Posts tagged Christmas
Lulu the Baker: 12 Bloggers of Christmas

On the third day of Blogger Christmas, my true love sent to me all of Lulu's sweet and savory goodies! Welcome to the annual tradition on Pars Caeli where we celebrate twelve incredible bloggers and show off snippets of their creations. Unflappable in their tenacity, determination, and imagination, these artists return again and again with posts that amaze all around.

Grab your coffee and get your Pin It button ready. Melissa of Lulu the Baker has dozens and dozens of incredible recipes for every occasion. She also has a plethora of holiday projects. I've been so lucky to collaborate with her on a number of projects, and I'm so excited for some of the big happenings for her in 2015 - not to mention the new baby she delivered and new house she built in 2014!


I love making cookies for Santa. I feel like at this point in my life, I should pick something more mature than that, but I just love Christmas cookies. My family always makes the same 4 or 5 kinds of cookies, and it just wouldn't be Christmas without them!


I have some big projects I want to blog about in 2015, mostly stuff around the new house (the basement! the garden! the mudroom! my office!). And I've been working and working and working on a book proposal, and even though I've said this in past years, 2015 is the year I'm gonna make it happen! I've actually made lots of progress on it, and I'm right on the brink of making big things happen--hooray!


Chewy Gingerbread Cookies with Double Chocolate Chunks--I took everyone in my family's favorite Christmas cookie, the Molasses Crinkle, and added two kinds of chocolate chunks. And wow!! It's almost sacrilegious to say this, but they're even better than before!


There are so very many bloggers that I admire. Everybody is so hardworking and generous and just lovely. Right now, I'm particularly enamored of Melanie Blodgett from You Are My Fave because she decided to take time away from blogging.

I think every blogger considers stepping away from blogging when life gets overwhelming, but it is so hard to actually do it! We all worry about losing readers and losing opportunities and back-sliding, and we think that if we take a break, even if it's for a great reason like moving or having a baby or to maintain your sanity, that we'll miss out. So I'm always crazy impressed when a successful blogger takes a big, legitimate break. And Melanie is just so talented, you can't help but love her!

Congratulations Melissa! Can't wait to follow along with all of the house updates over on Better Homes and Gardens, too.

Tomorrow's blogger is my mochi hero. Can you guess?

xoxo, MJ

This Heart of Mine: 12 Bloggers of Christmas

It is now an annual tradition on Pars Caeli to celebrate twelve incredible bloggers and show off just some of their creations. Unflappable in their tenacity, determination, and imagination, these artists return again and again with posts that amaze all around. Sit back and enjoy as we talk about Christmas traditions and projects and send out love to another creative!

Today I'm delighted to shine a light over to Amy of This Heart of Mine. Amy has top notch photography to highlight the most delightful recipes and crafts. She's behind so many of the amazing DIYs you've seen on Design Mom, and I want her to shout from the rooftops all the great projects she makes because... she's just that good.


I love to sit in the dark with just the tree illuminated, listening to my favorite Christmas songs (quietly) and drinking something warm. It's so peaceful. Also, I love to bake and give the baked goodies to friends.


I liked this car tree ornament because I waited almost a whole year to post it. It was right after Christmas the year before when I noticed the perfect car in my son's collection and snagged it for use the following Christmas. I love it because it's so old-school, feel-good-Christmas looking.


To MJ. MJ is so kind and thoughtful and excited about whatever the project. She works hard and manages to be super supportive of others. Working with her is pleasure and a treat. Plus, her Illustrator skills are enviable. So thankful for her and her friendship.

Awh. Thanks, Amy. I promise I didn't pay her to say that one. Amy is making ornaments and bread and all kinds of amazing this holiday season. Pop on over to see all that This Heart of Mine creates.

xoxo, MJ

P.S. Tomorrow's special guest makes the season, and every day, a tasty treat!

6 Ways to Rock at Sending Christmas Cards

This is a sponsored post by Minted, whose products I love and purchase for my home! All opinions are my own.

This year, it's going to be the best year ever. I'm a big fan of traditional cards and hand written letters and quality paper and beautiful photography. BUT, I have (long time) dreaded the whole process of creating, addressing, and sending our Christmas cards. I do believe that my husband even asked me not to send them out one year because I was a miserable grump for so long, trying to get it all together in a way that said something about who we are as a family. I'm not here to convince you of the importance of Christmas cards - to each her own - but I am here to tell you how to rock the process if you DO send them.

