You are the result of...
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Sometimes we get so focused on the romantic love that we forget all the other love in our life. 💕 No matter who (if anyone) you call sweetheart remember these beautiful words from Linda Hogan, "Suddenly all my ancestors are behind me. Be still, they say. Watch and listen. You are the result of the love of thousands."

You carry so much love...
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What words to share? So much romance and poetry in words of the heart and I choose THESE. ❤️Remade into hearts and pinks for the occasion. 💕If we are going to celebrate love this week, let it begin with a heaping helping of love for ourselves. ❤️ If this one struck you as words that hit home, go to my stories and grab it as a wallpaper. You can also find it in the Freebie Highlights. ❤️ Take this one all in and pass it on to anyone who could use it, too.

Go do what you were created to do...
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Some moments it seems so clear. You get knee-deep into a project and think, “This is it! This is what I’m supposed to be doing!!” And you celebrate and just as soon as the moment is there, it’s gone again. Whether it’s doubt or fear or distraction that gets us out of the zone, we can again feel out of place. 💕🤜🏼🤛🏼 Here’s your reminder to get you back. You have limitless potential - now go and do what you were created to do.

Remember when you wanted exactly what you have.
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Ending this Friday with ✨big gratitude✨ A little story: this week has thrown its share of disappointment. I questioned and I doubted. 🌈 My 10-yo came home and told me that she wrote an essay about me as her role model, with sweet details of our moments together. 💕 With both the ups and the downs, I am grateful. This is exactly the work and life I’ve always wanted.

A Few of My Favorite Things + a Giveaway
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You know that feeling.

The feeling you have when you get together with a good friend with whom you've lost touch but always loved and still miss? For me, that situation evokes joy, a sense of home, and GUILT.

Here I am, walking into the coffee shop, seeing you over there. I'm smiling that awkward, so cheesy smile I get. And mostly, I just want to let you know how good it is to see. So good. And somewhere in the middle of my chest, I'm feeling the pang of guilt. :)

You might be wondering, where have I been?

For sure there were times when I wondered the same.

Since I took a leap in June 2016 to spend more time on my business and art, I have been plunging, full force in (mostly) the right direction. And I've struggled to find the just-quite-the-right words to chat about all the things without launching you into a trilogy reading experience of the not-so-important.

But first and foremost, I want to say thanks. 

It is humbling to host a blog that has the same readership whether I write posts every week or every other year!

Thank you for STILL showing up, checking on me, following my micro-blogging on Instagram. Sharing and buying from my shop, Good in Store

And mostly, being a community that has made me want to return to blogging, to sharing, to creating and to connecting.

The lovely ladies pictured below don't know it, but they are the reason I'm back here again. Collaboration is what inspired me to publish my first blog post in April 2012, and it's bringing me back. I've learned that great collaborators are a gift to your business, your art, and, well, your general happiness!! And the internet of 2017 is a different community than the internet of 2012, but the quality of people behind the blogs has not changed. So I'm back to give my readers something extra special and extra awesome.

So TEN of my pals and me have teamed up for our FAVORITE THINGS GIVEAWAY. For the next week, we'll be sharing all of our favorite things that we want to share with you for the holidays!! 

You can enter one, two, or all of the giveaways!!  For my favorite things, here's what I've included in the bundle:

  • A Take Care of One Another super soft sweatshirt
  • A 2018 desktop calendar
  • A three-pack of vinyl stickers
  • 2 placecard frames from the Heart & Home collection with art prints inside
Ready to enter for a chance to win? Follow the instructions on the Rafflecopter and then enter my friend's giveaways BELOW! Thank you so much for entering My Favorite Things giveaway! Don’t forget to stop by and visit my friends for more chances to WIN their awesome giveaways!! My Favorite Things Lovely Indeed | The Merrythought | Squirrelly Minds | Alice + Lois Delineate Your Dwelling | Pars Caeli | Design Improvised | Idle Hands Awake | Lulu the Baker | Cloudy Day Gray | Tell Love + Party
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Click around to all ten giveaways and check out their awesome offerings just like an old school blog hop! The giveaways all close next Tuesday at midnight and winners will be announced next Wednesday!!

Enjoy and good luck and thank you!

It's really good to see you. Really good.

XOXO, MJ

Going Laminate

This post is sponsored by The Home Depot.

Where have you been, friends? It's so good to see you! I'm really looking forward to catching you up on all the going-ons. . . but in the meantime, I'm hopping right back into the swing of things. 

We've been busy, busy around here re-imagining our home. Our suburban colonial was built nearly twenty years ago and though we are only the second owners, we have definitely, errr, made our mark on the place. Take for example, our carpeting. Our second floor has had the original ivory-colored carpeting in the bedrooms and hallways (thankfully not the bathrooms), and ivory it was no more. And despite our vacuuming, spotting, and shampooing, two decades of wear and tear had rendered our carpeting pretty gross. 

Thanks to the good people at The Home Depot, we were able to make a great change!! We selected a beautiful Pergo laminate flooring and installed it ourselves over a series of weekends! I am a lightweight DIY pro. I can craft with the best of them, but ripping out carpeting, pulling up staples, and laying down a floating floor was out of my comfort zone. But there's strength in numbers, and two heads are better than one, so my husband and I (maybe more him than me) set our sights on a whole new look for our entire second floor. Head over to The Home Depot blog to see our how-to and reveal!!

