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golden masquerade party for golden halloween birthday

Golden Masquerade Birthday Party

On my 30th birthday, I was taking care of a newborn baby and not really up for a big celebration. I was just impressed that we were able to leave the kids with my parents and get out for a sushi dinner. The following year, I turned 31 on the 31st, which means it was my golden birthday. I decided that I needed to have a party since I didn’t do much for my 30th. Since my birthday is on Halloween, I went with a Golden Masquerade theme. Everyone came in masks, which was so much fun. Since I was planning the party for myself, and Nic and I went out of town the week before, I kept this party simpler than the ones I throw for the kids. It was nice not to put as much work in and hire more vendors instead. It turned out great and I got to relax and enjoy it more. Here are some of the details.

golden masquerade party for a halloween golden birthday

golden masquerade party for a halloween golden birthday

golden masquerade party for a halloween golden birthday

Dessert Bar

We got desserts from Sweet and Saucy Shop and they did an amazing job. We had a 6″ round white buttercream, red velvet cake with gold sprinkles cascading down the cake.

golden masquerade party for a halloween golden birthday - dessert bar

We had salted caramel white shell macarons with gold glitter painted stripes on them. We had oreo flavored white chocolate dipped cake pops with gold sprinkles. We had white chocolate dipped rice crispy bars. We had the most gorgeous s’mores tarts and candy bar flavored mini cupcakes. We also had some gold candies for a favor – we even had beer flavored jelly beans.

golden masquerade halloween birthday party - cake from sweet n saucy shop


We offered two specialty drinks in addition to beer and wine.

golden masquerade party beer drinking

The first specialty drink was the Masked Margarita which had Cuervo, triple sec, and sweet n’ sour with fresh squeezed lime and a gold salt rim.

Masked Margarita - with a gold salted rim for a Golden Masquerade Party

The second specialty drink was a Golden Raspberry Lemonade which had Raspberry lemonade, seagrams vodka and a gold sugar rim.
Golden Raspberry Lemonade with gold sugar rim - perfect for a Golden Masquerade Party

Photo Booth

Everyone had so much fun in the photobooth. They have become a staple at all of our parties. For more info on my DIY photobooth, check out this post.

golden masquerade party for a halloween golden birthday - photobooth

golden masquerade party for a halloween golden birthday - photo booth


For food we had sliders, southwest egg rolls, phyllo puffs with chicken, an imported and domestic cheese display, seared ahi tuna canapé, and meatballs.

golden masquerade party for a halloween golden birthday

golden masquerade party for a halloween golden birthday - appetizer


Erin from White Fig Designs did the flower centerpieces and she did a fabulous job. She used white flowers with touches of dark accents and feathers.

centerpieces for a golden masquerade birthday party


All photos were taken by Jennifer Calderon.

This party was so much fun and everyone really enjoyed the theme. Especially being so close to Halloween, I think the adults really enjoyed a night out to get dressed up. I had a pretty awesome Golden Birthday and had a lot of fun watching this idea come to life.

golden masquerade party for a halloween golden birthday

let's get wild party animals birthday party. Lots of great diy ideas for a safari or jungle themed party

Let’s Get Wild! Party Animals Birthday Party

We threw the boys a combined birthday party last weekend (this was their second combined party – last year they had a Finding Dory Party) to celebrate Hudson turning 5 and Luc turning 3. Since the boys’ birthdays are only two weeks apart and they are so close in age, it just makes sense to combine their parties. It saves me a lot of money and effort and they love it, so it’s a win-win. This year, we had the party at Scooter’s Jungle, an awesome indoor play place, which made the event even less stressful. I went with a wild/party animals/jungle theme because I knew the party room would already be decorated for that theme so I figured why fight it?

let's get wild party animals birthday party. Lots of great diy ideas for a safari or jungle themed party - dessert table

I had invitations made by Cute Party Dash.

wild party animals birthday party. Lots of great diy ideas for a safari or jungle themed party

I then used the same images, which can be purchased from Paper Sphinx to make a Watering Hole drink station sign and a thank you sign to put next to our favors.

let's get wild party animals birthday party. Lots of great diy ideas for a safari or jungle themed party - watering hole - jungle juice (jamba juice smoothies), water with zebra duct dape, coffee

wild party animals birthday party. Lots of great diy ideas for a safari or jungle themed party

