WARM WISHES Yarn Hat Ornaments... with free printable gift tags

My boys are getting older... and a little "mature" for the types crafts we did together when they were little. So, this year, I wanted to make a craft with my boys that was great for older kids. I've seen a bunch of versions of these yarn hats on Pinterest, and I have been wanting to make them for many years. They are the perfect Christmas craft for tweens and teens... and adults will love making them too. Today, I am sharing the step-by-step instructions for yarn hat ornaments, and some FREE printable gift tags that make them the perfect DIY gift for holiday giving.

To make these adorable yarn hat ornaments, you'll need: a ruler, yarn in your desired hat color, stuffing or cotton balls, old paper towel rolls and scissors.

To make the yarn hat ornaments:

1) Cut a paper towel roll into 1/2" strips.
2) Cut 10" strips of yarn... about 40-50... depending on the weight of the yarn.
3) Fold yarn in half, make a loop and insert it into the strip of cardboard tube.
4) Take the two ends of the yarn, and pull them through the loop. Pull tight.
5) Continue this process until the entire cardboard ring is covered.
6) Push the yarn through the ring to create a "hat brim".
7) Use a long piece of yarn (approx. 12") to tie the top of the hat.

8) Stuff some filling or cotton balls into the hat.
9) Trim the pom pom on the top of the hat.
10) Use the string you used to tie the top of the hat to create an "ornament hanger".

You can use one colour of yarn, or you can alternate colours. I love doing two pieces of one colour and then two pieces of another colour. You can also play with the width of the piece of paper towel roll, the weight of the yarn and the lengths of the pieces of yarn.

Aren't these yarn hat ornaments totally adorable? I can't wait to hang them on my tree.

And... these yarn hat ornaments make fun DIY Christmas gifts. Just add these adorable "warm wishes" tags. Click on the photo below, right-click, save it to your computer and print it like a regular 4x6 photo.

Isn't this a sweet little homemade holiday gift?

Do you like making crafts with your older children? What have you made? Now that my boys are getting older, I can use all the ideas I can get. 😀

(aka East Coast Mommy)

PS (You can find MORE ideas for easy and inexpensive Christmas family fun here.)

Elf on the Shelf Magic Seeds... for a candy cane garden

Several years ago, our sweet Elf on the Shelf brought us a special gift... magic elf seeds. The seeds were shaped like little trees, and when we planted them in sugar, they grew into cookies on sticks. This year, Santa sent us a new type of magic elf seeds. These tiny candy cane seeds grow into a garden full of candy canes!

The little candy cane seeds were hand-delivered by our Elf on the Shelf in a little bag with the instructions attached (and you can download the instructions for FREE below).

Aren't these little seeds adorable? (They look a lot like Wilton cake decorations.) 😉

And they are even more adorable with this cute tag attached.

To download the tags for free: click on the photo below, right-click, save it to your computer, and print it like a regular 4x6 photo.

This is such a fun idea. It's simple, and the candy cane garden that grows is nothing short of delightful!

Do you have an Elf that likes to bring a little magic to your home? We are so lucky to have "Elfie". Elf on the Shelf really has become a treasured holiday tradition in our home.

(aka East Coast Mommy)

PS (You can find more easy and inexpensive Elf on the Shelf ideas here.)

East Coast Mommy 2018 DIY Gifts and Gift Guides... OVER 100 gift ideas included

Christmas shopping can be stressful, but today, I've made thing a little easier for you by collecting over 100 of my favourite gift ideas... all in one place. Keep reading for a gift suggestions for everyone on your list at a price point that works for you!

  • Gifts for board game lovers - A good family board game is always a good choice. Playing games is a great way to spend time together. You can find some of our favourites here

  • Gifts for LEGO fans - LEGO is a classic gift and always a favourite on Christmas morning. You can find some fantastic gift ideas for LEGO fans here

  • Stocking Stuffers - Stockings are one of the best parts of Christmas, and it's extra fun if they are filled with unique and inexpensive treats and trinkets. Here are some ideas kids will love.

