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What To Include A Fitness Care Package

January 15, 2018
Fitness care package ideas

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a small commission if you click through and make a purchase. 

What is it about a deployment that drives people to the gym? I think it’s probably part boredom, part stress relief, but every time my husband is deployed, he goes all out with a workout routine and his co-workers are often right there with him. Between the popularity of working out while deployed and the military’s fitness requirements, a fitness care package could easily be part of every deployment. But what do you put in a fitness care package?

After all, standard care package items like candy or processed snack foods probably aren’t going to cut it if your loved one is trying to shed a few pounds. But you can’t really ship fresh fruit and vegetables, now can you? (Please don’t try and ship fresh produce – it will spoil and in some places, it’s actually illegal.) Just like with most care packages, creativity is the answer to this problem.

Squeezable fruit pouches are probably best known as a snack for children, but they make them for adults too! Before purchasing, make sure to do some research to determine which brand best fits your loved one’s dietary needs or taste preferences. You can likely buy them in bulk online, but you may want to buy individual pouches just to make sure they’re a hit with your loved one.  It’s very important that you put these pouches in plastic baggies or leave them in the original box to protect them during shipping.

Another healthy snack item is beef jerky, depending on which brand you purchase. I bought these Epic strips on a whim during my husband’s last deployment and he absolutely loved them.  I ended up buying them multiple times and he loved having them as a post-workout snack.  An additional option would be tuna in a pouch – my husband really liked albacore tuna packaged in just water.  They are really nice for care packages because they take up so little space!

But what can you send in a fitness care package beyond just food? There are a variety of magazines, books and DVDs out there that can be helpful to anyone working on their fitness, but they may not always be a great fit for your loved one overseas.  Maybe they don’t have a way to play the DVD or don’t have the time to read about working out. Take your loved one’s unique situation into account when you’re planning out your fitness care package.

Other items that fit the theme include a water bottle (I love the Hydroflask), protein powder, a protein shaker and wireless headphones. Wireless headphones are super helpful for working out both at home and during deployment, especially if your loved one likes high intensity workouts. They don’t take up a lot of space and will get a lot of use, even long after deployment is over.

You could also send workout clothing or shoes. They tend to take up a lot of space in your box so think ahead when you’re purchasing items. I usually end up sending workout shorts, shirts and lots of extra socks as those tend to get worn out the fastest.  I wouldn’t purchase any terribly expensive workout apparel for a variety of reasons. For example, the water where my husband was two deployments ago absolutely destroyed his clothes. We ended up throwing most of them away because they were so beat up. Cheaper pieces (check out places like Wal-Mart, Target or TJ Maxx) will serve your loved one just fine and

A large part of a fitness care package is, of course, the design! I’ve just added a fitness care package to my shop that will be the perfect addition to all of the great contents. It features a fun color scheme, puns and even a little extra sass on the bottom paper.  It’s available now and ships for free!

Want even more care package ideas? I’m giving away 165+ ideas (plus what to put in them) here.

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Five Things Your Valentine’s Day Care Package MUST Have

January 8, 2018

Valentine’s Day care packages get the short end of the stick, don’t they? To accommodate shipping times, they often have to go out right after the holidays, when you’ve exhausted your care package creativity and maybe your budget. But your loved one deserves a care package for Valentine’s Day, don’t they? How are you supposed to pull a box together so quickly? You focus on a few Valentine’s Day care package must haves and take a little help wherever you can get it.

Yes, it would be fantastic if you were able to make your Valentine’s Day care package light up, sing and shoot out heart-shaped confetti. I’m sure your service member would love a fancy watch, a new iPad or a set of fancy headphones. But as you recover from the holiday craziness, focus on simplifying both the contents and design. Stick to Valentine’s Day care package must haves and give yourself a break!

Valentine’s Day care package must haves

Pictures

If your loved one is away from home during any portion of the year, odds are he/she misses you and the rest of the family.  This may be especially true around the holidays and through Valentine’s Day.  Since you can’t actually send yourself overseas, send the next best thing: photos! You could send photos from the holidays, random “day in the life” shots or get really sassy and have a boudoir shoot done. Package any photos up in a cute way that will make your loved one feel a little closer to those at home.

