Kindergarten · Lane · Parenthood · Summer

Goodbye kindergarten; hello summer! ☀️

Lane is fresh outta kindergarten, and as I reflect on the school year, I’m absolutely blown away by her growth in so many ways. She’s blossomed in ten short months, from outward things like her appearance – no more baby face 😢 – to inward things like confidence, integrity, and pride.

Kindergarten brought with it many things I hadn’t been prepared for. Lane is my first, and while she did two years of pre-school, it was only 3 half-days a week. I hadn’t fully processed the idea that she’d be immersed in a classroom environment day in and day out. That she would meet and make relationships with people I didn’t know. That she’d see, hear, and experience things that don’t quite align with the way we do things at home.

It was only a few weeks in that she came home after school one day, looked at me with her huge, innocent brown eyes and declared, “Mama. Joey said THIS *boldly holds up middle finger* is a bad word.” She must have misinterpreted the reason for my expression of disbelief, because she continued, “I KNOW! I told him that was the silliest thing I ever heard because THIS *finger again* isn’t even a word!”

Then, maybe a month later, she approached me with another doozy. With a genuinely confused, almost sad expression, she asked me, “Mama? Is it bad to be skinny?” My heart sank as she shared with me that another little girl had been staring at her and then commented that Lane was “so skinny.” We talked about how that remark made her feel, and I couldn’t believe we were already discussing body image. I asked Lane how she responded to the girl, and was surprised and proud when she told me she answered, “I’m not skinny. I’m fit.”  For the record, we don’t use words like “skinny,” “fat,” or even discuss other people’s (or our own!) body shapes in our house – in fact, Lane actually asked me what “fat” meant last summer at age 5.

Thrown into the mix, of course, were typical reports of kindergarten spats, bumps, bruises, and hurt feelings, coupled with my own heartbreak of not being able to fix everything for her. But overwhelmingly more frequent than all the drama were Lane’s stories of the fun she had each day, her amusing observations about the people and situations she encountered, how she adored her teacher, books she read, and fun games she played in her favorite subject, gym.

I loved hearing the knock-knock jokes her friends would tell her (well, the first time anyway), and watching her teach Lauren all the things she picked up, like how to dab and do the floss dance. 😂 But mostly, I’ve loved watching her evolve. She’s got her own, confident, IDGAF-what-you-think little style (oversized glasses with the lenses popped out and Jordans are her jam), and is very proud of her ability to read second grade books. She doesn’t follow the crowd, writes in a diary that she keeps locked (I honestly don’t know where the key is), and while she’s been craving alone time more and more, she still loves a good snuggle at bedtime.

She is pumped to become a first grader, but first, we’ve got a summer of memories to make. And we plan to enjoy every moment.

Lane · Parties and Entertaining

Lane’s unicorn-themed 6th birthday celebration!

So, it happened.  Lane turned six.  And I have learned that six means many things.  It means a little more sass.  A little more confidence.  A little more individuality.  It also means a birthday party with a very specific creative vision.  For Lane, that vision was a unicorn-themed trampoline party.

Unicorns are all the rage right now, so I knew it wouldn’t be hard to bring this theme to life, but my challenge was the location.  Lane decided she wanted to have her party at a trampoline park, and there was no changing her mind.  I was OK with the trampoline part of it – but that party room!  It would need a serious transformation to create a festive, magical vibe from a space that reminded me of a locker room.  On top of that, the venue wouldn’t allow us to bring in any outside food other than the birthday cake, which definitely made my party prep lighter, but took away a lot of the fun unicorn-themed treats and sweets that Lane had pinned to her Pinterest board.

Everything turned out great – Lane had the best time.  And as far as the party decor, Lane told me that it looked like a real unicorn had decorated the room, so I took that as a win.  Fewer details to photograph due to the no food rule and limited decor options, but here are a few photos from her special day.

Unicorn cake -

This was my first attempt at a sprinkle cake.  Not perfect, but it tasted good and Lane loved it!

