More Easy Halloween Fun

I am so excited to be bringing you some ideas for last-minute, super easy Halloween fun! Last year, I wrote two posts about Quarantine Halloween – one with lots of ideas for handling trick or treating if you’re keeping your social distance with little ones, and one with ideas beyond trick or treating, with lots of other fun ways to have fun. They were two of my most popular posts, so be sure to take a look if you’d like some more inspiration.

This year, I just wanted to “add on” to those posts with a few new ideas for you – several of which I used myself yesterday when we had close friends over for a mini-Halloween “party.” I promise, they are all EASY, and I hope they inspire you to make your own Halloween fun this year!


I kept our tiny party super simple – one of the hardest things for me is paring down from so many great ideas to make it just a few and much more manageable. I narrowed it down to my top 5 easy-to-execute ideas, and then I let my daughter choose 3.

Ghost String Cheese

I saw these on Pinterest a few days ago, and loved how cute and massively easy this was! Just take some individually wrapped string cheese and a Sharpie and draw little ghost faces on them!

ghost string cheese


How ADORABLE are these “GuacaMonsters” from Fork and Beans?! I’ll admit, on the “easy” scale, if you’re a slow chopper like I am, this may me more like “moderately” quick and easy. We didn’t have shredded carrots, so I thinly sliced an orange mini bell pepper for the witch’s hair, and I wanted to use all of our string cheese for the ghosts above, so I used some Amish cheese curds we had in the fridge for the eyes, which took a tiny bit extra time. But basically, you can improvise and do these however you want – just slice some veggies (bell peppers work great for the mouths, noses, and Dracula’s collar), supplement with anything else you have on hand, and have fun!


I used pretzel twists for Frankenstein’s Monster’s “bolts”, and a pitted date for the witch’s nose. I sliced and prepped all of the face and hair/head parts first before making the guacamole, so that it would be as fresh as possible. I waited until about 10 minutes before our friends arrived to assemble the GuacaMonsters and viola! They were such a cute addition to our mini Halloween spread.

Ghost Donuts

These are almost as easy as the string cheese ghosts – I even had my almost 7-year-old son take care of this treat for me! He put the powdered donuts out on the platter and placed the chocolate chip eyes on. That’s it! Note: I thought we’d need mini chocolate chips, so that’s what we bought, but I’m thinking regular-size chocolate chips would have also worked perfectly.

ghost donuts

We also served caramel popcorn, sparkling apple cider, and salted caramel fresh apple cider we found by chance at the grocery store (it tastes EXACTLY like a caramel apple!).

Here are two more treats that didn’t make the cut this year, but I am sure we will make them sometime in the future!

Ghosts in the Graveyard

Did you know ghost marshmallow Peeps exist? So cute! We couldn’t find them at our grocery store, but if you wanted to make ghost cookies or decorate Nutter Butters or regular marshmallows to look like ghosts, that would work too for these adorable ghosts in the graveyard from Organize Your Stuff Now.

Scary Mouth Snacks

We made these last year – just put peanut butter (or Sun Butter or your “butter” of choice….mmmmm, maybe even cookie butter if you really want to amp up the sweetness level, haha!) on apple slices, and stick mini marshmallows between two slices to make these scary mouth snacks! You could also use slivered almonds (or whole almonds) for the teeth instead of marshmallows.

scary mouth snacks

Pumpkin Krispie Treats

This one didn’t make our list this year, but these pumpkin krispie treats from Cooking Classy also seem super easy to make!


Oh, there are SO many fun, easy activities you can do at home for Halloween, but for our mini-party we just chose two: decorating chocolate cookie haunted houses, and creepy-crawly guessing game. For more easy ideas, check out the Activities section of our Halloween Pinterest board!

Decorate Chocolate Cookie Haunted Houses

You probably know all about decorating gingerbread houses, but did you know there are Halloween versions of this too?! I was so excited when we came across these kits at Michael’s, that I knew we had to do this for our mini-party. All four kids had so much fun decorating their own house, which we assembled before the party so they didn’t have to wait for the icing to dry.

Creepy Crawly Guessing Game

Our family did this last year with just the four of us, and it was a big hit, so I wanted to do it again this year for the mini-party. The basics: Find food that could feel like gross things – we went with body parts, like “guts,” “toes,” “eyeballs” and more, but you could go with “worms,” “bugs,” “mud,” or other ideas – and put them in bowls or containers. Cover them up with a towel, label them with what they’re supposed to feel like, and have everyone feel them (without looking), one at a time, then have everyone share their guess of what they think it actually is. You could also have everyone write down their guesses secretly, but we just went around in a circle to have everyone share their guess verbally.

Here’s a quick look at our bowls:

Here’s the rundown of what we used this year:

  • Guts = cooked pasta, with a tiny bit of olive oil added
  • Teeth = macadamia nuts (we used slivered almonds last year)
  • Ears (not pictured) = dried apple rings (last year we used dried apricots)
  • Toes = chopped baby carrots
  • Bones = Cashews
  • Eyeballs = fresh mozzarella balls (last year we used peeled grapes, but I thought the fresh mozzarella balls were an even better size for eyeballs!)

Last year, one of the best creepy-crawly items we did was a canned, peeled whole tomato for a “heart”. But it’s a little messy and I was trying to keep the mess level very low, so I opted not to do that this year. Check out our Pinterest board for some other takes on this creepy crawly game!

Other Activities

Take a look at our Pinterest board for more activity and craft ideas – here are some of my favorites:

  • DIY bowling – knock down toilet paper rolls with ghost faces on them, or anything you can stack
  • Pumpkin Run – balance a little pumpkin (real or fake) on your head and see who can get to the finish line without it falling
  • Treasure Hunt – place clues all around your house for kids to find one by one (we did this last year for our kids – with the help of a very good friend who shared what she’d made for her kids – and they loved it)
  • Glow Ring Toss – celebrating when it’s dark outside? Grab some glow necklaces and try to toss them onto a pumpkin’s stem!

I hope this inspired you to create some EASY Halloween fun for yourself this year. I’d love to hear if you tried any of these ideas and how they turned out. Happy Halloween!

Valentine’s Day Fun

Valentine’s Day is a week away, and I wanted to share some fun ideas for crafts, treats, and Valentines you can mail to family and friends. I’ve even rounded up a few quarantine-specific ideas, too! For these ideas and many more, check out our Valentine’s Day Pinterest board.


Of course there’s the usual candy, conversation hearts, chocolate, and more, but here are a few more unique ideas for you to check out. In the past, we’ve made Valentine’s Day popcorn, and heart-shaped pancakes…

Just add M&Ms, Skittles, red hots, or any fun candy with Valentine’s Day colors, drizzle melted chocolate, and enjoy!
So easy – pour pancake batter into the shape of a heart, and use a paring knife to cut the tops of strawberries into hearts!

We also made pink, heart-shaped Rice Krispie treats one year, which were easy, fun, and delicious. We used beet juice (or maybe it was blended up beets, and not just the juice, I honestly don’t remember) to color the marshmallow-butter mixture, a natural food coloring that makes me so much happier to use than artificial coloring. (Although I have absolutely used artificial dye as well.) Grab a heart-shaped cookie cutter and you’re all set!

yummy, pretty pink treats

…and this year I’ve got my eyes on this “Valentine’s Day Peek-a-Boo” Pound Cake from Bellyful. Isn’t it adorable? It looks easy enough, and uses store-bought pound cake mix… I’m not really sure how the second batter doesn’t drip in between the pink hearts and mess it up aesthetically, but according to the author and many comments, apparently it works!

I also think these fruit roll-up fortune “cookies” from SheKnows are super cute, but I don’t love getting sticky messy and I’m sure this is a little messy, haha! Though they do look pretty easy to make, so maybe I’ll have the kids give it a try.

photo by Sandra Denneler, She Knows

For the slightly more ambitious of you, these striped heart-shape cookies from Preppy Kitchen are adorable. You just have to be patient enough to cut two batches of cookie dough into strips… and I’m not sure I am. But aside from that, they don’t look too hard. I’d love to know if you give them a try!

Crafts and Decor

I love crafting. And I have learned that I really only have time to do ONE craft per holiday, maybe two if I’m lucky. So I’m going to have the kids vote and we’ll decide on a craft together.

In the past, we’ve made these pretty heart sun catchers from The Suburban Mom (just wax paper, melted crayons, and fishing line). I can’t find them… or a picture of ours, but they did turn out lovely!

And a few years ago my daughter and I made this adorable, SUPER easy argyle heart wreath that we hang on our door every year.

We also have a pink light on our porch during Valentine’s Day, hence the pink glow at the top ūüėČ

It’s really as easy as it looks, and we didn’t even need to use any glue! We just got a burlap wreath from the craft store, cut felt into hearts and laid them on the wreath then wrapped it with twine to keep them in place. For more details, check out the tutorial from Mine for the Making. (We simplified by buying a wrapped wreath and not using glue.)

We also made this cute baby/toddler salt dough footprint keepsake from RedTedArt when my son was 2 months old and my daughter was 2.5 years old…

and… we never “finished” it. As in, I never painted it or wrote a cute little saying around the edge. Whoops. Maybe I’ll finally do that this year, haha!! (I give that a 40% chance of happening.)

The red felt hearts are not part of the craft, I just added them for the photo to give it some color… you know, since I never painted the actual footprints, haha!

One of my favorite “crafty” decorations I made (that we still reuse each year) was cutting out fabric hearts and sticking them to a wall or door. The first year, I stuck them to my toddler daughter’s door when she was still asleep in the morning, while my infant son sat in his infant rocker and just smiled, giggled, and cooed. Such a precious memory! I had also used them for an at-home DIY photo shoot that year.

Valentine’s Day 2015

I first discovered the idea for this from a post on Craftster years ago, but sadly that community has closed. So here’s how to do it:

  • Cut your fabric into shapes (in this case, hearts)
  • Mix about 1/4 C cornstarch with about 1 C boiling water (to dissolve it)
  • Add about 1-2 C warm water to that, stir
  • WARNING: Let the mixture cool a bit before sticking your fingers in it
  • Dip cut fabric into the mixture, wring it out (not too drippy, not too dry)
  • Stick it on the wall or door and smooth it out as needed
  • When you’re ready to take it down, it peels off super easily; if there is a sheen or anything left, just wash it off with a wet rag. Done!

I know it’s also popular to post lots of paper hearts on a neighbor’s door (with or without notes on them)–that’s a fun way to show someone you care, while keeping a social distance. (I’m not super keen on the common name for this being “heart attack,” but many bloggers call it that.) That’s What Che Said has a few different ideas for how to use this idea.

This year, a have a few new-to-me crafts I’m really excited about for us to choose from. These heart canvases from DesignImprovised are so simple (just do whatever!), but also so adorable, especially in a set! If we choose this one, we’ll probably do a set of 3–the kids and I will each make one.

