Posts tagged birthday
Ali's Birthday Extravaganza: the place cards

We partnered with Tiny Prints to bring you these projects. We were compensated for this post, but all ideas and opinions are our own.

**Ths post is meant to reflect a celebration of life. We honor and remember all those who lost their lives in 9/11. We will never forget.


Kids aren't the only ones who deserve incredible birthday parties. All this week, my Endless Summer Project gals - Alexandra HedinAmy of This Heart of MineJennifer of Classic Play, and Melissa of Lulu the Baker, and I have been throwing a glam-tastic party for Ali! She is the weeknight party girl so we had to go big. I mean, this girl is a big deal. Check out her TV spot, highlighting some of the details from the party.

We were inspired by a pink and gold party invitation from Tiny Prints to set the stage for a night of great music, delicious appetizers, cool decor, a cocktail to write home about, and, yes, you need to tune in tomorrow for the amazing cake.

I wanted to create some unique placecards to celebrate Ali. Building off her cherry skewers, these name kabobs make fantastic bling for just about any party.


These place cards are super easy to make, and you can pull them together while the crostini is in the oven and the cake is cooling.


When the party involves a sequined tablecloth, you have to go over the top. So, for the creating, you'll need:

  • Skewers (like the wooden ones you use for grilling)
  • Wooden beads of various sizes
  • Gold leaf paint 
  • Hot glue gun
  • Gold scrapbook paper or small letters

Taking wooden beads from uncoated to gold leafed is more than kind of amazing. Instant sparkle. First paint your beads. I painted mine on the skewers so that I could easily cover all sides.

Next, the letters. I cut mine using a die cutting machine, but store bought letters work just as well! Cut out a thin strip of the paper, fold it in half lengthwise. This is the paper on which the letters will be mounted.

Glue it on to the center of the skewer. Then glue the very bottom of the letters to that piece. The scrapbook paper is heavy enough to allow the letters to stand on their own.


Add beads to either side, on the skewer. With end beads, squirt a small dab of hot glue into the center, to keep the row of beads secure.

These name skewers look great on top of chargers or cocktails! Or as an introduction to dessert like Ali has them. Also, I might make one for my desk at work. Just because.


And Amy is bringing the cake. It's pretty spectacular - champagne cake!


Happy birthday, dear Ali. Happy birthday to you!

xoxo, MJ

A day of satisfaction

Satisfaction is a funny thing (keeping it clean here, friends).

I am rarely content. There's always something I want to do, or something I don't want to do, or something I wished I hadn't done. I'm a pretty passionate, driven kind of person.

I am rarely satisfied.

Except for one day of the year. And that is my birthday. Today is my birthday.

And today I allow all the memories of joy flood my interior space. It's a day of virtual scrapbook flipping, remembering all of the people and events that have brought me to this day. And likely, if you're reading this, you're involved in one of those memories.

Even if we haven't had the pleasure of face-to-face meeting or even engaging in witty banter on social media, I'm thinking about you today and grateful that you take the time to click over to this space to see what's going on. Your clicks, your reading, and your encouragement have given me the trust that this space can flourish into something I really want it to be - a piece of heaven and a piece of me.

Indulge me here, it is my birthday, on sharing two snippets of wonder wisdom from my deep old age of 39:


A very hard lesson for me to learn, but I have re-learned it again and again in my decades is to be grateful. A great saint once said, "Problems, too, have their purpose. Be grateful for them." Sometimes, most times, I hate conflict. I no longer shy away from it, but I still detest it. And what I'm oh so, so, so slowly learning is that I learn in conflict. I grow in a challenge. Even when I screw up big, life goes on. Might as well be grateful.

And so I am.


I live in a world and in a time when anything can happen. When seen from a negative angle, this is terrifying, but when seen from a level perspective, this is pretty exhilarating. I laugh when I think back to my little girl dreams of being a ballerina (I took one ballet class when I was 6) and being an artist. My dreams are so much bigger now, even more fantastical perhaps, but many of them are coming true. Take for example this space. Pars Caeli has given me friendships with very talented and encouraging people and given me professional opportunities that I didn't even imagine.

I have moments - maybe you do, too - where I'm physically struck by how good my life is.

I had one last week, walking in from the garage, with the smell of fresh herbs in my hands. I was struck and fell back just slightly. No one around me likely noticed.

We'd just returned from the nursery, where we went as a family, to purchase our future garden. My children come alive around plants and flowers, and they were sniffing their way around the place, running down the aisles of color, and making up songs to celebrate the joys of summer on its way. I watched my husband carefully peruse each vegetable, considering which could handle our lack of open sunshine in the backyard now that the trees we've planted are so tall and lovely.

