Activities · Lane · Lauren · Play outside · Summer

Best. Summer. EVER.

Summer Activities for kids.
Summer is finally in full swing, and we could not be happier or more ready!  As my fellow New Englanders know, it was a very LONG winter.  But it’s officially week #2 of summer vaycay for us (lots of snow days held us up!), and we are all about making the most of every sunny second!  Fortunately, we’ve found tons of ways to soak up summer without breaking the bank – the best things in life are free (or at least cheap!), after all!

Ice cream truck.
Decisions, decisions…
Here are four of our favorites:

  1. PLAYGROUNDS.  It’s an old standby, but Lane and Lauren have yet to meet a playground that they didn’t love.  We’ve explored and discovered several awesome playgrounds nearby that are fenced in (super important to me, as I typically take the girls by myself, and it can get tricky trying to keep track of both of them as they run in different directions), and provide shady areas for those super hot days.   Playgrounds are amazing for exercise, imagination, and socializing, but what I love most is the element of unstructured play that is missing from so many childhood activities these days.  So much of what kids do is organized, and it’s refreshing to let them just be kids and play on their own terms.  I’ve watched the girls’ confidence build as they master new tricks on the playground equipment and I always get a kick out of watching their interactions with the kids they meet.  And, in the spirit of full disclosure, I actually really love the swings myself.Summer activities - Playground.
  2. THE LIBRARY.  Do yourself a solid and check out your local Children’s Room!  During the summer, the girls and I make it a point to go once a week to grab some fresh reads (currently on our nightstands: Your Purr-fect Birthday and Today I Will Fly) and take advantage of all our city’s library has to offer.  We’ve signed up for the Summer Reading Program, which incentivizes kids to read with rewards and activities, and even discovered that our library offers discount or even free passes to many local museums, zoos, and other attractions.  This month’s library activity calendar includes tons of creative, fun activities that kids love: everything from crafts and game nights to movies and story time in your PJ’s.  I was pleasantly surprised at how much our library has to offer, and it keeps the girls motivated to read and learn through play all summer!
  3. SPLASH PADS.  A splash pad is the perfect way to cool off without the stress of the deep end, the undertow, and/or creepy sea creatures.  Don’t get me wrong: I adore the beach – when I’m alone and can take a nap or read a book.  However, I ventured with two small children to the beach by myself last summer and it was the single least relaxing event I have ever taken part in.  The packing and prep, the parking, the trekking across the sand with all the stuff… it’s exhausting.  Enter: the Splash Pad.  Luckily, we’ve got a few great ones nearby, and a couple of our faves are the Splash Pad Playspace at the Capron Park Zoo (this place has the added bonus of a great playground, too!) and the Splash Pad at Freetown State Forest.  Extra points go to Freetown State Forest for its fully fenced-in, life-guarded, non-sandy and regularly cleaned grounds.  It’s even got a shady picnic area, so bring the PB&J’s!  Find out more about the splash pad in Freetown, as well as other splash pads in Massachusetts by clicking here.
  4. BERRY PICKING.  If you’re looking for a cheap, fun outdoor activity, google nearby farms/farm stands.  Late June and early July are prime for perfect strawberries – we went a couple of weeks ago and spent an amazing couple of hours picking the most beautiful strawberries for a cool $4.70.  You haven’t lived until you’ve tried a warm, sweet, sun-ripened strawberry right off the vine.  Blueberry season arrives later in the summer, around mid-August.  Our family loves traditions, and berry picking has become something the girls look forward to each summer.  Not only do we have a blast together, but we go home with yummy fresh fruit and support local farmers. Summer activities for kids - strawberry picking.Summer activities for kids - strawberry picking.

What are your favorite ways to savor summer?  We’d love to read your suggestions and comments – we are always looking for new ideas!  Happy Summer!


Birthday parties · Island · Lauren · Moana · Parties and Entertaining

Lauren’s Moana themed 3rd birthday party!

Moana birthday party inspiration

Almost immediately after Lane’s Avaloran Fiesta, the girls started dreaming about an island-themed soiree for Lauren’s third… because it’s all about MOANA!  May is always a tricky month in Massachusetts, but this year was particularly unpredictable, with lots of rain and unseasonably cold days.  But on the Sunday of Lauren’s party, the sun was shining and the weather was absolutely perfect for a backyard birthday party fit for a princess daughter-of-the-chief.

The girls and I had a lot of fun coming up with Motunui Island-inspired food and treats, but of course, the star of the show is always the cake!

