2014 Year in Review {free printable}

*** Find an updated 2021 version here.***

Every year, my boys fill out a simple year in review questionnaire.  It is a great way to look back at the past year, and set some goals for the year ahead.  Here is the questionnaire I designed this year.

To print this questionnaire for your kids: right-click on the picture above, save it to your computer, and print it like a regular 8X10 photo.

I love our traditions of filling out an annual year in review questionnaire, don't you?

Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)

Last Minute {handmade} Stocking Stuffer Ideas

I just love handmade gifts, don't you?  And these handmade stocking stuffer ideas are easy, inexpensive, and lots of fun.

1)  Tree shaped crayons - Recycle old crayons (using a dollar store silicone mold) into these adorable festive crayons.  You can find all the details here.

2)  Polar Express bells - Add a little Christmas magic by giving your little one a bell from Santa's sleigh.  You can find the details and free printable tags here.

3)  Santa coupons - I have two versions of free printable Santa coupons on my blog.  You can find bedtime pass coupons here and extra story coupons here.

4) Skittles Ornaments - Clear ornaments are perfect for filling with treats. My boys loved these Skittles ornaments, and the tags are super-cute. You can download the tags for free here.

5) Snowman Gum - If you can work a Sharpie, you can make these adorable snowmen stocking stuffers. Find the full "how to" here.

Which of these handmade stocking stuffers is your favorite?  This year, I am really excited about the Santa coupons.

Merry Christmas!

Gina Bell (aka East Coast Mommy)

Stocking Stuffer Idea {free printable}

Last week I shared a fun stocking stuffer idea -- free printable coupons that allow the recipient to stay up an additional 15 minutes at bedtime.  The coupons were such a hit that I decided to make another version -- a coupon for an extra story at bedtime.
To print the coupons, right-click on the picture above, save it to your computer, and print it like a regular 8X10 photo.

Fun, right?  I know my boys would love to find these in their stockings... and I'd love the extra cuddle time on the couch. ;-)

Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)

5 Easy Christmas Crafts for Kids {with free downloadable templates}

It's not too late for a little Christmas crafting with the kids.  These 5 simple Christmas crafts are easy, inexpensive, and super-cute.

1)  Toilet roll tree - This little tree is totally adorable, and the toilet roll allows it to stand on its own.  Draw a simple tree shape onto cardstock, cut it out, color it, and add sparkly stickers.  Then, cut a piece of toilet roll for the tree trunk, cut a couple of slits halfway down the sides, and insert the decorated tree into the trunk.

2)  Santa beard - This Santa beard is just as fun to play with as it is to make.  Download the template here.  Then, cut out the beard, add a popsicle stick, and have the child cover the beard with cotton balls.

3) Gingerbread Man - This little ornament is adorable and easy to make.  Download the template here.  Then, have your little crafter decorate it with crayons, googly eyes, yarn scrapes, and buttons.

4) Tissue paper wreath - I love this simple tissue paper wreath, and it's a wonderful craft for the kids to do on their own (while you wrap some presents).  Cut a circle out of the centre of a paper plate, and then have the kids crumple tissue paper squares, dip the tissue paper in glue, and attach them to the wreath.

5) DIY gift bags - I love a practical craft, and these DIY gift bags are fantastic.  The kids can add a tree or reindeer to a plain brown bag (from the dollar store), and then use it to wrap a special Christmas gift.  

All 5 of these Christmas crafts are perfect for kids of any age.  I've done them all with larger groups too, and they are always a big hit!

Enjoy, and Merry Christmas!

Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)

Simple Neighbour Gift {Christmas Potpourri with free printable tags}

Just in time for the weekend -- a simple, last minute neighbour gift.  I absolutely love this easy and inexpensive DIY Christmas gift.

For the potpourri container: I started with a red plastic cup, used electrical tape to create a belt, and added a yellow button.

Then, I added a bag of potpourri (one orange, 1/2 cup fresh cranberries, 1 tbsp whole cloves, 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg, and 3 cinnamon sticks) and a cute gift tag.

