Secret Life of Pets Party with Secret Life of Pets cake and games
If you have followed this blog for any length of time, then you know I love throwing big parties for my kids. I look forward to their birthday parties all year long.

Elias turned 8 this summer, and we decided it was time for a not-quite-so-big birthday party. He could invite eight friends to see a movie, then come back to our house for pizza and cake. Parents were invited to stay or pick-up their child at the end of the party.

He decided to invite his friends to see The Secret Life of Pets. Honestly, after so many big parties, it felt so strange to not be making lots of decorations, planning big games, etc., but it was perfect for him and this age. Here’s how we kept it simple for Elias’s Secret Life of Pets birthday party.

Send evites

Rather than print the invitation, we simply emailed an invitation through evite. It saved a lot of time and money by not having the printed invitation, and it made it easy to communicate with the guests.

Buy pre-made decorations

I love a good theme, so wanted at least a few The Secret Life of Pets decorations. Party City was having a 50% off sale, so I bought them there, but Amazon has everything too. We got the door hanging (which I used as a small photo back drop), tablecloth, paper dinner plates, dessert plates, napkins and hanging decorations. It kept things simple, and I didn’t have to make everything!

Order cake from a baker

Secret Life of Pets Party with Secret Life of Pets cake and games

I enjoy baking cakes, but after buying the past few years’ birthday cakes), I find it is a lot less stressful to buy party cakes. I enlisted the help of local Nashville baker Whitney Waters (email me for contact info), and she did an incredible job on Elias’s Secret Life of Pets cake. Isn’t the dog awesome?

Secret Life of Pets Party with Secret Life of Pets cake and games

Not only was her decorating totally on point, it was seriously the best tasting birthday cake we have ever had.

Past cakes: Star Wars cake, Hello Kitty cake, Fairy Party cake, Minions cake and Finding Dory cake

Don’t go overboard on food

Secret Life of Pets Party with Secret Life of Pets cake and games

Rather than order pizza, we simple made a bunch of frozen pizzas. This allowed us to not order too many pizzas and kept cost down. I also made a simple Italian salad for the adults.

Have a silly string war

Secret Life of Pets Party with Secret Life of Pets cake and games

What boy doesn’t love silly string? I bought cans 90% off at Target after Halloween last year, knowing that they would be put to good use at some point.

Secret Life of Pets Party with Secret Life of Pets cake and games

Secret Life of Pets Party with Secret Life of Pets cake and games

Secret Life of Pets Party with Secret Life of Pets cake and games

Each child got two cans because I learned after Elias’s Star Wars silly string battle that one can didn’t go very far! :) The kids an absolute blast in our cul-de-sac. Ezra wasn’t sure what to think of it all!

Play yard games

We also had a variety of yard games set up for the boys, like corn hole and Frisbee golf.

Give balls for favors

Secret Life of Pets Party with Secret Life of Pets cake and games

Instead of favor bags, all the boys got light-up footballs that I scored 90% off at Target in their summer clearance. I was so excited to get the $10 balls for $1. They were a big hit and the boys had fun tossing them in the yard. I also liked the idea of giving balls as a nod to the dogs in The Secret Life of Pets.

Secret Life of Pets Party with Secret Life of Pets cake and games

It was a totally easy and fun birthday party and reminded me that things don’t have to be complicated to be fun and memorable for kids. That said, I still prefer going all out – ha!

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An Unintended Break + Deals Worth Checking Out

by jessicaturner on August 29, 2016


Gosh, I didn’t intend to go quiet last week, but if you follow me on Instagram you may saw that I had a HUGE video shoot at my house on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The video shoot was for a big project that I’m working on and it’s SO hard keeping it a secret. But, more is coming soon, I promise. :) I worked for 26 days straight and just needed to take a few days off.

Today I’m headed to New York City for a blog work trip and to see an old friend. I’ll be writing on the plane, so be sure to check back this week for lots of fun and inspiring content.

In the mean time, here are a few quick deals I wanted to share with you:


Free apps: Duck Duck Moose, an award-winning developer of children’s learning apps, is now part of Khan Academy. In honor of the new partnership, they have made all 21 of their apps free (available for android, iPhone and iPad). We have loved Duck Duck Moose for years, and I am so excited about this promo. If you have kids under 10, go check these out!