I want you, too, to love this process (because I want to receive your beautiful, handwritten card in the mail), and if we can make something that much more awesome, let's go ahead and do it.


This might be in the form of a letter or a photo or something else. Many of us parents want to show off our kids or pets or both and so we opt for photo cards. First step to great photo cards? Great photos.

DIY family photo shoots can be awesome if everyone is well rested and in the mood. We opted for some time with our friend and amazing photographer, Brittani Renee. If you live in the Indiana or Michigan area, book your photos with her. She spent a few hours with us and gave us a load of great options for our cards (and presents, too!).


So, of course, it's a great idea to keep your address book or file constantly updated so that you know everyone's address, but (blah blah blah) some of us are not that on task all the time. If post Thanksgiving is the time that you need to put it all together, then so be it. I have a small drawer where I keep return addresses of new friends or those who might have moved. I pull out that stack in late November, and I update an Excel sheet that I've been using since we sent out our wedding invitations!

Use technology here to be your friend. Social apps can help find missing info and the White Pages app can help find details that you might be missing.

Bonus, some companies like Minted offer free (FREE!) addressing on all of your envelopes. I am a lover of handwriting, but I must say that going with Minted and seeing the way that they handled the printing of the envelopes (so good), I was convinced that this time saver was my new best friend.


I created our cards for the first ten years of our family. It was a total labor of love that I designed and printed from our home. I loved it, but it also stole me away for hours and stressed me out and made Christmas cards seem to last forever. So, for now, for me, the right choice was to order something. But I also wanted something unique this year. Our photograph has bright pinks and blues in it so a traditional Christmas color scheme just wouldn't do.

This might be the year to switch it up for you! Maybe it's a bulleted list of activities of each family member for your card. Maybe it's a mini book of messages or a gift tag. Or a montage of photos rather than just one. You may just find that changing your card injects more fun into the process!


Totally biased on this one, but a great design goes so far! There are many wonderful options out there from Make-Your-Own kits to store bought packages of cards to designer collaborations. I wanted something on trend for our card so I scoured the foil pressed section at Minted. With their site you can select the photo or photos you want to use and see it in all the designs at once. Game change for me. This selection process could have taken me days, but instead was done in 15 minutes. Various color ways and foils are available for each design! And a fun add-on they have is that you can watch the foil shine through a .gif of your card. I may have been mesmerized by this for more than a few moments.

With the photos warm tones, I decided the new rose gold foil would be a great pick for our message of Rejoice. *Spoiler alert to friends who will receive our cards!


To keep me motivated, I pull in our three children to help decorate the Christmas card envelopes. Now that they are already addressed, adding some charming Christmas stamps doesn't take too long for any of us. It's fun to sit around the kitchen table, listening to the Swinging Christmas music station on Pandora, and talking about all the families and friends who will receive our greetings.

I bought a full box of assorted Christmas stamps at a local craft store as well as a red and green stamp pad, and we (or they since I'm busy writing the messages) rotate around the table after a dozen or so envelopes so that every child has a chance to use every stamp (this has become an important point to them).


Christmas cards, especially those with personal messages and photos, are a unique, once-a-year communication with individuals important in our history and present lives. Since you're putting the time into your cards, why not make a frame of the last five years that you can display at Christmas? Or put a binder ring through all of them and bring them out every holiday to see all the years.

Consider making the Christmas cards you receive a part of your holiday decorating. Creative ways to do this abound! Check out my Christmas board to get inspired to create one of your own.

Minted is running a holiday discount on cards when you use the promo code: Joy15. You get 15% off your order until Dec. 8, 2014.

How do you send your holiday greetings?

xoxo, MJ









A free printable joke calendar

We took a quick trip to Michael's today, and we were greeted by the countdown sign: 43 Days until Christmas. I always have mixed feelings about getting into the Christmas spirit too early, but I do admit that the decorating, the shopping and making, and the glimmer in my children's eyes... well.

So we turned our anticipation into a fun project. You know I love a good corny joke, and we made up a whole batch to put into an Advent calendar.

I'm delighted to partner with Steph from Modern Parents Messy Kids to offer a great free printable countdown with jokes for every day! Yes, holiday-themed sillies to uncover for a quick laugh, for school lunches, for bedtime giggles.

