Bathroom Refresh on a SMALL Budget ($250)

Sometimes there is a room in the house that really needs a makeover, but time and budget are major concerns. We have a bathroom at the top of our stairs that desperately needed a refresh, but because it is barely used, we didn't want to spend a lot of money on it. So, with our small budget of $250, we pushed ahead... and today, I am sharing the results of our efforts. 

(Note: I had some trouble taking photos in my small bathroom and I was getting glares on the pictures of my boys. As a result of the "angles" I was taking the pictures at, it appears that some of my photos are crooked... but I assure you, they are straight in real life. lol)

One of the major problems with our bathroom was the fact that the light fixture was off center, and it could't be fixed without electrical work (which was out of the scope of the project). It literally drove me crazy every time I looked at it.


In order to solve the problem, I bought an inexpensive vertical mirror and placed some vertical objects to the right of the mirror... to trick the eye into thinking things were more balanced. It worked really well. I also painted the room and cleared the clutter.


I also needed to update the decor that had been in this bathroom since my boys were babies and toddlers.


I got rid of the basket that once held diapers and baby bath stuff. In its place, I put a vase of flowers and a couple of inexpensive succulents. I also replaced the childish "frog" shower curtain with a lovely striped one, and I placed coordinating towels on the back of the toilet. I think the result is much more age appropriate for my boys now.


Here's the view of the small bathroom from the hallway.



Finally, I updated the boring towel rack with some hooks that are much more functional for my boys. Each boy now has his own towel hanging under his baby picture. Cute, right? (The grey frames were only $10 each, and I love how they look).



I love that the bathroom looks totally renovated for less than $250! Here's how my budget broke down:

paint (Benjamin Moore... raindance) - $50
three grey frames (Superstore) - $10 each - $30
shower curtain (Superstore) - $26
three hooks (Kent) - $5 each - $15
six towels (3 for on the hooks and 3 folded on the back of the toilet) (Superstore) - $8 each - $48
new bath mat  (Superstore) - $16
soap dispenser (Dollar Store) - $4
succulents (Superstore) - $11
vase  (Dollar Store) - $4
tall flowers in vase - $4
mirror - $55
minus the two items I was able to sell - $10 for the mirror and $15 for the old frames

There are other things I would like to do to my bathroom at a later date (like replacing the sink, vanity, and light fixture), but for my $250 budget, I'm super pleased with how it looks. What do you think about my refresh?

Gina Bell
 (aka East Coast Mommy)

Find more design ideas (on a budget) here.

5 Tips for Organizing a Child's Room

When it comes to organizing my home, my boys' bedrooms are particularly challenging for me. My three boys have tons of books, toys and clothes, and I struggle to keep it all tidy and organized. Today, I am sharing my 5 best tips for organizing a kid's room... and you are going to love them. The new way of folding clothes is going to rock your world!

1) Fold clothes right. - In my house, the socks are flat, and the clothes are folded in thirds and stored vertically. It looks super-tidy, and my boys can easily find the items they are looking for in their drawers. Check out the video at the bottom of this post to see exactly how I do it.

2) Use baskets. A couple of baskets on top of a dresser are perfect for all the odds and ends in a child's room. Kids can put their miscellaneous items in these baskets... instead of on the floor.

3) Store stuffed animals in a bean bag chair cover. Instead of having stuffies all over the floor, they can be stuffed into a bean bag chair cover. It contains the chaos, and it makes a comfy reading seat too.

4) Use a clear shoe rack on the back of the door. I use these clear shoe racks all over my house, and they are awesome! The clear pockets make it easy for kids to store and access their stuff. I use them for LEGO, but they work well for clothing, craft supplies, and any small toys.

5) Make books organized and accessible. Make sure all the books have a "home". You can use a nightstand, baskets, or shelving. Also, rotate books on a regular basis... out with the old and in with the new.

You may want to check out this video I made in my son's room. It's less than 4 minutes, and it contains some get tips and tricks for organizing a kid's room.

What are you best tips for organizing a child's room? I love the way my boys' drawers are organized, but all the tips I've shared are fantastic. They are easy, inexpensive, and effective. Let me know your favourite in the comments below.

Gina Bell
 (aka East Coast Mommy)

7 Things to Consider When Deciding the RIGHT Age to Buy Your Kids a Phone

Recently, on my Facebook page, I asked my readers what they thought the right age was to buy kids a phone. After reading their answers, I don't think there is a set "age" that works for everyone. As with most parenting issues, every parent must make the decision that works best for their family... but there are several important things to consider.