While looking through Pinterest, I came across a party image and became obsessed with it. Normally, I pin hundreds of images and sort of take my favorite aspects of each party and create my own thing, but I just couldn’t get this party out of my head, so I copied it. It was a bit challenging because the pinned image didn’t link to anything, but after some detective work, I found the original post. You can check it out here for some beautiful party inspiration.

let's get wild party animals birthday party. Lots of great diy ideas for a safari or jungle themed party

One of the biggest challenges of hosting a party at a venue instead of at home is that I had limited time for set-up (only 15 minutes before the guests entered) and quite a few rules and restrictions to follow. In order to make my dessert table vision come to life, I had to get creative. I bought two 28 x 40 tri-fold poster boards and overlapped them to make a large backdrop. I used this template and this template for the leaves. I folded a lot of the leaves in half and lightly taped them on so they would have some dimension. I bought the WILD balloons from Amazon (thank goodness for 2 day shipping and good customer service because the first order I received a V instead of an L!). This backdrop was surprisingly easy to put together, it was easy to transport and it was the best way to achieve the look I was going for given the restrictions I had.

wild party animals birthday party. Lots of great diy ideas for a safari or jungle themed party

Another challenge was that the venue didn’t allow any glass. All of my cake stands and serving platters are glass, so I had to do a little shopping. I found the white cakestand on Amazon. The gold cakestand was from Kirkland’s. The large white trays were from Ikea (I already had them) and the clear candy jar type dishes were from Walmart (They might be an in store only purchase because I couldn’t find them on-line).

wild party animals birthday party. Lots of great diy ideas for a safari or jungle themed party

Our party started at 9am, so we decided to serve Luc’s favorite food: donuts. We also got our go-to party food/drink: Jamba Juice smoothies (Jungle Juice). We had two large travel containers of coffee from Starbucks, mini water bottles with zebra print duct tape on them, a veggie tray, a fruit tray, and animal crackers.

wild party animals birthday party. Lots of great diy ideas for a safari or jungle themed party

For dessert, my very talented friend, Jessica Soumah, made delicious cupcakes and the most gorgeous cake! I ordered cupcake wrappers from Amazon, which were perfect. I also ordered gold glittery candles from Amazon. I cut way back on my dessert making this year and only made rice krispy treats, but even with those, I cheated and used store bought treats. I cut some straws in half, stuck them in the treats and dipped them in candy melts. I did half of them in white with a black drizzle to look like zebras and the other half I dipped in green then sprayed with gold mist to match the cake. (*tip – to get the streaks of gold instead of an all over mist, spray the gold Color Mist onto wax paper then use your finger to apply).

wild party animals birthday party. Lots of great diy ideas for a safari or jungle themed party

I got plain white table cloths from Walmart, Striped and Tropical Leaf plates from Amazon, decorated the tables with palm leaves from Amazon.

wild party animals birthday party. Lots of great diy ideas for a safari or jungle themed party

For favors, I just ordered adorable monkeys from Scooter’s Jungle.

let's get wild party animals birthday party. Lots of great diy ideas for a safari or jungle themed party - monkey favors

It was so much fun (even us adults were having a blast riding the jumbo slide). All the decorations, food and drinks were relatively easy, but still looked so cute. The kids had a great time and I would definitely consider the party a success!

wild party animals birthday party. Lots of great diy ideas for a safari or jungle themed party

let's get wild party animals birthday party. Lots of great diy ideas for a safari or jungle themed party

shark week playdate - free banner printable, chumming for sharks yogurt recipe, shark bait recipe, link to popcorn bucket printable and tons of other shark week ideas

Shark Week Playdate and Free Printables

We had our friends over for a playdate during shark week, so I of course used it as an excuse to have a fun, shark themed get together. I love little events like this because it allows me to be crafty and creative without all the work and stress of a full-blown party. I didn’t start making stuff or preparing until Monday (our friends came over on Wednesday) so this is totally do-able for busy or last-minute moms. 🙂


I started out like I always do, searching Pinterest for ideas and free printables. I found some really cute stuff to use as well as some fun ideas. I didn’t see anything I could use for a banner though, so I made one myself. I think it turned out really cute and I always feel like a banner makes the table look complete. You can download the free banner printable by clicking HERE. Just cut it out, punch holes in the corners and run string through it. Lately I have been using blue painters tape to hang up my banners then covering the tape up with cute washi.

shark week letterboard idea

I also used my letterboard for the occasion. It was a bit of a challenge creating the shark fin, but I love how it turned out.


