Ideas for Fun At-Home Date Nights

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, INC. and The Coca-Cola Company, all opinions are mine alone. #ServeWithACoke #CollectiveBias

One thing that Brandon and I can’t get enough of since he came home is time together- with three little kids, we’re always chasing after someone and it isn’t easy to get a baby sitter and get out together on a regular basis, so we’ve been trying to have more spontaneous date nights at home. You don’t have to go out on the town to focus on each other and have fun and stay-at-home-dates are great for couples who can’t get out of the house or if you’re staying home to save money. Here are a few fun ideas that have kept our date nights at home as fun and romantic as going out without the baby sitter:

Stay at home date night

1. Wear Something Cute!- Part of the fun of going out is getting dressed up (especially for us stay at home Moms who spend a lot of time in yoga pants) and putting in that effort for the other person. Even though you’re staying home, pick out something that you feel cute in. I like to wear a cute pair of jeans and a blouse, even if I’ve been in sweats all day long. There’s no real rules for staying at home date nights, so that could even be a really cute pair of pajamas, whatever makes you feel confident and makes it feel like a date to you, even if it ends up on the floor 😉

2. Have a Plan- It doesn’t need to be anything elaborate, but having an idea of what you want to do will keep you from falling back into the usual flipping channels or just skipping out on a having a stay at home date altogether. It can be as simple as cook dinner together or watch a movie on a projector like we like to do. My plan for date night this last time was to take blankets and pillows to make our back porch cozy and then have dinner and watch a movie.  at home date night (6)at home date night (5)

In the fall when it gets dark earlier you can eat under the stars- I brought our food out so we could eat and enjoy the summer breeze.

3. Try Fun Food- For most couples, a date includes trying a new or favorite restaurant. If you’re staying at home for your date, it’s fun to get some food to-go and eat it at home. On our last date night in, I ran into Kroger looking for something out of our ordinary and decided to get sushi. Our Kroger was recently renovated and now has a large deli, meal and seafood area with fresh sushi with drinks to go along. We don’t treat ourselves to sushi often so I thought it’d be a fun surprise to bring home for date night. instoreat home date night (13)

I like to put everything on nicer plates to give it a more special, restaurant-like feel and turned a galvanized bucket that we usually use to hold the boys toys upside-down as a makeshift table.
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To add to the picnic feel and beat the heat, I added a couple of bottles of smartwater. It’s all about making the prep easy for you and easy when you get home. I’m a smartwater drinker already, but Kroger has a coupon right now for saving $1 off when you purchase sushi and a smartwater 1L or 20oz Diet Coke while supplies last. That’s perfect for grabbing both for your date night in and not having to cook! The best part is, with smartwater you won’t have to do any dishes, just like at a restaurant.
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4. Remove Distractions- When you’re out on a date in public, you are focusing on that other person, not the dishes, the kids, or your phone. Do the same thing even though you are at home. The whole point of date nights are to connect with the other person, and that’s hard to do if your mind is somewhere else. Remove the distractions, turn off your phone if you need to, and make sure you are intentionally focusing on the other person. Lately our house has been strewn with luggage that hasn’t been put away and Army gear and I didn’t want all of that to bug me so we had our date night on the back porch which is close enough to hear the kids if they called for us from bed, but away from all of the mess, plus these summer nights have been beautiful!

5. Find Fun!- Date nights should always have a feeling of fun or spontaneity. Play a game, joke with each other, watch a scary movie. Sometimes we’ll make the living room floor into a big bed with blankets and pillows. We’re still close enough to hear the kids but it’s something different than our usual sitting on the couch watching Netflix, and it felt much more playful and fun than sitting on the couch.
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6. Relax and Enjoy Yourselves!- The whole point of date night is taking time to focus on each other and reconnect. Most couples probably don’t get nearly enough time to focus on each other so a date night in is a great since you can make it work anytime of day as long as you’re both home. I’ve even known military couples who did long-distance date nights when they were separated for trainings or deployment. They’d do the same thing just hundreds (or thousands) of miles away from each other and video chat through it all.

I hope you like these tips for at-home date nights and I would love to hear any that you have! What has worked for you? Thank you to Social Fabric for sponsoring this post, we loved the being able to grab dinner and still have a date even when life is too busy to cook! Smartwater and sushi is a great go-to for an easy date night in.

