the bubbles! If possible, make the recipe below and let it sit out for a few hours. Bubble experts suggest that the Dawn liquid needs a few hours to release certain ingredients that could deter the bubble's longevity. This is hard core stuff!

We made our solution in the kitchen and let it sit for 30 minutes (we're not good at waiting). We made sure that it was kept pretty dust free, small particles will deter bubble making.

These bubbles work best on humid, windless days. But the best part for me was seeing that they worked from the first try to the last.

Use a flat pan on some kind to hold the solution, and be sure to dip your entire length of string into the solution. Slowly pull up and out of the pan and walk backwards to create long, large bubbles!

Bubbles are great for every age. You have to try these easy-peesy giant versions!

Bubbles are great for every age. You have to try these easy-peesy giant versions!

Each child developed their own method, and it was amazing to see their faces light up every. single. time. We will definitely be making more of the best biggest bubbles this summer, and I can't wait to have a playdate with friends to give them a try, too!

This recipe and wands would make a wonderful birthday present for some playful kids (or adults) in your life!

XOXO, MJ

P.S. We have a great Father's Day banner coming your way using tape resist and watercolors!

P.P.S. If you haven't yet, be sure to subscribe to our newsletter to get all you need to know for next week's Out of this World activities.

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2 Easy Exploding Experiments!

Make these two simple exploding experiments for some gooey, summer fun!

Make these two simple exploding experiments for some gooey, summer fun!

Summer is the right time to get kids' hands dirty and involved in learning! An open space that that can be get messy (or left dirty) can become the canvas for explosions and explorations. We decided to do some easy chemical reactions and see the results.

I have always wanted to try the erupting volcano experiment with my kids so we decided to gather the simple ingredients and head to the backyard.

If you want to try this, here's what you need:

  • A flat surface (we used a cookie pan covered in aluminum foil)
  • Tall jar or bottle
  • Baking soda (quarter cup)
  • Water (quarter cup)
  • White vinegar (quarter cup)
  • Red food coloring and dishsoap (not necessary, but way more fun)
  • Dirt, sand, or clay for volcano making
Make these two simple exploding experiments for some gooey, summer fun!

Make these two simple exploding experiments for some gooey, summer fun!

THE ERUPTING VOLCANO

In the bottle or jar, add 1/4 cups baking soda and water. Squirt in red food coloring and a strong squeeze of dishsoap. These will add foam and drama to your explosion. Put the lid back on the bottle or jar.

Using sand, dirt, or clay, mound up around the bottle. We used potting soil and water to build up the volcano sides. Once those are in place, take off the lid and pour in 1/4 cup of vinegar. The eruption is quick but not overwhelming. The kids wanted to touch the "hot lava" right away and were surprised that it smelled so good. :)

THE EXPLODING GEYSER

This next experiment we did right after the volcano because the kids wanted a bit more drama to the eruption. Have you done the Mentos candy in bottle of soda? Really, it's super fun and surprising to the unsuspecting.

To make the exploding geyser, you'll need:

  • One pack of mint Mentos
  • 2L bottle of soda (Diet Coke works the best)
  • A piece of paper and tape
  • A business card or strong piece of cardboard
Make these two simple exploding experiments for some gooey, summer fun!

Make these two simple exploding experiments for some gooey, summer fun!

Place the soda on a flat surface. Roll a piece of paper in to a tube to a size that fits the Mentos inside. You want to be able to drop all of the candies in at the same time for the most dramatic effect. Keep a card over the top of the soda until you're ready to let the Mentos drop in. Be ready to flee quickly once they drop in!

The explosion is no more than five seconds, but we've watched the replay over and over again!

These two simple and quick experiments delight on the cheap. Make them a part of your 18 Summers Challenge (even if you've already done them before!).

XOXO, MJ

P.S. We have fantastical bubbles and wands coming your way tomorrow. They are SO much fun. Stay tuned.

P.P.S. The newsletter is on its way, too, with prep for next week's Out of this World adventures.

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Rainbow Water Music

A quick and fun way to bring music into your summer! Create a scale with water and food coloring and let your children try out their own music.

A quick and fun way to bring music into your summer! Create a scale with water and food coloring and let your children try out their own music.

Water makes beautiful music! And through this simple activity with food coloring, eight identical glasses, and water, you can discover an entire musical scale.

In our home, we always have music playing (or are playing music) so when I saw this graphic on E is for Explore, I knew our kids would enjoy creating their own color-infused instrument. The beauty of this activity is that it's great for any time of year, uses what you already have, and clean up is super fast, too. It also teaches measurement and fractions, pitch, color mixing, and so much more!

