The Busy Giffs: 2018

October 30, 2018

Attempting Royal Icing for the First Time Ever!

I have wanted to attempt royal icing forever.  Like it's legit on my list of things to learn how to do... right up there with hand lettering... because it just seems like something I should know how to do so with a newly free weekend, I taught myself.

I don't think it's that bad! I only worked with flooding the frosting but come Christmas, I'm going to try and see if I can layer the icing levels or create better details! I'm so excited I pushed myself to do this!

Sugar Cookie recipe: here
For the icing, I used 2 egg whites, 3 cups powdered sugar, 1/4 tsp cream of target and some vanilla. It was a complete eyeball thing, using my stand mixer and some drops of water to get the consistency I wanted! 

It was completely trial and error so don't be afraid to try!




October 26, 2018

Buttonwood Park Zoo : Boo at the Zoo!

Thanks to an unexpected shift in our plans last weekend, we found ourselves with a Saturday night free with all 4 of us at home.  Dave and I decided to surprise the kids with a trip to Buttonwood Park Zoo for Boo at the Zoo!


We have wanted to go for the past couple years but we always had plans or were unable to go, so when we saw the chance to go we threw on our costumes and got ready to go. Before heading to the zoo, I went online and ordered our "Bat Passes" which allowed us to use a faster entrance, rather than waiting in the main line. As zoo members, we even saved $5 per ticket!


When we got to the zoo, there was a separate entrance for those of us who had Bat Passes.  I am so glad we used Bat Passes since the line for Bat Passes was about 10 people and the main entrance line was easily 50+ outside, not even counting how many were inside the building.


The kids were given a scavenger hunt paper with 10 candy corn pictures on it. They were told that there are 10 candy corn signs hidden around the zoo and if the kids found it, they could tell the closest candy station and get a stamp on one their candy corn pictures.  When it is full, they could bring it up front for a prize!


The kids were very excited to walk around the zoo looking.  We loved that the zoo had great orange lights and Halloween inflatables everywhere. The animals were all in bed, but the kids loved seeing the zoo in this new way! There were 10 candy stations throughout the zoo and the kids were more than excited to run from one stop to the next.

In addition to the trick or treating, the zoo offered free train rides, carousel ides, and face painting. The line for the train was longer than we were willing to wait, but we don't usually ride the train and always go to the carousel instead. We took a couple spins on the carousel and got face paint! Snacks and refreshments were offered but since we ate dinner right before arriving, we didn't stop for anything.



At $11 for adults and $7 for kids if you're a member, it was a great night for the cost. If you're not a member, it's  $16 for an adult and $12 for a child.  Children under 2 are free and the rides are included in admission.  Boo at the Zoo continues (and ends!) this weekend so there is still time to go!



If you prefer a day time event with little ones, check out Baby Boo! Baby Boo takes place on Halloween from 9:30-1. According to the zoo's website:

The event will include fun activities, up close and personal visits with some of the Zoo’s animal residents, and a costume parade and contest. Prizes will be awarded in the following categories: Best Animal Costume, Most Creative Costume, Cutest Costume, and Best Parent/Child Combination Costume.
Children under 2 are free.
Train and carousel rides are included.
Non-member: Adult $15, child $10 - 
Member: Adult $10, child $5

October 23, 2018

Walking Away From Dance

Tonight, Emmalee made a much more grown up decision than I ever expected and she is taking a break from dance.  Wrapping my head around her decision has been hard for me.  She loves dance and her friends.  She spends every waking second dancing or tumbling and is always talking about her dance friends, so it's been an adjustment for me. 

Over the summer a few of her friends left the dance team and we wavered on whether or not we would go back in the Fall.  Emmalee, being the smart girl she is, reasoned that friends can always be friends no matter where they are, but a dance teacher can only be a dance teacher if she's at that studio so we returned. Everything seemed fine.

But then she started asking if we could "stay home" instead of going to class.  The only class she was really excited for was her acro class. She would whine about going to the fundraising we do for Nationals. But at dance, she would smile and laugh and dance her heart out.