Unicorn birthday party -

How cute are these plates and napkins from Meri Meri?  And the wooden forks?!  I couldn’t resist…  The unicorn party hats were a magical touch that the kids loved.

img_1057.jpgUnicorn themed birthday party -


These DIY goodie bags were super simple to make – plain white bags with drawn-on sleeping unicorn eyes, hand-cut and glued on ears, and a lollipop horn.

I found some cute quotes about unicorns online, and decided to print and mount them as decor.

I’m not sure if you can tell from this picture, but Lane’s glasses have only one lens.  She was playing with them and accidentally popped out a lens.  It didn’t stop her from wearing them, anyway.

Unicorn themed birthday party - www.laneandlauren.comUnicorn themed birthday party -

We did our best to counter the locker room vibe with lots of wavy, iridescent skirting, sparkly confetti for the table, and of course – balloons!

Unicorn themed birthday party - www.laneandlauren.comUnicorn themed birthday party -

The kids had the best time bouncing – and so did I!

This rock-climbing wall was pretty awesome, too.

The happy birthday girl!

We couldn’t bring any outside food, but pizza is life, so no one seemed to mind.

Lane really wanted a unicorn shirt to wear to her party, and was super pumped to find this “Unicorns are born in February” t-shirt online.  I mean, the unicorn is dabbing, so can you really blame her?


And so it goes that another fiesta is in the books.  My little Pinterest monsters are already saving ideas for the next one…

Dance · Product Reviews

Product Review: FASTEN Leotards

Disclaimer: this post contains affiliate links. I was provided sample products for review purposes, but was not financially compensated for this post. Opinions are entirely my own and based on my personal experience with FASTEN products.

Ask any busy mom – when it comes to kids, every second counts.  Each moment of our busy days is meticulously planned (yet somehow, we’re still always late 😩), and you can bet I’ve factored in time for putting on mittens and hats, zippering coats, grabbing snacks for the road, running back into the already locked house to get purple blanky and kitty or a forgotten backpack, hitting the Dunkin’ drive-through for a medium hot Hazelnut… the list goes on.  But nothing throws us off more than last minute trips to the bathroom – especially when we’re on our way to dance class.

Dance moms know that potty emergencies take on a whole new meaning when leotards are part of the equation. Simple bathroom trips with little kids are a project to begin with, but when you add peeling off all the layers, tugging down leotards and tights, and pulling it all back together again, you’ve exponentially increased the hassle factor.  And your minute-to-minute-get-there-on-time plan is an absolute wash; everybody’s rushing and crying and miserable (including me!).

FASTEN: Lauren

Enter: FASTEN.  I stumbled across this brand on Instagram, and couldn’t be happier I did.  Their genius patent-pending technology makes bathroom breaks a breeze by eliminating the frustration and wasted time of taking everything off.


The hidden snaps and magnetic strips are magical – they unfasten at the waist and open easily (why didn’t I think of that?!), enabling a quick, clean, fuss-free trip to the potty.  That way, tiny dancers can get back to what matters most: mastering their pirouettes. 💃🏻

FASTEN: Lane and Lauren

And now, a word from the real experts.




img_8211Lane was excited to try out her new leotard and called it “comfy.”  This is huge coming from her, as this girl tugs at tights and leotards like no other and will literally cry actual tears if her clothing is not comfortable.

Lauren, on the other hand, will put fashion over function any day of the week, and was mostly concerned with whether or not the leotard would have a tutu.  To her delight, the skirt is attached, which is another win for me.  One less thing to fuss with!  That being said, she was happily surprised when she didn’t have to take off her entire ensemble to use the bathroom, and commented that it was “convenient.”  Yes, she knows that word.  Yes, she’s 3.

FASTEN: Lauren

Ready to give FASTEN a try and make life easier for your own little superstar?  Click here for free shipping!  Happy twirling!





Play outside · winter

My Love/Hate Relationship with Playing in the Snow


I am happiest in the summer, when the sun is warming my skin.  When I’m barefoot and wearing a sundress.  When I’m able to get in my car, open the windows and sunroof, and drive somewhere without cumbersome winter coats, and boots, and mittens, and hats, and scarves.  When I’m not cold.