Audible is offering some incredible deals right now with their daily deal anniversary sale. I score 13 books for $30. If you haven’t yet tried Audible, click on the link to try for free! Amazon Prime members get three free books and non Prime members get one. Select your free book, then shop the sale. I love Audible! It helps me to read so many more books each much because I read while doing almost anything.


Tons of great books are on sale on Kindle right now. I seriously STOCKED UP this weekend. Here are a few worth checking out:

The House Girl: $1.99 (This was one of my favorite reads of 2015)

The Cuckoo’s Calling: $3.99 (Written by JK Rowling (uses a pen name), many have raved about this murder mystery)

The Gilded Hour: $1.99 (I have heard AMAZING things about this book and actually just bought the audio version.)

Orphan Train: $3.99 (If you like historical fiction, you will enjoy this.)

Big Magic: $3.99 (Elizabeth Gilbert’s book is a must read for creatives)

All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenting: $0.99 (I have this on my shelf to read after many parents told me that it was one of the best parenting books they ever read. This sale prompted me to pull it off!)

America’s First Daughter: $1.99 (I can’t wait to read this book!)

The Girl With No Name: $0.99  (For lovers of WWII fiction, this is a great deal.)

Once We Were Brothers: $1.99 (I downloaded this, too!)

The Pearl That Broke Its Shell: $1.99 (The description says that it is reminiscent of Khaled Hosseini, which was enough for me.)

Summer Island: $1.99 (Written by The Nightingale author Kristin Hannah. Her books are always page turners.)


Two of dear blogging friends, Audrey and Vera are incredible mothers and business owners. Their new CEO shirts just released from Cents of Style are perfect for moms who are CEO of their homes or entrepreneurs. The shirts are super soft and have a very flattering fit. Get your’s for $19.95 with the code CEO2.

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21 Rainy Day Activities & Crafts

August 19, 2016

It is going to be a rainy weekend in Nashville. We don’t have any big weekend plans except soccer, which I expect is going to be rained out. I have a feeling we will be busting out the craft supplies to do some of these rainy day activities. This inspiring round-up of rainy day activities […]

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Perfect Water Park for Kids: Beech Bend Park

August 16, 2016

Growing up in Wisconsin, we went to Noah’s Ark every summer. Billed as America’s Largest Waterpark (at the time), those slides hold many precious memories of my childhood and teen years. The Sunday before school started, we decided to go to a water park. Living in Nashville, there are several nearby water parks – the […]

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Preparing for Malaysia: Any Tips?

August 12, 2016

Batu Caves photo credit: Lanka Tour At the beginning of November, Matthew and I will be traveling to Malaysia for an 8-day trip. I have a speaking engagement in Kuala Lampur, and we plan to spend a few extra days sightseeing. Malaysia is not a country I ever imagined visiting, so it is exciting and overwhelming to […]

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25 Popsicle Recipes Your Family Will Love

August 10, 2016

In Nashville we are still in the thick of the summer heat, which means lots of popsicles. Homemade popsicles are so easy to make and oftentimes way yummier than what you can buy at the store. Popsicles are also really fun to make with your children. I hope this round-up of 25 popsicle recipes inspires […]

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How to Help Protect Your Child from Sexual Abuse and Molestation: A Pediatrician’s Advice

August 5, 2016

As parents, we want to keep our kids safe. My friend Tobi is a Nashville pediatrician and mom of two. I recently read the below post from her on Facebook and asked if I could republish it here. She had written it in response to a friend sharing an article about how to protect your kids from […]

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Elias & Adeline’s First Day of School

August 4, 2016

Elias and Adeline had their first day of school yesterday. I can’t believe I have a second grader and a kindergartener. We always take pictures on our deck on the first day and last day of the school year. I was amazed how smooth the morning went and that the kids didn’t fuss at all […]

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July Reads + $5 Book of the Month Deal

August 1, 2016

This month was a little slow for me on the reading front, though I can’t pinpoint one specific reason why. That said, I finished four wonderful books and started two more, including several that will make it in my 2016 Top Ten list, so this month’s post is rich with recommendations! Lilac Girls: I listened […]

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9 Ideas for Encouraging Your Kids to be Generous

July 29, 2016

A generous spirit is a quality I believe most parents long to see their children to possess. Kids who experience life through a generous lens are not only more apt to become generous adults but they’re also more inclined to volunteer, to support important causes, and to become more intentional stewards of their time, finances, […]

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