It wasn't until we were talking about our weekend having 3 dance commitments that she broke.  She cried.  She asked if we could skip it all and just stay home and relax and that's when I knew something was wrong.  She even asked if I'd be mad if she stopped dancing. It was time to walk away.  She, without me realizing it, had spent 2 months trying to love it, to make me happy.  She told me that she smiled and laughed at dance because she didn't want her dance teacher to know that she didn't love it.  At 7 years old, she was going out of her way unhappily to make sure the grown ups in her life were happy. 

What a learning experience.  At only 7 years old, we talked about the importance of having a healthy and happy heart and that sometimes we have to make decisions that make other people sad to keep our own hearts healthy. At only 7 years old, she is understanding that you can't sacrifice your happiness for others. And it makes me cry just thinking about it. 
While I am so sad that she doesn't find joy in dancing the way it lit her heart before, I am so proud of her for recognizing and respecting the feelings inside of herself. 

Watching her hug her dance friends and say good bye was absolutely heart wrenching (I'm legit in tears just thinking about it now), and as we pulled away from the studio with both of us in tears, I asked "Are you sure you made the right choice?" she looked at me and said "Yes, I love my friends even though I don't love dancing anymore and they will always be my friends even if I am not on their team. I'm just sad I made them sad."

I spent a lot of my life worried about making sure everyone else was happy and at times in my life it was at the expense of my own feelings. I am sad right now, but so proud of my girl and so excited about who she will continue to grow into.  And who knows? Maybe a break will help her find the love again... or maybe it will allow her to find something new that makes her heart happy. 




October 17, 2018

Flying Cloud Orchard - Acushnet, MA

How has October already disappeared? Next week is November! We've been so busy with dance, fundraising, soccer, and me working the weekends at school... we hadn't even picked out pumpkins!

With it already being the end of October, this is absolutely not okay.  With a little bit of rain and limited time before Dave had to go to work, we knew we had to stay local.  We decided to check out Flying Cloud Orchards on Main Street in Acushnet. I've seen all the pumpkins as I've driven home for school and since it opened at 8 am, we had plenty of time before Dave had to go to work.

Flying Cloud Orchards is more of a farm stand, but they have a great penned in area that has hundreds of pumpkins. They're already on pallets so less dirt than in a field and arranged by color and sizes.  Our kids took less than 4 minutes to find their favorite pumpkins.  We wouldn't have even made it out to a field at other farms in that time!


In addition to the "regular" sized pumpkins, they also had what my kids call, "baby pumpkins", the itty bitty ones. Emma picked out a tiny white pumpkin to go along with my white pumpkin that I picked out. 

While they don't offer cider donuts (sad face, but honestly I don't need them...), they did have pies and honey sticks. Emma even picked out a Halloween pencil for school! 

All in all we spent only $6.25 for 4 pumpkins! That's like the price of 1 at the grocery store and this allows me to support a local business!

We stopped by as a "hope for the best" and absolutely fell in love with it, so we'll be back next year when it's time to get our pumpkins again!

xo, Heather

October 15, 2018

LOL Surprise Dolls - Hot Holiday Toys!

LOL Surprise dolls are all over BOTH of my children's Wish Lists this year. My kids are obsessed and love these little collectibles. They are so hard to find in stores, but Amazon has been amazing with pre-orders and stock levels!
Links may be affiliate links. 



The dolls are available in all sorts of packages!  The Big sister dolls include outfits and accessroies and can be found in the series: Under Wraps Dolls - Series 1Under Wraps - Series 2, and Glam Glitter. Walmart will be releasing a BLING series for the holiday and as soon as they do, I'll post in my Facebook group- along with tons of other discounts and coupons! The Pearl Surprise includes a Big sister, a lil sister and accessories. The Bigger Surprise is new this holiday season and includes wigs for the 2 dolls included!

My kids especially love the Lil Sisters. They newest Eye Spy series is our favorite! There are even a few boy characters!

Additionally, they have Pets Series, and the animals come with their accessories as well! Emmalee is asking for a Biggie Pet, which is a very large pet, that has extra surprises with it! There is also a new Interactive Pet - which is just like those interactive monkey toys that go on your finger, but with a LOL twist!


The biggest LOL item this summer will be the House! It comes with 85+ surprises! The house includes a family and so many accessories!

