Posts in Design
Pars Caeli Reader Survey + $50 Giveaway

I promised myself before the year got away from me that I would get in your heads. In the best way. With a giveaway and a simple 11 question survey.

Because I wanna know who you are and why you return, and I want to thank you for every like, +1, retweet, email, and comment that you've sent along!

Sorry, for the survey, it's desktop-friendly only. No mobile use for this one.

You rock! Now let's give you a prize!

You're on your honor here. Did you complete all of the survey? Then let's get to the giving away. This contest ends on Sunday, EST at midnight.

Thank you bunches!!

xoxo, MJ


How to continue the momentum after a conference

So you're on a conference/retreat/workshop high. The world is at your feet, ready to follow your amazing leadership or get hooked on your fabulous content. You know that at some point this experience will come to an end. How do you keep the inspiration flowing? How can you best transform this momentum into real-life progress?

I had the best time at Alt Summit last week, learning and laughing, and I'm still on an adrenaline rush from all of the creativity that surrounded me!

How to continue the momentum after a conference. 6 practical tips to stay inspired!

How to continue the momentum after a conference. 6 practical tips to stay inspired!

6 Practical tips to stay inspired after you've returned home

1. Connect WITH YOUR INSPIRATION

You listened to knowledgeable and interesting people whose stories or ideas grabbed your imagination. Did you write down their contact information or exchange a business card? Send that person a tweet, an email, or even a hand-written note and let them know what it was that they shared that stuck with you. You'll find you've made a valuable contact that will continue to inspire and possibly even support you long after your time together.

2. STACK THE DECK IN YOUR FAVOR

It's not only the speakers that will continue to inspire you, it's your peers. Pull out that deck of business cards and make notes. Take special note of the ones that interest you. I put mine in a special envelope for future referencing, BUT...

Before you put them away, USE them. Connect with these folks on social media. And do it as soon after the conference as you can so that your connection is as relevant as possible.

3. Take notes on your notes

As soon as you're able (even before you leave), read through your notes and look through your photos, and get all of those brainstorms down. No judgement or evaluation on these ideas, just write, write, write. You can come back later and edit. If you act on these inspirations, you're bound to find some golden nuggets amongst a few weeds.

And if you're like me, writing down important points AGAIN, will help you commit those thoughts you want to keep close to long-term memory.

4. PUT IT RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOUR FACE

Maybe it was an inventive business card or a freebie giveaway that encapsulated a theme you don't want to forget. Post that card or frame the print and put it in your everyday space. Let it serve as a continued reminder of what you want to create for yourself.

I'm framing my letterpress print from the ladies of Handmade Mood. Its simple styling says, "I'm kind of a big deal, on my blog." The sass and the ownership (and the sheer talent those three ladies possess) remind me that I can create my own path here on Pars Caeli. I set my own pace and go my own journey.

5. Take an immediate step

Sometimes I return home and get so involved in what is greeting me (smiling children, happy husband, mounds of work, etc.) that I forget to act on all those really important things I said I was going to do when I got home.

Ack.

So, avoid the self-annoyance and before you walk into your home, take an immediate step in the right direction. Register for the class. Do the thought exercise. Call the potential lead. For me it's been the 5-minute flip and Karen Walrond's vision statement exercise. More on those in future posts!!!

6. Don't hesitate

Be honest with yourself. If this conference or retreat was really inspirational, consider how you'll attend the next one! Or follow the speaker that sparked a new way of thinking. Or purchase the book that everyone referred to. This final step will likely take an investment of money so take some time to decide what out of the entire experience was the most meaningful for you.

And make it happen - again!

You better believe I'll be joining up with my pals from Alt Summit to make and to strategize again. The time together was just too good not to be replicated!

xoxo, MJ

Turn your vision statements into business cards

And now a word about branding.

Lots of great marketers and communicators have lots to say about branding. I have a great deal of thoughts about it myself, and I continue to learn more about best practices for my new small business.

In order to move forward the brand of Pars Caeli, in addition to logos and colors and fonts, I thought through mission and purpose.

As a loose exercise, I started by writing key statements that summed up my purpose and vision. And phrases like Yearn to Create resonated.

Amazing are You.

You are a Piece of Heaven.

Soak in the Goodness.

The amazing company, Minted, gave me the opportunity to create these sharp triple thick two-inch business cards/vision statements. The solidity of the cards feels like the right reflection of where I want to go - strong, positive, and thoughtful.

I'm spending today and tomorrow in Utah to assist with Alt Summit. It's my third conference from Alt, and I learn a ton from the creatives I meet. I'll be showing off great business cards (they are a big deal at Alt), tweeting out great tidbits of expertise on social media/branding/small business, and capturing images of the fanciful and imaginative parties and collaborations that only happen at Alt. I'd love to have you join in the fun via #parscaeli_ALT on Twitter and Instagram.

I'll be back next week to share all that I can!! Until then have a great weekend, friends. Don't forget to check in tomorrow to see what hits The Top!

xoxo, MJ

Begin by Investing in You
I believe that sometimes we’re not fully aware of the little pieces of heaven all around us. And sometimes we overlook our own capacity to be one of those pieces.
— April 25, 2012

My daughter learned how to tie her shoes in one afternoon.

