Posts in Holidays
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
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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.

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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

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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.

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

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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.

Paperclip Shamrocks

I'm more than a little bit Irish, and I'm ready to celebrate with lots of green and good cheer when St. Patrick's Day hits us in a few days. The kids and I decided that we needed to add a few lucky touches to our home in honor of the special day.

And guess what inspired me? Excess. What do we have a ton of? Yes, you guessed it paper clips! Let's use these to make our wire sculptures. Grab your pile of paper clips, a green permanent marker (Sharpies are awesome for this), and some lightweight wire.

Spread the inner loop of the paperclip out to one side. Your clip will now resemble a spread V or a checkmark.

Spread the two ends until they meet each other in a petal-like formation. Continue this process with the two other clips.

Grab light wire and wind it back and forth at the connecting point in the center of your shamrock. Use the excess wire to function as your shamrock stem.

Color the clip with your marker, painting both sides and the wire as much as possible.

Wind the stem wire around a pencil for a St. Patrick's Day topper. Tie the shamrock around a green ribbon and put it atop a special package. Stick in your lapel for a festive touch to your outfit! We planted ours with the lucky jade plant to wish our guests the luck of the Irish!

Happy St. Patty's, friends!

xoxo, MJ

The best kind of heart attack

Happy Valentine's Day, lovelies!! Have I told you lately that I love you? Today is the day to do it. And I do! Thank you for all your love, commenting, faithful reading, and support. How are you spending your day and/or weekend to celebrate? We have small plans to go out to a movie together and enjoy a heart-shaped pizza, but I'm mostly looking forward to the warmth of the fire and snuggles on the couch as we tune into the Olympics.

Valentine's day with all the color and emotion is one of my faves! I can't help it; what can I say? I always wanted to work for Hallmark as a child.

The great people of Cricut sent me (and many other talented folks) a gift of crafting goodies including stacks of hearts in all shapes, sizes, and colors and encouraged us to give someone we love - a heart attack. This is only the best kind, of course... so I decided my daughters needed some extra lovin' in their lunchboxes. AND, I can't resist an opportunity to make a pop up heart.

Grab your crafting wire, spin it around your finger to create a coil, and washi tape it to the lunchbox. Ta da - a surprise I love you pops out as you open your lunch!

These hearts came pre-cut and ready to string for the perfect drawbridge banner!

And who says your mesh pouch can't double as a banner hanger to send some extra hugs and kisses?

That intricate cut Valentine? All thanks to the fabulous Cricut Explore. Thanks for making me look like a rockstar mom!!

Why not go over the top a little today? Or reach out to everyone you love? Let's LOVE BIG.

Happy Valentine's Day!

xoxo, MJ

 

Valentine (no sew) t-shirt bag
Every now and again, I add features or links to posts from companies that sponsor the blog. When I do this, I'll let you know right at the top of the post. Sponsor companies are ones that I select and shop myself. Products are theirs, but opinions are mine. Today's valentines were selected by me and provided by Minted.
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Happy (almost) Valentine's Day, friends! We are in full-on Valentine prep around here with classroom parties galore. The great folks at Minted offered us classroom valentines of our choice (and, oh, the choices!), and I'm pretty sure these are the nicest valentines we've ever sent. They came personalized with my daughter's names, too, so we've had fun adding special touches to the envelopes (hello ring pops) since the hard work was already done!

Since our cards are stepping it up this year, we decided to take our valentine container up to the next level, too. Did you decorate shoe boxes to collect your valentines as a kid? Or make a heart complete with doilies and ribbon to hold your cards? I did, and I loved the creation of the container almost as much as the cutesy notes themselves.

Well, times have not changed, but instead of gluing my box or envelope, my kids and I crafted some sassy t-shirt bags to tote our love notes. These bags are super easy, upcycled, and take less time than construction paper and glue (no...really). I have a sewing machine that loves dark corners of my basement, and I wasn't ready to change its mind for this project so I found this idea and made it valentine.

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(And also, I love that my daughters were most excited to send their teachers cards!)

STEP ONE:

Dig to the bottom of the drawer, or for us the bag of giveaway clothes. We found a pink and a red t-shirt that were too small to wear but in awesome shape, ready to be remade. *Just a note, if you're making a bag suitable for kids, use a kids t-shirt so that the bag won't be too large for their size.