To download the free printable tags: right click on the picture (below), save it to your computer, and print it like a regular 4X6 photo.

Don't forget to make an extra package for yourself.  A pot of this potpourri simmering on the stove is guaranteed to make your house smell like Christmas.

I made a bunch of these packages, and my boys did a great job delivering them to our neighbours. 

Do you love this simple DIY Christmas gift as much as I do?  

Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)

Homemade Christmas Card

I love a homemade Christmas card, and this one is easy to make, and it comes with a little gift for the recipient.  This simple photo card is the "class treat" my nine year old is giving to his friends this year.

This is a fantastic, easy, and inexpensive way to share holiday greetings with friends... and with one hour photo processing, it's a great last minute idea too!

Start by taking a picture of the child with his arm to the side and his hand in a fist.  Then, cut slits (with an X-Acto knife) above and below his fist.

Finish by slipping a treat through the slits.  We added a candy cane ornament, but you could add a real candy cane, glow stick, or Christmas pencil.  They would all be adorable!

I love this personalized homemade Christmas card, don't you?

Gina Bell (aka East Coast Mommy)

Polar Express Treat Bag {with free printable}

The Polar Express is one of our favorite Christmas books (and we love the movie too).  So, when I was trying to come up with little gifts for my 7 year old to share with his class this year, I decided to go with this adorable Polar Express treat bag.

Isn't it cute?  I bought gold bells at the dollar store, added ribbons, and attached "Believe" tags.  You can print the tags I designed by right-clicking on the picture (below), saving it to your computer, and printing it like a regular 4X6 photo.

I packaged the bells in bags with little boxes of "train" Smarties, but if you are concerned about sugar or allergies, you could just give out the bells.

What child wouldn't love to receive this adorable bell ornament?  I'm going to leave them on my boys' pillows on the night we have our annual Polar Express minivan adventure (which is one of my favorite Christmas traditions).

Do you love The Polar Express as much as we do?  What are some of your other favorite Christmas movies?

Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)

Recycled Crayons for Christmas {gift for classmates}

My boys love to bring treats for their classmates at Christmas, but their school discourages parents from sending in sugary treats.  So... this year I came up with these adorable recycled crayons for my 5 year old to share with his friends.

To make the crayons, I used a silicon mold (that I found at the dollar store), and I followed the tutorial that you can find here.

Then, I put crayons and little notepads in clear cellophane bags, and I tied them up with cute personalized tags.  I think my son's friends are going to love these recycled crayons, don't you?

Gina Bell (aka East Coast Mommy)

Snowman Soup

My boys love making little gifts/treats to share with their friends.  A few days ago, they had some friends over, and we all made "snowman soup".

Adorable, right? I am sharing all the fun details over at CBC Parents today, so head on over and check out this fun project.

Gina Bell (aka East Coast Mommy)

Stocking Stuffer Coupons {free printable}

Looking for easy and inexpensive stocking stuffer ideas? Check out these adorable {free} printable coupons that I designed. 

Aren't they adorable?  Each coupon entitles the recipient to stay up an extra 15 minutes... by order of Santa.  Print the coupons, cut them out, and add the name of the child.  That's it!

To download your own copy of these coupons: right-click on the picture below, save it to your computer, and print it like a regular photo.
I laminated my stocking stuffer coupons for extra cuteness... but you can skip this step.  Do you have a little one that would enjoy receiving one of the bedtime passes?

Gina Bell (aka East Coast Mommy)

Packaging for Homemade Treats

I love baking with my boys this time of year, and we love to share our treats with neighbours and friends.  Check out this darling idea for packaging your homemade goodies.

Isn't it cute?  I took a plain red cup, added a "belt" of electrical tape, and finished with a little button I had leftover from the "Santa belly felt ornaments" I made last year.  I put it all together, added some goodies, and I was done!

I love this adorable, easy and inexpensive way to package homemade treats, don't you?

Gina Bell (aka East Coast Mommy)

Neighbour Gift Ideas for Christmas {free tutorials and printable tags}

I love a simple DIY Christmas gift, and today I am sharing some fantastic ideas for neighbours, teachers and friends.  These Christmas neighbour gifts are easy, inexpensive, and lots of fun!