 With a new dog, a renewed love for houseplants, and a 20-year old carpet, I was convinced that we needed new flooring!

With a new dog, a renewed love for houseplants, and a 20-year old carpet, I was convinced that we needed new flooring!

I wanted a clean break from carpet and a fresh feel for our second floor. All of our bedrooms are on the second floor, and our kids sleep and play in their spaces so easy-to-clean was a top priority for me. With our new dog (there she is, that's Cozi!) and new plants, I wanted something durable.

I'm really happy with how the flooring has refreshed our space. 

Our master bedroom had become too much of a catch all for items no longer needed elsewhere. My first big step was a major re-organization. Once we de-cluttered and removed excess, I began to see the potential for this space. Our master has a beautiful vaulted ceiling, plenty of floor space, furniture that I love, and three large windows that brighten the room for most of the day.

 Our master bedroom got a refresh all around with new paint, fresh pillows, and new accents. It feels better than ever!

Our master bedroom got a refresh all around with new paint, fresh pillows, and new accents. It feels better than ever!

Thanks to the recommendation of designer Jeran McConnel, we also decided to repaint our room. It had been cool green shade called Rejuvenation by Sherwin Williams, and we opted for a clean Alabaster shade (also from Sherwin Williams). Alabaster is a warm white that feels like a color and not the blankness that concerned me when we first considered going to white.

We still have a gallery wall to install, and I'm creating a painting for above our bed, but I already love how our once-dated space feels like an artist's loft with the dark floors and white walls. And I am quite partial to artist's spaces.

 Today's laminate, like the beauty of Auburn Scraped Oak from Pergo, feels and looks authentic.

Today's laminate, like the beauty of Auburn Scraped Oak from Pergo, feels and looks authentic.

 I reshaped and recovered our nursery glider with this great fabric from Minted artists. Now it feels as comfortable as ever but has a graphic quality that matures it for our bedroom space.

I reshaped and recovered our nursery glider with this great fabric from Minted artists. Now it feels as comfortable as ever but has a graphic quality that matures it for our bedroom space.

We also re-imagined some furniture in our space like the baby glider. Anyone have one of those??

When our first child was on her way, we wanted one of the infamous baby gliders. Five years later, not only had the glider outlasted its purpose, but we were left with an eyesore. I can't deny that the chair is really comfortable so I attempted to repurpose the glider for the sitting area of our bedroom. I added foam to reshape the traditional lines, and I recovered the whole thing in a graphic pattern from the artists at Minted. Now, along with a floor lamp and great gold pouf, the chair makes a cozy hideaway in front of our windows. It's a lovely spot for morning prayers and journaling as well as a late night retreat for final emails or great books (like this one that I'm loving right now).

 This soft shag rug from The Home Depot grounds the room in comfort, and the translucent curtains remind me of summer even in the perma-gray of winter.

This soft shag rug from The Home Depot grounds the room in comfort, and the translucent curtains remind me of summer even in the perma-gray of winter.

Our new white shag rug grounds the room in comfort and luxury. The philodendron (which I've named Phil) is a great touch of green. I'd forgotten how much I enjoy having plants in my space.

I have more to share!! And I'm looking forward to giving you more peaks into our space. I have some projects that I think you'll love, and I'm happy to be back on the blog with you. Thanks for sticking with me and for supporting this blog and small business for so many years!!

Onward and upward - xoxo, MJ

 

 

I acknowledge that The Home Depot is partnering with me to participate in this Laminate Flooring Installation ("the Program"). As a part of the Program, I am receiving compensation in the form of products and services, for the purpose of promoting The Home Depot. All expressed opinions and experiences are my own words. My post complies with the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) Ethics Code and applicable Federal Trade Commission guidelines.

Sponsored by Wayfair: DIY Didn't I Think of This Sooner for Your Car

This post is sponsored by Wayfair I was compensated for this post but all opinions are mine. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Pars Caeli.

 

From school to practice to Church and road trips, my family and I spend a lot of time in our car. We plan our journeys carefully, but I always want to be ready for any unexpected adventures we can seize at a given opportunity! Of course, we also have those times when we're stuck in traffic or come upon an emergency, and our car is like a second home and safe haven. 

Thanks to my friends at Wayfair, I'm sharing my top tips to maximize car travel and make any occasion out of the ordinary.

The Just in Case:

  • From bumps and bruises to emergencies, it's a smart idea to keep a First Aid kit handy (even in the back of your car). 

This simple First Aid Kit is all you need.

  • Less major emergencies like dead electronic devices can be avoided by keeping an extra charger for yours and the kids devices in the car.
  • Keeping a few empty, reusable water bottles in the car makes sense and keeps our budget in check during frequent stops.
  • Flashlights or head lamps get more use that you might expect!

For more fun:

  • Between practices or on a beautiful sunny afternoon, spontaneous picnicking is highly encouraged. 

We keep a picnic blanket always ready in the back!

We also keep a set of camping chairs stashed for t-ball and soccer games.

  • This is a little over-the-top, but during warmer months, we keep a simple tent in the back. I think the possibility and the thrill of camping wherever you are is just awesome.
  • Keep some read along CDs/books or audiobooks always at the ready.
  • Don't forget about the fun that you don't have to pack like car games!! I Spy, The Alphabet Game (finding words on signs that start with each letter of the alphabet), word association, 20 Questions, the license plate game. I also recommend printing off these two games - one for kids and one for teens to help pass long trips.