One Saturday morning, her father sat with her on the couch, with an inspiring new pair of brightly-colored sneakers, and patiently went through the bunny ears, the pull throughs, and the try-agains. By dinner, she'd mastered the skill and was gleaming with pride at her independence.

We sent her off to school on Monday with her velcro (uniform) sneakers on, knowing that although she had a new trick up her sleeve with her fine motor mastery, she didn't have to go to the trouble of putting it right to use. I figured the opportunity to tie her shoes would come with soccer practice and upcoming playdates; no need to rush right into it.

She came home from school with a particular bounce to her step to tell me that she'd practiced her tying. I quickly glanced down at her feet, wondering if she'd traded up with a friend ready to volunteer their pair of tie sneakers. But, when I looked down, the same white velcro runners that she'd left the house with were still on her excited feet.

"What do you mean you practiced tying?"

She gave me that wry smirk, the one she does when she knows that she's got me right where she wants me.

"I tied Ben's shoes today for him, Mom."

"But you just learned how to tie yours yesterday."

"Yeah, well, Ben said he'd always wanted to learn how to tie his shoes, and I told him I'd show him."

We learn . . . in order to teach. We learn to . . . give away our knowledge

Maybe in the hopes of fulfilling someone else's big or small dream.

First, we have to invest in ourselves and know that the time we are taking to prepare, to reflect, to make the bunny loops, and to try again is all necessary for good teaching.

Begin by investing in you.

2015 will be a year full of goodness. I look forward to learning and to teaching whatever I learn. We have a bright new space to do all of this in! I'm investing in you. :) New series, new projects, new collaborations, new books, and even a new shop are on the horizon for the next 12 months. It's going to be pretty fabulous.

Thanks for coming along for the ride.

Before you go, check out a new feature on Pars Caeli. I'm pretty pumped about it. Follow that yellow button to THE TOP. Here you'll find an easy-to-navigate lounge of seasonal features, popular projects, and the best of the rest. It's built for you - to honor your time - and to get you what you need on those days when the luxury of blog reading is not yours.

Happy 2015!

xoxo, MJ

 

Emily Jeffords: 12 bloggers

The final four of the 12 Bloggers of Christmas (an annual tradition on Pars Caeli) are the ones to watch for 2015. I'm highlighting some of their goals and new adventures for the new year. If you're not already following them, check out their sites for beautiful and inspirational posts.

   I've blessed to call Emily my friend. She's a talented painter, writer, photographer, and mother. She has an energy and a peace that come through in her  blog  and her  artwork . And it's contagious in all the best ways. She turned 2014 on its head with her commission and series work. Be sure to follow her on  Instagram  to see works in progress and to hear about shop sales first.

 

I've blessed to call Emily my friend. She's a talented painter, writer, photographer, and mother. She has an energy and a peace that come through in her blog and her artwork. And it's contagious in all the best ways. She turned 2014 on its head with her commission and series work. Be sure to follow her on Instagram to see works in progress and to hear about shop sales first.


Beautiful Hello has changed so much in the last year.  I’ve begun blogging a lot less but writing more meaningful and thoughtful articles. My hope is for Beautiful Hello to be a place for people to get to know me and my artwork, but also to be a huge resource for artists and creatives. I talk a lot about creativity and entrepreneurship  and the philosophy behind why we do what we do. I write when I’m really feeling it, and it’s so much fun!!


If you're looking for a great resource, check this out.

One of my favorite gift guides features only hand makers, independent artists, small shops… beautiful and quality goods that are sustainable and meaningful. Art can be so hard to buy for someone else because of the price tag, and this list takes that concern out off the table.


What blogger would you like to send a little extra love to?

I'd like to hug for joy Ez Pudewa, writer of Creature Comforts Blog (which is TOTALLY beautiful and wonderful).  Ez listened to her passions, allowed them to shift and grow, and has decided to move away from blogging 100% and into the sweetest business with her daughter, Kaia.  They launched Petit Pippin last year, and it’s totally and completely adorable. 

Alexandra Hedin: 12 Bloggers

We are making things happen today! The final four of the 12 Bloggers of Christmas (an annual tradition on Pars Caeli) didn't make it into the roll. I've saved these last ladies as ones to watch for 2015, and I'm highlighting some of their goals and new adventures for the new year. If you're not already following them, check out their sites for beautiful and inspirational posts.

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Ali has been all over the weeknight party girl scene with her television appearances and great videos. She is on a roll, and I can't wait to see what kind of magic she can create for every traditional holiday as well as some new ones I know that she'll create in order to live life to the fullest. I know I'll be cheering her on!

I am revamping the website with a new look, new ideas, new STAFF! It’s very exciting and will be so fun to roll out.

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I love making a big batch of punch for parties – and this one is a winner.  You can serve a huge crowd for not a ton of cash, and it’s always so festive to serve anything in a punch bowl.

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There are so many!  Melissa, Lulu the Baker, just had a new baby which is so fun at the holidays. Amy Christie, This Heart of Mine, is pregnant with her third child and could use a little extra love. Jenny Batt, Hank and Hunt, is my best blog gal and so freaking creative.  

The crafted life: 12 Bloggers

We are making things happen today! The final four of the 12 Bloggers of Christmas (an annual tradition on Pars Caeli) didn't make it into the roll. I've saved these last ladies as ones to watch for 2015, and I'm highlighting some of their goals and new adventures for the new year. If you're not already following them, check out their sites for beautiful and inspirational posts.

