Roasted Pumpkin Seeds:: 5 Ways!

Originally posted October 2019
Updated October 2020


Now, I warn you this snack doubles as an activity with your kids. Cooking with children, while great in theory and provides meaningful life skills, is not for the faint of heart. Moreover, this felt more crafty less cook-ey to me. Confession: I am not a crafty mom. Let me clarify. I am crafty. Every year I gleefully design and assemble homemade costumes (eek!) – alone in the dark. In a quiet house. I planned to be “crafty mom.” But then I became a mom. Cook with my kids? Yes. Craft with my kids? Not so much.

Alas, this felt crafty. When embarking on such strenuous missions with my offspring, I like to remain well hydrated. In the spirit of all things fall I chose the appropriate Samuel Adams Octoberfest. While not my favorite seasonal brew, it was a tasty compliment to our autumn adventures.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Makes: A lot.
Active cooking time: forever.
Inactive cooking time: 1 hour

Look, Mom! This pumpkin is Organic (It wasn’t. Bless her) – Evelyn, 5

Prepare the table. (See? Total crafting business here!) I chose to use a long row, with two layers, of heavy-duty paper towels for easy cleanup; growing up we would use newspaper. I suggest while you do this, mom, have your kiddos go and wash their hands.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Get a colander and a large, strong spoon (I like metal)

Take any size carving pumpkin and cut a hole in the top. With the spoon scoop out the insides. We used the term guts – I’m not entirely sure what this says about our family, but my girls got into this concept.

Plop it out on the paper towels & dig in!

The goal is to sort through and remove all the seeds, adding them into the colander, leaving the cuts behind. Disclaimer: this is not for all kids. The child who I thought would love this, did not, and vise versa. Just another day in #momlife.

Rinse the seeds clean with warm water, pat dry, and spread out on a baking sheet or dish (single layer).
*Note: you may need more than one.

Bake for 30 minutes to dry the seeds out.

Remove from oven and add fat and spices of choice.

Add spices: Toss the seeds with olive oil, salt and your choice of spices (see below). Return to the oven and bake until crisp and golden, about 20 more minutes.


Sweet Toss with cinnamon and sugar (do not use salt in step 4).

Indian Toss with garam masala; mix with currants after roasting.

Spanish Toss with smoked paprika; mix with slivered almonds after roasting.

Italian Toss with grated parmesan and dried oregano.

Barbecue Toss with brown sugar, chipotle chile powder, and ground cumin.

Return to oven and bake another 30 minutes

Let cool and enjoy!


Tip: If you have any leftover, store in an airtight on the counter top/or pantry. Pumpkin seeds are a nutritional powerhouse and make an excellent addition to overnight oats (on top), salads, and a dinner recipe I’ll be sharing soon!

Non-Candy Halloween Treat Ideas

Originally posted October 26, 2015
Updated October 27th, 2020


Last year my family moved into a brand new community in Winter Garden. Even though the neighborhood was still largely under construction, my kids still came home with more candy than they could eat in a year, much less in a single fall season. We literally had to go trick-or-treating in rounds, dumping off the goodies we got from the first block before heading out to get more from the second. This year is sure to be even crazier!

Whether your kids have food allergies or just generally overwhelmed by the amount of candy kids get each year, it’s always a great idea to consider passing out non-candy treats on Halloween.

Here are a few options (that aren’t raisins) that are sure to keep your house from being “tricked” after you give out your treats!

Stickers & Temporary Tattoos

Halloween stickers are always a big hit for little kids. Pumpkins, Disney characters, and other friendly Halloween characters adorn the stickers readily available at any party store, discount retailer and even some grocery stores. Of course the older kids might roll their eyes to see stickers in your treat bowl… so spice things up by adding edgy temporary tattoos to the mix.


Individually Wrapped Snack Bags

Wander into your local Target or Walmart and you’ll see a variety of individually wrapped snack size pretzels, Goldfish, cheese balls, popcorn and other treats that are both candy and nut free. Most of these come in Halloween shapes and packaging which makes them perfect for trick-or-treaters.



Halloween Themed Jewelry

It’s super easy to find bags of spider & bat rings, gummy bracelets, or bead necklaces at your local dollar store this time of year. My kids are always quick to put on whatever decorative goodies they find in their trick-or-treat stash. They may only last a day or two but they’re super fun for Halloween and playing dress-up in the days that follow.


Mini Water Bottles or Juice Boxes

Let’s face it, walking the streets all night can be exhausting and leave you parched. You’ll set your house apart by giving out mini water bottles or (reduced sugar) juice boxes to your little trick or treaters. Oh, and be sure to stock up enough for the grown-ups too! If you’re block is anything like mine, they’ll appreciate your thoughtfulness and having something to quench their thirst after all those grown-up Halloween Jello shots.

Want to really go all out? Print out custom Halloween water bottle labels to make them even more fun! (Click here to get instructions and a free download for the ones shown to the right.)


Light-Up Glow Sticks

Give your little ghosts and goblins something fun that also keeps them safe on the streets. You can buy light-up glow sticks (which connect into bracelets or necklaces) at prices like 10 for a $1 or so. Pass this out, let the kids pop them on and know that they’ll stand out from the crowd when they continue down those dark streets and sidewalks. Added bonus: step outside and you’ll easily spot who has and has not made it to your house yet by spotting the ones that glow and the ones that don’t! How fun!

Ooey-Gooey Scary Party Favors, Toys & Trinkets

One of my kids favorite “treats” last year was the slimy little wall-tumbler skeleton toys they got from one of our new neighbors. When we came home to sort through the candy they quickly opened those guys up and started throwing them around the house. Likewise the little Halloween parachute toys were a big hit. The kids couldn’t wait to run up the stairs and drop them down and watch them fly down. Also look for sticky hands, plastic eyeballs, tubs of slime, fake fingers, vampire teeth, stretchy skeletons, rubbery rats, Halloween bubbles, and other “frights” that evoke the gross fun of Halloween. For more ideas, check out Party City or Oriental Trading Company to see what’s in stock this year.

