Last week, while visiting my parents in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, I went to the first Food Truck Thursday of the summer in the lovely I’on neighborhood.
This idyllic – almost freakishly so – neighborhood has gorgeous houses, a town center with restaurants and shops, and plenty of green space. There is a wonderful tennis and swim club in the planned community, and you see kids on bikes and families in golf carts driving to it and the shops all day long.
We hopped on the golf cart bandwagon and drove a borrowed one to the big lawn where the event was held.
There were already lots of chairs, umbrellas, and blankets set up when we arrived. A band of youngsters, probably in the early years of college, were playing rock and alternative cover music. I was pretty excited to hear some 311 and Sublime. Baby A totally loved that music, too, as he could not stop bouncing and doing his cute little baby dances!
There were a lot of families out here for this chill night. Now, I stay positive on this blog, but I just have to say that one thing I don’t like about this amazing neighborhood is the lack of diversity. It was very striking to my husband and I. It really seemed like him and our baby were the only non-white people around. But that’s some social commentary and issues for another blog.
Anyhow, we set up our blanket and chairs and popped open some bottles of wine. We didn’t realize that you need to get on the food truck lines early, however. I suggest you get there right on time and hop on that line if you want to eat anything from the trucks. Of course, you can bring your own food, too, but the food trucks had really interesting options. One was a lobster truck with a ton of variations of ways to eat lobster, and the other was the same but with pork. By the time we got on the long line towards the end of the event, most of the food items were sold out and we were so hungry that we had already called to order a pizza to bring home.
The lovely spring weather and being outside with loved ones and new friends made the night really special though. And the band was really good! It was nice to have some fun live music without being cramped in a bar with no kids allowed, or at a music festival that’s overrun with scantily clad youth on Molly. Oh gosh I am such an old fogey!
So if you’re in Mount Pleasant or Charleston on a Thursday this summer, get some fresh air and chill tunes and head out to the I’on Food Truck Night!
As you read about in my last post, we recently threw our baby’s first birthday party at the beach. While it was tons of fun to plan all of the beach-themed food, decor, and entertainment, the most special part of his celebration was the injection of Korean traditions. The photos below are by my talented sister-in-law. You can find her photography and early childhood education work at www.brightonandbeacon.com.
Bobby’s mother is from Korea, so she advised me on all of the first birthday traditions. She also generously bought Baby A’s first hanbok and all of its accessories. Towards the latter half of the party, Bobby, our mothers, and I brought the baby into a bedroom to ceremoniously change him into his hanbok.
The traditional Korean outfit is stunning. There are exquisite details and ornate patterns and fabrics. Although the pink was a bit feminine, Baby A rocked it!
After our guests oohed and aahed over the cuteness of the outfit change, we began the doljabi game. I had done a lot of preparation for this game. The Doljabi is a tradition where the child is placed in front of various items or objects (Usually 6 – 8 items). Then, the child grabs an item from the set of objects where each choice represents a certain future of the child with respect to his or her career or a lifestyle. Bobby and I thought long and hard about what objects to choose to represent different career paths. At one point, he joked that we should just buy 6 different colored stethoscopes to ensure he will become a doctor. Ha! Of course, we would never push our boy like that, but it was a funny idea.
After hours poring over Doljanchi blogs and toys on Amazon, we finally came up with six items. Next, I designed Raffle tickets and labels to make the Doljabi into a game for all the party guests to partake in. I laid out jars labeled with each of the career paths, and gave everyone two raffle tickets to place their bets. I chose two raffle tickets from the winning career jar and those two people won fun prizes! I love graphic design and using my handy dandy Photoshop, so I had a lot of fun matching the raffle tickets to the party’s overall beach theme.
Before presenting Baby A in his hanbok, I announced for people to finish making their votes. Then, we laid the six objects out on a big beach towel and placed him down in the center. Because he loves Pout Pout Fish, I thought for sure he’d crawl to the Pout Pout Fish stuffed animal, which represented Biology. Instead, he made a beeline for the Melissa & Doug paintbrush set! The Doljabi had spoken – our little guy might grow up to be an artist of some sort! Pretty cool.