STEP TWO:

We wanted a blank canvas so we turned the shirt inside out. Trim off the tag as well as the sleeves (with a little extra for the handles). Next trim a rounded or squared shape from the neckline to create the handles of your bag.

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STEP THREE:

We made our bag with three holes in the bottom and therefore we cut three slits at the bottom of the shirt, about equi-distant from one another.

STEP FOUR:

With the sleeves that you trimmed, cut 1/2 inch strips the entire length of the sleeve width. Pull on the strip to make it curl on the edges (neat-o trick).

STEP FIVE:

Grab one of the strips, pin it with a safety pin on the end and feed it through the seam allowance at the bottom of the shirt. Thread it through two sections of the shirt, pull the cord, and tie a knot. Continue to do this with the two other strips and the remaining seam sections. Tie all ends into one large knot at the bottom of the bag.

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STEP SIX:

Grab your freezer paper and cut a heart stencil. Apply paint evenly with the brush or sponge of your choice. We chose a metallic paint to add some shimmer to the bag and stamped simple hearts on the front and back.

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That's all there is to it! Our first shirt took us 20 minutes with painting included, and we whipped up the second in under 10.

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My 9-yo could craft these on her own, and they'd make great party favor bags for a sleepover or to go bags from a crafternoon.

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Maybe gift wrap for a galentine's day present?Or make one for yourself to show that you love Love Day!

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Happy Valentine's, dear readers. You all are the sweetest!

xoxo, MJ

Pennies for Love: The Final

Joy and I have had a blast thinking up and sharing some of the ways we share love with the ones we love the most! Pennies for Love's final post is up, and Joy has a simple way to make 2014 full of romance!

"One of my favorite things about the new year is looking forward to all the little annual rituals that we get to enjoy again. A lot of those things involve travel, but as I began to plan, I thought that it would be nice to also include smaller activities that we’d like to do together.

The fact of the matter is that we’re always busy and sometimes we waste away entire weekends, when we could be having more fun if we’d had a little forethought!"

Huge thanks to Joy for her brainchild of Pennies for Love. Joy and I will be bringing in a friend for a new February series! Stay tuned!

Check out all the other Pennies for Love posts!

xoxo, MJ

 

Donuts, Dresses, & Dirt and Sheri: 12 Blogger Christmas

Happy Monday to you! We're celebrating with style here on Pars Caeli as we march through the 12 days of Christmas with the fabulous ladies of the internet. Today's star is a one-of-a-kind. Sheri Silver writes, bakes, cooks, photographs, styles, and inspires over at Donuts, Dresses and Dirt. She brings the best in gardening, baking and cooking, as well as truly great “finds”.

It's so appropriate that Sheri is our fifth day of Christmas and the classy five golden rings.

A two-part question, I think! I found blogging after almost 10 years of building a business (landscape design) that I was no longer passionate about. I wasn’t ready to give it up yet but felt a strong need to find an outlet for my other interests. A blog felt like a low-key way to “dip a toe” into something new, while I figured out my next steps.

What keeps me blogging is how much I love it! While I achieved my initial goal of establishing a platform for all of the things I love, what I didn’t expect was the incredible community that I’ve since discovered. The talented and supportive writers that I am privileged to call co-workers and friends have been a joy and a gift that I cherish each and every day.

 

Donuts, Dresses and Dirt is a lifestyle blog that gives “voice” to the things I’m passionate about – baking and cooking, gardening, shopping and my adventures in and around NYC both solo and with my family. Here’s where I hang out!

Blog   Facebook   Pinterest   Twitter   Instagram

(Sheri is also a fabulous contributor over at Babble - do not miss her great project over there!)

 

THERE GOES MY HERO:

Assuming your child goes the traditional straight-to-college-finishes-in-four-years route, you will have spent 17 of 22 years dealing with their education. That’s almost 80% of their lives. It’s a marathon, for sure, with scant time for “perspective”. For “taking a step back”. For “looking at the big picture”. Most of the time you’re spinning plates.

BIRTHDAY LAYER CAKE:

WOKE UP, IT WAS A CHELSEA MORNING

The “big” wish is that I always put the same heart and commitment into my blog as I did in the beginning. So easy to get caught up with what’s “hot” or “trending”, or to see a post that gets a lot of traffic and feel compelled to write another one “just like it”. Harder to stay true to my inner voice, but that’s when I put out the posts I’m most proud of. I hope that that voice always rings loud and clear for my readers.