Glow in the Dark Tumbler Skeletons (Image from
Glow in the Dark Tumbler Skeletons (Image from

School Supplies

It’s super easy to find Halloween themed pencils, erasers, mini notepads, bookmarks, and stamps at party stores or even the big box stores. Also consider packs of crayons, chalk,  Halloween coloring books, or even mini play dough.

dsc_00141Jack-O-Lantern “Cuties”

Alright, we left the raisins off the list but this idea is too cute not to share. Take out your black sharpie and draw little jack-o-lantern faces onto each little orange from those always-available 3-6lb bags and boxes of “cuties.” Come on now. It’s Florida. This one’s a no-brainer for us!




Halloween for the Allergy Parent

Originally posted October 30, 2018
Updated October 26, 2020

Halloween for the Allergy Parent

Halloween is a stressful night as an allergy parent. It does not have to be. I have a plan to alleviate the stress and enjoy the evening!

I carry an EpiPen with me at all times. I spend much of my days thinking about my kids allergies. I read labels and carefully put together meals. I arrange with school ahead of time to bring in allergy friendly snacks for my children on special party days. I go to birthday parties with gluten and dairy free cupcakes so my children can feel included.

I am a mom of one dairy-free and two gluten-free kids. 

Honestly, I avoided Halloween for the kids as long as I could. Then came the day when I just couldn’t avoid it any longer. So, we went out, not putting too much thought into it, but then came home with with all sorts of treats that they could not eat, and yet were not fully aware of why they could not eat it.

Here is my plan and I hope it helps you a bit too.

Halloween for the Allergy Parent

Seek Out the Teal Pumpkins

If you haven’t heard of it, the Teal Pumpkin Project mission is to is designed to promote safety, inclusion and respect of individuals managing food allergies. If you come across a teal pumpkin when trick or treating, you can feel safe knowing that the home will have allergy friendly treats. For the little ones, you can make a game out of finding the teal pumpkins. This way, they get excited about going to those homes.

Halloween for the Allergy Parent

Reach Out to Your Community

Hop on your Facebook group or Nextdoor for your community/development. Some communities around us have put together a list of homes that will be allergy friendly. You can make this possible in your community too. This way you know which homes to go to before you step out the door.

Halloween for the Allergy Parent

Get Involved With The Halloween Party

If the party is at school or a friends house.  Sign up to bring something.  While doing that you might also communicate to the host about your child’s allergy.  This year, for our (dairy free) son’s Halloween party at school, we are bringing these yummy Frankenstein Rice Krispie Treats.  They are so cute, yummy allergy friendly snack and are sure to be a hit

Talk About It

The best way to make Halloween a bit easier for allergy families is to spread the word by talking about it.  I grew up with a food allergy in a day and age where allergies weren’t as common, or at least not spoken about. I have found that as I have gone along through the years that there are people out there who may not be aware. It helped a lot to talk about and share my story. Many people were very surprised about the importance of sticking to the diet and the impact of accidentally eating something that I shouldn’t. If your child is old enough, encourage them to be open about it also. If you share your story, people are very receptive.

There was a day when I felt shy to talk about my allergy. I felt like people making accommodations for me was a bother. To some extent, I still feel that way. But the funny part is that my experience has made it much easier to talk about my kid’s allergies. One day with enough sharing and talking, perhaps there will be a teal pumpkin on every doorstep.

Falling Back: Helping Your Child Through The Time Change

Originally posted October 31, 2017
Updated October 25th, 2020

Yup, as parents we dread the time change. Right when we seem to figure out our kid’s sleep schedule, it all gets turned upside down! Who wouldn’t dread this?! Fall is tough because while we “get another hour of sleep,” our kids who usually sleep till 7am are waking at 6am on that day. If you have an early riser, the time that they wake on that day can be almost unmentionable. Yikes! Their internal biological sleepy clock doesn’t know that our iPhones automatically changed at 2am.

So, I am passing along some tips to help you and your child get through Daylight Savings Time. I have provided options for each type of sleeper:

Use option 1 if:

  • You have a well-rested child getting the amount of sleep that they need.
  • Your child is not sensitive to changes in their sleep schedule.
  • You think that option 2 is a bit too complicated (this is me).

Use option 2 if:

Use option 3 if:

Use option 4 if:

  • You are late to the game, but have a sensitive sleeper or an early riser

Option 1 – Jump Into the Time Change:

This one is simple, just jump right into it.  When the clock changes at 2am, go get them from bed when you normally do.  If they wake a bit early, they will at least have some down time in bed and the opportunity to go back to sleep.

Option 2- Take It Slow: 

Make the change slowly.  Move everything, and I mean everything (food, sleep, feedings) in their schedule forward by 15 min a day.  Start this 3 days in advance.  By the time the time change comes around your little one will be at the right time.

Option 3 – Take It Really Slow:

Move their schedule really slow, like a turtle. Take a day or two in between moving the schedule by 10 to 15 min. Or start 5 days in advance and move by 10 min a day.

Option 4- Do It After:

If you are just seeing this and the time change is tomorrow, but you really want to take it slowly. You can pretend that Daylight Savings happens on Wednesday or Friday and then move slowly, using option 2 or 3 to get there at a slower pace.

You’ve Got This!

I hope your child does well with the time change and well rested kids tend to do really well with it. If you feel like your child’s sleep was negatively affected by the change, just do an early bedtime or two to help out.  Just 30 min earlier can do wonders.

5 Easy Ways to Make Your Mornings Better


So, I got a little lenient on some things during quarantine. When the world started its journey of flipping upside down and we all collectively entered into the Twilight Zone, I started feeling overwhelmed like so many others. To calm the overwhelm, I told myself that certain things were fine to relax: my weekends-only drink rule, my snacking habits, my makeup and hair standards, and…my morning routine.

morning routines

I basically threw my morning routine out the window in April and I hadn’t seen it since. Up until that time, I used to get up early, enjoy a quiet cup of coffee, read or write, then get on with my day. While I totally stand by letting some priorities go to make room for the chaos going on right now, I thought I was doing myself a favor by becoming lackadaisical on my morning routine. I was “treating” myself.