Chumming for Sharks Yogurt

chumming for sharks yogurt - perfect healthy snack or breakfast for shark week or a shark birthday

I wanted to have a few snacks with at least one healthy option, but most of the ideas on Pinterest were not very healthy. Usually I am all about desserts, but we have been making an effort to eat healthier lately so I came up with my own snack idea by combining a few ideas from Pinterest. We ended up making chumming for sharks yogurt. The kids helped me make these, which was a lot of fun. To make these you will need the following:

  • Granola (optional)
  • Greek Yogurt (we used vanilla)
  • Blue food coloring (you only need a few drops)
  • Frozen Strawberries in Sugar (we bought this from the frozen section of the grocery store)
  • Plastic Cups
  • Mini spoons
  • Grey construction paper (to make shark fins)
  • Glue gun

We added a little bit of granola to the bottom of the cups, put a few drops of blue food coloring into the yogurt, scooped the yogurt into the cup, then topped it with the chum (the frozen strawberries). I explained to the boys that chum is what they dump in the water to attract sharks and then what do you know, a few sharks showed up and jumped right into our bowls. 😉 The kids loved it! I free hand cut out shark fins out of grey construction paper and glued them onto mini spoons. I also used a few sharks left over from the adorable popcorn buckets I made using a printable from My Printly.

Shark Bait

shark bait popcorn snack is easy, delicious, and perfect for shark week or a shark party

Of course, I had to do one sweet treat, so I made shark bait. It was so delicious and all the little sharks ate it up super fast! I spent Tuesday night driving from store to store searching for shark gummies. I feel like I always see them until the time I need them, then they vanished. I found gummy bears, worms, snakes, octopus, frogs, dinosaurs, alligators and lions! Literally every gummy animal ever made except sharks! Then I thought, why would sharks want to eat sharks, and decided that putting them in my shark bait didn’t make sense anyways. That is when I came up with the goldfish idea. Sharks love eating fish, especially delicious sweet ones. They have so many fun flavors now too that you could use, but I must say, the s’mores goldfish were perfect in this recipe. To make the shark bait you will need the following:

  • Sea Salt Air Popped Popcorn
  • Ghiradelli White Chocolate Chips
  • Blue M&Ms
  • S’mores Goldfish Crackers

I put wax paper on a cookie sheet, spread out my popcorn, sprinkled in goldfish and m&ms, then drizzled the melted white chocolate over it. I put it in the fridge until it cooled then broke it apart and put it in the cutest popcorn buckets from My Printly. These were so perfect for our playdate and I have been refilling the containers with shark bait all week so the boys can munch on it while watching Shark Week.

Ocean Water

ocean water - blue gatorade with a swedish fish makes an easy and fun drink for shark week or a shark party

For drinks, I kept it simple with blue Gatorade and a swedish fish on each straw.


Shark Sensory Bin

shark sensory bin

I set up a shark sensory bin. What I love most about sensory bins is that they don’t always have to be fancy. I didn’t have time to buy anything (and to be honest didn’t really want to spend a bunch of money) so I just used what we already had. A bag of glass circle vase fillers, water and plastic sharks. That’s it! And you know what, the kids loved it and played with it for quite a while. Sometimes, I think we as moms get caught up in making everything Pinterest worthy, but kids don’t need much to have fun. They were getting so creative and having the best time! When you give kids water activities, you usually can’t go wrong.

Shark Slime

shark slime - perfect activity for shark week

We also made shark slime. For our first attempt, the day before the playdate, we tried to use a non-borax recipe, but the slime was so sticky. I watched a bunch of you tube videos and started adding everything they recommended for sticky slime, but nothing helped. So my hubby bought borax and like magic our sticky bowl of blue goop turned into slime. When our friends came over, we made a second batch using the borax recipe and it worked great. The kids loved playing with their sharks in the slime! I used this recipe to make the slime.

Shark Play Doh Mats

shark week playdoh mats free printables

I also had a little play doh station with our shark week playdoh mats, some playdoh and some cutters. My boys had already done this activity earlier in the week and the kids were all having so much fun with the other activities that we didn’t get to this. You can check the play doh mats out here.

Shark Cutting and Tracing Activity

free printable - shark cutting and tracing practice

I also made a fun little printable for Hudson. I printed one out and had it laminated so it could be used as a tracing exercise. Both boys had fun with that. Then I printed one out on regular paper so Hudson could also use it for cutting. Hudson loves cutting so this was perfect for him. You can get the printable HERE. *Graphics were purchased from Prettygrafik Design.


