Category: DIY

The Gift of Redbox

Who doesn’t love a movie night? I remember the days of Blockbuster (or if you grew up in my hometown – Video Scene). Wandering around looking for a movie that was in stock then rushing back before noon the following day to return it. Ah, the things our children will never experience.

Now we hop online, find the latest release and reserve it on the Redbox down the street at Harris Teeter so we can swing by on our way home to pick up a movie and a pizza. Family night for under $15!

That’s why I am a huge fan of giving Redbox promo codes, which is what we gave Mike’s teachers this year at Christmas and the end of the year. I purchased the codes (a five code minimum), had them emailed to me directly, then a code on a card and taped it to a box of popcorn. Easy, less than $5 per person AND everyone raved about how nice it was to have an ‘experience’ and not another mug. If you really want to spoil someone, add some movie theater candy and fuzzy socks in popcorn bowl.

So as the summer comes to a close and you are rushing around for a thank you gift for your babysitter, baseball coach or swim instructor, don’t break the bank. Give the gift of a movie night!

Here are some gift cards to print, just add the promo code and popcorn!





Notice how there isn’t a fancy disclaimer about how Redbox sponsored this post? Good. Because they didn’t! I just think they offer a great way to have a movie night and make it easy to give a gift. Unless Rebox wants to throw a little something my way … (hint, hint, nudge, nudge). 

An Out of This World Birthday Party

I try not to be the type of parent that tries to ‘keep up with the Jones’ but Mike’s first ‘non-family’ birthday party gave me a stomachache. I wanted it to be fun for the kids (most of whom I only knew by sight) and not a horrible experience for the parents. Turns out I had nothing to worry about! Mike and his friends had an awesome time at his astronaut birthday party.

Anyone who knows me knows I love a good theme. Thanks to Amazon, Etsy and Pinterest we were able to dive into Mike’s chosen theme – Astronauts. Our menu was simple:

  • Asteroids: Chick-Fil-A nuggets
  • Rockets: Fruit Kabobs
  • Energy Packs: Single serving chips
  • Sunbeams: Mini-Corn dogs
  • Space Salad: Macaroni Salad with space pasta
  • Space Ice Cream
  • Rocket Fuel – Water bottle/Lemonade

We decided to jump on the ‘no present’ bandwagon. Of course that doesn’t mean no gifts from family, but there is no need to ask his friends to bring a gift. Instead, we asked them to bring diapers for the 12 For 1 Diaper Drive. I wasn’t sure how this would go over with Mike, but we didn’t hear a peep about it. He was plenty spoiled by his family and that’s okay!

For activities we had a craft table with space themed stickers and paper plates to decorate. I also discovered an awesome Etsy seller, Unusuaisle, who makes personalized coloring pages. She made one for Mike that was space and birthday themed. It was a great way to make a regular craft table a little special. 

We also had an idea ‘fail’ that turned out okay in the long run. We wanted to make one of the small closets a ‘planetarium‘ with a constellation nightlight and glow in the dark beach balls. The nightlight wasn’t as vivid as we hoped (but I HIGHLY recommend it for a bedroom), but the kids liked kicking the beach balls to each other (or playing a very intense game of dodge ball).

The biggest hit, I think, was the two boxes of moon sand. Even the parents liked feeling the soft ‘sand’ and using the space figures to move it around. It was worth the mess and the last minute hunt the night before for baby oil.

Another Etsy win was printable photo booth props from PaperBuiltShop- space themed of course! I just printed, cut and then taped them to thin dowels. We bought a cheap (and very LONG) roll of galaxy background and we instantly had a photo booth!

In keeping with theme, I had to make sure we were dressed appropriately. Which is easy for the boys, both Mike and S. got t-shirts from Amazon. I hemmed and hawed because finding a plus sized themed shirt (that was truly plus sized) is a struggle. BUT, TwoStringJane pulled a miracle shipped me a shirt just in time (despite the typical timeline). We are pretty fabulous space people, right?

There you have it folks, an out of this world 4th birthday party!

Kindness Rocks – Literally


I try not to be political on my blog, but stick with me here, there’s a purpose.

Trump just completed his first 100 days in office (which, for the record, was the longest 100 days of my life). And I feel like since the election so many people are looking for ways to counteract the negativity and hate. Whether they are giving money to organizations that the administration speaks out against or national non-profits that have a budget on the chopping block. I will say, despite the reasoning, I love all the local social justice and action going on.

