#momlando hack: Birthday Party Presents

If your life is anywhere like mine, you’re going to a lot of birthday parties.  And if you’re anything like me, you’re stressed about juggling them.  Not just the parties and RSVPs but the gifts too!  I love gift giving but I keep running out of time and buying things last minute.  I mean really last minute.  More than once on the way to the party.

I finally decided I needed to step my game up.  I ordered a ton of craft supplies off of amazon to make custom arts & crafts kits.  My supplies split out into four kits.  Here’s a list of my supplies and how they turned out!

I will use my Sillhouette Cameo to personalize them to make them extra special.  I’m all set for our next four birthday parties and I know future Dana will thank me for my planning!
How do you make your life a little easier?  Tell us your mama hacks in the comments.

Beat the Heat: Keeping a toddler entertained and mommy sane in a Florida Summer.

It’s that time of year again, the long end of a Florida summer.  It’s hot, sticky, and sweaty.  Except for the portion of the day it’s torrentially downpouring.  Before kids, I could just hide out on my couch binge watching shows.  But toddlers don’t like that.  Something I’ve learned as a mom of littles is that I cannot just sit all day in the house with them.  I get stir crazy by the late afternoon.  I like a plan, an outing, an adventure.  That’s not always possible.  But we’re making it work.  Here’s what we’re up to right now to keep us entertained and out of the heat.

At Home


I have found that I can keep little V at the table painting for up to an hour.  Here’s how I make it work:

  • I purchased a few colors of washable tempera paints as well as a cheap set of watercolors.  She likes both but you have a better shot at ‘pretty’ with the tempera paints.  The watercolors are a more difficult medium.
  • I have a giant roll of Kraft Paper  in my guest room.  I cut off a big piece and cover the table.  I could give my Kraft Paper roll its own blog post – the uses are endless. Buy one for $20 and elevate your life.  And I always have a pack of baby wipes on hand to catch messes that can’t wait until the end.  
  • I’ve learned along the way that you can waste a lot of paper during paint time.  I bought a multi-media paper sketchbook and explained that we have to stay on the same page until it dries.  This has helped to cut down on her needing a new paper after painting just three lines.  
  • If you want to make art projects that you can hang up, you’ll need to be ready to guide your kiddo through it.  Here are a few ideas from Pinterest that I like:
  • Now before you get started, repeat these words in your head:  This will be messy.  My child is not Van Gogh.  We are going to have lots of fun.

Making necklaces

This is another fun one that’s relatively cheap.  Here’s how I make it work:

  • I bought a few bags of big pony beads and put them in a giant ziploc bag.  You can buy whatever kinds of beads you want.  But the younger your child is the bigger you want the hole to be in the beads.  
  • For string I brought bright neon elastic cord. Obviously the string needs to be thinner than the width of the holes in the beads.  But stick to big string and big beads for little hands.  
  • Pour the beads into a big plastic chip and dip.  I had a bunch on hand from a previous craft workshop.  You probably have one in your kitchen!  I also think a big gladware that you can reseal at the end would be good.  Anything that allows them to search and pick through the beads without things spilling out and over is what you’re going for.
  • Have at it, make necklaces.  And bracelets! And anklets!  
  • After we make the necklaces if my daughter isn’t in love and wearing it around the house for days, I’ll unstring what we made and put back with the supplies.  Keeps us from running through things too quickly.


I give all credit to Dadlando on this one.  But they’ve spent tons of time this summer turning the playroom trampoline and slide into a fort.  Grab some extra sheets and blankets and you’re all set!


I found this very easy banana bread recipe that we’ve been making all summer.  It doesn’t require electric mixing so we mash it all by hand.  Baking with kiddos requires extra patience that things will be messier but it’s so worth it.  She is so excited to help and to eat the things she made.


Out and About

Here’s where we’ve been venturing out that keeps us entertained and in the cool a/c.

  • Crayola Experience Orlando:  Built in the Florida Mall, we’ve had a great time there.  It can be very busy but there is always enough room for everyone.  There are lots of activities for toddlers and young kids.  It’s also right next to Buca di Beppo which has great lunch specials.  If you get to Crayola in the morning and then head to Buca for lunch you’ve really made a day of it!
  • Orlando Science Center:  Located in Loch Haven Park, the Science Center has activities and exhibits for all ages.  They’ve recently expanded their KidsTown (geared towards kids seven and under) and it has been a huge upgrade!  My kiddos love playing in the orange grove and digging for dinosaurs.  
  • Mall Indoor Playgrounds: A few of the malls have indoor playgrounds and that has been a godsend for our toddler to run around and get her energy out.  That said, depending on when you go they will be incredibly crowded.  So venture at your own risk.  A few we’ve been to:
    • Altamonte Mall Playground (451 E Altamonte Dr, Altamonte Springs, FL 32701 by Shoe Carnival & Sears)
      • Be careful this is right next to those ride-on animals.  So your kid will probably beg to do that too.
    • Oviedo Marketplace Playground (1700 Oviedo Mall Boulevard, Oviedo, FL 32765 in the food court)
      • This is for really little ones, like 2 and under. Don’t bother if you only have bigger kids.
    • Florida Mall at Crayola Experience (8001 S Orange Blossom Trail, Orlando, FL 32809)
      • Another stop  in the Crayola adventure, they’ve got an indoor play space in the mall.  It’s just outside the Crayola Store.

