4 Ways to celebrate Tortilla Chip Day

Tortilla chips in four different recipes that will have you celebrating. I think we can have them at every meal!

Tortilla chips in four different recipes that will have you celebrating. I think we can have them at every meal!

Happy times! Today is Tortilla Chip Day. And a festivity such as this deserves a little indulgence, no? I've got four fun recipes for you to make, super simple and quick, for a sweet or savory version of the classic chip.

In the first year of Pars Caeli, I posted my favorite recipes including this one for a roasted corn guacamole. I renamed it salsamole because depending on your focus, tomatoes or avacados, you can lean more salsa or more guacamole. Check it out here and feel welcome to make comments on my struggling food photography (we're all friends here).

Who can turn down a seven-layer dip? Not this lady. Imagine that dip taken to the next level with your own portion of awesome. These cups would make a great addition to a buffet, and they'd help me cut myself off from eating more tortilla chips than I need.

I couldn't resist showing off these shamrock tortilla chips. My brain is on St. Patrick's Day overload right now, and these are a quick transformation with spinach tortillas.

And finally, something sweet and fruity. Do you like your tortilla chips sweet? I'm all for the cinnamon and sugar and this recipe that brings in a fruit salsa. Yes to the yes.

Whether you observe the official holiday or sneak a few chips in on the side, have a fabulous Tuesday.

xoxo, MJ

Printable Oscars Ballot for the Red Carpet

Are you ready for the Oscars red carpet? Here's your free printable for tracking your favorite gowns. Perfect for family viewing time.

Are you ready for the Oscars red carpet? Here's your free printable for tracking your favorite gowns. Perfect for family viewing time.

I've created an Oscars ballot printable for you! The Academy Awards air this weekend, and we are avid fans. As a working mom of three, I don't see that many movies. In fact, I couldn't tell you the names of all the films that are nominated. But the red carpet event before the show is one of my favorite fashion runways.

We've always watched the red carpet together. Like all five of us. We make a celebration of it, dressing up in our own "gowns" and ties, pretending to interview one another, and discussing the fashions of the night. It's light and frivolous.

Are you ready for the Oscars red carpet? Here's your free printable for tracking your favorite gowns. Perfect for family viewing time.

Are you ready for the Oscars red carpet? Here's your free printable for tracking your favorite gowns. Perfect for family viewing time.

Download your Printable Oscars Ballot here.

Recently, after reading about more and more actresses talking about the inequality of the red carpet, I've been wondering if I'm inadvertently supporting the wrong side. Am I continuing stereotypes by having my little girls see these amazingly talented women judged for their designer gowns and jewelry?

For me, fashion is art. The fabric, the cut, the fit are all a thing of beauty. Much like taking my family to a museum to learn and to observe, I want them to experience high-end fashion (as they may not do so first-hand), and I want them to know themselves and what they find beautiful. Always respected the human being wearing the gown or the tux as well as the artist who created the garment and accessories.

So this ballot printable is out of the ordinary. If you're someone who watches the Oscars with your children, you can use this tool as a way to hear their thoughts and see their creativity at work. Every moment can be a teachable moment.

 

Who would you take to the Oscars?

What color would you wear on the red carpet?

Pick your three favorite dresses.

And then you get to be the designer: show us what your look would be

 
Are you ready for the Oscars red carpet? Here's your free printable for tracking your favorite gowns. Perfect for family viewing time.

Are you ready for the Oscars red carpet? Here's your free printable for tracking your favorite gowns. Perfect for family viewing time.

I'm interested to see which dresses will be their favorites! A little daydreaming might be in order.

Will you be tuning in for the Oscars and/or the red carpet?

Are you ready for the Oscars red carpet? Here's your free printable for tracking your favorite gowns. Perfect for family viewing time.

Are you ready for the Oscars red carpet? Here's your free printable for tracking your favorite gowns. Perfect for family viewing time.

xoxo, MJ

New Printables Section

The obvious sometimes evades me. For example, I'm a graphic designer, and I create printables for other sites including Modern Parents Messy Kids, Classic Play, and now Kids Stuff World. 

A printable here on Pars Caeli is rare . . . Until now.

Printables for holidays and everydays on Pars Caeli!

Printables for holidays and everydays on Pars Caeli!

I'm delighted to add to our menu of possibility the free printable section! Every day I'm creating and printing signs, labels, banners, and more for myself and my family. Maybe you do, too! Or maybe you just don't have the time this week or the creative spark to get that card/invite/organizational helper/motivational that you really wanted.

Voila. Hop on over as we add to the great menu of free printables!

I'll also be teaming up with my friend Jeran, of Oleander and Palm, to offer a memory verse of Scripture every month! Jeran has been creating these for a while, and she's been kind enough to let me butt in to the process, and I'm delighted to show you the psalm that I have ready for March! It's one of my favorites, and one that I want my children to know by heart.