I’ve also been loving pom poms lately, and it looks like something very easy that the kids and I can do together, even without a “pom pom maker.” I’ve pinned a few tutorials (here and here) for how to make your own pom poms, if you’re interested in trying this out yourself. Here’s a tutorial for making pom pom garland using a pom pom maker.

Another craft I think is adorable is these felt conversation hearts.

These happen to be available for purchase on Etsy, but I would love to try to DIY them, using this tutorial from Rose Clearfield as a starting point. Bonus: My daughter got a sewing machine for Christmas, so this feels like a great beginner craft for her to learn with. Of course you could hand sew them as well, but I prefer the efficiency of a sewing machine.

I also found this awesome, Covid/quarantine-appropriate “conversation hearts” design SVG on Etsy, for those of you who are more initiated and can make your own mugs, shirts, signs, and more!

There are so many fun crafts, it’s so hard to choose just one!

Valentines to Share

If you’re looking to mail Valentines to friends and family this year, or if your child’s school is allowing kids to exchange Valentines (ours is not, due to coronavirus), here are some fun ideas!

We’ve made these lollipop Valentines a few years ago and sent them to close family, they were a huge hit and are really easy! Get the tutorial here. Tip: make sure the star of the photo (your child, you, whomever) holds their hand out in front but not in front of their face :). I have looked and looked and can’t find a pic of our own Valentines, so here’s a pic from the blog 24-7-365.

Last year, I just wrote things I love about each of my family members on a paper heart and stuck it somewhere they would see it in the morning. Here’s the one I made for my son:

We might do these virtual hug Valentines that our own Kindness Elves suggested to the kids back in December (thanks to their fellow elves on Instagram). Just trace around your open arms onto big paper (or tape some paper together), cut out a red heart and put it in the middle, and (bonus) write notes of love to the recipient on the arms. So cute! You could also do handprints and connect them with a long piece of yarn or string instead.

from Kindness Elves on Instagram

I recently saw these cute painted cardboard hearts from Handmade Charlotte as an idea for Valentines and really love how simple yet pretty they are. And the sentiment “Though we may be far apart, you are always in my heart” is perfect anytime, but especially during these quarantine days. Super easy to make and sure to bring a smile to the recipient’s face!

Okay, I have to share one more, because these paper fortune cookie Valentines from Happy Hooligans are also super easy yet unique and pretty, too! You basically just need some cute (or plain) paper and glue.

I hope these ideas gave you some fun inspiration to brighten up your Valentine’s Day this year, whether it’s something you make in the kitchen, send to family, or use to decorate your home. Don’t forget to check out our Valentine’s Day Pinterest board for even more ideas!

I’d love to hear which one sparked joy for you, or if you have any other fun, easy ideas to celebrate this holiday of love. Please share in the comments below!

Quarantine-o-ween: Beyond Trick-or-Treating

It’s definitely a different kind of year for pretty much everything, isn’t it? Have you been wondering, “What will Halloween look like this year?” I know I have! And while I’m sure everyone will approach it a little differently, if you’re lamenting the loss of a “regular” Halloween this year, I’ve rounded up LOTS of fun ways to celebrate “Quarantine-o-ween,” from 2020 takes on trick-or-treating, to at-home activities, fun themed treats, and more. In fact, there are so many ideas that I had to split it into two posts: this one (Beyond Trick-or-Treating: Activities & Food), and Trick-or-Treat Alternatives!

There’s something for everyone, whether you’ve got roommates, little kids, big kids, or live solo. Check the ideas out below, and let us what other ideas we should add to the list! And if you want even more inspiration, take a look at our Quarantine-o-ween Pinterest board!

Fun & Yummy Food

Halloween-Inspired Food

Ok, I’ll admit, this is definitely one of my favorite ways to celebrate Halloween (or any party, for that matter) any year. Having cute, themed food takes a celebration to the next level and doesn’t cost much at all. It makes my heart happy to come up with or find clever food ideas. In fact, I shared a blog post last year with lots of fun Halloween-themed food ideas. I tend to go for ideas that are easy and simple and also adorable.

Here are two of the treats we tried out last year after trick-or-treating: candy corn fruit cups and spider pizzas. We also made mini-donut spiders by sticking pretzels pieces into the top as legs. (Food bloggers take much better food pics than I do. I’m still learning, for sure :))

candy corn-inspired fruit cups and spider pizzas

And some cute “Monsters, Inc.” themed Rice Krispie treats we made for a friend’s baby shower:

Super easy and cute Monsters, Inc Rice Krispie treats!

More Treat Theme Ideas

Clever treats not really your thing? There are lots of other ways to make your food “fun” (and delicious)! Check out our Pinterest board for recipes and more inspiration.

  • Have an all-pumpkin menu, with cute mini pumpkin-shaped cakes, pumpkin pie, pumpkin seeds, pumpkin pie dip or pumpkin fluff, pumpkin soup, pumpkin donuts, pumpkin smoothies…there are SO many possibilities! Bonus points for serving dips or soups in a pumpkin!
  • Serve all orange-colored foods, like oranges or candied orange slices, carrot or butternut squash soup, a cheese ball, orange colored macarons, orange chicken, orange cauliflower, etc.
  • Or go for fall-inspired, non-pumpkin treats, like anything with baked apples, a harvest-inspired charcuterie board, cranberry dishes, apple cider, cobbler, or any of these non-pumpkin fall desserts!

Halloween Activities

Scavenger Hunt or Treasure Hunt

Scavenger Hunt: Work together or in teams, and walk or drive around your neighborhood looking for Halloween-themed items on a list. You could try to see how many of each item you find, see who can finish the whole list first, see who finds the most amount of different kinds of items, or who finds the “coolest” or favorite decoration. A good way to do this if you’re separating into teams is to make it a photo scavenger hunt, where each team takes a photo of the items they find on the list.

Virtual TIP: You could also do a virtual scavenger hunt with friends! Make it a timed challenge by scheduling it for a specific start and end time, where you all go out at the same time. Or, if you’re not a very competitive group, you could give it to people a week in advance just for fun. Meet up on a video chat so everyone can share some of the spookiest or silliest things they found.

We’ve got several free, already-made scavenger hunt lists on our Pinterest board for you to check out!

Treasure Hunt: Make a sequence of clues to follow that lead to hidden candy or other treats inside and outside your home. Here’s a great free one from Ministering Printables.

From: Ministering Printables.

Play Games

Obviously, there are lots of “party games” you can play anytime, whether it’s you and your family or roommates, or on your own. Some popular ideas you can easily theme are cornhole, bean bag toss, or any kind of “Minute to Win It” game. But we found a few Halloween-specific games we really love!

  • Pumpkin hunt – Hide mini pumpkins throughout your home or yard. Take them from the supply you may already have on hand, or cut or print paper pumpkins. Here’s a twist we love: Do a glow-in-the-dark “pumpkin” hunt using Easter eggs! The “glow” can be done with tea lights (if you have large enough eggs), or glow-in-the-dark paint with a blacklight as somewhat more eco-friendly alternatives to one-time-use disposable glow sticks.
  • Skeleton hunt – Grab some hanging skeletons that snap apart, disassemble them, and hide them throughout your home or yard. Kids will have fun finding them and putting them together. (Photo and idea from Happy Go Lucky)
  • Mystery bowls – A classic “creepy” game, where you take several bowls, boxes, or containers, and put yucky-feeling stuff inside. Blindfold players or put a cloth over the container, and have them reach inside and guess what it is. It might be bags of squishy, messy food (pudding, cooked spaghetti, jelly, etc.), or skip the bags and have people reach directly into the messy foods (peeled grapes, cooked pasta, Jell-O, gummy worms, dried apricots, wet tortillas, etc.) Just be sure to have a towel or sink nearby! We love the added bonus of labeling each container as something totally gross (like “ears” for dried apricots, or “maggots” for cooked pasta), and then having people try to guess what it really is. We have a few examples on Pinterest, but this one from The Spruce is our favorite.
  • Boo Bowling – dress up some paper towel rolls like ghosts and roll any artificial pumpkin you have on hand to knock them down. You can also reuse containers from baby puffs (if you have a little one and have those as a staple in your pantry) as the bowling pins, like Sometimes Creative did below.
Skeleton Hunt: Happy Go Lucky / Glow Pumpkin Hunt: The Real Deal / Boo Bowling: Sometimes Creative

Carve or Decorate Pumpkins Together

Missing out on the social aspects of Halloween? Carve or decorate pumpkins over Zoom or FaceTime with extended family or friends! Set up a date and time, and carve or decorate while you catch up and laugh together. You could even make a contest out of it, where everyone votes for their favorite when you are all done. Winner gets “bragging rights” or a prize. Need inspiration? Check out some of our favorite no-carve pumpkins from past years at the kids’ school below. We’ve also got lots more inspiration for you on our Pinterest board.

Forky and pals, Coco, and Yoda!

Pumpkin TIP: Here’s a great site to help you find a local farm or farmers market, which are the most environmentally-friendly choices for buying a pumpkin. To keep things extra eco-friendly, use non toxic materials if you’re decorating or painting your pumpkin instead of carving it.

Voting” TIP: If you want to make collecting votes anonymous and super easy, you could set up ‘text to vote’ using an online service like the ones below. Both offer free plans and make it super easy for people to text in their vote. If you’re on Zoom, you could even share your screen to reveal the results in the moment. Here are two services we found:

Make DIY Decorations & More

Again, you could do this with your quarantine crew in-person, or extend it to more friends and family over Zoom. Let everyone know ahead of time what materials they’ll need, or ask everyone to choose a craft to make. Here are a few cute ideas we found; check out our Pinterest board for more!

Rainbow Pumpkins: The House That Lars Built / Mummy Door: Susan Stewart / Pet Ghost: Pennywise Blog / Yarn Candy Corn: Occasionally Craft

For a COVID-19-related craft idea, ask your friends to decorate a fabric face mask*, then gather over Zoom to see who came up with the most inventive one. We love these adorably creative, kid-friendly ideas from Parents below, but this activity is just as great for grown ups, too!

*NOTE: I searched and searched to try to find out if it’s “okay” to draw on and decorate fabric face masks, but unfortunately I really couldn’t find anything definitive. This guide from a health facility in Wisconsin says NO, that drawing on a mask may damage the mask’s effectiveness. And this article from CNN Health *suggests* drawing on masks as a way to make wearing one more appealing to kids.

Adorable face mask ideas from Parents.com !

Watch Spooky Movies

Watch spooky or thriller movies all evening long or make it a week-long event. I’m pretty much a baby when it comes to spooky movies, so I tend to go for “Nightmare Before Christmas,” “Corpse Bride,” or “Ghostbusters,” but “Us,” “Get Out,” “The Shining,” “The Exorcist,” or any of the “Halloween” films are sure to thrill and scare! Take a look at some of the Top Halloween Movies lists we’ve collected on Pinterest.

Have a Halloween Dance Party

Whether it’s with your house-mates or with friends on Zoom, a fun dance party is a great way to let loose and burn some off some of those extra calories from Halloween treats. We’ve got some great Halloween-themed playlists for you on our Pinterest board.

