First Year Parenting: Lessons Learned the Hard Way

Recap on First Year #Parenting: Lessons Learned the Hard way |

Now that Brielle is over a year old, I’m reflecting on my first year as a mom and sharing some lessons I learned the hard way. Hopefully you or someone you know can learn from my mistakes, be more prepared than I was or just get a chuckle at my missteps!

  • Pack extra clothes for mom. One of the first times I was out doing errands on my own with her, we had a bit of a diaper mishap and both my shirt and our Ergo Baby Carrier were victims. Luckily I wasn’t far from home and was able to get home without too much embarrassment. But had I been further from home, having an extra change of clothes in the car for me would’ve been much appreciated!

First Time Mom #Parenting advice: Don't let them play with the diaper stockpile |

  • Don’t let them play with the diaper stockpile.  Did I ever tell you about that one time that I washed a diaper because someone loved to “put it in the basket” – it being any object and the basket being the laundry basket? Yeah. She was no longer allowed to play with the diaper stockpile after that. Getting diaper gel out of a washing machine is NOT fun!
  • Pack your nightlight when you travel away from home. In Brielle’s first year, she only slept away from home one night! We went to Allie’s baby shower when she six months (to the day) and had our first experience realizing that some houses are darker than others. We used a nightlight more for me so I can see with those late night feedings/diaper changes her than for being scared of the dark. Having my own nightlight would’ve been easier.
  • Exchange clothing sizes sooner than later. We received SO MANY adorable clothes at Brielle’s baby shower. Too many of the same sizes sometimes. I wanted to exchange sizes, not return the item but sometimes I waited too long and it was out of season by the time I thought of it. No one wants to keep clothes in their closet with the tags still on them that babies outgrow!

First time mom #parenting advice: Colored Icing sometimes stains |

  • Colored icing sometimes stains their body. I bought a small Carvel ice cream cake for Derek, her and I to enjoy on her actual birthday, knowing that we’d do cupcakes a few days later at her family party. We let her go to town digging into the cake while we ate around the outside. She loved it and I got that sloppy mess photo that everyone craves. But afterwards she had to go straight to the bath due to the blue icing not coming off with a soap and paper towel wash. Luckily she came out non Smurf like and a happy girl!
  • Push up their sleeves and pin back their hair before eating. This piggy backs off the last point but we learned the hard way on how to get her ready for food. Kids are messy so do your best to get everything you can out of the way! reviews Bright Starts Hide n Spin Monkey |

  • Turn off toys with sounds before going to bed. Before putting her to bed I “set up her room” which included cleaning up all the toys from the floor and putting them in her Rock n Play. Derek did the same in the living room with a basket. We also made sure to hit “off” for any of those toys we know will randomly go on if they aren’t being played with for a while (example: the Vtech Learning Walker we love so much and the Fisher Price Puppy). Otherwise, right when baby is about to be out we’d hear “THE SUN IS SHINING” and who ever wants the sun to shine at 8pm?
  • Recognize when it’s time to plan for baby’s awake time more than their sleep time. When Brielle was really little and I was over the “sleep when the baby sleeps” early newborn phase, I’d use those precious nap sessions to run errands, knowing that she’d sleep the whole time we were out due to the lull of the car/stroller. At a certain point I realized she needed the stimulation of being “out” and we should enjoy those activities with an awake baby. Playdates were needed to occupy her awake states so I could get stuff done at home quietly during her nap times. It took some time before I realized this so recognize it when it’s happening moms!

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6 Tips for Working With Brands: Part II The Pitch

6 MORE tips when working with brands: The Opening Pitch. #blogtips |

As someone who has worked on several blogger outreach programs for consumer goods companies, I have had many experiences on the other side of blogging – from the company’s perspective. I’ve already shared 6 Tips When Working With Brands based on my experiences which focused on making it easy for them to communicate with you when they hunt you out. Today I want to share 6 more tips on ways you can be more successful when you write to them aka giving them “the pitch.”

