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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!


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. 

Tips for the Best Lemonade Stand in the Neighborhood


Tips for the Best Lemonade Stand in the Neighborhood

Morgan Briscoe, Guest Blogger
April 30, 2019 

Lemonade stands have a long history in the US, dating back to the late 1800’s. Having a lemonade stand for children is both early introduction to entrepreneurship and a fun rite of passage. While lemonade stands can range from simple to sophisticated, here are some tips for your kids to have the best stand in the ‘hood.

Question and answer yourself first: Before you make your first pitcher of lemonade, ask yourself important questions. Why do you want to start a business? What do you want to learn from this experience? Do you want a business partner or to work alone? Write down your answers and build your goals from that.

Figure our your costs and supplies: Determine the costs of running your business. Write a checklist of items—don’t forget lemonade and serving supplies, ice, your stand, posters, etc.—and figure out your cost per cup. Then determine how much to charge per cup. Your pricing should cover your costs and make some money on each cup, but not be so high that people will not buy. Also, finalize how you get the money to start your business—usually a loan from a friend or family member and make an agreement to pay them back after your stand.

Set your $ goals: Set your financial goals. How much do you wish to make once your costs and loans are repaid? What will you do with your  money? Lemonade Day recommends that with their earnings kids, “Save Some, Share Some (non profit) and Spend Some.”

Location, location, location: Look for safe places with lots of vehicle or foot traffic. Or contact the managers of a local business to get permission to set up in front of their store. Wherever you locate your stand, check with your city or municipality beforehand to determine if a food permit is needed. If you’re going to be set up on a running/bike trail where people might not carry cash but have their phone with them, consider accepting Venmo or other wireless payments and listing that on your signage.

Determine what makes your stand unique and diversify your offerings: What makes your stand a step above the rest? Do you offer multiple flavors? Secret family recipe? Do you have the coldest lemonade or the warmest customer service? Will your proceeds benefit a charity? Will you offer baked goods, or free hugs or anything in addition to your lemonade? Whatever it is, make sure your customers know about it through your products, marketing and communications.

Make your stand…a stand out: Make sure your stand is functional and fabulous! Use pictures from the web, Pinterest or other sites to get inspiration for your stand. Signage should be easy to read, even from far away, and include name, pricing and important information.

“Make sure your stand is functional and fabulous!”

Figure our your costs and supplies: Determine the costs of running your business. Write a checklist of items—don’t forget lemonade and serving supplies, ice, your stand, posters, etc.—and figure out your cost per cup. Then determine how much to charge per cup. Your pricing should cover your costs and make some money on each cup, but not be so high that people will not buy. Also, finalize how you get the money to start your business—usually a loan from a friend or family member and make an agreement to to pay them back after your stand.

Decorate with props: fresh ingredients, flowers or objects that go along with your theme. Offer a free sample or something to giveaway with each cup sold. Try a 2-for-one or volume discount. Also, promote your stand ahead of time through social media or flyers in the neighborhood. Make sure people know when and where to find you!

Deliver great customer service: The most important asset to any business is its customers, so practice with your family before you go out to sell.  Determine ahead of time what you both will say to people when they walk up to the stand. Make good eye contact, remember your manners and thank your customers.

Recap after the event: A good entrepreneur never stops learning. Write down what you did well with your stand, what goals you achieved, didn’t achieve and what you could improve upon in the future. Compare your results against your goals and budget.

Have fun and continue to learn about and spread the love of entrepreneurship.

For additional lemonade stand resources, please visit: https://lemonadeday.org/resources

Lemonade Day is a free entrepreneurial program for children. On May 11 th , in Austin, kids will set up stands all around the city in honor of Lemonade Day. If you’d like to register and take part in Lemonade Day Austin 2019, please do so at: www.lemoandeday.org/austin

Family Wildflower Tours: Pictures, Picnics & Family Fun


Family Wildflower Tours: Pictures, Picnics & Family Fun

Laura Standefer, Senior Wildflower Correspondent

April 8, 2019

It’s spring time, y’all. It wouldn’t be very Texan of us to not discuss the most picturesque locations to see bluebonnets and other wildflowers. Whether you’re taking an excessive amount of pictures of your babies and pets, or simply enjoying the scenery, there are several places around town that are covered with iconic Texas wildflowers.