I was totally wrong.

Here’s what a typical morning has looked like for months now:

  1. I would let my son wake me up whenever he woke up, which was usually between 6:30 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. (I did have an “emergency alarm” set just in case we all slept past 7:30 a.m.)
  2. Once awake, I would roll over to my phone and scroll Instagram and Facebook, along with news stories and my email.
  3. By the time I got out of bed (which meant it was between 7:00 and 7:45 a.m.-ish), it was time to go right into Mom Mode. There was no time for slowly waking up since breakfast needed to be cooked, a dog needed to be walked, people had to get dressed, and we had virtual kindergarten starting shortly.
  4. Throughout the morning, I was consuming 3-4 cups of coffee and very, very little water.

I thought I was treating myself by having this lax morning routine. But I started to get grouchy and I was ignoring the fact that I felt like I was playing catch up once I got out of bed. I was also developing headaches from clearly being dehydrated and felt “foggy” by early afternoon. Mood swings ensued.

Something just wasn’t working.

Here’s a hard truth: routines are a form of self-care.

I had completely let go of mine, and I was suffering for it. My mornings were no longer a time when I could prepare my mind and body for the day ahead. Instead, my mornings were controlled by someone/something other than me. They were being molded by my child, my phone, and the literal time on the clock. I wasn’t owning my mornings. 

This wasn’t me. I’m an early riser. I like to wake up slowly and quietly. I don’t like feeling rushed. And I am most creative first thing in the morning, which is why it was my ideal time for writing, journaling, reading, stretching, etc., and none of that was happening anymore.

One thing that I’m guilty of doing this (crazy) year is saying, “Life is tough right now, so it’s fine to let go of some standards, routines, and priorities.” It was a way of saying I was caring for myself by letting some of the rigidity of my life go. And, yes, to an extent, I think that philosophy made sense, but what if all that lackadaisical living begins to hurt you more than help you? Routines, schedules, priorities, and standards set you up for success. It allows you to dictate your own tone for the day – not a phone, not your lack of time, not your child (more on that down below!).

It was time to reclaim my mornings.

morning routine

First, here’s what I did, and then I’ll share some suggestions for how you can do the same.

I decided that, for five days, I would change some things about how my mornings went.

  1. I would set my alarm for 5:45 a.m. with the goal of getting out of bed by 6:00 a.m. (I am a snooze button type of gal and I’m okay with that.)
  2. I would not use my phone for the first hour of the morning. (This meant absolutely no social media, no news stories, and no email.)
  3. I would have one cup of coffee, and I wouldn’t have my second (and final!) cup of coffee until I drank a full glass of water.

What did I want out of this? I wanted to rebalance myself. I didn’t feel centered in the mornings. I felt like my emotions were flung this way and that depending on what post I saw on social media. I developed the habit of clenching my jaw as I ran around walking the dog and getting breakfast ready in the morning. I also was developing a sharpness in my tone to others that I didn’t like but also couldn’t seem to control. (After much reflection, I realized that this was due to me having no time to do the things I wanted to do that were just for me.)

Operation No Phone

I decided to post this on social media (after an hour of no phone, of course) and called it Operation No Phone (in the Mornings) for accountability. I knew I would need it because I was basically asking myself to get up more than an hour earlier than I had for a few months, and I was asking myself to use my brain early in the mornings again. Establishing (or reestablishing) habits and routines is not easy.

The results were pretty awesome. Yes, the first couple of days were tough to get out of bed earlier than normal, but the improvement in my mood made it totally worth it. By the time I had to hop into Mom Mode, I felt like I had already done something for just me, so I felt like I had more to give to others. My body was feeling better too now that I was hydrating it instead of dousing it in caffeine.

Want to reclaim your mornings?

Here are five easy ways to make your mornings better!

1. No phone for the first hour of the morning. 

By not using your phone for the first hour, you are setting the tone for your own day – not social media, breaking news stories, or email. All of these things can be part of your day, of course, but not the thing that hits you right after you open your eyes. If you don’t have an hour in the mornings that you can designate “no phone” time, that’s okay! Commit to thirty minutes, or however much time you have. The goal here is to take back control of how you begin your day.

2. In lieu of phone time, wake up and do something that is meaningful to you. 

What fills your cup and balances you out? Reading, stretching, exercise, journaling, meditating, drinking a cup of coffee in silence while staring at a wall? Whatever it is, use the first hour of no phone time to do a few of these activities. Personally, I use this time to read and write, which are two major personal priorities of mine. What are your personal priorities? Try out different activities and see what calms and centers you.

3. Don’t worry about getting up *before* the kids, but have a game plan. 

If you’re trying to “get up being the kids” to enjoy some solo time, odds are your kids will activate their sixth sense and wake up early that day with you. Then what? Sigh and say, “Oh well, I tried,” and go directly into Mom Mode? No! Set yourself up for success: accept the fact that your kids might wake up during your solo time in the mornings and have a game plan. Have a couple go-to activities for them to do independently while you continue your solo time. Set the expectation that you are not completely “available” yet, and allow your child to quietly play, browse some books, or even watch a television show with the volume low. (This might take time and a few tries. Don’t get discouraged! If your kids are old enough, sit down and explain to them these expectations to give them a heads up.) When my son sees that I am still reading or writing when he wakes up, sometimes he just crawls onto the couch with me and lays quietly, cuddling next to me, and I carry on with that I was doing.

