Posts in Grown-Up Goodness
Gourmet PB & J Bar

This post is sponsored by Munchkin. Ideas and musings all from me. Thanks for supporting our sponsors.

Such a fun buffet for a baby shower! Lulu the Baker knows how to dress up peanut butter and jelly.

Such a fun buffet for a baby shower! Lulu the Baker knows how to dress up peanut butter and jelly.

I like mine with butter, peanut butter, raspberry jelly, and raisins. Many of us grew up on peanut butter and jelly, and I for one still love it! That's why I was so excited to hear that Melissa was making us a gourmet PB & J buffet for Amy's Celebrate the Little Things party.

I might have to change my mind about my favorite combinations! Take a look at some of her choices of breads, spreads, and drinks. I can't resist the signs and banners either. She paired some cute and colorful Munchkin plates to take us all back to our childhoods.

Head on over to Lulu the Baker to see all the details! I'll be adding to the party tomorrow with some party decor that will delight moms and kids alike.

Munchkin rids the world of the mundane by developing clever, innovative solutions that make family life safe, easier, and more fun. You can find their products at Munchkin.comTargetBabies’R’UsWalmart, and Amazon. It’s the little things!

17 Leprechaun Pranks for St. Patrick's Day
If a leprechaun visits your house on St. Patrick's Day, here are 17 silly tricks he might leave in his path!

If a leprechaun visits your house on St. Patrick's Day, here are 17 silly tricks he might leave in his path!

For the last several years, we've had a peculiar visitor to our house on the eve of St. Patrick's Day. A tiny leprechaun pranks us with his mischief but always leaves a few treats behind for good luck.

As a young mom, I knew that we'd have visits from Santa and the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy. But I was surprised when my kindergartener's classroom was turned upside down from a leprechaun! She had worked with her classmates to create traps from recycled materials to catch the little guy. They came up empty handed.

Don't make the mistake I made of thinking the leprechaun only visits schools! If the leprechaun needs to make a visit to your home, here are 17 pranks he might play:

1. Turning the toilet water green. This one seems to happen a lot and always brings on a bad case of the giggles.

2. Making plants and bushes bloom marshmallows. You'll see he often borrows from April Fool's Day pranks. :) Take a look at Jodi's idea over at Meaningful Mama.

Leprechauns have the power to make plants and bushes bloom marshmallows... because why not?

Leprechauns have the power to make plants and bushes bloom marshmallows... because why not?

3. Turning furniture upside down. We've seen this one on a smaller scale with dining and desk chairs but some leprechauns go big and turn over couches or shelves.

4. Leaving various objects in the shape of a shamrock. We've had all of our shoes arranged in a big clover, but also watch out for utensils, straws, crayons, and more.

5. Adding googly eyes to everything on your child's breakfast plate/bowl. This meal is really well done.

6. Sometimes leprechauns leave behind green droppings.

Leprechauns leave the smallest of notes like these from A Bit of Bees Knees

Leprechauns leave the smallest of notes like these from A Bit of Bees Knees

7. Messaging on the smallest of papers.

8. Turning the milk for cereal green.

9. Rainbows are a go-to for leprechauns. We've had some colorful fruit plates, and this jello would be perfect, too.

10. Beware, they often leave a lot of these green footprints around your house.

11. Replacing light bulbs with green bulbs so that the early morning action of turning on the lights feels totally different.

12. Writing taunting messages on chalkboards, whiteboards, or right on your floor.


13. Crafting these adorable leprechaun images with your photos and paper plates.

14. Rocking the party with a bucket of these golden nuggets that might be more like painted rocks.

15. Planting this rainbow scavenger hunt all over your house. These free and fantastic printables might make your want to do this all year round.

16. Gifting with these special golden treat boxes filled with favorite rainbow candy.

17. The best leprechauns leave behind a bit of their treasure, and we always have a share of the pot of gold hidden somewhere in our house. Chocolate gold coins for everyone!

Hoping you've kissed a bit of the blarney stone this year, and you receive some of these silly pranks at your house! Happy St. Patrick's Day.

xoxo, MJ





4 Ways to celebrate Tortilla Chip Day
Tortilla chips in four different recipes that will have you celebrating. I think we can have them at every meal!

Tortilla chips in four different recipes that will have you celebrating. I think we can have them at every meal!