Tell me what you’re doing to keep things fun and cool this summer!

Yes you should start your Etsy shop. And no, it’s not about Etsy at all.


Before you read this and think, this has nothing to do with me.  Let me tell you it does.  Maybe arts and crafts aren’t your thing and you don’t want to start an Etsy shop.  This isn’t actually about Etsy.  It’s about why you should start the thing you really want to do that scares you.  Okay, now please proceed.

I’ve loved making art and doing arts and crafts for as long as I can remember.  I am one of those people that looks at something and says, “I can make that” and then actually try it.  I love taking on the challenge to figure it out.  

In college I led my roomies in a crusade to DIY our apartment including repainting our goodwill dining room table and chairs bright blue and making our own wall art.  When I’m helping with a baby shower I make a diaper cake and any number of perfectly themed crafts.  I’ve DIY’d everything from bracelets to curtains.  You name it, I think I can make it.

And with the completion of any successful project comes the chorus of “You should sell that” from impressed friends and family.  After hearing that one too many times I thought, “Well, I guess I could.” I guess I could turned into “Maybe I should.”  And then finally, “Here we go.”  I’m still shocked every time someone buys something from my shop.  I’m even more shocked that opening the shop has taught me huge lessons about myself and taking chances.  Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

You don’t have to know everything to do something.

DSC_0373.jpgOne of the things that scared me most about starting the shop was that I had no idea what I was doing.  I had five ideas for listings not 500.  I didn’t know how I was going to ship things or what they should cost.  I didn’t have all the answers.  I decided to just turn the shop on and figure things out as I went along.  And so far that’s worked.  I still don’t know everything but I know a lot more than when I started.

Everyone you know is not lying to you.  Your work is good.

I am at times beyond insecure to the point where I annoy even myself.  And for some DSC_0158.jpgreason I thought everyone I know and have ever met must be lying that my art was good and should sell it.  That doesn’t make sense, like at all.  To this day I still worry when someone emails me after they receive their order that they got the package and hate it.  That hasn’t happened yet.  Your art is good.  You are good.  And though not everyone will appreciate what you’re making, those that do will be the ones to purchase from you.  

Creativity builds creativity.

The more I create, the better I get at it.  And the more ideas I have.  And the more opportunities that come my way.  When I opened my shop I had just a few listings.  The DSC_0217.JPGmore I sold, the more ideas that popped up in my head.  And as people found my shop they’d email me with requests for custom work that sometimes I could take the finished product and add it to the shop.  Suddenly five listings became 30.  Last year as local workshops started becoming more popular, I thought “I could do that!” and came up with an idea for a papercraft workshop.  I pitched the idea to West Elm and wound up having a sold out workshop in store.  I had no idea when I started that was a thing that could ever happen.

You can say no.

This tends to go against most advice I read on how to be successful which is tells you to say yes to all opportunities that come your way.  And saying yes to as much as possible is something I do believe and follow in my life.  But the flip side is, you have to know your boundaries of what to take on.  Once I started selling I got worried if I put the shop on vacation (Etsy’s option for closing your store temporarily) or turned down a request from a coworker or friend that they’d be mad or that I’d never sell another thing.  But this isn’t true.  Saying no helps avoid frustration and burnout and makes me happier to return to crafting on my terms.  

Not every idea is a good idea.

One of the first listings I had on my shop was really cute but a pain to make.  Every time it sold I wound up frustrated and it took me at least three drafts before I was satisfied with the final product.  Then one day it occurred to me, I could just take it off the shop and then I wouldn’t have to make it anymore.  Sometimes the simplest answers take way too long for us to realize.  After that epiphany, I made sure to pull the plug on anything that I wasn’t exceptionally proud of or didn’t bring me joy when I made it.  

I’ve gained immeasurable confidence in my art since I opened my shop.  It has been an incredible creative outlet and connected me to so many new people. Recently, I’ve started thinking of new ideas to reinvent the shop.  I’m so excited to take a new leap.  I still don’t know everything and have no idea where my creative future lies.  But if my history has taught me anything it’s that I should just do it and see what amazing things happen.

You can check out my Etsy shop here.

What have you taken a chance on that taught you about yourself?  Tell me about it in the comments!