Moana waterfall cake

Lauren spotted something like this on Pinterest (because don’t all 3-year-olds scroll through Pinterest?), and requested that I replicate it for her Moana birthday party.  I was a little intimidated at first, but it honestly wasn’t too bad.  Stacked round cakes make up the base, and pirouette cookies create the bamboo trim.  A little bit of graham cracker crumb “sand” and a few strategically placed tropical candy flowers complete this colorful waterfall cake.  I had to resist the urge to overdo it on the embellishments with this one.  It was so much fun adding detail, but had I done any more, it would have been too much.  Lauren absolutely loved her cake, and while it didn’t come out as perfect as the picture on Pinterest, I was pretty happy with it, too!

Note for impatient Mamas like myself: Wait until just before guests start arriving to place the characters on top – especially Maui!  That figure is so heavy and his feet are so wide that he wasn’t very secure on the cake.  He ended up falling backwards, knocking off some of the cookies, and ruining part of the back of the cake!  I was stuck doing damage control the morning of the party – save yourself the stress and just wait!

Tamatoa "Shiny" Cupcakes - Moana birthday inspiration

These “Shiny” Tamatoa Shell cupcakes were a huge hit with the kids.  The best part is that they are so easy to make.  We went with chocolate for the cupcakes, and iced with a simple buttercream.  Next, we literally dumped shiny gold sprinkles and candies onto the top before placing fondant “fish hooks” on top.  The fish hooks were relatively easy, too, and I’m a fondant novice.  I just shaped the hooks with my hands as best as I could, and once the fondant had set, I dipped the tip in melted chocolate.

Candy Covered Strawberries

Moana’s world is full of vivid, tropical colors, so we embraced that when making these candy dipped strawberries.  We loved these palm leaf serving trays, which we dusted with graham cracker crumb “sand” before filling with these brightly colored, sweet treats.

Chocolate Pretzel Flowers

These tropical “flowers” were so tasty, I’ve actually been tempted to make more to snack on since this party!  Delish and super easy:  place one Wilton candy melt on top of each mini pretzel.  Throw a plate of them in the microwave for a couple of seconds, just long enough to melt the candy.  Then, place tropical colored M&M’s on top, using the melted candy as a glue to set them.  These harden pretty quickly on their own, but I kept mine in the fridge until they were ready to serve.

Boat Snacks! - Moana birthday party inspiration

Regular old chicken wings and drumsticks were coined “Boat Snacks,” inspired by Maui’s wise crack that he was going to eat Heihei, Moana’s beloved rooster, on his journey at sea.

Te Fiti Fruit Salad - Moana inspired birthday party

“Te Fiti Fruit Salad,” “Motunui Meatballs,” which were actually these sweet and sour meatballs, “Moana’s mac and cheese,” and pineapple pizza rounded out our birthday lunch.  Cleverly renaming familiar foods is a cute way of staying on-theme without going crazy.  For example, “Kakamora Salad,” named for those coconut-clad pirates that Moana and Maui face on their journey to Te Fiti, is simple Ambrosia.

Kakamora Salad - Moana inspired birthday party

Mini Pineapple Upside Down Cakes

The image above shows our “Heart of Te Fiti sugar cookies,” which are just made from a Pillsbury roll and piped with green icing, blue chocolate dipped pretzels decorated with metallic candy pearls and white chocolate seashells (made using this mold), and these mini pineapple upside-down cakes.  Fun touches like paper umbrellas, scattered palm leaves, and fabric flowers create an island feel atop my buffet table.  Coconut shells filled with rock candy “coral” add to the tropical feel.

Moana birthday party inspiration

Dessert table - Moana birthday party inspiration

We had a little fun with the party favors for this one.  The girls are YouTube Kids junkies, so of course they’ve seen the millions of videos of kids making slime.  They had been dying to make some, so we decided to try Tamatoa Slime!  I’m afraid ours didn’t end up as slimy and soft as it looked in the video, but I’m pretty sure that’s because we altered the recipe a bit and replaced Borax (I’ve been hearing that using this can burn little ones’ hands) with baking soda and contact lens solution (a recipe we saw at our local Michael’s store).  We did download the free printable for the tops of the containers, and the end product looked pretty cool and slimy as you can see below, but I’m not sure how much use this stuff actually got.  We tried!  We also sent kids home with a Heart of Te Fiti lollipop, so at least we couldn’t go wrong there.  Kids were also given grass skirts and leis to wear for the party and take home with them.


Planning the decor for this party was unbelievably easy, thanks for Party City and Amazon.  A quick search for “luau party decor” revealed so many fantastic ideas, and we used Pinterest and our imaginations for the rest.  We decorated with lots of fish net, fabric flowers, scattered seashells, palm leaves, and grass skirting for entryways and around tables.  We stuck with blues and greens for table covers, and bright, colorful balloons for centerpieces.