I might be a little excited about it!!

We made ours into the shape of a tree to serve a dual purpose of holiday decor and joke teller. The printable comes in two parts: pages of colorful, numbered ornaments paired with 24 jokes to attach to the back of each. Run on over to MPMK to download, pin, and share yours!

Are you ready to break out the holiday spirits?

xoxo, MJ



Snowflake toppers

Even though we're in the throws of October and fall, I wanted to show you a super cute gift topper that can transition us right to the winter holidays. As a part of this month's Cricut Design Space Star challenge, along with my Lucky 13 Team Members, I set out to create some Holiday decor and gifts that show off sparkle.


You need to click around to their posts and see some of the great creations this month, from window clings to pallet creations to Advent calendars and party hats.

1. The Sweet Escape Glitter Cut Out Card

2. Pretty Providence Nativity Board

3. Petit a Petit + Family Winter Wonderland

4. Andrea's Notebook Advent Countdown

5. Simply Sadie Jane Corn Tassel Banner

6. Pars Caeli Snowflake Toppers

7. East Coast Creative Geometric Christmas Ornament

8. Suburban Bitches Let It Snow

9. That Girl Katie Party Hats

10. Sew Creative Let It Snow Recycled Pallet


Since I love the art and process of paper snowflakes (remember these snowflakes that adorned the tree last year?), I wanted to create a project that utilized some of the amazing images that Cricut has in their design space. You don't need to recreate the wheel when there's beauty before you. These ornate snowflakes are even made to be three dimensional.

I used glitter paper, some wood beads that I'd painted gold, pinecones, and twine to blend Holiday Sparkle with the natural beauty of the season.

You only need one 12"x12" paper for a set of six three-dimensional snowflakes. It's amazing the detail that the Cricut can handle. These are really mini works of art when complete.


They make a fun banner strung with the wooden beads. And the metallic tones add a fresh touch to the traditional holiday decor.


Cricut recently something really fun for the Cricut Explore! You can now Print and Cut. Print any image on your printer and then cut it with your Cricut Explore. Oodles of possibilities!

xoxo, MJ

**I did receive a Cricut machine for free and may receive prizes in exchange for winning projects. I am under consideration for a prize with Cricut Design Space Star. All opinions are my own.

Trouvé Magazine and Emily: 12 Blogger Christmas

Welcome back, friends, to the 12 Blogger Christmas! I was so delighted to have Melissa of Lulu the Baker join us for the first day of Christmas!! Thank you again, Melissa.

On the second day of Christmas, I'm giving you something so much better than two calling birds (what does that mean anyway?)! Please offer a warm welcome to Emily of and now Trouvé magazine! It's a brand new magazine, and it is just spectacular in look and feel.

On the second day of Christmas, Pars Caeli gave to me, Emily of Trouvé!

I had a deep need for a vibrant creative community. I am an artist, mother of two, and while I have many intensely creative friends, I needed a an outlet to document and develop my own personal artistic inspiration. What I didn't realize when starting Beautiful Hello Blog, was that I would learn far more about myself and would be challenged creatively as an artist because of blogging. The community and creativity that have come because of I "put myself out there" have been incredible - far greater than I imagined.

My first blog Beautiful Hello, lead into my current creative baby: Trouvé Magazine which celebrates the creative lifestyle and the people who live it. This new magazine has already taken my breath away and inspired every aspect of my life. This is a new magazine I began with my dear friend (and crazy good designer) Amanda Marko.  

Keeps you blogging?  We featured a musician, John French, in issue one of Trouvé Magazine.  He said something that stopped me in my tracks and really resonated with me:  

"One of the largest struggles with being alive is the need to be understood by the people around you."

This is why I blog and write and paint, and mother, and sing, and cook, and CREATE.  To be understood - and to understand myself.  I do this through my artwork, painting nearly every day, and through Trouvé Magazine.  


Trouvé Magazine celebrates the creative lifestyle & those who live it. It is a bi-monthly digital magazine featuring makers, designers, artists, and creative recipes, gatherings, and projects. You can see my personal artwork at  You can also find me (over posting?) on Instagram (@TrouveMag), Twitter (@TrouveMag), and Facebook.