  • Gifts for Moms - The special lady in your life deserves to be celebrated, and here are a few inexpensive gift ideas she will love to find under the tree on Christmas morning.

  • Gifts for Dads - Men can be tough to buy for, but they are guaranteed to love something here.

  • Hockey Gift Guide - If you have a hockey fan, you are going to want to buy something off the list you can find here.

  • And don't forget teachers and neighbours. I love this simple DIY "warm wishes" gift, and you can add a gift card too!

I hope you found these gift ideas helpful. Did you find something for everyone on your list? Happy shopping!!!

Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)

EASY DIY Christmas Decor Ideas (that you are going to want to try THIS year)

Holiday decor doesn't need to be expensive or elaborate to be fantastic. In fact, sometimes easy and inexpensive DIY ideas having the biggest impact. Today, I am sharing a few of my favourite ideas for easy DIY Christmas Decor Ideas.

1) Wrapped pictures - Wrapping existing artwork is a wonderful way to transform a space, and it barely costs anything. I always wrap the pictures in my hallway, and they automatically make the area look festive and fun. What do you think?

2) Holiday wreath (from a dollar store frame) - Making a custom wreath for your front door is a fantastic way to decorate the exterior of your home. I love the uniqueness of this square wreath made from a dollar store frame, don't you? Check out the simple "how to" here.

3) Garland and lights - Nothing adds Christmas sparkle to a home like garland and lights. It's inexpensive and adds a "cozy feel" to a space.

4) Felt Santa wreath - A whimsical homemade wreath is a fun option this time of year. I adore this simple Santa wreath made from felt and a dollar store hat. Find the full "how to" here.

5) Makeshift mantle - Unfortunately, my current home doesn't have a fireplace, but I still need a place for the kids to hang their stockings. If you're in the same situation as me, consider using stocking hangers on a window sill. It's not as good as a fire place, but it works well and looks great.

6) Epson salt Christmas scene - How cute is this little "snowy" scene I made in less than 5 minutes? I used a glass container I already had, added epson salts, and inserted a little glass house and glittery trees I found at the dollar store. I added small battery operated lights, but it's cute without them too.

What's your favourite DIY Christmas decorating tip? Do you think you will try any of my ideas? I just love decorating this time of year, don't you?

(aka East Coast Mommy)

5 Tips for Preparing Kids to Stay Home Alone

Two questions parents struggle with as their kids get older are: "When are kids old enough to stay home alone?" and "How do you prepare kids to stay home alone?" Like most moms, I wanted to find the answers to these questions for my own family. I searched for information online, I asked friends, and I discussed the situation with my boys and my husband. Today, I am sharing my best tips for preparing kids to stay home alone.

1) Start early - It's never too early to start teaching kids how to be safe. Set a good example for your kids and try to find "teaching moments" where you can. In our house, we've always tried to find time to chat while having an after school snack. Bedtime is great too.

2) Wait until kids are ready - In addition to checking the legal requirements for staying alone in your area, it's important to consider the maturity of your child. All kids mature at different rates, and parents are the best judges of how responsible and "ready" children are. Don't rush it.

3) Start off slow - Parents and kids will both be more comfortable if kids are gradually introduced to the concept of being left home alone. Start by talking about staying home alone, progress to leaving the child home for short periods of time, and build up to leaving the child at home for longer periods of time. My oldest son is 13, and although I have been leaving him alone for a few years, I have only recently started leaving him in charge of his brothers for long periods of time.

4) Make sure the rules are clear - Make sure the kids know the rules before you leave them home alone. For example: Do the doors need to stay locked? Are friends allowed to be in the house when adults aren't home? Is the child permitted to use the stove? In our house, the kids are not allowed to use the stove or oven when they are home alone. They make a lot of sandwiches, cereal, and microwavable oatmeal.