1. Make your subject line unique and mention your blog by name.

Start with the general topic you are reaching out about and end with your blog’s name, right there in the subject. It will help categorize you in their inbox and even remind them about you when they see your name in print once you start a relationship. Example: “Holiday Gift Guide 2014 Request from” or “Product review request from”

2. Mention the company or a favorite product in your pitch. 

Companies know that you as a blogger may be reaching out to multiple companies during any given time but they want to feel special too! Address them by name and not “To Whom It May Concern.” It also doesn’t hurt to fluff up their ego a little and talk about a specific product of theirs you love and why. This shows that you are a true fan and not just grabbing at straws to try to get free product. Just make sure you are mentioning the correct company/product in your pitch. You’d be surprised how many people are copying and pasting yet forget to change one part!  Not a great first impression!

3. Follow the company before you make your pitch. 

If you want to work with a company and you want them to follow you, before you reach out and provide your media kit, make sure to follow them on all the channels you want to be followed on. This shows your initiative to work with them socially. Don’t put the work in their hands.

4. Don’t put the work in their hands.

I’ll reiterate it from my last point. You’d be surprised how many people would reach out on Facebook or through email and leave their message with “please email me for details on my rates and availability.” Just NO. Give them the basic information they’d be looking for in a media kit or a brief email and throw in your pitch at the end. It’s ok to say you’re looking forward to connecting but don’t direct them to email you if you want to work with them. It makes it seem like you’re giving them a chore.

5. Don’t be too wordy.

Give a brief introduction on yourself and your readers, stats and propose a way to work together in a somewhat short pitch. Don’t reiterate everything that’s already on your “about page” about the history on why you came to be the awesome blogger that you are. Don’t get too wordy or include too many paragraphs or else your company contact will skim and possibly even skip you. Sorry, but they just don’t have time!

6. Include hyperlinks in your email.

If you want them to check you out, link them to what they should see! Include your blog as a hyperlink in the opening paragraph when you mention it by name or list it and your social media channels in your signature.  Companies will most likely not Google you based on a proposal email alone. Include the links and make it easy for them. (and so they can see that you already follow them – reiteration of point 3!)

I hope that these 6 points will help you make successful connections with the brands you love most! Good luck!

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Quick and Easy Halloween Treats: Monster Pretzel Rods

DISCLOSURE: Some of the links in this post contain affiliate links. Know that I only promote and recommend items I personally use and stand behind. To learn more about my affiliates, please review my disclosure policy here

Quick and Eay #Halloween treat: Monster Pretzel Rods |

Halloween is quickly approaching! At yet another playdate with my nephews, I took the opportunity to come up with a fun snack for the kids to fit the season. I was eyeing (pun intended) these Wilton Candy Eyeballs and made some monster pretzel rods!

Tip: Store sprinkle containers upside down so you can see what's inside in your supply bin |

This is pretty simple to do. Just raid your cabinets for melting chocolates and sprinkles and get creative! As you can see, I have quite an assortment of sprinkles, jimmies or whatever you call these candied treats in my collection. Tip: Store containers upside down so you can see what’s inside when raiding through your drawer!

Quick and Eay #Halloween treat: Monster Pretzel Rods |

I had left over blue and yellow melting chocolate from Brielle’s birthday party. Good old color theory taught me that blue and yellow made green, which was perfect for these monsters!

Quick and Eay #Halloween treat: Monster Pretzel Rods |

Tip: pour a small splash of vegetable oil and put in the microwave on the defrost setting in 20 second increments until it was well mixed and ready for dipping.
After dipping the end of each pretzel rod in the green chocolate, I got to work mixing and matching my sprinkle collection to make some funny monster characters. Overall, I think they came out really cute and the kids thought they were yummy!

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Just A Girl and Her Blog, Snap, Sowdering About, Creations by Kara, DIY Dreamer, Kitchen Fun with My 3 Sons, Craft Dictator, Posed Perfection, Too Much Time On My Hands, Flamingo Toes, The GIrl Creative, Second Chance to Dream, Pink When, Classy Clutter,

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Fall Kids Craft: Leaf Sun Catchers

Fall Leaf SunCatcher Kids #Craft |

I recently shared a family play date we had when my nephews Blake and Logan. Besides enjoying some good old fashion fun with all our toys (aren’t the best toys the ones you don’t own and get to play with at someone else’s house?) and some yummy snacks provided by Happy Family, but I also made sure we’d have some crafty time when we made leaf sun catchers.


