Birthday Parties on a Budget


Birthday Parties on a Budget

Laura Standefer, Senior Birthday Correspondent

May 20, 2019 

Over the past few years, I’ve learned that spending tons of money on a birthday party does not guarantee that it is going to be great. The most important part of a birthday isn’t the quality of the decor, the price of the venue, or the custom-made favors; it’s about having fun and surrounding yourself with people you enjoy! Here are a few tips to help you have an incredible birthday party without breaking the bank. 

Electronic Invitations Instead of Paper

It’s 2019! While paper invitations can be cute, electronic invitations are cute and FREE in many cases. Plus, several companies like Evite have features that will allow invitees to RSVP and send messages to the host. I personally love using their app to help keep track of upcoming events! 

Homemade or Grocery Store Cakes

I love the fact that simple and minimalistic decor is in style. This makes it so easy to take a simple homemade or grocery store cake and make it into something fabulous. Just add toys or cake toppers, and voila!

Throw Parties During Non-Meal Times

If you throw a birthday party at 10am or 2pm, kids mostly likely will have already eaten breakfast or lunch so there’s no need to splurge on a meal for everyone. This way light snacks and birthday dessert will often keep everyone happy until the end of the party.

Homemade Snacks

I went to a mermaid themed birthday last week. Several types of snacks were served but star(fish) shaped sandwiches were the kids’ favorite. They were super easy and affordable to make. Pinterest also has more cute and cheap ideas that will surely be a hit at your party.

Old school Activities

If you decide to save money by having a party at your home or at a park, I can almost guarantee that your guests will love timeless activities like piñata smashing or playing games like musical chairs and water balloon toss. You can even customize the activities with your parties theme, like pin the tail on the mermaid, for example! For my son’s second birthday, we simply went to the park and brought a cheap bubble machine. The kids went wild!

The most important part of a birthday isn’t the quality of the decor, the price of the venue, or the custom-made favors; it’s about having fun and surrounding yourself with people you enjoy!”
Join Facebook Party Swap Groups

Search for party swap groups in your area on Facebook! Many people out there have leftover party supplies that they’re looking to get rid of. Therefore, they will most likely sell entire bundle of decorations and supplies for a fraction of the cost. I was lucky enough to get an entire set of fiesta-themed decor and supplies from one of these groups for under $20!

Play Packs for Favors

Party favors can be relatively cheap, but can add up quickly. To make sure that I don’t go over budget, I hand out $1 Play Packs, which are available in tons of characters and themes. I didn’t think they would have ones so specific for my child’s Paw Patrol Halloween birthday party, but see picture below! Each pack includes crayons, stickers, and coloring pages. We love collecting these and taking them with us to restaurants and on trips.


Dollar Stores

I feel like dollar stars get a bad rap. But why pay more than a dollar for balloons and streamers that you’ll use for just a few hours? Plus, they usually have themes kids love like Mickey Mouse and Emojis. If they don’t have your kid’s preferred theme, use Pinterest to get creative with their generic or solid color supplies. Kids typically care less about where the supplies came from and more about having fun!

Check Venues for Specials and Discounts

Last year, one of the popular birthday party venues for kids was having a 50% off sale for parties booked during the week. Since my son is still a preschooler, I booked his party on a Tuesday and we were able to invite dozens of his friends for a very low price. They took care of all of the hosting duties and cleaned up afterwards. It was an amazing deal.

For more information on birthday party venues and rentals in Austin, check out our birthday guide here!


Moms, You’re More Than a Number.


Moms, You’re More Than a Number.

Whitney Otstott, Guest Blogger
May 13, 2019
When new fitness clients begin working out with me, the vast majority of whom are moms, I ask them to think through their goals. I often get “to lose X pounds” or “well, obviously I want to lose weight” or “I just need to get rid of this (belly, thighs, baby pooch).” And then I ask the *real* question: why?
Why is it important to you to lose weight? No one wants to lose weight just for the sake of losing weight. There’s always a deeper reason rooted in emotions. Maybe it’s because you’ve lost some confidence in the way you look. Or you have a high school reunion coming up and you want to look great. Or you can’t fit into your clothes and it’s bumming you out. These “why’s” are important to nail down because they represent what really matters to you.

But I want you to look past the scale when it comes to setting health and fitness goals. For one thing, your worth is defined well past that number on the scale. You are many, many things besides your weight. Second, weight loss is a long-term goal. What about right now? When it comes to incorporating a healthy lifestyle, what are the benefits you’ll start experiencing right away? Let’s take a look.

“You are many, many things besides your weight.
Immediate Benefits of a Healthier Lifestyle:

We are seekers of instant gratification and it can be hard to have the patience required to see the numbers tick down on the scale. So what are other benefits that you’ll start noticing right away?