I am pretty active on a local mom’s Facebook group and out of that group an idea for a spin off group was born – Crofton is Kind. The mission is simple, ‘We are a group of parents and community members seeking to foster kindness in our children and our communities’ children. Whether you’re Christian, Jewish, Muslim or Atheist, Black or White, Gay or Straight, immigrant or native born, Republican or Democrat, a Mom or Dad, Aunt, Uncle, Grandparent, or neighbor…as long as you support KINDNESS then we support YOU!’

Someone posted in this group about this really cool initiative going on in Ohio where people paint average rocks and hide them around the community. When they are found, they are shared with others as a way to spread beauty. I really liked the idea because it spans all ages. Here’s the video for some background.

My creative mind was popping and I decided to head to Michaels, take Mikey on a rock hunt, and spread some rock love. Turns out, it was stupid simple and not very expensive (we spent about $12) You need:

  • Rocks (duh) – we found them in our neighborhood, but you can also buy them at a home improvement store or the like
  • Acrylic paint – make sure it has outside use and NOT washable (because, rain)
  • Paint brushes – or sponges, q-tips or fingers!
  • Modge Podge – or something to seal the paint afterwards
  • A note – you can include a note on the rock about what to do next or why you they got the rock. I did our hashtag on a handwritten piece of paper

Now that we have our supplies, let’s rock! (See what I did there?)

If you collected your rocks outside, they need a good scrubbing. Tip: use rocks that are a smooth as possible. Lots of bumps are hard to paint and seal. 

Paint! Make sure if you are doing multiple layers each one is dry before starting the next. You can paint anything that moves you. We did a mix of phrases, shapes and designs. One thing I learned, depending on the age of the kids participating, you might want to paint a bunch of rocks a solid color first, then let them decorate. Getting set up, painting one coat and watching it dry can be excruciating for little ones.

Once you are done painting and your rock is dry, it’s time to seal it. I will be honest, this made me so nervous because I didn’t want to mess up our hard work. BUT – it’s important and if you are 110% sure your rock is dry, you are golden. With the Modge Podge, I just painted a thin layer over the entire rock. When that layer was dry I ‘Modge Podged’ the paper hashtag over the bottom.

Now the other fun part – ‘plant them’! You can leave them on fences, by trees, trashcans, on benches and around playgrounds. Mike REALLY loved this part. He laid them under trees JUST SO. We talked on our walk about how when people find them it will make them smile.

If you paint some rocks or find some, share a picture in the comments!

Stupid Simple Chocolate Marshmallows

Looking for something stupid simple to make for holiday parties or teacher gifts? I have your answer – chocolate marshmallows. I came across these on Pinterest and have made them for a baby shower and a holiday party ultimately making me the most favorite invitee. Well, probably not, but I like to pretend. These are cheap, easy to make and SO addictive.


  • Large Marshmallows
  • Dipping Chocolate (I like Baker’s brand)
  • Sticks
  • Decorations
  • Parchment paper


  • I like using paper straws as the ‘handle’ because paper straws are pretty. I cut them in half. You can also use lollipop sticks or popsicle sticks.  Just make sure you cut them to a decent length.
  • Stick them in the marshmallows.

  • Prepare the chocolate based on its directions
  • Then dip! Dip each one in about half way, and be patient while the excess drips off. You don’t want it to be gloopy.
  • Press the bottom into your decorations. I like seasonal sprinkles or chopped nuts. I did learn that sugar sprinkles don’t work well unless you are using white dipping chocolate.

  • Let them harden on parchment paper for about an hour and then enjoy!

See? Stupid simple. The whole thing takes about half an hour (max I would guess) and I was the hero; not only at my house, but the parties I attended! #youarewelcome

A Birthday for a Super Hero!

We are still scratching our head about how Mike got into super heroes. Neither myself or S. have every had much interest in comics, the movies or know the difference between Marvel and … the other brand. Yet here we were, planning a super hero birthday. And Mikey had a birthday fit for a super hero thanks to Pinterest and our tribe.

We have always enjoyed Mikey having an early June birthday because the weather tends to be cool enough to be outside and warm enough to venture into my parent’s backyard pool. S. also had the amazingly practical idea to have the party from 11a-1p. Give them lunch and get them a nap – the parents were THRILLED to have some fun, wear out the kids and get home for the afternoon. Parents take note!