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I'm super excited to have Rachel of The Crafted Life to start it off! I will meet her in just a few days (for reals) at Alt, and I'm so lucky that she'll be an Alt Rep with me. Rachel has great projects and roundups on her site that inspire you to get a move on and make your space more fabulous.

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For the upcoming year, I'd really like to expand my store. Right now, I sell goods on Etsy, but would love to take it a step further and host it myself in connection with my blog. Stay tuned for more!

I loved Rachel's post on her goals for this year! It's a great combo of business and personal, and I'm excited to see how the year unfolds for her. I foresee big, big goodness in her future. Also, make sure you stop over to download her awesome (free!) girlboss printables. Say what? Yes. Go check them out.

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Gold-foiled Votives

This was one of those projects that I didn't really think too much about before doing, but that still came out nice (and you have to love that!). I still have them in my home and use them for votives in the fall and winter and flower vases for spring and summer.  

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Would love to send extra love to Carrie of Dream Green DIY. Her photography is always on point and no matter the subject, her work is consistently beautiful. I seriously can't get enough of her blog!

I ordered these fabulous photo holders from Rachel's shop, and I love how they add a dash of modern to any shelf.Keep your eye on her friends!

xoxo, MJ

Goals for 2015
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Hiya friends,

My magical two-week break has come to an end, and I'm delighted to report that it was filled with togetherness, laughter, crafting and creating, rest, and ample movie watching (have you seen the new Annie?). I sunk into my home and blissfully forgot what day it was or what had to be done by when, and I enjoyed my husband and my children and my extended family and good friends. This was just the kind of recharge that I needed after a busy, awesome year on Pars Caeli and elsewhere.

I opened up this space to give myself the freedom to create and the accountability to make projects, big and small, happen and offer others help as much as I could along the way. 2015 marks the third birthday of Pars Caeli, and we hit a few significant growth marks this year:

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Attended and assisted with a major blog conference: 2014 took me and three of my pals to Salt Lake City, Utah, and to a design conference known as Alt Summit. My role was as an Alt Rep, and I was able to connect with numerous, wonderful creative people and speakers. One of my goals in going to Alt was to begin to monetize Pars Caeli. I have a wonderful full-time job, and I want this space to support that and my family. So ...

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Connected with brands and networks that I admire and wanted to partner alongside: I joined Pollinate Media, which enabled me to get my creative juices flowing for specific brands like: Office Depot, Wet Ones and Elmer's Glue, Wet-Nap, and All You magazine. I became a Wayfair Homemaker, and I've guest posted for them as well as hosted a Housewarming Party here. I've worked with the wonderful folks at Minted to show Valentines, business cards, and Christmas greetings that are great art pieces.

(Thanks for bearing with me on this list... it's going to get exciting soon!)

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Collaborated with makers I admire and respect: like my ladies of the Endless Summer Projects series and the party for Ali and the NYE Bash. Sheri, Joy, and I cooked up a six-part series for kids in the kitchen entitled Mini Cooks. Created for the Cricut Design Space Star challenge and collaborated with a new and awesome group of artists over a serious of four challenges.

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Contributed to sites that have inspired me: I'm so grateful to Jen and Steph for letting me join their teams. With Jen, I've focused on that you can do to create special moments with your children. And our homemade daffodil wreath was one of her top posts from 2014! It warms my heart.

With Steph over on Modern Parents, Messy Kids, I've created a collection of printables for boredom busting, summer reading, organization, and more! I've grown while putting my graphic design muscles out there to help parents and kids alike.

And the biggest one for me:

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I started my own business. It's been a super secret goal of mine for a very long time. The title entrepreneur is exhilarating, and I'm owning it! Pars Caeli, LLC, opened officially at the end of October with a giant employee roll of one. I kind of still can't believe it, but I'm so grateful, a wonderful blessing of 2014 for me.

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All of these check marks have been very good for me as a mother, wife, professional, and human. In 2014, I was able to shush my inner critic, that mean girl who has often kept me from jumping on the trampoline of possibility. I crafted a lot of ideas and put my tenacity to the test. I showed my children that they can be recognized for their creations, their thoughts, and, moreover, they can lead and they can influence. We have conversations now that start something like, "When I grow up, I'm going to start a business that ..." I'm not signing any of them up for business school yet, but I love that their minds are moving in new directions.

Unlike some of my favorite people on the interwebs (whose angst I understand and whose energy will be missed), I'm not tired of social media or of blogs. Indeed, I've grown deeper in love. Friends, we have so much potential for collaboration and sincere learning through these communication tools, and I am here, and invested.

And I thank you for joining in the party.

So, what's up, what's up for 2015?

It's boiling down to my one little word for the year: GOODNESS. I'm working this year first to foster my own goodness. To take care of myself with sleep and nutrition. To see, like really see, the avenues where I can assist others in powerful ways. To find new possibilities for this mouthpiece, Pars Caeli, to echo the goodness all around us. And to remind you and re-remind me when we go wayward that we are richly blessed. I even want to find NEW ways to help you have watershed moments of goodness - through shared story and new knowledge - and times when you see in new ways the incredible power you have to make goodness happen wherever you are.

And what does that mean in a business sense?

