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The Ultimate DIY Carnival Party

A carnival is perfect party theme for all ages. Everyone loves carnival games and treats. Today I am sharing the details of the simple and fabulous DIY Carnival party I threw for my boys on their 6th and 8th birthdays.

I set the mood by creating a simple carnival themed invite. I used a picture of my boys and added some info using I printed the 4X6 photo invites for just $0.19 each at my local photo developer.

We also thought it would be fun for my boys to make their own carnival t-shirts to wear to the party. They used fabric markers and white t-shirts. I think the shirts turned out really cute, and my boys were really proud of their creations.

Cute, right?

On the day of the party, we had the party guest decorate bags as they arrived. The bags were used to collect tickets and prizes.

Of course, we also had some fantastic carnival food at our "concession stand". We ordered pizza, but we also had lots of popcorn, chips, cotton candy, and treats. 

And the cakes were colourful and cute too. You can read all about our Skittles cakes here.

I also put together a bunch of simple carnival games and activities. I used to make some signs and purchased a lot of my supplies from the dollar store. You can read about all our carnival games and activities here.

The kids won tickets when they played the games, and at the end of the party, they were able to trade their tickets in for inexpensive carnival prizes.

In order to save money, I crafted some prizes, purchased things at the dollar store, and repackaged items that I purchased in bulk. You can read about all our carnival prizes here.

The kids put all their prizes into the bags they had decorated and we added clown noses to create seriously cute loot bags/ party favours.

I think a carnival party is a perfect party theme. It is fantastic for a birthday, but you could adapt my ideas for a carnival fundraiser too. Have you ever thrown a carnival party? I'd love to hear about it.

Gina Bell (aka East Coast Mommy)

Everything you need to know about DISNEY'S HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS

Disney parks can be a lot of fun, but planning a visit can be a little overwhelming if it is your first time embarking on a Disney adventure. Today, I am sharing everything you need to know if you are planning to visit Disney's Hollywood Studios.

As with all Disney parks, you are going to want to plan ahead, and buy your tickets in advance. Once you have purchased your tickets, you will be able to use the My Disney Experience App to investigate the park and book your Fast Passes.

You may also want to plan some fun clothes for the day. I always order my boys fun and inexpensive matching t-shirts. They were thrilled with the Star Wars t-shirts I bought for our most recent visit to Disney's Hollywood Studios. Cute, right?

You are also going to want to arrive early. It can take a long time to park, go through security, and make your way into the park. (Tip: You can easily remember where you park by taking a picture of the parking sign near your vehicle.) 

If your kids are between the ages of 4 and 12, you will need to proceed directly to Jedi Training when you enter the park. (Jedi Training is popular, and it fills up quickly, so make sure you arrive early.) When you sign up, they will give you a time to return for the training. My boys have done it several times, and it is always a lot of fun for little Star Wars fans.

Disney Hollywood Studios also has several really fun rides that the children are guaranteed to enjoy. (Make sure to check the height requirements before you arrive at the park. You can use a "parent swap" if you have children that are too short to ride. Just ask one of the attendants when you arrive at the ride.)

Some of our favorite rides at Disney's Hollywood Studios are: Toy Story Mania, Star Tours, Tower of Terror, and Rock 'n' Roller Coaster.

There are also several shows at Disney's Hollywood Studios that are sure to delight. Consult the "times guide" when you arrive at the park, and plan to check out the shows that suit your interests. We love: Voyage of the Little Mermaid, Muppet Vision 3D, Frozen Sing-Along, Beauty and the Beast: Live on Stage, Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, Disney Junior Live on Stage, and Star Wars: A Galaxy Far, Far Away. However, I think our favorites (based on the ages and interests of my boys) were: Muppet Vision 3D, Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, and Star Wars: A Galaxy Far Far Away. 

You are also going to want to attend the evening "Fantasmic" show. It is recommended to use a Fast Pass for the show or arrive around 90 minutes early to ensure you get a seat. It really is a magical show, and a great way to end the day! After the show, you can make your way to the Star Wars themed fireworks. They are really impressive.

In addition to the rides and shows, there are also a variety of character "meet and greets". (Consult the "times guide" for character greeting times and locations.) The waits can be long, so pick one or two favorites, and don't forget to take some family pictures. You can use the Disney photographer, or you can ask one of the workers to take a picture with your camera.

It is going to be a long day, so make sure you are prepared, and you are wearing comfy shoes. Bring a backpack, and pack: a lunch, sunscreen, a camera, sweaters, and glow sticks (which are much cheaper outside the park). You'll also want to take a break when you feel the kids need a little "re-charge". We have a tradition of getting Mickey Mouse shaped ice cream sandwiches. :-)

Bring some quarters and pennies too. Penny souvenir machines are scattered throughout the park, and they make fun and inexpensive souvenirs for the kids.