I had a few crafts to do that I found on Pinterest, but we didn’t get to those either. Good thing shark week lasts an entire week so we can fit in all the fun we planned.

Clothespin Sharks

clothespin shark craft for shark week

I let each of the kids select one craft from Pinterest. Hudson chose clothespin sharks from Kix. This wasn’t an ideal craft for my kids’ ages so I pretty much ended up making these, but the kids did love playing with them.

Toilet Paper Roll Sharks and Paper Towel Roll Hammerhead Sharks

Luc chose to make paper toilet roll sharks. The one he selected was a regular shark, but his favorite shark is the hammerhead so I got really excited when I found a paper towel roll hammerhead shark on Pinterest. We are planning to make both, but so far have only completed phase one. I will update this once we finish the project.

Shark Hats

shark hats perfect for shark week

I was also planning to make shark hats, but the hats we selected required an obscure paper size in numerous colors that was not readily available (please tell me I am not the only one who spends tons of time driving from store to store looking for seemingly basic craft supplies that are actually impossible to find). Luckily, one of my friends, Danielle, from Mama Life Inspiration, who is an awesome blogger, posted an adorable shark hat idea. So we ended up making those instead and the boys had tons of fun finger painting their shark fins and tails. Of course they also loved running around in their shark hats. For more details on the hats and for the link to the shark fin hat template click here. Danielle also has a bunch of other fun shark week ideas on her blog so be sure to take a look.

As you can see, we squeezed a whole lot of Shark Fun into one week. My boys just love sharks so much that I couldn’t help myself and went a little overboard. You could easily pick just a few of these ideas to make your shark week a bit more fun.

I hope you have a fin-tastic Shark Week!!

homemade alphabet half birthday donuts - could write any message or celebrate any occasion with these

Alphabet Donuts for Luc’s Half Birthday

Luc loves donuts! It’s his favorite food and he would eat them all the time if I let him. A few places in the Los Angeles area make these adorable alphabet donuts (I’m sure you have seen them as they are all the rage at the moment) and I thought that would be the perfect way to celebrate Luc’s half birthday. After calculating donut and delivery cost though, I decided I would attempt to make these myself. Of course, now that I have made these, I think the price is totally justified so if you aren’t the DIY type and want to buy some, check out DK’s Donuts and California Donuts. These were really fun to make and not very difficult, but they were time-consuming, so if you have a lot of time on your hands or you are cheap like me, read on to learn how to make your own alphabet donuts. 😉

half birthday doughnut dough and cookie cutters from michaels or amazon

half birthday donut making

homemade alphabet donuts to celebrate a half birthday

decorating half birthday donuts

homemade donuts to celebrate a half birthday

Alphabet Donuts

  • Servings: approx. 18 donuts
  • Print

Fun and easy, but time-consuming, doughnuts that are perfect for celebrations or teaching your kids about the alphabet

Copycatable Rating:????? Credit:The Pink Wings

Tips: I used these cookie cutters from Wilton.


    For Donuts
  • 1 1/8 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 cup cugar
  • 1 package instant yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 1/4 sticks butter, melted and cooled
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • canola oil (I used two 24 ounce bottles)
  • For Glaze
  • 3 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 4 tablespoons water
  • 1-2 tsp. vanilla extract (optional)
  • food coloring
  • sprinkles


  1. Heat milk to about 105-110 degrees F. Pour the sugar into the milk and stir to dissolve. Place yeast in a small bowl and pour milk over it. Let it rest for 10 minutes.
  2. In a separate bowl, beat your eggs, then add your butter while mixing continuously. Pour into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Turn to medium speed and pour in the yeast mixture. Mix for a couple of minutes until well combined.
  3. While still mixing, gradually add the flour about 1/2 a cup at a time. Once it’s all combined, mix for another 5 minutes. Scrape if needed, then mix for another 30 seconds. Let rest for 10 minutes.
  4. Spray a large mixing bowl with oil. Transfer your dough to the bowl, then cover and refrigerate overnight.
  5. Prep a few cookie sheets with silicon mats or parchment paper dusted with flour.
  6. Lightly flour a clean surface and roll out your dough to around 1/4 inch thick. Use your alphabet cookie cutters to make letters and place them on your prepped cookie sheets. Roll together leftover scraps, let the dough rest a few minutes, then repeat until done. Cover with tea towels and let ride in a warm, dry place for at least an hour until they look fluffy.
  7. Before the dough is quite risen, fill a heavy-bottomed pot almost halfway with oil on your stovetop and bring temperature to 375F (or if you are like me and don’t own a thermometer that reads that high, follow this test to know when the oil is hot enough) Prep some pans with paper towels for your fried donuts.
  8. Once the oil is hot enough, place a few donuts into the hot oil and fry for one minute. Turn them over and fry for one more minute. Remove from oil and let rest on paper towels. Let the oil heat back up if needed, then repeat until done.
  9. For the Glaze:
  10. In a medium mixing bowl, combine all of the ingredients until smooth. Divide into smaller bowls and add food coloring as desired. Dip the tops of the doughnuts into the glaze and immediately add sprinkles. Set aside to dry. Best eaten within the day. (*I have doubled the glaze ingredients in my recipe because I ended up needing to double it and my glaze consistency and color differed between batches so I recommend making it all at once. Also, in my opinion, a bit thicker glaze works better)