There are also so many activity books: Press Out and Play Book1000 Sticker BookTin of BooksLil Sister Coloring Book, and Stick and Style Dress Up Book. Additionally, a Glow in the Dark Scrapbook or a Light Up Diary would be a great gift! Emma really loved the Creativity Case and Stylin Studio and the Secret Message Jewelry craft kits she saw this weekend. This Activity Tray would be great for all those crafts and even eating lunch!

LOL clothing exists too! From Fur Duffle bags to Tshirts and pajamas, there is so much!

My favorite LOL item this year is the #OOTD Countdown. With more than 25 pieces and with 25 doors, it will make the most perfect countdown to Christmas calendar as well! Emma is going to be so excited when she sees how many LOL items she will be getting this holiday!

xo, Heather



October 13, 2018

Apple Spice Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

I love a good, short cut, easy to throw together dessert and these Apple Spice Cupcake with Cream Cheese frosting are just that!

A boxed mix, a jar of Stonewall Kitchen Apple Cider Jam, and a jar of cream cheese frosting and these are ready to go in less than 2 hours!


We prepared the box mix according to the directions to make cupcakes.
After allowing them to cool, we used an inverted frosting tip to make a well in the cupcake. Then added a small scoop of the Apple Cider Jam. If my kids hadn't stolen all the little cake pieces, we would have topped the jam with the cake piece. 
Store bought cream cheese frosting in a piping bag and some sprinkles finished them off festively.


As much as I love made from scratch recipes, when I need something quick, these are perfect!

xo, Heather

October 1, 2018

The Perfect Halloween Movie Schedule for Kids

I always get excited for the Halloween movies on tv, and decided this year, I'd make my own movie schedule for this month!

I put the kids favorites, and since I don't love scary movies, it was easy to leave a lot of them out.
Which are your favorites?


xo, Heather

September 26, 2018

King Richard's Faire - Tips for the Perfect Family Day in Carvershire

Disclaimer: We were provided admission, however, all thoughts and opinions are our own.

Happy Fall! It's officially Fall now so we spent the weekend outside at Ty's soccer practice, putting up our Fall decorations, and of course, heading to King Richard's Faire. I've been going for years and it's always a kick off to the beginning of the Fall season.


There's just something so Fall about being in the changing foliage, watching the performances and eating delicious food that is so synonymous with King Richard's Faire to me! We love packing up as a family and heading to the Faire for the day.

This year was no different... After soccer on a Saturday morning, we made our way to Carvershire to see what the King had up his sleeve for the Game of Thrones weekend.  Each weekend has a different theme or fun event and this weekend was Game of Thrones.  Other weekends include a Princess and Knight dress up for children and Wizards, which are great for the whole family, Vow Renewal weekend, and even the Cleavage contest for those Bachelor weekends-- full disclosure I would love to compete in the cleavage contest but I have so many students (and their parents) who work at and visit the faire, that I'd just never be able to!

Since we love going, we want to share a few tips for making your visit to King Richard's Faire the best!  Before you even step inside, you feel transported.  From the signs and performers, we get so excited just walking through the gates.

Tip #1. Dress Up!
King Richard's Faire is a Fantasy faire, meaning anything goes! We saw "David Bowie", Monty Python characters, fairies, characters from World of Warcraft, and so many gorgeous dresses.  There were knights, jesters, and even a centaur! You can even rent costumes for all ages and sizes right inside the front gate at Seams Like A Dream if you don't have your own! Emmalee was seriously sad that she did not dress up after seeing everyone else and has already started putting together an outfit for next time!


Tip #2. Grab a Map Program!
Just inside the gate is a Map of the Realm but it also includes the show schedule for the day! Some shows happen more than once a day and others only happen once so be sure to pick which shows you want to see!

The shows are the most amazing part of the day.  We made time to see Snorkel the Trained Pig, The Big Cat Show, Jacques Ze Whippeur, Prince and Princess Academy, Up in Arms, and Daiku (Twice! They are amazing!). We also caught a few glimpses of the Mud Show and the Washing Wenches while walking by.  Tyler's favorite though was the King's Tournament!









