Posts tagged travel
Printable Map Memories: Endless Summer Projects

This post is sponsored by Bing.

Our summer is almost coming to an end, and we are reliving happy memories! This printable map from Lulu the Baker is the perfect way to capture our epic beach trip and plan for future adventures.

We have dreams of going out West next summer, but my husband and I wonder if the kids are old enough yet to appreciate the sights and experiences. As a child, I often traveled in my uncle's RV with my parents and siblings. I loved being about to sleep, eat, play cards, and see the sights all from our vehicle. I'm fancying doing the same for my kids. Have you made a long road trip with your children?

Melissa's map today would be awesome for a little back-to-school learning, too. A review of the state names and/or capitals? A sharing of where various members of the family were born? And I love her idea of embroidering a special journey on here and framing it.

There's one more week in the incredible Endless Summer Projects series. Be sure to tune in next Wednesday and catch up on all the projects here:

xoxo, MJ


4 must-try ways to enjoy art museums with kids

What are you planning to do this summer with the kids? Water parks or amusement parks? Day trips to historic monuments? Camping? How about hitting the local art museums!! They can be a whole lot of fun, too. Kids and art are a fabulous pair.

And art transforms us, while helping us remember who we are. It defines us as human beings and sometimes even elevates our handiwork to show a sliver of heaven and Divine creation.

But even with all that beauty and awesomeness in an art museum space, a family excursion to a quiet, clean, monitored space can sometimes be a total disaster or at best a giant headache. Today I'm sharing our ideas on how to make these journeys peaceful, enjoyable, and can I even throw in... inspirational? Well, let's start at peaceful.


I know it's an obvious, but it deserves its very own point. Do not take children to a museum and expect them to have energy to walk and interest to look unless they are hydrated, fed, and relatively rested (that goes for the adults, too). Hitting the sculpture garden with a cranky, crying, tired child will leave you beating your head against the wall.

Enter the excursion with a sense of energy and enthusiasm and time it well. Early morning and mid afternoon can be a wonderful time to explore art. Side note: make sure you hit the restrooms before hiking up the stairs to the Renaissance wing.


If you're going to a museum you've never been, take the time to learn the highlights and find your own must-sees. Your children will feel your enthusiasm and want to discover right along with you if you set the tone in the right way. It will also encourage your children to find their own favorites and show them off to you! Let them know you're interested in the art they love.


Never would I have thought this was a good idea until I read this post from Gabrielle. So, we tried it. We went right in to the store (much to my children's delight), and it was a great way to see quickly the most

famous works in the museum. We had each child pick postcards of their two favorite pieces. With art museum map in hand, we made our way around to each of their picks and enjoyed what we saw along the way to these galleries. We then took each child's picture with their favorites, and these works became something personal and a special memory from the visit.


Many of the larger art museums ask that you check your bags. Smaller art museums are more flexible. When we can, we have the kids bring along their sketchbooks and colored pencils (easy to transport, harder to do damage). Whether it's on a bench or right on the floor, sitting and sketching can take the experience to another level for kids. Let them decide the art work that they want to draw and give them as much time as you're able to complete their finished piece.

Do you have any great ways to enjoy art museums with children to add to the list?

Let's get out there and explore these beatiful places... and bring our kids, too!

xoxo, MJ


Design + Life + Kids and Kim: 12 Bloggers Christmas

Happy Sunday, dears! It's delightful to be here with you on a Sunday...maybe a first! I had to pull myself away from our family gatherings to bring you this goodness. We are a quarter of the way along this festive journey on the fourth day of Christmas in the 12 Blogger Christmas.