Go Global

Want to try something really different this year? Learn about and celebrate a similarly-inspired holiday from another country. Here are some to check out: Dia de los Muertos (“Day of the Dead” in Mexico), Yu Lan (“The Hungry Ghost Festival” in China), Samhain (in Ireland and Scotland), or DzieŇĄ Zaduszny (“All Souls Day” in Poland).

Experience a Drive-through Haunted House

This is a cool idea that is really catching on this year (you know, because of the global pandemic). Instead of walking through a haunted house, you can drive through one! To be totally honest, I’m not quite sure how they keep the performers safe from the vehicles, but I’m sure they have lots of safety measures in place. From a Covid-19 perspective, it’s contactless scaring with your car windows as the barrier, so no need to worry there.

Check your local area to see if there’s one near you.

There’s really so much you can do for Halloween this year, it’s hard to choose! However you decide to celebrate, I hope you have a wonderful time and stay safe.

What ideas are you excited about? A delicious-looking treat? A fun activity or craft? Let me know in the comments below!

Quarantine-o-ween: Trick-or-Treat Ideas and Alternatives

It dawned on me just a few weeks ago that we most likely won’t be trick-or-treating this year. I don’t know why it took me so long to realize it, but when I did, woah. It hit me like a punch in the belly. I LOVE Halloween. Even before I had kids, I loved dressing up for Halloween, seeing all the cute little trick-or-treaters in their costumes, and handing out candy to them. I’ll admit, we’ve had some pretty fabulous costumes in the past!

Our family loves Halloween, especially dressing up in costumes!
Wonder Woman, Eleven, Rey, BB-8 / Zombie & Haunted Mansion Bride / Anne Wheeler & Phillip Carlyle (x2)

So what will Halloween look like this year? Well, I’m sure everyone will approach it a little differently, but if you’re at all like me and already lamenting the loss of a “regular” Halloween, I’ve rounded up LOTS of fun ways to celebrate “Quarantine-o-ween” this year, from 2020 takes on trick-or-treating, to at-home activities, fun themed treats, and more. In fact, there are so many ideas that I had to split it into two posts: this one (Trick-or-Treat Alternatives), and Beyond Trick-or-Treating!

There’s something for everyone, whether you’ve got roommates, little kids, big kids, or live solo, regardless of your comfort level being around other people (from “not at all,” “a little bit,” or “totally fine with it”). Check the ideas out below, and let us what else we should add to the list! And if you want even more inspiration, be sure to take a look at our Quarantine-o-ween Pinterest board!

Trick-or-treat inside or around your home

This is probably what our family will decide to do this year: Set up different candy or a fun themed treat in each room or area of your home! You could even give each spot a different theme by putting similar decorations together: witches, skeletons, bats, ghosts, potions, graveyard, pumpkins, spiders, monsters… just use whatever you have to make a fun journey through your home!

Set up treat stops throughout your home for your kids to trick-or-treat safely inside.
(We did not have any candy in the house so I grabbed some fruit strips for this photo, haha!)

Visit friends through video-chat

This would be especially fun for kids, but you could do something similar with your grown-up friends. Set up a simple mini-schedule to “visit” several friends with a video call, as if you are trick-or-treating at their home! When they answer the call, say “Trick or Treat!” You can have different candies on hand to give your kids when they “visit” each friend. This is also a great way for kids to have a chance to show off their awesome costumes and get to say hello to friends and family throughout the evening.

Here’s a grown-up take on this idea: Plan ahead with your friends for each of you to make a (surprise) fun Halloween-themed treat, beverage, or craft. As you pop in on one another via video chat, you can show each other what you made and toast to one another’s creativity, skill, or total “fails”!

Go for a walk

Dress up in your Halloween costumes and go for a long walk around your neighborhood to burn off some calories and check out the festive decor, then go back home and snack on some candy! This way, you get a “light” trick-or-treat experience–you get to see your neighborhood’s Halloween decorations and anyone who’s out and about in their costumes–without coming into contact with people outside your quarantine crew.

Get your neighborhood together

Are you a social super-planner? Or someone who knows everybody in your neighborhood? Or on your neighborhood’s HOA board? I’ve got two ideas for you.

Drive-through trick-or-treating: Take a cue from our (fabulous) neighborhood and organize a neighborhood-wide trick-or-treat drive-through event!

I don’t have a lot of details on this, but here’s what our neighborhood has shared: “Join the contactless trick-or-treating adventure in search of the Great Pumpkin! Special character appearances at each station!” Residents have to stay in their vehicles, and event staff will be placing treats in a “complimentary tote on passenger side mirror and pumpkins placed in trunk of vehicle.” (I’m not positive, but I think that last part means they’re giving us pumpkins and putting them in our trunks.) There are two different start times, a set starting location, and several treat stations along a planned route. No walk ups, registration is required and limited to residents only.

We are very fortunate, our neighborhood HOA does such a fabulous job with events all-year round. I am sure this will be super fun. We can’t wait!

Candy toss from your car: One fun idea Indy with Kids shared was to organize a reverse trick-or-treating with your neighborhood, where people drive by houses–like a birthday car parade–and gently toss candy out their window to kiddos in costumes standing in front of their homes. Think of it almost like your car is a parade float!

“This reverse trick-or-treating is a win-win. It keeps the more vulnerable generation and high risk people from getting too close while still allowing them to enjoy seeing everyone in their costumes, and the kids can still collect ALL THE CANDY!”¬†

Costume parade (UPDATE 9/24): I heard about this idea after posting this, but I had to come back in to add it! Kids can do a parade where they all walk through the neighborhood at the same, set time–ideally following a pre-planned path of one-way foot traffic. People can put a table with candy in front of their homes and wave to the kids from a distance. I LOVE this idea! How fun, for everyone!

Contactless classic trick-or-treating

Leave a bowl of candy out: If your neighborhood/town is permitting traditional trick-or-treating and you usually love giving out candy, but you’re not psyched about getting close to a bunch of kids throughout the night, there are several ways you can maintain social distance. You can leave a bowl of candy outside your front door or at the end of your driveway, and refill it as needed. We put a bowl out like this whenever we trick-or-treat with our friends in their neighborhood. We just make a little sign that says “Please only take TWO. Happy Halloween!” (We’ve found that kids are usually really good about not over-indulging or dumping the whole bowl into their candy pail.)

Leave your bowl of candy outside with a sign encouraging kids to limit how much they take (and hope one or two kids don’t dump the bowl into their treat pail). We’ve found kids are pretty good about it!

Visit from a distance: Are you sad at the thought of missing out on hearing kids say, “Trick or treat”? You can see and talk to them through your window (be sure you’re six feet away), or even outside at a safe distance from your treat bowl (at least six feet away). Wear a mask, put colored tape or some sort of divider down on the ground as a “don’t cross this line” marker, and enjoy your evening seeing everyone!

Candy shoot (UPDATE 9/24): Make a candy chute, like this dad and daughter did in the photo below! Just make a tube at least six feet long out of a cardboard shipping tube (or tubes plural), or PVC pipe if you happen to have that on hand, and drop candy down the chute to trick-or-treaters! Here are some options:

  • Keep it simple, or go all out, like Wicked Makers did, by adding a skeleton head to the end!
  • Use a kids’ play tunnel, like this, if you have one.
  • Get free shipping tubes from your local Post Office, or buy cylindrical ones from Office Depot, Staples, or Amazon. (The longest size I found anywhere was three feet, so you’d need to combine 2 or 3 by taping them together.)
  • Make one yourself by cutting a cardboard box and folding it. (Oh, how we love using cardboard boxes! Check out the many fun ways we’ve used cardboard boxes over the years.)
Photo and concept: Andrew Beattie

Trunk-or-Treat: Lastly, another great option for candy-givers and trick-or-treaters is to do a socially distant “trunk-or-treat”! You can get together with others in a parking lot and space your cars out from one another, or do this from your own driveways. Not familiar with the idea of “trunk or treat”? It’s where you decorate the trunk of your car in a fun theme and hand out candy from there. It’s kind of like having a mobile Halloween “set” or backdrop. Be sure to have social distant markings or reminders, wear masks, and keep six feet away from trick-or-treaters. (I suggest having a bucket more than six feet out in front of you.)

Want some decorating inspiration for your trunk? Check out some examples from our kids’ school, below, and take a look at these ideas or do a quick search on Pinterest!

Stranger Things, Jurassic Park, and The Great Pumpkin
Coco, Super Mario Brothers, and a cute trunk full of Jack-o-lanterns

Safety Tips:

  • Eating candy: Choose a few pieces of candy that you (or your kids) are going to eat. Open them one at a time, dropping the candy into a bowl as they fall out of the wrapper (so you aren’t touching the actual candy that will go into your mouth). Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds, then eat and enjoy!
  • Sanitize: Have hand sanitizer next to your candy bowl for trick-or-treaters to use. If you’re going out trick-or-treating, of course you’ll want to bring hand sanitizer along with you, as well as some disinfecting wipes.
  • Separate: Use tape or chalk to mark six-foot distances on your sidewalk, driveway, or ground outside your door, to create a socially distant “waiting line” for trick-or-treaters. You can even add a sign in front of your home that reminds kids and families to keep six feet apart from others.
Use chalk, tape, stickers, circles, or signs to make six-foot separators leading to your home.

There are SO many alternatives to trick-or-treating, as well as some relatively safe ways to participate in “classic” (but contactless/Covid-safe) trick-or-treating. I hope this inspired you to not give up on Halloween this year if you were feeling down about it, like I was at first.

What do you think you’ll be doing this year for Halloween? I’d love to hear in the comments below!

Hamilton: At-Home Summer Camp

I seriously cannot believe our last week of summer break is over, and that yesterday was the first day of school for my kids. (Whaaaaat?!) I know many parents are excited for school to start, so kids and the family can get back to some sort of regular schedule (even if that schedule looks way different this school year than years past). But for me, I have loved the free play time my kids have had really since quarantine began back in March. So I’ll admit, I’m sad our summertime break is over. But we made the most of it by having a great final week of “at home summer camp” with several Hamilton-themed activities!

For more details on how we approach our super simple, one-activity-a-day summer camp at home, check out my post from last week on our Greatest Showman camp. Christmas in July was another example of how we just did one (or two) fun things each day. And of course, you could use any of these Hamilton-themed “camp” ideas for a Hamilton party, celebration, or viewing party, too! Be sure to check out our Pinterest board for all the Learning, Baking, Crafting, and Performing ideas below (and more), and visit our Hamilton Party board for even more ways to celebrate this fabulous musical/movie!


Of¬†course we watched the Hamilton film (again) to kick off our week. If you haven’t seen it yourself and are wondering whether or not it’s appropriate for your child(ren), check out the Parent’s Guide that I created. It has been super helpful to a lot of my friends.