I'm so excited to have this offering for you lovely people who come back again and again! Share these with all your pals looking for another printable resource! Head on over to the printables page to see what we have so far.

Are you searching for a printable you just can't find? Leave a note in the comments, and we'll put it in the que for development.

xoxo, MJ

Yes Day for your family

What if you answered, "Yes!" all day! Our annual tradition of Yes Day is one that we all enjoy. Consider these 5 reasons to try saying yes again and again.

What if you answered, "Yes!" all day! Our annual tradition of Yes Day is one that we all enjoy. Consider these 5 reasons to try saying yes again and again.

Before you say, "No!", hear me out. Yes Day is a family (made-up) holiday that can bring a lot of laughter and fun experiences to your home.

My children (10, 7, and 5) might even that say “Yes Day” is one of their favorite days of the year. Four years ago when we started the celebration, we thought that Mardi Gras, the day before Lent begins, would be the perfect time to splurge and give in to all the requests of our children. Of course, there are ground rules that we set (and add to) every year, but they love to see the possibilities that come from the power of Yes.

Willing to give it a go? Consider reading the picture book Yes Day and begin brainstorming what would be in your Yes Day.

 

5 Reasons to Try a Yes Day with Your Children

1. Do you remember the feeling of childhood and lack of opportunity to make your own decisions? Much of the day is dictated to you. Getting up at a certain time, running errands, chores, homework, bath schedules. Yes Day gives your children the chance to see what it's like to make the decisions. And, if they're anything like our kids, they learn that eating donuts, candy, and cookies at all three meals really does make you feel miserable. The natural consequences that come from Yes Day ideas are fabulous teachers themselves.

2. Set the limits and make great choices. Our ground rules are that no one can choose anything that would be harmful to themselves or others. And school is non-negotiable. We have gone out for bowling and movies, watched a lot of TV, and eaten some really strange combinations. And also said off limits to jumping off of the top bunk. Some things deserve the grand "No."

3. Let your kids see you relax and take part. Perhaps your children have this scenario worked out in their heads that Mom and Dad would freak if we... or I can't even imagine Mom and Dad letting us... This is likely my favorite part of Yes Day, seeing the surprises on their faces. Guess what? Mom doesn't like to get out of her pajamas either. And Dad could be convinced to relish a doughnut dinner. Just sayin'.

4. It makes for great sibling fun. With our three children, about two years apart in age, they have had a great time in the weeks and days before Yes Day, scheming what would be the best question to ask. It gets the 10-year old asking the 5-year old (and really listening to him) what he wants to do. Because, guess what? 5-year olds are really in touch with their silly side in ways that even 10-year olds have forgotten how to do!

5. Sometimes you see just how reasonable your children really are. No, Yes Days are not full of awesome for the parents. Kids get out of control. Tantrums happen. But they happen on all the other days, too, so why not have one really memorable day in the mix? Every year I brace myself for the dramatic requests that our three will pose. But, I've found, year after year, that our children know our means (and what cool things we're saving for), they have a decent sense of what could be harmful, and their dreams are delightfully (at this age at least) simple. Perhaps I should be this tuned in more often. Maybe I could actually say yes to things that are beyond my patience level at the time in order to see the Yes joy that they receive from the experience.

This year, Yes Day includes donuts for breakfast, staying in together the whole night, and lobster/crab eating while watching TV. And that's not even my Yes Day (though it's pretty darn close if I had to choose myself).

Would you do it? Have you celebrated a Yes Day?

xoxo, MJ

14 Silly Ways to Celebrate Valentine's

Tired of the usual celebrations? Here's 14 ways to celebrate silly for Valentine's Day.

Tired of the usual celebrations? Here's 14 ways to celebrate silly for Valentine's Day.

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. One, twoo, fhree. Valentine's Day is all about the deep and meaningful love languages as well as the sappy and silly gestures that show you care.

This year we're going all in silly for Valentine's Day, and I wanted to share our fourteen favorite ideas for bringing some fun to February 14!

  1. Eat only heart-shaped foods for dinner. Here's how you create a few items in that beloved shape: fruits, bacon, veggies, and more.
  2. Wear as much red as you can. Accessories are worth two points. The winner gets red velvet cake or blood oranges (which are actually red).
  3. Write a simple poem using words that rhyme with love (above, dove, shove, of, glove) .
  4. Say love in a three new languages. For example: die liebe (German)
    and upendo (Swahili). Find even more here.
  5. Watch a great episode of Hart to Hart on YouTube. 
  6. Draw hearts with your initials and an arrow through them on a car window or in the snow/sand.
  7. Sing every song from the soundtrack to Love Actually at the top of your lungs.
  8. Redo your worst date but make it the best experience ever.
  9. Put your phone above your head, turn up the volume really high, and play In Your Eyes.
  10. Make chains of paper hearts and string them along your bathroom mirror.
  11. Recite (or memorize!) a sonnet from Shakespeare.
  12. Toast to love in the sappiest way you can. Accents are encouraged. Try this drink or this one to celebrate.
  13. Get your heart pumping with 14 jumping jacks for your love, but make your body into the shape of Xs and Os. (I said they were silly)
  14. Apply the perfect shade of red lipstick and add your smack to mirrors, windows, and the cheeks of those you love.