Happy times! Today is Tortilla Chip Day. And a festivity such as this deserves a little indulgence, no? I've got four fun recipes for you to make, super simple and quick, for a sweet or savory version of the classic chip.

In the first year of Pars Caeli, I posted my favorite recipes including this one for a roasted corn guacamole. I renamed it salsamole because depending on your focus, tomatoes or avacados, you can lean more salsa or more guacamole. Check it out here and feel welcome to make comments on my struggling food photography (we're all friends here).

Who can turn down a seven-layer dip? Not this lady. Imagine that dip taken to the next level with your own portion of awesome. These cups would make a great addition to a buffet, and they'd help me cut myself off from eating more tortilla chips than I need.

I couldn't resist showing off these shamrock tortilla chips. My brain is on St. Patrick's Day overload right now, and these are a quick transformation with spinach tortillas.

And finally, something sweet and fruity. Do you like your tortilla chips sweet? I'm all for the cinnamon and sugar and this recipe that brings in a fruit salsa. Yes to the yes.

Whether you observe the official holiday or sneak a few chips in on the side, have a fabulous Tuesday.

xoxo, MJ

14 Silly Ways to Celebrate Valentine's
Tired of the usual celebrations? Here's 14 ways to celebrate silly for Valentine's Day.

Tired of the usual celebrations? Here's 14 ways to celebrate silly for Valentine's Day.

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. One, twoo, fhree. Valentine's Day is all about the deep and meaningful love languages as well as the sappy and silly gestures that show you care.

This year we're going all in silly for Valentine's Day, and I wanted to share our fourteen favorite ideas for bringing some fun to February 14!

  1. Eat only heart-shaped foods for dinner. Here's how you create a few items in that beloved shape: fruits, bacon, veggies, and more.
  2. Wear as much red as you can. Accessories are worth two points. The winner gets red velvet cake or blood oranges (which are actually red).
  3. Write a simple poem using words that rhyme with love (above, dove, shove, of, glove) .
  4. Say love in a three new languages. For example: die liebe (German)
    and upendo (Swahili). Find even more here.
  5. Watch a great episode of Hart to Hart on YouTube. 
  6. Draw hearts with your initials and an arrow through them on a car window or in the snow/sand.
  7. Sing every song from the soundtrack to Love Actually at the top of your lungs.
  8. Redo your worst date but make it the best experience ever.
  9. Put your phone above your head, turn up the volume really high, and play In Your Eyes.
  10. Make chains of paper hearts and string them along your bathroom mirror.
  11. Recite (or memorize!) a sonnet from Shakespeare.
  12. Toast to love in the sappiest way you can. Accents are encouraged. Try this drink or this one to celebrate.
  13. Get your heart pumping with 14 jumping jacks for your love, but make your body into the shape of Xs and Os. (I said they were silly)
  14. Apply the perfect shade of red lipstick and add your smack to mirrors, windows, and the cheeks of those you love.


Tell me, tell me! What would you add to the list? Happy Valentine's Day, you wonderful person, you. Catch you this weekend for some of my favorite links.

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


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.


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.


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.


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

Valentine Shirley Temples

The maraschino cherry was the fruit of joy in my childhood. Pop them in a glass with a few dashes of grenadine, and you have a classic drink great for Valentine's Day or any day -- the Shirley Temple.

We introduced our children to the Shirley Temple, named after the charmed young actress Shirley Temple, during the holidays as a special way to make a toast. The brilliant red of the grenadine is a show stopper.

With a bamboo skewer (you know I love them), a maraschino cherry, and some washi tape, you can customize a wish for hugs and kisses for your little Valentine.

A traditional Shirley Temple is made with a lemon lime soda and ginger ale combination, but we simplify and use just the soda. Add a few dashes of grenadine, flavor to taste. Add a few cherries for extra flavor and pizzazz.

The red of grenadine mixed with a lemon lime soda and a cherry on top! An easy and festive Valentine mocktail for your everyday, the Shirley Temple.

The red of grenadine mixed with a lemon lime soda and a cherry on top! An easy and festive Valentine mocktail for your everyday, the Shirley Temple.