My kids decided to create impromptu costumes throughout the week, so my son wore a King George III-inspired costume while he watched. {Much to my dismay, he has started saying that he thinks “Hamilton” is boring–gasp!–but he did watch the movie with us (again) and does enjoy singing the King’s songs. And he apparently likes dressing up as and acting like the King. So all hope is not lost!}

watching Hamilton

My daughter turned herself into Eliza while they colored, and then she went all-out and pulled together costumes for Angelica, Peggy, and Maria, too. (Check out the awesome video she made at the bottom of the post!)

Schuyler Sisters collage
Angelica, Eliza, & Peggy…with a bonus: Maria Reynolds

Oh, and somehow–I have no idea how–I completely missed that HAMILTON was actually doing a “HamWeek” all week. Yes, the same exact week as our own Hamilton-themed camp. Totally missed it. But if you happened to catch any of their fun throughout the week, I’m sure it was great!


My kid have admittedly already learned a lot about Hamilton, because we have listened to the soundtrack (on our Amazon Alexa, which is set up to mute the curse words) multiple times a week for the past 18 months (yes, really), and they ask a lot of questions. {Did you know I’m almost done writing a Kids’ Guide to Hamilton, inspired by their many questions?! Be the first to find out when it’s available!}

I still wanted to include a few “learning” aspects to our camp, so on Day 1 I asked them what they wanted to learn more about, or what they still had questions about. They asked about the duel, so I shared some info with them over lunch the first two days.

Alexander Hamilton New York delegate to the Constitutional Convention (1787), major author of the Federalist papers (The Federalist). Print: mezzotint, color 1930-40. Copyright by Frost & Reed, Ltd

On Day 3, we revisited the meaning behind Eliza’s gasp at the end of the show. When I watched the film on Disney+ July 3rd, I went down a rabbit hole on the internet, trying to figure out if there was any clear explanation from Lin-Manuel Miranda or Phillipa Soo, who plays Eliza, on the meaning of the gasp. During camp week, the kids asked about it again and I found a more recent “explanation” directly from Phillipa. (Skip to the 2:30 mark if you want to get right to her response.)

On the last day of camp, we learned about how ice cream was made back in Washington and Hamilton’s day, in preparation for us making our own ice cream (see Baking & Food, below)!

Edited to add: There’s one more GREAT resource I forgot to mention! My daughter and I have also spent quite a bit of free time over the past few weeks checking out some of the numerous, amazing¬†resources currently available through the “EduHam at Home” program. There are videos from Lin-Manuel Miranda, Tommy Kail (the director) and many of the cast, as well as inspirational student performances, a plethora of original documents and related research, a timeline of Alexander Hamilton’s life and the formation of the United States, and so much more! It’s available through the end of August 2020, and it’s all FREE! If you’re interested in learning more about the show or the history that inspired it, sign up right now and soak it all in before the month ends! (Kids can also submit their own poems, songs, or performances inspired by the history of Hamilton’s time!)

EduHam at Home

Baking & Food

I gave the kids several options to choose from for our baking fun, and they chose molasses cookies, journey cakes, and ice cream. I really wanted to give “pan-fried bread and butter pudding” a try, but we’ll do that another time.

We made the molasses cookies on Day 3, using a recipe from 1784! We talked about how it’s very likely that some of our direct ancestors may have eaten these exact same cookies 250 years ago, which is pretty amazing! And let me tell you, these cookies were¬†delicious! Like, unbelievably yummy. I highly recommend you make them ASAP. The only ingredient we didn’t already have in our pantry or fridge was molasses. The kids had fun rolling the dough into balls and then rolling those in sugar.


All four of us gave these cookies five stars, they were just so tasty! The recipe made about 40-50 cookies.


Next up was “journey cakes,” which we made on Day 4, using a 1775 recipe (isn’t the internet amazing?!). Apparently historically these are considered somewhat similar to hoecakes, or Johnny Cakes, which are made from corn, but I’d say they turned out to be closer to a rice-and-egg muffin. (Hoecakes are flatter, whereas our journey cakes were made in a muffin tin.)

I wasn’t sure how these would taste, but again, this was another huge hit! The kids and I all¬†loved¬†them. We made the rosemary-garlic version and added about 1/3 cup of shredded sharp cheddar before pouring them into the muffin tin. We also made our own rice flour, since we didn’t have any on hand. We just took about 1.5 cups of uncooked rice (which we put in the freezer overnight) and ground it up in the blender. Super easy!

TIP: I used a ladle to get the mix from the bowl to the muffin tin–it’s very soupy before it’s baked.

journeycake mix

And here they are, baked and ready to eat!

journey cakes

Sooooo delicious! The recipe made 18 journey cakes. I had wanted to make hoecakes at the same time, so we could try them side by side, but our cornmeal had expired (by two years, yikes!), so we didn’t make those.

Our last baking project was peach ice cream, made from a recipe originally by Mary Randolph, in what was one of the first cookbooks ever published in North America (1824). The recipe has been “adapted for the modern kitchen” by the Mount Vernon Inn Restaurant.

A little history: In early colonial days, ice cream was a treat only enjoyed by the wealthiest people. You can learn more about it here. George Washington loved ice cream, so we talked about that and how hard it was to make back then. We also talked a bit about how Washington had slaves, and how wrong that was, and how he not only didn’t free his own slaves until after his (and Martha’s) death, but he also didn’t try to make all slaves free when he was President. So, my kids are well aware that even though he is considered to have been a great President, he had a really, really big flaw.

We made our peach ice cream using several modern conveniences, such as a refrigerator and an ice cream machine we got as a wedding gift to go with our Kitchen Aid. I thought about trying to make it the way the Mount Vernon video shows it was made in the late 1700s, but it was just too much work to really consider ūüėČ

peach ice cream collage
Stages of homemade peach ice cream – SO delicious!

We halved the recipe and it still made a lot–the four of us have already had moderate servings of it twice, and we’re only halfway through the batch.

Ice cream was served in “ice pots,” which were small cups, so we decided to serve ours in my husband’s late grandmother’s tea cups. It looked adorable, felt fancy, and made us feel a little more connected to how Washington and others would have enjoyed the tasty treat.

ice cream dishes

Crafting & Activities

I found a few great coloring pages and, as always, the kids loved coloring them on Day 1 after watching the movie.

coloring pages

Schuyler sisters coloring page

On Day 5, I invited the kids to create their own raps or songs based on something from Hamilton’s story, or by rewriting lyrics to one of the songs from the show. My son was busy playing with his Lego robot most of the day, so he didn’t want to make a new song. But my daughter grabbed the fabulous Hamilton: The Revolution book we have, so she could look at the full lyrics to rewrite one of the songs. Here are her two final versions, below, based off of Phillip’s rap in “Take a Break.”

Hamilton rap

One other activity we started but got sidetracked from finishing was talking about what we want our own legacies to be. I know that’s a bit deep for a 5- and 8-year old, but I thought we could talk a little bit about how we want people to think of us and remember us. I even printed out this cool activity packet…so maybe we’ll still do it someday.


I had Pinned several karaoke versions of some of our favorite songs from “Hamilton,” but we didn’t end up using them. Instead, my kids had fun on their own making their own videos!

On the first day, my daughter planned a super short mash-up video of Charles Lee and King George III:

SS Lee and King video

The very next day, my daughter was so excited about the costumes she had come up with for the Schuyler sisters (Angelica, Eliza, Peggy), and Maria Reynolds, that she wanted to do a “transition” video on TikTok. So we worked that out together, and it turned out really great! I’m super proud of her. Here’s my Instagram link to the video, as well as the TikTok link.

SS Schyler Sisters Video

I’m so glad we were able to have a great final week of summer before school. The “Hamilton”-themed ideas for fun are truly endless. I hope something we’ve shared inspires you to celebrate “Hamilton” your own way someday soon. Be sure to check out our Hamilton Summer Camp board on Pinterest for all of these ideas and more, as well as our Hamilton Party board on Pinterest. I’d love to hear how it goes if you try out any of these ideas!

Greatest Showman: At-Home Summer Camp

Sigh. For those of us with school-aged kids, summer is almost over. For some parents, I know it may usually be a light at the end of the tunnel. For me, it’s usually a bummer. I love summer break for my kids. Usually, they get to go to some fun, cool camps for a few weeks, and for a few of the other weeks they’re with me while I am fortunate enough to work from home. On top of that, we’re all in Chicago with my family for a month while I work remotely from there, so they get to spend all day every day with their cousins and local friends. I know how incredibly blessed, fortunate, and privileged we are to get to have so much flexibility for them over the summer. I’m grateful for it every day.

But… COVID-19 obviously changed a LOT of things for a LOT of people this summer. So, many parents are stressing about their kids starting school, whether they’ll be attending virtually, in-person, or a hybrid blend. I feel you.¬†It’s a completely different situation. I’ve been super grateful that my unexpected furlough from my full-time job has given me the gift of this extra time with my kids. It’s been truly wonderful.

A few weeks ago, I was kind of lamenting that my kids didn’t get to go to drama camp, circus camp, STEAM camp, or any camps this summer. So I spontaneously decided to turn our last few weeks of summer into “at-home summer camp” themed weeks. I promised myself I’d keep it super simple, and two weeks in I’ve kept to that promise (hooray!). Our first week was Christmas in July, and it was fantastic.

frozen cocoa selfie
Frozen hot chocolate for Christmas in July!

This past week, we chose a family favorite for our theme: The Greatest Showman. Like I said, we kept it super simple – and we even shortened it to a four-day week since the kids were acting up a little bit on Monday so I cancelled camp for that day {real life, amiright?}.

Here’s what we did for the week – I hope it inspires you for your own fun-at-home, whether it’s a Greatest Showman themed day, weekend, or quarantine-crew party!

greatest showman poster

My Approach

First, when I say I wanted to keep these at-home “camps” super simple, I really mean that. We didn’t make it an all-day thing. We usually just do ONE fun thing each day. Could I have figured out a 4-6 hour daily schedule? Sure. But that would have taken a LOT of work, my kids probably would not have lasted the week, and it’s not really what my goal was in creating these mini camps. I just wanted to do something fun with them during their last few weeks of summer break.

So, you can absolutely take these ideas and plus them up a bit if that’s your thing–I bet it would be super cool! It’s just not what we chose to do.

I try to have variety in each of these at-home summer camps with some learning, fun with food, crafting & activities, and performing. Check out our Pinterest board for the ideas below and more!


We pulled out our mini pop-up circus tent and set it out in the living room for the week. The kids enjoyed playing in there off and on throughout the week. My daughter happened to get an incredible doll-sized circus stage and Anne Wheeler doll (Zendaya’s character) for Christmas two years ago from Santa Claus (and then she got a Phillip Carlyle doll last year (Zac Efron’s character), also from Santa), so Anne & Phillip and the stage were in the tent most of the week.