Photograph by Kat Standefer Photography

I’m a sucker for family pictures. Of course, I always pick out an outfit that looks great on me first, and then find something for my husband and son that somewhat matches. My guys moan and groan, but they eventually oblige. They may not realize it now, but they’ll be glad we have these pictures in the future. We’ll reminisce about the spring of 2019, where the bluebonnets and Indian paintbrushes carpeted the fields and highways, and how our four-year old threw a tantrum in front of everyone stuck in rush hour traffic. But really, it’s all worth it because,

“This Texas tradition is timeless and the memories are priceless.”

Here is a list of some of our favorite places to enjoy Texas wildflowers near and around Austin!

Brushy Creek Lake Park: Cedar Park

Here, the bluebonnets surround the small lake and the scenery is simply breathtaking. This park has ample space for everyone to enjoy the wildflowers, plus amenities such as covered picnic tables, a playscape, a splash pad, hike and bike trails, bathrooms, and more. This place is personally my favorite!

Mueller: Central Austin

I am not-so-secretly envious of my friend who lives in Mueller. That place is a one-stop-shop for EVERYTHING and if I lived there I would probably never leave. There are several reports of bluebonnet sightings in Mueller this year, especially near the Southwest Greenway area, and this makes for a perfect wildflower family outing. While the Mueller subdivision is known for its dining and entertainment, it also includes several parks, which are relatively close to each other. They have hike and bike trails, a lake, a pond, picnic areas, interactive and accessible playgrounds, the list goes on!

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center: South Austin

Yes, it seems like a no-brainer to put a wildflower center on the list, but the flowers are especially abundant this year so if you haven’t been, now is the time to go! The center offers guided tours, picnic areas, natural playgrounds, a cafe, classes, and so much more. There is an entrance fee, but is free for children under five, members, and UT students, faculty, and staff.

Old Settlers Park: Round Rock 

Old Settlers really has it all. This park has 40 picnic areas, seven parks (including the updated Joanne Land Playground which is marvelous), a small lake, miles of trails, and too many more amenities to list. While the volume of flowers can vary, you should be able to find vibrant bluebonnet patches somewhere within the park’s 645 acres. Forgot to pack a picnic? Salt Lick BBQ’s Round Rock location is just a few steps away. Does it get any better?

Old Settlers Park by Kat Standefer Photography

Wildseed Farms: Fredericksburg

Honestly, you may see more bluebonnets than ever before just driving through Fredericksburg, but why not stop at one of the most bountiful wildflower displays in Texas? Wildseed Farms is open to the public and offers an unforgettable nature experience at no charge. This Hill Country gem contains walking trails, gardens, a vineyard, and their very own Brewbonnet Biergarten (how clever is that?). You can even purchase seeds to create your very own Texas garden at home. 

St. Edward’s University: Downtown Austin

Even if you’re not a St. Ed’s mountain goat, you have to admit that they have one beautiful campus! Located just south of downtown, bluebonnets have faithfully bloomed on the university’s lawn and it has become one of the most talked-about locations for stunning photos. Stop by St. Ed’s the next time you’re out exploring our famously weird downtown Austin. 

Balcones District Park: North Austin

If you’re looking for something closer to the Domain area, Balcones District Park is the perfect location for bluebonnet pictures. After you capture your instagram-worthy pictures, keep the fun going by taking advantage of the playscape and other amenities this park has to offer. Its walking trails will allow you to explore the running waters and peaceful scenery nestled within our busy city. 

Urban Air Trampoline Park


Urban Air Trampoline Park

Laura Standefer, Senior Trampoline Correspondent

March 27, 2019 

Jumparoo at Urban Air Trampoline Park is a special time for kids five and under. It allows for littles to burn all that energy without being trampled by older kids. Plus, parents can join in on the fun for free! 


When I first heard about Urban Air, I thought it would be YEARS before I would be able to pay a visit with my little one. However, Friday mornings from 10 a.m.-12:30 p.m. are Jumparoo Toddler Time, which is only for children five and under. We went today with some other neighborhood moms and kids, and it was legit. For $9, my kid played, ran, jumped, and danced for almost two hours. The best part? I got to play too! My friend and I may or may not have been recently reprimanded for jumping at another similar establishment… But here, parents are included in the price during Jumparoo hours and I took full advantage. While my child was rubbing his eyes, yawning, and crying for a nap, I was all like, 

“Please, kid, just five more minutes!”