I highly recommend Disney's Hollywood Studios... especially if you have Toy Story and Star Wars fans in your family. Remember to have fun, take lots of pictures, and make many memories!

Gina Bell (aka East Coast Mommy)

Disclosure: I received two free tickets in exchange for my honest review of this park. As always, the opinions on this blog are 100% my own.

De-cluttering and Teaching Kids to Save for Something They Want

My boys are masters of collecting clutter. I have tried to limit the number of toys that come into our home, but we have still ended up with many things that my boys no longer use. Kids are always reluctant to get rid of toys and gear, but today I am sharing a fantastic way to convince them to de-clutter while teaching them a valuable lesson about saving for something they want.

My boys were recently given an old Playstation, and they are currently using the TV in my bedroom to play it. They really want a TV in our basement, but the area is currently full of toys. So, I gave the boys the option of selling some of their things to make room for a TV. I also told them that they can use the money from the sale of the items to fund the purchase of a new or used TV.

I made a cute label, and I attached it to a jar. Every time we sell something, I will put the money in the jar. Clever, right?

The first item I sold was a Little Tykes workbench, and I added the proceeds ($25) to my boys' TV fund. (You can read about my first sale here.) 

Are you considering de-cluttering some of your kids' clothes, toys, and gear? I had success posting an ad on Kijiji. Here are some fabulous tips to help make your Kijiji ad stand out:

1) Give it a good title. Include things that will get the buyers' attention like brand names, size, price, etc...

2) Give detailed descriptions. Provide the answers to the questions an average buyer is going to ask. e.g. give measurements, condition of the item, etc...

3) Take a good picture. A picture is worth a thousand words, and the buyers are going to want to see the item. Make sure the item is clean, the lighting is good, the picture is clear, and the image is close up. (When creating a quality ad, it's helpful to have a white backdrop and iPad/iPhone holder, but the most important thing is to have a quality digital camera or smart phone).

4) Specify the conditions of the sale. Let buyers know if it is "first come, first serve", type of payment preferred, etc...

5) Respond to email inquiries promptly. Buyers lose interest quickly, so provide good customer service. (Note: Replying to another buyer or seller while using the Kijiji app is now even easier with "In-Ap Messaging", an instant messaging feature available on iOS and Android devices.)

6) Be creative! Many of the most viewed ads on Kijiji are different than the rest. One way to achieve this is with humour, and another is creative storytelling to pique interest in your item.

I love that embracing the second-hand economy allows me to: de-clutter my home, help the environment, make money, and teach valuable lessons to my boys. Do you love buying and selling used items as much as I do? What are your best tips?

Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)

Disclosure – I received compensation from Kijiji for writing this post and for sharing my honest opinion. As always, the opinions on this blog are my own.

Simple Spring Crafts for Kids

Celebrating a change in seasons can be a lot of fun, and Spring provides the perfect inspiration for some fantastic crafts. I love the cheerful colors associated with Spring, don't you? Today, I am sharing two wonderful crafts that are inspired by Spring.

To make a delightful Spring wreath, you'll need: a paper plate, tissue paper in lovely Spring colors, glue, ribbon, and a dollar store flower.


1) Cut the centre from a paper plate.
2) Punch a couple holes in the top of the plate, and insert a ribbon for hanging.
3) Scrunch up 1-inch squares of tissue paper, and use glue to cover the entire surface of the paper plate.
4) Allow the glue to dry, and add a dollar store flower.

To make a sweet umbrella craft: draw an umbrella shape, color it, and cut it out. Glue the umbrella to a brightly colored piece of card stock, and then use glue to attach heart-shaped "raindrops". (I used a heart-shaped punch, but you could do it freehand too.)

Aren't these adorable Spring crafts? They work well for toddlers and pre-schoolers, but older children will like them too. 

Happy Spring!

Gina Bell (aka East Coast Mommy)

5 Ways to Get Happier by Simplifying your Life... and a chance to win a $100 prize pack

Recently, Schick Intuition surveyed some moms across Canada, and they found that there is a direct correlation between happiness and simplicity. Their research showed that happiness spikes when people take deliberate steps to make life more manageable and embrace a philosophy of voluntary simplicity. I am not surprised by the results, and today I am sharing 5 ways to simplify your life.

1) Make small changes - Small changes are the easiest to make, and they are mostly likely to become part of your lifestyle. e.g. Set up some over-the-door hooks for the kids to hang their backpacks on. It will become habit to hang up their backpacks on the way into the house, and you won't have need to trip over backpacks on the floor.

2) Get organized - Organization can be simple and inexpensive, and being organized will make you feel more in control and less stressed.  You can check out my favorite dollar store organization ideas here.

3) De-clutter - We all have too much "stuff", so take some time to get rid of the things you don't use. You can even get the kids involved and make a little extra money. Check out my tips for selling kids' gear here.