5) Sign your kids up for an online safety course - Sometimes it is difficult to find the time to talk to your kids and give them all the information they need. Recently, I had my boys do the SOS 4 Kids online safety course*. The program is inexpensive, easy to use, and comprehensive. There are modules (that the kids can do at a convenient time... from the comfort of your home) on: street smarts, people safety, at home safety, online safety, fire safety, first aid, and accident prevention. The course is simple enough for the kids to do on their own, but doing it with your kids provides a wonderful opportunity to open a dialogue with your kids and to reinforce some of the information included in the course.

The program is interactive... using videos, digital media and checkpoints to engage kids. They even get a printable certificate of achievement when they have completed the course. The program is designed for kids aged 9-13... but it would also be a useful platform for kids with ADD, learning disabilities, or older youth with developmental disabilities. You can read more about the home alone safety course here.

Have you started leaving your kids home alone? What tips do you have to share? Leave your ideas in the comments below, and if you have any questions, please let me know.

Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)

*Disclosure: I have partnered with SOS 4 Kids and have received compensation for this post; however, as always, all opinions in this post are my own.

Birthday Letter to My Oldest Son on his 13th Birthday

Every year I write my boys letters on their birthdays. It's my way of celebrating them and documenting their personalities as they grow another year older. I hope that some day my boys will look back at their letters and know how much I love and appreciate everything that makes them special and unique. Today, I am sharing my letter to my oldest son on his 13th birthday.

Dear Cameron,

I can't believe you are a teenager. It seems like only yesterday you depended on me for everything, and now you are becoming an independent young man. It really is bittersweet for me. I'm super-proud of the wonderful human you are... but I hope you still need me a little... at least for a few more years. 😉

Here are a few things that make you special:

  • You are resilient. This year was tough for you as you struggled with a recovering from a broken collarbone. I know you are missing the sport you love, but I admire your dedication to recovery. You go to all your hockey practices and games to support your team (even though you can't get on the ice), you never miss your physio, and you are doing whatever you can to keep fit. I love your resilience and dedication.
  • You have great friends, which is a testament to your kindness and your ability to make good choices.
  • You work hard in school, love to play the guitar, and live to watch and play hockey.
  • You love hanging out with family... especially your brothers and your cousins. Nothing makes me happier than listening to you and your brothers playing mini sticks... even if close games sometimes end up in a fight. lol
  • Peanut butter sandwiches are your favourite, you love chocolate chip cookies, and Auston Matthews is your hero.
  • You have a kind heart. This year you started a summer business making jars of cookie ingredients, and you gave $1 from the sale of every jar to charity. You made over $100 for Cystic Fibrosis.
You may be a teenager, but you will always be my baby. I love you to the moon and back!

Mom xo

Chocolate Kiss Peanut Butter Cookies

Who doesn't love a recipe that combines chocolate and peanut butter? These chocolate kiss peanut butter cookies are easy to make, look cute and taste delicious. They are perfect as a special holiday treat or just as a special after school snack. Check out the simple recipe and instructions below.

The base of these cookies is a peanut butter cookie recipe I have been making for many years. In the past, I have used it to make teddy bear cookies in the summer and reindeer cookies at Christmas. It's a simple recipe that always turns out well. Here's how you make them:

1/2 cup butter (softened)
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup white sugar (and some extra for rolling the cookies in)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
Hershey Kisses (approx. 24)

1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2) In a large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to combine the butter, peanut butter, white sugar, and brown sugar.
3) Add baking soda and baking powder, and beat until combined.
4) Add egg and vanilla, and beat again.
5) Stir in flour.
6) Roll spoonfuls of dough into balls, roll in white sugar, place on a cookie sheet, and bake in a preheated oven (at 375 degrees) for 8-12 minutes.
7) While the cookies are still warm, insert kisses into the tops of the cookies
8) Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

These cookies are the perfect balance of peanut butter and chocolate. Trust me, you are going to love them!

They pair well with milk, coffee, tea and hot chocolate... and they are fantastic after a cold winter day playing in the snow. They are a "snow day" favourite in our house.

Do you love cookies that combine chocolate and peanut butter? If you do, you should totally try this recipe for chocolate kiss peanut butter cookies. Let me know what you think.

Gina Bell (aka East Coast Mommy)