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1. REIMAGINE THE LOOK OF THIS SPACE: I've made updates to Pars Caeli through the years, but I'd like to pare down to the essentials and bring forth what you really want to see. Simplify and clarify, which means some behind-the-scenes work on my part to get this blog design to the sweet spot of beauty and ease of use.

2. ASK YOU MORE: I'm hiding my eyes on this one, but I've never done a reader survey! I know. I know. I want to know what you think. What keeps you coming back? What should we multiply in 2015 and leave behind for 2014? Keep your eyes open for the happiest, simplest survey you ever did see.

3. COLLABORATE: Blogging would mean so much less to me if I had to do it all alone. I love working with other artists and makers to brainstorm and to learn the process. I want 2015 to include more and on new topics. I want to continue to embrace the right brand partners to bring you bigger and better projects - and even a few giveaways, because, you know you deserve it.

4. CONNECT: Keep it real with you. I tried five posts a week, and I've gone down to one. Three a week is just right for my full-time work and parenting schedule. I want Pars Caeli to add to my life and not detract so let's agree to be all-in three times a week (or for an hour on Saturday or Sunday like so many of you fabulous people do!). I also want to continue to share my life and reflections in ways that are fair to the privacy of my loved ones and to be open and honest with all of you. It's getting trickier as my children get older, but we can do it. Pinky promise.

5.PRODUCE: I have an AMAZING something happening with the good people at The Land of Nod that will be coming your way in the spring. And it's a real live product. EEK! And I have a few other products in the works that I can't wait to share with you. In 2015, I want to add a SHOP menu to Pars Caeli. This is another super secret dream of mine that I've had since I was a preschooler pretending with my stuffed animals (what, you didn't do that?), and this is the year we put it to use.

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I'm holding it at five because I get overwhelmed easily. :)

Have you set goals for this year? I'll admit that this is my first time sharing big goals, and it's more than a little scary. I mean, what if they don't really happen? Or if I fail? I'm going to hold on tight, and try to be good to myself if one of these goals leads me in a direction that does not make sense for the rest of my life - family, health, work. And, you know, let's all hug and forgive if we bump and fall along the way.

xoxo, MJ

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Writing down big girl goals did not come so easily to me so I thank these brilliants who helped me in formal and informal ways in the prioritization process.

Inspired by: Kelly of Studio DIY, Amy of Mom Advice and her M Challenge, Brittany's list on The House that Lars Built, Melanie Biehle's word, Kate's tactical list of four, Amy's insight at the beginning of 2015 on This Heart of Mine.

P.S. In case you're still up for more, here are our top 4 posts of 2014:

#1: 6 Fun Water Balloon Games: Endless Summer Projects

#2: The Under $10 Fix to School Paper Clutter and Chaos

#3: Paper Christmas Trees

#4: A Family Objective

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Sara Moore: 12 Bloggers of Christmas

I'm losing track of the days. I think I skipped a few, maybe added one. Nevertheless, welcome to the 12 Bloggers of Christmas, an annual tradition on Pars Caeli where we shine a pretty spotlight on twelve bloggers during the Christmas season. Catch up real quick on all the beauties by scrolling down. Join me every day to see if (you or) your favorites are featured!

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I'm chatting with Sara Moore today. Sara has an effortless style (which I'm sure takes a ton of hard work to pull off), and she writes about parenting in an honest and supportive way. She's a fabulous designer, and if you read ahead, you'll see we'll be able to get right to her goods come 2015. So happy to have her in this space!

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My all-time favorite family tradition is decorating Christmas cookies with my family. I've been doing it since I was a little girl and I look forward to it every year. We're all gathered around the table, laughing, eating the "broken" ones and really enjoying each others company. The logistics have gotten harder with introducing the little grandchildren to decorating and the traveling we have to do but we always make sure to fit it in! And one of my new favorite traditions my husband and I do with the kids is to look at Christmas lights. Our kids are still little enough to be in awe of every single light so it's a lot of fun!

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I'm adding e-commerce to the website so you'll be able to shop directly from saramoore.com. It's been a long time in the making, so I'm really excited to say 2015 is the year! I'm also contributing to a couple of other blogs in the coming year, and I'm very excited to explore new things and grow a community of wonderful people!

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My blog is so new that it wasn't around last Christmas and with a brand new baby, I don't have much more planned for the blog this year. BUT I will link to  two Christmas posts that I love. Speaking of traditions, this one from Jenny Collier on Every Day Cheer would be a great one to start while your kids are young - a Christmas book advent. Every night the kids get to unwrap a Christmas book and enjoy it as a family by the tree. And this one from A Cup of Jo sums up a few of her and her readers holiday traditions.

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Elisabeth of Bella is just a doll! She has a great sense of style, is as sweet as a summer peach and her Instagram feed is so dreamy. She's pregnant with her first (a boy!) and she's just been killin' it in the maternity fashion department. She always looks amazing and has such a great attitude about the pregnancy journey. Which isn't a surprise since she touts that she firmly believes in choosing happiness - you can see that clearly through everything she does!

Love Elisabeth, too!! So happy to celebrate her as well. If you want to read some interesting stories from busy mommas, be sure to check out Sara's Struggle with the Juggle series. It's one of my favorites from real life, inspiring, and talented ladies.