S. and I had the best time planning the menu – how many food items can we include that have a ‘hero’ theme? Apparently quite a few! We had DIY HERO sandwiches, power fruit and the very popular POPcorn!  My mother-in-law made veggies in dip with cute cups the kids could take home. I found the idea for the comic cones on Pinterest, but didn’t have any comic books. Remember Matt from the podcast I was on? Well he LOVES Wonder Woman and was more than happy to scan some pages in for me and S. perfected the rolling technique. Oh and that awesome cake? Done by my friend Steve who was on Food Network’s Holiday Baking Challenge. He just happens to own the local B&B with his husband. #famousfriends

PicMonkey Collage

As for decorations, I have discovered the concept of buying digital downloads from Etsy. For just a few bucks (or less) I can download ‘paper’ or graphics which I used for the invite. Hell, I can even download prints or banners! It gave me a sense of being a creative DIYer without being an obsessive perfectionist. I also had my Dad and brother make a phone booth out of a fridge box. It turned out so cute and the kids had a fun time running in and out.



I had planned on having the kids make super hero masks, but ultimately everyone had so much fun running around and swimming we forgot all about the activity! I think that is a sign of a great party.


And because this is my blog and I do what I want, here are some of my favorite pictures from the party. I think my super power involves surrounding myself with awesome people who like to help make my vision happen AND have fun in the process. (and if you consider yourself a super parent, check out BootsTees on Etsy!


Sand is So Last Year

I’ve been pretty quiet lately, mainly because my blog is going through a branding upgrade thanks to a fabulous friend of mine! Once that is in place, I will be back to my regular posting and updates. HOWEVER, it has been gorgeous out and since everyone is working on their backyards, I wanted to share Mike’s Rock Box.

I found this idea when I suggested getting Mike a sandbox. S. couldn’t stand the thought of sand EVERYWHERE and it didn’t take much convincing for me to agree. I cruised alternatives and Mike’s Rock Box was born! A few people asked how I made it and guys? It’s stupid simple.

Here’s what you need:

  • A hard plastic pool
  • pea gravel (I used 2 bags)
  • A drill
  • Toys

Use the drill to pop a few small holes in the bottom so when it rain, it will drain and not give you a pool with rocks (though that might be fun too). Toss the rocks in the pool with a few toys and let your little construction worker at it!

rock box

Well Hello Fresh!

I’ve seen so much hype around subscription boxes lately, I even tried RocksBox a few months ago and loved getting mail. So when my Momma and Sister-in-Law started raving about HelloFresh, I was cautiously interested. Here’s how it works:

Each week I log into my account and chose 3 meals out of the 5 they are offering. All the ingredients are surprisingly fresh as the name would lead you to believe. To be honest, the meals are not what I would normally pick if I was looking through a cookbook, but that’s half the fun. Did you know I like Tilapia? Me neither!  It also guarantees that my family is eating 3 healthy meals a week – which as a family with working parents is a huge win.

On Friday, when I chose my meals to be delivered, I come home to a well packed box with 3 bags. Each bag contains the measured ingredients  for each meal and a recipe card with pictures and detailed instructions. When I am ready to make a meal, I just pull out the recipe and bag and get started!

Each dish can be prepared in about 30 minutes and is more than enough for 2 people, and you can upgrade to 4 people if your family is bigger or you are having guests. Meat-free house? No biggie! They have veggie boxes too. The food is also kid friendly and Mikey is at the perfect age to instill a love of vegetables.

PicMonkey Collage

It’s really nice to know that I have everything I need to make a meal. While I do my best meal planning and shopping, it was inevitable that I would go to make chicken for dinner and be out of chicken. Everything I need is right there from HelloFresh (but stock up on butter, oil and oddball utensils like a garlic press and zester). Here’s some of the meals we’ve had:

Parmesan Crusted Chicken with Tangy Balsamic Potato Salad
Pan-Roasted Salmon with Mustard-Butter Bean Salad
Roasted Pork Chops with Onion Gravy & Rosemary Mashed Potatoes

Did I mention that each week is $69 and you are not locked in? Each week I am able to see what the menu is either opt in or opt out. I love not committing based on our tastes, schedule and budget.

The only downside is you still actually have to make the meal. But if you HAVE to make dinner (and Child Protective Services likes to know kids are eating), HelloFresh is the easiest and healthiest option. Want to try HelloFresh? Use this link to get $40 off your first box. I bet you couldn’t buy ingredients for 3 fresh, healthy meals for $29.