How-To Find Shark Teeth on St Simons Island

Like I said in my last post, prior to our beach trip to Jekyll Island, Sawyer had been talking for months and months about finding shark teeth when we went to the beach. When we moved into our house, he had found a bag where I put the fossils we found when we went fossil hunting in the Peace River in Florida. He loved seeing the shark teeth and loved hearing how we found them, so I told him that maybe we could look for some next time we went to the beach. I’ll admit, I had some friends who go to the beach each year and always find them, so I thought it’d be a little easier, but after three days of no luck, I enlisted help. We asked my husbands cousins, the ones who had found the Megalodon tooth if there were any good beaches to find shark teeth other than the Shark Tooth Beach on Jekyll, and they took us to this tiny little beach on the island that they had heard people had found shark teeth on. Finding shark teeth st simons (1)

It wasn’t more than ten minutes before we found one. Brandon’s cousin found the first one, and once he told us what to look for, it only took a few minutes before we had more, and by the end of an hour, all of us had found one or two.Finding shark teeth st simons (2)
(and some also found three or four new crab friends….)

We didn’t bring any sifters, so our process was pretty simple. Walk along the sand, not even near the edge of the water really (low-tide is preferable but we did it at high tide and still had success), and just look at the small black things that look somewhat like shell fragments or shark teeth! Once you find one, you’ll know it’s a shark tooth- triangular, shiny, molar ridges. We just kept picking black things up, brushing them off, and low and behold, eventually, we held shark teeth. Honestly, I didn’t even believe Cason when he showed me the first few, I was sure he had brought ones from home and was “planting” them, but once I found my own far away from where he had been, I believed it. DSC_1109

Here is our bounty, along with Sawyer’s three favorite new friends, whom he was so sad to leave at the beach that we had to have a mini-funeral before returning them to the sea. We ended up taking home 9 shark teeth, plus one white one I found after we took the picture. Brandon’s cousins found another four or five. Not bad for a less than an hour of shark tooth hunting! I felt so silly saying it but I love making that kids dreams come true!

Shark teeth st simons island

For those who want to find their own shark teeth on St. Simons Island, I kind of hate to share our spot since it’s not well-known, but there’s enough shark teeth out there for all of us! So, to find our little honeyhole, when you drive over the bridge onto St. Simons Island, take the first right as soon as you get onto land. There will be a real small boat ramp with a long dock. Park and then just walk down to the sand to the left of the boat ramp and start looking! This is the kind of terrain you are going to want shoes for, much of it is covered in Oysters embedded into the sandy rock, but we found all of ours in the sandy part above that. I’m sure the Oyster-y part is even more full of shark teeth but we had success even on the sandy beach. If you go, tag me in your shark tooth finds so I can see!

Best Beach in Georgia

Part of me doesn’t want to write this post because I don’t want other people finding out about my favorite place  to vacation, and the other part of me wants to show the world how incredibly beautiful my home-state is.Jekyll Island Spanish Moss

A lot of people don’t know that Georgia has a series of barrier islands, some of which are known as the Golden Isles, and they have absolutely beautiful beaches. What’s even better is that many of the islands were privately owned for decades and then bought by the state and protected, which means much of the islands are untouched and unsettled. If you’re used to over crowded beaches lined with airbrushed t-shirt shops, you need to get away from all the Spring breakers and head to the Golden Isles. Jekyll Island (13)

I have been on three of Georgia’s Golden Isles, and they are all beautiful, but my favorite is Jekyll Island. Jekyll was once a private island for executives including Rockefeller and Vanderbilt and now is a state park that is under a special preservation order but is still open to the public. Because it is a state park, there are very few hotels, restaurants or businesses in general (there are some though, if you want a totally protected, untouched island, go two islands down and get a ferry ride to Cumberland Island where there are wild horses and primitive camping only). The emptiness of Jekyll is much of what makes it so attractive. We spent three days on Jekyll Island in June and stayed at the Holiday Inn Beachfront, which I hate to share about because I don’t want it to always be booked up, but all of the rooms open right out onto the lawn which is along the beach. It is beautiful and the prices were really good. It has a pool, big cabana loungers that overlook the ocean, fire pits with fires at night, a nice boardwalk and bike paths that connect to other areas further down the beach, it’s own restaurants, and is known for having tons of Sea Turtle sightings during their laying season. Jekyll Island  (8)

Just to give you an idea of how beautiful Jeykll is and how absolutely wonderful it is to be there, I took these photos of Brandon and the boys around 11 a.m. on one of the peak weeks of summer. We felt like we basically had the beach to ourselves. Pardon the quality of these and some of the other pictures from our trip, on day 2, Sawyer threw sand at my real camera and it didn’t work for four days…Jekyll Island  (11)Jekyll Island  (12)Jekyll Island  (13)