We used 8, 8-oz. glasses and filled them in with measurements of 8 oz., 7 oz., 6 oz., 5 oz., 4 oz., 3 oz., 2 oz., and 1 oz.. Once the glasses were full, we began the color process. Everyone was able to mix their favorite color with a wooden skewer until we have a spectrum of eight colors.

We used our silverware as the mallet for the water xylophone. At first, the kids just wanted to hit the full run of notes, up and down, along the sides. But the more they hit the glasses, the more they began to recognize music within the collection of sounds.

Can you name the tune we're playing?

We tried recreating simple songs that we all know. And as we did so, we adjusted the amount of water in each glass. Did that note sound too sharp? Or too flat? And we'd add or pour out water accordingly.

A quick and fun way to bring music into your summer! Create a scale with water and food coloring and let your children try out their own music.

A quick and fun way to bring music into your summer! Create a scale with water and food coloring and let your children try out their own music.

Have you ever tried this out for yourself? The food coloring is not necessary, but it definitely adds to the fun!! And perfect for a sunny day.

XOXO, MJ

P.S. Don't forget to check out all the ideas for the 18 Summers Challenge by searching for #18SummersChallenge. We're continuing with explosions and transformations tomorrow with our own volcanoes and soda pops!

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Rock the Clock game

Make this fun learning game from rocks! Help your children learn how to tell time, figure out how much time has elapsed, and discover the world of timezones. Perfect summer project.

Make this fun learning game from rocks! Help your children learn how to tell time, figure out how much time has elapsed, and discover the world of timezones. Perfect summer project.

We're learning the fun way this summer! And what could be better (or easier) than rocks and some paint? I'm so excited to share with you our favorite new learning activity for preschoolers/K, early elementary, and even middle schoolers.

Sometimes my children stare at an analog clock, trying to read it quickly. It feels a bit like a foreign language since our electronics and nearly every clock in our home is digital. We created this game to help them be able to take on time with confidence and to have some fun with it in the process.

To make a Rock the Clock game, you'll need a square canvas, 24 rocks (12 larger, 12 smaller), rainbow paints, a white paint marker, and craft glue/hot glue. As the backing, I used a canvas I found on clearance at a craft store. Its image is not one that I wanted to hang, but I knew the canvas frame would come in handy. Using the frame like a tray, I painted the edges black to contrast with the rainbow rocks.

Sorting the rocks into two main piles, large and small, I selected one from each pile to paint a shade of the rainbow. Remember that the large rocks will be numbered with hours and the small rocks will have the minute numbers on them. I recommend two layers of paint on your rocks to make sure that the colors are nice and saturated.

Once the rocks are painted and dried, add numbers with the paint marker. Let that dry and then glue the rocks onto the canvas. In the center, you can paint or place a simple circle or press a blob of playdough to hold the hands of the clock. We made our hands from two twigs and painted them in different stripe patterns so that it's easy to talk about the big hand (that's black and white) or the small hand (that's orange and blue).

Make this fun learning game from rocks! Help your children learn how to tell time, figure out how much time has elapsed, and discover the world of timezones. Perfect summer project.

Make this fun learning game from rocks! Help your children learn how to tell time, figure out how much time has elapsed, and discover the world of timezones. Perfect summer project.

DOWNLOAD ROCK THE CLOCK FOR EARLY ELEMENTARY

For L, our emergent reader, we used the elementary version of Rock the Clock. A stack of cards, with times of o'clock and thirty are an easy way to begin. I sat next to him as he showed me on the clock what the time on the card said. I was amazed how quickly he wanted to move into the quarter hour times because, with the visual of the rocks and the numbers, he understood how the big hand works. Learning is amazing to watch.

Make this fun learning game from rocks! Help your children learn how to tell time, figure out how much time has elapsed, and discover the world of timezones. Perfect summer project.

Make this fun learning game from rocks! Help your children learn how to tell time, figure out how much time has elapsed, and discover the world of timezones. Perfect summer project.

DOWNLOAD ROCK THE CLOCK FOR ELEMENTARY

For C, our new 3rd grader, we made a new set of cards. Her times are set to the 5-minute increment. She wanted to be a bit more independent so I offered her the option of taking a photo of the clock and the card next to each other and sending it to me!

This is a great idea for working parents!! Ask your child to set the clock to the time they woke up and text it to you.

Also, to challenge her further, the second set of cards asks her to calculate how much time has elapsed from a start time to an end time. She can use the rock clock to count through the minutes and hours and write down her time.


