Making Ice Cream in a Bag

One of the things on our summer checklist is "make ice cream in a bag".  It is really easy, requires no special equipment, and is lots of fun on a warm summer day.  Want to make ice cream with your kids?

First, gather your supplies.  You'll need:  big ziploc bags, small ziploc bags, salt, ice, sugar, vanilla, and coffee cream (18%).

1) put 1/2 cup of course salt and a bunch of ice in the big bag, and 
2) put 1/2 cup coffee cream, 1 tsp vanilla, and 3 tsp of sugar in the small bag.  
3) Seal the small bag, place it in the larger bag, seal the larger bag, and shake it until ice cream forms (approximately 10-15 minutes).

Once the ice cream has formed, you can add some fun toppings, or you can eat it plain.

Eating it right out of the bag is half the fun, but try not to get salt from the outside of the bag into the ice cream.  You might want to give it a quick wipe with a cloth before you give it to the kids to eat.

Yummy, right?  Enjoy your treat!

Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)

Life Size LEGO

If your kids love LEGO like mine do, they are going to love this simple project -- Life Size LEGO.  This project is quick, easy, and lots of fun!

Just gather up some old boxes, wrap them in colored paper, and add some fun "LEGO" dots to the top. I cut my circles from cardstock, and used foam mounting tape to attach them.

Fun, right?  These Life Size LEGO are fun for stacking on a rainy afternoon, and they are perfect for a DIY LEGO party.  It's also a fun way to wrap a gift.  How would you play with this pretend LEGO?

Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)

Slow Cooker Pork Tenderloin

I am a big fan of my slow cooker... especially on hot days when I don't want to turn on my oven.  One of my favorite recipes is for Slow Cooker Pork Tenderloin with Sweet Potatoes and Apples.  It is seriously yummy!

Here's what you'll need:

1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground thyme
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground ginger
4 medium sweet potatoes (peeled and slice 1/2 inch thick)
2 small or 1 large pork tenderloin
2 medium apples (peeled and chopped into chunks)
1/4 cup dried cranberries
2 tbsp water

Here's what you do*:

1)  In a small bowl, mix the following together: brown sugar, thyme, salt, pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger.
2)  Place sweet potatoe slices in the bottom of the slow cooker, and sprinkle with half of the spice mixture.
3)  Use the remaining spice mixture to coat the pork tenderloin, and place it on top of the sweet potatoes.
4)  Top with apples, cranberries, and water.
5)  Cover and cook on high for 1 1/2 hours.  Reduce heat to low, and cook for an additional 5 to 6 hours.

*This recipe is based on one I found in Today's Parent Magazine.  You can find the original recipe here.

Do you have a favorite slow cooker recipe?  I'd love a link to it.  I am always looking for new dinner ideas.

Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)

Pin the Head on the LEGO Man {with free printable}

I recently had a fantastic DIY LEGO party (which you can read about here) for my two youngest boys, and one of the games we played was "Pin the Head on the LEGO Man".  My boys and their guests loved it!

To make your own game, use the following templates and a piece of Bristol board to create your own LEGO man.  

To download the templates: click on each photo below, right-click, save it to your computer, and print.

On the day of the party... make sure you have some tape, a blind fold, and a head for each child.  (I wrote the children's names on the heads so that it would be easier to keep track of who was closest.)

Do you have a little one that would love this simple "Pin the Head on the LEGO Man" game?

Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)

PS (Don't forget to check out the other DIY LEGO Party details at East Coast Mommy here.)

8 Ways to Encourage Summer Reading

A number of studies have shown that children's reading skills decline during the summer months.  The "summer slide" is common, but that doesn't mean we (as parents) are powerless to do anything about it.  Here is a list of fun and easy ways to get kids excited about reading during the summer months.

1)  Create a "Mommy and Me Journal" - This is a favorite of mine (which you can read more about here).  My 6 year old and my 7 year old both have journals, and we spend all summer writing secret notes to each other.  It's a really fun way to get little ones practicing their reading and writing skills and to document all their summer adventures.

2)  Put it in the schedule - Summer can be a busy a time, so setting aside a specific time for reading is helpful.  In our house, the boys get to read for 1/2 past their bedtime each night.

3)  Visit the library - The library is a great place to head on a rainy day, and it is always fun to check out new books.  Many libraries {like ours} have summer reading programs which help getting your little ones reading.

4)  Make a summer reading list - Have children make a list of topics, themes, or characters they would like to read about.  Also, mix it up by reading different types of things. (e.g. books, magazines, comic books, cookbooks, ebooks, etc...)  

5)  Take it outside - Lay a blanket in the backyard, sit in a lawn chair, or build a fun no-sew tent using a bedsheet and a hula hoop (You can find the step by step instructions here).  Reading a book outside can be a fun summer activity.

6)  Choose books that are at the right level - Reading should be fun for young children so try to avoid frustrating beginners with books that are too difficult for them.