I am a creature of the sun.  Despite having grown up in Massachusetts, I spent almost ten years of my adult life living in Los Angeles, where I could happily prance around coatless all year long if I really wanted to.  Don’t get me wrong – I wore “fall boots” and cozy clothes during the colder months for fashion and to feel seasonally appropriate, but never out of necessity.  But despite the weather perfection in Southern California, we decided that the East Coast was the right place for us to raise our family.

So here we are in December, 8 years later, and it’s snowing.  The sparkling, powdery stuff that used to delight me as a kid is not so delightful these days.  In fact, I now hate the snow.  HATE.  There are a bunch of reasons why, like the fact that I can’t stand winter coats, warming up my car for ten minutes before going anywhere, inconvenience, or being cold.  But the girls’ eyes absolutely light up at the first snow, and I know I’m in for it…

Playing outside in the snow.

I know it sounds harmless.  But let me educate you if you have never played outside in the snow with very small kids.  It’s freezing.  It’s wet.  It takes 45 frustrating minutes to get everyone into all their layers of snow gear, some of which is always too small or too big.  It’s slippery.  And there’s this when it’s all over:

Snow -

A wet, messy pile of more stuff to do.  More things to add to all the other things when you really just want to snuggle under a blanket on the couch with a cup of tea and a movie.

There is this frown when your 5-year-old realizes that her boots are full of packed in, cold snow, but she hadn’t noticed outside because she had been  having too much fun playing “Elsa and Anna’s Ice Palace” with her sister.

So why do I do it?  Why don’t I bribe them to stay inside with promises of hot chocolate with marshmallows, tablet time, and movies?  Well, my childhood memories of playing in the snow are happy.  Maybe even magical.  For a kid, there is almost nothing better than the carefree feeling of running through a yard covered with a fresh blanket of clean, white, glittery, delicious snow.  It means snow angels, snowmen, snowball fights, and imaginative play.  Something I hadn’t realized was that to Lane and Lauren, it means something even more special.

See, last year at Mother’s Day, Lane made me a present at school.  It was a frame she had decorated with sequins and gems.  Inside it was a picture she colored and a list that her pre-school teacher helped her complete.  There were all kinds of things about me – like things she thinks I’m good at (going to the gym was what she said – she must have made it during the one week I went to the gym last year), things I always say to her (“I love you” – so glad it wasn’t “Hurry up!”), and then there was one that really got me.  It said “My favorite memory with my Mom.”  And next to it, she wrote, “When I was really little and it snowed really high and my mom made snow angels with me.”

In that moment, I knew that sucking it up every year and facing the brutality of snowsuits and icy puddles in the kitchen was going to be my reality each winter until the girls didn’t want to do it anymore.  Because to them, playing in the snow with me is part of the fabric that’s becoming their childhood.  So, as much as I will continue to dread so many things about winter – one thing will warm my heart: knowing I’m making my kids happy.

Now… how many more days ’til summer?



Dear Santa…

2017 Holiday Gift Guide -

Rae the elf is back, the tree is up (only 4 shattered ornaments this year… so far 😩), and the Christmas music is on heavy rotation. The holidays have officially arrived at our home! ‘Tis the season for ginger bread houses, holiday crafts, (extra!) sparkle, and of course… Christmas lists! Here’s a roundup of Lane and Lauren’s most wanted gifts this year.

•Rock & Roll It roll-up piano

Rock and Roll It Piano

From the moment the girls set eyes on this at our local toy shop, they were in love. This roll-up keyboard lays flat for playing at the kitchen table, on a desk, on the floor, wherever – and conveniently rolls up for easy storage. It records, plays songs and background beats, and most importantly, indulges their love of music. Here’s hoping Santa brings this awesome instrument this year – and here’s hoping the girls remember how to share once Rae returns to the North Pole!

Get it here!

•Disney Descendants 2 Microphone

Lane and Lauren are officially OB.SESSED. with Descendants and Descendants 2, and honestly, so am I!  The songs are just as sassy as the girls are, and I’ve spotted them studying the dance tutorials on the Disney NOW! app, perfecting all of Mal and Evie’s moves.  They are going to lose their little VK minds when they discover that this microphone’s got pre-loaded backing tracks to some of their faves, like Ways To Be Wicked.  I’m pretty sure Dada and I will be in for some exclusive live performances, especially because I’m hoping Santa brings two of these.  Some toys are just too good to share – plus, Mal and Evie each need their own mic.  Obvi!