And just for fun, here are some of the past ways we have celebrated Luc’s half birthdays.

homemade (allergy free) half birthday cake for a half birthday celebration - number topper made with cricut

For his first half birthday, I made my first layered half cake (using the wacky cake recipe and an allergy free frosting recipe because I was on an elimination diet while nursing Luc). I used my cricut and gold scrapbook paper to make the numbers, then taped them to cake pop sticks.

homemade (allergy free) half birthday cake for a half birthday celebration - number topper made with cricut

For Luc’s 1 1/2 birthday, I made him pancakes. Both boys love pancakes, so they are always a hit.

number pancakes for a half birthday celebration

For all of the fun ways we have celebrated Hudson’s half birthdays, check out this post.

homemade alphabet donuts to celebrate a half birthday. You could use these to write any message or celebrate any occasion
half birthday celebration ideas - half cakes, half stack of pancakes, alphabet donuts, numered pancakes and cookies
planes birthday party - free printable for propeller cake pops and tons of fun ideas

Planes Birthday Party

planes birthday party - free printable for propeller cake pops and tons of fun ideas

One day while we were driving in the car, I asked Hudson if he knew what theme he wanted for his upcoming birthday party. I threw out a few options and out of the blue he said Planes. I thought it was kind of funny, because while he does love planes, that wasn’t one of his favorite movies. I waited a few days, asked again and got the same answer. By about the 5th time, I decided to commit and dove into planning his 3rd birthday party. It ended up being a really fun theme with a cute color scheme of blue, orange and some red. We had the party at My Gym which made things much easier (set start and end time and they did all the entertaining). This was great because Luc’s 1st birthday party was only a few weeks later so I had a lot on my plate. I also had to keep in mind the fact that everything would need to be transported to the event location and we only had a limited amount of time for set-up, which forced me to minimize decorations and keep the food on the easier side. All in all, it was a pretty simple, low-key party that everyone had a blast at. The only real downside was that it went by so fast, we didn’t really get great pictures of everything.

planes birthday party family picture

Since the party was in the morning, I went the breakfast route. We served donuts “spare tires” which were literally just packaged chocolate and powdered sugar donuts on a platter with a few racing flags.

planes birthday party donut spare tires

A fruit platter of “plane parts” with a cream cheese dip “fluffy cloud dip” To make the dip, I just combined one 8 ounce package of softened cream cheese with one 15 ounce jar of marshmallow cream. It is so easy and so delicious, especially with an assortment of fruit.

planes birthday party fruit plane parts and fluffy cloud dip

We picked up a coffee traveler from Starbucks for our adult “fueling station”. That couldn’t be a more accurate description of coffee for parents, right?

planes birthday party - free printable for propeller cake pops and tons of fun ideas

We had Jamba Juice drinks  and water for the kid friendly “jet fuel”.

planes birthday party fuel up water bottles

The Jamba Juice drinks were perfect because they were dairy free so Hudson could have them and they were just easy for the kids to grab and drink. They were so popular in fact, that I think they may become a party staple.

planes birthday party jet fuel jamba juice smoothies are perfect for young kid's parties

We also had a bunch of “in-flight snacks” like chips and cookies.

planes birthday party chips and cookies for in-flight snacks

For desserts, we had propeller oreo cake pops, cloud rice krispy treats, marshmallow propeller pops, planes cookies and dusty cupcakes.

planes birthday party - free printable for propeller cake pops and tons of fun ideas