Amazing, right? Not only did we have so much of the beach to ourselves, but the clouds and constant breeze meant we weren’t melting the whole time. These are at the beach at our hotel, but one of my other favorite beaches to visit at Jekyll is down toward the south end of the Island. The entire beach is lined with huge ancient Southern Oaks dripping with Spanish Moss. It’s dreamy. It also makes it so much easier for Mama’s with babies because you can have shade all day without dragging down a canopy or umbrellas and tents. It’s amazing. There’s also a huge rope swing just on the other side of the parking lot that we did with his cousins when we went a few years ago. It’s massive and swings so fast, I would say save that activity for teenagers or older. There’s also an amazing beautiful beach called driftwood beach that we didn’t visit on this trip. Just google it, it’s beautiful.Jekyll Island Spanish MossJekyll Island Crab FishingJeykll island rope swing

You do have to plan ahead some when you are staying on Jekyll because there are no big grocery stores and not many restaurants, and just as a heads-up there is a $6 toll per day to get onto the island. It’s a good idea to stop by Target in Brunswick on your way to the island if you will need diapers or snacks. There is a small convenience store/gas station attached to a Dairy Queen on Jekyll but the selection is small and everything is marked up a lot. It’s about 20 minutes into Brunswick, which is the closest places with big stores, which isn’t too bad of a drive.

Jekyll does have some really neat historic tours and tons of fun outdoor things to do like Kayaking and fishing and biking, but our kids were content to just eat dig sand for days on end, boogie board, and swim.
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The one thing that Sawyer had been looking forward to the most on this trip was hunting for shark teeth. All of Georgia’s barrier islands have shark teeth found on them, but some are easier than others, and some beaches on each island are better known for it. Usually the beaches that you’re almost guaranteed to find shark teeth on are not the soft sandy ones that you like to play on. Jekyll has one beach, Shark Tooth beach, that is amazing for shark teeth finding, but it’s quite the hike out there and with three small kids, it wasn’t in the cards. I’ll share another post soon about where we found shark teeth on our last day at the beach (on a different island) but here are some awesome shark teeth that my husband’s cousin found on Jekyll a few weeks before our visit. The large one is a Megalodon tooth, which was a shark that lived back when the dinosaurs were on the earth. I couldn’t believe how big it is-jekyll island megladon tooth (1)jekyll island megladon tooth (2)

Isn’t that insane? I totally caught the shark tooth hunting bug and am determined to get out to shark tooth beach next time we’re on Jekyll to try and find a Megalodon tooth. So cool.

For local restaurants, check out some of the online guides. Because we wanted to spend most of our days on the beach and didn’t want the kids to fall asleep in the car driving to lunch, we mostly ate food we brought, but we did have lunch at Tortuga Jacks, a delicious Mexican restaurant on the island with portions big enough to share. If you stay at the Holiday Inn, it’s just a short bike ride away.Jekyll Island  (14)

We spent our last few days on our trip just one island up, on St Simons Island, and I will share all those pretty photos later, but I hope you are looking for a beautiful beach to visit, you won’t find anywhere prettier than Jekyll Island. Although, if you decide not to visit, that just means more beach for me, so I’m happy either way 🙂

Atlanta Airport Military Homecoming

For the last year, I have been keeping the biggest secret here on my blog. Because this blog is a lifestyle blog and because it’s a lifestyle/home diy blog and my biggest partner in my diy projects is my husband, it made it even more hard not to share, and hard to write at all. My husband, Brandon, has been gone on a military deployment to the Middle East for the last 9 1/2 months, and he came home about a week and half ago! This was so hard not to write about here, not to reach out and be someone for those of you who can relate to my situation, and so hard not to mention when writing about the boys birthdays, Christmas, or vacations. None of that even matters now though, because he’s home!Atlanta Airport Military Welcome Home Photographer (53)
(I’ve already gotten a few questions- yes, many soldiers do wear civilian clothing when traveling home, especially if they are flying through a public airport on a normal plane. Brandon actually had flown in to the US with the other troops and then was flown to the Atlanta airport from there, and traveled in civilian clothing for that last leg of his journey home).

