Fourth Birthday Party: Princess Jasmine

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Veronika chose a Princess Jasmine theme for her 4th birthday party, having fallen in love with the Magic Carpet scene and song! That meant a palette of turquoise and silver, and a big surprise in store on party day!

The birthday girl opened her first present of the day – a chance to look just like her favorite princess.

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To start, we sent an easy fill-in-the-details Aladdin invite ( Decorations included a Jasmine-themed set of plates, cups, tablecloth, and napkins. We added turquoise balloons in bundles, as well as a few Jasmine dolls!

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I kept activities super-simple for this age group. Kids could draw or write a wish and put it in the magic genie lamp…

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Or decorate an armband “bangle” (cardboard tubes snipped open) with jewel stickers for a Jasmine-worthy bracelet.

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Since the party was at the park, food was quick snacks like pita chips with hummus, clementines, dried fruit (apricots and dates), and veggie sticks. Add mint iced tea for the grown-ups!

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The big surprise of the day was an arrival from Princess Jasmine herself. We used a local party production company who couldn’t have been more helpful getting us the perfect Jasmine. She read stories, sang songs, played parachute games, and blew bubbles for the birthday girl and her guests!

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The birthday girl blew out candles on her vanilla cake before guests had extra time to play at the local playground and then head home!

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Turquoise gift bags included princess slime, a sparkly bouncy ball, pop-it bracelets, and sweets for the magic carpet ride home!

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Eighth Birthday Party: Avengers

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For Travis’s eighth birthday, he requested his first slumber party. We went with a Marvel-ous sleepover theme, for a Marvel-tastic night of fun for him and a few friends!

The invitation was a printable template from Etsy, which was helpfully customized to include the sleepover aspect and all the details. Don’t forget to suggest that friends bring their best Superhero pajamas!

Decor was easy with this theme, with many readily available Avengers items (Party City) including plates, tablecloth, napkins, cups, and hanging decor.

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Continue the theme with easy sleepover-ready snacks. Red Vines or Twizzlers quickly become Iron Man’s lasers, and pretzels rods with Marshmllows (Dandies) were Thor’s hammer. We served pizza and fruit salad – in the shape of Captain America’s shield of course!

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The activity of the evening? A Marvel movie of course. Based on the age of your birthday child, you can find a ranking of appropriate Avengers movies here.

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Face masks added to the fun!

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After that the superheroes were free to stay up as late as they liked (full disclosure: 2.45 in the morning!).

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Send them home with Marvel-ous loot, including Avengers wrist bands, bubbles, slime, tattoos, and pencils.

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Butterfly Pasta

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Butterfly-shaped pasta is perfect for springtime, and this recipe is simple enough for even a preschooler to help. It’s a great activity for talking about all the verbs that go into a recipe, too.

Scoop peas into a bowl of cooked pasta.

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Spoon in pesto.

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Mix it all together.

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Sprinkle with your favorite non-dairy cheese!

Thanks to Veronika’s latest High Five magazine for this interactive cooking lesson!

Little Passports Round-Up

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Travis took an extended pause from opening Little Passports packages when life got a bit busy, but this month we dove back into it. It was incredible to see the difference in his ability to tackle booklet activities as a second grader rather than a first grader. Here’s our unboxing review of the final 5 packages from his World Passport subscription:


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Travis loved following a code to learn about the Polish alphabet (which has more letters than ours!), but a color-by-symbol in the booklet was so tough even my grown-up eyes went a little cross-eyed.

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The souvenir in this kit, on the other hand, was a big hit: Polish sticker art. Follow the pattern to create a double layer of beautiful folk art. We also cooked potato pancakes!

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The booklet included great information on everything from the mythical (a Trojan Horse dot-to-dot) to sightseeing in Istanbul (a great activity for telling time), to spotting patterns in Turkish tiles. The souvenir was a memory card game, featuring images of Turkish items like spices from the Bazaar, Turkish delight candies, or the Hagia Sophia.

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Finally, we cooked Turkish hummus.


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Travis was great at shading in one of Michelangelo’s sculptures using an alphabet code. Gelato mazes and pasta word searches on the other hand, were a bit tricky for him.

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The souvenir was a 3-D puzzle of the Rialto Bridge which even had a mini gondola. This was tricky even for grown-up hands to put together, but had us laughing! Don’t forget to cook marinara sauce!