And for an extra bit of fun, substitute a rope of red licorice for a straw! Trust me, it's a crowd pleaser.

xoxo, MJ

P.S. I'm heading to Alt Summit today, and I'll be posting about my time there as an Alt Rep as well as a lot of the wonderful learning on social media, small business, and design on my social channels. Follow along on Twitter and Instagram with #parscaeli_ALT Beware of overgramming and selfies. :)


11 Ways to Fall in Love with Winter

The holidays with their festivities (and exhaustion) are complete, and in the Midwest, we've entered the extended four-month stretch of winter sans glitter and gumdrops. We scowl and give this time of year ugly nicknames like perma-gray. Some of us hold our breaths until the green blades of grass break their way through the frost. Others declare their distaste often and loudly and still others flee the temperatures for warmer beaches and pastures.

Unusually so, I am looking forward to the winter this year. Here's what I'm celebrating. Add your favorites in the comments.

Cozy fires, snowshoeing and skiing, sweet hot chocolate and more! The joys of winter.

Cozy fires, snowshoeing and skiing, sweet hot chocolate and more! The joys of winter.

1.  Something hot to sip

Soup, hot cocoa, tea, or a strong cup of jo. The comfort of a warm beverage or meal is even that much sweeter in the winter months. Better still, a coffee date with your BF on a snowy Saturday or a long winter weekend spent making homemade soup with your honey can't be beat.

2. The Healthy Glow

Ingrained in my imagination are the images of rosy-cheeked grins of each of my children as they come back inside after hours of romping in piles of snow. The first inhale of fresh, cold air is exhilarating. The blush and bright eyes that result also make the sweetest pictures, on camera or in our memories.

3. The childlike fun of snow

The possibilities are endless with the gift of this new medium. We've got skiing and snow forts, ice sports and snowball fights, snowmen and snow angels. Indulge in the joy of being the first to put footprints in the new fallen snow!

4. Observing the patterns of nature

What creature made those footprints? It's a daily case of who done it. The animals brave enough to thrive in the winter temps are deserving of their own attention. Our fan favorites include cardinals and black squirrels.

5. The Awesome, Deafening Sound of Stepping in Snow

Have you had the experience of being somewhere totally silent and hearing your own crunch in the snow? It's so loud and clear as boots meet and compress the white stuff below. Take a walk in the early morning snow and listen carefully to your own soundtrack.

6. The Brightness of the Reflection

Though we have less daylight to soak in during this stretch of the year, we do have the reflection off the white /gray of the snow. I'm grabbing my sunglasses more now that I have in months! The brightened hue can put a fresh coat of beauty on every shape and object. And when the sun goes down, you can see the moon lighting its own trail of brilliance. It's a sight to be seen (take that summer!).

7. Fireplaces find their purpose for being

If you were that home buyer who just had to have a fireplace, now is the time of the year that you get to prove your love. I can't resist a fireside book and conversation. Winter weather brings on the sense of nowhere to go, nothing else to do but be here right now together.

8. Layering, Bring it on

Pile on the blankets and put on an extra coat. Layers of all kinds are welcome this time of year. No time to style your hair today? Wear than knit cap and blame it on the weather. The layers of winter are forgiving on the extra indulgences of the holidays and allow for extra wiggle room, unlike the beach bodies of the warm weather.

9. Movie and Series Watching is Accepted and Shared

If you have a TV series that you want to binge watch or a list of must-see movies, winter is the perfect time to make yourself cozy and enjoy the entertainment. Friends are talking about the award winners as well as their favorites that were left off the nominations. Take note of how you can catch a great story from the comfort of your own couch.

10. Focus on indoor

Winter brings us and keeps us indoors. It's the perfect time to bust out that extended day (or week) organization project you've been wanting to do. You can pick up an instrument, learn a new language, get back in touch with long-lost pals, all knowing that there's nothing else warm and beautiful that you should accomplish.

11. Snuggling

Need I say more? You're winning me over, winter.

xoxo, MJ

New Year's Eve with the girls

This post is sponsored by Red Stamp. I was compensated for my participation in this post, and these opinions are all mine.

If Thanksgiving is for family, and Christmas is for children, then we adults get New Year's Eve, right? NYE has been one of my favorite holidays since I was old enough to keep my eyes open until midnight and watch the ball drop. The celebration of a year accomplished teamed up with the hope of all that is to come - pop open the champagne!