We had a rough idea of when he would be coming home but didn’t get an exact day until the day before, and didn’t get exact flight info until a few hours before. That is completely common in the military, and so that wasn’t a big deal, but it made the waiting feel even longer, as if time wasn’t going slow enough at the end. I had reached out to an amazing photographer in the Atlanta area, Martine Beher, and was so happy when she was able to be there to capture those moments of Brandon reuniting with the boys again. I really wanted to have those moments forever but also not have to be there trying to juggle a camera and three very tired, wiggly boys (it was around 10:30pm when we finally were reunited). This deployment has been a great learning experience for both of us, but more than anything we’re just so happy to have him home. I’ll let the amazing photos speak for themselves.Atlanta Airport Military Welcome Home Photographer (1)Atlanta Airport Military Welcome Home Photographer (7)Atlanta Airport Military Welcome Home Photographer (11)Atlanta Airport Military Welcome Home Photographer (4)Atlanta Airport Military Welcome Home Photographer (14)
(this is me desperately trying to find a way to keep them distracted and not running around crazy after his flight got delayed coming in)
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Thank you again to Martine, these pictures are so beautiful and capture those sweet moments perfectly. If you are in the Atlanta area and in need of a photographer, she was amazing!

How to Personalize Your Flip Flops (and stop losing them at the pool)

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #JumpIntoSummer #CollectiveBias DIY personalized flip flops

I know I’m not the only Mom who is tired of having everything packed up and ready to roll, and one of your kids is hopping around on one foot yelling that they can’t find their other flip flop. Somehow we lose them, leave them places, end up with someone else’s, or, quite often, only have one. I can’t tell you how many left flip flops I have that I keep holding on to in hopes that it’s right will show up someday. So far, that hasn’t happened.

As I was thinking about that, and about all our upcoming pool adventures, I realized I could easily personalize my kiddos flip flops with some vinyl and my good hair dryer.

For this project, you really only need some crafting vinyl (I used 651 thickness, the permanent vinyl) and my hair dryer. If you have a cutting machine, you can simply type out your kids name and size it to your flip flops (I kept mine to 5 inches long for the kids flip flops), then send it to your machine. Weed out the parts you don’t want, and put on the transfer tape. If you don’t have a vinyl cutter, they sell lots of vinyl letters at stores that you can put together to make names or designs.

Stick it to your flip flops, and rub really really well. I use a credit card to really press the edges down and rub the top until I know it’s stuck. Now, flip flops usually have a bumpy texture, plus we want this to last a long time, so you are going to grab your hair dryer and heat the vinyl up for about 10 seconds until it’s nice and hot and then rub and press down on it really well with a piece of fabric (you don’t want to rub it with your bare skin because it will be hot!)personalized flip flops (2)personalized flip flops (1)

Ta-da! Personalized flip flops that no one will accidentally steal when you’re at the pool! I even made some for myself. The real fun though is kicking off your shoes and jumping in! DIY flip flops

Like I’ve mentioned before, I taught swim lessons for three years, plus we spend a lot of time at the pool and lake, and so I’m pretty picky when it comes to life jackets or swim assist for my kids. I want something that is coast-guard approved for a higher degree of safe swimming and something that allows my boys the freedom to move and swim and learn to play in the water. My sister always used Puddle Jumper® life jackets for her kids, so naturally when my oldest got old enough to swim in a life jacket, Puddle Jumper® life jackets is our go-to.

This year we’ve got three in life-jackets and so as the pool season started up, I went to Target and let Rhett pick out his own Puddle Jumper® life jacket. He’s right in the weight range (30-50lbs) and is ready to start really learning to swim and have fun in the water.20170608_110613

Puddle Jumper® life jackets are US Coast Guard approved life jackets, with adjustable buckles in the back to ensure the right fit, and they are a life jacket I trust. Rhett loved the fun, 3-D designs and was so excited to pick out the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles® one. I love that he can learn to swim with it on.
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These jackets are great, they stay on through all the jumping in, running around and swimming that my kids can do!Puddle Jumpers  (4)Puddle Jumpers  (2)Puddle Jumpers  (3)
See that buckle in the back? I love that I can adjust it to fit, and he can’t reach it so we don’t have worry about him taking his lifejacket off.

The summer is just starting for us and now with our Puddle Jumper® life jackets and personalized flip flops, we can’t wait to get out and make memories and have fun at the pool and lake.  We are in the water as much as possible in the summer. What are your favorite things to take along to the pool? Do you have a favorite pool toy or beach bag? I’d love to hear it, we’re always looking for more great pool-side supplies!