Love letter

I know technology is a modern military spouse’s best friend, but I kind of miss the days where couples wrote long love letters to each other when they were separated. Those seem infinitely more romantic than a “miss you ;)” IM at 3 am, don’t they? So one of your Valentine’s Day care package must haves is a love letter! Don’t worry, I’m not saying you have to write 8 pages of poetry. Just a simple one-page letter that tells your service member why you love them or a sweet greeting card with a short note in it.

Something sweet

Cynics will tell you that Valentine’s Day was just invented to sell candy, but I disagree. Valentine’s Day is a great time to remind someone that you love them and if you do it with candy, all the better! That’s why something sweet is on my list of Valentine’s Day care package must haves.  Now depending on your loved one’s personal tastes, the something sweet could take on a variety of different forms. But be careful about sending chocolate: even though the temps are slightly cooler now, odds are the chocolate will melt by the time it reaches your loved one. If chocolate is a must, consider a version that won’t melt like Nutella or a mug cake (Duncan Hines makes a great chocolate one).

Sentimental gift 

I think we all fall into the “more expensive, the better” trap when it comes to gifts, but Valentine’s Day gifts can be the exception to the rule if you’re willing to get a little creative.  Instead of shipping expensive items, consider sending a gift that’s more sentimental than expensive.  Maybe it’s a poem you wrote or a short video where you share reasons you love them. Or you could go old school with a mix tape full of songs that make you think about them.  Your loved one will love these sentimental gifts!

Lots of love

This is probably the most important item on my list of Valentine’s Day care package must haves because what’s Valentine’s Day without love? No matter what your care package looks like or what it contains, your service member will care most about the love that went into creating it. You can add a little extra love to your care package with a spritz of perfume at the end, a few extra notes tucked in between items and selecting items that will brighten your loved one’s day.

Do you need a little extra help with your Valentine’s Day care package? I can help you cross decorating off your to-do list with my Valentine’s Day care package. You can purchase it online in my Etsy shop and it comes with everything you see below.  It’s $15.00 and ships quickly and for free! I’ve only made a limited number so order soon before they run out!

Valentine's Day Care Package Must Haves

Want even more care package ideas? I’m giving away 165+ ideas (plus what to put in them) here.

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Charity Spotlight: Blue Star Families

January 5, 2018

I’m currently working through a business development course online and one of the first lessons was all about developing the answer to your why. Why did I want to start a business? Why do I want it to be successful? Like most questions, I had more than just a two or three word answer, but one of the biggest pieces was being able to give back to military families. That’s why I am so proud to donate 10% of my sales each quarter. My passion for giving back made a spotlight on my quarterly donation recipient the perfect way to wrap up the first week of 2018.

Blue Star Families was founded in 2009 around a kitchen table by a group of passionate military spouses.  Since then, they’ve grown to more than 150,000 members in 35 communities and chapters around the world. Their career development and caregiving programs reach more than 1.5 million military families each year! But perhaps what Blue Star Families is best known for is their Military Family Lifestyle Survey, a vital resource when it comes to quantifying the reality of being a modern military family.  The results of this annual survey assist Blue Star Families with their policy work, as they strive to put military families’ voices in front of key decision-makers.  If you haven’t already, I highly suggest checking out some of the survey’s findings here.

In addition to the lifestyle survey, military families get to take part in hundreds of Blue Star Families’ events each year. Everything from career workshops to fun family events help military families get a little bit more out of military life.

I was lucky enough to meet some of the fantastic members of the Blue Star Families team at the Military Influencer Conference in Dallas last year. I was immediately blown away by their passion for serving military families, although it shouldn’t have come as too much of a surprise as both ladies were military spouses themselves. That’s the kind of support I love seeing: the military community coming together to help each other.

I’m very excited to donate 10% of my fourth quarter sales to Blue Star Families and encourage you to check them out if you haven’t already!

Need care package ideas? I’m giving away 165+ ideas (plus what to put in them) here.

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Lessons I Learned In My First Year As A Business Owner

December 1, 2017

One year ago today, I wrote this blog post that announced the opening of my very own Etsy shop. It almost seems impossible that I’m a year in already, but you know what they say: time flies when you’re covered in glue dots and glitter.  Seriously, I’ve spent the better part of the last year covered in glitter and tiny bits of paper and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

As I’ve gone through my first year as a small business owner, I’ve learned so much!