4) Use a family calendar - If you write all deadlines and activities down (in one place), you'll instantly feel like you have better control over the crazy schedules of all the people in your home. I use a spreadsheet on the inside of my cupboard, and I consult it several times a day. It's a simple idea that really reduces my stress.

5) Look for products that can help - Always be on the lookout for products that can simplify your life. e.g. Pre-cut vegetables can speed up a busy supper time prep, a bag clip can be used on a wrap to make eating easier for a child, or a 3-in-1 razor can help you have a quicker shower in the morning.  

Schick Intuition found that 8 in 10 moms look for these kinds of products and services because even small changes can help contribute to a simpler lifestyle. Simplifying little things in your life can make your overall routine easier and happier. 

Need more inspiration for simplifying your life? You can find some fantastic and clever ideas on the Schick Intuition Simplicity Curve Pinterest board, and by setting up your own Pinterest board, you will get a chance to win a $100 prize pack from Schick Intuition. I've set up my own board here.

Here's how you can set up your own Pinterest board for a chance to win a $100 prize pack:

Simplicity Curve: Pinterest Contest Outline

1) Follow @IntuitionCA on Pinterest.

2) Share what simplicity means to you! Create a board called “Simplicity Curve” and Pin your ideas using the hashtag #IntuitionSimplicityCurveContest.

3) For inspiration, visit @IntuitionCA’s Pinterest boards and re-pin if you like what you see.

4) Next, visit where you can submit up to three URL links of your Simplicity Curve Pins. Submitting is easy; copy the link to your Pinned photo and paste into the submission form.

5) Each week, one entrant will win a #IntuitionSimplicityCurveContest prize pack valued at $100! The prize pack includes a $75 gift card and Schick Intuition shave products to help simplify your beauty routine. Happy Pinning!

How do you simplify your life?

Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)

Disclosure – I received compensation from Schick Intuition for writing this post and for sharing my honest opinion; however, (as always) the opinions on this blog are my own. #IntuitionSimplicityCurveContest

Sharpie Tinfoil Pendant

A few weeks ago I shared a cool technique that my boys and I used to create 3D Sharpie artwork. We enjoyed the project so much that I thought we could use a similar process to create Sharpie tinfoil pendants. These pendants can be used as necklace charms, keychains or backpack clips.

To make a Sharpie tinfoil pendant:

1) Cut a small (1 ½ inch) circle from an old cereal box. 
2) Cut a slightly bigger circle from tin foil. 
3) Draw a simple design on the cardboard, cover the outline of the design with glue and yarn, and set it aside to dry. 
4) Cover the dull side of the tin foil with a glue stick, wrap the tin foil around the cardboard containing the design, and secure the tinfoil with a piece of tape on the backside of the pendant.
5) Rub the tinfoil on the front of the pendant with a piece of felt to help the yarn design show through. 
6) Colour the design with Sharpies, and allow to dry.
7) Punch a hole in the top of the pendant, and add a pendant clasp. (These can be purchased inexpensively wherever craft supplies are sold, but a paper clip would work too.)

You could use a piece of yarn or ribbon, but I hung mine from a chain I had in my jewellery box. Cute, right?

I think this is a fantastic craft for kids of all ages. These Sharpie tinfoil pendants would make a fun homemade gift for Mother's Day too!

Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)

5 Tips for Selling Kids' Gear (and making money from the second hand economy)

Before I had kids, I had no idea they came with so much "stuff". The need to stay organized and the desire to save money have motivated me to get involved in the second-hand economy. I love to sell the gear, toys, and clothes my boys no longer use, and I love to save money by buying items second-hand. Today, I am sharing 5 tips for successfully selling kids' gear.

1) Let the kids pick the items to sell. There will be less drama, and it will be a learning opportunity for the little ones.

2) Make sure the items are clean and in working order, and take a good picture. Ensure the lighting is good and the features of the product are easily visable.

3) Price the item correctly. Remember that people are looking for a good deal on a used item, so don't overprice it.

4) Use the internet to sell your item. Yesterday, I sold a toy in one day using 

Here's what I sold: Little Tykes Work Bench (Status: SOLD!)

5) Let the kids decide what to do with the money for the sold items. They can donate it to charity, save it, or use it to buy something else (whether it is new or second-hand). Letting them have control over the proceeds will encourage them to get rid of stuff.

For those of us who are Spring cleaning, now is the perfect time to purge. Getting rid of clothes and gear that kids no longer need is a fantastic way to de-clutter, make some money, and help the environment. 

Last year, 85% of Canadians participated in the second-hand economy.  It’s a win-win for Canadians and the environment. You can learn more about the second-hand economy in Canada, and the role Canadians play in it, check out

How do you get rid of unwanted kids' gear in your home?

Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)

Disclosure – I received compensation from Kijiji for writing this post and for sharing my honest opinion; however, (as always) the opinions on this blog are my own.
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