I love this photo of everyone getting excited over the game outcome.
Baby A’s halmeoni (grandma) then proceeded to dress him in more variations of the hanbok. She even had a third outfit, but we decided to do a separate photo shoot since it was too hot for him to be in all these layers of clothing for long.
Since my family was already gathering for our annual beach trip to Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina, we decided to celebrate Baby A’s Birthday a few weeks early so everyone could attend. It also turned out that my best friends from NY could come as could Bobby’s family. Needless to say, I have been looking forward to this first birthday party for a long time. My mom helped a ton with the planning and we came up with the cutest games and decorations and food for this beach themed first birthday!
Feel free to pin these images as inspiration for any beach party and a child’s party in particular! Most of the following photos were taken by my extremely talented sister-in-law. You can commission her for photography and early childhood education consulting at www.brightonandbeacon.com. She also has a great early readers blog at www.readingeveryday.com
No beach party would be complete without beach balls and beach rafts all over the place. We even used a blow-up baby pool as our drink cooler. La Croix galore Yesssssss!
We had a couple of activities that involved prizes for the kids. Sunglasses, toy fish, and this cool watermelon cup were just a few of the fun prizes.
I still can’t believe my friends came from afar to celebrate A’s first year. He is a loved child!
Although first birthday parties are more of a party for the parents to celebrate their child’s first year than they are for the actual child, we still wanted to make this a very child-oriented party. So, we had to have some games! We DIY’ed a super cute deep sea fishing game for the kiddos, who ranged from 6 months to 8 years old.
During our beach vacation, my family colored these cute sea animals to use at the party for the deep sea fishing game. We decorated a big piece of craft paper, hung it across a doorway, and had the children “fish” for prizes. I sat on the floor behind the sheet and attached prizes to the DIY fishing pole. When they felt me tug on the fishing pole string, it meant they got a bite and could reel it in. The little boys and girls were giddy with delight every time they caught a new toy!
To make the DIY fishing pole:
buy a cheap butterfly net from a toy store or a dollar store (we found ours at Dollar General)
cut the tape holding the net onto the stick and remove the net and metal pieces
slide a thick, metallic cording/yarn through the holes that were holding the net in place. You can tie the cording off or tape it to the pole with cute Washi tape
cut your cording so that it is the proper height for a child to hold and throw over the other side of your paper seascape
on the dangling end of the fishing line, tie a large clothespin. This is how you will attach toys to their fishing pole!
We printed out some extra coloring pages of sea creatures and left out markers and crayons so any guests could do their own decorating and coloring.
The guest of honor was a little confused by the birthday song, but he was totally into his smash cake. He went for it face first. I could not stop laughing.
By the way, how cute was my parrot t-shirt? I got it from a local surf shop on Isle of Palms, and it was made by Billabong. I paired it with high-waisted shorts and colorful sandals for the casual party. The pom pom shoes were from Target.
For the rest of the guests, my mom and I made a sandcastle cake. It was 3 layers – 2 small and 1 large – of pound cake with cream cheese frosting, marshmallow castle turrets, gummy starfish, and crushed graham crackers and Nilla wafers for the sand. It was cute and delicious.
We also served Chick-Fil-A nuggets, gummy sharks, Swedish fish, goldfish, fruit, and “sand dollar” ice cream sandwiches. We used snickerdoodle cookies for the sandwiches as they already feel sandy.
Another little detail was leaving cute children’s books about the beach out on the low tables.
We also had a bubble machine blowing on the screened-in porch and had fun beach-themed toys to pick up and play with, like the crab catch mitts my nieces posed with.
The food was served out of beach pails and we finished the look with a fishing net, sand dollars, seashells, and tiny drink umbrellas dispersed on the table. To serve the food, we found super cute matching whale and goldfish paper plates and napkins from a local party supply store. It all came together beautifully.
Man oh man I love the beach and I’m so happy our littlest family member does too! It was a first birthday for the books!