Well of course I’d love to continue to see my readership grow. I’m so lucky to have a loyal and engaged audience and it would be great to expand my reach even further. And I’d love to continue to do more collaborative work with brands. I really enjoy partnering on sponsored posts that are germane to what I write about, and I hope to do more of that in the coming year. I also hope to collaborate with other bloggers as I’ve done this past year – those types of projects are pure joy, and one of the greatest benefits of being part of this lovely blogging community. Finally, I would love to be the new face of Madewell (they could use a 50+ model, don’t you think?)!

What a treat to have Sheri over today! I have been reading her inspiring words for parents and oohing over her recipes for ages. I had the true pleasure of meeting Sheri while in NYC, and she knows how to make a gal feel special - and this lovely trait comes through in her blog as well. This year Sheri became a Babble contributor as well - and it's been wonderful to see more readers enjoy her fabulous work!!

Sheri, Joy, and I will be launching a new series on Cooking with Kids in February, and I feel so lucky to join in with these all stars!!

Open up your blog reader and add SheriSilver.com to your list!! You'll come back and thank me!!

On the fifth day of Christmas, Pars Caeli gave to me Donuts, Dresses, and Dirt.

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 !

xoxo, MJ

PS. Wanna meet a mover and shaker of the interwebs? Come back tomorrow to meet a dynamo!

Lulu the Baker and Melissa: 12 Days of Blogger Christmas

Merry Christmas, lovelies!! I hope that your day of Christmas was filled with goodness and joy. We had a wonderful day in our pajamas, playing with presents and laughing together.

I'm so excited to enjoy another present with you! Over the next 12 days (straight through the weekend), I will be introducing you to twelve fabulous bloggers who write, design, craft, cook, make, and publish some of the most wonderful material on the internet. You'll learn what inspired them to begin, see some of their favorite work, and join in their hopes for 2014.

For those who don't blog, this series might just give you the itch to begin and at the minimum, inspire your everyday. For my fellow bloggers who create, day after day, meaningful, creative, and unbelievable content, I hope that you know how incredible you are, and what a great gift your art is to the rest of us.

Merry Christmas! And to start it off, none other than the incomparable Melissa of Lulu the Baker. You will be amazed!

 

I started my blog on a whim over 5 years ago because I wanted to participate in an online baking group called The Daring Bakers, and you needed to have a blog to participate! Just in the past couple of years, I feel like I've really discovered this amazing blogging community full of creative, intelligent people, and being part of that community is so rewarding and enriching!

My blog used to just be about cooking and baking, because until a few years ago, I had another blog for projects. But keeping up with both blogs got to be way too much work. Plus I felt like they both represented parts of me and that I needed all of that content in just 1 place instead of scattered all over the internet. Lulu the Baker was never a chore to post on, and when I thought long and hard about it, I didn't want to give that blog up, so that's the one I kept! Since then, it's evolved into more of a lifestyle blog with a focus on food and family.
I'm also guest blogging on the Better Homes & Gardens Style Spotters blog for a few months, and write monthly posts for Ciera Design and Rue Rococo.
I'm really excited about this series I started in October called The Harvest. It is proving challenging, but I love the first post and have a few others in the works right now. My "human interest" posts don't get tons of traffic, but I really love writing them and reading them over and over. Sometimes you just have to post stuff you love!
I had someone tell me (lovingly) at the beginning of the year that I needed to work on my photo styling. I've really taken that comment to heart this year! I've taken a few amazing online workshops on photo styling, and I'm really proud of the strides I've made in just a few short months. I think the photos from this post are really lovely. One of my workshop teachers even told me they were fantastic and that I was a star pupil. As an admitted nerd, that is music to my ears!

 

A list of my favorite posts wouldn't be complete without The Tale of the Carmelitas! I'd been blogging for a few years without much hullaballoo when I wrote this post. And I think it actually took another year for anyone to notice this recipe. But when it finally hit, it hit with a lot of force. It's still my #1 post of all time, and I'm not sure that will ever change!

 

I'd love for my blog's voice to really be an extension of myself--always. With all of the sponsorship opportunities and talk of numbers and traffic, it's really easy to lose sight of that. I want my blog to be a happy place that people can look forward to visiting, where they can be inspired for a few moments, and leave with yes, a recipe or project idea, but more importantly, feeling good and happy and peaceful. I feel like that's a tall order!