  • When all else fails, have a book, a few CDs, and if your vehicle uses them, DVDs at the ready to entertain.

You might not expect:

  • Crayons, a tablet of paper, and scissors have saved us from tantrums and boredom more than I ever imagined. We use the scissors all the time to cut off tags from new purchases that just have to be worn right away!
  • Playing cards can be used for card games like War, Rummy, Solitaire as well as simple math games to keep young minds busy,

These playing cards are maps, too! They're perfect for road tripping!

  • It's not fancy, but extra trash bags, tissues, napkins, disposable silverware, and straws are always, always helpful!
  • Last but not least, pack your sense of humor. What road trip or fun day of errands would be complete without some jokes!! Pack my lunchbox jokes for 180 illustrated cards and keep them in the side box.

What do you recommend to make the most of every car ride?

xoxo, MJ

 

How to have the best summer with your kids: The Summer Explorers

Do you know how many school days there are left for your children?

I do–19.

I would describe my feelings about 19 days left as a lively mixture of anticipation, excitement, and . . . dread. Summer has all sorts of blissful expectations (particularly in this part of the world where good weather shines on us a few months a year), and I so want it to be a fun, low-key, fabulous time for my three children AND me. The ten-week summer is also a ton of time together–potentially getting on each other nerves, saying "I'm bored" too often, and falling back on electronic devices for each of us.

But I'm not going to let my fledgling fears get in the way of a great summer. So, here's what I'm doing, and I really hope you'll join in, too.

We're going to approach our summer with a spirit of curiosity. Curiosity builds to creativity and diverse ways to view the world and the people who inhabit it. 

So we begin with this - what do you want to learn this summer? And we pursue their ideas. Secondly, we make our days colorful, messy, loud, and smelly. Many of the wonderful crafts and kitchen experiments that you may remember from childhood can be used to teach real learning, scientific concepts, art history, and so much more. There are also easy and high-quality projects you can do together with your kids that will make the summer weeks memorable and full.

I want to equip me and you with the best tools and possibilities to make this summer awesome. I’ve studied art to discover that possibilities are limitless, and I’ve studied education to learn how to share this knowledge with children. Bundling my experience with our need and desire to make this a wonderful June, July and August, let's be:

THE SUMMER EXPLORERS

PROJECTS FOR PARENTS AND CHILDREN TO DO TOGETHER 

While it's been quiet here on the blog, I've been working on a book project that I'm transforming into weeks of fabulous information and projects for you and your kids!!! I'm so delighted to offer full, detailed weeks of ideas with printables, instructions, links, and how tos you can use right away (in 19 days!!).

You can select a la carte and receive a specific topic week, or you can invest in the whole summer and move ideas around to fit your schedule. These downloads will save you all the searching on Pinterest and Googling, eliminate the midday ponderings of what to do next, and they'll equip you with fun facts to make all the creating together a rich learning experience, too.

EVEN BETTER . . .

I want to offer you a built-in back up - a community of smart and involved moms who want to enjoy their summer, too!! With my pal, Amy Christie of This Heart of Mine, we're putting our heads together to form THE STRESS LESS MAMA. This group will be your pep squad, your tutor, your wicked smart best friend, and your spot to share all the hilarious that comes up. Amy and I are delighted to get to know and to help moms be more present and more themselves through tips, ideas, strategies, and the secret sauce (well, really, there's no secret sauce, but we'll dream together, m'kay?)

Please click over to see all of the bells and whistles I want to send your way!! Let's make this a wonderful summer for us AND our kids.

MORE ABOUT THE SUMMER EXPLORERS AND THE STRESS LESS MAMA.

What three months away has taught me, and how we're all better for smart business decisions
 What three months away has taught me, and how we're all better for smart business decisions

What three months away has taught me, and how we're all better for smart business decisions

I set my alarm for an hour earlier.

This habit is both familiar and distant: waking before my house, in the darkness, to create or to write. More ingrained in me is the pattern of staying up past the goodnights and late shows to finish photo editing, fine tune the wording on a tutorial, or schedule social media for the following hours.

"I haven't blogged in 2016," I told inquisitive and supportive relatives this Easter. I've had compatriots, bloggers I've known in the four years since I started Pars Caeli, asking me how it feels to not blog for so long. The worn-in groove of content ideation, creation, photo styling and production, writing, editing, and strategizing communication became a habit for my creative process and my second (or third or fourth) job.

  What three months away has taught me, and how we're all better for smart business decisions

What three months away has taught me, and how we're all better for smart business decisions

What I don't want to tell you is this: for me, not blogging has meant more sleep, less short- tempered moments with the people I love, laser focus on other aspects of my creative adventure (read here my new book and expanded shop), the highest readership levels and stats I've ever had, and most impactful for me, taking on the scratchy and uncomfortable chair of the consumer. And I don't want to write that for this singular reason: starting this blog four years ago (almost to the date - happy birthday Pars Caeli!!) has gifted me a fierce and deep self knowledge. It's aslo brought into my life powerfully kind and unmistakably talented people, like the ones reading this right now and the ones that come to the forefront of your mind when you think about the type of human you want to be. Blogging has allowed me to share a body of work that never would have been created without the platform and community that we have all spent our *extra time building.