Just a few more left!! Hope your Christmas Eve Eve is the best it can be.

xoxo, MJ

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Classic Play: 12 Bloggers of Christmas

It's the sixth day of Blogger Christmas, and my true love introduces you to Jen of Classic Play. I'm excited to have her back again in this annual tradition on Pars Caeli where we shout it out from the rooftops just how awesome twelve bloggers are. We'll be adding to the list all the way through Christmas!

So grab your tea and smile at your screen as you see just how relatable and lovely these creators are. Let's spread the love around in big heaps. As a new twist to the tradition, each blogger will be throwing out some love to one of their favorite makers/creators/writers!

Join me every day to see if (you or) your favorites are featured!

Jen and I have known each other for a few years as teacher/student, wise one/contributor, and peer collaborators. She is as cool as they come and as friendly and approachable as can be. That's a tough combo to pull off, and she's able to do it well because she's genuine and so so smart. Classic Play is one of my favorite spots on the web for kids, tweens, teens, moms, and human beings. Put it in your Feedly or Bloglovin roll for 2015.

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Hands down, chopping down the tree. It’s a relatively new tradition, about 3 years at this point and I love it. We go to the same tree farm every year. We spend an hour walking around, eventually circling back to the first tree we found. Of course ;) My favorite thing is how the kids try to mark a spot in the stump in the ground so they can find it the following year.  It’s a silly little thing, but it makes me smile.

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Such a great question! And one I’m going to skillfully evade because I like surprises.

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Hmmm… I’d have to say painted wrapping paper. It was so easy and the kids and I had a blast. Sometimes, it really is the simple things.

I have a bunch of bloggers I’m super fans of… I love what Deborah of My Life at Playtime is doing. I love the parisian flair of Fleurishing, the glimpse of Italian life at Jillian of Italy. Sheri Silver is another favorite! As are Art Bar and Molly Moo. I love Petit a Petit & Family and The Sewing Rabbit even though I don’t sew—I just love those women and their moxie.

And then there are all the new bloggers I’ve met on Instagram. Seriously, so many people to send love to. I know I’m forgetting a bunch. Ahhh! This is stressing me out thinking about who I’m forgetting! I’ll probably wake up in the middle of the night now with a list. haha!

Look how good she is... so much love for so many! Merry Christmas, Jen, to you and the whole family. I'm excited to see those surprises you have up your sleeve for all of us.

xoxo, MJ

Sarah Hearts: 12 Bloggers of Christmas

On the fifth day of Blogger Christmas, my true love gave to me: Sarah Hearts! Welcome to the annual tradition on Pars Caeli where we cherish twelve bloggers right up to Christmas. Sit back and enjoy their stories, favorite Christmas traditions, and holiday projects, too. Let's spread the love around in big heaps. As a new twist to the tradition, each blogger will be throwing out some love to one of their favorite makers/creators/writers!

Join me every day to see if (you or) your favorites are featured!

Today meet Sarah who crafts, cooks, designs, and invites all of us to join along. Her Meet & Make evenings through West Elm always look divine. Sarah Hearts is filled with desktop wallpapers and free printables that you'll want to check out as well.

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My favorite holiday tradition is baking tons and tons of Christmas cookies for friends. I love surprising them with an assortment of freshly baked treats!

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So much! I’ll be starting the new year with a creative assistant so I’m so excited to have more hands on deck and to be able to share more great DIY projects. Look for a few new mini series in 2015 as well as big plans for Meet + Make, the local creative workshops that I host at West Elm.

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One my favorite Christmas posts is my printable wine bottle tags. They are an easy way to dress up a bottle of wine and make an instant (and festive) host/hostess gift.

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Amy from Homey Oh My! is just killing it! She puts out fresh, creative projects every week and just when you think she couldn’t possibly make anything more creative—she does! Love her!

Thanks so much, Sarah, for introducing me to another great blogger and site! I'm always on the hunt for talent to follow and to learn from. And thanks for all of your inspiration!

Join me tomorrow to celebrate the coolest mom on the interwebs!

xoxo, MJ

Frock Files: 12 Bloggers of Christmas

Four swans a swimming! On the fourth day of Blogger Christmas, we move to Frock Files and visit with the creator of the masterful photography and recipes, Joy. During this annual tradition on Pars Caeli, I'll be celebrating twelve incredible bloggers and sharing some of their beautiful projects. I know you'll enjoy their stories and their favorite Christmas traditions. And-this year-we're spreading the love around in big heaps by throwing out some love to more of our favorite makers and writers! Keep coming back every day to see if (you or) your favorites are mentioned!

Joy and I have collaborated on quite a few fun series like Turn It and Pennies for Love. I've been so blessed by her support, creative sensibility, and advice.

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On New Year's Day, my family gathers together first thing in the morning to celebrate with a traditional meal of mochi soup, which consists of gooey mochi rolled in roasted soybean flour called kinako (it tastes like peanut butter!) and dropped into a mild broth. I'm a fan of having all kinds of mochi for New Year's, as evidenced by the very first post I published in 2014.

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What's up on your blog/website/brand for the new year? I have something big brewing with Melissa of Lulu the Baker. Suffice it to say that it will involve our favorite city, a lot of love, time, effort, and celebration.

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Last New Year's Eve, I posted a roundup of moments from 2013. I love that I'll be able to look back on that post and remember what that year held for us. http://frockfiles.com/2013/12/31/this-was-2013/

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Kim of DLK has demonstrated such grace, heart, and strength this year. She's showing me what it means to move forward with determination and that's a lesson I'll carry with me always.