Then, just when I think I couldn’t like Urban Air any more, they opened a second location near Cedar Park. This one is even more visually stimulating than the last one we went to and includes a mini ninja warrior obstacle course and an indoor zip line. Plus, this location even has a concession stand with food and beer for grown ups! I’ve often dreaded going to many of these “jumpy places,” but Urban Air has me asking, “Is it Friday yet?”

Volunteering with Kids


Volunteering with Kids

Lyndsay McLeodSenior Pro Tips Correspondent

March 18, 2019 

Austin has a plethora of wonderful volunteer opportunities that you can participate in with your kids. Volunteering is beneficial to all parties involved, but especially children.

“Studies have shown that volunteering helps you to develop patience, compassion, empathy, leadership, and communication.”

And you know what else? Volunteering just makes you feel good!
There’s really nothing better than that warm fuzzy feeling you get when you see your kiddos making a difference in someone else’s life. We’ve put it the legwork for you and compiled a list of the many magnificent opportunities around our beautiful city that will not only enhance your own life but the lives of others as well.

All of these agencies offer you and your family the opportunity to serve and give back to your community. Many of them rely on volunteers to continue their work our community. By getting yourself and your family involved you have the ability to have a positive impact on somebody’s life. It doesn’t get much better than that!

Austin Child Guidance Center:

This agency helps to improve the mental health of children and their families through early intervention, diagnosis, and treatment to help develop the emotional skills to face life’s challenges. Volunteer opportunitiesrange from playing with children as they wait for their appointment to providing special event support.

Click here for more information on the Austin Child Guidance Center. 

Mobile Loaves & Fishes:

Mobile Loaves & Fishes volunteers hit the streets 7 nights a week, 365 days a year to provide food, clothing, hygiene products and other life-sustaining items to our homeless neighbors who are struggling to survive.  There are several different areas of opportunity to volunteer such as Truck Ministry or their Community First! Village.

Click here for more information on Mobile Loaves & Fishes.

Central Texas Food Bank:

This is a great opportunity to bring the whole family along and help fight food insecurity.

Click here for more information on the Central Texas Food Bank. 

Partners in Hope:

Partners in Hope is a Lake Travis ministry that connects people who desire physical, emotional, and spiritual help with people who will help.  Unlike ministries that organize a crisis response to a housing emergency, Partners in Hope helps families by working to improve living conditions, walking through a season of life, and empowering them to transform over time.

Click here for more information on Partners in Hope.

Generation Serve:

This program offers a variety of volunteer options for both young children as well as teens. Several of the opportunities are done alongside their peers without the supervision of a parent or guardian.

Click here for more information on Generation Serve. 

Fig Leaf Clothing Program:

Micah 6 of Austin offers street dependent youth a place to come for a snack or meal as well as take advantage of programmatic resources such as jobs club, expressions through art and occasionally guest speakers. 

Click here for more information the Fig Leaf Clothing Program. 

Sunday Supper:

Micah 6 Youth Center provides a safe environment for youth to relax and enjoy a hot, home cooked meal, something they may not otherwise have access to.

Click here for more information on Sunday Supper. 

Miracle League:

This is a baseball league for individuals between the ages of 4 and 19 that don’t fit into “regular” recreational leagues. Volunteers are needed for “buddies” and coaches.

Click here for more information on the Miracle League. 


STARRY nurtures children, strengthens families, and restores hope through counseling, family support, foster care, and adoption.

Click here for more information on STARRY.  

Urban Roots:

This organization offers individual volunteering or can help organize a group volunteer event. Urban Roots works to provide struggling families with fresh produce grown on their farm.

Click here for more information on Urban Roots. 

Meals on Wheels:

Meals on Wheels offers more than just meal delivery service! They have several active programs such as HOPE, a collaboration between Meals on Wheels and the Central Texas Food Bank, PALS, a program providing assistance in caring for the pets of elderly and disabled homebound clients, and Groceries To Go, which provides grocery delivery to clients who can cook for themselves but have no reliable or consistent help with grocery shopping.

Click here for more information on Meals on Wheels.

Brown Santa:  

This program provides assistance to underprivileged children and their families in Travis County and senior residents of local retirement centers in Travis County.

Click here for more information on Brown Santa.