I realized that I am living the dream that I had not fully formulated as a little girl. And I am so grateful.

Lovely people have asked me what sort of special something I'm doing for my birthday. I'm headed into work, taking a break to go to the orthodontist with C, and then heading into three hours of dress rehearsal for my daughters' ballet performance.

And, you know what? I'm just delighted. Because this is my "normal," and this is my dream.

And I am completely satisfied.

xoxo, MJ

Host a You Paint Party

Birthday parties!! They have become bigger and pricier since my sweet days of paper crowns and kids meals at Burger King. My daughter, M, and I were dreaming up what would fit her personality and passion for a 9-year old sleepover party with friends. Locally we've had all sorts of group painting stores and party places open up. These are fabulous for unique get togethers, and they are also a little more than we could afford so we decided -- Let's do our own You Paint Party.


It began with the 2 inch canvases that M painted for invitations. She embraced the abstract and each one became its own masterpiece. We glued event details to the back and mailed them out.


M also loves donuts so we decided that the girls would paint canvases of sprinkled donuts on them. We kept our eyes open for great sales on canvases, and we were able to grab a bundle from Michael's for a steal. We chose 12" squares to accommodate our studio space (also known as our kitchen) as well as ease in transporting after the party.

To convert our home into a studio, we prepped the kitchen. Covering the table with freezer paper and removing the chairs was the first step. Creating make-shift easels from canvases propped on coffee mugs worked out perfectly!


Each painter received a thin and thick brush as well as a mini palette of paints. We created our palettes from cardboard sheets, and each artists had her own array to choose from.


To make our guests of every skill and comfort level feel ready to dive into the project, we decided to offer some easy guidelines. Paper plates made a handy outline for the outer edge, and the bottom of paper cups become our stencil for the donut hole.


We began with the background color(s) first to set the stage, and already personality came through!


We then moved onto glaze followed by the cake of the donut. The best part was all the giggling and compliments they lavished on one another. Such a supportive group of painters!


The form of a donut is such a beautifully simple one that painters from all backgrounds can own their own sense of style to it! I was amazed at how many variations we had on the same theme, and I loved that no one felt frustrated in trying to make their painting look too realistic. There's something fantastical about donuts, no?

xoxo, MJ

A letter to M on her 9th birthday

My oldest turns nine today, and I'm kinda emo. I'm dedicating today's post to her. She's an avid supporter of Pars Caeli so I hope she likes it! Forgive the gush.

Dear M,

Happy birthday to you, sweets, and congratulations on nine amazing years of life!

I write this to you from the cozy couches in the art room, looking over at our Christmas tree that every year transforms into your birthday tree. We used to decorate your birthday tree with princess lights and pink and purple gingham ribbon, and now the handmade paper snowflakes and sparkling tinsel feel more like your beautiful girl self. I love looking through all the photos of you that we add to the tree, even the one from the first "trip" you and I took in the wheelchair out of the hospital.

One day you might experience that feeling I had when I carried you to our new home together - just a few pounds old, all wrapped up tight in your yellow blanket - wondering how I could have been chosen to receive such beauty. Moments like that are sheer gifts of grace. I did nothing to deserve, but God richly blessed.

And I've been so blessed every moment since that day, with the keen, imaginative, and kind gift of your love. You are rare find, sweet girl; the combination of compassion with curiosity, sincerity with humor, and talent with generosity.

I see new sparks of you growing each day as you learn the world and take only what feels right to you. You are strong, more than you know, and you have such a mind - that challenges and pushes, and imagines and creates. You gobble up new knowledge and reinvent for all of us to enjoy.

But it is your heart that's won me over, the exuberance in your eyes, the softness of your smile.

Stay tender as the lessons get harder and you want to get angry with yourself. You are perfectly made, I saw it from the first time I met you.

Enjoy nine - you're going to add more to this year than I could ever imagine!!

I'm so blessed to be your mom.

I love you. Always, Mom


xoxo, MJ


$15 and under presents for your little lady

We've all had the experience of walking down the aisles of Target, intent to find those four things on the list, and somehow realizing that we do really "need" that one dollar pop-of-pink frame or the cute patterned box (I have thought of a hundred and one uses for those...but I think all of mine are collecting dust in the basement). That place is just dangerous.

In prepping for C's birthday, I spent some quality time with the shelves of Target, and it did not disappoint.