  • Contact Paper (bought a big roll of it at Walmart in the home section)
  • Ripped up pieces of Tissue Paper (AC Moore 50% coupon my friends!)
  • Scissors
  • Painter’s Tape
  • Construction Paper

Fall Leaf SunCatcher Kids #Craft |

To prepare, I cut two of the same size pieces of contact paper per child. Peel away the adhesive cover to one piece and use painter’s tape to stick it to the wall, sticky side out. Save the matching piece for later. Next, cut out leaf outlines from construction paper and add to the sticky panels.

Fall Leaf SunCatcher Kids #Craft |

The kids took the tissue paper pieces and stuck them to the paper any which way they pleased.  They started to make a game out of it, applying them as fast as they could to all the sticky parts.

Fall Leaf SunCatcher Kids #Craft |

Once they were thoroughly covered, we stuck the other piece of contact paper to the sheet to sandwich our tissue paper creations inside. With one rough cut and a little exposed area of contact paper later, we stuck them up on the sliding glass doors to let the sun shine through.

Koala Crate >>

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A Classy Take on the Man Cave Basement Bar

Classy take on the man cave basement bar with before and after photos #mancave |

The top photo was my brother-in-law’s unfinished basement when they moved in. Cement blocks, open wood frames in the ceiling, visible insulation and pipes — you know, the typical unfinished basement.  After a year of hard work, Frank’s basement was finally a functional place for his family!

Beautiful Basement Bar Reveal |

Besides a large family room space (hopefully a future blog post) and the space that will eventually be his home office, there was also room for a new bar. This wasn’t going to be just any old man cave with tacky signs, alcohol paraphernalia and beer cans. Nope, Frank proved that there is a classy way to have a beer in your man cave. He “wanted it to have a true pub feel and make you feel like you were in the corner of a small pub” and I think he hit the nail on the head.

Beautiful Basement Bar Reveal |

This high class bar sits 6 friends on these black metal stools. The best part is that they spin to be raised or lowered, as Frank tends to have a mix of shorter dudes and above average height regulars so they all have a comfortable spot to sit.

Beautiful Basement Bar Reveal |

The large counter space allows for plenty of room to make some mixed drinks or have a spot for snacks for the big game. Instead of an ultra smooth finish, Frank requested a distressed look on the custom countertop.

Beautiful Basement Bar Reveal |

Don’t forget about the drinks! Besides the two taps of cold beer from his under the counter kegerator, there is also a wine rack in the back and a Grey Goose station for those wild nights!

Beautiful Basement Bar Reveal |

A few weeks before he hosted the “opening” he asked if I would design a logo for his bar. It was probably one of the easiest logos I’ve ever done since he already had a name picked out and a font style he preferred. I put them together in a traditional pub style shape to come up with the design seen here.

Beautiful Basement Bar Reveal: custom mason jars with bar's name #mancave |

Why “The Too Far Bar” you ask? Umm did you see this bar? Frank’s nickname is “Too Far Frank” since he always has big ideas and the guts to pull it off!

Beautiful Basement Bar Reveal: custom frosted mirror and mason jars #mancave |

Not only did he get the logo printed on mason jar style mugs but he also had it etched on a mirror to hang behind the bar!

Beautiful Basement Bar Reveal: custom frosted mirror and mason jars with bar's name #mancave|

Pull up a seat and have a cold brew!

Beautiful Basement Bar Reveal |


  • Cabinetry: Medallion (brand) in Carriage Black with a rustic finish, purchased at Dyers Cabinet Shop
  • Countertop: Custom 2 inch Walnut stained with Minwax Dark Walnut Color and finished with Waterlox Sealer.
  • Sink: Antiqued Copper, purchased at Lowes
  • Brick Wall: Old Mill Thin Bricks in Boston Mill, purchased on
  • Stools: Christopher Knight Furniture, purchased on
  • Chalkboard: purchased at Home Goods
  • Kegerator: Single under counter kegerator from Summit Appliances. Dual Tap Tower (Stainless) from
  • Beverage refrigerator: Purchased at Summit Appliances
  • Custom printed mason jar mugs: Purchased from
  • Custom Etched Bar Mirror: Purchased from

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Fall Flavored Foods for Toddlers, Free Halloween Printables & A Giveaway!