4. Set a timer. 

Guys, I can’t express to you my love of timers enough. Laura Tremaine, an author and podcaster, gave this little tidbit about setting a timer to develop a reading habit, but I’ve learned that it works with just about everything. Let’s say that you’ve identified your personal priorities as: yoga and journaling. When you wake up, especially if you feel like you need structure during your new mornings that you’re crafting, I strongly suggest setting a timer for, say, 20 minutes, to complete your first activity (yoga) and then resetting it again for 20 minutes your second activity (journaling). This works with whatever time frames work into your schedule. The first week I recrafted my mornings, I used the timer to give myself clear guidelines, but by week two, I didn’t feel like it was necessary anymore. A timer is like training wheels for a new habit – eventually you’ll lose them, but they keep you upright and pedaling at first. I really, really mean it when I say using a timer is a game changer.

5. Limit your caffeine and hydrate. 

morning routine

Look, I am a coffee lover forever and I’m not telling you to put down your cup of joe. (I would never say anything so mean to you!) However, I am saying that maybe reevaluating how much you’re having, and then trying to down a full cup of water before your day really gets going might make a difference in your mood and how your body feels. Hydration is a totally undervalued superpower that allows us to think clearly and feel good. (It only took me until my 30s to realize this.) As mentioned above, I went from 3-4 cups of coffee and virtually no water in the mornings to 1-2 cups with a big cup of water, and it really has improved how I feel overall.

You might be thinking: This is all great, but what if I’m not a morning person? I hear you. These tools listed above might also be adapted to use in the evenings too. However, as a mom, I know that the day can get away from me. I’ve found that if I allow myself some solo time in the mornings before the mad rush of the day, no one can take that away from me. If I wait until, say, 2 o’clock in the afternoon, to get in the reading, usually something will come up and prevent me from getting it done. Also, I’m really stressing here that setting your own tone for the day is a super powerful mood-altering choice. I found that when I took back control of my mornings and didn’t allow the outside world (via my phone) to set the tone, I felt more confident and calmer throughout the day.

Times are not normal right now. The world is heavy and we can all feel it. It’s completely fine to accept that it’s impossible to run at 100% capacity in these circumstances. It’s okay to let go and be a bit more lax than usual. But remember: letting go of all of your routines, standards, and priorities doesn’t always equal self-care. When you’re feeling moody and unbalanced, take a second to reevaluate your days and what you can control.

You can’t control the world around you, but you can craft a morning that allows you to be the very best you, no matter what life throws at you. Yes, even in a pandemic.

Covid-19 and Trick-or-Treating


Covid-19 Trick-or-Treating

Covid-19 and Trick-or-Treating

Halloween is just around the corner….a night full of candy, adorable witches, silly ghosts, spooky goblins…and the scary concern of Covid-19. Whether you are trick-or-treating like normal, considering an alternative, or opting to stay at home you can still have a safe and spooktacular Halloween!

Traditional Trick-or-Treating

Trick-or-Treating is a huge part of what makes Halloween what it is! If you or your family, like mine, are considering trick-or-treating this year, you will want to take a few extra safety precautions than that of previous years. Of course you will want to follow all the typical safety tips found here….but since 2020 has to be all extra with a pandemic, it’s important that you and your family take extra safety precautions, too.

  • Wear a Mask, a cloth one that covers mouth and nose!
  • Maintain social distance (at least 6ft apart) with other trick-or-treaters.
  • Do not reach into the candy bowl, let the person passing it out put it in your candy bag!
  • Map out a one direction route and avoid revisiting the same house over-and-over (I know those full-size candy bars are tempting!).
  • If you knock on a door, knock and then step back a good 3 ft or more.
  • You may want to consider only visiting houses where you do not need to knock.
  • Bring hand sanitizer (at least 60% alcohol), use it between every house!
  • Avoid going in an enclosed space like a “Haunted Porch” or “Haunted Garage”.
  • Avoid taking food or beverages (sorry adults, I know the traditional adult Halloween walk may need to take a break this year).
  • Avoid eating any candy while trick-or-treating!
  • When you get home wash, wash, wash your hands (before eating candy)!
  • Carefully inspect all candy, any piece that is not individually sealed should be discarded.
  • Have fun!!! Take pictures with fun decorations, bring fun glow sticks, make up silly songs, start a new tradition etc.

Passing Out Candy

This is my absolute favorite part of Halloween night! I send my husband around with our kids and I pass out the candy. I love all the costumes, I love letting kids grab handfuls of candy from my candy cauldron, I even love when teenagers trick-or-treat, as they are holding onto bits of childhood! However, this year will need to be a bit different!

If you are passing out candy like I am, please take the following precautions:

  • Wear a Mask!!!
  • Do not let any little, medium, or big hands other than your own reach into the candy bowl.
  • Hand-sanitize between each group!
  • Only pass out individually sealed pieces of candy.
  • Consider having pre-made candy bags for a grab and go style of trick-or treating.
  • Perhaps make a Candy Chute out of PVC pipe from your local hardware store.
  • Try to maintain as much distance as possible.
  • Consider passing candy out from your porch or driveway.

Non-Traditional Options

I think we can all agree that very little about 2020 is traditional! This is the perfect year to celebrate Halloween in a non-traditional way!

  • Have a Zoom Halloween party, complete with a costume contest!
  • Organize a trick-or-treat car parade (think birthday parade)
  • Make Halloween baskets for your kids (think easter basket but Halloween style)
  • Trick-or-Treat from room-to-room in your home.

Share your other non-traditional ways to celebrate Halloween in the comments section below!

Opting out

Maybe you are taking the opportunity to curl up on the couch with a spooky movie and your own yummy treats, or maybe you are simply opting out of Halloween this year. No matter the reason, if you are not passing out candy, please make sure your porch light and any light up decorations are turned off as to not confuse trick-or-treaters.

No matter how you and your family are deciding to celebrate, have fun and enjoy each other. I think we can all agree that this will be a Halloween to remember!

*Advice given is this article is not approved by the CDC for CDC guidelines regarding Halloween, please visit

FLASH GIVEAWAY! Halloween Face Shields!


face shield giveaway

Wouldn’t you agree, the moment you see someone with a creative face mask, you immediately have to know WHERE they got it?! When we spotted Shield Pals we immediately wanted share this company with you!