I made oreo pops using this recipe from Bakerella, then made little propellers to attach. A link to the free printable is at the end of this post. I just cut them out, punched a hole in the center with a hole punch and slid them on. They were really easy and super cute.

planes birthday party - free printable for propeller cake pops and tons of fun ideas

I used a cloud cookie cutter to cut out the rice krispy treats (I used the dairy free recipe listed here).

planes birthday party cloud rice krispy treats

For the propeller marshmallows, I made the propellers using candy melts on wax paper (I just free-handed the propeller shape), dipped half of the marshmallows into candy melts, then attached the hardened/cooled propellers.

planes birthday party marshmallow propeller pops

I ordered the plane cookies from Dainty Cakes by Andrea on etsy and they were so detailed and a big hit with everyone.

planes birthday party sugar cookies

I absolutely loved the Dusty cupcakes, they turned out so cute and were a huge hit with the kids. Sadly, the company I ordered the cupcake wrappers from is no longer in business, which is a huge bummer because these are brilliant. It is so much easier to hand each kid a cupcake, especially at a party like this, and every kid was ecstatic to get their own Dusty! Hudson’s face when he first saw the cupcakes was priceless and they were pretty easy to make (just took a few nights of cutting and taping). In case you love this idea as much as I do, I did find Planes Fire and Rescue cupcake wrappers by Printamajig on etsy.

planes birthday party dusty cupcakes using cupcake wrappers

I bought the tablecloths, plates, napkins, goody bags and balloons from Party City. I ordered the flags and Hudson’s t-shirt from Amazon. Luc’s wingman t-shirt was from Target. The Planes movie characters were a gift, from the Disney store, that doubled as decorations. I made my own invitations inspired by this design by PartyInnovations09. I used water bottle wrappers and cupcake toppers (for the adult cupcakes) from Homeketeers (I’ve linked to their homepage, but was unable to find the printables so they may no longer be offering them). I made personalized wings for each kid by making a printable, printing the wings on cardstock, cutting them out and attaching pins like these to the back. The kids thought these were really cool.

planes birthday party personalized wing pins

I also made the Happy Birthday Banner (you can find a similar one here),  the food labels, and the gift bag tags. We filled the goody bags with some fun planes themed items from Party City and everyone collected them from Baggage Claim before they left.

planes birthday party thank you for flying by goody bags at baggage claim

That was pretty much it. Like I said, I really kept this one fairly simple (for me, lol).

planes birthday party - free printable for propeller cake pops

To get your own free propeller printable, click here. For more inspiration, check out my Pinterest board.


photo booth diy using ipad

DIY Photo Booth

A friend of mine did this at her daughter’s first birthday party years ago and I loved it so much I just had to copy her. I have since used this at every one of my kid’s birthday parties, my own birthday party and holiday gatherings. It is always a huge hit! It seemed a bit pricey up front, but it has more than paid for itself over the years.

diy photobooth

Here is everything you need:

Ipad Floor Stand (You can most likely find more affordable options on Amazon for the ipad stand. I personally like this stand because it rolls, it is adjustable, it is quick and easy to insert the ipad and most importantly the ipad feels secure once strapped in. I also love that we can keep our ipad in the protective case while using the stand just for added re-assurance.)

Pocketbooth App


Backdrop (This is what we have, but this is totally optional. You could easily make your own backdrop, but this backdrop set does make it nice and easy to create a clean space that you can then decorate however you want.)

For the first few parties we linked the ipad to a wireless printer so people could print out their photos, but now we don’t bother with that and instead everyone just e-mails their pictures to themselves through the app.

Sometimes we use chairs or benches to sit on and sometimes we don’t. We find for kid parties no chairs work better so that the kids can use the set-up unsupervised (why do kids feel the need to climb on everything?)

I also thought I would mention props. I have slowly added to my generic photo booth props over the years, but my favorite props are actually theme specific. I have a board on my pinterest page titled DIY Photobooth where I have included many of the props I have used over the years. Most of these are free, but a few are not.

I also always make a photobooth sign and stick it in a frame. If you would like to use this one from Hudson’s 1st Birthday Party, you can get it here for free.

bowtie party photobooth sign free printable


Starfish Crispy Treats Cereal

These are so easy to make and oh so cute! I made rice crispy treats using a slightly non-traditional recipe because of my son’s dairy allergy (I have also convinced myself that these are healthier because they don’t have butter), but feel free to use your favorite crispy treat recipe.