The beginning of my Painting-A-Day project last summer was a very raw and scary time for me.  The community surrounded me and supported & loved my artwork was completely remarkable and beautiful. You can read about the beginning of that story here: Spoiler alert: the blogging and creative community are wonderful, and I love them.


Getting to learn more about other artists and creative people is so encouraging to me (I'm - we're - not alone!  There are other people as unusual and passionate as we are!)  The interview with artist Britt Bass on Trouvé Mag is a perfect example.


I guess you could call this a VERRRRY love post:  The Trouvé Magazine Issue One.  Hands DOWN the most amazing thing I have had a hand in publishing online ever.  It is full of remarkable stories, creativity, and inspiration. None of this silly, overly perfect stuff - just real people, living real creative lives, and we get to share them within our pages. That is a HUGE honor and one I'm very proud of.  

We would like Trouvé to be a creative household name - a place that conjures up thoughts of inspiration, success stories, real beauty, and true creativity.  


To get to meet, photograph, and feature a few of my design/art heroes. It's totally going to happen.... Watch out Molly Jacques.  ;)

Emily and I had the pleasure of first meeting in New York City for AltNYC. I was her apprentice, trying to absorb all her art and city knowledge, and laughing, laughing as we roomed with the inimitable Paige of Approaching Joy. Emily is a true artist, finding beauty wherever she goes, and spreading it, too. In the year I've had following her work, I've seen a true breadth and depth in her talents. I'm a proud owner of an Emily Jeffords oil painting!!

From jewelry to collage to oils to graphic design, her creativity just bubbles over. Emily honors the makers in each one of us, too, with her generous, warm spirit. Trouvé Magazine is a gorgeous new enterprise for she and Amanda, and I spent a lovely hour perusing the stylized photography and interesting articles. If you have not yet subscribed to the new magazine, hop on over now and get on the long list!

On the second day of Christmas, Pars Caeli gave to me Trouvé Magazine.

And Lulu the Baker !

xoxo, MJ

PS. Tomorrow brings us into the world of fashion!!



12 Bloggers Christmas


Oh, gosh. I've been looking forward to giving this gift to you for about a month! Merry Christmas, readers! I have been so honored and inspired by your comments and dedication to Pars Caeli, and I wanted to get you something extra special.

And so, since I can't affored to send each and every one of you lovelies a goodie bag of cheer, I've called upon twelve of my good blogger pals to sit with you here on Pars Caeli! Over the 12 days of Christmas, the next 12 days - posting all seven days a week - I am bringing to you twelve fabulous women who fill up the internet with ideas, projects, style, and most of all warmth. Collectively they draw hundreds of thousands of readers to learn more about cooking, interior design, child development, party styling, motherhood, womanhood, and joy.

We'll be sharing inspirations, favorite posts, and big old hopes for 2014.

I know you'll enjoy these charmers, and I hope you know much I appreciate your presence here on these pages! Follow along with #12BloggersChristmas on Instagram and Twitter to catch all of the loveliness!

Merry Christmas, friends. May the Christmas season be one of true hope and joy for you and yours.

xoxo, MJ

Fresh Holiday Traditions: Pepparkakor



Voila and ta da! Today is the very last in our series of Fresh Holiday Traditions. Big thanks go to all of you for following along in the fun and also to our creative ladies who added more fun and shazaam into this Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday. Big hugs to Alexandra, Jen, and Melissa.

Alexandra baked some pepparkakor for us today!! And until today, I had never heard of pepparkakor...I love when friends allow me to learn something new. And Alexandra sandwiched eggnog ice cream between two of them which makes it all sound that much more delicious.

Based on my advanced searching on the interwebs, pepperkakor is a rolled Swedish ginger cookie. And based on my reading of Alexandra's recipe, she's simplified the process to make these much more approachable to us first-timers.

Over at our house, we have yet to make our Santa cookies. Typically we do some peanut butter blossoms and sugar cookies. What do you bake up this holiday season?

Head on over to see Alexandra's Pepparkakor. Happy baking!

xoxo, MJ


Don't miss all the other great projects in the Fresh Holiday Traditions series:

5 Minute Gratitude Journal 
Pumpkin Pancakes for Thanksgiving Morning
Gratitude Star Garland
Hand Stamped Thank You Cards

A December 1st Party
Painted Wrapping Paper
Party Hat Christmas Trees



A Holiday Baby Shower

In my first pregnancy, with our oldest daughter, I was showered with showers. Generous friends, coworkers and relatives hosted a handful of celebrations and provided everything that we could need for Sweet Baby K (as she was known to them since we had not found out the sex of the baby during ultrasounds).