I'd echo that sentiment completely, Joy. Big hugs to Kim! I think I have to make some mochi with the kids over break - look at those photos!

Join me again tomorrow night for a peek into the traditions of another designer who's had a spectacular 2014.

xoxo, MJ

The Sweet Escape for 12 Bloggers of Christmas

It's the most wonderful time of the year! During what is now an annual tradition on Pars Caeli, I'll be celebrating twelve incredible bloggers and sharing some of their beautiful projects. I know well how much dedication and old-fashioned hard work goes into the creation, the photography, and the promotion for it all to sync into a fabulous post. These creators come back, week after week, with high quality, fresh material that is too good not to be celebrated. I know you'll enjoy their stories and their favorite Christmas traditions, And - this year - we're spreading the love around in big heaps by throwing out some love to more of our favorite makers and writers! Keep coming back every day to see if (you or) your favorites are mentioned!

First up, even better than a partridge in a pear tree, Melissa of The Sweet Escape! I've seen her work all over the web, and this year I had the pleasure of teaming up with her. I'm delighted to share her creativity with you!

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If you asked me 20 years ago, it would've been a very different answer but these days I really look forward to the traditional meatless feast that my aunt cooks up on Christmas eve. My family is Italian and it includes homemade cannelloni, seafood pasta and lots of other delicious dishes. I don't eat all day in anticipation and it's great to spend time with my growing extended family that I don't get to see that often.

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Well, it would be impossible for me not to mention my latest huge holiday project, Merry magazine. I decided to bring together 15 of my blogger pals and pool a whole magazine worth of Christmas posts together in an online magazine.

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It includes home decor, DIY projects, entertaining, gifting & style. My favourite project that I contributed was this marshmallow wreath that I did last year because it was such a simple idea but turned out so well, and it was featured on designer Sarah Richardson's website which was such a big deal for me as a new blogger.

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If you're looking for a new blogger to follow, head over to Hello Lidy. Lidy and her husband will constantly inspire you by their clean, fresh and Scandinavian inspired home & decor DIY projects. They also have an inspiring adoption story to share. I'm pretty sure they've found a way to create more hours in the day with 3 children, a beautiful house and a constant flow of original creative content.

Merry Christmas to Lidy and to Melissa! So happy to have you here.

Come back tomorrow to see what maker always puts a full heart into all she does!

xoxo, MJ

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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.

1. HAVE SOMETHING YOU LOVE AND WANT TO SHARE

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!).

2. GET THAT CHRISTMAS CARD ADDRESS LIST TOGETHER

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.

3. TRY SOMETHING NEW

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!

4. CREATE DESIGNS AND MESSAGES THAT ARE AWESOME

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!

5. EMPLOY THE SMALLEST OF ELVES

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).

6. KEEP THESE CREATIONS ALL TOGETHER TO ENJOY

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DIY Photo Bow
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Whether you're an early shopper, almost done with your Christmas lists, or a timely purchaser (see how positively I spun that for folks like myself?) waiting until the big sales hit the shelves, now is the perfect time to get your creative wrapping ideas together.

A present wrapped with extra attention and fine details speaks to the recipient and says that they are different and special. Such a lovely gesture, right?

How about making a bow that is completely personalized with photographs of the giver or the receiver or even special places visited together? Photo bows are easy, and they can make you look like a super thoughtful crafting whiz in no time.

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I created these bows for grandparent presents! For the first, I created a montage of photos of my son from this last year. The finished bow is colorful and a scrapbook unto itself.

For the second, I used all of the same family photograph. This finished bow lent itself to a more sophisticated color palette, and it allows you to coordinate bow to paper a little bit easier.

Typically I'm a fine ribbon kind of gal, but these bows inspired me to learn how to make a paper bow. I was a little shocked by how quickly they come together.

First, in a photo program, align strips of photographs. I printed all of mine on one sheet of paper so I made each strip .75 inches wide to fit on the page.

You'll need three long strips, three medium strips, two short strips, and one mini strip.

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Cut these out. If you have a great stapler, grab that to create your bow. If not, strong craft glue or hot glue work really well to create a neat, compact look for your bow.

To form each row of the bow, simply create a loop that crosses on itself. You can find a great photo guide over on Milomade that explains this step clearly.

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Make loops out of all of your strips except the min strip which will become a circle that goes on the top to cover staples or glue.

The largest three are set equidistant from one another on the bottom. Then the same star shape is created with the medium loops. The small strips will create a cross once attached. And finish off with the mini loop in the middle.

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I can imagine these used on anniversary presents with special wedding photos on them. Or used to show an ultrasound photo to announce a new baby to relatives and friends!

Create a wrapping that means something to you and your loved one - make a photo bow!

xoxo, MJ

Using Pillows to Transition a Room
This post is a part of the Wayfair Homemakers network. I was compensated for this post, but the selections and opinions are my own.


1. Home Pillow 2. Map Pillow 3. Owl Pillow 4. Pink Spots Pillow

When we first moved into our house thirteen years ago, we purchased the most comfortable couches we could find for our living room. The full couch and loveseat are so overstuffed that they fill the room almost on their own. I selected the most neutral tone I could find so that the couches would work with whatever we wanted.

I love these couches. I also hate them. And I'm ready for something with more style and equal comfort.