Even better yet, pour on the Lemon Sorbet Champagne Float. My weeknight party girls, headed up by the best hostess, Alexandra Hedin, are linking up with Red Stamp (did you know they have a brilliant new line of party goods?) to throw a party with crowns, flags, balloons, and a great cocktail.

Meet the party team: Ali of Alexandra Hedin, Amy of This Heart of Mine, Melissa of Lulu the Baker, and Jen of Classic Play, along with me!

The laughs we would have if this crew could get together more than just virtually! We have babies and businesses to toast. And foibles and mishaps to bid bon voyage.

I host a New Year's Eve party in our home for a few families. And, though the games and food are aimed at the younger set, I love the idea of making a signature drink to show a little love to the grown ups! And I think the Fizz flags from Red Stamp are the perfect touch of whimsy.

Ali will be sharing this cute recipe card tomorrow, and you can also find them on Red Stamp's blog!

And now through December 10, we're offering our readers 20% off at when you use promo code CHEERSTO2015!

That means we don't have to be left in the dust from Black Friday or Cyber Monday deals we thought had past! Get some really cute additions for your New Year's bash - or anything you want to celebrate!

Cheers to you, friends. And here's to a spectacular 2015.

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!


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  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




My affair with sugar

If we're buds over on Instagram, you know of my recent efforts to get healthy. I'm trying to make this a slower, longer change than diets or trends I've grabbed onto in the past. My husband has turned to a mode of "training for life" in which he exercises daily and eats balanced meals. And maybe.. just maybe.. it's inspired me to get a move on.

I've begun in small ways:

  • Getting a baseline on all of my important stats (weight, blood pressure, cholesterol, etc.)
  • Drinking more (water and sugar-free lemonade for now)
  • Reducing drastically my sugar intake

I assumed that these three steps would be the first of a series. Baby steps, right? But in the process I've become very aware of my need for sugar. It seems that I rely on it for energy (in small bursts), joy, interest (life is better with a bar of dark chocolate by your side), reward, and basically every other emotion that you can attach to it.

I'm not shocked at this realization. Since adolescence and a freedom to make my own eating choices, I've often gone for the quick, the easy, and by, happenstance, the caloric. But I was surprised by how a reduction in my sugar intake really affected the rest of my life. I was moody (more than my usual emo), tired, bored and boring.  

Some studies suggest that sugar affects our brain in similar ways to high powered drugs like cocaine and perhaps more frightening to me is that nearly 80% of our American diet contains either natural sugars or high fructose corn syrup.

And I felt it. I've never done drugs other than caffeine (and sugar, apparently), and with the withdrawal of most of my sugars (not even all), I felt the urges to binge and the "need" to fill myself. It wasn't pretty.

Here's what I'm doing to help ween myself away from sugar:

  1. Be Aware - Take a pause before eating or drinking. Am I hungry? Is this the best choice? Start simple.
  2. Drink, drink - Much of my hunger is satiated with hydration. Beyond that, I need to be sure that I'm staying hydrated to keep my energy levels and moods on an even keel.
  3. It won't last forever - If I can keep off of artificial sugars for 3-4 days, they are mostly out of my system, and I can return to a steady and happy place.
  4. Move it, move it -  The more I can move and stay active, the better I'll be.

Are you addicted to sugar? Let's do this together. Follow #parscaeli_healthy and chime in!

xoxo, MJ





3 Steps to Create an Art Caddy for Kids

Sometimes you run across a loved object and know that it's just perfect. But, you can't quite put your finger on what it is or what it will be perfect for...

This is.... a chicken feeder, used on farms, and it's seen a lot of good use and has an interesting patina to it.

So, I picked it up at a bargain price.

And we have repurposed it for the perfect art caddy for the kids! It fits in so well with my goal to live in every room.

In every room of our house (save the bathrooms), we have art supplies. We also, of course, have an art room where all major art projects happen. Sometimes my adventurous children want all of the supplies wherever they may be, inside or out.

We've always enjoyed the joy of spontaneous and mobile creation. I have many happy memories of bobbling toddlers and determined preschoolers walking around with buckets of crayons, as my daughters or my son would decide to plop anywhere and draw.