Due at the end of December, I decided that late fall was the best time to cut off extensive travel. One of the last trips I took was to Pittsburgh to celebrate a shower hosted by my mom and sister. These ladies invited family, young and old, men and women, immediate and distant to come for an afternoon of laughs and congratulatory gestures.

Unbeknownst to me, my mother and sister had contacted all of the guests prior to the celebration to ask them to send wishes for Sweet Baby K. My mom then turned those wishes into ornaments and presented my husband and me with a truly heartfelt Christmas tree.

I'm sharing more about our very special holiday gift of at Unexpectant, a great blog published by my friend, Meagan, for pregnant, new, and long-time moms. I'm delighted to be over there - come check it out!

Have a lovely weekend, friends! Off to some Christmas parties and one very special date!!

xoxo, MJ

Pennies for Love: Wonder and Wander Together

It's two weeks until Christmas. Well, less than that now...and the clock is ticking! It feels that way sometimes, doesn't it? Like you have to make every last minute count in order to prepare for the parties and gift giving and travel...

Two weeks before Christmas last year for us: hustling and bustling with children activities and lots of work, with absolutely no shopping complete.


In some ways Christmas snuck up on us. I know, it's the same time every year, but we were so immersed in the daily stuff that planning for something even two weeks away seemed luxurious and frankly, impractical.

My husband and I had our social and professional calendars booked. When were we going to have time to shop for Christmas? In exhausted exasperation, we added a date for shopping after his office Christmas party. 

On the evening of the office party, we donned our holiday duds (and even smelled good!) and we whisked off together, wonderful babysitter safely watching over the den for the duration. At the cocktail reception, we mingled with couple after couple, making conversation about one another's holiday plans. "Are you ready for Christmas?" we heard over and over. 

Funny enough, whether we were caught by surprise or not, it was coming - Christmas was coming. In the din of jovial conversations, I remembered the wonder of the season. I was struck by the silly and temporal nature of my worries as I explained over and over that we were behind on our preparations. You know how sometimes hearing yourself say something makes you realize just how ridiculous you are?

That we hadn't (gasp!) shopped for Christmas.

And although I was stressed by all that I had to do, I felt a glimmer of hope that no matter what was still left in boxes or unchecked off the list, Christmas was still coming. Christ's birth would still be celebrated - and in full force at our house.

I watched my husband explain to his colleagues, in good humor, how we were going out AFTER the party to begin our Christmas shopping. He joked about our hot date at Toys R Us in the late hours of the night.

And I started to lighten up and embrace the adventure.

We left the party, laughing together. 

At 9pm, we were the best dressed shoppers at the toy store. With barely a soul around, you could hear our heels and dress shoes, as we meandered the aisles - he pushing the cart and me with my arm wrapped through his - strolling and talking about our life together, our children, and the joy of the season.

It was that moment right before you turn over the snow globe, when everything stands still just for a little while.

We slowed down the world and remembered the family we have built and the love that we share.

All the gifts were purchased. Checklists completed.

And Christmas did in fact come.

And it's heading our way again in two weeks. Take some time to wonder at the Glory of Christmas and wander with the ones that you love. You might have to take late night strolls through toy aisles to do so, but that's okay. Schedule in some tree light gazing together. Or cuddle close over cups of hot chocolate.

My husband's office Christmas party is this Saturday? Guess what we're doing after? This year it's intentional. No stressing... just looking forward to time together thinking about each other and the life we've made.




Fresh Holiday Traditions: Party Hat Christmas Trees

"Perhaps I had a wicked childhood, perhaps I had a miserable youth, but somewhere in my youth or childhood, I must have done something good."

Whether those words are sung from Carrie Underwood or from Julie Andrews, they resonate with me here today, friends. We're coming to the near close - one more week - of another great series of projects and posts from my ladies who collaborate on the Fresh Holiday Traditions series. I feel blessed to have been asked to work alongside these minds and spirits, and I feel pretty lucky that they were willing to do it one more time!!

To recap our creations thus far:

And today, we're adding Party Hat Christmas Trees - fun for the kids table at holiday meals (or the adult table), or to set around the office or house in seasonal decor.