We went to New York City recently so I could go to my BFF’s bachelorette party. Whoa, I’m such a party girl! The party was fun and I was grateful that Bobby came along to take care of Baby A while I had a night out with the bridesmaid gals and guy.
Even better, our family had an excuse to spend a long weekend together in Manhattan. The bummer? It rained and poured pretty much the whole time we were there. My view of the city was pretty much what you see below.
Luckily, I had planned ahead and researched an indoor play area to take Baby A in case of bad weather. We ended up going to City Treehouse (http://www.citytreehouse.com/) for a few hours on Saturday. It had a nice playroom for crawling babies, and a huge water table and pretend Treehouse to climb in the older kids room.
Baby A dressed appropriately, knowing it was a bachelorette weekend with the theme of “Send Nudes.”
Bobby played a lot with us, but I caught him being a naughty parent and playing on his phone. There were a lot of nannies with children, and I believe some of them thought I was a nanny also. It was very eye-opening to hear about their experience and see how they interacted with the children under their care.
As with most places in NYC, our hotel room was tiny so we didn’t want to be stuck there too much. We let Baby A play a little bit in there while we settled in and after his naps. He was interested in the land line telephone and in the interesting city sky views.
We quickly realized that we would need baby rain gear in order to get anywhere for meals or touring. We found a nearby Bye Bye Baby to get a universal stroller rain shield and baby raincoat. It was so nice to get out of the rain that I think we stayed in the superstore for close to four hours. Oops! The Mother’s Room was a nice place to feed the baby and take a much-needed body rest for the whole family. Nice and quiet. Thank you baby stores for providing these havens.
After gearing up and resting up, we had a great Korean lunch near our hotel. I found that people watching was the best baby lunch activity to occupy him while we enjoyed our bi bim bap and bulgogi. When Baby A finished eating, we let him face the street in his high chair and he was highly entertained by the scurrying pedestrians of midtown Manhattan.
On our first night, we had a special dinner with just the bride-to-be and her fiancé. It was fun letting them get to know our boy better and having one on one time with the couple. We even let little man stay up late so we could continue the fun back at our hotel lobby, catching up and telling stories while playing with the baby.
The bachelorette party was great. It’s the first time I had a night out since having a baby. It felt good to just be silly with my best friends. My favorite part of the evening was getting our Karaoke on in Koreatown. Our private room was so much fun.
The next day was coincidentally Mother’s Day. I considered my gift from Bobby to be him taking A the night before so I could go out. I never really give him the opportunity to do that for me because I love being home with my family so don’t seek out night outings ever. But this was an exception. Anyway, on Sunday we finally had sunny skies. My only non-damp clothes were a hodgepodge mixture of patterns and I looked like a homeless lunatic – my husbands’ description of my outfit. But I didn’t care. It was nice to get some outdoors time!
Soon after, it was time to head out of the city for a couple of nights on Long Island. Thanks for the fun night out to my gal pals! See you again soon NYC, my old stomping grounds!
When I was pregnant, I spent tons of timing looking on Pinterest for gender neutral baby bedroom/nursery ideas. My favorites tended to be black-and-white themed rooms with pops of bright color. I also found some very cute Woodland themed nurseries, though those tended to look more boyish. My instincts told me I was having a boy, but we chose not to find out with any tests or imaging.
In the end, I went my own way with Baby A’s nursery design. I used my late great grandmother’s orange sitting chair and a Land of Nod colorful jellybean-esquire wool rug as my starting point and built a colorful play room from there. Another great grandmother left me a needlepoint work of owls that I hung on the wall along with my own needlepoint work I made in high school. My mom and I DIY’d a fun art piece on the wall next to the crib with colorful fabrics in sewing hoops. I’ll add a post about how we made this craft in one day and link to it eventually! I also bought a really cool faux stuffed shark head from Target. Baby A loves that thing.
With all that color, I left the walls white. But something still felt missing. The last and greatest touch was adding chalkboard paint to two of the doors in the room. We started off with our own drawings, but as Baby A grows up it will be fun for him to have free reign on the chalk artwork for the room.