For the last three months, in the absence of sharing and promoting my own creations, I've relocated to a less familiar position as a consumer of content–from blog posts to photography to podcasts and audiobooks, movies, performances and more. Allowing myself to take a more passive role has brought me to these two realizations:

  1. Makers have to make AND take.
  2. Community is where it's at.

If you're still with me (what a patient human you are!), let me also move to explain why I think the new changes to spaces like Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest are going to bring a whole lot more joy for those who dive in. But first, point one and two.

1. Makers have to make AND take:

Makers gotta make. As a maker and a friend/supporter to many artists and people who don't-yet-know-they're artists, this resonates with me to my core. Do it for the process is how my friend, Emily Jeffords, describes it. Expressing ideas and emotions in our creations is a singular and wholly communal gift that artists bring to the world.  

Making does not mean you separate yourself entirely from taking.

Heard the advice to stay away from Pinterest if you want to be inspired? Or stop following or reading the work of someone you emulate? The position of maker can often leave you feeling that you must separate yourself from the source(s) that inspire you, that you must create from the sheer emptiness of originality something solitary and unmatched.

And yet, we hope desperately that other makers, our peers, take time to appreciate our work, to feel the value of what we've spent hours to bring to life, whether that be a well styled photograph, a narration of a childhood memory, or a video of a beautiful space. We want others to feel the spark that we might just be avoiding by separating ourselves for the sake of process.

Having three months away has re-reminded me that consuming is a necessary and lovely part of my process. And it's perhaps a part of yours. Taking, in the sense of spending dedicated time and attention, means that I bounce new ideas around in my head, I'm excited to tell other people about what I've seen, and I appreciate others work and the natural world in a new way. When I do it well, consuming allows my gears to downshift and to accept information in a way that my make-make-make posture does not. It's meditative and appreciative and keeps me tender.

And it gives me a seat in this community that leads me to realization number two.

  What three months away has taught me, and how we're all better for smart business decisions

What three months away has taught me, and how we're all better for smart business decisions

2. Community is where it's at.

The businesses of social media, places like Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest, have and will continue to make decisions they deem smart for growing their sales and brand. These mega-million dollar platforms have given each of us tools to communicate and to form communities as introverts and extroverts, from all over the world, in every kind of socio-economic level, and in every life situation imaginable.

Unlike national parks or public libraries, Facebook and the like are businesses in a capitalist society that are adjusting to meet their goals. As a small business owner, I admire and support this. As a communicator and creator, I am slow to change.

Watching these shifts in social media and not needing a tight grip on what they mean for my own stats, I've discovered that these multi million dollar algorithm changes just might lead us to exactly where we need to be.

Five years ago, I posted something on Facebook every day. I would easily converse with family and friends who made comments. Twitter was a place for easy conversation with colleagues and new connections. I wrote tweets, looking for people to respond back. When I joined Pinterest, I'd comment on really great ideas and get comments back from the creators. And Instagram was once a place where I chatted with others on their view of the world and new discoveries.

I was engaged. Liking, commenting, sharing.

And the changes on the horizon for Facebook, Instagram, and others are encouraging us all to return to engagement. 

Social media is asking us to be social again.

I get that it's coming from a lens of ROI and profit margin, however . . .

The double tap, scroll through is not where it's at. Self promotion with no conversation is empty. On one side we complain about the masks and fronts that we see others creating (is that really what her kids look like after a long day? no way their house always looks like that) and comparing ourselves artificially. On another side we gloss over posts and comments, looking for more information, more images, more distractions. More.

And we're rarely engaged.

Let's win at social media AND community with engagement. Let's show creators that we're seeing their efforts. Let's tell the writers that had never thought of the world the way they have. Let's share and reshare great ideas. Let's point out to the world dark spots that need our attention. 

Stretching and reaching out brings life, connection, and hope to our lives. Social media has the capability to enrich our human capacity for community.

I've tried engagement, or rather returned to engagement, in these three months. Community is what made me press publish four years ago, what motivated me to withstand late nights of creating for years, and what brings me back to blogging STILL four years later.

Like, comment, and share. It's going to take you further online and potentially give you a fuller life in the process.

XOXO, MJ

P.S. I missed you.

 

Hot Cocoa and Homemade Marshmallow Gift + Free Printable

With the busy timing of holiday parties and gift giving, you might find yourself in need of something sweet and small to offer to new additions on your list! I find a sense of peace knowing that I have a few extra presents around for the surprises that pop up. Here, to the rescue is a quick jar present that you can make ahead and gift to your heart's content or, if not needed, scavenge for yourself.

First off, if you've never made homemade marshmallows, may I encourage you to grab some unflavored gelatin and get on it! We made our first batch this year, and I am hooked!! Seriously. So much easier than I ever imagined. And waaaaaay tastier.

You can catch our whole marshmallow creation over on the Honest to Nod blog! I'm a monthly contributor to The Land of Nod's fun site, and we shared our experience with fresh marshmallow here.

 Download the free printable recipe for fresh marshmallow and pair it with a jar of cocoa mix for an almost-homemade gift for anyone on your list!

Download the free printable recipe for fresh marshmallow and pair it with a jar of cocoa mix for an almost-homemade gift for anyone on your list!