Today we celebrate Kim of Design + Life + Kids!
Honestly, I needed to feel a little independent from being a stay-at-home mother. I love being home with my daughters and getting to experience every moment with them, but I wanted a creative outlet that was just for me. Does that sound selfish? 
Keeps me blogging?
Ironically... my kids. While not everything I write involves them, many posts do. I probably would never have started DLK if it wasn't for them! I love putting together a great collage, reading about a wonderful design and sharing our experience in the kitchen. There's a great sense of accomplishment when a post goes live.
DESIGN + LIFE + KIDS (DLK) is about looking around and really appreciating what surrounds us. Whether it's a package design, a blanket's detail or an elaborate skyscraper, someone designed it and that's awesome. They're like little dreams that have come to life and we're surrounded by them everywhere.
I'm on most social media as @designlifekids and my favorite spot to share is Instagram!
I've also opened up a new shop on Etsy. Come on over to DLKmarket.
Summer road trip to Nova Scotia. It was a memorable experience in an amazing home: 
Our DIY kitchen renovation... this one is special to me since it is our first major project that I love and get to use everyday:
My husband's favorite mac and cheese recipe... His mother used to make for him and now we share the recipe with our kids. It's so good!
Growth. I did a lot of growing this year within myself and DLK and hope I can encourage that even more this year. I will be contributing on a two great blogs soon and I'm super excited about it! I hope to work with others for contributor posts on DLK as well. I'd love to share new opinions and topics on DLK! 

Kim has a great eye for all things design and delightful! Following along with her DIY kitchen makeover has been crazy good, and I love the clean lines and modern feel she and her husband have created in their new space!! And if you don't know Maya and Senna, her daughters, you are missing out on some adorableness!!

Check in to see her latest travel, her collages on great design, her recipes!! And hop on over to the new Etsy shop, too!! Kim and I collaborated on the idea of the hypertufa pots, and hers turned out so edgy and fabulous.


On the fourth day of Christmas, Pars Caeli gave to me Design + Life + Kids.

On the third day of Christmas, Pars Caeli gave to me Design Stitch Go.

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

And Lulu the Baker !

Happy Sunday, friends! Let's have a great week - I have more presents starting tomorrow with one of the most charming, talented, and real bloggers. You're guaranteed to learn something stunning every time you visit.

Pennies for Love: While I'm gone

They'd always begin the same way:

Good morning Beautiful, A big hug and kiss to start your day.

Every morning for three years as we lived 90 miles away from one another and he was studying in law school, my boyfriend/fiance would send me an email before he went to sleep so that when I opened my computer at work the following morning, I had something special greeting me.

It was like opening a present every. single. morning. He'd incorporate inside jokes, funny memories, future dreams and wishes, inspirations.

I have two large binders that are filled with these love notes.

It's a rare relationship that allows two individuals to spend every moment together (would we even desire it to be so?), and sometimes those penniless gestures made while we apart from one another are the sweetest.

I've been away from my home, my husband, my kiddos more this year than ever. It's been a little sad as well as enriching for all of us, and inspired a bit of nostalgia as well.

While away, I was able to send silly texts and make late night phone calls with my husband, just like old times. Comfortable and familiar, and yet not.

For my kids, I prepared all of their lunch box notes and snack bags so that they could feel like a bit of me was with them in the middle of their days. If you follow the hashtag #lunchboxnotes, you've seen these already (or follow @parscaeli on Instagram).

My 8-year old sent me texts from her Ipod while I was away, and I received many sweet emoticon-filled messages. She is becoming more and more interested in photography so she began sending me pictures of beautiful leaves she saw or silly faces her siblings made.

This evolved into creating memes for me to enjoy. This one made me stop in my tracks. A gesture of love and appreciation while I was gone (and the best use of any selfie that I've seen).

How can you spread love while you are gone, even that be for just the workday or evening? It costs only pennies... or even less.

xoxo, MJ

Living vicariously: Italy

Happy Monday, friends! How was your weekend?? Mine has been filled with work, and this week is looking like more of the same. No stress here, though, I've got rockstars filling in and taking us on a little vacation from the norm.

Kicking off an awesome week is my pal, Tara!! She's sharing all the loveliness that is ITALY here with us. She is soaking up "la bella vita" with her three adorables (look that scarf-donning cutie!) and super hubs...and doing it all with amazing style. Watch this...Here's Tara.