Above is a video room tour I made, just being silly, pre-baby and pre-chalk paint.
And here are some current photos of how the room looks now, lived in and played in!
Our family recently traveled to Atlanta to meet our new baby nephew. After arriving at Hartsfield International Airport, we decided to waste some of our free time in Atlanta. We ended up in Atlantic Station, where fate should have it that there was a free toddler playground set up.
We saw the turf of the square in Atlantic Station was speckled with little play houses and fun toy ride-on cars. Bubbles were blowing from machines on each corner and about 50 children and their parents were having fun playing and talking. The children were toddler age, so Baby A was on the young side. But seeing the other kids walking and crawling seemed to encourage him. He popped right up and cruised along the side of a playhouse filled with little boys. It was like a cute little frat house with all their babbling and laughing.
If I lived in Atlanta, I would definitely come to this free Tot Time every Tuesday morning to let my son interact with other children, have free reign over a much bigger space than we have in any room in our house, and to meet other moms. It’s not always easy to have a social life when you’re a new mother, so I would love to have this kind of weekly activity to get to know other moms with kids the same age as mine.
After our fun playtime, we ate at Rosa Mexicana on one side of the park’s perimeter. They have delicious tableside made guacamole. It was a splurge for us, but we were on vacation after all!
And finally, to continue vacation mode, we treated ourselves to Starbucks down the road. Happy day! We did not order Unicorn Frappucino’s.
This week, we are staying with my family in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina. This town lies halfway between downtown Charleston and the local beaches. It is an idyllic location with beautiful homes, sunshine, gardens, and lots of fun to be had.
Since my husband had to work, Baby A and I came here alone this time. Luckily, we have kept busy busy busy to keep our minds off missing Bobby for another holiday thanks to his career as a firefighter.
Most mornings, we’ve walked to Collective Coffee, outside of the I’on subdivision, for lattes. One day we tried their avocado toast and banana bread. Both were excellent. The baby even tried the avocado toast and give it two very chubby thumbs up.
While waiting on a very long line at Jestine’s – the famous fried chicken joint – my little man and I visited the beautiful Charleston Fire Department Engine 3 firehouse. It would be pretty great if firefighters could transfer their time on the job to other departments. I would vote that we move here! Judging by Baby A’s smile, he would like that too.
We attempted to go on an Easter egg hunt, but missed the fun due to naptime. Luckily, my mother had the most beautiful plastic eggs at her house that we played with instead.
My favorite thing, no matter where I am, is to go for long walks. Baby A and I took a lot through the I’on neighborhood. There are lakes and a beautiful path around the creek, plus the eye candy of Charleston homes to look at. And we passed a lot of dogs going for walks, something we both get excited over.
We were able to go out to dinner a few times over the week. I have been craving sushi badly, so I begged my family to help a girl out and bring us to a sushi restaurant. We chose Locals, based on locals’ recommendations. This restaurant has such a fun atmosphere and cool party vibe. We sat in the lounge area. The guys said the seats weren’t comfortable, but I couldn’t help imagining my girlfriends and I having cocktails and sushi and laughing away in this laid back section. Baby A enjoyed crawling around on the couch seating and checking out the ducks in the water behind the outdoor area of the restaurant. And dogs are allowed in the outdoor part of the bar, so we got some good petting time in.
Another day, we grabbed lunch on Sullivan’s Island. This beach town is one of my favorite places ever. We had a tasty meal at Home Team BBQ. They have a great chalkboard fence around the side that was perfect for photo opp’s.
During one of our many walks, we came across a swingset and playground. It’s so fun to swing and feel like a kid again. I recommend you try it the next time you see a playground.
I found a path that winds around the low country marsh that the Ravenel Bridge crosses. That’s the bridge that connects Mt. Pleasant and Charleston. And the bridge that is named after the family of the guy from Southern Charm. So that’s cool. Right? Maybe not. Anyway, I jogged on the 2.5 mile path and loved smelling all the honeysuckle and seeing cute little sitting areas like the one below.