I signed up and after my first week, I told HelloFresh I was going to do a review, so they gave me a free week to try. They can’t afford to pay me for a good review, so I gave them an honest one.

In Case of Emergency

Now is the time of year in the DC Metro area when the weather becomes a bit of a problem. The rest of the country makes fun of us for shutting everything down the minute the weatherman calls for flurries, but it’s honestly for the good of the people. Though we are a transient area, not all of us know how to throw on snow tires and drive 10 over the speed limit safely.

This is also the time of the year when I get over paranoid and over prepared when it comes to keeping our cars stocked with necessities. I am convinced we need to have at least two weeks worth of supplies on the floor of the backseat (you know, so when we are stuck in the snow and can’t get to the trunk). Perhaps I am exaggerating the two weeks, but it’s pretty damn close.

Also, as a parent, an emergency is not what it used to be. Mike having a major meltdown in the car seat because it is past mealtime is an emergency. Realizing I forgot to put more diapers in the diaper bag is an emergency.


Here’s what I am keeping in our cars (in this handy bag):

{Diapers and wipes} These should probably be in the car anyway, just in case.

{Bottles of water} Bottles of water tends sit in my car anyway since we are too lazy to bring it in with groceries and too forgetful to remember.

{Snacks} These are probably used the most on days when traffic is bad on the way home from work and I am starving. Thankfully Mike’s snacks double as Momma’s snacks. Goldfish anyone?

{Book and distraction} Waiting for a tow truck with a toddler? A book and small toy are a good choice to keep him occupied.

{First Aid Kit} We bought some pre-made, but make your own with band-aids, alcohol wipes, first aid cream, etc.

{Hand sanitizer} Because kids are gross.

{Glass cracker/seatbelt cutter} Driving over the Bay Bridge regularly it has crossed my mind that I might have an accident and go off the edge. I am prepared for the worst!

Now is a great time to print out or update your car seat emergency sticker too!

Go Play By Yourself

In my Pinterest binge a few weeks ago I was looking for some inside toddler activities now that the weather is getting colder.  I found a few articles on independent, self-led play that stuck with me. A day later and a few bucks spent at the Dollar Tree I had a few random things for Mike to play with. I’m not talking balls or crayons, no. That’s too easy! I bought pom-poms, dry beans, muffin tins and mini Christmas bows to make a sensory box.

We quickly learned he might be a little too young for the beans in a box. Or S. and I might be a little too concerned about making a {huge} mess.

Just a plastic tub with dry beans and measuring cups.
Just a plastic tub with dry beans and measuring cups.

BUT – I gave Mike the pom-poms and muffin tin and it was a hit. I will be the first to tell you, it is really, really hard not to dictate HOW to play. I wanted to say ‘put the big ones in his pot’ … but why? I have no idea. It is what makes sense to me – the 30-something college graduate. I bit my tongue and waited to see what Mike did.

Just a muffin tin and a bag of pom-poms

He took the pom-poms to the couch, out of the bag and then tried to put them back in the bag. He picked them up, looked at them, put them down. I said nothing. I did nothing. About 15 minutes went by before he got bored, but I found it so interesting to see what he did. How HE interpreted the playtime. I’ve tried to put the concept of not dictating playtime into practice and sometimes it’s hard, but it’s also really really cool. I see a little imagination budding and Mike working out his own challenges like getting on the couch or putting the lid on his bubbles.

I really want to encourage first time parents to tell your kiddos to go play while you sit back and watch what happens. Just head over to Goodwill, the Dollar Tree or another super cheap store and pick up a few random items. Use your imagination!

Here’s Mike and his pom-poms (we did clean up our mess):

#TDCLBlogtober14 Day 5 – Favorite Fall recipe

Fall is all about the crock pot. It is just so easy and seems to make the house so much warmer and cozier. My favorite recipe is Spiced Slowcooker Applesauce. I made it for our first Hanukkah and set it to cook overnight. The next morning I took a taste and quickly made another batch. As predicted, it went FAST!


  • 8 apples – peeled, cored and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 3/4 cup packed from sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
Combine the apples and water in a slow cooker; cook on Low for 6 to 8 hours. Stir in the brown sugar and pumpkin pie spice; continue cooking another 30 minutes.
I didn’t have a picture of the applesauce, but didn’t I look cute making my first Hanukkah dinner as a wife?