For these jars, we used small cubes of fresh marshmallow on top of our cocoa mix. You can create your own combination or go semi-homemade like we did (half Kirkland's cocoa mix and half Ovaltine) and gifted our favorite combination of Christmas cocoas. I topped the cocoa with a piece of parchment paper to keep the mix and marshmallows from mixing.

 Top off your holiday gifts with these cute stickers from  Tiny Prints ! Make spirits bright all season long.

Top off your holiday gifts with these cute stickers from Tiny Prints! Make spirits bright all season long.

All of our Christmas paper goods came from Tiny Prints! Their round stickers look perfect on top of the cocoa/marshmallow jars! These also look great on holiday envelopes and packages. As you can see, I'm all about the hand lettered look this year, and it all came together so beautifully.

My family and I are are nestled home in the balmy 60 degree weather of Northern Indiana! It's pretty unreal, but it's not stopping us from enjoying hot cocoa and marshmallows. And it's certainly not going to keep our Christmas spirits down. We're making the white Christmas this year. Cheers and laughter to you and your family this holiday season! Thanks for reading and supporting Pars Caeli, and all of our new adventures!!

xoxo, MJ

How to tackle THE thing you've always wanted: a post on big goals

You've probably noticed, but just in case, 2015 is almost over! After the Star Wars premier, the final office Christmas parties, and the big celebrations of Hanukkah and Christmas conclude, we'll be left with those lingering, last days of the year.

And on those days, I get the itch and the urge to make resolutions and pull out my bucket list. The possibilities of a fresh, new year get my adrenaline pumping! And yet, even in my most determined years, I've rarely kept up with the deliberate work toward those goals. My energy wanes after a few weeks.

This year I'm going a different way. I'm putting my goal out there to the big world, gathering companions to hold me accountable, and carving time out every day to work toward the one thing that I want to accomplish.

 Join in the journey to write a book by following the hashtag #100daysproject_writeabook

Join in the journey to write a book by following the hashtag #100daysproject_writeabook

1. name your goal and share it:

What is THE thing that I've been hoping to accomplish and putting it on the back burner, over and over? We all have at least one of those things, don't we? Being brave and communicating your goal to others helps solidify it. Yes, public embarrassment is possible, but so is total success with a team of cheerleaders supporting you along the way.

So, I'm laying it out there, universe, I'm writing a book. In 2016, I'm writing a book. And I'm taking you along for the journey. 

Just so we're all on the same page, I've never written a book and I have no book deal in the works. However, I know that I have a book in me - a useful, high-quality, unique book - and I'm going to get it out! And just maybe a publisher or book agent might see it in the works and jump on it. And if they don't, I'm ready to self-publish and share!

Beginning in early January, I'll be sharing my voyage with you over 100 days. Have you tried a 100-days project? I've challenged myself to 30-day goals, but not yet 100, and I'm scared and pumped to make this book happen. Follow @parscaeli on Instagram and Twitter with the hashtag #100daysproject_writeabook to see all my steps along the way.

2. Gather a team to support you:

This is a new step for me. Though I love my friends and community, I rarely ask people to help me achieve my goals. So, I'm turning myself inside out, and pulling together a team of goal-driven folks I'm calling The Finders. We are all working toward some goal over the 100 days. Some of us are wanting to commit to daily exercise over 100 days and others are taking incremental steps to build our own businesses or open an online shop.

We are connecting to hold one another accountable, to offer honest feedback, and to help us be kinder to ourselves than we might be on our own. It's the most loving kick in the pants that we've each been needing.

 Research on reaching your goals and getting closer to your dreams.

Research on reaching your goals and getting closer to your dreams.

3. Acknowledge and sit with challenges but do not be deterred:

This one speaks for itself, but I've been schooling myself on all the failure wisdom I can prior to beginning this journey. I'm not doing so because I believe I'll fail but, rather, to see how I can work with my own missteps, road blocks, and mistakes because they will happen. They always do. I want to learn how to wrap myself around the challenge and take it as part of the journey. I suspect some of my greatest learning might happen this way.

Before you embark on your journey, be ready to weave your challenges into your story rather than let them stand in your way.

 Failure should be our teacher.

Failure should be our teacher.

4. Carving out time every day:

I thrive in routine, but I also rebel against it. Oh, the paradox. My plan is to have a designated time every day to write and to photograph for the book. Typically I am a late night worker, but for this, I think I will need a fresh mind so I'm planning to wake before the house does to have some quite time to myself. I've heard from so many other moms that this is the key to success! So, I'm going to give it a try.

Consider when is the best time for you to make your goal happen. Can you make it a consistent time every day?

 Your goals for 2016? Which ones are you willing to go for?

Your goals for 2016? Which ones are you willing to go for?

So, what is it you want to do in 2016? Is there one actionable goal that you can take real steps toward in a daily and deliberate way??

Join the party! If you'd like to be a part of The Finders group as we challenge and encourage one another, send me an email with your goal at mj@parscaeli.com. But, don't hesitate, I'll be closing off the group on December 31st as we launch our 100 days January 5. And, remember, you can follow my big goal to write a book using the hashtag #100daysproject_writeabook! Make your own hashtag for your goal and share it in the comments so we can follow and throw love your way!

Let's do this thing.

xoxo, MJ

Advice on creating your vision
We've almost come to the close of another year, and the new year is awaiting us with possibilities. I have the pleasure of welcoming Monique Malcolm of Keep Chasing the Stars to the blog today. She has really unique insights to share on how we can best achieve our big dreams... my favorite bit of wisdom is at the very end!
 How do we achieve the big goals we set out there for the new year?