Now we have a chicken feeder converted to art caddy extraordinaire. Here's what every great caddy needs:

1. Portability:

Whether it's a bucket or a shelved unit like ours, a great caddy needs to be easily handled in small hands. Sturdy buckets with strong handles work well indoors and out. Ours is a big piece so the handle bar at the top is helpful, as well as felt pads under the caddy to allow even small people to push this one easily from room to room on our floors.

I love seeing one of my kids creating, with the caddy pulled up right alongside.


2.Select the best of the best supplies:

When children are young artists, they may focus on one medium more than another. Until preschool, my kids were all about crayons. Now everyone has their sophisticated choices for what they want to use.

Our caddy currently holds:

  • Scissors with many different edges
  • Hole punches of various shapes
  • Glue sticks and white glue
  • Tape
  • A ruler
  • A bucket of colored pencils
  • A pencil sharpener
  • A stack of small notepads (always ready to be doodled upon)
  • Three crayon buckets (now that everyone is older, we sort them by primary colors for learning and ease of use)
  • A pack of markers
  • 3 small packs of crayons (great to grab if you're headed to the car)
  • Finger paints
  • Stapler and staple remover

We rotate the caddy supplies in and out as favorites come and go.  What's most used in your house? Make sure your caddy is well stocked for a great invitation to create.


3. Make storage within the storage.

The dollar section at Target or any dollar store have great options for small storage. Keep old Easter baskets, sturdy gift boxes, and even plastic containers to help your caddy stay clear of clutter.

It also allows for easy sharing. One child can grab the bucket of gluesticks and basket of scissors to create out of construction paper, while another takes the box of markers and a hole punch for a birthday card.


Such a beautiful and clutter-free caddy might just inspire the grown-ups in the house to create and to bring that sense of spontaneous art making anywhere you go!

xoxo, MJ

Putting the Impostor in its place

How is this ever going to get this done? I find myself asking this. Often.

My to do list is no longer or fuller than yours. And, if I'm honest, my feelings have little to do with the amount of tasks I need to accomplish.

Tomorrow, I have a presentation to give on a topic of which I am familiar: social media. I'll deliver it to an attentive audience who's asked some individuals who regularly work in this arena to present. I don't often give presentations these days, and, though I don't have a particular fear of public speaking, I feel ill-prepared, overwhelmed, and I am carefully planning all of the other things I could be doing instead of delivering this presentation.

I'm avoiding.

And procrastinating.

And there is a voice in my head, that has grown in volume over the last few days, that I might not be qualified. I might be asked questions I don't know the answer to.

I might not be able to do this.

I'm not sure I can do this.

Psychologists give this downward internal conversation a term known as the Impostor Phenomenon. I call it a big dose of self doubt that pops up its ugliness at the most unopportune moments.

It's this sense that, even though you have succeeded and accomplished a certain arena, you are still not qualified... and that others might see you as an "impostor."

Seems that high-achieving women (uh oh) and African Americans are most likely to experience this feeling and grad students as well as faculty on the tenure track feel it, too.

But, guess what?

The quickest, easiest cure for such a phenomenon (or jumbo heap of self doubt)?

"The most effective technique to overcome impostor syndrome is to simply recognize that it exists."

How about that? Just admitting that you don't feel qualified alleviates the problem. I always appreciate when speakers give an early comment something to the effect that they are not experts in their field or that they are always learning and searching... an easy cure of the impostor, I suppose.

Something I've been saying a lot to my children lately is helping me as well. "We're all in this together." St. Catherine of Sienna is quoted as saying, "The only reason to learn is to teach." So really, when we're all in this together, and I am to teach what I have learned, how can we lose?

And if you are in this with me, and you teach me what you know, then we move forward together.

So I've created my first slide. I've set the imposter in its place:

Ancora Impara, always learning

I look forward to all that you have to teach me. And I have a few things I want to teach as well.

xoxo, MJ

PS. Remember this great blog series that also broke down the impostor feeling?

Simple lessons: Jack O'Lantern feelings

Happy Friday, friends! Every now and again I'll be featuring a new series on Pars Caeli called Simple Lessons. These are not projects as much as they are easy ways to connect and to teach your children. Many of them might not be Pinterest beautiful, but they are quick, approachable ways that you can use what's going on around you or in your home to enhance your role as a parent.