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For the land of ice, the booklet included a fun “fishing voyage” that taught kids to read a map, as well as word puzzles about Icelandic holidays. The big hit was the souvenir, a northern lights art kit. Travis used pastels on the provided black paper, then smudged with a sponge for a neat aurora borealis effect.

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Then we cooked Cocoa Soup. Chocolate for dinner? Yes, please!

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Oh Canada, our final stop! This booklet seemed particularly tricky including hockey score mazes and a spot-the-difference image.

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We made cookies sweetened with maple syrup, of course. The souvenir was a wooden moose 3-D puzzle.

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For all of the above countries, we checked out photos online and listened to phrases in each language. There’s so much more you can do for a deep dive; perhaps check out a book on each country from your local library, or watch a kids’ movie in the native language. What country would your child want to visit most? Please share in the comments!

Star Watching Party

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The Perseid meteor shower is here!

If you’re not familiar with this annual event, here are a few key things to know: The Perseids are debris leftover from a comet, and once a year the Earth passes near their path. The best viewing time is between midnight and 4 a.m., which means kids might get a special stay-up-late treat to see them, or early birds can head out before dawn!

Thanks to some stellar space-themed ideas in Parents magazine, we set the stage for our night of meteor viewing with a few activities. First up, we needed to launch a rocket into space, using “rocket fuel” made from baking soda and vinegar of course.

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Tape four pencils around an upside-down empty bottle, which will secure it upright on its “launch pad”. Next, flip the bottle over and add 2 to 3 teaspoons baking soda. Add 1 cup vinegar, then very quickly pop in a wine cork and flip the bottle.

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Did yours soar into the sky? We were a bit slow getting the cork in, which meant the “launch” wasn’t spectacular, but all the bubbling jet fuel sure was!

Now we wanted just the right clothing for our night, with glow-in-the dark shirts made from glow fabric paint. I made a star, moon and spiral galaxy for Travis.

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Veronika had a decidedly more abstract splattering of stars on her shirt!

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The next component of our night was space-themed snacks: we cut slices of vegan cheese into stars with a cookie cutter, and apple wedges were “crescent moons”.

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Next up, we secured a sheet of red cellophane over flashlights with a rubber band, then headed out into the night. The red filter supposedly helps eyes adjust to the dark!

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Before long, though, it was time to turn off those flashlights and turn our eyes upward to the sky.

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In between watching for meteors, Travis and I checked out the other stars in the sky and came up with a few of our own constellations.

Finish all that starry fun with storytime of course. Check out Storytime from Space which features astronauts reading from – you guessed it – the International Space Station. Wow! The kids were enthralled with a read-through of Give Me Some Space by Philip Blunting.

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After all that, it turned out that probably headed out a little early (10 p.m.) and didn’t have great viewing. We intend to check out Jupiter on August 19, for our next star party!

A few things we didn’t get to this time, but that have stellar hits in the past: marshmallow constellations and tracking the moon.

Seventh Birthday Party: Ninjago Lego

It has been all things Ninjago in our house this year, so it was a no-brainer when it came time to plan Travis’s seventh birthday: Ninjago it was!

As always, a party starts with the invitation, and this year we went with a homemade card. Cut an upside-down kidney bean shape from the front of green envelopes, then insert a yellow index card to cover the opening, taping to secure on the inside. Draw the trademark Ninjago eyes with a sharpie for an instant ninja face!

I then inserted an additional yellow index card into each envelope with the party deets. Thanks to for the idea!

The birthday boy sported a Ninjago t-shirt of course.

For decoration, we turned our living room into Master Wu’s dojo. I ordered plain red pillowcases which slipped over pillows in our house for seating, and arranged these around a low coffee table. Red lanterns on the ceiling, red streamers, and red and black balloons added pops of color to the room (all from Oriental Trading).

Travis has an army’s worth of Lego Ninjago figures, which easily became decor arranged around the room.

Ninja plates, cups, and napkins came from Amazon. For food, fill clear mini Chinese takeout containers (also Oriental Trading) with green jelly beans to look like edamame!

I then added a few lollipops into each container. If you have time, you can draw the Ninjago face mask on the lollipop wrappers, too, to mimic the invitations, although I skipped that step. We rounded out the party noshes with pretzel rod “nunchucks”, cantaloupe “throwing stars”, and slices of pizza (both vegan and dairy). Use extra takeout containers as the holders for plastic forks and spoons.