My boys are currently 9, 11, and 13, and I haven't gotten them phones yet... but they are asking. (My oldest used his own money to purchase a device after he turned 13, but he has no data plan yet.) If you are having this discussion with your kids, here are some things to consider when deciding the "right age" to buy your kids a phone:

1) Is the child mature enough to handle the responsibility of a phone? Kids mature at different times... so age is often less of a consideration than maturity.

2) Have you talked to him/her about bullying and social media? Kids need to be taught about the dangers of social media, and before they are given a phone, the rules about how and when they use social media need to be clearly communicated.

3) What kind of phone does the child need? Is a flip phone sufficient? Do they just need an iPod? Are they going to have wifi access?

4) How will the phone be paid for? Will the child be required to pay the monthly bill? Will the child get a job, or will they be required to do extra chores around the house?

5) Are there special circumstances that make a phone necessary? Does the child share time between two households? Does the child need to contact parents to be picked up at after school activities?

6) Does the child need a phone for safety reasons? Is he/she driving? Does he/she come home after school by themselves? Does he/she travel alone on public transit? Does he/she have access to a house phone?

7) What rules do you want to put in place around the use of a phone? Will you do weekly check ins and go through the phone together? Will the phone have restricted access settings? Are there time limits around the usage of the phone? Is the phone allowed in the bedroom... or in public areas only? Are there consequences if the child doesn't answer the phone when a parent calls or texts? What are the consequences going to be if the rules are broken?

Whatever you decide, make sure the rules and expectations are clear from the beginning and continue to have an open dialogue with your child about the phone and its usage.

You know your child and your requirements. It's an important decision, and it is one that every parent must make for themselves and their family based on their own circumstances and beliefs.

Does your child have a phone? What age did you think worked for your family? 

Gina Bell
(aka East Coast Mommy)

Tips for Setting Up a Successful SHARED Bedroom

Not everyone has a huge house, so for families with multiple kids, sharing rooms is a necessity. In my home, two of my boys share a room, and it was important to me that their room was organized, and both boys felt that they had their "own space". Today I am sharing my best tips setting up a SHARED bedroom.

1) Let the kids have input into the theme and design of the room. If the two kids have similar interests... go with that. My boys wanted a "hockey theme" for their room. I included some hockey items, but I also used neutral pieces to make the room feel more classic and grown up.

2) Keep organized with functional storage solutions (bins, baskets, and shoes racks). When kids are sharing a space, it's important to make sure systems are in place to keep things organized. My boys have baskets for their books, shelves with baskets for their "stuff", and a shoe rack on the back of their door to organize their LEGO.

3) Use DIY elements to define the space. DIY projects can really help to pull a space together, define a space, and add a personal touch. I created hockey sticks with names to hang at the heads of my boys heads. It's my favourite part of their room.

4) Give each child their own "side". Kids need their own space, so even if they share a room, they need areas that belong "just to them". In my boys room, one of my boys has shelving with his first jersey in a frame and space for his LEGO creations. My other son has a wall display of his first jersey, an enlarged picture of him playing hockey at the beach, and framed hockey cards (belonging to his favourite player).

I actually have space in my basement for another room (and I'll likely move one of my boys there at some point), but for now, I love the bond that they are building as roommates. They really like their room, and I love listening to them chat when they go to bed.

Do your children share a room? I hope some of my tips are helpful!

♥ Gina Bell (aka East Coast Mommy)

PS (If you are interested in reading more about my boys shared hockey bedroom on a budget, you can read about it here.)

2018 Year in Review... free printable

New Year's Eve is a time for reflecting on the past year and looking forward to the new one -- not just for adults, but for kids too. With this in mind, each year I put together a Year in Review Questionnaire for my boys and their friends to fill out on New Year's Eve. We always include the questionnaires in our New Year's Eve countdown activity bags. Here is our 2018 version (that you can download for free).

It is a pretty simple questionnaire, and you can download the free printable by: clicking on the photo above, right-clicking, saving it to your computer, and printing it like a regular 8X10 photo. I usually print mine at my local office supply store.

I love seeing what my boys come up with each year. Maybe someday I will make a book for each of my boys using all the questionnaires they have filled out over the years.
Happy New Year, everybody!

Gina Bell
(aka East Coast Mommy)

Check out more New Year's Eve activities and ideas here.