Our living room is now our art room, and I have big ideas for built-ins, striped walls, and modern furnishings. Right now, though, I have none of those, nor the budget to to make them happen so I'm making incremental steps to transition the room from tired and traditional to something creative and unique.

Pillows are an easy way to transition a room from season to season and now they helping me build my vision for this space with brighter tones and a little humor and playfulness. My friends at Wayfair have a great deal for you, too, if you're ready to start planning your remodel or redesign. The three we have had added a new sense of energy and are setting up the palette for our Christmas tree this year, too. Can't wait to show you that one!

WAYFAIR IS HAVING A PILLOWS & POUFS SALE!

They almost never run coupon codes, but the Wayfair Homemakers get to share this exclusive code!  The code is good for 15% off and is good from now until November 24th. The code is: WFPTP15

Let's spice up our homes, a little bit at a time.

Have a bright weekend, friends!

xoxo, MJ

 

 

 

And now a word on Entrepreneurial inspirations

**Warning: This is a long post. I've been in and out of the blogging world, and I've missed you. It's a story that's been in me for a while.**

It's been quiet around here. So much so that it felt stiff to log on to the blog when it's typically such a subconscious, frequent pattern. I promise that I've been away building a fabulous goodie basket. Wonderful things have been happening.

A big bucket list life item as a matter of fact.

I'm still happily employed and working hard (hi day-job friends). And I'm now a small (very small, teeny tiny) business owner. I've always wanted to own my own (lots of owning there) business, and now I'm delighted to say there's a new storefront on the block:

 

Knocking this big one off my list has been surreal. At various points in my life I have fallen in and out of love with the notion of owning a business. I've waffled between a dreamy, independent adventure and a disaster of a responsibility. And now it feels right. I have plans and real opportunities. And I have something, maybe a lot of things, to say.

Life steps like these make me look at myself in a larger context...as  I'm paving my own path and looking for bright lights and gracious mentors to follow. I come from a strong family who has always supported my adventures, though most have made different choices in their own journeys. Except for people like this...

Ellen Margaret Mary.

I always loved how her name rolled off my tongue. Of course, she never used that name nor most other nicknames or terms of endearment like "Mom" or "Mommy." My paternal grandmother had everyone - save her grandchildren - call her Nellie, even her two dear sons. I knew her in the last 16 years of her life when she would often tell me that, "Growing old was not for sissys."

A sharp wit and a strong will were the backbone of her large personality stacked on a five foot frame. She was the most well-read woman or person I've ever met and had in her small, humble home a library full of anthologies that she'd read and re-read. She completed a handful of crossword puzzles every day, hosted a strong bridge club, and had her own home office (she shared with her hubby but it was still definitely hers).

To be fair, as storytelling of those who have passed can sometimes lend itself, my relationship with my grandmother was separate, not so much distant, but more of one of observance on both of our parts. I was her youngest grandchild by far, and she one of my two surviving grandparents. And in my mind's eye, the definition of grandmother was someone who baked and cooked and rejoiced when you came to visit. I suppose that childhood image was more of a Mrs. Claus than a real human experience, but Grandma was not a baker, or chef, or, at least at this point in her life, a bearer of sunshine and compliments and anything that she viewed as frivolity.

She was an old soul, and she raised her siblings after her parents died. She married my grandfather, who went on to serve in the Navy during wartime, and she was left, as so many veteran wives are, to handle the childrearing and financial supporting on her own.

In the 1940's and 1950's, she was-out of necessity and out of pure will-living as a modern-day entrepreneur. She had her own drapery business in the small Western Pennsylvania town where she lived. And she, with her small frame, would lug around massive amounts of fabric and embellishments for her creations out of her home, on the worktables in her unfinished basement. And by the time I came into the world, she had my mom working with her to grow the business and to utilize my mother's creative talents and expertise. And she wrote for the local newspaper, out of that home office, on a typewriter that I can still feel beneath my fingers.

She introduced me to pattern and texture, creating toile curtains for her guestroom where I stayed on visits. She embroidered and handstitched her own artwork that adorned her home. And she impressed me even as a young girl with her sense of fashion (often her own designs) and color and boldness. She was not a lady to be passed over when she walked down the street or into the store.

She was remarkable and strong, living out the last 25 years of her life in that same home, alone.

I may be taking a different path by welcoming a full-time job and my own business and my children and my husband. But I'm certainly not the first, not in my family. And, God help me, if I were to complain about all that lies ahead... pretty sure that Grandam would come after me with that look, right down from Heaven.

Here's to those who paved the paths for us, even if we misunderstood their attempts at first.

And here's to you, Grandma, Ellen Margaret Mary.

xoxo, MJ

 

 

 

Giveaway with DLK

Helllooo, friends! I missed you. I missed you so much that I really feel like I have to make up for our time apart. How about a little present to make it up to you? No, no. How about a big present?

I'm teaming up with some best buds (Joy of Frock Files, Melissa of Lulu the Baker, Lindsey of Cafe Johnsonia, and Kim of Design Life Kids) to give away a $150 gift card to Design Life Kids! Yes, mm hmm. Happy about it, too. Design Life Kids is a new online shop for all things modern, designed, and fun. Kim has packed her store with home accessories, kids couture, and fantastical gifts that you'd feel good wrapping for anyone on your Christmas list.

What would I buy? I've narrowed it down to my top six gift picks. What would be yours?