Inspired by the clever craftings of Kelly from Studio DIY, we over here at Pars Caeli decided to convert our old party hats into Christmas trees! These cute cones make a great head toppers as well as darling Christmas decor.

Imagine setting up the kids table with party hats, some felt (precut depending on the ages), some pipe cleaners, sequins, pom poms, and see what kind of hats they can create before Christmas Eve dinner!

Here are the suspects, no-longer-used princess party hats:


Grab some felt (about two rectangles per tree), some craft glue or hot glue, chalk, and other crafty notions.

First, unfold one of your party hats to trace the size for your C-shaped ring of felt. I used chalk to trace my outline. It makes a nifty double as snow!


We selected a variety of colors for a traditional and more modern tree. I'm kind of a felt softie. I can always find a reason to get a few sheets every time I swing by the craft store.


Ring by ring, beginning on the bottom, glue the felt onto the hat! Varying colors adds some texture and life to your creation.


You can imagine these as all white with silver and/or gold accents, too! Hello holiday photo booth!


Little elves find them quite funny.

Imagine whole forests!! Or entire family photos with everyone in tree-d hats!!

Enjoy these and don't forget to share if you make 'em! Thanks gals for the fun. :)

xoxo, MJ


Is it finished yet? Please tell me some merry elves snuck into my house last night and hung that last set of lights and put away the final box of Christmas decor for us. I so enjoy decorating for the season, but, man, I am taking soooo long to get to it and through it all this year!

Nevertheless, I've managed to put up all of my favorites, and I'd thought I'd share them with you.

I loooove seeing other people's holiday decor, learning new traditions, sharing great ideas so I'm hoping that if I show you some of mine... well, you'll show me yours, too! Hence the hashtag #deckingyourhalls. Our decorations are simple and mostly homemade so this hashtag is far from showing off a glorious masterpiece display (but if you have one, share that, too!), and it's the longtime treasured objects or sweet new items that I'm hoping to highlight and reshare with all of you. So join in!! I'll be sharing photographs next Tuesday right here!

If you follow Pars Caeli on Instagram (we are friends over there, too, right? @parscaeli), you noticed that my children put up their trees this weekend, and each one reflects a different spirit and joy! My oldest daughter, M, in particular has a special story behind her Christmas tree that I'll be sharing tomorrow here and other places so stay tuned.

Here are some of the holiday delights in my home:

This simple nativity scene that my daughter, C, made at preschool when she was four. Preschool teachers, you do not get enough credit for the innovative projects you develop and complete for little hands. These terra cotta pots and bases, painted and assembled by C are a charming reminder to us of the simplicity of the season.

The Santa Pole is standing proudly in our dining room. A friend made this for us many years ago from lumber, caulking, a Santa hat, and clever painting. We turned it into our Santa Pole, and we use it every Christmas season to measure the height of each child. I love hearing them talk amongst themselves about how "little" they used to be!

Decking the halls big and small, each child adds holiday cheer to their rooms. My grandmother-in-law is a whiz with plastic canvas, and she's made us nearly 100 ornaments. We strung them into a garland for my son's firehouse decorations.

We are a house of many Nativity sets, and this year our largest is right by the front door. It fits with how we interact with the scene. I once learned from one of my fifth grade students an activity leading up to Christmas. When family members were helpful and especially kind to one another, they put a string in Jesus's manger to keep him warm and soften his rest. We began this tradition when the children were toddlers and have kept it up. Next to the Holy Family we keep a carved, heart-shaped bowl, filled with red and green string for our children to use to make a cozy manger. Sweet and simple.

More to share with you!! I hope you'll let us take a look into how you make the season bright at home. Don't forget to add #deckingyourhalls to your photos and tweets!

xoxo, MJ

Real or fake?

Hello lovelies!! Welcome back after what was a truly special Thanksgiving for us. How was yours? We hosted and ate and ate and ate. It was all good, all around.

We are in full steam ahead mode for Christmas decorating around these halls which basically means that there are bags, and boxes, and boxes of bags in every corner of the house. My hubs spent all afternoon on Sunday (where he found the energy, I will not know) getting the exterior decorating done and now it's up to me to lead the charge on interior design.