Click on the links for more info (and free printables):

1) For your mistleTOES - Print the free tag, add some bright red nail polish, and you'll have an adorable gift sure to make the recipient smile.  For a more substantial gift, add a gift certificate for a pedicure.  Fun, right?  {Here's the link to the free printable gift tag.}

2) Christmas potpourri - Fill a bag with simple items from the grocery store, print the tag with the instructions, and you'll have a stovetop mixture that will fill your friend's house with the smells of Christmas.  {Here's the link to the potpourri recipe and free printable gift tag.}

3) Goodies in homemade reindeer gift bags - Have the children make these adorable reindeer gift bags, and fill them with homemade goodies or hot chocolate with a "warm wishes" gift tag.  It's a great way to get the kids involved in the gift-giving process.  {Find the full tutorial for the reindeer gift bags here.}

4) Candy bouquet - This gift is fun all year round, and this time of year, it makes a great neighbour or teacher gift.  We made this for my son's teacher, and we included a gift card.  Easy peasy!  {You can find the full tutorial for the candy bouquet here.

5) Holly jolly treats - Add a "Popping by to wish you a holly jolly Christmas" tag to a bag containing popcorn and jolly ranchers for this simple and festive neighbour gift.  {You can find the free printable gift tags here.}

Bonus: White wine with adorable FREE tags (that you can download here).

Do you have a favorite DIY Christmas gift to give?  Or have you gotten one that you absolutely loved?  I'd love to hear about it!

Gina Bell (aka East Coast Mommy)

Elf Challenges {free printable}

Starting to run out of Elf on the Shelf ideas?  Here is a new one... with a "kindness" twist. Don't you just love this "week of Elf on the Shelf Challenges"?

To print this sheet of Elf on the Shelf challenges, right click on the picture above, save it to your computer, and print it like a regular 8X10 photo.

I hope our "Elfie" brings these cards to my boys this week.  ;-) I love the idea of having our Elf on the Shelf encourage my boys to spread kindness this holiday season.

Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)

Santa Wreath

Sometimes you need to add a little "whimsey" to your holiday decor, and this simple DIY Santa wreath fits the bill perfectly.  It is easy and inexpensive to make and lots of fun!

Want to make your own DIY Santa wreath?

1) Start by cutting a circle from foam core (from the dollar store).  I cut mine about 2 inches thick.  Don't worry about jagged edges because you won't see them when the wreath is completed.

2) Wrap yarn around the foam core securing with hot glue periodically.

3) Make A LOT of white felt roses, and hot glue them to the wreath.  You can find a step-by-step tutorial for making felt roses here.

4) Add a dollar store Santa hat to the top of the wreath.  You can secure it with hot glue or straight pins.  (I also stuffed some tissue paper into the hat to add a little shape to it.)

That's it!  Simple, right?

Doesn't it look cute on my front door?  I think I might switch the Santa hat for a snowman hat when Christmas is over.  What do you think?

Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)

Northpole Communicator {Review and Giveaway} -- CLOSED

Winner - Hilary B. {Thanks to everyone that took the time to enter.}

The boys and I just received two fun Christmas products to review, and I have a set of these products to give away to one lucky US reader.  Even if you aren't living in the US, you are going to want to check out the North Pole Communicator Interactive Microphone and the Polar Explorer Goggles and Adventure Map.

My boys especially love the Northpole Communicator.  Starting on December 1, you can use it to talk (daily) to the North Pole.  

Yesterday morning, my boys were eager to give it a try.  The boys talked to a delightful elf that had them trying to imitate the sounds Santa's reindeer make.  It was adorable!

There is also a fun website where you can find out more info... including how to write to Santa and where you can purchase your own Northpole Communicator.  {Click here to learn more.}

So... are you excited yet?  To win a Northpole Communicator AND Polar Explorer Goggles and Adventure Map, all you need to do is leave me a comment {below} letting me know who would love to communicate with the North Pole in your home.  Don't forget to log in or leave your email address so that I can contact you if you win.