7)  Find a comfortable spot - It is great to have a comfy spot for reading.  A reading light in bed, or a comfy chair next to a book shelf are wonderful places to curl up with a good book.

8)  Host a kids summer reading party - Take an afternoon to invite friends over to swap books, talk about books, read books, make bookmarks, and enjoy special snacks.

Don't forget, it is also important to set an example for your children. Read in front of your children, and curl up on the couch and spend some time reading to them.

Happy Reading!

Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)

Quick Tip Tuesday #9 - Kid's Birthday Party Tip - and free LEGO printable

Today's Quick Tip... as children are arriving at a birthday party, give them a coloring sheet or simple craft to keep them busy until all the guests arrive.  {For example, at my boys' Lego party, all the guests were asked to design their own Lego person.}

Do your little ones love Lego?  Check out this cute printable "design your own Lego man" I drew.  Cute, right?  You can download a pdf version {for free} here.

Do you have a great activity that you use to entertain kids until all the party guests arrive?  I'd love to hear it.

Gina Bell (aka East Coast Mommy)

Simple Lego Cakes

Two of my boys had a Lego party today, and they each requested their own cake.  My 4 year old wanted a "Lego Brick" cake, and my 6 year old wanted a "Lego Ninjago" cake.  I have never taken a cake decorating course, so I like cakes that are easy to make.

The designs are pretty simple, but I think they turned out cute, don't you?

Here is how I made the Lego Ninjago Cake:

1)  I made a double layer round cake.
2)  I frosted the cake with red icing, and made sure it wasn't too smooth so it looked like cloth wrapped around his head.
3)  I used a piping bag to show the yellow face showing through, and I added some black "ninja" eyes (with black gel icing).

Here is how I made the Lego Brick Cake:

1)  I made a rectangular cake in 9 X 13 cake pan.
2)  I frosted the cake with blue icing.
3)  I covered two Oreo cookies with blue icing and stuck them on the cake.  (I did this six times.)

I am not going to win any prizes with these Lego cakes, but the birthday boys were happy, and that is the most important thing.  :-)

Gina Bell (aka East Coast Mommy)

Birthday Letter to my Sweet Six Year Old

Every year I write birthday letters to each of my boys on their birthdays.  It is my way of capturing the little details that I don't want to forget when they are older.  Today, my "middle" son turns six.

Here is why he is so special to me...

To my sweet boy,

I can hardly believe that you are turning six already.  It seems like only yesterday I was taking you home from the hospital and introducing you to your proud big brother for the first time.  You are so full of energy and joy, and I treasure each day I get to be your mom.  Here are a few of the things that make you the wonderful little boy that you are:
  • You started school this year, and you did awesome.  You excelled socially and academically, and I couldn't be more proud.
  • You are a charmer with a killer smile.
  • You love to play with your brothers... especially "pirates", "Star Wars", "cars", and "hockey".
  • You are really ticklish, and you have a great giggle.
  • You love to sleep with your "soft blanket" and "blankee", and you like to wear socks to bed.
  • You are very strong willed, and you sometimes drive Daddy and I crazy, but we know it is a trait that will serve you well in life.  I predict you will be a leader rather than a follower.  :-)
  • Your favorite colors are red and blue, and your favorite show is "Star Wars".
  • When you grow up, you want to be a hockey player and a race car driver.
  • You love to listen to The Beatles, and you always pretend you are "Paul".
  • You have a kind heart, and you love to cuddle.
I love you to the moon and back... plus a little more each day.


ECM Kids' Craft Club - #17 {Snake Puppet and Bookmark}

Welcome to the 17th edition of the ECM Kids' Craft Club {an easy & inexpensive way for kids to have fun crafting and experience the excitement of getting their very own mail}.  This month we are making two fun crafts -- an accordion snake puppet and a flower bookmark!

To make the snake puppet:

1)  Cut out the head and tail, and fold the body like an accordion.
2)  Glue a googly eye onto the head, and draw the rest of the snake's face.
3)  Glue the head and tail onto the body, and allow to dry completely.
4)  Attach stir sticks to the head and tail of the snake (using glue), and allow to dry completely.

To make the flower bookmark:

1)  Color the flower any color you like.
2)  Cut out the flower.
3)  Glue a button onto the centre of the flower, and allow to dry completely.
4)  Use tape to secure the craft stick onto the back of the flower.

That's it!  Fun, right?  I hope you had fun making this month's cute paper crafts.

Gina Bell (aka East Coast Mommy)

Don't forget... Assist young children when using scissors, and be careful of the small parts included with this kit, as they can be a choking hazard for children under three".)

10 {Easy} DIY Backyard Water Park Ideas

"Create a simple backyard waterpark" is on our Summer Checklist this year.  So, last week when the temperature rose, I put together some fun water-based activities for my boys.

Want to set up your own backyard water park?  Here are 10 simple ideas that are sure to please:

1)  Turn on the Sprinkler - It's simple, fun, and easy.  What's not to like?