DOWNLOAD ROCK THE CLOCK FOR TIME ZONES AROUND THE WORLD

And for M, who wants to travel the world, I adapted this as a learning tool for world time zones. Using the printable map, she can discover new countries and relate to how life might be the same or completely different there. I have a lot to learn on this one, too, so I'm excited to learn side-by-side.

We think we may turn the game into a working clock at summer's end since we can't resist a good rainbow craft, but who knows. Simple tools like this are amazingly helpful to boost learning and take understanding to a whole new level.

Know anyone who might enjoy creating and playing with Rock the Clock? Send this post along!

XOXO, MJ

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Citrus Floral Centerpiece

Good Monday morning! I'm delighted share a special project with you that is featured in the second issue of a fabulous online magazine called Merry, created by my friend Melissa of The Sweet Escape.

Slices of citrus add the color and the vibrancy to summer's blooms!

Slices of citrus add the color and the vibrancy to summer's blooms!

The toughest part of this centerpiece is finding just the right vases. You're looking for two that fit nicely inside of each other, with a quarter to a half an inch gap where you can add in the fruits. Oranges, grapefruit, limes, and lemons will last for a few days with no maintenance.

Some of summer's best treats come in the warm temperatures, the sun-kissed colors, and the gorgeous florals. Using two glass vases of similar shapes, you can create a lovely combination of all the bests of the season. With a mixture of grapefruit, orange, and lemon slices, the walls of the centerpiece become a showcase of citrus. Pair these circular slices with voluminous peonies for a blend of beauty and a delight for all the senses.

Pairing similar tones makes for a sweet bouquet of freshness. Consider also a sharp contrast with an aloe plant or tropical variety for the inner vase!

Merry Mag is a beautiful online magazine showing you the best projects for the sweet summer hours. Browse through the 98 pages of goodness at Merry Mag.

Merry Mag is a beautiful online magazine showing you the best projects for the sweet summer hours. Browse through the 98 pages of goodness at Merry Mag.

Congrats to Melissa and to all twenty contributors on a lovely summer resource. Head on over to Merry Mag to see ninety-eight pages of photos and projects to make you swoon!

xoxo, MJ

P.S. If you're joining us for the 18 Summers Challenge, we're making music tomorrow with water and glasses. Break out the food coloring!

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Painted Terra Cotta Pot Garden

Take a great recipe to the next level! Plant a pot full of the ingredients and add the ingredient list, handwritten on the pot. A fabulous teacher present, too!

Take a great recipe to the next level! Plant a pot full of the ingredients and add the ingredient list, handwritten on the pot. A fabulous teacher present, too!

Summer is the best time to be outside! We love getting to know local plants and flowers and planting our family garden is a highlight of the summer's start. Frequent visits to the nursery for vegetable and herb plants are just a part of our summer ritual. The kids love to touch and to smell each plant, and I love that they are more interested in the meals and dishes we create with the plants that they have grown (bonus!)!

As a fun extension of our usual veggie patch, we decided to make a special garden for one of their new favorite foods - salsa! Tacos, burritos, and guacamole have been added to our menu planning, and the kids expressed interest in making our own version.

Add your favorite recipe with a paint marker and plant a garden just for this dish! Makes a wonderful hostess gift or teacher present.

Add your favorite recipe with a paint marker and plant a garden just for this dish! Makes a wonderful hostess gift or teacher present.

With so many great salsa recipes out there, you likely already have your own blend, but if not, try this one from Lulu the Baker or Cooking Classy's restaurant style. We know that not every ingredient is readily available locally so we put together what we could find.

The supplies are simple on this one: one large terra cot pot, outdoor paint (one that seals the pot for you), a white paint marker, and your plants. Perhaps your garden will be an Italian selection for pesto or a French selection of tarragon. Pick your recipe and then select your plants, keeping in mind that some might need to be transferred as they grow larger.

In our salsa pot, we have roma tomatoes, two cilantro plants, and a few yellow onions. It smells so delish! And it's already brought so much happiness before we even get to the final product. Seeing my children enjoying the gifts of nature is a fabulous part of our 18 Summers Challenge. And M loved making one as a year-end present for her teacher, too!

Give a mini garden of all the best ingredients for a wonderful salsa and write the recipe right on the pot! Great teacher gift!!

Give a mini garden of all the best ingredients for a wonderful salsa and write the recipe right on the pot! Great teacher gift!!

What would you plant?

xoxo, MJ

P.S. Are you joining in the projects we're creating for this summer together? Up tomorrow, a fun game called Rock the Clock. Get those stones ready.

P.P.S. If you want a sneak peek into all that's ahead, including supply lists, subscribe to the Pars Caeli newsletter by adding your email below.

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