Better sleep: Moving your body throughout the day and feeding it well will naturally result in a better night of sleep, and we could all use more sleep, am I right? You’ll fall asleep faster and sleep more soundly. Surprising research by Dr. Eve Van Cauter shows that people who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to have bigger appetites due to the fact that their leptin levels (leptin is an appetite regulating hormone) decrease, promoting appetite increase.

More energy: It’s funny how expending energy gives you more energy, isn’t it? But think about it, when we sit around and don’t move, we feel sluggish and tired. If we can push ourselves to get up and get going, we find we have more energy than we first thought! Maybe it’s just a trek to the playground but you’ll feel better once you start moving. Studies show that sedentary people who completed a regular exercise program reported improved fatigue compared to groups that did not exercise.

Better mood: Have you noticed how you just feel lighter and in a better mood after a workout? It’s not your imagination! Exercise actually releases endorphins that boosts your body’s natural hormones. Not only that, but being kind to your body just makes you feel good. When we treat this “house” we live in with respect, healthy food and exercise that strengthens the heart, lungs and muscles, it will respond in kind and reward us with good health.

Improved confidence: Even if the pounds don’t start falling off right away, chances are you’re going to experience an immediate boost to your confidence. And why not? You’re awesome! You’re lifting weights and sweating out the toxins and generally discovering that you’re quite strong and more than a little bad-ass. Hold your head a little higher as you walk down the street because your confidence will shine through!

One healthy habit leads to another: The great thing about treating your body well is that healthy habits are contagious! Start with baby steps: add in exercise 3 times per week. Next thing you know, you decide to have the salad for lunch instead of the cheeseburger. Now that you’ve discovered you feel and sleep so much better on the days you’re working out, you decide to take it from 3 days to 4 days. And on and on it goes…

These are just a few of the immediate benefits that you’ll start experiencing right away. The goods are there for the taking! Just remember, it’s not all about weight. You are so much more than the number on the scale.

About the Author:

Whitney Otstott owns GirlPower Fitness (www.GirlPowerAustin.com), a private, home-based studio that’s just for women, located in the southwest Austin neighborhood of Circle C Ranch. Whitney offers personal training, small group fitness classes and online nutrition coaching, and strives to offer women a better experience in fitness. Contact Whitney at 512-699-7730 or whitney@girlpoweraustin.com.

Indoor Fun for Babies


Indoor Fun for Babies

Laura Standefer, Senior Baby Correspondent
May 06, 2019 

So, you live in Austin and you have a baby. The weather here is unpredictable. Just yesterday, it was hot and sunny in the morning and, suddenly, a torrential downpour came rolling in. If you need to get out of your house but want to stay indoors, there are several places in the area that are great for baby fun! Here is a list of a few of our favorites. 

Almost Grown Play Cafe: With locations in Dripping Springs and in Cedar Park, this cafe is every parent’s dream. Here you can grab a cup of coffee while easily keeping an eye on your little one. The stimulating environment and activities will allow your baby to explore and learn for hours. 

Baby Bloomers at the Thinkery: The Baby Bloomers section is probably the safest place for your baby to be. My little one looked at himself in all the mirrors and loved people watching. My husband and I have the best time here because we’re children at heart, and the Thinkery is fascinating. Outside of the Baby Bloomers section, my son especially enjoys the colorful light lab. Lights and people watching were always his thing. On top of everything that the Thinkery has to offer, there are also special days with activities for children 0-3. Check out the Early Learners section of their website for more information.


Mt. Playmore: The baby room is just as fun as the rest of the place. There’s a little area for children three and under with ride on toys, foam blocks, a tiny playscape area, and more. Plus, we were able to enjoy the big kid playscape since we went during school hours

Little Land Play Gym: Little Land is the perfect place to spend the day with your baby. It’s not as overstimulating as some of the other play places, yet it has plenty for your little one to do. With toys, swings, and unique playing tools, Little Land is our go-to location for learning and fun.

Kids Play Area at Lakeline Mall: Located in front of Dillard’s Men and Children’s store, Lakeline’s play area has always been perfect for my little guy. Even though I seem to have one of those accident-prone kids, it’s not easy for him to get hurt here. As soon as he could crawl and pull up, he was bouncing off the walls of this place!

Hop N Happy or Catch Air: Colorful and unique, Catch Air kind of reminds me of Discovery Zone back in the 90’s, but much cleaner. We have so much fun when we visit their aquatically-themed Austin location or their space-themed Round Rock location. These two establishments have reinvented bouncy places and provide so much fun for everyone involved.