Anne Phillip flying

Of course, we watched the movie to help get us into the Greatest Showman spirit. At first I thought we’d watch it as a celebration of sorts at the end of our week, but the kids wanted to watch it on Day 2 so we did. (Did I mention, these at-home camps are all about¬†flexibility?) Anne & Phillip watched the movie alongside the kids, and my daughter wore her Anne Wheeler costume from a previous Halloween.



Anne Phillip
Anne and Phillip cozying up for movie time


I wanted to include at least a little bit of learning in each camp, so for this week we learned about the real P.T. Barnum on Day 1, and on Day 2 we learned a little snippet about 8 different characters from the movie versus who they were in real life. We used this CBS segment for our Barnum lesson, and this article from Hollywood Reporter for the side-by-side comparison of the real people who inspired the characters in the film.

PT_Barnum_1851 (Harvard Library:Wikimedia Commons)
P.T Barnum (Harvard Library/Wikimedia Commons)

(Just a heads up: There are actually only 6 real life characters that the article covers–since 2 of the 8 are fictitious–and we had to look up a photo for two of the real characters, since their pics were not included in the article. But it was still a great snapshot of who they were and the kids loved the side-by side comparison. Also: for some reason, Pinterest isn’t letting me pin the article we used to learn about “The Bearded Lady,” but I wanted to include it for you here.)

Baking & Food

We had a circus-themed lunch of hot dogs and chips on Day 1.

On Day 2, we had a special treat of M&M popcorn, which is always a hit. However, I didn’t remember to take a photo (and apparently have never taken a photo from any other time we’ve made this treat). So here’s some cranberry popcorn and candy-sprinkled popcorn we’ve made to gaze at instead ūüôā

popcorn collage

One of our two “big activities” for this camp was making animal cracker cookies. This was super fun and they turned out very yummy! We used this recipe and bought these adorable stamping cookie cutters. They were PERFECT and fun to use!

animal cookies


  • We found this recipe to be a bit on the crumbly side, even after adding almost an extra tablespoon of butter to help hold the dough together. It was crumbly before refrigeration, and also when cutting out the cookies. We smoothed the rolled-out dough together a bit as needed.
  • The recipe made about 100 cookies! Of course, they are tiny cookies, but that was a lot of cookie cutting for the three of us.
  • Sprinkle flour on top of the rolled out dough and rolling pin to prevent the dough from sticking to the pin and help the cookies hold their shape
  • We figured out that it actually was to our advantage when the dough stuck inside the cutter after cutting and stamping it. It made it so we could just gently “push” out the cut cookie (directly onto the cookie sheet) using the spring-action stamping mechanism.

We closed out our camp on Day 4 with a snack of unshelled peanuts, something the kids had never had before. My son LOVED breaking them open, and he thought they were delicious. My daughter is not a huge fan of nuts, so she tried one and decided that was enough for her.

peanuts square

Crafting & Activities

Coloring pages are always a hit, so I printed out a few for the kids on Day 1. Check out some options on the Activities section of our Pinterest board.

coloring pages

My daughter also transformed some of her dolls into Greatest Showman characters–here’s Merida as Jenny Lind, courtesy of some clever use of tissue paper :).

Jenny Lind

I had Pinned a few different craft ideas, but the one I knew we were for SURE going to do was to create our own “wishing machines” like in the movie!

TGS wishing machine still

The kids were SUPER excited on Day 4 when I told them we were doing this. And I was really surprised at how quickly it went–it only took them about 20-30 minutes to create their tin can lanterns.

I had been setting aside tin cans for awhile for a project I want to do, so I took three of them, filled them with water, and froze them overnight. This is to create a solid base for you to work with so you don’t dent the can when hammering the nails into it.

We did have one mishap: one of the cans burst at the seam. I had no idea that might happen (?!), but I was glad I had frozen three–I just opted out of creating my own (for now), and the kids each had one to use.

can seam
burst seam of frozen can

We laid dishtowels around the cans in a U-shape to help keep it from rolling around too much. I grabbed a few different nails, and the kids each used their little hammers they have in their kiddo toolboxes and got to work. My son decided to wing it with his design, and my daughter drew out a pattern on paper and then taped it onto the can as a guide. (I’ve read you can also use a marker on the can, but that didn’t work well for us with the frozen cans.)

That’s it! Here are their finished tin lanterns:

G lantern

N lantern

And here they are with a tea light inside – so cool!

glowing lanternglowing lantern - front

  • You can invert them onto a wooden dowel to let them spin
  • You can plan out a design or just wing it, they will all turn out great!
  • We are going to get fairy lights to put inside (instead of tea lights, so they are safe to be in the kids‚Äô rooms)
  • I’ve read that they may eventually rust if they don‚Äôt get painted
  • UPDATE 1 – Lights: The fairy lights turned out AMAZING in these! I HIGHLY recommend you get some instead of a tea light/candle. Check out the new pic below!
  • UPDATE 2 – Safety/Sharp edges: I used a “smooth edge” can opener that I bought 2 years ago (specifically for this project) when opening the cans to minimize the possibility of accidentally cutting ourselves when creating and using these lanterns. But beware, the inside of the can will have some sharp edges where you hammered the nail through to create the holes.


The fairy lights make such a huge impact!


I had planned for all of us to learn a dance routine (check out these fun tutorials on our Pinterest board!). We had decided on “This is Me.” I was pumped. But midweek, we received a video lesson from my daughter’s dance teacher, which took away a bit of her interest/attention/time, so we scrapped it. {Did I mention this is all about flexibility?}

So, maybe someday we’ll learn the dance. I think it would be super fun to do, and the tutorials we found seem really great. Be sure to check them out if you’d like to learn some cool moves to impress your friends at your next Zoom dance party!

Which of these ideas are you excited to try for your next circus- or Greatest Showman-themed celebration? I’d love to know!

Celebrating Christmas in July

You may have heard of Christmas in July… maybe you even celebrate it. I’d heard the term before, but I had never thought to actually do anything to celebrate before this year. Our neighborhood had a few fun events planned for last week–holiday virtual trivia and a mini parade–and it wasn’t until Monday that it occurred to me that we could have even more fun celebrating as a family if we extended the fun to our home. And I am SO glad we did! It was so much fun to bring little, simple bits of this holiday I love so much into our lives last week, so I wanted to share in case it inspires you to celebrate this week yourselves!

Don’t love Christmas, or don’t celebrate it? Choose any holiday you love, and bring little bits of it into your day or week!

First: Keep it Simple

If you want to go all out, feel free, but for me, I decided to reel in my approach to¬†actual Christmas as I planned what we’d do for “Christmas in July.” My initial ideas were:

  • Do a random act of kindness
  • Donate to a charity
  • Make a holiday craft or two (this ended up being overly ambitious for our family)
  • Bake a holiday dessert
  • Watch a Christmas movie
  • Have a scaled-down version of our Family Christmas Olympics
  • Put out a few decorations
  • Read Christmas stories

I decided we would aim to do just one fun, holiday-themed activity each day, so as not to overdo it. As it turned out, we decided to bake Christmas cookies, and because we made so many (to give some to our neighbors), we spread that activity out over four days, haha! Some days we squeezed an extra treat in, in addition to whatever activity we did. Some days we didn’t.

If you’re worried about this being stressful, or too much extra work, then my biggest tip is to only add as much “Christmas” to your day or week as you have time for. Don’t feel like you need to pack all of your favorite traditions into one day or one week. Just choose even 1-2 things to bring a little bit of Christmas (or any holiday!) joy into your life. I promise, it will warm your heart and will be worth it!

Ideas from Our Week-Long Celebration

I’m going to walk through what we did each day, along with links, but again, these are just suggestions. Do you love caroling? Do that! Love Christmas Eve church service? Recreate that at home one evening. Whatever brings you joy or is special to you, do that!

All Week: Decor, Music, and Movies

  • Decorations. The first evening, I pulled out a pre-lit, three-foot tree from one of my kids’ closets, and put it on the coffee table. Immediate happiness! I didn’t want to get lots of decorations out, so I checked our under-the-stairs closet to see what we had stashed away there. (Does that happen to anyone else, or are we the only family that inevitably misses putting away a few decorations after (any) holiday, so instead of going into the already-package-taped-up-storage bin, those leftover items get stored somewhere else?)
    Thankfully, one of my favorite decorations, a metal reindeer centerpiece, was in the closet, so it went out onto the kitchen table. I also saw the holiday wreath my daughter had made a few years ago, so that got hung up on the outside of the closet door. I pulled out our Christmas craft storage box and set it out for easy crafting access. Lastly, I had purposefully stored our handmade stockings in the closet, just to keep them extra safe. So those got hung up on the staircase. Voila! Decorations complete.

Xmas July - decor collage

  • Music.¬†We had our Amazon Alexa play holiday music¬†all. day. long. My husband was not a huge fan, but hearing holiday music for one week is a small price for him to pay in exchange for my great happiness :). You could of course play your own collection of music, but for us that involves using Apple TV to connect to our iTunes account, and I just wanted to keep it as simple and low-effort as possible.
  • Movies. I remember, way back before quarantine, to a time when we really only let our kids (ages 5 and 8) watch movies on the weekends. But back in March, we decided that they could watch a movie every day, alternating who got to choose the movie. So last week they only got to choose holiday movies. They loved this, and it definitely helped keep up the Christmas mood. (Almost all of their choices were movies they hadn’t seen before: The Search for Santa Paws, Santa Paws 2: The Santa Pups, How The Grinch Stole Christmas (live action/Jim Carrey version), Mickey’s Christmas Carol, He-Man and She-Ra Christmas Special, and Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town.)


Days 1-4: Making Cookies

We made sugar cookie dough on Monday, with the plan to bake and decorate them the next day. Well, we decided that cutting out nearly 80 cookies (!!) took a lot of time and effort, so we left decorating them for Days 3 & 4. We used this soft sugar cookie recipe. The dough was delicious, the cookies were pretty yummy. One challenge we had was that the dough was VERY sticky, even with moderate flouring of the surface, covering the table with wax paper, and moderate flouring of the rolling pin and dough. The cookies were hard to pull up, and it was basically a total mess. But… once we piled the dough back into a ball and rolled it out a second time (with another round of flouring the surface and pin), it worked beautifully. This happened with both of our balls of dough.

We considered using this method for frosting the cookies from Something Swanky, but we decided to go an even simpler route of just using straight up frosting with food coloring and no piping. {A note: my personal preference is to use natural food coloring, like this or this, but when I pulled out our cookie decorating supplies I saw that ours had sadly expired. So we went with standard food coloring.} We had two different kinds of frosting, so we used this one for the colored frostings and this one for the plain white.

The kids had so much fun being creative with their cookies, and I had fun decorating alongside them (I of course had to make a few Hamilton-inspired cookies, haha! #obsessed). And I’m totally okay that their cookies don’t look fancy or polished or like a grown up made them… because a grown up didn’t make them. They also worked really well together, shared well, and complimented one another throughout the decorating, which made this mama’s heart extra happy.

baking cookies

Day 2: Trivia

In addition to cutting and baking cookies on Tuesday, our neighborhood hosted a Christmas in July edition of their weekly virtual trivia, which was lots of fun. A quick search on Pinterest will give you lots of options for pre-made holiday trivia games you can download for free and play at home.