     

Tell me, tell me! What would you add to the list? Happy Valentine's Day, you wonderful person, you. Catch you this weekend for some of my favorite links.

xoxo, MJ

Printable Eraser Valentines

This week we're sharing all the easy. Yesterday's bubble messages were round one. Enter the eraser ring as round two! We gave these to C's Brownie troop, and they were a huge hit.

These printable tags make ring candy or ring erasers the coolest valentine! Because easy valentines are the best kind.

These printable tags make ring candy or ring erasers the coolest valentine! Because easy valentines are the best kind.

This is completely not a sponsored post, but, let's be real here, Target has the best finds. For $3 we found this 24-pack of glamorous and geometric rings. They are jumbo-sized, you know, just in case you have a bunch of grown-ups who might delight in a fancy eraser ring. Ahem.

We wanted to make something super tiny, similar to a price tag to add onto the rings. The smallest Valentine you might send is right here for you in our printable. And you know I can't resist the pun whenever possible. And so we present,

No doubt about it Valentine, you're a gem.

Grab a hole punch, some ribbon, twine, or yarn. We've grouped a lot of tags on one page to save you paper, too! Valentine's Day was never so girly and easy peasy.

These printable tags make ring candy or ring erasers the coolest valentine! Because easy valentines are the best kind.

These printable tags make ring candy or ring erasers the coolest valentine! Because easy valentines are the best kind.

Keep the love going! And have a fabulous Valentine's Day.

xoxo, MJ

Bubble Valentine Printable

Maybe I saw you at the store this weekend. What that you in Target, too? The mad dash for Valentines, after receiving the note from teachers on details for this week's celebrations, was a real deal for many parents. We spent a few more minutes than most, circling the aisles, trying to find something perfect for boys and girls, with a definite fun factor.

Easy and cute way to personalize bubbles for classroom Valentines! Print now and assemble in five minutes.

Easy and cute way to personalize bubbles for classroom Valentines! Print now and assemble in five minutes.

We settled upon these cute bubble blowers in assorted colors! My daughter and I both loved the design and colors, but we needed to create a personal element.

Easy and cute way to personalize bubbles for classroom Valentines! Print now and assemble in five minutes.

Easy and cute way to personalize bubbles for classroom Valentines! Print now and assemble in five minutes.

She and I made this printable together. She's a big fan of the smiling hearts, drawn in all the colors of the bubble wands, and I like that the card expresses friendship and good wishes without going over the top into mushy, gushy love messages for 7- and 8-year olds.

Easy and cute way to personalize bubbles for classroom Valentines! Print now and assemble in five minutes.

Easy and cute way to personalize bubbles for classroom Valentines! Print now and assemble in five minutes.

With a bit of Valentine washi tape, we attached the strip of paper to the bubble vile. From there, we wrapped the message around until we came to end of the message. She secured the rolled message with a Valentine heart sticker for an extra sweet ending.

Easy and cute way to personalize bubbles for classroom Valentines! Print now and assemble in five minutes.

Easy and cute way to personalize bubbles for classroom Valentines! Print now and assemble in five minutes.

Click here to print a full page of Valentines! Enjoy a little more happy togetherness tonight, now that your stack of Valentines are ready to go!

Happy crafting!

xoxo, MJ

Paper Straw Easels

Paper straws as easels! The perfect place for your favorite sweet message and a great place card for your Valentine celebration.

Paper straws as easels! The perfect place for your favorite sweet message and a great place card for your Valentine celebration.

I can't help it. I love all things Valentine. The burst of reds and pinks in the middle of dreary gray winter is perfect-o. Today we're going all out with striped fun and a quick, easy project made from the classic paper straw.

The mini easels are fabulous for a romantic message, your child's adorable valentine, or your party's place cards! You can whip these up in ten minutes, too, so no extra stressing involved (fist bump).

For each easel you need two straws, a small piece of thin wire, scissors, and a bit of glue.

Paper straws as easels! The perfect place for your favorite sweet message and a great place card for your Valentine celebration.

Paper straws as easels! The perfect place for your favorite sweet message and a great place card for your Valentine celebration.

You have two straws. Take the first and bend it in half. Flatten the straw a bit at the fold. At the point of the fold, make a small cut that goes not even halfway through the straw.

Cut the second straw in half. One piece will be used as the back leg of the easel. With the other small piece, bend it in half to use as the base for the front of the easel.

Paper straws as easels! The perfect place for your favorite sweet message and a great place card for your Valentine celebration.

Paper straws as easels! The perfect place for your favorite sweet message and a great place card for your Valentine celebration.