We were eating dinner the other night, my husband was away for work, and the topic of war came up. As a family, we haven't really delved into war, figuring that our children (9,7,4) aren't quite ready for that kind of catastrophic topic. They, especially the 4- and 7-year old, had clear and tough questions.

  • "Why would anyone go to war?"
  • "How do you know who wins a war?"
  • "Do we know anyone who has fought in a war?"

We talked about these issues for about 10 minutes when one of them asked if we knew anyone who had been killed in a war. And then they all got a little anxious. Death, killing, violence are not our usual conversation topics. They all became a little unsure that we should be saying these things out loud.

I assured them that we should never be afraid to talk about any of this...even the things that upset us, worry us, and scare us.

And it made me think, that especially with my youngest, I should spend some more time talking about emotions and HOW TO talk about emotions. He had recently drawn a sad face in one of his pictures and felt the need to draw over it with a happy face... he didn't like seeing the sadness.

Enter Halloween and all the ghosts and ghouls and jack o'lanterns. Halloween can serve as a great entrance into tough topics of death and the afterlife. I decided that pumpkin art might be an easy way to open the topic.

I gave him a stack of small pumpkins and asked that he draw all sorts of emotions on their faces.

  • What does happy look like?
  • How about sad?
  • Can you draw surprised?
  • And frustrated?
  • How about angry?

He made patterns with the various faces and enjoyed lacing them together with twine, and I was able to sneak in some good conversation about his feelings. I wanted to help him understand that it's good to feel all of these. Sadness is good. Anger is good. Happiness is good.

It's all a part of being human. We want to express our emotions.

How we express our emotions is really important. We never want to harm anyone with our words or our bodies - that's where the trouble comes in. But it's right to feel sad when something bad happens to us. And it's good to get angry when someone has upset you. Feelings of all varieties have meaning.

And I wanted him to know that no matter how I might express my feelings, I always love him. Even if my face might show something different, my love is stronger than a feeling. He seemed to get it, likely telling me he didn't need this lesson in the first place...

but maybe I did.

Consider taking advantage of the fearful and haunted of Halloween to talk to your kids about how they're feeling.

Have a bright weekend!

xoxo, MJ

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.



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?


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.

Learning from Autumn

Not everyone needs them, but I do. The change of the seasons, the turn of one cycle of nature to another.

It's a spiritual revolving for me. My faith has not been a direct, upward climb, but it has been and is a daily cleanse and a foundation of hope and a loud call to love more. With the arrival of autumn, the addition of color, the fall of the leaves, the crisp scent in the air, I am reminded of a deeper change within each of us.

The act of leaves moving from green to yellow or red to fallen forms of themselves, leaving behind a blank tree that must now weather the winter on its own, encourages me to strip away all that is unnecessary and unhelpful. And to remind myself of what I truly need to live the life I hope to.

From Peter Schineller, SJ:

It means a letting go, as the trees let go of their leaves. What are you called to let go of this season? Possessions? Grudges? Status? Can you shed them gently? When I was growing up there was a large tree on the corner of one of the streets in our neighborhood, which always turned red before the others--from the top down. There were other trees whose fallen leaves blanketed the grass with reds, oranges, and yellows. As with a tree that sheds its leaves, perhaps your letting go might make things more beautiful for the world.

How can the season invite you closer to God?

I have plenty that I want to shed this season - some of which I'll be sharing here on Pars Caeli. I'm taking a call from nature to dig into my roots and let go of what has served its time, and to grow stronger for all that is to come.

What will you let fall away? Can you shed it gently?

xoxo, MJ

Texting and Children: What to do

I was away on Tuesday, sorry to miss you all! I was away from my husband and children for the night. My kids had the day off from school, and my husband took the day off to hang with them. They enjoyed bookstores and the movies, and I was missing out.

During my morning activity, I received a series of texts back and forth from both of my daughters. They went something like what you see to the right.

Love notes. Check ins. Even silly jokes.

Their messages totally made my day, and I thought about how glad I am that my seven- and nine-year old children have Ipods and text me.

And then I hesitated. Wait, what? I'm glad that my kids are texting?

Insert moral mom dilemma.

Oh, geez, is this good for them? What does this mean for their budding communication skills? Are they focused on what's going on around them or are they zoned into a device?