Lesson #1: Success isn’t just measured in dollars. When I first hit “publish” on my Etsy shop, I had no idea if I’d be successful or if I’d fail completely. But looking back on the year, I can definitely say I succeeded. But I’m not sure that everyone would consider my first year terribly successful. I didn’t turn a huge profit (or really technically a profit at all) and Forbes won’t be writing any articles about my business prowess anytime soon.

But happy repeat customers and making quarterly donations to non-profits that support military families are both markers of success to me. Yes, it’s nice when there is a little extra money in my bank account each month, but sometimes getting feedback like this is what drives me to keep going.

Lesson #2: Running your own business is exhausting!

There is ALWAYS something to be done when you run your own small business: social media, product development, marketing, newsletters and blog posts to write, ordering supplies, post office runs, emails to answer and oh yes, orders to fill! When you try to fit that around a personal life or another job, there never seems to be enough hours in the day before you fall into bed each evening. Sometimes you have to let things slide, but overall you actually get really good at squeezing the most out of your time.

Lesson#3: Learn from others who’ve been in your shoes.  

Even though I’m a year in and writing a post with lessons learned, I have so much left to learn when it comes to running my own business! Lucky for me there are so many fantastic entrepreneurs who are willing to share their hard-earned knowledge. I’ve joined quite a few Facebook networking groups and have picked up so many tips from just reading posts and conversations. Whether it’s how to make the most out of your time, new revenue streams or ideas on how to better market my product, I’m going to learn from as many experts as I can.

Lesson #4: You should be passionate about your business. 

When I tell people that my business is making care packages, I’m not sure everyone gets why I would want to do that even sort of professionally. The why goes beyond enjoying gluing paper to other paper. It has to do with being part of other people’s deployment journeys. Each time I ship out a care package, I know that a deployment or TDY or training is being made a little easier for both the service member and his/her loved one at home. That is HUGE, y’all! Yes, I enjoy crafting, but the part I’m really passionate about is the people and their relationships to each other and to me.

Lesson #5: The best is yet to come. 

If there’s one thing starting your own business guarantees, it’s that it will make you want to GROW your business. As I look back on the past year, it makes me so excited for all the potential that the next year holds for Countdowns and Cupcakes. I’m ready to expand my product offering, share more high quality posts here on the blog and find new ways to serve military families, both during deployment and when everyone is home.

Thank you to everyone who’s been a part of the first year for Countdowns and Cupcakes! I can’t wait to share the second year with you!

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Charity Spotlight: Operation Homefront

November 27, 2017

Oh my word, what a weekend! My sale did so much better than I could have ever imagined and I made so.many.care.packages the past few days. I can’t thank you all enough for shopping with me; I love being a small part of your deployment journey. But what I love even more are posts like today’s, when I get to share my quarterly donation recipient.

Each quarter, I donate 10% of each sale to an organization that supports military families. It’s my favorite part of the job and is a small way of paying forward the generosity my customers show by shopping with me. I’ve previously given to United Through Reading and Service Dogs for Heroes. For the third quarter of 2017, I’m happy to announce that my donation will be made to Operation Homefront.

One of my requirements for each organization is that they are a non-profit in good standing; I research each one through Charity Navigator, which independently ranks each non-profit on a variety of criteria, to ensure that my money (and your money) is going to the right spot. It put a huge smile on my face to see that Operation Homefront puts 92% of its funds towards programming. And they have some fantastic programs that assist military families.

Operation Homefront focuses on three categories of assistance for military families: relief (through Critical Financial Assistance and transitional housing programs), resiliency (through permanent housing and caregiver support services) and recurring support (programs and services throughout the year that help military families overcome the short-term bumps in the road so they don’t become long-term chronic problems).

The impact Operation Homefront has on military families is astounding and you can view their lifelong impact report here. What speaks to me is that their true focus is the military family as a whole; when one member struggles, the entire family struggles and organizations that support the entire family should be celebrated.

You can learn more about Operation Homefront and their many assistance programs on their website.

Many thanks to all who have shopped with me the past few months and to all those who will shop with me in the future!