Take the long, bent straw and the back leg straw and feed a small piece of wire through the leg and one of the sides. This will give you some control of how your easel stands. Trim the wires right at the bottom of the straws and curl them over the bottom edge of the straw.

Paper straws as easels! The perfect place for your favorite sweet message and a great place card for your Valentine celebration.

Paper straws as easels! The perfect place for your favorite sweet message and a great place card for your Valentine celebration.

Stand the tripod easel. With the folded small piece. glue each end to the front of the easel so that it creates a v-shaped shelf in the front for your Valentine message!

Paper straws as easels! The perfect place for your favorite sweet message and a great place card for your Valentine celebration.

Paper straws as easels! The perfect place for your favorite sweet message and a great place card for your Valentine celebration.

We've made a set of these for a Galentine party for my oldest. The easels have enough celebration in them to set the whole tone of love and friendship for any kind of festivity!

Happy celebrating!

xoxo, MJ

Modern Parenting Challenge: What Type of Parent are You?

Modern parenting poses a new set of challenges. Labels are limiting but can also offer insight into your preferences. What type of parent are you?

Modern parenting poses a new set of challenges. Labels are limiting but can also offer insight into your preferences. What type of parent are you?

Before I became a parent, not yet pregnant with my oldest daughter, my husband and I would dream of what type of parents we wanted to be. These were long conversations (like you have before children) over coffee or wine, with lofty plans tossed onto pages of a pretty journal, writing it all in one place to show our dedication and commitment to this new thing called parenthood.

Spin us ten years forward and here we are. Gold-leafed journal pages of lofty ideals are not a daily reality. The core beliefs contained in those writings remain the deep undergirding of big parenting decisions and family goals. But, the weekly grind of homework and bath/shower schedules, mood swings, and tantrums can soften those strong footings... leaving me sometimes feeling a bit off course.

In lunch conversations and cocktail parties, I hear all the labels and buzz words like Tiger moms or Helicopter parents or the newer throwback, free-range parenting style. It all feels like a bad pop quiz from a teen magazine. I often find labels exclusionary and typically unhelpful. Simple classifications put neat bows on situations and people which are far more complicated and dynamic.

But maybe, by spending a post (or five minutes in your case) thinking about what we do not want to be as parents, we might be able to go more boldly, more intentionally, in the right direction?

Try this.

Do you know in your gut that your child is strong but needs pushed to fulfill his/her full potential? Are you strict to keep him/her on schedules for school and sports and extra curriculars, making sure that he/she accomplished all that they can?

You have a hint of a Tiger Mom to your style.

Do you find yourself concerned about your child's well being? And because of this worry, insert yourself into situations at school or with friends to make sure your child is safe or seen in the best light?

You're breaking into Helicopter parenting.

Do you think that kids should be kids and be able to explore the world? Do you reference your own childhood stories of independent trips to the store or late nights with friends as the way you want to your young children to experience life?

Label yourself a free-range.

Of course, there are limitless possibilities for other "types" and characteristics that we as parents float in and out of as our children age and we learn and grow.

I've been thinking a lot about the people our three children are becoming and what influence I have in that process. I'd like to think of myself as a caring and attentive parent, ready to make the world magical and beautiful, especially when it seems anything but that to my children.

But, as we enter adolescence with our oldest, and peers and other influences play a larger role, I realize more and more that I cannot prescribe or create the world for my children (I know, silly that I thought I could). My job is to show them their own unstoppable courage and beauty, get them to trust in it repeatedly, and make the little choices that lead to larger choices that will fit in line with the incredible people God created them to be.

I also need to keep them hydrated and hold them accountable and a few other tasks along the way.

From fairy tale dreams to Cosmo labels, I'm not sure what my style is, but I do know that it deserves further reflection and continued development. And I will give it so because I get to be the mother of three amazing people, and they deserve nothing less.

Are you a parent? If so, how would you describe your parenting style? Could you categorize the style of your parents?

xoxo, MJ

PS. While you think, let me toss you one of my favorite reflections from Thomas Merton that speaks to me on parenting:

“For me to be a saint means to be myself. Therefore the problem of sanctity and salvation is in fact the problem of finding out who I am and of discovering my true self.”

 

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.

Until.

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

Snow Day Essentials with Kids

When the Weather Channel starts the warnings and extended coverage of the next big snowstorm heading our way, I avoid the grocery store. Meh, we might not have enough milk or eggs to get us through. BUT, what we will have is entertainment.

With three children under the age of 10, I try to keep our creativity cabinet(s), closets, and shelves - yes, we have a lot crafting supplies - ready to go.

Don't be caught unprepared on a snow day! Here are 8 items to keep stocked so that the small set is entertained all day long.

Don't be caught unprepared on a snow day! Here are 8 items to keep stocked so that the small set is entertained all day long.

While I have nothing against TV or movie watching, snow days, at least in Indiana, are rare enough that they need to be savored and treated with extra special care.