Get it here!

I have a funny feeling they are strategizing here to maximize gift-getting potential.

•Boogie Board Jot 8.5 LCD eWriter

Both girls are in school now, and spend a lot of time at home drawing, coloring, and mastering their penmanship (the apples don’t fall far from the tree – I love the art of writing on actual paper and am teaching Lane cursive.  Lauren is on her way, too – Lane draws her traceable letters and helped her learn to write her name!).  This eWriter is lightweight and has a screen that is engineered to feel just like writing with pen on paper.  Their masterpieces will remain on the screen as long as they wish, and can be erased with the touch of a button, so my little writers can create over and over again without paper waste and messy markers.  The best part?  This baby doesn’t need charging.  Perfect boredom buster for car rides!

Get it here!

•Educational Insights Kanoodle

I am all for learning through play and toys that teach, so I was pumped when the girls spotted this puzzle game at the toy store.  Both were immediately fascinated and took turns choosing challenges from the puzzle book to solve with the colorful, 3-D puzzle pieces.  I thought Lauren would lose interest quickly since she’s so young, but turns out she’s not one to back down from a challenge!  Luckily for her, this puzzle has hundreds of possible solutions.  Hooray for enhancing their critical thinking and spatial reasoning skills!

Get it here! 

Disney Elena of Avalor My Size Doll

People who have been following us for awhile know that Lane is a die-hard Elena fan – remember her Avaloran fiesta?  Well, the love is still going strong and I just know that she will be delighted by this larger than life Elena doll.  In fact, I’m almost positive that if this doll shows up under the tree, she will immediately be given a designated spot in Lane’s room near the rest of her prized Elena paraphernalia – and will more than likely go on her “Lauren may not touch this” list.

Get it here!

Doc McStuffins Baby All-In-One Nursery Set

This one’s just for Lauren, although if Lane will share her Elena doll, I’m sure something might be worked out.  Little Lauren caught sight of this adorable role-play center on a YouTube Kids toy review and has been talking about it ever since.  If there’s one thing she can’t get enough of, it’s dress-up and pretend play.  This all-in-one nursery will provide countless hours of exactly that as she explores the electronic patient laptop, light-and-sound features, and accessories.  Mama was hoping the days of large toys like this were behind us (we gave up on any hope of designating toys to a specific area long ago – we’ve lost the battle dollhouses, train sets, pop-up tents, etc.), but we will find a nice spot in Lauren’s room for her own little doctor’s office… if Santa brings it, that is!

Get it here!

Hungry Hungry Hippos

Over the summer, we took the girls to HASCON, Hasbro’s first-ever toy convention.  This unique event was incredible, and featured amazing displays, activities, and interactive experiences connected with all of Hasbro’s most popular brands.  Lane and Lauren got “pony-fied” (think bright nails, colorful hair extensions, and glitter tattoo “cutie marks”) at a pop-up salon in a recreation of My Little Pony’s Equestria, created art with a larger-than-life Play-Doh “Doh Vinci” exhibit, and listened to world-renowned storytellers… but despite all the excitement, Lauren’s favorite part of the event was discovering the classic game Hungry Hungry Hippos!   She sat down and started playing this game, and after that, there was nothing that could pull her away!  I can’t wait to see her face light up if Santa happens to leave this under the tree.

Get it here!

L.O.L. Surprise! Fizz Factory

I blame Cookie Swirl C for the fact that the L.O.L Surprise! Fizz Factory set ended up on this list.  I imagine Santa knows what exactly this toy is all about, but I’m a bit puzzled.  It appears to be some sort of glittery chemistry experiment in which the result is a fizz ball of some sort with a hidden surprise that’s revealed when the ball dissolves in water…?  I think?  Whatever it is, Lane is obsessed with it and is adamant that it appear on her most wanted list.  To be honest, it looks like something that will be used a couple of times and never again, but time will tell.  According to the product description, these fizz balls can be made with household ingredients.  Sounds messy – stay tuned.

