We had fun making and decorating lots of cupcakes for our last Halloween party. Half were pumpkin cake with vanilla frosting, and half were chocolate cake with chocolate frosting. All were vegan and gluten-free!
And here was the full spread of snacks! In addition to cupcakes, we had kettle corn, ghost- and pumpkin-shaped cheese slices (you can see them in more detail in these photos from a previous party), pumpkin sugar cookies, pumpkin seeds, and cantaloupe and blackberries.
When we were on vacation in Westfield, Massachusetts this summer, the little one and I stopped by Mama Cakes for a treat. She had a “baby” birthday cake cupcake and I had a “mama” gluten-free chocolate cupcake with dairy-free vanilla frosting.
The cupcakes were delicious, and there’s a great little play area for kids, but what really stood out for me about Mama Cakes was the fantastic customer service. As soon as I paid for our cupcakes and we picked up our plates to head to a table, the kiddo dropped her cupcake on the floor. As we picked it up from the floor, the staff immediately replaced the dropped cupcake at no cost, and just like that, a little kid’s crisis was averted.
We stayed in Moab while we were visiting Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. Moab is a charming little city that is very close to both of these awesome national parks. I liked the murals on this little bridge.
For a small city, Moab had great restaurant options for me. Our whole family loved Peace Tree Juice Cafe. We took advantage of the extensive outdoor seating, and the little one enjoyed coloring on the kids menu during the very short wait for our food. All of our food was delicious – cheese pizza for the little one, a peanut butter wrap and salad for Jeff, and I enjoyed the greenest (literally) meal of my life: the quinoa bowl with avocado, Brussels sprouts, and spinach. Our waiter was also really unfazed and helpful when our daughter randomly sprung a severely bloody nose at the table.
We also had a great lunch at Love Muffin Cafe, and refreshing post-hiking treats at Moab Tropical Sno Shave Ice Truck.
After our day in Arches National Park, we decided to push our luck with our five-year-old daughter by spending another day hiking in the heat and admiring rocks. Canyonlands is a huge national park, so we only saw a small section of it, called the Island in the Sky. Below is the view as you enter the Island in the Sky – spectacular!
We enjoyed a short hike to Mesa Arch, admiring the blooming prickly pear cacti along the way. Mesa Arch may very well be one of the most amazing natural sights I’ve ever seen. A huge arch like this, formed along the edge of such a canyon, can only be described as incredible.
We also went on a slightly longer hike to overlook Upheaval Dome, a meteorite impact crater. It is difficult to appreciate the scale and scope of many of the views at Canyonlands through photos; Upheaval Dome is about 5 km in diameter.
After the Upheaval Dome hike, our daughter was just about done with hikes to see more rocks. We stopped to enjoy a few more amazing views along the road, and then headed to Moab for some well-earned shave ice.
We visited Arches National Park at the beginning of June. It was rather hot, surprisingly uncrowded, and of course, spectacular.
We spent the longest time climbing around and enjoying Double Arch.
We also spent quite a while enjoying Sand Dune Arch. Our daughter loved playing in the sand and exploring the hiding spots between the rocks.
Delicate Arch, the most famous of the arches, looked pretty amazing from a distance, but required a significant hike that we did not have the time or energy for. Maybe next time!
For her fifth birthday, my daughter requested a strawberry cake with purple frosting and a candy surprise inside. The candy surprise inside the cake was something she had seen on one of her favorite shows, Creative Galaxy. The surprise cake was actually not much harder to make than a regular cake, but way more fun to cut open and serve!
After assembling the layers of the cake, I just cut a hole in the middle of the cake, dumped colorful candy in to fill most of the hole, and covered the top of the hole with a small piece of the cake. With frosting covering the top of the cake, the surprise was well concealed until the cake was cut open for serving!
To ease us through the doldrums of January, we hosted a Trolls themed party for eight four-year-olds. The highlights of the party were a make-your-own troll hair headband craft, strawberry cupcakes, and dancing to music from the Trolls movie.
For the troll hair headbands, I mostly followed the instructions I found here. I figured it would be more fun – and less work for me – for the kids to make their own headband (with help from a parent) during the party. So I just did a little preparation by cutting lots of strips of the tulle (roughly 5″x22″) in advance. Then I laid out the tulle, headbands, ribbon, and decorations on a table so everyone could make their troll hair headbands whenever they wanted to. Pretty soon there were a lot of Poppy-inspired trolls running around our house, and a few more unique trolls as well!
We also printed out some Trolls coloring sheets to provide another party activity for the kids, and handed out Trolls goody bags as the guests headed home.
On a cold winter New England day, a warm, humid butterfly house is just the place for me.
The Magic Wings Butterfly Conservatory & Gardens, in South Deerfield MA, is a great change of scenery and climate during the winter. You’ll find yourself immersed in beautiful flowers and greenery, with butterflies flitting all around you (and sometimes even landing on you).
In the main butterfly room you’ll also see uncaged birds (including a hummingbird and parrot), a tortoise in a large open pen, and a small koi pond. An adjoining room contains numerous terrariums housing many species of amphibians, reptiles, and insects.
On our Christmas vacation, we visited the Springfield Museums. This museum complex includes five museums and a sculpture garden, so you could definitely spend the whole day exploring (if you can handle that much museum time in one day). The Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden has been here since the 1990s. In 2017, it was joined by the newest museum in the complex, the Amazing World of Dr. Seuss.
Housed in a beautiful old home, the first floor of this museum includes many rooms with interactive kid-friendly exhibits and lively, colorful representations of characters and scenes from popular Seuss books such as The Lorax, One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish, Oh, the Places You’ll Go!, and Horton Hears a Who!.
The upstairs of the museum has more adult-oriented biographical and historical information about Seuss himself, and the basement offered some hands-on craft opportunities for children.
On the weekend before Thanksgiving, we went to the Anheuser-Busch Brewery Lights in Fort Collins. This is a great free activity for families, anyone who likes Christmas lights, or people who like Anheuser-Busch beer. We really enjoyed the Christmas tree maze and riding the little train that went through a snowman tunnel and past many of the lights.
The train ride costs $1 per person, but entry is free and there is free beer as well. Other food and drink were available for purchase.