Do you remember your childhood snow days? Whether they were spent outside in the white, fluffy hills or pretending indoors, there's something magical to the one-of-a-kind snow day. {Side note: I do not mean to discriminate and say that only snow days are special. When living and teaching in South Carolina, we experienced hurricane days, and those were memorable - in a different way!}.

For a spattering of independent time and a mix of togetherness, here's what we have:

Snow day fun encapsulated in crafts, imaginary play, and some good old-fashioned games! Make it special for everyone AND keep your sanity.

Snow day fun encapsulated in crafts, imaginary play, and some good old-fashioned games! Make it special for everyone AND keep your sanity.

Imaginary play

Snow days are amazing for the surprise as well as the great expanse of free time! Take advantage of the time to go big on pretend play. Build the forts and pull out all the train tracks. Your children will be entertained in their own creations for hours with no worry of needing to clean up any time soon. Also, adults, go ahead and jump in the fun and pretend you're the Big Bad Wolf or Nemo in the ocean. Your children will forever remember your smiles, laughter, and silly accents.

EASY GAMES

Sometimes adults have to get some things done during snow days, too! Have simple games at hand. We love ones like UNO and Spot It that work well for all three kids and cause few sibling arguments (bonus all around). Also, two-person games are right up our alley right now so that two people can be engaged and not "need" the third to enjoy the game.

SENSORY FUN

As my children grow, I see them gravitating to projects and final creations. Time that they once spent endlessly in process with playdough or sand, they now focus on getting something accomplished. This is natural to maturation I suppose, but snow days are the right time to abandon the usuals and bust out a homemade playdough recipe or warm up the modeling clay. I find it completely relaxing, too, spending time feeling the textures and making/remaking creations with no real end goal.

CRAFTING

During long expanses of time together, we burn through a lot of projects so keeping the supplies stocked is not always so easy. We always have a mound of construction paper and white paper as well as scissors with different blades and different sizes for every little hand. Perler beads and other small craft projects are right in our family room, easily accessible for anytime crafting. Also, we have a stash of cardboard tubes from paper towel and packaging supplies on hand just in case someone might need to create a magic wand, a scary scepter, or an impromptu bowling game.

MAKE a special treat

The Snoopy Snowcone Maker? The Easy Bake Oven? Snow days afford the perfect opportunity to break them out . . . or the beloved cookie recipe. The divine smell of brownies baking as everyone takes some individual time to read makes the whole house cozy.

What are the essentials for a great snow day at your house? I'm always looking for a new trick to stuff up my sleeve.

xoxo, MJ

Pars Caeli Reader Survey + $50 Giveaway

I promised myself before the year got away from me that I would get in your heads. In the best way. With a giveaway and a simple 11 question survey.

Because I wanna know who you are and why you return, and I want to thank you for every like, +1, retweet, email, and comment that you've sent along!

Sorry, for the survey, it's desktop-friendly only. No mobile use for this one.

You rock! Now let's give you a prize!

You're on your honor here. Did you complete all of the survey? Then let's get to the giving away. This contest ends on Sunday, EST at midnight.

Thank you bunches!!

xoxo, MJ


How to continue the momentum after a conference

So you're on a conference/retreat/workshop high. The world is at your feet, ready to follow your amazing leadership or get hooked on your fabulous content. You know that at some point this experience will come to an end. How do you keep the inspiration flowing? How can you best transform this momentum into real-life progress?

I had the best time at Alt Summit last week, learning and laughing, and I'm still on an adrenaline rush from all of the creativity that surrounded me!

How to continue the momentum after a conference. 6 practical tips to stay inspired!

How to continue the momentum after a conference. 6 practical tips to stay inspired!

6 Practical tips to stay inspired after you've returned home

1. Connect WITH YOUR INSPIRATION

You listened to knowledgeable and interesting people whose stories or ideas grabbed your imagination. Did you write down their contact information or exchange a business card? Send that person a tweet, an email, or even a hand-written note and let them know what it was that they shared that stuck with you. You'll find you've made a valuable contact that will continue to inspire and possibly even support you long after your time together.

2. STACK THE DECK IN YOUR FAVOR

It's not only the speakers that will continue to inspire you, it's your peers. Pull out that deck of business cards and make notes. Take special note of the ones that interest you. I put mine in a special envelope for future referencing, BUT...

Before you put them away, USE them. Connect with these folks on social media. And do it as soon after the conference as you can so that your connection is as relevant as possible.

3. Take notes on your notes

As soon as you're able (even before you leave), read through your notes and look through your photos, and get all of those brainstorms down. No judgement or evaluation on these ideas, just write, write, write. You can come back later and edit. If you act on these inspirations, you're bound to find some golden nuggets amongst a few weeds.

And if you're like me, writing down important points AGAIN, will help you commit those thoughts you want to keep close to long-term memory.

4. PUT IT RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOUR FACE

Maybe it was an inventive business card or a freebie giveaway that encapsulated a theme you don't want to forget. Post that card or frame the print and put it in your everyday space. Let it serve as a continued reminder of what you want to create for yourself.