Tip #3. See as many shows as you can-- and get to the stage early!
Every performer at King Richard's Faire is amazing.  Whether it's a trained pig, with a very humorous handler, or an acrobat who can do a 1 handed hand stand 20+ feet up in the air... you don't want to miss them! Be sure to get there right when the show starts (after the prior show clears out) so you can get a good seat.  We were lucky enough to have front row seats to see Snorkel the Trained Pig and the kids loved it!

Tip #4. Bring some $1 and $5 bills with you.
With so many amazing performers, you may want to tip them.  The kids were so excited to put money into the buckets at the end of the shows, so even though it's not required- we still love to! In addition to the shows, you might just come across a performer in the middle of the "street".  While eating our order of unicorn donuts (more on those in a minute), a musician started playing a few feet away.  Ty was so excited to go put some bills into his bucket!


Speaking of Unicorn Donuts, oh my gosh. These were new for us and I am so happy that I can only buy them at King Richard's Faire currently, or I'd be consuming them every day. The warm little donuts are seriously my new favor treat at King Richard's Faire, and at only 5 tickets for 6 donuts, it was a great value.


Tip #5. Figure out what you want to eat before buying your tickets. 
King Richards Faire sells their food by tickets.  Each ticket is 1 dollar, and purchased in groups of 5 at a ticket booth.  Then you go to the food stands and give them the tickets. We always do a lap around the food stands to decide what we want to eat before we go and buy our tickets, so we know that we purchase enough tickets  and only wait in the ticket line once! King Richard even made sure to look out for the GF/V/LF crowd.  You can check out those menus here!



Tip #6. Carve out some time to check out the artisan shops. 
From fairy wings and flower crowns to pet dragons, leather accessories, and hand crafted items... the faire offers a variety of shops to meander through. I'm still hoping to get a henna tattoo or a psychic reading one of these times!




Tip #7. Don't plan it all, allow yourself to just get a little "lost". 
One of our favorite moments this weekend was when we stumbled upon a centaur and a fairy blowing bubbles in the fairie circle. The centaur was playing his instrument with his nose and the kids were entranced by the bubbles. Taking a few minutes of unscheduled fun, allowed us the most magical moments of pure magic for the kids. When another mom tried to tip them, the centaur told her, and all the kids, to pay it forward-- to go and do good in the world for others.  How wonderful is that?






We spent hours in the woods of Carvershire, seeing so many amazing performances and being caught up in the magic of it all. Emmalee is already begging to go back next weekend for the Harry Potter themed contests, and of course, now it feels like Fall has finally started in New England.

To get your own advanced tickets, you can order them here. You still have until October 21st to get in a visit! Have so much fun.

xo, Heather


August 28, 2018

A 40 in 4 Update

The 40 in 4 is still slow going and I'm finding that I'm not longer excited about some of the things on my list.  I know it's only been a year and a half (and 4 days!), but I'm just not as excited about some of these anymore so I may end up astericking them or something because it's not something I'm focusing on... however, I did accomplish a couple new things...

27. Get out of the minivan.
Two weeks ago, David brought my car into the shop for some repairs and the bill was much more than we planned on putting into our old van.  We bought the van 4 years ago and it was already 9 years old at the time.  It had low miles and was used by a much older woman so it was in great shape but 4 years of wear and tear from my kids was more than enough for it. I'm happy to say I upgraded to a Nissan Rogue so no more minivan in this house!

28. Take a calligraphy class.
I'm cheating on this one because honestly, it's not worth $100+ for me to go do this sooooo instead, I ordered a couple of hand lettering books online and have been working on it myself! I'm loving how it looks and want to invest in a few new markers to really keep playing!

31. Work on our kitchen: backsplash, new desk, new table...
This one has been so fun. It's not completely dont but I did purchase a new dining set and a big white desk so the kitchen looks more open.  I'd still love to buy a new rug but we're taking a break from any big purchases and home upgrades right now.