I try to limit my kid's screen time, generally. No one can take their device to school, and the kids ask us before they take them anywhere outside the house.

If I'm being honest about it, I love getting their texts. It's another tool in the belt for seeing inside their minds, another avenue to talk about what's on their minds. As long as it doesn't dominate or even become a majority of communication, let's meet each other there, too. How can we as parents use this form of communication to help foster positive relationships and parenting with our digital kids? 

Research and data isn't everything, but I'm prone to lean my ear toward it. Here are some interesting aspects to digital communication with our kids, tweens, and teens. 

Industry research shows that 61 percent of those on the internet are 3-11-years old, and a full 22 percent of children 6-9-years old have their own cell phone (whoa).

Between the ages of 8 and 13, kids are developing key relationship and communication skills, and typically want to spend as much time as they can with peers. Technology just gives them new ways to do that. Texting, in particular, seems tailor-made for the tween psyche. Not only does it allow users to perma-connect with their social group, it also gives them all sorts of new ways to either include others (by sharing peeks at the screen or using slang) or exclude them (by typing silently while next to Mom on the couch).

Danah Boyd, Microsoft researcher and fellow of Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society, notes that there are a number of reasons why kids aren't connecting with one another the way we used to (with lack of neighborhoods, busy after school schedules, worn out children).

The difference is that when we were kids, we got on our bikes and checked in every once in awhile at home but weren’t expected to be connected to parents all the time. Young people just want to be with friends, and that is no different from any generation. But they have fewer opportunities to connect with friends.

I see that already with my kiddos. And I support strong friendships, not at the cost of family time or other communication, but I support them. Texting can only be an additional, and not the main, source of communication.

While the Pew parents were happy to be able to reach each other and their kids while apart, they were less likely to eat dinner as a family than were other households, and tended to report feeling dissatisfied with family and leisure time. A study by computer software maker Norton made a similar finding: When total time spent online increased beyond a certain point, both kids and parents reported feeling less connected.

So here are our general rules:

How do you do it? What are your guidelines? Do you text your kids?

xoxo, MJ

P.S. Love these creative ways for teachers to incorporate texting into a lesson.



The Return of Celebrate the Normal


I visualize holidays, birthdays, parties, big announcements.

But, what if celebrating were a part of our every day experiences. And I mean every day. Little victories and still moments. Have you been taken a back by a great expanse of sky? Or smiled to yourself over the sweet simplicity of a bowl of oatmeal?

Some may call it the mundane, and anything but extraordinary. But these sights and experiences that cause us to pause and appreciate the wonderful normal that we've been given, they deserve celebration. And we can build our capacity to notice and to appreciate by sharing these images and insights with one another.

I first ran this series in 2013, closing it a little more than a year ago. Nearly 500 images have been shared with the tag #celebratethenormal since it began. And though I may have not featured images from this series since last year, many, many photos have been taken that are fabulously ordinary and nearly amazing. For me, it's a prayerful experience to look through the images and appreciate the good gifts of this life and the many ways God has blessed us.

It has also trained my mind's eye to find those moments around me.

And it's time for me to return and to remind myself. I have a whole list of reasons why I need this, maybe you have a list, too. Let's help each other. Let's practice everyday gratitude. Let's share these beautiful moments with each other - because you recognizing the beauty of the spaghetti on your child's cheek will help me to remember to appreciate it on mine. We're in this together.

Beginning next Thursday and running every other Thursday, we'll #CelebratetheNormal here on Pars Caeli, the blog. And every day, I'll be working to find and to relish the beautiful ordinary around me.

Tag your photos on Twitter or Instagram with #celebratethenormal. I'll be showing off some wonderful entries next week.

Let us learn from you. Happy snapping!

xoxo, MJ




Welcome to fall wardrobe


The crisp smell is in the air, and we have our first apple picking adventure this weekend. Fall is on its way, and for this gal, I'm welcoming it with wide open arms. The fashions of fall are always my favorite, as we add layers and textures to our closets.


Let's not forget to keep the color going, too! Autumn in nature brings the brilliance of the warm color palette right to our front door so let's celebrate it in our wardrobes, too. I'm dreaming of bursts of blue and hits of pink with the neutral tones of the crunchy leaves.


What are you excited to wear for the fall?


xoxo, MJ