I'm framing my letterpress print from the ladies of Handmade Mood. Its simple styling says, "I'm kind of a big deal, on my blog." The sass and the ownership (and the sheer talent those three ladies possess) remind me that I can create my own path here on Pars Caeli. I set my own pace and go my own journey.

5. Take an immediate step

Sometimes I return home and get so involved in what is greeting me (smiling children, happy husband, mounds of work, etc.) that I forget to act on all those really important things I said I was going to do when I got home.

Ack.

So, avoid the self-annoyance and before you walk into your home, take an immediate step in the right direction. Register for the class. Do the thought exercise. Call the potential lead. For me it's been the 5-minute flip and Karen Walrond's vision statement exercise. More on those in future posts!!!

6. Don't hesitate

Be honest with yourself. If this conference or retreat was really inspirational, consider how you'll attend the next one! Or follow the speaker that sparked a new way of thinking. Or purchase the book that everyone referred to. This final step will likely take an investment of money so take some time to decide what out of the entire experience was the most meaningful for you.

And make it happen - again!

You better believe I'll be joining up with my pals from Alt Summit to make and to strategize again. The time together was just too good not to be replicated!

xoxo, MJ

Turn your vision statements into business cards

And now a word about branding.

Lots of great marketers and communicators have lots to say about branding. I have a great deal of thoughts about it myself, and I continue to learn more about best practices for my new small business.

In order to move forward the brand of Pars Caeli, in addition to logos and colors and fonts, I thought through mission and purpose.

As a loose exercise, I started by writing key statements that summed up my purpose and vision. And phrases like Yearn to Create resonated.

Amazing are You.

You are a Piece of Heaven.

Soak in the Goodness.

The amazing company, Minted, gave me the opportunity to create these sharp triple thick two-inch business cards/vision statements. The solidity of the cards feels like the right reflection of where I want to go - strong, positive, and thoughtful.

I'm spending today and tomorrow in Utah to assist with Alt Summit. It's my third conference from Alt, and I learn a ton from the creatives I meet. I'll be showing off great business cards (they are a big deal at Alt), tweeting out great tidbits of expertise on social media/branding/small business, and capturing images of the fanciful and imaginative parties and collaborations that only happen at Alt. I'd love to have you join in the fun via #parscaeli_ALT on Twitter and Instagram.

I'll be back next week to share all that I can!! Until then have a great weekend, friends. Don't forget to check in tomorrow to see what hits The Top!

xoxo, MJ

Valentine Shirley Temples

The maraschino cherry was the fruit of joy in my childhood. Pop them in a glass with a few dashes of grenadine, and you have a classic drink great for Valentine's Day or any day -- the Shirley Temple.

We introduced our children to the Shirley Temple, named after the charmed young actress Shirley Temple, during the holidays as a special way to make a toast. The brilliant red of the grenadine is a show stopper.

With a bamboo skewer (you know I love them), a maraschino cherry, and some washi tape, you can customize a wish for hugs and kisses for your little Valentine.

A traditional Shirley Temple is made with a lemon lime soda and ginger ale combination, but we simplify and use just the soda. Add a few dashes of grenadine, flavor to taste. Add a few cherries for extra flavor and pizzazz.

The red of grenadine mixed with a lemon lime soda and a cherry on top! An easy and festive Valentine mocktail for your everyday, the Shirley Temple.

The red of grenadine mixed with a lemon lime soda and a cherry on top! An easy and festive Valentine mocktail for your everyday, the Shirley Temple.

And for an extra bit of fun, substitute a rope of red licorice for a straw! Trust me, it's a crowd pleaser.

xoxo, MJ

P.S. I'm heading to Alt Summit today, and I'll be posting about my time there as an Alt Rep as well as a lot of the wonderful learning on social media, small business, and design on my social channels. Follow along on Twitter and Instagram with #parscaeli_ALT Beware of overgramming and selfies. :)

 

Conversation Heart Brownies

Conversation hearts are the iconic candy of Valentine's Day, but candies themselves could use a taste boost. What if you could send sweet nothings and enjoy some chewy chocolate, too? These brownie hearts are easy and charming for an after school treat or a romantic finale to a dinner in.

Valentine conversation hearts just got a lot more tasty! Turn brownies into special messages for Valentine's Day.

Pull out your heart-shaped cookie cutter, a box of brownie mix (or make from scratch if you're ready for that), and bamboo skewers. These arrow skewers are my favorite! Use a permanent marker to change their natural tone to something more heartastic for Valentine's.

Valentine conversation hearts just got a lot more tasty! Turn brownies into special messages for Valentine's Day.

Valentine conversation hearts just got a lot more tasty! Turn brownies into special messages for Valentine's Day.

Bake your brownies as usual and let them cool completely. Press cookie cutter into the brownies and remove onto another plate.