  1. Je T'Aime Triangle Tee
  2. Playful DIY Craft Book by Merrilee Liddiard (one of my favorites - see my fangirl post)
  3. Arne Jacobson Cups
  4. Pasta Amore Pillowcase
  5. Dot Wall Decals
  6. Allo! Lemon Tee

 

Our giveaway runs until Friday morning at 12:00am (midnight Thursday). I really want you to win. Here's what you gotta do:

* Leave a comment below with your favorite item from the shop.
* And for bonus entries....Like DLK on Instagram
* Regram one of our Instagram images.

xoxo, MJ

 

 

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Giveaway with Suburban Goods

You all know I love a great collaboration. And I'm delighted to bring the fruit of collaboration right here to you! Today, and all through the weekend, you can enter to win this cute clutch from Suburban Goods Shop.

Erin of Suburban Bitches is one of my teammates on the Cricut Design Space Star Challenge, and she made this crazy cool leather clutch for a challenge. I thought it was too good to pass up, and I asked her if she was going to sell these. And guess what? Now she is!

Erin is an ex-scientist turned blogger and stay-at-home mom to three kids. She lives and started making purses totally on a whim.

"As part of a contest I made the first clutch and people were super nice and told me that I should start selling them. The funny thing is after finishing the first clutch and it taking me 6+ hours to make I told my husband that this clutch was a very limited edition of one. Then all those bad memories went away and I decided to make more clutches since my new memories told me that making the first one was so much fun! But really, I'm a creator and love seeing a product develop from the beginning to the end. My grandfather was always making things with his hands and I think I got some of his genes in my DNA (he also was a scientist). It's still funny to me that I'm making purses since I am not a handbag collector by any means. I've carried the same bag for at least 5 years now and the only time I change purses is when I'm headed to a live music show. Now though I find any reason to go out and show off a Suburban Goods clutch, which is the ultimate accessory to any good outfit."

Erin says that she selected the name Suburban Goods to allow for a range of possibilities in the shop. Look for more goodness to come from this small business!

And, why not? She's using some fabulous leathers, suedes, vegan leathers, and she pairs them with adorable linings that add a pop of surprise to the fun. Suburban Goods Shop is brand new, and I want to show Erin some support for her brave new efforts.

So, I had to invest. :) Erin made me a customized bag for work. I fell in love with her mix of blacks and browns for the fall, and she added a bit of polka dot and interior pockets to make it extra special. My new Suburban Goods bag also goes so well with my new black/brown heels for work (apparently I'm into tassels right now, too). Can you smell the leather from there? Like butter.

And I'm giving away a sassy clutch to one of you! There are lots of ways to enter. Pick as many as you'd like.

This black and gold clutch retails from $80, and you can get it freeeeeeee. Imagine adding it to a great pair of jeans for a girl's night out, or popping a blue dress with a splash of gold for date night. This one can go from Church to the clubs - it's a truly versatile piece.

Congratulations, Erin, on your great new shop. Let's show her some Pars Caeli love!

xoxo, MJ

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Living in every room

Some days I get on these thought trains.

  • The ones where I dream of having an incredible house like Soandso. Oh, how amazing it would be to walk in the front door and have all that open space. And that fireplace.
  • The ones where I envision a sunroom, and a deck, and a patio, and a pool...and a studio all added on to the back of our house. How awesome it would be to live with that space added.
  • The ones where I wish we had a larger garage to store more and a a wrap around deck with that porch swing...and to have a lake house like Soandso. Or that vacation home.

Dreaming and working towards goals is incredibly motivational and wonderful. That's not so much where my thought trains take me.

They lead me to Station Disappointment and Dissatisfaction. I have an incredible imagination and 99% of my life it has served as an amazing blessing.

But.

Sometimes.

I let it move me to an unsettlement with the goodness around me. Maybe if I'm dissatisfied, I'll get more.

I have a wonderful home (gigantic by world standards) that functions well, fits all of its people and some fish and two cars, and just about anything we want to do as individuals or as a family.

This post is not about my house - how big, how small, how lovely, or how ugly it might be. It's about appreciating what I have, what we have. Some data shows that we, as Americans, are in top 1% of the wealthiest people on the planet.

So, this is about me moving from an imagination - a thought train - of needing more, or at least different, to one of appreciation and gratitude. I'm shedding away some of the old practices and bringing in the new.

I'm challenging myself to a simple task this year (and beyond). Giving myself a little kick in the imagination pants. I have 16 rooms in my house (counting bathrooms, laundry room, mudroom, etc.), and I don't really live in them all. I've been making this effort, slowly, over the last two years, to

  • Declutter
  • Reduce
  • Create space for new imaginations

We've changed our never-lived-in living room to an art room that gets daily use for piano practice and crafting. We've reduced the amount of stuff we have in storage to make room for things we love and want to keep.

But there's still more to do. Before I feel the twinge of jealousy (or at least immediately after), I'm challenging myself to see my own spaces (all 16 of them + garage) with fresh eyes and a sense of gratitude.

Do you live in all your rooms? Maybe it's a hangover from college/apartment life where I functioned from 3-4 rooms....

Want to challenge yourself, too?

XOXO, MJ

PS. Check out Dagmar's list of ideas for kids spaces. I bet you and I could change just a few things to make our children's bedrooms and play spaces feel a bit more creative.