We’ve partnered together with Shield Pals for a FLASH GIVEAWAY, and we are giving away these 4 masks to ONE family! HURRY, giveaway ends TUES 10/20/20 at 9pm!


  1. Like our social media posts! (FB, IG or BOTH for bonus entries!)
  2. LIKE both @OrlandoMomCollective and @ShieldPals on Facebook
  3. (Bonus entry) Follow both @OrlandoMomCollective and @ShieldPals on Instagram
  4. Comment on either post with your favorite candy!
  5. Fill out this simple form. We will contact the winner via email!

Enter Here

More Mask Designs

Check out all of Shield Pal’s shields here! They have SO many to choose from!

face shield giveawayface shield giveawayface shield giveawayface shield giveaway

see more here…..

Your cutie is certain to be the favorite this season as you trick-or-treat! You can check out Shield Pals safety recommendations on their site.

“Face shields are designed to be worn with face covers and masks, not as a replacement. Our designs keep this in mind and bring joy back to situations where facial expressions aren’t visible.

However, wearing a mask may not be feasible in every situation for some people for example, those who care for or interact with a person who is hearing impaired or work in speech therapy. For those use-cases, please refer to both CDC and state guidelines for safety requirements & practices.

To help improve your safety, we also offer Face Covers and Shield Drapes to add an extra layer of protection to our Face Shields.”

Shield Pals is not only for Halloween! They also have masks, shield drapes, dental masks, as well as fun designs for any occasions! (Think birthday, other holidays, etc!) 

Our FLASH GIVEAWAY ends 10/20/20 (Tuesday evening). If you’re not our winner, hurry to get yours before Halloween!


How to Host a VIRTUAL Non-Halloween Painting Party

Because of COVID-19, we know gathering together might not be best for all families. So we thought this non-Halloween paint party would be perfect adapted into a VIRTUAL party! While we added in our suggestions to adapt to a virtual party, the remainder of the post is in its original context.

Our suggestion to adapt this idea into a VIRTUAL PARTY

Coordinate with your child’s friends and make sure everyone has the supplies needed. While this virtual party might cost more per person (because they’re not sharing the supplies), their spirits can stay high, even during COVID-19.

*originally published on October 26, 2017.
Updated 10/16/2020 

Not everyone celebrates Halloween. Some of our family friends don’t observe the holiday for religious reasons. My teenage daughter still wanted those friends to enjoy dressing up in costumes along with everyone else, so she decided to throw a non-Halloween painting party. So here’s our how to, on how to host a non-Halloween painting party!

Parties at our house usually center around the pool or outdoor games; but swimming isn’t feasible in costume, bobbing for apples would ruin make-up, and many games place emphasis on the traditional Halloween themes we were trying to avoid. Carving pumpkins – even with a fall flair instead of a spooky look – was right out. No way was I arming a dozen tweeners with knives or battling that many pumpkins guts. Our compromise? Pumpkin painting, which quickly evolved into a potpourri of painting possibilities!

​What each participant will need:

  • Acrylic paint
  • Brushes
  • Water cups for rinsing between colors
  • Table protection
  • Plates to use as palettes
  • Objects to paint, go for variety!

My kids are all-in on the rock painting craze, so we already have a houseful of paint. We picked up a few extra high demand colors for 50 cents each at WalMart, along with a $5 pack of brushes to share. We grabbed a long plastic tablecloth from a dollar store, and styrofoam plates as pallets for mixing colors. We cut the tops off water bottles from the recycling bin, using the bottoms as cups for rinsing brushes between colors. I have neither the time nor the inclination to make clever snacks like spider cookies, edible eyeballs or hotdog fingers; and this wasn’t a Halloween party anyway, remember? Two bags of chips and gallons of drinks, and we were good to go…except for something to paint!

How to Host a Non-Halloween Painting Party
Mix it up!

This is where I claim mom points for turning a lack of ideas into the idea itself! At $6+ a pop, real pumpkins add up way too fast when hosting a dozen kids for a casual shindig. Instead, we headed to Jo-Ann Fabrics, where their Halloween and fall décor is already deeply discounted to make way for Christmas decorations (lawd ha’mercy). We found a veritable cornucopia of paintable pretties on the cheap. We picked up one of everything, from skeletons to pumpkins, in foam, plastic and wood. With a 20% coupon I found on their website while standing in the checkout line, we paid $1 – $3 per item and had more than enough choices for every kid to paint a unique item to take home! During the party, we drew names from a hat. When your name was called, you could pick whatever you wanted from the remaining items on the table. The rejected tchotchkes are going back to the store.

How to Host a Non-Halloween Painting Party
A few costume hats had migrated to fake heads by this stage of the game.

Once everyone had their most coveted “canvas”, we let them loose. I admittedly started to give (too many) directions about how to blot your brush after rinsing, or how much paint was ideal to squeeze out at once; but a loving and exasperated look from my hubby shut me up. So we just sat on a couch in the next room and let them do their thing. They painted for about 45 minutes, then left their masterpieces to dry while they dug into snacks and kept themselves busy until pickup time. I snapped a picture of each piece and sent a collage to all the moms, challenging them to guess which art belonged to their kid. The kids had taken some unexpected pieces and approaches, which made it all the more fun.

How to Host a Non-Halloween Painting Party
This collection contains the works of boys and girls, elementary to high school. I bet you couldn’t guess whose is whose!

Surprisingly, clean up was a breeze. Aside from washing the brushes and dumping the water cups out, everything else just rolled up in the tablecloth. Our house (intentionally) looks like everything’s been painted, scraped down, then painted and scraped again anyway; so we weren’t terribly stressed over the risk of rogue paint. We covered our only 2 fabric chairs in old sheets as protection, but it proved unnecessary. There wasn’t a drop of paint on them!