Regrettably, I forgot to take pictures of that stuff because I was wrapped up in guests arriving and last minute details (that stupid Maui figure falling off the cake!).  Once the party started, I really wanted to be in the moment with my birthday girl and the kids as much as possible and not stress about about documenting every detail.  I’m new to this blogging thing, so that’s something I will probably struggle with.

On that same note, I have started to relax a little with my perceptions of perfection for these parties.  I have learned and I’m OK with the fact that I just can’t do all the things.  For example, it’s slightly killing me that the food tags are plain – I had big plans to print out and cut tags shaped like Moana’s boat and write on those, but I simply had to let some things go.  Being a mom, wife, working, sleeping (barely) – it has to come first.  There are only so many hours in the day.

Another fabulous idea that didn’t come to fruition a party game Lane came up with – “Pin the Heart on Te Ka” – which I have to say, is brilliant.  But again, we just couldn’t pull it together in time.  We had big plans to draw the lava monster on a large sheet of paper and put a twist on Pin the Tail on the Donkey, but alas, it didn’t happen.  She gives you all her blessing to try it yourselves, but asks you to send pictures our way if you do! 😉

All the preparation was so much fun and so worth it to see the birthday girl so happy.

And since Elena made an appearance at Lane’s party, it was only right we invite Moana to Lauren’s.

She could not have been happier when Moana presented with her a flower crown and named her an honorary Chief should she ever visit Motunui.

Finally, a homemade printable thank you card featuring the birthday girl herself, all dolled up in her Moana costume.  I used the Canva app to make this myself!

Lauren smiled all day and reported this to be her “best birthday ever,” so I would call this party a success!  Be sure to pin and share these ideas if you’re inspired to plan a Moana themed party of your own!  We’d love to hear your comments and see any recreations or ideas of your own!


Birthday parties · Lane · Parties and Entertaining

Lane’s Avaloran Fiesta!

It’s been a couple of weeks since Lane’s 5th birthday celebration, and as excited as I have been to share allllll the deets of what was a super-fun party, I feel like we are just now coming up for air!
My girls L O V E Elena of Avalor (let’s be serious – who doesn’t?), and Lane has been planning to ring in the big 0-5 with this theme for months! Luckily for me, Elena’s world is filled with vibrant colors, Latin-inspired food, and fun, festive music, all of which provided endless inspiration for a fabulous fiesta!  Here are some of my favorite details from what Lane told me was her “best birthday ever!”

Elena of Avalor cake.  Elena of Avalor birthday party inspiration.

The cake.  Oh, the cake.  Try as I may have to get her to choose a simpler cake, Lane spotted an Elena doll cake on Pinterest and had to have it.  (What?  Your 5 year old isn’t into Pinterest?)  Now, I had made one other doll cake in my time (the Merida cake from last year’s fete), so I thought this would be fairly painless.  Not this time.  Turns out, the Elena doll is taller than the other princess dolls (&*%$!), so the pan I used didn’t create a deep enough cake to cover her up to her waist.  I was short for time and ended up at the grocery store buying a pre-made cake, scraping off all the frosting and decorations, and sticking it to the bottom of my homemade cake, to add height.  Once I did that, I re-frosted and attempted a fondant dress.  It looks pretty good from the front, but I promise you, the back was a mess unimpressive.  I did my best, and Lane was delighted with it, as were her little party guests.  Now I’m praying that Lauren doesn’t want a doll cake come May.  I don’t know if I can handle the pressure!

Elena of Avalor birthday party inspiration.

The dessert table, to me, is always the star of the party (aside from the birthday girl, of course!), so I was sure to stock Lane’s with yummy Avalor-inspired sweets, such as candy scepters (these were a huge hit with the kids and are so easy to make – Lane and Lauren helped:  marshmallows + candy melts + blue crystal sprinkles), cupcakes topped with Elena and Isabel cutouts, chocolate dipped pretzels, and candy that fit with the red, blue, and yellow motif.  Avaloran chocolate was a must for Lane, but since we couldn’t figure out how to make or get the authentic stuff (Hello?!  Can we get on board with an Elena of Avalor cookbook?!), we went with chocolate coins (U.S. currency only at Party City, no Avaloran money – don’t tell Lane).  A hanging sombrero, yellow floral garland, and a DIY Feliz Cumpleaños banner completed the look.