DISCLOSURE: I was provided product samples by the Happy Family brand for this post and giveaway, but this really is something Brielle enjoys at home regularly! I only promote and share products I personally use and recommend! To learn more, please review my disclosure policy here.

Happy Family Brands Best Friends Toddler Cookies: Chocolate Pumpkin Flavor for Fall |

It’s officially fall! When my sister, Melanie, and two nephews, Blake and Logan, came down for a play date I decided to make it a full on fall themed afternoon (despite the fluctuating temperatures going from 60 in the am to high 70s in the afternoon)!

Fall Leaf SunCatcher Kids #Craft |

We drew funny pumpkins with sidewalk chalk, made a fall themed craft (upcoming blog post alert) and enjoyed some fall flavored snacks!

Happy Tot Best Friends Chocolate Pumpkin Toddler Cookies: Fall themed treats from @HappyFamily |

For toddler friendly foods, I turned to my friends at Happy Family Brands. You remember them, the ones who taught me purple carrots existed in the world? Yes, they were back to treat our little ones with some snacks perfect for the fall season! They picked out some fall flavored foods and treats including: Happy Tot Pumpkin, Sweet Potato, Pear, Happy Tot Sweet Potato, Apple, Carrot, Cinnamon, and Happy Tot Apple, Butternut Squash.  For dessert they even gave us mommies some Happy Squeeze Treat Caramel Apple and Happy Tot Best Friends Chocolate Pumpkin Cookies for the kids.

Happy Family Brands Best Friends Toddler Cookies: Chocolate Pumpkin Flavor for Fall |

We split a Sweet Potato, Apple, Carrot and Cinnamon pouch as a supplement while digging into our solid foods (good old grilled cheese and apples). But after hitting the playground for a little bit, we treated them with, the favorite by far… the cookies!

Happy Family Brands Best Friends Toddler Cookies: Chocolate Pumpkin Flavor for Fall |

Logan wouldn’t give the bag up once digging in for a chocolate pumpkin puppy shaped treat!

A few days later Brielle ate another pouch all by herself when sipping it up from the straw! I don’t have a baby anymore. Now she’s a toddler!

Free #Halloween #Printables attached to @HappyFamily Pouches | I can totally see these pouches and cookie packs used for Halloween parties instead of candy! In fact, I decided to dress them up for the occasion, making some Halloween tags with fun one liner jokes. I must tell you that these jokes were a hit with my 3.5 year old nephew, Blake, though I guarantee he didn’t understand the puns! :) Free #Printable #Halloween Jokes | Lucky for you I turned these Halloween jokes into a free printable! Click the image above to download and use these printables with Halloween treats or as a little note for lunchboxes!

spot of tea designs giveaway notice
Even luckier, my friends at Happy Family Brands have generously offered to shower a fellow parent with these yummy fall themed goodies with a giveaway!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Enter the rafflecopter widget above (or mobile users use this link) by October 13th for your chance to win! Good luck!

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Koala Crate >>

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Handmade With Love XIII

As a crafter, I know how long it takes to make some handmade gifts. Items I receive need more than the few minutes of love I can give it, so I’m happy to post these Handmade with Love posts that showcase great handmade cards or gifts I have received.

Handmade Plush Stuffed Animal from The Woven Soul Etsy Shop |

Check out this super adorable little plush animal from my friend’s etsy shop, The Woven Soul. You may have noticed her icon on my sidebar these past few months as she’s a current blog sponsor showcasing some super cute sewn and knit products for adults and kids alike.

She gifted Brielle this little kitty plushie, which is just her size! I opened the box and said “give her a hug” and this is what she did. She’s been carrying her kitty around ever since! I highly recommend checking out the shop to pick up a little plushie for someone you know!


Handmade 1st birthday cards |

A birthday can’t go by in this house without some sort of handmade creations being received! This year she received the above two handmade cards from her Gwenma and Liz, both Handmade with Love regulars. Looks like my creative energy is rubbing off on my mom (sorta haha)!