To stencil on your message, download the svg file Be Mine and Hug Me. Cut these with your Cricut Explore or with a sharp craft knife. Sprinkle powdered sugar into the stencil and carefully press the sugar into the letters.

Valentine conversation hearts just got a lot more tasty! Turn brownies into special messages for Valentine's Day.

Valentine conversation hearts just got a lot more tasty! Turn brownies into special messages for Valentine's Day.

Finally, put on your cupid wings, and push the skewers through the heart, like arrows, and present to the one you love.

Valentine conversation hearts just got a lot more tasty! Turn brownies into special messages for Valentine's Day.

Valentine conversation hearts just got a lot more tasty! Turn brownies into special messages for Valentine's Day.

Looking forward to sharing another Valentine treat with you tomorrow! It's become a favorite at our house.

xoxo, MJ

P.S. If you're looking for an easy way for your child to bring in classroom Valentines, turn one of her or his shirts into a fun, no sew bag!

11 Ways to Fall in Love with Winter

The holidays with their festivities (and exhaustion) are complete, and in the Midwest, we've entered the extended four-month stretch of winter sans glitter and gumdrops. We scowl and give this time of year ugly nicknames like perma-gray. Some of us hold our breaths until the green blades of grass break their way through the frost. Others declare their distaste often and loudly and still others flee the temperatures for warmer beaches and pastures.

Unusually so, I am looking forward to the winter this year. Here's what I'm celebrating. Add your favorites in the comments.

Cozy fires, snowshoeing and skiing, sweet hot chocolate and more! The joys of winter.

Cozy fires, snowshoeing and skiing, sweet hot chocolate and more! The joys of winter.

1.  Something hot to sip

Soup, hot cocoa, tea, or a strong cup of jo. The comfort of a warm beverage or meal is even that much sweeter in the winter months. Better still, a coffee date with your BF on a snowy Saturday or a long winter weekend spent making homemade soup with your honey can't be beat.

2. The Healthy Glow

Ingrained in my imagination are the images of rosy-cheeked grins of each of my children as they come back inside after hours of romping in piles of snow. The first inhale of fresh, cold air is exhilarating. The blush and bright eyes that result also make the sweetest pictures, on camera or in our memories.

3. The childlike fun of snow

The possibilities are endless with the gift of this new medium. We've got skiing and snow forts, ice sports and snowball fights, snowmen and snow angels. Indulge in the joy of being the first to put footprints in the new fallen snow!

4. Observing the patterns of nature

What creature made those footprints? It's a daily case of who done it. The animals brave enough to thrive in the winter temps are deserving of their own attention. Our fan favorites include cardinals and black squirrels.

5. The Awesome, Deafening Sound of Stepping in Snow

Have you had the experience of being somewhere totally silent and hearing your own crunch in the snow? It's so loud and clear as boots meet and compress the white stuff below. Take a walk in the early morning snow and listen carefully to your own soundtrack.

6. The Brightness of the Reflection

Though we have less daylight to soak in during this stretch of the year, we do have the reflection off the white /gray of the snow. I'm grabbing my sunglasses more now that I have in months! The brightened hue can put a fresh coat of beauty on every shape and object. And when the sun goes down, you can see the moon lighting its own trail of brilliance. It's a sight to be seen (take that summer!).

7. Fireplaces find their purpose for being

If you were that home buyer who just had to have a fireplace, now is the time of the year that you get to prove your love. I can't resist a fireside book and conversation. Winter weather brings on the sense of nowhere to go, nothing else to do but be here right now together.

8. Layering, Bring it on

Pile on the blankets and put on an extra coat. Layers of all kinds are welcome this time of year. No time to style your hair today? Wear than knit cap and blame it on the weather. The layers of winter are forgiving on the extra indulgences of the holidays and allow for extra wiggle room, unlike the beach bodies of the warm weather.

9. Movie and Series Watching is Accepted and Shared

If you have a TV series that you want to binge watch or a list of must-see movies, winter is the perfect time to make yourself cozy and enjoy the entertainment. Friends are talking about the award winners as well as their favorites that were left off the nominations. Take note of how you can catch a great story from the comfort of your own couch.

10. Focus on indoor

Winter brings us and keeps us indoors. It's the perfect time to bust out that extended day (or week) organization project you've been wanting to do. You can pick up an instrument, learn a new language, get back in touch with long-lost pals, all knowing that there's nothing else warm and beautiful that you should accomplish.

11. Snuggling

Need I say more? You're winning me over, winter.

xoxo, MJ

Begin by Investing in You

I believe that sometimes we’re not fully aware of the little pieces of heaven all around us. And sometimes we overlook our own capacity to be one of those pieces.
— April 25, 2012

My daughter learned how to tie her shoes in one afternoon.

One Saturday morning, her father sat with her on the couch, with an inspiring new pair of brightly-colored sneakers, and patiently went through the bunny ears, the pull throughs, and the try-agains. By dinner, she'd mastered the skill and was gleaming with pride at her independence.