Photo by: Erika Saari Williams, Oscar Elnes Photography

A little over three years ago, my husband and I had the lucky opportunity move to Italy. We’ve had the time of our lives here, but we return to the US in one short month. We’ll bring many new things home with us, the most special of which is our family. Just the two of us made the flight over, but five of us will fly home; our fun twin sons are nearly three years old and our sweet daughter is eight months. We’ll also bring lots of other things—Italian home furnishings, new recipes, and many, many bottles of wine. The best things we’ll bring with us, though, are intangibles. We’ve truly been inspired by the way our Italian neighbors live, and I’d like to share three lessons that they’ve taught me in the hopes that—even without living here—they may inspire you, too.

Lesson One: People and relationships are the center of life. 

Family and friends take precedence over other obligations in my corner of Italy. I’ve observed this primary value play out in so many different ways during our time here; at the mom and pop store a couple of doors down from us (and in most of the other stores), they close the store for a day if there’s a family event going on without worrying about losing business. All around town, shopkeepers know their customers because they talk to us (more than small talk, too). And the people waiting in line while we chat? They don’t huff, they don’t puff, they don’t shift from foot to foot, impatient to pay and anxious to get out. They just wait, and sometimes they join in the conversation. When I’m walking down the street, I’m constantly stopped by people who want to coo over my children and ask me all about them. My three kids under the age of three aren’t a “handful.” They’re a blessing. We all walk away smiling. It’s a way of life here…people connect. Families and friends share meals together, lingering over the food and wine and water, and they talk. Again, even strangers who are dining in a restaurant with us will smile and share small pieces of conversation. It’s absolutely lovely.

In today’s world, there’s so much to do, and we all have various responsibilities. But we have really benefited from the pace of life here, which I think comes from the value that Italians place on people. I know that we won’t be able to replicate the exact same atmosphere everywhere we live, but I do know that we will try to remember the good that comes from putting people—not money, not things, not other obligations—first. I’ll take with me a readiness to say no to superfluous responsibilities that don’t help me honor my family, my friends, and even the strangers I meet along the way in life.

Lesson two: Look good, feel good.

We moved here when I was very pregnant with twins. I was big. My feet were swollen. What did I see when I walked out onto the street? Women (and men!) who were put together, top to bottom. No one was wearing flip flops. No one was wearing yoga pants. I was intimidated. Really, NO ONE was wearing yoga pants or flip flops. Ever. And I noticed quickly that if I did wear them, people gave me a sideways glance.
Photo by: Erika Saari Williams, Oscar Elnes Photography

The Italians who walk around my city center just seem to have this innate sense of style, and they are lovely to behold. And here I was hugely pregnant, and then a new mom of twins. You could say that initially I felt a bit resentful that in order to go out and about I had to get dressed, do my hair, and put on make-up or risk having people give me the sideways glance. But I quickly realized that the days I did get myself together, I felt much better about myself. And so I did it more often—almost every day. When I spent 15-20 minutes putting myself together physically, I felt more together mentally and emotionally. I found the time to make myself look nice during the most harried and sleep-deprived time of my life, the time when I was most susceptible to not showering and wearing stretchy pants every single day. Now I’m so thankful to the folks who would have given me a sideways glance, because it taught me that taking some time for myself could completely shape the rest of my day (and my week, month, life!). Fake it ‘til you make it, perhaps?

When I get dressed, I feel like I have it together. When I feel like I have it together, I’m more likely to do the things that actually put my life on a positive trajectory. I’m more likely to actually get my life together! It’s crazy, but if I have a cute outfit on, my hair looks presentable, and lipstick has touched my lips on that day, I’ll want to feel even better, so I’ll exercise the next morning. I’ll prioritize eating well, and I’ll keep exercising. Then I’ll have more patience with my children, I’ll get more done if I have any ongoing projects for work, and so on. Of course, not every day goes by smoothly just because I’m wearing make-up, but I’m far more likely to get into a funky mood when I’m wearing yoga pants and dirty hair. The funky mood benefits no one—not me, not my kids, not my husband. When I look good, chances are I’ll feel good, and so too will the people around me.