We have a tradition of building our artificial tree on Thanksgiving Eve, with my parents and aunt, and hanging our stars of gratitude first. It's now also become a tradition that I misplace the directions for said tree, and we have to guess what branches go at what height. Our artificial tree is nearly 20 years old, and my husband and I celebrated our first Christmas holiday as friends decorating it so the tree has layers of meaning and nostalgia to make up for the bare spots and weak limbs.

This year the kids wanted to see the ornaments so I gave them the job on Thanksgiving day to hang our special ornaments from vacations and performances past. I was surprised to see how attached each one is to certain favorites, and how many stories they know of objects older than them.

Last year we began a new tradition of cutting our own tree at a local nursery. This particular location is all about the experience of the event - with hot cocoa, sleigh rides, Mrs. Claus and Santa - and I eat it up.

I feel guilty cutting down a living, amazing tree, but I also know how much we'll love that tree for the next month or two. And just how much it will add to our holidays.

So on the day after Thanksgiving, with my parents and my aunt, children and husband, we trekked out to chop down our tree. We found the perfect-for-us Frasier Fir whom we proudly named Christofir. :)

He's yet to be dressed with loose tinsel and white lights, but his smell has filled our car and our home with the fresh scent of Christmas!

So what's your tradition: real or fake? Or a bit of both? I've seen some amazing ideas floating around Pinterest for trees made of tape or trees made of books. Are you creating your tree this year? 

xoxo, MJ

PS. Join me tomorrow for another great Fresh Holiday Tradition!!




























Fresh Holiday Traditions: December 1st Party

Happy Thanksgiving Eve! We don't use that term enough, do we? But tis true, turkey day is tomorrow, and I, for one, am running around trying to get suck up our dust bunnies and chop celery till the cows come home (sorry for today's late post!). In Northern Indiana today it looks like we're in the middle of a snowglobe, and we can't help but dream and think about the holidays ahead.


I have to spend two minutes giving a very warm and special thanks to the talents behind the Fresh Holiday Traditions series. We've been sharing some of our favorite ways to give thanks and live it up for Thanksgiving, and now our eyes turn toward Christmas! But right before they do, here's a fabulous list of Thanksgiving activities that you can do tonight with the kids or tomorrow with the extended fam:

Melissa of Lulu the Baker is sharing her December 1st Party tradition today. It's just adorable. And right up my alley. Imagine this: Christmas tunes, tree decorating, and gobbling gingerbread cookies. It's a tradition she's passed down from her mom to her children.
If you try any of our projects or traditions, post a picture of it twith the hashtag #freshholidaytraditions. We'd love to show it off!!
Our team here is welcoming one set of grandparents tonight and more come tomorrow. The turkey is in the fridge ready to be buttered up, and the house *almost* smells good now.
Off to finish up the final finishings. Wishing you a lovely Thanksgiving Eve! If you need a little break from all the togetherness tomorrow, check back in here for a special holiday message!
xoxo, MJ
Craft Date: Choosing for Winter

Lucky, lucky me (and you), it's time for another Craft Date with my pal, Renee!!

Renee is a woman of great taste and mad skills so I've roped her into craft dating me (I mean, what else was I to do?). Do you have a friend with whom you create? I find that it makes the whole experience of crafting that much more fun...and if you're anything like me - much more likely to finish the project, too!

What does craft dating entail? Well, we began by thinking seasonal and offering up a few suggestions from one another's Pinterest boards.

For fall we created burlap placemats to add texture and some special names/thoughts to our autumn feasts. We also decided we needed to meet up at least seasonly to keep one another crafting and creating.

But where to begin with Christmas and winter projects? My Pinterest board overfloweth.

So we're tossing it up for your thoughts. Here are our top three choices:


1. via Totally Love It

2. via Craft Gossip

3. via Suburble

We need to keep our crafting to two hours or less - it's a school night, girlfriends! Leave your vote in the comments below. Which one should we make as our winter craft?

Which one would you make?

xoxo, MJ


When do you deck the halls?

The first official lake effect snow has hit the ground. We've tossed out the pumpkins. And I'm starting to get the itch.

The Christmas bug. A switch to Christmas music, the beginnings of decorating. I want to resist and I don't.

I, like so many, dread the early onslaught of commercialized Christmas that creeps up on us before the Halloween candy is out.

I am not advocating this.

Perhaps it's my want to nest inside as the trees turn bare. I begin to simmer good scents on the stove, long for more time to cook. I spend more time at home, in my home.