2)  Get some Spray Bottles - Pick up some spray bottles at the dollar store, and fill them with water.  They are the perfect weapon for a water fight and a great way to cool off.

3)  Set up a Little Pool - Small pools are pretty cheap and lots of fun.  They also make a great "refilling station" for the other water activities.

4)  Fill a bucket with Sponges - The dollar stores sells big bags of sponges .  Put them in a bucket full of water, and you have an instant "car wash" station.  They are also great for water fights.

5)  Play with Ice - Freeze some small toys in ice, and let the kids try to get them out.  Experiment with tools, cold water, and warm water.

6)  Paint with Water - Grab some paint brushes and a bucket of water, and let your little artists get to work.  Painting without the mess!

7)  Water gun Target Practice - Use some duct tape to make an "X" on a pizza pan.  Hang it up to create a perfect water gun target.

8)  Have some fun with Water Balloons - Fill a bowl with water balloons for some "cool" games of "catch".

9)  Set up a Bubble Station - Who doesn't love blowing bubbles?  You can find a simple recipe for homemade bubbles here.

10) Make a Special Snack - Something cold on a warm day is always a special treat.  We made some homemade ginger cookies and added a scoop of chocolate ice cream to create a delicious ice cream sandwich.  Yum!

I love it when you can put a lot of simple elements together to make something really special, don't you?  

Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)

*I'd love to have you follow me on facebook at

Quick Tip Tuesday #8 - Simple Summer Wreath

Until last week, I had a Spring Wreath hanging on my front door.  I knew I needed something more suitable for Summer, and I wanted something fun, easy, and inexpensive.  Here's what I came up with:

I love how bright and cheerful it turned out, don't you?  

I already had the monogram {which I made last fall}, so I just needed to make the wreath.  {I think the wreath would be great without the monogram too.}

To make the simple summer wreath... I bought a cheap grapevine wreath and two bunches of flowers from the dollar store.  Then, I cut the tops off the flowers, and used a hot glue gun to attach them to the wreath.  That's it!

What's on your front door for summer?  If you need something new, this is a great "quick" option, don't you think?

Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)

Birthday Letter to my Four Year Old "Baby"

Every year I write birthday letters to each of my boys on their birthdays.  It is my way of capturing the little details that I don't want to forget when they are older.  Today, my "baby" boy turns four, and here is why he is so special to me...

To my sweet baby boy,

I can hardly believe you are turning four and this is our last year at home together before you start school.  The years are passing so quickly, but I am enjoying every minute of being your mommy.  Here are a few of the little things that make you the special little boy that you are:
  • You love to cuddle, and you always ask Daddy or I to sing you a "soft song" at bedtime.
  • When you grow up you want to be a race car driver and an "X-men" hockey player.
  • You are really funny, and you are always making Daddy and I (and your "brudders") laugh.
  • Your favorite color is green, and your favorite show is "Jack and the Neverland Pirates".
  • You love music, and always request "The Beatles" when we are driving in the van.  (You like to pretend that you are George.)
  • You finished your first year of Preschool this year... and although you were scared in the beginning, you learned to love it and made lots of friends.
  • Your brothers are your best friends, and you love to play hockey, have dinky car races, pretend to be Star Wars characters, have pirate adventures, and run around the yard together.
  • You started swimming lessons this year, and you love the water.
  • This is your first summer playing soccer, and you are super-proud to have a real jersey... like your brothers.
  • You love having stories read to you, and you think Wacky Wednesday (by Dr. Seuss) is hilarious.
  • You are hungry all the time, but you are usually just looking for crackers (although you are getting much better at trying new foods).
  • You love to play with my hair (especially when you are sleepy).
  • Every night you cuddle up with "big blanket" and your monkeys before you go to sleep.
I love you all the way to the moon and back... plus a little more with every year that passes.


No-Sew Jake Costume

My boys love pirates, and yesterday my son asked if I could help him put together a "Jake" {from Jake and the Neverland Pirates} costume.  Given that I don't know how to work my sewing machine, here is what we came up with:

Pretty cute, right?

Here's how we did it:

To make the headband - I cut a strip of felt 36 inches long and 2 inches wide.  I fit it to my son's head and secured it with a clear elastic.

To make the sword - I drew a sword (like Jake's) on a piece of cardboard and cut it out.  I used the top of a pizza box, but any thick cardboard would work.  You can download a free printable template of the sword I designed here.

To make the shirt - I took an old white shirt, cut a couple of slits in the sleeves, and had my son draw an "X" on the collar.

To make the vest - I bought a plain blue t-shirt for $4.  I cut off the sleeves, and I cut a straight line all the way up the middle of the shirt.  Then, I sewed on four gold buttons.  (I figured I could manage a couple of buttons, but if you really don't want to do any sewing, you can skip this step.)

I hope you enjoy making this simple Jake costume with your little pirates.

Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)

Disclosure: I'm part of the Disney Junior Mom program, and I receive special perks as part of my affiliation with this group.  The opinions on this blog are my own.

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