Get it here! 

Of course, Mrs. Claus would never allow Santa to get away without leaving at least a couple of cute new things for the girls to wear… From what I hear, she has great taste and found these fabulous things to leave under the tree… now if only she could stitch them in Mama size!

Girls’ Shaggy Faux Fur Jacket, $24.90 at Forever 21.

Lane will look fab rocking this shaggy powder blue jacket.  Provides stylish warmth, but not too bulky for the car booster seat.  Love!





Silver Sparkle Sherpa Jacket, $21.99 at Crazy 8.

Lauren is all about sparkle, and I know she will totally rock this adorable, edgy jacket from Crazy 8.  It’s available online now for $21.99, but I actually scored this at our local store for $14 last weekend!



Clarice Single Strap Velcro Sneakers by Cat and Jack, $14.99 at Target.

Lane looooooves purple, so these were an absolute no-brainer.  I had no idea a child could wear out sneakers so quickly, but the ones she got in September for school are just about ready to kick the bucket.  We’ll see how these metallic kicks hold up to kindergarten recess, but at $14.99, you can’t really lose.


Girls’ Skirted Legging by Cat and Jack, $11.99 at Target.

If it doesn’t have a tutu, Lauren is not wearing it. Dressing this little fashionista in the winter is no easy task – she regularly attempts to negotiate wearing her favorite summer sundresses to pre-school, despite the fact that there’s snow on the ground.  Thankfully, these supercute leggings align with my little diva’s flair for fashion and love for tulle – but we can pair them with sweaters and boots!

I hope the girls’ wish lists inspired those of you still searching for gift ideas for the fabulous little girls on your “nice lists…” now let’s hope Lane and Lauren stay on Santa’s good side for the next two weeks!

Dear Santa

Holidays · recipes · Sweet Tooth

Thanksgiving Turkey candies! 🦃

Pretzel turkeys - Thanksgiving treats

I know I can’t be the only last-minute Mama out there. With fewer than 24 hours until Thanksgiving dinner, the girls and I needed a quick, easy, fun treat to make together. We are huge fans of Rolo pretzels, so we thought we’d put a Thanksgiving spin on them after seeing something similar on my Facebook feed.

We are super happy with the way these festive treats turned out, and the best part was that both girls could make them on their own! Ready to try these yourself? Here’s what you’ll need:

• mini pretzels

• Rolo candies

• candy corn

• Reese’s pieces

• Candy eyeballs

Pretzel Turkeys - Thanksgiving treats

How we did it:

The girls strategically lined the pretzels up neatly on a cookie sheet (and may or may not have snacked a bit).

Pretzel turkeys - Thanksgiving treats

Next, they centered Rolos, small side down, on top of each pretzel.

Pretzel turkeys - Thanksgiving treats

Pretzel turkeys - Thanksgiving treats

Then, to soften the candies, I put the cookie sheet in the oven at 250 degrees for about 2 minutes.

Now we were ready to decorate!

I put a few warm pretzels on each of their plates and they were on their own! We added edible googly eyes, a Reese’s piece for the beak (or is that the gobble?), and three candy corns for the turkey feathers. Our first few were a little messy, but after doing a couple, we were all pros!  Of course, we couldn’t resist a little finger licking along the way…

Pretzel turkeys - Thanksgiving treats

Pretzel turkeys - Thanksgiving treats

Because the Rolos were still soft even after we finished decorating, I transferred all of our masterpieces to a cooling rack and popped it in the fridge for awhile so they would set. Our finished treats? Adorable and delish!

Pretzel turkeys - Thanksgiving treats

Next up will be Christmas treats, so if you know of any cute, festive, kid-friendly treats, please share in the comments! Maybe we can avoid last minute shenanigans next holiday (Probably not). 😜

In the meantime, Happy Thanksgiving from our family to yours! 🦃🥧🍁

Pretzel turkeys - Thanksgiving treats



Activities · Lane and Lauren's World

Halloween Pumpkin Craft!