So bring on Christmas!?

I enjoy the anticipation of the holiday, more than the one day of Chirstmas.

But I also adore Thanksgiving. Maybe we should develop more amazing Thanksgiving decor that I could really sink my teeth into...

Or as my daughter protested, "There are no good Thanksgiving songs." True that.

When do you begin your Christmas holidays? Post Thanksgiving? Or do you wait until closer to Christmas?

I'd love to hear your thoughts.

xoxo, MJ

A new series: Fresh Holiday Traditions

Hands down, fall is my favorite time of year. I adore the color changes, smells of leaves and pine, and preparing our home for the goodness of Thanksgiving. As we all well know, Christmas sneaks up on us so fast after turkey day that we sometimes have little time to prepare. This year, it's going to be different (I say that every year but this year it's true), and I'm bringing in some creative mamas to make it so.

Today I'm delighted to announce a new series in collaboration with some of my favorite ladies. We're teaming together (again) to bring you Fresh Holiday Traditions! Beginning tomorrow and launching every Wednesday through Christmas, we'll be sharing traditions from our homes, projects for celebrating the holidays, and always ways to get your kids involved in all the fun!

This team worked together on the Endless Summer Projects series, and these busy bloggers have been up to some good, good things since we were last together. Check out who I have the privilege to create alongside:




Melissa from Lulu the Baker is a class act with a kitchen full of amazing recipes, charming crafts, and undeniably great photography. She's also a Style Spotter for Better Homes and Gardens. You can follow her journey to build her dream house! You'll find her here every Wednesday talking holidays with us. Melissa is kicking off the series tomorrow with something extra special for Thanksgiving.





 Alexandra Hedin is joining the crew to bring fun to every party! You'll find her not only at her blog this holiday season but also over on Martha's, BHG, Sweet Paul, and Good Housekeeping. And now you can catch Alexandra here every Wednesday to help you turn your holidays into something extraordinary.




Jen over at Classic Play is the epitome of cool mom plus! She has her own series on PBS called Adventures in Learning that showcases unique ways to teach and hang out with your kids. Her images and illustrations will delight you over these next weeks and help you, too, add a little extra cool to the holidays.







And, for me, I'm whipping up a few of my favorite ideas for the holidays. I promise you, you'll find something new and intriguing to bring to your family celebrations.

Let's help each other and make this an extra special and extra low stress fresh holiday!

Until tomorrow. xoxo, MJ

PS. If you have some fresh holiday traditions or inspirations you want to share, tag them with #freshholidays and I'll post them up for all of us! Many, many thanks!

Make it: Here and there

Look at the focus on that foursome! Hi everybody. Sorry to leave you hanging on Friday. I'm not usually one to not show up without saying something.

Have you been a little bit oh-so busy, too?

Over the next span of time, I'm taking a few cues from my favorite people around the interwebs like Paige and Janae and Allison.

Blogging has been a hoot. It's been an incredible creative challenge, and it's brought new, wonderful people into my life. It's picked me up through a particularly tough period of time, and it's brought out goodness in me that I kinda forgot was so strong.

I also treasure Advent and the Christmas season. I've created oodles of big and small traditions with my hubby and kiddos that I can't wait to share with you. I also really want to dive full-bodied into those festivities and be fully present to them.

So, I'm stepping back a bit from this electronic Pars Caeli home so that I can soak up the real one. For the next few weeks, I'll still be popping up maybe even every day, we'll see how it goes.

Thanks to all of you who have left lovely comments in the last few weeks.. and that I have uncharacteristically not yet responded to.

Wishing you and yours a little time to step away and soak in the presents all around during this time of year.

xoxo, MJ

The tradition of St. Nicholas

It's that time in our house. Do you follow the tradition of St. Nicholas? As it goes in our house, we put out our shoes on the evening of December 5 and await the goodies that St. Nicholas leaves for us when he visits. His treats are almost always Christmas books and some chocolate golden coins.

This photo is from last year's celebration, during which time our house was undergoing a bit of a renovation, hence the lovely floor covering. We let L put out two pairs of his tiny shoes since they are so small.

My oldest believes that St. Nick and Santa are one and the same so she always leaves out her list for St. Nicholas to get a head start.

Will you be leaving out your shoes tonight?