For food and non-dessert snacks, I really wanted to stick with the Avaloran theme as closely as possible.  Cue Charoca‘s Chili (an easy recipe I adapted from the South Beach diet years ago: ground turkey, black beans, corn, brown rice, kidney beans, diced tomatoes, onion, and chili mix), pan dulce (sweet bread – bakery bought, because I can’t do all the things), Jaquin snacks (Lane and I googled: jaquins are part macaw parrot and part jaguar, so they are omnivores… we went with fruit salad for this one, even though Lane said she saw a jaquin eating a chicken leg once), Arroz de la Abuela (Spanish rice), Avaloran Ambrosia, ensalada, and of course, chips and salsa, served in a sombrero!

For decor, I decided to incorporate fruit where I could.  A few painted pineapples, lime wedges as stands for the food labels, and painted mini maracas on the tables added a festive touch.  I also found these adorable scene setters (I don’t know how I lived without these for parties before I stumbled upon them last year) that feature a mariachi band and flamenco dancers!  All that was missing was an Avaloran flag (I’m crazy enough that I actually asked the show’s creator via Twitter where I could find one of these, but his reply was that the only one was in their office!)

But all the food and decorations in the world couldn’t compete with a surprise visit from Elena!  We had the Elena of Avalor soundtrack pumping, and the kids had an absolute blast dancing, chatting, and taking photos with Elena.  Storytime, a piñata, and a coronation ceremony for Lane was the cherry on top for this birthday girl!

On their way out, Lane gave each of her friends a personalized bag filled with Elena-inspired goodies such as rings, pencils, mini maracas, and noisemakers.

This was one of my favorite parties yet, and of course, the most important thing is that Lane had an amazingly memorable birthday!  Be sure to share and pin ideas if you’re inspired to plan your own Avaloran fiesta!


Lane · Parties and Entertaining · Uncategorized

Lane’s 4th birthday bash: ‘Brave’ theme!

Brave is such a fantastic animated film, and so under appreciated amongst the toddler set.  Lane, however, is not your average princess.  She connected right away to the movie’s heroine, Merida, and totally fell for her fearlessness, courage, and sense of independence.  

While I was not surprised when Lane decided to dress up like Merida for Halloween, I was pretty surprised that the love lasted all the way til February, when she announced that her birthday party should have a Brave theme.  At almost 4, Lane, like Merida, was extremely confident and opinionated, and she was very vocal with those opinions when it came to putting together her birthday party.  She declared that it had to feel like we were in a medieval castle and there had to be a doll cake.  I had my work cut out for me.  

Here are some of my favorite photos from the party.  Don’t forget to pin and share if you’re inspired to plan a Brave themed party of your own!

This was my first ever attempt at a doll cake.  Not perfect, but I was pretty happy with it.  So was Lane, and that’s what mattered most.  

Here’s the birthday girl herself, totally in character!  We did a fun little photo shoot prior to her party, and I used the pictures to decorate.  The look of determination on her face still cracks me up a year later!

One of my favorite things to obsess over when planning parties is the food.  I love creating food and dessert tables that are not only delicious, but on-theme!  So, with a little imagination and some inspiration from Pinterest, Lane and I came up with lots of fun stuff to eat, including blue cotton candy “wisps,” fruit arrows, “bear claws” (these were paw-shaped brownies with white chocolate chip ‘claws’), target cupcakes, and spell cake.  Mason jars filled with chocolate teddy grahams were also a cute touch.

I can’t find the pictures of the lunch food items, but we had grilled chicken drum sticks in honor of King Fergus, and of course, no kids party would be complete without (Merida’s) mac & cheese.  A veggie tray was dubbed “Angus Snacks,” after Merida’s horse. 

Favorite quotes from the movie were framed and placed on tables and on the walls.
Isn’t this scene setter awesome?!

Decorations ended up being super important for this party, because two days before, the venue where we had planned to have the party had a huge water leak and became unavailable.  I was in panic mode, and we ended up having this party in a church hall, which was not in the best shape.  The castle wall scene setters looked amazing and were the perfect way to distract from the condition of the space.  

Despite my efforts, all the decorations and food in the world could not outshine a visit from Merida herself!  This was a surprise for Lane, and as you can see from the photos, she was absolutely delighted!  The expression on her face when Merida walked in was absolutely priceless.

Now, we are days away from Lane’s 5th and we’ve got a lot to live up to!  I will be sure to post all the details from her Avaloran fiesta once we all recover! 

xo Mama

Parties and Entertaining

Lane’s First Birthday Party: Bubble Guppies!