New Year's Eve DIY Details that will help you Ring in the New Year with Style

I've never been a big fan of getting dressed up and fighting crowds on New Year's Eve. I much prefer smaller (and more casual) gatherings... especially now that I have kids. Home parties with tons of fun DIY details are my favourite... so today, I am sharing some of my favourite New Year's Eve DIY ideas that will help you ring in the New Year in style. I'm also including a bunch of FREE printables too!

Isn't this a simple and charming New Year's Eve tablescape? I have dollar store decor, midnight kisses, treats to "ring" in the new year, a way to add sparkle to the festivities, and activity bags for kids. Keep reading for the easy and inexpensive tips, tricks, and freebies!

My best tip for New Year's Eve decor is to use leftover gold and silver Christmas decor. I purchased a cheap silver and gold garland, a gold tablecloth, and a silver tray at the dollar store. I also found this gold and glittery wreath at the dollar store, and I added numbers that I covered in glitter and attached together using hot glue. It's a simple way to add a festive flair to your front door.

And, my favourite way to entertain kids is by putting together New Year's Eve activity bags. I fill several bags with different treats and activities, and the kids open a new bag every hour. It's a lot of fun, and it's something my kids look forward to every year. (For some ideas on items to include in the bags, you can click here.)

Party food is also important. It's simple to transform store-bought fortune cookies into custom creations. Simply dip the cookies in melted chocolate and sprinkles, and let them set on a piece of wax paper. It doesn't get much easier!

Cookies and milk in wine glasses is also fun. I love that kids can take part in a midnight toast with the adults.

And don't forget to hand out party favours to your guests. I love these "Bring some sparkle to 2019" cards for sparklers. Print the cards (for free) below, cut slits in the cards, and insert sparklers. Aren't they cute?

To print the sparkler cards: click on the photo below, right-click, save it to your computer, and print it like a regular 4x6 photo.

"Midnight Kisses" also make adorable party favours. Fill plastic wine glasses with Hershey kisses, and package them with noisemakers. I put mine in clear bags and added a "midnight kisses" tags with some curling ribbon.

To download the "Midnight Kisses" tag I designed: click on the photo below, right-click, save it to your computer, and print it like a regular 4x6 photo.

And kids will LOVE candy rings packaged with "ring in the New Year" tags.

To download the "Ring in the New Year" tag I designed: click on the photo below, right-click, save it to your computer, and print it like a regular 4x6 photo.

When all these DIY details come together, you end up with a table that is packed with fun... and full of style.

These simple tips, tricks and free printables are perfect for a DIY New Year's Eve party at home. Adults and kids will both be impressed with all the fun details.

Happy New Year!

Gina Bell 
(aka East Coast Mommy)

PS (I love getting the kids to fill out a year in review questionnaire too. You can download a copy of the one I designed, for free, here.)

M & M Christmas Cookies

Tried and true recipes are my favourite, and I absolutely love my soft and chewy chocolate chip cookie recipe. I literally bake it a couple of times a month, and it is an absolute favourite in our home. So, last week, I thought I would take my classic chocolate chip cookie recipe and turn it into a Christmas classic. Today, I am sharing my recipe for super-easy M&M Christmas cookies. This is the perfect recipe to bake with kids... and these cookies would be perfect to leave for Santa.


  • 2 1/3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup butter (at room temperature... NOT melted)
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups green and red M&Ms (or other holiday candy coated chocolate)

Here's the recipe:

1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2) In a medium bowl, whisk together the following dry ingredients: flour, baking soda, and salt.

3) In a separate bowl, use electric beaters to combine the butter, white sugar and brown sugar.

4) Add eggs and real vanilla extract to the butter/sugar mixture. Beat with electric beaters until well combined.

5) Using a wooden spoon, mix wet and dry ingredients together (just until combined). Then, add green and red M&Ms (or any candy coated chocolate candies).

6) Drop tablespoon-size balls onto a Silpat or parchment lined cookie sheet, and bake for approx. 10 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

This is such a classic cookie recipe... and kids will love them!

They freeze really well too... and they are a perfect choice for leaving for Santa. A glass of milk and a few of these cookies will give Santa all the energy he needs to deliver presents on Christmas Eve.

Happy Holidays!!!

Gina Bell (aka East Coast Mommy)

Note: If you notice that your cookies are flattening out, try putting the batter in the fridge for half an hour before baking. Also, use fresh baking soda, don't melt the butter, and don't put batter onto a hot cookie sheet.