Don’t forget the perfect drink for your little ninjas: fruit punch. The homemade sprinkle party cake featured a marzipan Ninjago face mask.

The guests arrived and it was time to let the activities begin! The first test for the aspiring ninjas was a round of Fortune Cookie Toss. Tape large Chinese takeout containers in a vertical row and label each for 5, 10, or 15 points. Take aim with fortune cookies!

Inside, the ninjas tackled a laser maze (to set up, simply run black yarn through a room in your house, or an area outside, until it forms a tricky web). Then each ninja was presented with an inflatable sword for target practice against half-deflated helium balloons. (Hint: fill them the night before and they’ll be perfectly hovering by party time).

Time for a round of Ninjago bingo! The kids used their jelly bean “edamame” as playing pieces on a template I found online.

The capstone of the party was watching The Lego Ninjago Movie on a projector screen.

I also provided a quieter art activity, where guests could draw themselves as a Ninja. Foam picture frames (Oriental Trading) made this the perfect keepsake to take home.

Goodie bags repeated the face mask cutout from the invitations, this time with a yellow index card taped inside red bags. Each ninja received: a ninja rubber duckie, throwing star erases, extra fortune cookies and lollipops, and a mini beach bucket, that last one because it’s summer after all!

Pop Art Popsicles

Today we made popsicles that really popped, just in time for a 90 degree day.

To start, add gummy candy to popsicle molds. Parents magazine demonstrated with Airheads, but we used vegan sour rings from Whole Foods, thinking the sour combination would pair nicely with sweet juice.

That said, don’t use too sugary a liquid, since the sour rings are still loaded with sugar. We filled half of our molds with coconut water and the other half with lime seltzer. Freeze until set. (Ours took about 8 hours).

When it came time for the big reveal, the kids were wowed by the candy circles trapped in frozen liquid!

Half the fun was looking at them but the other half was in eating them of course, unlocking each candy circle in turn before moving on to the next. What candy will you freeze for pop art pops? Please share in the comments!

Curried Lentil-Stuffed Green Peppers

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Any meal where you can eat the bowl is exciting for kids. These hearty stuffed bell peppers ensure that the “bowl” will be healthy, too, down to the last bite!


  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 2 and 1/4 cups water
  • 2 medium carrots, chopped
  • 1/2 cup green lentils
  • 1 vegetable bouillon cube
  • 1/4 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cups marinara sauce
  • 4 large green bell peppers
  • 1/2 cup shredded non-dairy cheese
  1. To start, combine the rice, water, carrots, lentil, bouillon, curry powder, and olive oil in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then cover, reduce heat, and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the liquid is absorbed. Set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, spoon 1/3 cup sauce into the bottom of an 8-inch baking dish; set aside.
  3. Remove the stems, seeds, and membranes from the bell peppers and place in the sauce. Divide the lentil mixture evenly among the bell peppers, then sprinkle evenly with the cheese cheese before pouring the remaining sauce on top.
  4. Bake at 350 degrees F for 40 minutes.

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Tofu Pasta Shell Casserole

I love jumbo stuffed pasta shells, but the effort of making them is wasted on my kids since I just need to cut the pasta into smaller pieces. This recipe relies on small pasta shells instead, for a kid-friendly riff on a grown-up favorite.


  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 3 carrots, chopped
  • 1 zucchini, shredded
  • 3 tablespoons olives oil
  • 3 cups marinara sauce
  • 1 (16-ounce) package shell pasta
  • 1/2 cup minced artichoke hearts
  • 8 ounces extra-firm tofu
  • 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrot, and zucchini; saute for 3 minutes. Add the marinara sauce and cook for 10 minutes, until heated through; set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to package directions; set aside.
  3. In a bowl, combine the minced artichokes, tofu, and nutritional yeast; mash with a fork until crumbly.
  4. Spoon about 1/2 cup sauce into the bottom of a 9×13-inch baking dish. Top with the pasta, followed by the tofu mixture, and add the remaining sauce on top. Bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes.

Herbed Broccoli

This recipe comes together in minutes, and is a great way to dress up otherwise ho-hum vegetables.


  • 1 head broccoli
  • 1/3 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley
  1. Cut the florets from the broccoli head and transfer to a large bowl; reserve the stems for another use.
  2. Toss the florets with the broth and the herbs. Cover and steam in the microwave for 5 minutes, until tender.

My kids love this with Gardein chick’n or pasta for an elegant meal!