Lesson Three: Simplicity is best, especially when it comes to food.

My Italian neighbors embrace simplicity in life, to great effect. Their clothes are simple (if exquisitely made) but beautiful. Their vacations are simple—spend time in nature, whether it’s in the mountains or at the sea, eat well, and relax. Coffee is simple—small, strong, sometimes with milk. No decaf-soy-nonfat frappuccinos for them. Their food is simple but oh-so-delicious. Simplicity is where joy is found.

I love all of these mini-lessons, but I can say with certainty that my life and my family’s life have been changed forever by the Italian culture of food. Even before we moved here, I tried to eat well and make food from scratch using whole foods, but life here has added much to my knowledge base of how to shop for, prepare, and eat really delicious, simple food.

In my weekly visits to our fresh market (almost every Italian town has one—once or twice a week, sometimes more, merchants set up tents to sell fresh fruit and veggies, cheeses, and fish, and often lots of other things), I became friends with the owner whose fruit and veggie stand I frequented. I would go to the market with an idea of what I wanted, and she would tell me if a certain fruit or veg was good or not that week, and often she’d suggest another fruit or vegetable (usually vegetable ) that I ought to try. And then she’d tell me how to cook it and what to serve with it. As I go through the list of new produce I’ve tried in my head, I feel pretty confident saying that 90% of the new veggies.

I’ve tried have been cooked (using a couple of different methods, for differing periods of time) with olive oil, salt, and pepper. And they’ve all been delicious. From the fishmonger? I’ve bought a whole octopus, boiled it in water with celery and carrots, then made a salad out of it with potatoes, olive oil, and salt. Unexpectedly delectable. I’ve learned to make a pasticcio (what we think of as lasagna, although there are about 50 different variations up here and honestly don’t resemble American lasagnas) from fresh noodles, a cream sauce (quickly made from butter, flour, and milk), and a sautéed vegetable like spinach, mushrooms, or radicchio. Mouthwatering.

The two great commonalities of these examples? 1) They are simple—seriously. These meals don’t take a ton of time to prepare, and they’re usually right around five ingredients (plus salt and pepper). Further, they don’t require advanced cooking skills. The more often I began to cook this way, the faster and easier it becomes. Win! 2) The ingredients are in season. I know cooking in season is becoming much more popular in the US (thank goodness!), but I’ve really learned to eat seasonally here because it’s all that is available. Markets certainly don’t carry foods that aren’t right in season (I can’t even get strawberries right now—they’re only available mid-late spring, then they’re gone!), and most supermarkets don’t either. Some out-of-season foods are available frozen or canned, of course, but it’s typically not the way Italians eat, and for good reason. Foods in season taste best! My meal repertoire and our palates have grown significantly because we focus on eating what’s available.

And speaking of in season…I’ve learned how to leverage what is in season to make cooking simple food delicious (and still varied) year round. Tomatoes aren’t in season all year round, even in Italy. But in August, five kilos (that’s over 11 pounds!) of San Marzanos (to me, one of the most delicious types of tomato) costs five Euro ($7-8). The bounty is just amazing, and it inspired me to start learning how to put away foods. When you have really delicious summer produce that you’ve canned yourself (and you know what’s in it—or not—from no salt to a piece of basil to no BPA in your canning materials), it makes it far easier to make an incredibly simple, flavorful dish in the winter, even when you’re tired of squash and potatoes.

Ahhh….Italian food. I’m going to miss it. But I’ve learned that by eating in season (and by canning some foods that are so abundant and delicious in season so I can also use them out of season), it’s really quite easy to cook nourishing, wholesome foods for my family. Using simple recipes that feature few high-quality ingredients, Italians find beauty in their food. They’ve inspired me to do
the same, wherever we live.

I’m looking forward to living these lessons as we move back the USA and in the coming years, and I’ve been lucky to learn them in bella Italia. But I’m sure many of you already knew what became clear to me here. Tell me—what are your tips for making these lessons a reality in your daily lives?

What do you think, friends? Is this not the fabulous life?? XO, MJ (and Tara)