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DIY Halloween Couples Costume: Bun in the Oven Pregnancy Reveal {Guest Post}

Stop right there. Before you jump to conclusions – NO this post is not an announcement by me!  You may remember my bestie Allie showing off her Handmade Owl Costume and Pacman themed couples costumes in previous years. Today, I’m happy to report that she’s back with another guest post featuring the costumes she and her husband wore last year when announcing their pregnancy to their neighbors’ at the annual Halloween party! Check out how she made this adorable “announcement” costume, which she is now reading about with her almost six month old! :)

DIY Pregnancy Reveal Halloween Costumes Costume: Bun in the oven |

We’ve got a BUN in the OVEN!

I was all prepared to do a step-by-step write-up of this year’s couples Halloween costume announcing to our friends/neighbors that we are expecting, but the costume steps were a little too independent to find that necessary.  Instead, I’ll show off the finished product for inspiration and below I will provide my tips/thoughts on the various components:

DIY Pregnancy Reveal Halloween Costumes Costume: Bun in the oven |

The oven: I initially expected to put myself in a big box again for this costume, but I learned my lesson from my pacman costume last year, and decided to find a smaller and more manageable option.

  • For the oven I recycled the top of box that ships a ream of paper.
  • I used a hole punch on the top and bottom of the left and right sides of the oven to run string through so the oven could hang from me.
  • The box top had writing on it so I covered it up with recycled 11×17″ paper.
  • Tip: You may want to use 2 of the paper wrappers so you can cover the inside of the oven as well – at least the edge where people will see (lesson learned from pacman)
  • Tip: Use double sided tape to attach the wrapper to the large “front” of the box/front of the oven in a few spots (think about where your oven cut out will be and plan to tape around that). Later you will cut open the oven door and there’s nothing to hold the paper down so a little extra stick is helpful to add now, instead of trying to squeeze some tape in later.

DIY Pregnancy Reveal Halloween Costumes Costume: Bun in the oven |

The oven door:

  • Use a straight edge to define where you will make the cuts for the door.
  • I used an old scrapbooking page protector as the clear oven window.
  • Tip: Consider making your pencil marks on the inside of the box so you don’t have to erase the lines after you cut!
  • Leave enough space at the top of the box for the oven/stove top knobs.
  • When cutting out the oven window, leave enough of an oven door edge to not compromise the strength of the box when you cut the outer edge and the window. Mine isn’t that big, but I wouldn’t really recommend going any thinner.
  • Take your time when cutting, don’t rush it or you may pull the paper.
  • Use a brand new blade to make the cuts. Doing this cuts through the box really nicely. If you don’t cut all the way through the first time, flip the box and the cut other side.

DIY Pregnancy Reveal Halloween Costumes Costume: Bun in the oven |

The knobs: Oops, my stove top knobs are all ON!  I hoped to fix this before the party, but didn’t! What I did for the knobs:

  • I used a circle cutter to cut the 5 circles, a hole punch of black paper for the off/high marks and just a sharpie for the in between temperature lines.
  • For the oven I spontaneously decided to put our due date 4-14(degrees), and since I’m close to half way the knob is pointing in the middle (that one was on purpose!)
  • I used some 3D super large foam dots to get the knobs to stick out, but you could also use pieces of form core.
  • The knobs themselves are double layered (the dark gray and black layers) to provide more depth.

DIY Pregnancy Reveal Halloween Costumes Costume: Bun in the oven |

The bun: I wasn’t really sure what to do with this… I could stick something on my shirt to look like a bun or I had some stale hot dog buns and I could use one of those. I opted for the hot dog bun (cinnamon bun could work as well).  To be able to show off the bun through the window I constructed a little shelf out of cardboard inside in the oven. I added a layer of aluminum foil to the top of the shelf.  I used a little double sided tape to hold the hot dog down and secured it further with some clear craft fishing line through the cut part of the bun and taped down on the side.  It held up through the party.

DIY Pregnancy Reveal Halloween Costumes Costume: Bun in the oven |

The result: Even though the party I attended doesn’t pick a favorite costume, we were definitely voted as having the best costume this year!

It was really fun to walk through each room of the party and pause as each new group of guests took a second to digest the ‘bun in the oven’ concept. Some got it right away and squealed with delight, others would give a questioning “does that mean what I think it means?” look and others were a little slower. Overall it brought a lot of smiles to everyone’s face and our friends are still talking about it months later!

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