We sent her off to school on Monday with her velcro (uniform) sneakers on, knowing that although she had a new trick up her sleeve with her fine motor mastery, she didn't have to go to the trouble of putting it right to use. I figured the opportunity to tie her shoes would come with soccer practice and upcoming playdates; no need to rush right into it.

She came home from school with a particular bounce to her step to tell me that she'd practiced her tying. I quickly glanced down at her feet, wondering if she'd traded up with a friend ready to volunteer their pair of tie sneakers. But, when I looked down, the same white velcro runners that she'd left the house with were still on her excited feet.

"What do you mean you practiced tying?"

She gave me that wry smirk, the one she does when she knows that she's got me right where she wants me.

"I tied Ben's shoes today for him, Mom."

"But you just learned how to tie yours yesterday."

"Yeah, well, Ben said he'd always wanted to learn how to tie his shoes, and I told him I'd show him."

We learn . . . in order to teach. We learn to . . . give away our knowledge

Maybe in the hopes of fulfilling someone else's big or small dream.

First, we have to invest in ourselves and know that the time we are taking to prepare, to reflect, to make the bunny loops, and to try again is all necessary for good teaching.

Begin by investing in you.

2015 will be a year full of goodness. I look forward to learning and to teaching whatever I learn. We have a bright new space to do all of this in! I'm investing in you. :) New series, new projects, new collaborations, new books, and even a new shop are on the horizon for the next 12 months. It's going to be pretty fabulous.

Thanks for coming along for the ride.

Before you go, check out a new feature on Pars Caeli. I'm pretty pumped about it. Follow that yellow button to THE TOP. Here you'll find an easy-to-navigate lounge of seasonal features, popular projects, and the best of the rest. It's built for you - to honor your time - and to get you what you need on those days when the luxury of blog reading is not yours.

Happy 2015!

xoxo, MJ

 

Emily Jeffords: 12 bloggers

The final four of the 12 Bloggers of Christmas (an annual tradition on Pars Caeli) are the ones to watch for 2015. I'm highlighting some of their goals and new adventures for the new year. If you're not already following them, check out their sites for beautiful and inspirational posts.

  I've blessed to call Emily my friend. She's a talented painter, writer, photographer, and mother. She has an energy and a peace that come through in her blog and her artwork. And it's contagious in all the best ways. She turned 2014 on its head with her commission and series work. Be sure to follow her on Instagram to see works in progress and to hear about shop sales first.

 

I've blessed to call Emily my friend. She's a talented painter, writer, photographer, and mother. She has an energy and a peace that come through in her blog and her artwork. And it's contagious in all the best ways. She turned 2014 on its head with her commission and series work. Be sure to follow her on Instagram to see works in progress and to hear about shop sales first.


Beautiful Hello has changed so much in the last year.  I’ve begun blogging a lot less but writing more meaningful and thoughtful articles. My hope is for Beautiful Hello to be a place for people to get to know me and my artwork, but also to be a huge resource for artists and creatives. I talk a lot about creativity and entrepreneurship  and the philosophy behind why we do what we do. I write when I’m really feeling it, and it’s so much fun!!


If you're looking for a great resource, check this out.

One of my favorite gift guides features only hand makers, independent artists, small shops… beautiful and quality goods that are sustainable and meaningful. Art can be so hard to buy for someone else because of the price tag, and this list takes that concern out off the table.


What blogger would you like to send a little extra love to?

I'd like to hug for joy Ez Pudewa, writer of Creature Comforts Blog (which is TOTALLY beautiful and wonderful).  Ez listened to her passions, allowed them to shift and grow, and has decided to move away from blogging 100% and into the sweetest business with her daughter, Kaia.  They launched Petit Pippin last year, and it’s totally and completely adorable. 

Alexandra Hedin: 12 Bloggers

We are making things happen today! The final four of the 12 Bloggers of Christmas (an annual tradition on Pars Caeli) didn't make it into the roll. I've saved these last ladies as ones to watch for 2015, and I'm highlighting some of their goals and new adventures for the new year. If you're not already following them, check out their sites for beautiful and inspirational posts.

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Ali has been all over the weeknight party girl scene with her television appearances and great videos. She is on a roll, and I can't wait to see what kind of magic she can create for every traditional holiday as well as some new ones I know that she'll create in order to live life to the fullest. I know I'll be cheering her on!

I am revamping the website with a new look, new ideas, new STAFF! It’s very exciting and will be so fun to roll out.

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I love making a big batch of punch for parties – and this one is a winner.  You can serve a huge crowd for not a ton of cash, and it’s always so festive to serve anything in a punch bowl.

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There are so many!  Melissa, Lulu the Baker, just had a new baby which is so fun at the holidays. Amy Christie, This Heart of Mine, is pregnant with her third child and could use a little extra love. Jenny Batt, Hank and Hunt, is my best blog gal and so freaking creative.