How to Host a Non-Halloween Painting Party
“Imperfectly painted” is sort of a theme in our house. This is what it looks like WITHOUT a party in progress.

This really was super simple to pull off. Each kiddo had a special decoration to take home, we didn’t break the bank, and everyone was able to participate by picking the objects they liked best, be it scary or simply autumn-inspired. Our 2 hour time frame gave parents enough time for a date escape but was short enough to keep the kids focused on fun and not running amok. In reality, the event was a thinly-veiled attempt at inclusion and a hair-brained solution to having no inspiration about activities. But it ended up so successful, I suspect it will be an annual undertaking we’ll all look forward to.

If You Have Lost A Baby, You Are Not Alone: I am here with you


Originally posted October 2017. Updated October 2020.

Where to start? Where does one start when they begin to share about one of the toughest days of your life? Miscarriage.

It was four years ago last month. We weren’t even married for a year. My husband and I were so excited. We tried for a baby and we were lucky enough to succeed quickly. We felt blessed to have received a positive result almost right away.


Somewhere in your head and heart you start planning and dreaming about this baby right away. Will it be a boy or girl? What will be their name? How will you decorate the nursery? Who will they look more like? You fall in love right away. Even early on you may not “feel” the baby yet, but you know he or she is there. Your body starts to change, so does your mood 😉 .

So, there we were dreaming about the baby that would soon be ours. This little being that would change our family dynamic and the miracle that he or she is. I mean, my body was making another human, a beautiful combination of both my husband and myself. It was the most incredible feeling.

Then that fall day, it all came to an end. It all came crashing down so quickly. It was painful in so many ways. I felt a loss that I had never felt before.


That one word alone – like I made a mistake or something. The doctors sent me home to wait for “it to pass.”


It all seemed so transactional. Perhaps it is for the doctors, I mean loss of a pregnancy or infant does happen to 1 in 4 of us. That is a lot.

I felt a huge loss. Grieving someone I never met, but the grief was real and very raw. I was lucky to have family who was understanding of my/our loss. They wanted to talk to me about it, but it was hard to find the words at that time and it is still difficult to express how I feel about it entirely. I was still in a lot of pain and I still needed a way to cope with the grief of my miscarriage. There was no funeral or service for this loss of life. Nothing exists in our society to help us through this kind of a loss.

I wondered over and over, “What did I do wrong? What could I have done differently?”


Scrolling through Facebook months before, I noticed that someone I knew in high school had written a book about loss of a baby. At the time, I just scrolled right past it, perhaps even gave it a LIKE. That book, popped into my mind after my miscarriage and I ordered it not even really knowing the details of what was inside the book. I needed something, anything to help me through. It’s titled There Was Supposed To Be A Baby. It was just what I needed that that time. I recommend this book to any mom that suffers the same loss. As Catherine Keating says in her intro: “Where do you go from here? You have the opportunity to heal from the inside out. It can be a messy path, but it’s worth it.” She helps to give you a path to emotional and physical healing in this rough time in our lives. It was an invaluable resource for me, as was her website.

I asked her if I could share a piece of her book with you that truly resonated with me. So with Catherine Keating’s permission, here was the first step to my healing. I needed this and I am grateful for this:

“From this point on, refrain from doing anything that does not nourish you. Anything that does not make your body feel more beautiful, that does not make your heart feel a bit lifted, that does not make you sense a shimmer of light around you is forbidden. You will only let in people, places, thoughts, foods, music, smells – you name it – that nourish you. Take a sheet of paper and write the question Does this nourish me? Write it, color it, paint it, however you would like to express the question, and then place it in your wallet or post it on your refrigerator or stick it on your bulletin board. Make it visible and make it yours. Start setting those boundaries.”

This was only the beginning, this was only the first step. I am here to tell you that you are allowed to feel the loss. You are allowed to grieve your miscarriage. You are allowed to wish for what could have been. But, you will heal. The loss you have felt or are feeling can and will bring forth more love in the future. Until then though the focus is on YOU healing.

We are lucky these days to have resources like these books, online resources and support groups like and at our fingertips. We are blessed to also have our moms groups talking and sharing about infant and pregnancy loss, like my MOPS group was this past week.

The love that we had for our first child exists and surrounds our family and our other two children. That baby will never be forgotten and neither will our love for him or her. The love just exists in a more heavenly way in your heart and in your family in a different way than you imagined. It is a beautiful love.

Know that you are not alone. Myself and many others are here with you.

If You Have Lost A Baby, You Are Not Alone: I Am Here With You


Nemours: Keeping Our Promise


Sponsored by Nemours. Learn more by clicking here

Sponsored by Nemours. Click here to learn more!

Posted by Orlando Mom Collective on Wednesday, October 14, 2020

How to Help Your Child Get Used to a Face Mask



Kids wear a lot of things to stay safe when they’re out in public. We wouldn’t dream of letting our kids leave the house without shoes to protect their feet, sunscreen to protect their skin in the summer or a jacket to protect against the fall chill. This year, there’s something new on the list of kid gear for children age 2 and up:  face masks. 

Infectious disease experts who have studied the spread of COVID-19 tell us that wearing a face mask when out of the house is critical to reducing the spread of the virus and helping to end the pandemic sooner. An August 2020 poll by the Pew Research Center found that most Americans are following the advice, with 85% of those surveyed saying that in the past month they’ve worn a mask or face covering when in stores or other businesses all or most of the time. 

Getting comfortable with a mask may be easier for some children than others – children with sensory and behavioral issues may need extra help – but with practice and your encouragement, your child can have an easier time when they must mask.  

Wondering how you can help your child get used to wearing a mask? Try these six tips.

1. Explain WHY kids and adults are wearing a mask. 

  • Keep it simple: “I wear a mask to keep you safe. You wear a mask to keep me safe.” 
  • Talk about teamwork and that families can do this together. 
  • Be calm and listen to any concerns your child may have.