It’s October 31st, everyone!  While Lane and Lauren are getting pumped up to hit the sidewalks as a unicorn and kitty tonight, I am finally getting around to sharing this super cute pumpkin craft we made last week.  These fun yarn Jack-o-Lanterns are pretty easy to create, but they did take a few days to complete, as we needed a lot of drying time for glue overload!

What you’ll need:

  • Balloons
  • Clear glue  (pour a good amount into small paper bowls).
  • Orange yarn
  • Green and black fuzzy sticks (I still call them pipecleaners!)
  • Googly eyes!

Start by blowing up balloons to your desired size.  Hint: the larger the balloon, the longer this craft will take!  So, if you have very young children with shorter attention spans, you may want to stay on the smaller size.

Next, cut your yarn into long, but manageable strands.  You’ll need a lot!  Then, dip individual strands into your bowl of clear glue.  Carefully wrap the yarn around your balloon.  Repeat until your balloon is substantially covered with yarn, and almost looks basket-like.  Lane was really soaking her yarn in the glue, so be sure to work on a protected surface.

Once you’re happy with the look of your “pumpkin,” allow substantial time to dry.  Our yarn balloons actually took a couple of days to dry, as the girls used a TON of glue, and we had to rotate the balloons to allow all parts exposure to dry.

When your yarn has dried completely, it’s time to deflate your balloon!

Don’t expect a satisfying POP!, though. We deflated really carefully to avoid damaging the delicate hardened yarn. I cut a small hole near the knot on the balloon, and we watched as the balloon slowly deflated within the yarn. You may need to gently press the balloon through the holes to help push all the air out. 

The girls’ tutorial 😍: 

The results looked like this:

Finally, it’s time to decorate!  Green fuzzy sticks can be shaped into a stem, and googly eyes are strategically placed and secured with hot glue (the girls showed me EXACTLY where to apply the glue for optimal eye placement!).  The black fuzzy sticks can be used in so many ways:  to create a creepy spider for your pumpkin, a Jack-o-Lantern mouth, etc.  Lauren decided her pumpkin would be an “eyeball pumpkin” and opted against giving it a mouth.  🙂  Here are some photos of our finished products!
Fall pumpkin craft -


Fall pumpkin craft -

Fall pumpkin craft -
We’d love to see any Halloween or fall-themed crafts you guys tried this year.  Please share in the comments!  Have fun trick-or-treating tonight!




Lane · Lane and Lauren's World · Lauren

Lane and Lauren’s World is on YouTube!

Screen Shot 2017-07-23 at 2.58.12 PM

Toy reviews, unboxings, movie trailers, cake decorating tutorials, even watching other kids play (!?)… the girls love them some YouTubeKids.  As opposed as I am to overdoing the screen time, we do allow the girls restricted tablet time – and it’s given them plenty of ideas!  Lane has been begging for ages to start a YouTube channel, and with some extra time on my hands this summer, I’ve finally given in.  They are absolutely thrilled to present their new channel, Lane and Lauren’s World!

Please take it easy on me – I’m new at this stuff, so our first two videos include glimpses of my thumb and some choppy editing… but we’re just getting started!  Our first video features the girls opening Hatchimals CollEGGtibles blind bags (and we’re even giving away a free blind bag to a lucky viewer – just “like” the video, subscribe to their channel, and leave a comment to enter!) and the second video is a read-aloud of one of Lane’s kindergarten summer reading titles “Today I Will Fly,” by Mo Willems.

Screen Shot 2017-07-23 at 3.02.27 PM

The girls are already planning their next few videos, so expect to see more read-alouds in addition to princess fashion shows, day trips with the family, toy reviews, fun activities, and dance-offs!   YouTube Kids has changed its policies, so new channels need 100 subscribers before they can register a custom URL, so it would really help us out if you could subscribe and spread the word to any toy-obsessed princess fanatics you may know and love.  Or, you could just share with fellow tired moms who need a few minutes to make dinner or pick up the kitchen without interruption!

CLICK HERE to check out Lane and Lauren’s debut episodes and please subscribe and enter our Hatchimals giveaway!  We’d also love some suggestions and ideas about books or toys you’d like to see the girls review!  Share your comments here or over on their YouTube channel.



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!