How do we achieve the big goals we set out there for the new year?

How did you get started as a coach?

It happened organically. I spent a few years teaching middle school so the desire to educate and help people figure things out was already there. Coaching felt like the most logical next step for me.

 

What do you find most of us struggle with in terms of setting goals?

The dreaming and planning phases are easy but when it comes to execution, that's where things stall out. There are a variety of reasons why this happens. The three most common reasons that I find are the motivation fizzles, life happens or the fear of having to step up and get it done takes over.

 

What's the game changer to achieve our goals?

You have to be clear about the work that's required to get what you want. It's a really straightforward thing to do, but most people skip over this step. This is exactly why New Year's resolutions fail. Achieving your goals takes work. There will be days where the work is easy and other days it will just suck, but you still have to do it. We don't spend enough time considering the amount of effort we will have to put out to get what we want. Once you reconcile with the work required and commit to doing it, your progress will be explosive.

 

Tell us about the Visionary Journal and what you hope people might get out of it.

I was really intentional not to make the Visionary Journal revolve around to-do lists. Planning around your to-do list is ineffective because it doesn't reflect your goals.

The Visionary Journal was designed to be actionable and to force you to plan ahead. There are very few goals that can be achieved being short sighted and planning day-to- day. You really need to be thinking about the big picture and how everything (especially your goals) fits together. I hadn't found a paper planning system that reflected that philosophy so I created it. My goal with the Visionary Journal is to help big dreamers become even bigger doers

If you're intentional about the actions you take on a daily basis I promise you the payoff will be ten times greater.

 Monique Malcolm of Keep Chasing the Stars talks about her Visionary Journal.

Monique Malcolm of Keep Chasing the Stars talks about her Visionary Journal.

Are you making any New year's resolutions? What do you recommend to clients?


No, I don't have any New Year's Resolutions. The things that I want to improve about myself, life and business I've already started working on now. I know the excitement of a clean slate at the beginning of the year prompts people to want to make huge life changes, but you don't have to wait until some opportune time. It's a New Year, yes, but you get a clean slate every minute of your life. Don't wait. Make the change now so that it will be a habit by the New Year.





Kindness Matters and #GoodnessTrending
 Adding good news to your feed every Tuesday! Follow Pars Caeli on Facebook.

Adding good news to your feed every Tuesday! Follow Pars Caeli on Facebook.

"What happened in Paris, Mommy? Why do they keep using the word "terrorist" on TV?"

I didn't want to explain a terrorist to my inquisitive 10-year old. I don't know how to, and I desperately wish that we lived in a world where that conversation never needed to happen. But, she's heard the word, and she wants her mother to explain why these horrific events happened to innocent people. "How could someone do that, Mommy?"

I have no good explanation, though in her presence, I tried to seem brave and knowledgeable, so that perhaps the immensity of it all would not overshadow her. "Fear is what they want to evoke," I told her. "It's hard not to be scared. We will mourn, and we will pray, and we will do our best to be peaceful people in our corner of the world. And when we recognize the fear coming up, we will feel it, and find the good. Because good always prevails, always. I am sure of that. And God will strengthen us when we feel helpless and alone. He gave us each other."
 A portion of every Do Good product goes to The Sweet Pea Foundation which assists children and their families during hospital stays.

A portion of every Do Good product goes to The Sweet Pea Foundation which assists children and their families during hospital stays.

In an effort to inform and explain, the media covers images and retells stories of threats, attacks, violence, war, and tragedy. All relevant information, all needing to be shared, all compounding for a bleak look at the state of the world.

And despite all that - no, maybe in the face of all that - I see the world that is overflowing with goodness. The poet, Gerard Manley Hopkins said it like this, "The world is charged with the grandeur of God."

It is in the kindnesses that individuals extend to one another, the grand sweeping gestures that impact thousands, and the hopeful discoveries that lead us to believe in a different future. All of these are also happening every day, and in every place. And these acts of goodness need to be shared.

 Share the goodness happening in your part of the world by tagging #goodnesstrending

Share the goodness happening in your part of the world by tagging #goodnesstrending

In our very small corner of the world, we're trying to add more goodness to the world. In the shop, a portion of the profits of every "Do Good" product (children's tees, women's tees, and letterpress print) go to help hospitalized children and families through The Sweet Pea Foundation.

And I know that you all are doing this kind of thing in your lives, too!! You're finding ways to stay open to joy, to reach out to those on the margins, and to give to those in need. And we need to share that your good work with the world, lest we all be overcome by the sad news around us and misled to believe that the tragic is all there is.

In honor of Giving Tuesday, this day designated to give to the non-profit of your choosing, we will be sharing goodness every Tuesday over on Facebook (you have to see some of the amazing stories happening there today!!). Let's make every Tuesday one for giving. Tag any of your stories or photos on Twitter or IG with the #goodnesstrending hashtag, and we'll share them on Tuesdays. I challenge you to share these stories with your children and your spouses and your parents and neighbors. Let's remember that goodness is trending. Goodness prevails. 

Perhaps if we can focus on the goodness before us, and share that joy with each other, we might dissipate the darkness, while giving one another a safe hand to hold into the future.