Day 3: Holiday Jammies Day

We wore Christmas pajamas all day on Wednesday. I loved seeing my two little cuties in their matching holiday jammies from last year! This was our first day of decorating cookies, so as I mentioned, this was lots of fun and kept us all busy for a few hours. Since we had decided to make the full recipe for 70-80 cookies, so that we could share the with our neighbors, we needed to take a break and finish up decorating the second half the next day.

Day 4: Cookie Delivery

This was day two of decorating the cookies, and I implemented a few process improvements based on my learnings from the day before. I put the small bowls of frosting and their respective knives onto small plates. This made it much easier for the kids to pass back and forth, and meant they didn’t have to balance the butter knives on top of the small bowls. Plus, it made much less of a mess on the table. Win!


Once the cookies were done, we got to deliver them to our neighbors, which was very fun! The kids thoughtfully hand-picked the cookies each family would receive, and we put them on paper plates and then into a gallon-size Ziploc bag. {I hate the wastefulness of plastic bags, but we didn’t have enough reusable containers to give away.} Because it’s 2,000 degrees in Florida right now, we didn’t want to leave them outside too long, so we made sure people were home before the kids dropped them off at each house. It was SO fun to spread some unexpected Christmas cheer in July.

cookie gifts
Before the plates of cookies were sealed up in their gallon Ziploc bags

We ran out of time to deliver the two plates of cookies to our good friends who live outside the neighborhood, so we postponed that to the next day.

Our neighborhood hosted virtual Bingo on this evening, and our fabulous hosts were dressed in elf shirts, ears, and hats and had other holiday decorations at the pool where they broadcasted (on Facebook) from. It was fun as always, with a little extra holiday cheer.

Day 5: Reindeer Pancakes & Frozen Hot Chocolate

For breakfast on Friday, I made these adorable reindeer pancakes, inspired by This Vivacious Life. We didn’t have bacon, so I substituted fruit strips cut in half lengthwise for the antlers. I used Marshmallow Fluff and dark chocolate chips for the eyes, and generic Red Hot candies for the nose. I used one of our favorite, clean-eating pancake recipes from Danette May (similar recipe here). {I know, the Fluff and candy makes this not-so-clean, but I liked that at least the pancakes themselves were.}

Reindeer pancake

Then, we finished our cookie delivery and squeezed in two brief social distance visits with our friends, which was wonderful.

As an after-dinner dessert, I made super quick and easy frozen hot chocolate, using a copycat recipe of the famous treat from Serendipity in New York City. I also made homemade whipped cream when I realized that our store-bought tub in the freezer only had about 1/4 cup left. Have you made homemade whipped cream before? It is super quick and easy, and so fluffy and yummy! I love this recipe.

The kids loved having a frozen hot chocolate “bar” where they could choose their own toppings.

frozen cocoa bar

PS – I made my own serving of frozen hot chocolate a little healthier by using cacao and almond milk instead of hot cocoa packets and cow’s milk, but I still indulged and added the whipped cream and sprinkles on top. Delicious!

frozen cocoa selfie

Day 6: Christmas Day in July – Breakfast, Gifts, and a Parade

It just happened to work out beautifully that the 25th of July fell on a Saturday, so we decided to treat that day as the finale of our Christmas in July week.

We kicked off the day’s special celebration with a few of our family’s traditional Christmas breakfast foods: my husband’s family’s egg casserole, my great uncle’s mustard eggs, banana orange juice, fruit, and toast & jelly. We prepped the egg dishes the night before and just popped the casserole in the oven in the morning and heated up the sauce concoction for the mustard eggs about 10 minutes before we were ready to eat. I pulled out our buffalo plaid tablecloth to enhance the holiday vibes.

xmas breakfast collage

The kids had decided they wanted us to give each other small, homemade gifts, so they spent a good part of the day collecting items and crafting away. They even made gifts and stockings for their favorite stuffed animals, who they had dressed up as Santa and Mrs. Claus. So precious!

Rhino Claus
Does it get any cuter than this?

In the evening our neighborhood had a Christmas in July parade, complete with Santa Claus on vacation and Olaf, too! It was adorable and so fun. We are so blessed to live in such a fun place.

xmas July parade - cropped

As our final celebratory treat, I made homemade egg nog. Honestly, I would have just bought it if the grocery store carried it year-round, but they don’t. So I made this recipe for the first time, and it was delicious! {I heated it up over the stove to eliminate the risks of consuming raw eggs, and it worked perfectly for me! I heated it on low for about 10 minutes until it reached 170 degrees.}

Egg nog in a bowl, ready to be ladled into mugs! We topped with more nutmeg (fresh is best, but we went the fast & easy route with ground), and dropped a cinnamon stick into each mug.

The one thing we just didn’t get around to was a scaled-down version of our annual Christmas Olympics. But you know what? It’s okay. We had a wonderful week and so much fun even without it.

The End!

I know this is a long post, and reading about it may seem like we spent a LOT of time on our Christmas in July celebration. But, not counting the movies the kids watched, I’d say we spent just about 2-3 hours each day (mostly on the cookies), and you could certainly scale that back to whatever works for you and the amount of free time you may have.

For example, you could just spend one non-workday, and not a whole week. I have a friend whose family put out a little tree, wore cute felt holiday hats and PJs, listened to some carols, had a “snowball” fight outside with white water balloons, got new pool towels as surprise, gifts from Santa, made a simplified Christmas dinner, watched a holiday movie, and made & decorated a dozen cookies at night. It was a big, fun-filled day that I’m sure will leave lasting memories for all of them!

You could simply watch a Christmas movie and sip on hot cocoa–done!

If you’re inspired to celebrate a different favorite holiday, the same concept works for that, too. Just keep it simple, don’t overdo it, and remember, this is a “light” (“lite”) version of the holiday… it’s just a little sample of it to perk up your spirits and bring some extra joy into your life.

Whatever you decide to do, I hope you find some way to bring a favorite holiday into your life even when it’s not in season. Enjoy!


Calling all HamilFans! Hamilton Party Ideas

If you are a fan of the mega-hit musical, “Hamilton,” I already KNOW you are super excited for the July 3rd release of the original Broadway production on Disney+. And if you’re a bit of a nerd like me, you’ve got¬†all the lyrical puns cycling through your head: “I’m willing to wait for it!” “It’s only a matter of time…” “Just you wait!” “This’ll be the room where it happened,” and more.

Maybe you’ve never seen the show, but you love the soundtrack and can’t wait to see it for the first time, from the comfort of your living room. Maybe you’ve never heard the music at all, but you’ve always wanted to see it. Maybe you have heard of¬†the show, but haven’t really gotten into it. And maybe, just maybe, you’ve never heard of this Broadway show at all.

You Should Absolutely Watch “Hamilton”

Regardless of which of the above groups you fall into, if you have any interest in watching it, I highly, HIGHLY recommend you do! It’s scheduled to be released at midnight Pacific Time / 3am Eastern Time in the USA, early Friday morning, so you can watch it anytime after that. (Don’t need to be convinced? Skip ahead to the party ideas under “Ready to Celebrate?!”)

Low cost: The¬†Disney+ streaming service is available for a mere $6.99 a month, so even if you only watch “Hamilton” once (or three hundred times) and then cancel, it’s an incredible price! There’s also a ton of other great content on there, and it’s all available with your monthly or annual subscription.

High production quality: I saw Lin-Manuel Miranda, the mastermind behind the show’s story, music, and lyrics, on “Good Morning America” recently, talking about how they filmed the stage show performance over the course of just three days back in June 2016. So, the film is the actual show, with the original Broadway cast–something many people have never had the chance to see. It’s a pro-shoot, with closeup shots and, as Lin says, “all the coverage you would want to get in a movie.” It is going to be an incredible treat for sure!

Incredible show:¬†I could seriously go on and on and on about this show, but to keep it brief I’ll say it has moved me more than any other show I’ve ever seen. I cried a few dozen times when I first saw it (admittedly, I’m a sap when it comes to compelling, moving storytelling ;)). The music, the story, the characters, the choreography, the lighting, the costumes… all of it is just so incredible and so well-done, you’ll understand when you see it why it is one of the most popular and successful musicals of all time.

Such. A. Great. SHOW!

Don’t like musicals? You may still love this, it’s a super fresh take on musical theater. Not interested in U.S. history? This show will likely have you completely engaged in its telling of the American Revolution, US Constitution, “founding fathers,” and more. Not interested in seeing an all-white cast on stage? You’re in luck: the show intentionally uses color-conscious casting, so you’ll see a black man portray George Washington, an Asian American woman play Alexander Hamilton’s wife, a Puerto Rican man play Alexander, and more. Not a huge fan of hip-hop? Neither is my mom, and she loves this show and the music. I’m guessing you will, too.

Basically, for any reason you think might make you not like the show, my hunch is that the way it all comes together will have you mesmerized and totally engrossed in it. Still not sold? Check out this awesome teaser-trailer for the film.

What about kids? If you are a parent, you may not be sure if you want your younger kids to watch the show, and I totally get that. (The film is rated PG-13 by the MPAA.) To help you decide, check out the Parents’ Guide I created. I’ll also add that I don’t let my 5 and 8 year old kids watch anything PG-13, but my husband and I did take them to see the show over Christmas last year, and they absolutely loved it.

The Parents’ Guide includes a description of content and language throughout the show that some parents may feel is inappropriate for their kids, as well as some tips on how we personally approached some of the more mature content with our own kids. If you’re not familiar with the show or songs, be sure to grab it and save yourself some time!

Hamilton 2019 2 pics

Ready to Celebrate?!

So… are you excited?! Thinking about having a socially-distant party with your roommates, family, or quarantine partners to celebrate the film’s release? We’ve got you covered! Check out some of our favorite food, decor, and activity ideas below. Want more? Take a look at our Hamilton Party Pinterest board, where we’ve got dozens of ideas you can use for a small gathering, a virtual celebration, or a future in-person birthday party!


There are SO MANY ways you can have fun with food for a Hamilton viewing party. If you’re familiar with the soundtrack, one of the easiest ways to have fun is by naming the food dishes after songs and lyrics from the show. A few of my favorites are below, including a few that we used for a friend’s surprise work anniversary celebration last summer.
Social distance tip: Gathering virtually? Share some fun food ideas with everyone so they have some options go all out or keep it super simple if they prefer.

Ham Food - ham and fruit
32,000 Fruit in New York Harbor / A. Ham (& Cheese)

Ham Food - coconut-smores-cookieshot
Winter’s Ball (Coconut Balls), DeepRootsAtHome / Talk Less, Smile S’mores Parfait, KraftHeinz / Not Throwin’ Away My Cookie Shot, PopSugar (I mean…how awesome is that?!)