Thanks for taking the time to check out these great products, and good luck with the contest!  You only have a week to enter, so enter ASAP.

Gina Bell (aka East Coast Mommy)

Disclosure: I received free products in order to be able to complete this review/giveaway.  However, {of course} the opinions on this blog are 100% my own.

Contest Rules:
1) The winner of the contest will be chosen by the Random Number Generator.
2) To enter the contest, you must leave a comment on this post (with contact info). Contest is open to US Residents only.
3) This contest is not being hosted or sanctioned in any way by Facebook.
4) Contest closes on December 8, 2014 at 11:59pm.
5) Prize will be accepted as awarded. 
6) Winner will be contacted via email and will have 48 hours to respond. After 48 hours the prize will be forfeited, and another winner will be selected.

Simple Felt Ornament {Star}

I love to make simple felt ornaments (each year) for our Christmas tree.  They are also great to share with friends.  Here is the simple star ornament I created this year.

To make your own felt ornament:

1)  Collect your supplies.  You'll need a piece of ribbon, a little white button, two circles cut from red felt, and one star cut from green felt.

2)  Stitch the star to one of the felt circles.

3)  Sew a button onto the middle of the star.

4)  Add a ribbon, and stitch the second felt circle to the felt circle containing the star.

That's it!  Don't you just love how easy, inexpensive and cute this little felt ornament is?  I think it would be a great beginner sewing project too.

Gina Bell (aka East Coast Mommy)

10 Things to Do in November {to prepare for the holiday season}

With a little less than a month until Christmas, here are some things you can do NOW to get ready for the big day.  Start checking off items on my November checklist for a less stressful holiday season.

1)  Make room for Christmas arrivals by purging what you already have.  Get rid of old clothes, toys, and everything else that you no longer need.

2)  Do an inventory of the clothing you have, and make a list of the holiday outfits that need to be purchased.  Think about holiday dresses, Christmas concert clothing, Christmas PJs, and outfits for Christmas Eve/Day.  Shop early when the selection is good.

3)  Make a list of Christmas gifts that need to be purchased... and start shopping and wrapping ASAP.

4)  Start baking right away.  Focus on items that freeze well.

5)  Start planning holiday events, activities and parties.  Calendars fill up quickly, so early invites are ideal.

6)  Make or buy an advent calendar.  It's almost time to start counting down!

7)  Book babysitters and hair appointments early to ensure availability.

8)  Buy/order Christmas cards.  Mailing cards out early ensures pre-Christmas delivery.

9)  Make time to give back this holiday season.  Consider baking cookies for a neighbour or buying a gift for a less fortunate family.

10) Don't stress out!  Focus on your family, and enjoy your time together.  It's not about the presents... it's about the presence. :-)

How do you reduce holiday stress?

Gina Bell (aka East Coast Mommy)

Letter Writing to Santa Party

Every year, my boys host a "Letter Writing to Santa" party for charity.  They get everything ready, they charge people to come, and they give all the money they earn to Cystic Fibrosis.  This year, they had over 30 guests, and they raised $377.50.  It's an easy and inexpensive party theme that works great as a fundraiser, as a classroom party, or a simple gathering at home.  Here's how we did it....

1) We found a venue, and we made an invite/poster that included all the party details.

2)  We had a raffle for a small gift basket.

3)  We set up a cookie station with juice, water, and cookies.  We made our favorite ginger molasses and chocolate chip cookies.  {Click on the links to get the recipes.}

4)  We gave each guest supplies to write a letter to Santa.

5)  We gave each guest supplies to make a little craft. {You can find the tutorial for our simple gingerbread man ornament here.}

6)  We set up a reindeer food station so that all the guests could make reindeer food to take home.  {You can find all the printables you need to set up your own magic reindeer food station here.}

7)  Each guest received a Santa beard as a little gift that they could take home.  {You can download a free template for these Santa beards here.}

We had a lot of fun at our 4th annual "Writing a Letter to Santa" party, and I am super-proud of my little elves.

Gina Bell (aka East Coast Mommy)

Don't miss any of the fun....