What's something hopeful, something good, happening for you?

xoxo, MJ

DIY Advent Calendar
 Beautiful paper Advent calendar for the season - grab the free printable!

Beautiful paper Advent calendar for the season - grab the free printable!

Counting down the days until Christmas is just about as much fun as actually celebrating the holiday, right? We have chocolate treat calendars for the kids, and this year I wanted to make something for us adults.

Selecting from the readings in the Advent scriptures, I took out a passage for each day to take us all the way up to Christmas. And at the close of the season (or everyday, if you'd like), there's a beautiful prayer, expressing the real meaning of the season.

 Take yourself through Advent with this beautiful printable calendar!

Take yourself through Advent with this beautiful printable calendar!

Each day is a four inch square design, and the entire printable covers seven sheets of paper. Trim along the edges, and glue to a six inch square of colored paper. This would be beautiful as an all white calendar as well, but we opted for brightly saturated cardstock to accompany the colors in our studio. Pick what best suits your Advent mood! You'll need 6-inch squares to complete the whole calendar.

When folding the larger square's corners, be sure to use a nice sharp edge to make your fold and crease it firmly. This will allow for the squares to have an open and shut quality.

Are you ready to get started? Purchase a 2017 Advent calendar and download!

 Love this printable Advent calendar from Pars Caeli!

Love this printable Advent calendar from Pars Caeli!

xoxo, MJ
 

The Holiday Collective + A Giveaway

Ready now? I've been feeling the momentum of Christmas building, and now, we can let it loose!!! Wooo hoooo. Welcome to the official holiday season. As I've been dropping info about The Holiday Collective on various social media channels, I can now share an amazing set of giveaways with you.

 Coming up on December 8, check over at The Holiday Collective for a fun holiday garland.

Coming up on December 8, check over at The Holiday Collective for a fun holiday garland.

It IS the holiday season after all, and we want to give our friends and family (and a little something for ourselves) only the very best, right? So, the team of 25 bloggers and makers of The Holiday Collective searched far and wide to find rockstar giveaways with high-quality awesome stores. From today (Nov. 27) until Dec. 15, we'll be giving away these incredible prizes on each of our blogs. For reals, check this out:

I'm so delighted to give away $100 worth of incredible kits, toys, and stocking stuffers from Seedling!! My kids and I are creating their Make Your Own Snow Globe kits, and the snow globes are such a fun final product, as well as their super cute packaging, that I'd feel really good about gifting one of their items to friends and family.

So I'm doing it!! I'm gifting you!

Stop back in tomorrow to win the prize from Pars Caeli + Seedling. The children in your life will thank you (unless you hoard the fun for yourself, and if that's the case, frankly, I can't blame ya).

xoxo, MJ

How to enjoy and to afford a family trip to Disney World
 The most magical place - how to enjoy and afford a trip with your family to Disney World!

The most magical place - how to enjoy and afford a trip with your family to Disney World!

Disney World!! You've just had three children who love princesses and pirates...where are you going?? You're going to Disney World!

If you save your pennies and plan it right, Disney World (in Florida) can be a spectacular family vacation. It also has the potential to break your piggy bank, overstimulate your kids, and leave you feeling overwhelmed all around. My family took treks to Walt Disney World in my childhood, and we've now taken our three children on two trips (first at ages 1, 3, & 5 and then at ages 3, 5, & 7). We are far from experts. If you search the web for Disney, you'll find hundreds, maybe thousands, of people who are experts, but I do think we've caught on to some good ideas on how to enjoy your family time at Walt Disney World.

So, here are my seven (it was good enough for Snow White, it's good enough for me) tips for making the most of your money and time at WDW:

1. Save, save, save:

Whether you surprise your children with the trip or plan your vacation way in advance as a family, make sure you have an ample fund from which to pull for your Disney trip. There are a ton of ways to save like staying at a well-themed discount resort or staying off site or camping at Fort Wilderness. Park ticket prices are lower per day the longer you stay at Disney World. Dining plans can be a great and affordable option, too.

My advice is to have a budget in mind, work to save to get there, and plan according to it. You can easily overspend (and not even know it!) so do your research on Disney's sites or call their info line and ask ANY questions you have.

We opted to tell our children in advance. For each of their birthdays, we gave our children Mickey-shaped silver tickets. Building off of Willy Wonka (a movie the kids loved), the idea of a golden/silver ticket was so exciting! We counted down the days until our vacation together. We worked to set aside the funds, and let our children play a role, too. We were intentional in choosing to eat at home and save our money for the Disney trip. Knowing that a fabulous vacation was at the end of the road made the skipped pizza meal easier for our children to handle. Of course, we had to make other sacrifices as well, but we wanted our children to understand, in a small way, the value that our choices make in big investments.

  The most magical place - how to enjoy and afford a trip with your family to Disney World!

The most magical place - how to enjoy and afford a trip with your family to Disney World!

2. Think carefully about your energy

Our travels have been with little people ages five and under so we've taken advantage of strollers. We are not stroller people (basically having our kids out of strollers as soon as they were able to walk). However, Disney days are long, and young legs and spirits can wane. Though we don't own a double stroller, we learned about renting a stroller in Orlando. We arranged for ours to be delivered and picked up at our hotel so we had no hassles with any kind of transporting.