Starfish Crispy Cereal Treats - simple and fun treats perfect for an ocean, nemo, dory or ariel the little mermaid themed party

– 3 tablespoons canola oil
– 4 cups marshmallows
– 5 cups rice krispies cereal
– Dash of vanilla
– Star shaped cookie cutter
– Orange Candy melts
– Candy eyes
– Parchment or wax paper

1. Microwave oil and marshmallows in 30 second increments until melted.
2. Add a dash of vanilla then stir until well combined (the oil doesn’t incorporate as well as butter does, but if you keep stirring it will combine)
3. Add cereal and mix well.
4. Press into greased pan (when we were avoiding soy I used a bit of canola oil and rubbed it all over the pan. Now we just use Pam Spray)
5. Let cool slightly, you don’t want them to cool completely, then use a cookie cutter to cut out shape. (I usually take all the extra and smash it together to get a few extra treats- then I snack on the rest.
6. Melt candy melts according to package instructions in a medium bowl (I used microwave safe cereal bowls)
7. Press each treat into the liquid covering about 1/3rd of it.
8. Remove and place on the wax paper (If they don’t look perfect, no worries. I thought the slight swirl I made flipping each one over made the starfish look more realistic)
9. Before the candy coating hardens, place the eyes on.

Viola! So easy, right? These are so delicious and way too simple and they would be perfect for so many birthday party themes. Not to mention, you could easily use a different candy melt color and cookie cutter to fit your party. The options are endless.

Finding Dory Birthday Party

tons of fun ideas for a finding dory, finding nemo, little mermaid or ocean themed party

My boys are very into ocean animals and love the Disney movie Finding Nemo so when they saw Finding Dory this summer and loved it, I knew we had found the perfect birthday party theme. Since my boys’ birthdays are two weeks apart we decided to do a combined party this year, which worked out great. I promised myself I was going to keep things low key, then after weeks of restraint,  I gave in and went crazy buying and making as many things as possible.

Once the boys had nailed down that they wanted a bounce house in the backyard, I started off my party planning like I always do-with a search on pinterest. There were tons of cute ideas, many of which I ended up copying at the last minute.I ordered very cute invitations from Party Door. I also ordered t-shirts for myself (Amazon), Hudson (Shop Disney Parks) and Luc (CrazyCorgiLadyDesign). My hubby, who is very helpful when it comes to parties and puts up with all my over the top party planning, draws the line at wearing party theme t-shirts.

family photo nemo dory birthday party

I absolutely love desserts and tend to make that the focal point of parties I throw, so let me start by showing you that. For kid parties, I am a huge fan of cupcakes instead of cake. For one, I can make them myself, which saves a lot of money. They are also so much easier during the party. No cutting, no wasting (am I the only one who dreads cutting cakes because they are always too pretty to eat?) and they can still be themed and cute. I bought these adorable cupcake wrappers from EasyPeasybyAlison on etsy and love how they turned out.

nemo bailey destiny hank dory marlin cupcake wrappers

I make rice krispy treats for every party because they are easy and I have a recipe that makes this one of few desserts my oldest son, who has food allergies to dairy, eggs and nuts, can eat.  At about 11pm the night before the party, a lightbulb went off and I quickly sprung into action. I turned my rice crispy treats into starfish. I was so happy with how they turned out and the best part is they were so easy to make. You can find my allergy-friendly rice crispy recipe here along with details on how to make the starfish rice crispy treats.


I saw this great idea from Oh my! Creative and knew I had to copy it. My oldest son is obsessed with sharks and by leaving the cool whip off a few he was able to have a second dessert option. They didn’t have grey foam at any of my local craft stores so I just used grey cardstock and it worked great. You just make blue jello in clear cups according to packaging instructions. Cut out shark fins from grey paper and glue onto mini spoons. *Check the height so the shark fins are start at the top of the cups. Place spoons into cups. Then add whipped cream or cool whip.

shark jello cups

Bucket of sand was one of my favorite desserts to make as a child so I made some mini sand parfaits and stuck umbrellas in the top. Sadly, I couldn’t find the recipe I used as a child and did’t love the way these tasted so I won’t share a link, but I’m sure if you look on pinterest tons of recipes will show up. They look so cute and you could even keep it super simple by alternating vanilla pudding and crushed up nilla wafers.