I've been trying for a while to write a book! I lost my way a little bit this past year; sometimes it's hard to keep yourself motivated when you have an open-ended project like that! But I've been working steadily on it again for the past few months and am really excited to be making headway. Cross your fingers for me!
I also really love collaborating with other bloggers. It's so inspiring to work with talented people. I'd love to have some fun, new blog collaborations this year.
Lastly, I've been wanting to migrate my site from Blogger to Wordpress for so long, and I'm finally going to do it, along with a redesign! I would actually love to have it done this year, but I waited too long and all of the designers I want to work with are booked through January! So keep your eyes peeled in 2014 for a new Lulu the Baker design!

 

Melissa is so humble and gracious - two of the many things I love about her!! She has become a force to be reckoned with in the blogging universe (she's a regular over at Better Homes and Gardens!). Her creative talents are endless - and her recipes keep me coming back season after season. She is a dedicated mom who is always finding new ways to connect with her kids, and I've been blessed to join in the Endless Summer series with her as well as the Fresh Holiday Traditions!

If you have a blog reader like Blog Lovin' or Feedly, add Lulu the Baker to your feed right now, as your first gift of Blogger Christmas!

On the first day of Christmas, Pars Caeli gave to me Lulu the Baker!

xoxo, MJ

PS. On the second day...I'm gifting one of my favorite artists...

 

 

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

Craft Date: Paper snowflakes
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Winter craft date? It's the perfect time of year to gather inside, in the warmth, with a coffee or cocoa and a good friend and make something awesome. My friend, Renee, and I were determined to add to our repetoire of seasonal crafts after the burlap placemat success.

We decided to go simple, or so we thought, and make the paper snowflakes.

As a little girl, I remember attempting paper snowflakes, trimming off the wrong edges instead of the right ones, and ending up with a heap of trimmed pieces of flakes. Determined not to repeat this, Renee and I made six-point snowflakes following this process:

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We had a variety of papers, and I ended up using a looseleaf pack that I've had for a very long time because of the thin, durable weight to the paper. And, the white tone was just a bit softer than our other choices.

So grab a stack of paper, sharp scissors, good lighting, and a pal.

Lots of great patterns around the interwebs will surprise and delight you, like the ones we used as inspiration: Wee Birdy, these great ideas, and you can even find paper snowflake patterns based on the new movie, Frozen (pinned for my girls).

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Folding the six-point pattern takes a little practice to get all the segments equal, but it it amazing the variety of snowflake you can create.

Originally Renee and I were thinking that we'd put these together in a chandelier-type arrangement. Can you imagine cascades of intricate snowflakes floating down?

Renee opted to display her snowflakes against her gorgeous red walls in the dining room. Fabulous contrasts!

Honestly, mine sat in a pile for a while, waiting for me to have time and inspiration to make something. And then I started making more and more of them of various sizes.

We have two trees in our house - our freshly cut and our (now duct-taped) artificial. The fresh tree has balls and ribbon and my favorite loose tinsel.

It needed a little something extra.

*Lightbulb.

Spread throughout the limbs now are dozens of paper snowflakes.

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If you want a simple craft that will make you feel way more talented than you might be feeling on any particular day, cut some snowflakes.

They can be used in wrapping, garlands, chandeliers, and in my opinion as awesome ornaments.

Big hugs and thanks for Renee for the motivation to make these! Can't wait to see what we'll work up for spring.

Also, Kim of Design Life Kids and I will be showing off our long-distance Craft Date soon!

If you wanna make something and need a buddy, let me know. It's always more fun to do create with a pal.

Happy weekend, lovelies! I'll be writing my arm off and sending Christmas cards! Best to you and yours. 

xoxo, MJ

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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

Pepparkakor

 

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.

None.

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.

xoxo,

MJ


 

Fresh Holiday Traditions: Party Hat Christmas Trees
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"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.

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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:

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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!

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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.

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

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

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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

#DeckingYourHalls

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

Hope in the waiting

My dear friend, Beth, and I were chatting a few days ago, catching up on one another's life. She, ever the encourager, said that she looked forward to Advent here on Pars Caeli, interested to see what I have going on. Advent, this time of preparation leading up to Christmas, is such a special time of joy and family celebration. And after a little pleading, Beth shared with me a special something she tries to do during the Advent season.

She sends a note to all of her pregnant friends.

I remember being one of those pregnant friends receiving her note.

And I remember it changing my perspective on pregnancy.