Need more inspiration? Here you go! Bonus: we’ve got recipes for most of the ideas below pinned on our Pinterest board so it’s all in one place for you.

  • A. Ham and Cheese platter, sandwiches, or croissants (platter pictured above)
  • Aaron Burr-gers, Sir
  • Guns and Chips (you can add “With SalsaDip on the Side,” but that reference to “Washington On Your Side” might be too big of a leap?)
  • Non-Stop Popcorn
  • Satisfy-ing ______ (we used this for brownies, but any yummy dish or treat works!)
  • Satis-fries
  • Washington on Your Side Salad
  • My Dearest Angelica Cake
  • 32,000 Fruit in New York Harbor (fruit bowl/plate/kebabs) (pictured above)
  • We Have Resorted to Eating Our… Veggies (or Beans, or anything you think is funny)
  • Meaty Inside, or Meat Is Inside (for a meat-filled empanada, ravioli, hand pie, etc.)
  • What Comes Next?, or “Awesome. Wow.” or Can’t Say No to This (for dessert)
  • You’ll Be Back…for More, or You’ll Be (Baby) Back Ribs
  • 10 Duel Condiments
  • It Must Be Rice
  • Winter’s Ball coconut balls (pictured above)
  • Talk Less, Smile S’mores (fun parfait pictured above)
  • Not Throwin’ Away My Shot (you could go so many directions with this: Jell-O shots, pudding shots, or a cookie shot, pictured above! Check out this cool pan to make them even easier)
  • Next to Washington, They All Look Small (this would be fun to use for any mini-type of food, like sliders, mini pizzas, silver dollar pancakes if you’re having a morning party, mini cookies, petit fours, mini quiches… you get the idea)

Putting a snack out during intermission? You can have a cute little food tent or sign that says “Take a Break”! You can even make a little sign to put near the plates that says “Plate for It, Plate for It”.

More Themed Ideas: You can make your food dishes Independence Day-themed or red-white-and-blue and still do a play on words with Hamilton song lyrics and titles.

Or you could go all out and serve Colonial-era foods, so that you’re eating the same kinds of things Hamilton and his pals would have eaten at the end of the 18th century in the United States. Check out some ideas here, but be warned: they may not be the most flavorful! Think cornmeal mush, porridge, meat pies, pickles, and bread.

Or, if you have a star-shaped cookie cutter handy (or a few), you can keep it super simple and make lots of star-shaped foods. Think cookies, sandwiches, sliced cheese, pizza, fruit, brownies, practically anything!

star cookies- cookingchanneltv - zoe francois
Decorate with yellow icing for an easy “HamilTake” on these star cookies! Photo from cookingchanneltv

Drinks: There are several fun drinks you can have if it’s an adult party with alcoholic beverages. Here are a few:

  • I May Have Punched Him, It’s a Blur, Sir (this could of course be non-alcoholic)
  • In the Eye of a Hurricane
  • History is Happenin’ in Manhattan
  • Sam Adams (bonus if it’s served in a pint glass)
  • Dear Theambrosia

Of course, serving tea, milk, beer, ale, cider, whiskey, or Scotch Whiskey would all work for the time period of the show.

Cake: If you enjoy making cakes or cupcakes, there are lots of fun Hamilton-themed designs you could do. The simplest would probably be yellow-gold frosted cupcakes with a DIY cake topper of the star logo. If you’ve worked with fondant before, the possibilities are endless. Check out our Pinterest board for some inspiration. My personal favorite is this Schuyler sisters one from Theresa’s Bakery.

Ham cake - theresasbakery (1)

But if you’re not comfortable working with fondant, my talented friend Lauren used spray icing (like this) and a DIY cardstock stencil she made to create the awesome cake for our friend’s work anniversary.

Hamilton Cake

Tips on this method from Lauren:

  • Stay as close to the stencil as possible, or cover what you don’t want sprayed. Otherwise, the mist will go past the edges of your card stock and create an unwanted rectangular stencil around the design on your cake.
  • We got the base cake from our local bakery, who did a great job creating the gold textured icing and black borders. Due to licensing restrictions, they weren’t allowed to create a Hamilton design, which is why we went the partial-DIY route.


As with any party, but especially with a virtual or socially-distant party with a limited number of guests, you can go all out with decorations or keep it simple. For my friend’s work party, we were on a budget and had a lot of tables in the room, so we kept it pretty simple. We used black craft paper cut to size for the table covering (see similar here), glittery gold stars (here), gold paper plates (here), and gold napkins (here).

One decor item we created that was easy to make were trifold centerpieces with different quotes from the show on each side. They were all different, and they really added so much to the tables. We printed them on 11″ x 17″ paper, which was a good size for our tables, but you could do them in any size. Then we folded the paper into thirds and taped the edges together. Done!
Social distance tip: Having a virtual party? Make these and send the file ahead of time to whoever is joining the party so they can print one out themselves!

Hamilton - trifold centerpiece

We also printed out more quotes and some still images from the show to hang up around the room, and my talented friend Michelle created this awesome banner. Obviously, you may not be throwing a “congratulations” party, but you could create something similar for a viewing party. A banner that says “Hamilton,” “The Room Where It Happens,” or your favorite quote or song title would work great if you don’t have a guest of honor.

Congrats banner
You could obviously make a banner that says anything you want (FYI, I blocked out my friend’s face on the sign above the banner… it wasn’t originally a blank square, haha ;))¬†

Want more decor? You could use gold and black balloons. For an eco-friendly, reusable option, you could use collapsable Chinese lanterns, like these! I personally have them in a whole rainbow of colors; they are a go-to of mine for practically every party.

chinese lanterns
Chinese lanterns are a great alternative to balloons! (Product and photo found on Amazon)



If you’re having a viewing party, and keeping it simple, you probably don’t need any activities to entertain your fellow party-goers. But if you’re looking for some fun ideas for before or after the film, or during intermission, here are a few.
Social distance tip: All of these activities can easily be done virtually, too–just let everyone know what to have on hand or what to prepare ahead of time.

  • Not Throwin’ Away My Shot – have a “Minute-to-Win-It” inspired toss game, where you have to throw marshmallows, jelly beans, etc. into a cup
  • Pin the Comma After Dearest – like “Pin the Tail on the Donkey,” but players have to pin (or stick) a comma after the word “dearest” on a sign that says “My Dearest Angelica”. Print or draw enough commas for everyone on label/sticker paper and cut them out. Hang the sign on the wall. Players are blindfolded, spin around, and have to make their way to the sign and hope they stick the comma in the right spot. To spruce up the poster, add an image of Angelica (or Angelica and Alexander) to it.

Angelica ((C) Joan Marcus)
Renee Elise Goldsberry as Angelica. © Joan Marcus. Found on TheaterMania.

  • Blow Us All Away – Have everyone take a bottle of bubbles, and head outdoors for some fun! Or play this “Minute-to-Win-It” inspired competitive game, where players blow marshmallows across a line on a table using only a straw.
  • Fun With Lyrics – play “complete the lyric” or “name that song” by having people pull a strip of pre-printed paper out of a bowl. (If you’re doing this virtually, you could read them aloud or have them on a file you can share on the video call screen.) Depending on how you want to play, the paper either has partial lyrics with some words missing that the person has to try to fill in verbally, or it’s an obscure lyric and the first person to name the song it’s from gets a point.
    • TIP: To save yourself from having to do all the work, you can ask guests to submit three each a day or so before the party.
  • Write Your Own Rap – Depending on your guests’ willingness to get creative, if they’re fans of the show and familiar with the music you could ask everyone to rewrite Hamilton’s rebuttal in “Farmer Refuted” before the party. Or they could write a new song or a new response to any song from the show, from the perspective of one of the characters.
  • Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story? – This is a sentimental activity. Again, depending on your guests, how well they know each other, and how many people are invited, you could have each person write one line or thought about each of the other guests. This could be especially sweet among a family or close group of friends. If you want to put in a bit of extra effort, you could collect or capture all of the lines people shared and send each person the lines that were shared about them.

Pssst. Here’s a great resource with all of the song lyrics from the show to help you with some of these activities.


Keeping it Safe

  • Video chat/FaceTime while watching (Be sure to press “play” at the same time! Also just a note, I haven’t personally had much success with this approach, because of the duplication of the sound from the film, coming in from everyone on the call.)
  • Group text chat while watching
  • Outdoor viewing party to keep social distance
  • Watch at the same time, then have a group call or video chat to talk about it afterward
  • Have everyone make a few fun food items they’ll be enjoying at their own homes; everyone can share pics of what they’re eating
  • Physically in person with people who don’t reside in your home? Be sure not to share serving utensils. Have food pre-set in small, individual serving-size dishes or cups. Have plenty of hand sanitizer on hand, and be sure to remind people to keep 6 feet apart and wear masks except when eating.

IMG_9122 3
Recent socially distant get together with friends

I hope these ideas sparked some party excitement for you as you plan your Hamilton party. I know I’m super excited to see it on Disney+ on July 3rd with my family! And I have at least one friend who will be watching it (for the very first time!) at the same we do, so we can chat all about it afterward. I can’t wait!

What other fun ideas do you have for a Hamilton party? I’d love to hear about them!

Celebrating a Birthday at Home: Having Fun While Social Distancing

It’s April. Can you believe it?! April has always been my favorite month, simply because it’s my BIRTHDAY month. I love my birthday. I always say it’s my second favorite holiday (behind Christmas, although Halloween runs a really tight race for second). It’s maybe a little self-absorbed to love a day simply because it’s MY special day, but it’s the truth, I do.

Maybe you have the same deep affection for your birthday as I do. Maybe you actually don’t AT ALL, but someone important in your life does. So, if you or someone you love is feeling a little bummed about not being able to celebrate a birthday (or anniversary, or any special day!) by getting together with friends and family due to the coronavirus/social distancing/quarantine, we have some ideas for you!

Side note: As an introvert whose then-boyfriend-now-husband had to work many New Year’s Eves, I often celebrated the evening by eating popcorn, drinking sparkling wine, and watching “General Hospital.” In my room, in my apartment, by myself. And it was truly blissful! So, for my fellow introverts, even if getting a bunch of people together is never on your birthday wishlist, I hope that you still find a way to celebrate your special day in a way that’s meaningful for you. Some of our ideas below may be exactly up your isolated alley.

Make it fancy, festive, friendly, or fun… just make it fabulously yours!

Make it Fancy

Glam Oscars Night
Our family’s glam celebration at home

Do you love to get fancy? Glam it up? Get all dressed up to go out? Well, you can still do that without leaving your home! Some ideas:

  • Dress up in black tie or cocktail attire (if you’re having a kid-friendly celebration, let them get in on the fun too)
  • DIY fancy food – cute little appetizers (Pinterest is always a great source of inspiration if you’re not sure what to make), a cheese board, homemade cupcakes. Never baked a layer-cake before? This could be a fun time to give it a whirl!
  • If you’re looking to step it up a notch to make this birthday extra-special, you could order fancy food from a favorite restaurant or an upscale one you’ve always wanted to try.
  • Order a cake, donuts, or cupcakes¬†from a local bakery (YES, they may still be open and offering delivery or curbside pickup)
  • Eat by candlelight
  • Set the mood with some elegant music
  • Enjoy a celebratory beverage – fancy it up by adding an appropriate garnish or drinking it from your fanciest glassware


Some fancy food inspiration – sparkling wine, gourmet donuts with a fancy candelabra topper (similar here), and a gorgeous cake! (Cake photo by FondantFlinger.)