At the end of the path, you are in a new neighborhood suddenly. I wandered around trying to navigate my way back to my parents’ house and came across this great Bible quote on a park entryway. The sign read, “Enter through the narrow gates for wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. Mat. 7:13-14“.
We still have a few days left here before we head to Atlanta for even more family time. Happy Easter to those who celebrate it!
When you think of New Orleans, the term “child-friendly” probably does not come to mind. In fact, NOLA is probably right below Las Vegas on the list of places that you wouldn’t bring your kids to. Alas, I am here to tell you that you can, nay, should bring your whole family to this fine city. There is a lot more to do here than to drink on Bourbon Street. Actually, if you ask the locals, that’s the place to avoid.
I’ll admit – my first year or two living in New Orleans consisted of a lot of partying. As a Tulane undergrad immediately after Hurricane Katrina hit, my friends and I hardly ever left our campus and the surrounding uptown neighborhood bars. Every once in a blue moon some of the coeds would venture downtown to the French Quarter to bar hop or do the Hand Grenade challenge. What is the Hand Grenade challenge, you ask? It’s when you buy a famous Hand Grenade at the first Tropical Isle you come across, then drink it as you walk down Bourbon. If you finish your drink before you hit the next Tropical Isle bar, you win! And your prize is to buy another Hand Grenade and walk back the other direction and do it again. Yikes.
Fast forward ten years, and here I am as a mom who hasn’t had an alcoholic beverage in almost two years. Needless to say, things have changed. Since getting pregnant, I started seeing this city with fresh eyes wearing kiddy shades. When my wonderful nieces came down for my baby shower, I really got into full kid-friendly tourist mode. And here are my top picks for what to do with your kids on vacation in New Orleans.
Rent Your Baby Gear
Did you know you can rent baby gear in many cities? Just the thought of hauling a stroller, a pack-n-play, and more turns me off of traveling with a baby. Nowadays there are prices involved with every piece of luggage you check, and/or you have to figure out how to cram it all in the car. Instead, pay a moderate fee to borrow the supplies you need after you arrive. Less hassle! One company that has rental gear here in New Orleans is Rockabye Baby Rentals.
Stay Somewhere with a Pool
New Orleans has a tropical climate, so it’s hot here most of the year. Because of that, many of the hotels have pools. Swimming is a fun vacation activity for the whole family, so why not plan for some pool time?
Picnic in the Park
We have beautiful parks here in New Orleans. Take the streetcar uptown to Audubon Park. Your little ones will love feeling the breeze through the open windows of the streetcar, while you’ll all enjoy the view of giant oak trees and beautiful southern mansions lining the thoroughfare. If you ride the streetcar just a few blocks past the park, you’ll find the newly opened uptown location of the world famous Willy Mae’s. The downtown location usually has lines around the block, but the new location hasn’t picked up such a crowd yet. Shhh don’t tell anyone! You can eat in or get take out of their highly lauded fried chicken. I suggest you bring some chicken and sides back down to Audubon Park and have a picnic. Your kids will enjoy watching all of the funny ducks playing in the water, the ample room to run around, and the playground. You will enjoy the fried chicken plus all of the above kid activities.
Palmer Park Craft Fair
Since you’re already uptown, take the streetcar just a bit further to the end of the line at Carrollton and Claiborne Avenues. When you get off, you’ll find a smaller park called Palmer Park. There is another playground here, but the best time to come is on the last Saturday of each month. If your visit falls at that time, you will catch the monthly craft fair. There are booths with local artisan’s wares – a great place to pick up a New Orleans souvenir – and live music and good food.
Go to the Zoo and the Cool Zoo
The Audubon Zoo is also located uptown, across the street from Audubon Park on the Magazine Street side. It’s a great zoo – we got married there! There are elephants, monkeys, alligators, and much more. During the summer, the childrens’ water park called Cool Zoo is also open inside the zoo. It’s a great way to cool off and have fun during the hotter months of the year.