sand parfait

I always make oreo truffles, but in my attempt to simplify this year I decided to skip them. That is until midnight, when I realized that a few of my friend’s husbands come solely for those and I’m a people pleaser, so I got to work making fish bowl pops. I always make oreo truffles using this recipe from Bakerella because they are way quicker than cake pops, oreos are my favorite and I love the way these taste. Cake pops are a pretty long and tedious process as it is, so if you can cut the time down and focus more on the decorating you will be happy you did. Anyways, I got to the part where I needed to adhere my fish sprinkles and they were too heavy and kept sliding off. 🙁 I then tried fish candies from the pinata candy bag with no luck before settling on hand drawn fish using edible markers. When the markers started acting up two pops in I decided to call it quits and head to bed (it was extremely late at this point and my brain was shutting down). I was disappointed that my pops didn’t turn out how I envisioned, but everyone else thought they were adorable and loved them. After the party ended, I remembered that I had bought two boxes of Dory cereal specifically for the cake pops. Of course, the marshmallows worked perfectly.

fish bowl oreo truffle

One of Hudson’s favorite parts of the dessert bar was the Goldfish Bar. We filled fish bowls with different flavors of pepperidge farms goldfish, filled a glass with swedish fish and another with candy worms. This was a big hit!

nemo goldfish bar

Another highlight of the dessert bar was a last minute impulse buy from Amazon. I had been searching for a coffee pot similar to the one in the Finding Dory movie and by luck a few nights before the party I came across this toy coffee pot with a swimming dory. Thanks to Amazon Prime, it arrived just in time for the party and was so cute! We still have it out and treat Dory like a real fish.

I normally make party banners myself, but again, in my quest to simplify, I outsourced and I am so glad I did. The details on this banner from TwoEarlyBirds were beautiful and from experience I know I saved myself a lot of time (and maybe even a bit of money) by ordering one instead.

We also set up a drink table. I made a few jellyfish to hang from the ceiling. The jellyfish were made loosely following these instructions from Party City. I bought a few of those white crates they sell at craft stores before Hudson’s first birthday and tweaked one by adding a “shelf”. I also bought a few boxes of mason jars. I use this display at every party and just tie different colored ribbons around them depending on my theme.

dory party drink table

I also always offer beer and mimosas. People don’t drink a ton at kiddie parties in the middle of the day, but they always appreciate the option and seem to enjoy a little indulgence. This time around I kept my mimosa bar simple by just offering Freixnet and orange juice.


I put blue Hawaiian punch in a dispenser that I transformed into Dory using these instructions. This was really easy to make and everyone loved it! Both boys shouted DORY! as soon as they saw it. 🙂

dory drink dispenser

Last year, we got jamba juice for Hudson’s birthday party and it was such a huge success that we got them again. They are such a great allergy friendly option, they are easy for kids to drink, perfect on a hot day, and lets face it, who doesn’t love fruit smoothies?

squirt strawberry whirl smoothie

As a few final touches, I added a fish bowl with a bath toy in it and another fish bowl filled with blue m&ms and a few goldfish crackers.

For food, we had subway “submarine” sandwiches with some fun and festive sides. My husband carved an awesome shark out of a watermelon for Bruce’s fruit salad. Both of our boys went crazy over it! For directions, check out Popsugar Food’s You Tube video.

bruce shark watermelon fruit bowl

I made our go to pasta salad using shell pasta.

pearls pasta salad

We had veggies and ranch dip with Hank as the centerpiece. We also had submarine sandwiches from Subway. I made the food labels and whenever possible I stuck a matching bath squirter character by the label.

hank veggie dip

For favors, I bought Finding Dory bath squirters from Walmart. Both of my boys are obsessed with these. I filled our popcorn buckets from the movie with the favors and made a thank you sign to go with it.

dory bath squirter party favors

In addition to the bounce house, we had a pinata. I made bags using an idea and printable from Any Tots. We filled the pinata with a Dory Pinata Candy Mix from Walmart.

dory pinata treats

The photobooth has become a signature at all of our parties. It is so much fun and the best part is we always end up with photos of all our guests. I bought the cutest downloadable photobooth props from SimplyMadeWithSam. You can check out all our diy photobooth recommendations here.

dory party themed photo booth

The party was a blast! I just love the whole experience with my boys. The planning, the build-up of excitement, and the joy on their faces the day of. Hudson ran to the door every time someone arrived to welcome them to his birthday party. Then he excitedly showed them all the fun details. It was so rewarding to see how much he loved and appreciated all my hard work. Luc, showed his appreciation in his own way, with excited shrieks of “Dory” “Marlin” and “Bailey” I know they both had such an amazing day!