2. NORMALIZE wearing a mask by helping your child see that other people are wearing masks too. 

  • Remind your child we wear many things to keep ourselves safe. Ask your child to name something he or she wears to stay safe, such as shoes or a hat.
  • Play a game when you’re out: do you see a person with a green shirt wearing a mask? Do you see a person with blue sneakers wearing a mask?
  • Have a video call with grandparents or a friend so your child can see someone familiar wearing a mask.

3. Be A GOOD ROLE MODEL by wearing a mask whenever you leave the house. 

  • When you wear a mask, you are teaching your child what to do.
  • Emphasize that you’re following guidelines to keep others safe.
  • Wear your mask at home to help your child adjust and better understand.

4. Let your child PRACTICE wearing a mask at home before wearing one in public. 

  • Your younger child may think it’s fun to try the mask on a stuffed animal first.
  • Start by having your child hold a mask to their face, and then wear the mask for short periods to adjust to it.
  • Let your child do a fun activity at home (play a game, watch a show) while wearing a mask.


5. ADAPT to your child’s preferences. Try different designs or a fabric with images your child loves.

  • Try different materials to see which your child likes the best.
  • Try a fabric with images your child loves – dogs, superheroes, a favorite cartoon character, etc.
  • If the smell bothers them, try using a scented lip balm before placing the mask.

6. Help them understand.

If your child is returning to school and in person instruction, help your child UNDERSTAND what will be expected at school by reading this special story with them on wearing a mask at school.

For more tips on how you and your kids can stay safe during the pandemic, visit

Learn More About Nemours


Fall Bucket List!

Updated October 13, 2020

Fall Bucket List
Fall Bucket List

I know it’s still a blistering 90+ degrees out there in this hot Florida sun, but since the calendar now tells us it’s fall, I feel like now it’s time to help us start FEELING a bit more festive. I grew up in Massachusetts, and while I have now been living in the sunshine state longer than I have been away from the bay state, it is still hard for me to ease into each change of the season, especially fall and winter, with our lack of weather changes down here.

What do I miss from New England at this time of the year? ….the crunching of the leaves under my shoes, the brilliant colors of those changing leaves, long drives through the winding roads of New Hampshire and Vermont…. and, stopping at the stands on the sides of the road during those drives to buy fresh, hot apple cider and maple candy. Yum!! I also miss the crisp, fall air on my face and wearing sweaters.

To help all of us mamas get in the mood for some fun for what lies ahead of us over these next few months, I have put together a “Florida friendly” Fall Bucket List. These are things we can do, even if we are still wearing shorts & flip flops!


What items would you put on your Fall Bucket List? Is there items I put on my list that you would leave off? I would love to hear from you in the comments below!


Healthy Sleep – An Early Bedtime

early bedtime

Mama, are early mornings or night wakings killin’ ya?! Let’s take a show of hands. How many of you have heard the saying, “Keep your baby up, and he will sleep later.”? The later we keep them up, the later they’ll sleep in the morning, right?

Have you tried it? Does it work? It may just be giving you the opposite of your desired effect. Is he or she waking earlier? Perhaps before 6:00 am? Or maybe even waking in the night?

My solution: An early bedtime is key in ensuring your child gets the healthy sleep they need.

There are a few keys to healthy sleep for our littles. I like to call it a sleep puzzle, because without fitting all of the pieces together, sleep will not come together. A puzzle is not complete if one piece is missing.

Healthy sleep consists of:

  • A safe sleep environment and sleep conducive sleep environment
  • An age appropriate sleep schedule
  • A bedtime routine
  • An early bedtime
  • An independent sleeper

early bedtime

Why are early bedtimes are so important.

There are so many benefits of healthy sleep! Wouldn’t you agree that food, love and sleep are amongst the most important things for our children? Sleep is vital because it can help improve their immune system, coordination, mood and their ability to learn new skills more easily. But why an early bedtime?

  1. Sleep = sleep. The more sleep our children get, the more that they will sleep. Yup, that is true! In fact, even just 30 minutes earlier can make a powerful difference to encourage more sleep.
  2. Our children have internal biological clocks – their circadian rhythms. There are specific times of the day where our kids get better rest than other times of the day. This is exponentially true with the first hours of the night. The early part of the night is the most restorative sleep that they get in a 24 hour period. A later bedtime is taking away from this precious sleep.
  3. When our kids are overtired, it makes it harder for them to fall asleep. When our kids become overtired, they gain a second wind. This second wind (cortisol) makes it harder for our children to fall asleep. If this continues to happen, a snowball effect begins to happen and night wakings or early mornings become more prevalent.

How can an early bedtime help?

  • It can help to solve early mornings.
  • It can help to solve night wakings.
  • It can even help to lengthen naps.
  • It reduces the chances of an overtired child.

If you are struggling with sleep and you haven’t tried

an early bedtime yet, it is worth a shot.

Early bedtimes for working parents:

I understand with working parents, an early bedtime can be difficult. There are some steps that you can take to help move your evening along so that you can help your child get to bed more quickly. Here are some ideas for those who are struggling with just how you can make the early bedtime happen. Each of these might only save a few minutes, but those minutes add up:

  1. Plan meals ahead: Crock pot, Instant Pot or easy meals so that there is less to do when you get home from work, or have a separate meal prepared for the little ones at an earlier time.
  2. Plan for bedtime the night before: lay out their PJs, bath towel and bedtime books for tomorrow, tonight.
  3. Put into place a great bedtime routine: a good routine should only last about 30 minutes. You can even cut that short if you are running a bit behind on bedtime.
  4. Make up for lost sleep on the weekends: If you can’t make the early bedtime on the weekdays, ok that’s alright, do the best you can. Then on the weekends, make up for lost sleep by doing an early bedtime each night you are able.

Whatever sleep struggles you may be experiencing, an early bedtime will help your little one to sleep a bit better and catch some more powerful zzzzz’s.