Additionally, I'm going to pull out a few:
20. Get professional head shots for the blog.
           - I really hate pictures and since my blog is my family, I don't need headshots when we always use family pictures!21. Sew Emma a matching dress for her and her dolls
           - We've moved out of the doll phase for a bit. She's completely obsessed with LOL dolls so the American Girls haven't left their bunk beds lately.22. Consider selling the custom shirts I've been making for the kids...
           - What a giant no. I'm so invested in my career and the opportunities that are coming.  I am in awe of other moms who do the work from home hustle, but I really don't think I want to do it. 
32. Buy a jacuzzi and redo the back deck.
33. Fence in our yard.
34. Landscape.
          - We still want a jacuzzi but our back yard, including the deck and more landscaping just aren't a priority for us anymore.
35. Finish the basement
           - We've fininshed it as much as we need it to be right now. We're not really interested in putting up walls or developing it since our house is already at the top of the market for our neighborhood.  Adding more won't give us any ROI. 

So it leaves me with this:

1. Run a 5k
2. Have my palm read.
3. Weekend in the Vineyard with my family.
4. Buy a bicycle.
5. Wear a bikini to the beach, no cover up.
6. Put my toes into the Pacific Ocean.
7. Go back to Disney
8. Go to Universal Studio
9. Get a job in Higher Ed
10. See another Broadway play
11. Fit into a size 8.
12. Travel to Europe, ideally London or Rome.
13. Get another tattoo (or two).
14. Be debt free, minus student loans and mortgage.
15. Put away a 4 month emergency amount.
16. Begin working on an administrator's license or a PhD.
17. Take a photography class.
18. Travel somewhere tropical.
19. Go camping.
20. * Get professional head shots for the blog.
21. * Sew Emma a matching dress for her and her dolls
22. * Consider selling the custom shirts I've been making for the kids...
23. Take a cooking or baking class.
24. Take a cake decorating class.
25. Go to Ireland.
26. Find a local church to belong to/Baptize Tyler.
27. Get out of the minivan.
28. Take a calligraphy class.

29. Participate in Restaurant Week in Boston or Providence.
30. Go to Disney Land.
31. Work on our kitchen: backsplash, new desk, new table...
32. * Buy a jacuzzi and redo the back deck.
33. * Fence in our yard.
34. * Landscape.
35. * Finish the basement.
36. Attending the NYC Thanksgiving Day Parade
37. Create a real vegetable garden for an entire season/year.
38. Spend the day at the spa, getting pampered.
39. Splurge on our 10 year anniversary.
40. Save $10 for each accomplished task and spend it on something extravagant.

And I am so excited about all that is still on it. We have a few of these things planned already so I'll be excited to share when they happen!

xo, Heather

August 24, 2018

New Charlie's Nature Play Area at Buttonwood Park

It's no secret that we love Buttonwood Park.  We've had a family membership for the past 2 years and used library passes for admission for years before that.  It's a great small zoo that my kids love.  Tyler loves the harbor seals (which he calls sea lions- he'll learn one day), and Emma loves that one of the elephants shares her name, however she is especially excited that Buttonwood Park Zoo is getting a red panda, which is just one of the new things happening at the zoo.


Buttonwood Park Zoo has it's master plan on display in the educational complex and it's very cool to see all the plans they have in place.

While they are still in the middle of building the habitat for the red panda, they have moved around a few of the animals and just finished up construction on the Charlie's Nature Play area, which is "where the goat used to live", according to Emma.



The area is completely new and inspires so much creativity! The kids spent almost a half hour just playing with the tubes, constructing "the longest one in the whole world ever!" I especially loved how collaborative all the kids were. I know we just had a good group of people and that won't always be the case but they were sharing and problem solving together.


In addition to the cool "marble" area, they had a paint with water area, a water area, a huge block building area, tables for smaller block building, a sandbox with an umbrella, a xylophone, balance beams made from logs, a growing area, and a misting area!











I especially loved the log benches set up for parents and the butterflies that were hanging out on the flowers the whole time!



We usually spend about an hour at Buttonwood Park Zoo since my kids love running from one area to the next but we spent an hour just in Charlie's Nature Play area!

I'm so excited about this new area and can't wait to see the next changes!

xo, Heather


Attempting Royal Icing for the First Time Ever!

I have wanted to attempt royal icing forever.  Like it's legit on my list of things to learn how to do... right up there with hand lette...

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