Also, Disney has an AMAZING transit system. Once you're in or near a park, you can likely take a free bus, train, tram, monorail, or even boat to get to your destination. Take advantage of all of those options! Our kids at younger years enjoyed the bus and boat rides as much as the shows. 

And this is no surprise, but still worth noting: Make sure everyone has reliable - like they've worn them in well - and comfortable shoes for the journeys.

3. Do not underestimate the power of a great pool day

This tip came from my sister-in-law, and it helped ALL of us a ton. Right in the middle of our stays in WDW, we planned a full day of pool time. I was so tempted to book another visit to the Magic Kingdom and pack in another visit to It's a Small World and The Haunted Mansion. But, after two days of walking and experiencing it all, we needed some downtime, unstimulated. 

Disney resorts have incredible pools and water features, and if your hotel doesn't have one that you like, you can take advantage of another hotel's options. Do your research here because the slides and splash pads are so fun! They gave our family time to laugh and to splash and to play together in a different way than the rides and shows allowed. 

If you're not able to make a whole day of swimming, consider blocking off time for a longer meal or a stroll through Disney Springs to break up all of the attention-grabbing excitement. You'll have a smoother, happier trip because of it.

 Try these 7 real life, practical tips for how to enjoy and to afford a family trip to Disney World.

Try these 7 real life, practical tips for how to enjoy and to afford a family trip to Disney World.

4. Do not try to do it all

This is a huge one, especially when you have small children. There is always more to see, more to do, more to buy. Do not push your crew to ride all the rides and get exhausted. Do not try to do it all.

We all know that you saved and paid big bucks to take this trip, but Disney can be so stimulating for children that it can quickly zap their attention spans and patience. Avoid being "that" parent, making their children hug a character while the child is bawling from exhaustion!! When we traveled with nappers, our family would get into the park when it first opened, head back to the hotel for lunch and nap, and then go back into the parks for an evening of fun. For our older children, this break was a great chance to play with new souvenirs and recap the day's fun/plan for more. And for the littles, it was an essential part of a joyful experience! And let's be honest, we parents could use a little down time, too.

If you know that you want to see certain lands or rides, do your research! Get the fast pass plus or Magic band to make your wait times quick and easy. Consider looking into site like Easy WDW that has cheat sheets for every park, thinking through what days are least busy, the best times to go to rides for the smallest lines, and a guide to the parades and special shows that you will want to see.

As a general rule of thumb, we planned out the three rides we wanted to do in every park and hit those as soon as the park opened. With young children, you're already awake early - use that to your advantage and get to the gates before they open!

5. Have your souvenir plan thought through

Disney is an incredible marketing machine, and everywhere you go, there is something to purchase. Don't be caught off guard, getting everything you don't need or want. Keeping budget in mind, you can purchase giftcards with set dollar amounts for children to use towards gifts they want. You can set an overall dollar limit on what they might bring home. We had a rule of one small souvenir each day so that when we went to each of the different parks, the kids could get something to remember the day. It saved us a lot of aggravating conversations about begging for items because we all knew the plan. And even a 3-year old could stick to it!

Think about double duty gifts, too. We watched the parades in mid-November, and the weather turned cold. We bought everyone Disney beach towels and used them as blankets for the fireworks' show! If you're looking for something off season and don't see it in a shop, ask a cast member because they likely have what you're looking for in the back. :)

  Try these 7 real life, practical tips for how to enjoy and to afford a family trip to Disney World.

Try these 7 real life, practical tips for how to enjoy and to afford a family trip to Disney World.

6. Eating can get you.

I know there's a ton of advice out there on how to save money eating at Disney World. And I encourage you to look through some of it. The dining plans can be a great choice. Planning ahead can be a great choice.

We were on one end of the spectrum and shipped a box of food to our hotel to meet us there. We had a kitchenette (YES!) so we shipped down basic cereals, pb&j, snacks, and other non-perishables. When we came back for naps, we'd fix sandwiches and applesauce. And we had mac & cheese more than one night for dinner. We always had granola bars and Goldfish crackers ready in our backpack to avoid spending a lot of money on snacks. We all had refillable water bottles, and refilled in fountains as needed. We made a decision to save our money on food and spend it elsewhere.

Disney has a ton of high quality food experiences that are just as good as a themed ride. Consider splurging for one or two. For example, character meals are bucks up, but also a really memorable experience. We loved our time at the Grand Floridian breakfast with Mary Poppins and a whole crew of other characters, and eating with the princesses in the castle was a super special experience for our little girls.

7. LET YOURSELF BE IN AWE

Disney does everything over the top. Everything is bigger, louder, brighter than you imagine it will be. It's highly likely your kids will be amazed. And, if you're like me, you might go one of two ways: you could put on your skeptic hat, or you could jump in with two feet. Let me highly encourage you to go all in

Look at the entire experience through your children's eyes!! Take pictures with the characters, wave to the parade dancers, run to get in line again for Space Mountain, wear your mouse ears. No one is too old or too cool for the magic.


We're hoping to make another trip soon with our kids now 6, 8, & 10. And we'll be using all of these tips and maybe some of yours!! Have you made a family trip to Walt Disney World? What are your recommendations?

xoxo, MJ

P.S. If you're hear from Hear Motherhood, welcome, welcome!! Make yourself at home. If you are ready to listen to a fun conversation between two friends on motherhood, traveling, and the lessons learned: tune in here.