Once upon a time there was a little heart beat. My miscarriage story.

original post: Oct, 2015. Updated Oct, 2020.


Once upon a time there was a little heart beat.

I never saw it or felt it move, but I knew it was there. Many weeks later, that little heart stopped beating. I wanted to name my baby ‘Noor’- because he/she was the ‘light’ of my life.

My miscarriage story.

Miscarriage is not unique to me. Many women face the loss of an unborn life, not once, but multiple times. MY grief, however, is unique to me. I’ve lost a parent and beloved family members.

But nothing compares to that of a parent losing a child.

The gutting sense of anguish and sadness is indescribable, almost primal: like a tsunami, the flood of emotions knocks you over, paralyzes and leaves you drowning in it. I sobbed until I couldn’t cry any more. I prayed until I couldn’t any more.

How does a mother mourn a miscarriage? Do I have a private family memorial? Plant a tree or light candles? Buy a Pandora charm bracelet? I’m pretty sure there is a Pinterest page on miscarriage how-to somewhere.

The reminders were always there.

My still bloated belly, a vestige of a baby that was no longer there. Every time I took my son to Toys R Us, I’d avoid the infant section. I’d constantly trip over his ‘I’m a Big Brother’ book lying on the floor, but I never bothered to move it out of sight. Hearing my son sing ‘Jesus loves me this I know’, would make my eyes brim with tears, because it brought to mind all the baby dedications I’d been to, that this baby would never have.

Perhaps, in some way, I wanted to be reminded of Noor.

The devastation of losing a baby has been life altering.

I’m learning to never take life for granted. Ever. I hold my 5 year old son longer and harder and tell him over and over again, how much he is loved.

I realized that fathers experience grief of a miscarriage. They cope with it in their own private way, but they deserve comfort and support, just as much as mothers.

I’ve also come to understand that this experience allows me to comfort another mother who has suffered a similar loss; the only ones who really get it, are the ones who’ve been through it.

I’ve recognized that grieving is a process, that I wasn’t just going to ‘get over it’, like a cold. I suppose the intensity fades over time, as life goes on, but a faint whisper will always be there. I clung to my faith desperately; I found comfort, strength and peace in it that I will never find anywhere else.

I’ve read that elephants are one of the most empathetic creatures on the planet, next to humans. Their demonstration of grief and distress when a herd member or a calf dies is incredibly similar to human emotions.

They grieve fiercely and they don’t forget. They just let go.

For them, grief is simply losslove lost.

In the end, isn’t that what it really is?

I think of this child every day, I wonder what it would’ve felt like to hold Noor in my arms and imagine how its life would’ve blossomed. Would he/she have had dark curls, like mine? A penchant for music, an artistic flair? Or a love of nature, strong hands and a generous, compassionate heart, like my husband? I will never know.

But this I do know, that for whatever reason my perfect little one was called home before it had a chance to live, its very short life had a very special purpose.

Maybe, it was to forever change mine..


miscarriage“For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
…Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.”


My First Mammogram

When it comes to scheduling MY doctor appointments, I am the world’s BIGGEST procrastinator! I’ll schedule my kids’ doctor appointments, my husband’s doctor appointments… even the dog’s doctor appointment before I schedule my own appointment!

Now if you are nearing 40 like me, you KNOW what doctor appointment I’m referring to! I just had my first mammogram, and let me tell you – it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be!

I thought it would be awful

I grew up hearing all kinds of stories about painful mammogram appointments. So it’s no wonder I was putting this appointment off as long as I possibly could. But at the end of the appointment, I was like, “That’s it?!” I guess in my mind, my first mammogram was going to be scary and terrible. I was at AdventHealth Imaging Center Lake Mary, and I cannot brag enough about the friendliness of the staff. When you’re at what could be a stressful appointment, I was so thankful for their kind staff and overall great experience.

My First Mammogram

When it comes to scheduling MY doctor appointments, I am the world’s BIGGEST procrastinator! I’ll schedule my kids’ doctor appointments, my husband’s doctor appointments… even the dog’s doctor appointment before I schedule my own appointment!Now if you are nearing 40 like me, you KNOW what doctor appointment I’m referring to! As you can imagine, the more I put off this appointment, I started to deal with the anxiety of, “Have I waited too long?!”Well, I just had my first mammogram, and I’m so glad I did! Click this link for more details about how easy it can be to schedule yours too! together with AdventHealth for Women

Posted by Orlando Mom Collective on Sunday, February 16, 2020

my first mammogrammy first mammogram

my first mammogram

Scheduling your mammogram and some helpful tips

You’ll need to know a few things prior to your mammogram appointment. First, you’ll need to visit your PCP. They will write a referral for your appointment. Then, you’ll call or schedule your appointment online. There are 12 convenient AdventHealth locations all around Orlando, so you’re certain to find a location near you.

You’ll want to wear leggings or pants, with a top you can easily slip off once you’re in the dressing room. Don’t wear any deodorant or lotions.


I was really impressed with their convenient parking. I literally walked right from my car, straight into their office – no huge parking garages! And they have very convenient hours. My appointment was on a Saturday afternoon, so it didn’t interrupt my work schedule! I was in and out in 30 minutes! No joke!



I think one reason I was procrastinating my mammogram was a fear that it was going to be a large doctor payment. I never realized that screening mammograms are covered, in most cases, by insurance! So if you’re hesitant to schedule your mammogram because of a deductible or payment, be sure you check with your insurance to see if it’s covered!


For many women, they don’t think about a mammogram until Breast Cancer Awareness is upon us, but (please!) take my lead and schedule your appointment TODAY! I hope you were able see how easy and quick your appointment will be… not to mention that it’s not as scary as we make it out to be!

Put priority on yourself and don’t procrastinate about your mammogram! Schedule your appointment today!



Guide To Orlando

Moving to Orlando

Moving to Orlando? We’ve compiled some posts to help you navigate the City Beautiful. From neighborhoods, to favorite restaurants, coffee shops, parks and more!