Go to the Aquarium and Insectarium
Along with the zoo, the Audubon Institute boasts an aquarium and an insectarium. Both of these are located downtown. One is on the riverfront and one is on Canal Street. I can personally attest to the aquarium being the perfect outing for a baby. Our baby boy stares in awe at the colorful fish when we visit. It’s a lot of fun.
Ride the Rides at Carousel Gardens
City Park is just as big as New York City’s Central Park, and is filled with as many wonders. One of those is the children’s amusement park, Carousel Gardens. There is a beautiful zoo-themed carousel, a ferris wheel, a small roller coaster, and many more child-sized rides. There is also a train that you can take around the park. During Christmas, everything is lit up in spectacular light displays as part of Celebration in the Oaks. You should definitely check that out if you’re here around the holidays. There are other events here during the year as well, such as the Easter egg hunt in the spring.
Let Your Imaginations Run Free at Storybook Land
Oh my gosh, ya’ll. I loooove Storybook Land. This is also inside City Park, adjacent to the Carousel Gardens amusement park area. This little park is filled with life-size figurines and playsets from fairy tales and other well-known stories. There is the woman who lived in the shoe, the three little pigs, and much more for your toddlers to play in. I wish I had been brought her when I was a kid – it’s like heaven for an imaginative little one!
Play a Rousing Round of Putt Putt Golf
Yes, more City Park activities. As of a few years ago, there is now a Putt Putt Golf course in City Park. Fun for all!
More City Park extravaganza! Botanical gardens may seem too boring and adult for children, but this is a great place to let your kids explore and walk/run their energy out. The model train set is definitely intriguing to kids, especially when they can go in and see the conductor working on the train pieces in his little train station house. And many different cultural events are hosted within the garden, such as an Asian exhibit that we saw last year.
Have a Latte while your children browse the French bookstore & toy store on Magazine Street
Transport yourself to France, a big influencer on NOLA culture, by heading to The French Library (www.thefrenchlibrary.com). This beautiful children’s bookstore is filled with French language picture books. There are also some English favorites — Eloise is one of my absolute favorites dahhling — and a learning and play area for children where different classes and workshops are held. Upstairs, you’ll also find an outpost of a local coffee company, so you parents can enjoy a latte or other beverage while your children browse.
Skip the Cafe du Monde Lines and Have Your Beignets at the Riverwalk Mall
Yes, Cafe du Monde is a must-see for tourists in New Orleans. However, you don’t need to wait in the ridiculous line at the main shop in the French Quarter. If you head to the river and into the Riverwalk Mall, you’ll find a Cafe du Monde inside. The lines are shorter here, but you’ll enjoy the same delicious pastries and coffee. Plus, you just have to go out the door and you’ll have a wonderful view of the Crescent City Connection bridge over the Mississippi River. There is plenty of space on this boardwalk for your kids to run around and have powdered sugar wars.
Have Lunch at the Lake
Even though I was born in New Orleans and came here for two semesters at Tulane, I had no clue there was a lakefront area until I moved back as an adult. Where had this been all my life? Pack a picnic from the nearby Robert’s grocery store and eat lunch looking at the sailboats on the lake. On weekends, the waterfront is more lively and you will probably see lots of people showing off their cool cars. If you’ve got some extra dough to spend, you can also eat at one of the restaurants on the water such as Landry’s.
While you’re downtown, find the big blue doors on Julia Street and go inside for a great Children’s Museum experience. I worked here for a while, so I can attest to the joy that is inside. There are lots of great S.T.E.M. exhibits, plus the fan favorite, Little Winn Dixie, where kids shop for groceries ( or “make groceries” as we say around here) with their own child-sized shopping carts.
Of course, your whole family will enjoy all the sights, sounds, and tastes of the French Quarter as well. Just keep those kiddies off of Bourbon Street.
We have been on a tight budget so far this year since I left my job to stay home with our baby. I really wanted to do something special for my hubby’s birthday, but I had to be creative due to said budget. Instead of […]
The Angola Prison Rodeo is a wondrous thing. If you live outside of Louisiana, you probably haven’t heard of it. Even my friends in New Orleans who have heard of it had never been. Bobby and I had to see what it was about. Now, […]