Make it Festive

Want to decorate and feel like you’re having a big-to-do, even if the only guests will be yourself, your roommates, or your family members who live with you? There are so many ways to make your birthday festive:

  • Put up some fun lights – Do you have those cute little fairy lights? Christmas lights? Outdoor mini-lantern lights you’ve never put up yet? (Maybe that last one’s just me?) Put them up in whatever room you want to celebrate in.
  • Play your favorite music from a Spotify or iTunes playlist, or if you want to be surprised, have your Amazon Alexa or Google Home play whatever type of music makes your heart happy. My go to: “Alex, play dance music.”
  • Wear a party outfit – maybe that’s something sparkly, or a fun dress, a handsome dress shirt and (fun?) necktie, or a shirt or outfit you just look and feel great in. You can add a birthday sash, or a classic birthday hat (you could even DIY one out of paper, cardstock, or felt, and twine, ribbon, or bobby pins to secure it, or really whatever you have on hand). Or if you’re a little bit extra like me, take it a step further and wear a tiara or crown.
  • DIY birthday decorations – we had fun making our birthday wreath a few years ago, and now we hang it up for the whole week whenever it’s someone’s birthday at our house. If you like crafting and have a surplus of tissue paper on hand, you can easily make some of these adorable tissue pom pom balls {we used this tutorial for ours below}, or you can buy them.
  • Have a bar crawl or an around the world tasting party – you can set up a different fun, adult (or non-adult) beverage in various rooms throughout your home, or sample foods from around the world as you travel from room to room. You could even play a new uniquely themed song as you arrive at each destination… the possibilities are endless. (I’m actually getting very excited about this idea as I write it… we may do it ourselves in the next few weeks!)

Bday decor

Make it Friendly

For most of you extroverts out there, I know it means a lot to you to connect with people, and that you really get your energy from the people around you. So that makes social distancing extra tough. And while you can’t be physically in the same space with your friends and family, you can still have them join you {virtually} in your celebration! Of course, any of the ideas above could also include a FaceTime, Zoom, or Google Hangout multi-person video call with your peeps. But there are many other ways to include them in your big day, too. Here are just a few ideas:

  • Have a game night – you can try a traditional roll-the-dice game, or a party game like Apples to Apples, Charades, Pictionary, Scattegories, or many other options that would work virtually. You can host a trivia night. Or, you can go with a virtual party game option, like the ones from Jackbox – they range from drawing, to bluffing, to trivia, and more! They’re relatively inexpensive, and only one person has to buy a game in order to play it with friends. Everyone uses their smart phone, tablet, or laptop to play. For more details and even more ideas for game night, check out this article from the LA Times.
  • Have a dance party, dance-off, or learn a dance together – get your friends and family together on a video call and play some fun music. You can have one person play the music, or, if you want to make sure everyone can hear the music equally clearly, you may want to try what we’ve done: use Amazon Alexa, iTunes, Spotify, or whatever you use to play your music, and after each song you decide which song is next (we take turns deciding) and do a mini countdown (“3, 2, 1”) so that you all start the song in your own homes at relatively the same time. You could add more fun with a dance-off contest, or you could take a totally different route and all learn a TikTok dance together for lots of laughs and synchronized skill building! (Check out this list of top TikTok dances for some inspo, and this one too – just beware that some of the dances are a little bit PG-13.)
  • Karaoke night – everyone can take turns individually, or you can pair up! Just search “karaoke version of ________” (your song of choice) and sing along. Tip: If you’re pairing up to sing a song with someone in a different location, be sure you both press “play” at the same time so you’re in sync.
  • Dine together – if you’re having a dinner party or meal together virtually, let your friends know ahead of time what you’ll be eating in case they want to share in the same type of cuisine. You could have taco night, pizza night, steak on the grill, whatever makes you happy! Or ask them all to have their favorite dessert in front of them when they sing “Happy Birthday” to you.

Make it Fun

Maybe you have a child who’s missing out on that big birthday party you had originally planned to have for them. There are several ways you can help make it special, in addition to pulling from the ideas above, here are a few more:

  • Make an at-home treasure hunt for them – have them follow clues that lead, one after another, to a birthday gift or to their cake
  • Ask their friends’ parents to drive by your home in a car parade – give them a specific time and a starting location, so that they can all caravan together. They can have signs, noise makers, balloons, or just wave and shout “happy birthday” out the window as they pass by.
  • Have a dance party with just your family, or have some of your child’s friends join in on the fun through a video call
  • Ask their friends to send¬†birthday video messages to surprise them throughout the day
  • Have them help you bake or decorate their birthday dessert, or print out some cute cupcake wrappers to add a little extra flair
  • Host a Facebook or Instagram Live video of your baby’s cake smash, or have a video camera running while you host a Zoom call or FaceTime so your baby can see everyone and they can all sing “happy birthday” to the little one
  • A friend of mine is going to set up the party decorations she had already planned for her daughter’s first birthday party, and they are going to make a time capsule video explaining why no one was at their house for her party
  • I’ve scheduled two different dates for my daughter’s 8th birthday party – since it’s not at our house this year, we needed to book the location, but with all the uncertainty right now about when things will start to return to normal, we wanted to have a backup date, too (for 2 months later). And we let her know that we just may not be able to have the party she wants this year, but that we will definitely do something fun to celebrate no matter what!

Bday fun - AW cupcakes and smash cake

Make it Fabulously Yours!

Whatever you do for your birthday, make sure it’s what you want to do – don’t feel pressure to do a lot if you want it to be low-key, and don’t feel like you have to downplay it just because everyone is staying safe at home.

For me personally? I’m going to have a mini-spa day at home in the morning with a DIY facial mask I’ve always wanted to try but haven’t opened yet, roping one of my kids or my husband into giving me a mini-massage, all while lovely relaxing spa music plays in the house. Then I’m going to give myself a mani-pedi. In the afternoon, I’ll do pretty much whatever I want, which will likely be playing games and/or watching a movie with my family.

I’ll be celebrating throughout the entire day with an assortment of decadent¬†chocolate treats (think: chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast, chocolate pudding or a chocolate smoothie with lunch, chocolate pasta we picked up at the farmer’s market a few weeks ago for dinner). Then I’ll have several chocolate desserts available to enjoy in the evening: 2 different brownies (one that’s healthy but not-yet-tried, and one classic and not-at-all-healthy as a backup), either chocolate fudge or a chocolate cake, and chocolate chip cookies. And sparkling wine. Yes, it’s a bit indulgent. But that’s how I like my birthday, so that’s what we’ll be doing.

After the kids go to bed, we’re going to have a virtual game night¬†with two of our good friends and my family in Chicago. Together. We’ve already participated in two virtual game nights, but this is the first time our good friends will be playing competitive games with my very-competitive family-of-origin, so we’ll see how it goes! I’m so grateful that I get to celebrate with all of them, and no matter what happens, I know this virtual birthday will be one I’ll always remember… so I plan to make it a great one. And I hope you do, too!

AB bday

What do you think? What other ideas do you have for celebrating a birthday or other big celebration while we are all keeping up this social distancing? I’d love to hear your ideas –drop a note in the Comments below! For even more ideas, check out our Pinterest board!

10 Ways to Maintain a Positive Outlook

In this crazy time, where there’s a lot of uncertainty, and perhaps a lot of time to ourselves with “social distancing,” we want to help alleviate some of the uneasiness you may be feeling. So we’ve rounded up 10 great tips–all things you can do today, right now!–to help you re-center yourself, take control of the things you can, and maintain (or regain) a positive mindset to help you get through this and future challenges you may face.

Stay safe, be careful out there, and be sure to continue celebrating life and injecting fun wherever possible!

Ten Ways to Maintain Positivity and Regain Control

  1. Move your body – it can improve your mood and help combat anxiety. If you haven’t experience the magical impact that going for a walk or run, jumping around, or dancing it out can have on lifting your mood and mindset, try it out! For some uninhibited inspiration, check out my launch day crazy dance party with my kiddos last fall:

    Launch Day Dance Party
    dance party silliness
  2. Consume positivity¬†– curate the media you consume by a) not over-consuming the news, and b) making sure you’re reading, listening to, and watching¬†messages of positivity. I love¬†Instagram¬†for this, and¬†TikTok has been keeping a lot of my friends entertained and happy. Check out a few of my personal favorite go-to sources of positivity on Instagram:

    ohjoy, tanksgoodnews, britsketch, msrachelhollis, disneybunch, christopherjacobchandler

  3. Get outside¬†– soak up some sunshine, even if it’s hiding behind clouds! Connecting with nature is proven to positively impact our mood. Even just standing outside your home and getting fresh air can help.
  4. Focus on gratitude – If you don’t already have a daily gratitude practice, I highly recommend it. Each day, write down 3-5 small things you are grateful for in a journal. Our¬†family takes a few minutes at dinner time each night to share what we are grateful for.
  5. Eat healthy & drink lots of water РI know, it can be so easy to chow down on not-so-healthy snacks, but make sure you are getting your veggies and protein in to take care of your body.
  6. Meditate¬†– Take a few minutes to just calm your mind, whether it’s a simple breathing exercise listening to some guided meditation, sitting for a few moments in positive prayer, or taking a long bubble bath–whatever relaxes you and nourishes your soul.and breathe
  7. Listen to uplifting music – whatever makes you happy!
  8. Be silly¬†– Play, have fun, look up #dadjokes on the internet… just laugh! One thing my husband and I used to love to do that always had us laughing was to take turns “mirroring” each other’s singing, a la¬†Garth and Kat¬†from Saturday Night Live circa 2013. (Dave and Rachel Hollis did it this morning on their Start Today “show,” which reminded me how much fun it is. Check out the¬†first minute of this video¬†for some silly inspo.)
  9. Do something kind for someone else – offer to get groceries for an elderly neighbor, check in on a friend who lives in an isolated area to see if there’s something they need sent to them that’s available in your area, make a donation to help those who are suffering deeply. (I’m a little hesitant to share this religious-affiliated source, but it is a really great list¬†for¬†anyone¬†who is looking for ways to help their community.)
  10. Use retail therapy – If your finances are not impacted and you can afford it, support the local or national economy by buying something for yourself, your home, or a friend or family member. It can be something needed, wanted, or just something that sparks joy!

What are you going to do today to stay positive or help someone who needs it? What other ideas do you have that help you stay sane and focused on joy in tough times like these? Let us know in the comments!