I guess my first colossal parenting fail happened when Lane was about 4 months old.  Despite having vowed she wouldn’t look at a lit screen until age 2, Lane caught a glimpse of Bubble Guppies and was mesmerized.  Needless to say, from that point, Molly and Gil were ever-present in our house (dinner wasn’t going to make itself).  I know that people always say that the first birthday party is actually more for the parents than the baby since the kids won’t remember it, but I scrapped my own plans for a 1920’s/Gatsby-themed first birthday bash for a Bubble Guppies theme – it was her party after all!

The challenge for me was to create a party that was pretty, while still embracing the Bubble Guppies theme.  So, I passed on the character-branded glossy paper plates and cone-shaped paper party hats and instead found inspiration in the colors of the characters and undersea setting and added in a little DIY.

Easy, easy!

I found my inspiration for these yummy marshmallow pops on Pinterest, and they were super easy, adorable, and tasty.

You’ll need:

Wilton candy melts

Goldfish crackers

popsicle sticks

graham cracker crumbs

Wilton sugar pearls 

Make this easy on yourself.  Before you start melting and dipping, set up your space.  I have a bad habit of getting overexcited and starting right away, and it always causes aggravation and a mess.  I recommend lining a cookie sheet with either parchment or waxed paper (you’ll need somewhere to put these things once they’re dipped), and pouring the graham cracker crumbs, Goldfish, and sugar pearls each into separate bowls.  It’s way easier and less messy to work with the ingredients when they’re in bowls rather than in the boxes and containers they come in.  Also, stab all your marshmallows with the popsicle sticks before you start dipping.  You don’t want to have to keep reheating the candy melts if they cool down too much and thicken.  Huge waste of time, which we know is precious!

Once you’re organized, microwave the candy melts and start dipping!  I usually roll the marshmallow around in the bowl and use a spoon to smooth it out.  Resist the urge to overcoat it – it will just get clumpy.  Next, dip the bottom into the graham cracker crumbs and kind of dust the edges to create the look of beach sand.  Then, stick on a Goldfish cracker, a couple of pearls for water bubbles, and that’s it!  Place your masterpieces on the lined cookie sheet and toss them in the fridge to harden.


These pretzel treats were also a hit (who can really pass up the salty/sweet combo?) – painless to make and actually really addictive!

You’ll need:

a bag of small pretzels

Rolo candy

Goldfish (again!)

Line up rows of pretzels on a cookie sheet, top each with a Rolo candy, and pop them in the oven for a few minutes, just long enough to soften the chocolate.  As soon as you take them out of the oven, just squish a Goldfish cracker on to each Rolo.  Cool completely.  You may want to make extra of these, because you’ll definitely be tempted to snack on a few of these!  So good.  For non-Bubble Guppies fetes, try replacing the Goldfish cracker with a pecan.

As far as decor for this party, I kept it simple and decorated with lots of colorful balloons, a photo banner with pictures from each of Lane’s first 12 months, and some simple printables I found on Etsy.  Some cute cupcake toppers, candy circles on the bottoms of Hershey Kisses (warning – these are a HUGE pain.  The hole-punching and sticking took forever), and a dressed-up high chair was about all I could handle as a nursing, sleep-deprived, working first-time mom.

Before the guests would arrive, we planned a first birthday cake smash with our favorite photographer, Krista Photography.  She came to our home with a fabulous gold sequined backdrop and captured Lane’s first taste of cake (homemade – just a plain chocolate cake frosted with pink buttercream rosettes).  Lane barely tasted the cake, but had fun checking it out – until she knocked it over.


I also wanted to capture her favorites in a cute way, and I love this picture of us together with the chalkboard.


Overall, the Bubble Guppies theme was easy to work with and ended up being really cute.  If you’re planning a party like this, search also for “mermaid” or “under the sea” party inspiration on Pinterest, as many of those ideas work really well with a Bubble Guppies theme, too.  I’d love to see how others incorporate these ideas, so definitely let me know in the comments how this all works for you!  Looking forward to sharing more of Lane’s parties soon…

xo Lori





Lane is almost 5!

With Lane’s fifth (?!) birthday around the corner, party planning is in full effect at our house.  We make a very big deal about birthdays around here, and this year’s Elena of Avalor-themed celebration will be no exception.  From the food to the music, and perhaps even a visit from the crown princess Elena herself (shhhhh!), no detail will be overlooked (well, that’s the plan, anyway).  Lane is very hands-on, and even at 5, she is super particular and very creative when it comes to event design (I may have created a monster).  She’s already requested a doll cake, candy scepters, Avaloran chocolate, and a food table inspired by the show’s Dia de los Muertos episode.

While we are preparing for that, I thought it would be fun to take a look back at a few of Lane’s past parties.  First up – her Bubble Guppies-themed first birthday celebration!  Post coming soon…