When I was pregnant with my oldest, 9 Advents ago, I was more than ready to give birth long before my Dec. 30th due date came around. I am not known for my patience nor my ability to put off what I long for today. I'd had a healthy pregnancy, but as a first-time mom, I desired the end of the story - the end of labor, the happy and healthy baby, the recovering body.

Pregnancy tested these limits beyond my expectations.

And yet, experiencing late pregnancy (I didn't deliver until Jan. 9) during the Advent season was such a blessing. I saw the journey of Mary in a whole new way. I pondered how she felt, discriminated as a pregnant woman in her state, managing the travel by animal to a distant land, setting out to experience the unknown, with the faith in What grew within her own womb.

Advent is a time of waiting, counting down the weeks until the delivery of Christ... and Christmas. And we have an opportunity to see it as a time of hope and joy and peace for all of the gifts we have been given and the ones we are yet to uncover. Or we can wish the time away with events, tasks, to do's, and all around busyness to get us up to the day.

Whether it be in my professional life, my family life, or my prayer life, I too often want to skip to the end of the book. I want to get to the conclusion of this "stage" or this season of life.

And, well, Advent, and good people like Beth with their helpful messages, remind us that the journey or time in-between is what prepares us to be the mothers, the people that we want to be.

The time of Advent is our pregnancy, and we have much new life to celebrate.

Either way, Christmas/Christ is coming. May God allow us to have the patience to embrace the waiting and the preparation.

And maybe we could each send a special message to a pregnant friend...

xoxo, MJ

 

More Holiday Traditions: Jesse Trees and Painted Wrappings

Happy Wednesday, good people! Two fun things to share with you today: an easy Fresh Holiday Tradition and an Advent tradition to begin.

First off, a little Advent. You all have seen some amazing Advent calendars going around, have you not? Do a quick search on Pinterest to see just how creative people can get with countdowns! I am amazed.

Have you heard of a Jesse Tree before? It's an Advent calendar of sorts, that takes you through the days leading up to Christmas and uses the words from the Old Testament stories to do so. I posted all the details last November, but I've received so many questions about it, that I wanted to post it again for new readers.

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Wanna make one? Here's what you need:

  • 1 yard of purple felt (it's a traditional Advent color)
  • 1 yard of brown felt for the limbs and trunk
  • Printed or drawn symbol ornaments
  • Velcro to attach
  • Dowel and ribbon/twine to hang.
  • Fabric glue or hot glue
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Head over here to get the full details including printable symbols, a reflection book to follow, and some more Advent ideas.

And as we get our homes and gifts ready for Christmas, I'm excited to share with you this great kiddo project from Jen over at Classic Play! I know that I've been looking for a few ways to contain, errrr focus, my children's holiday energy in good directions. This is a perfect project. And I love Jen's first reminder to keep it simple! Click over to see Painted Wrapping Paper!

Only two more projects in our Fresh Holiday Traditions series! Here's what we've seen so far:

What holiday traditions are you bringing out these days? Cookie baking? Christmas-book reading?

Check out these great traditions from my pal, Janae, over at Bring Joy.

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!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks.. to you.

Happy American Thanksgiving!! And apologies to my vegetarian/vegan/meatless friends who may find the picture below a little gross.

The turkey has been stuffed, roasted, basted, carved, gravy'd, and eaten. In fact we've gone all the way through the courses to both pies - pumpkin and pecan, and I am feeling overloaded. Overstuffed. Overeaten.

And a bit like my cup runneth over.

With gratitude.

Thanksgiving does that to me. It makes me gush a bit.

So bear with me. I started this wee blog nearly two years ago as a way to create and share and frankly force myself to get a lot of the projects that I've wanting to do ..done. And it has done that.

It has also brought into my life new connections and friends from across the globe and right in my own home town. People who somehow know me more or at least differently than some of my own family because they've taken the time to read my words, to look through my photographs, to follow my ideas. And that, my friends, is a pretty amazing gift.

And so this Thanksgiving toast (raise your wine glass or your milk glass with me) goes out to all of you good people who found Pars Caeli, found me, over these last two years and have supported me with your comments, your retweets, your likes, and even just your reads. You've encouraged me and pushed me in new directions just by the click of your mouse.

Time is our most precious gift, and I'm so grateful you've spent your time over on these pages. And even if you stop by just now and again and even if you've never let your presence be known, I'm grateful for you and your gift of attention. 

You rock.

Happy Thanksgiving!

xoxo, MJ

PS. We're cutting down a tree in the freezing snow tomorrow. Wish me luck.

 

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