I'm always looking for cute gifties for my two little ladies, and trying to keep my eyes open for great presents that we can bring to friend birthday parties that won't thin my pocketbook. Here are three gems that got the thumbs up from my 5-year old.

C is a total natural at Jenga, too. On her first round, she blew me away with her steady hand. That neon and pink zip wallet is a hit and now proudly holds her brand new (pretend) princess phone. And the candy striped slap watch - delish.

Do you have any tried-and-true birthday or just-because presents that you keep on hand? I always try to have a few great picture books and some games ready to go for whenever a happy moment strikes.

Have a bright weekend, friends! We plan to make some birthday party invitations for C's big blast with her girlfriends, read some Hunger Games, and start planting away. Oh, and if I had to guess, the kid's sprinkler is likely to get aimed my way.


Doing & Wearing: Family Birthday Party

Here's me, one year older. I had a delightful birthday. It was a full day of work and play. My kiddos showered me with birthday hugs, wishes, and construction paper (pop up!) cards. My hubby made me feel honored all day long with hourly messages and sweet surprises.

He's a great shopper, completely in tune with my style, and this year he picked out this breezy, romantic dress. And in true-to-me fashion, I had to put it on right away (here I am, crouched down next to my littles enjoying my new frock).

I've been thinking about all the cute ways I'll wear it to work, to the beach, and even to Church this summer. Here's my fictional styling board of just what else I'd like to accompany my ikat number.

Jacket via Target, Simple drops via Loft, My dress also from Loft, Wedges from Mia, Bracelet from Marc Jacobs, and topping it off with a braid-end bun found from here.

I indulged in some of my favorites bites for our family dinner out: calamari with lemon, butternut squash ravioli, and four-layer chocolate cake. So, so yummy. My kiddos held tight to the reminder, "Let's all be good to each other, it is Mommy's birthday," and we relaxed and soaked in the celebration.

My favorite part of the day had to be these little notes I found all over my house and stuff. My dear hubby made sure to put these 30-some messages in all my usual stopping points (the bathroom mirror, my nightstand, the mantle). The top shelf of the fridge made me laugh. :) A simple gesture that made me feel surrounding and reminded of the great love we share.

Thanks for stopping over! Do you have any great fashion finds for a casual family dinner out? I'd love to see your ideas!

And if you're in the mood for a 2-minute break with some fun attached, head over to Molly's site, where she and her readers are helping me decide what statement my new umbrella should make! Voting is open.


How do you spend your birthday?

On my 25th birthday, I was really struck by the mark of my life hitting a quarter of a century. That significance sat in my soul for the breadth of the day, and a certain reverence for life swept over me. At that time I was living on my own, dating my wonderful now-hubby, and settled into my professional life. I spent the entirety of the day by myself, immersed in writing. I sat on my apartment 3' x 4' deck with a glass of wine and a stack of cards and hand wrote messages to the many important people in my life, thanking them for their friendship and their significance in my life. It was a different kind of birthday, but it felt just right.

My 30th birthday fell on Mother's Day. It was my very first Mother's Day as a mom. I was overwhelmed with the wonder of motherhood, and I was blessed to soak it all in with my momma and 6-month old, M. Becoming a mother put a whole new spin on birth-day, and I was so grateful to my mother for the labor and the process she experienced in bringing me into the world.

In our world of digital communications and electronic reminders, we're able to contact people on their special days in quick, simple ways. On another birthday, I decided to write a post on every one of my Facebook friend's walls, thanking them for their contributions to my life well-lived. Gratefully, my connections numbered only 200-something, and I had something of meaning to share with each person, so the effort seemed natural and worthwhile.

I'm a person inclined to sentimentality and marking the sacred moments in life, and around this time of year, I spend significant time replaying the hard days and the cushioned steps that have brought me where I am today. 

And I am grateful. I am grateful...

because birthdays are like Thanksgiving, minus the cranberry sauce.

Image of Today Is The Greatest Print 
this from here.

So, what's planned for today? Well, M tells me that there's a surprise in store. I think this will involve a blindfold and a trip to my favorite restaurant, but I can't yet be completely sure. I love how the little ones get so excited about these journeys.

Me, at 3.

For my part, I'll be spending some time in a Sacred space, thanking my Creator for the fullness and depth this year has brought to me, in the darkness and through the light. And I'll be offering my simple words of praise and thanksgiving.

Thanks for stopping over and sharing in my little piece of Heaven. It's been wonderful to share this birthday with you.


PS. The top image will be a part of a Tea/Coffee Party hosted on Friday over at Laid Off Mom. I'm sharing my story on these happy mugs.