Book Valentine {with free printable tags}

I love books, and I think they are a perfect idea for a "candy-free" Valentine.  They could even be used for a class Valentine if you are able to find some inexpensive books at the Dollar Store or on clearance.  Add the "You're #1 in my book." tag I designed, and you are all set!

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

Do know someone who would like to receive a book for Valentine's Day?  I definitely like any excuse to buy books for my boys!

Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)

Simple Heart Shaped Cake {no special pan required}

I don't have room to store a bunch of specialty cake pans, so I love the idea of making a heart-shaped cake for Valentines day without having to buy a heart-shaped pan.

To make a simple heart-shaped cake for your little sweethearts, all you need to do is make one square cake and one round cake.  (I used a cake mix for my cakes.)

Then, trim the cakes (if necessary), cover with a crumb coat, and put the cake in the fridge for about 20 minutes to set the icing.

Finish the cake by icing and decorating it any way you want.  You can even let the kids do it.

Don't you love how simple this heart-shaped cake is to make?  I think it would make a fun Valentine's Day dessert, don't you?

Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)

Airplane Valentine {with free printable tags}

I love sending my boys to school with unique DIY Valentines to share with their friends.  This year, my 7 year old picked these inexpensive airplane favours, and I designed tags that say, "It's PLANE to see you're a great friend." Cute, right?

To use the tags I designed:  right-click on the picture below, save it to your computer, and print it like a regular 4X6 photo.

I found these airplane party favours at the dollar store (12 for $1.25), but you could also use these tags with a "make your own paper airplanes" kit.  Just use fun square of patterned paper, or the paper airplane template you can find here.

I think these DIY Valentines are easy, inexpensive, and fun... don't you?  What will your little ones be sharing with their classmates this year?

Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)

Elegant DIY Winter Wreath

This time of year, I take down my Christmas wreath, and I try to come up with a pretty DIY winter wreath to replace it.  Today, I hung this elegant felt wreath on my front door, and I absolutely love it!

To make this wonderful winter 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 bow.  (I found this teal/glittery bow in the Easter section at the dollar store).

I am so pleased with how this felt winter wreath turned out -- and it was super-easy and inexpensive! What do you hang on your front door this time of year?

Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)

PS - You can also modify this design by adding a red ribbon for Christmas.

Bubble Valentines {with free printable tags}

Check out the cute Valentines that my five year old will be sharing with his classmates this year.  Don't you love the cute tags I made to go with these little containers of bubbles?

I think bubbles are a great candy-free option for class treats, and I bought enough bubbles for my son's whole class for less than $5.  

You can download the tags I designed by right clicking on the picture below, saving it to your computer, and printing it like a normal 4X6 photo.

Do your little ones like to share unique DIY Valentines with their friends?  I think these "bubble" Valentines make really great class treats, don't you?

Gina Bell (aka East Coast Mommy)

Teddy Bear Valentine {with free printable tags}

Valentine's Day doesn't have to be all about the candy.  How cute is this candy-free Valentine?

I purchased this tiny teddy bear at the dollar store, and I attached an adorable tag that says, "I am BEARY happy to have a friend like you.  Happy Valentine's Day!" 

You can print the tag I designed by right-clicking on the picture (below), saving it to your computer, and printing it like a normal 4X6 photo.

Isn't this a cute candy-free Valentine for little ones to share with their friends? It's easy, inexpensive, and super-cute!

Gina Bell (aka East Coast Mommy)

DIY Spy Party - 5 easy and inexpensive games

Last summer, I threw a SPY PARTY for my 7 year old, and the DIY games I prepared for the kids were a huge hit!  Today, I am sharing the tutorials for 5 easy and inexpensive DIY spy party games.

1) Dynamite (hot potato) - This was a really popular game with the children at the party. The kids sat in a circle, and passed the "dynamite" around the circle until the alarm went off.  Whoever was holding the dynamite when it "exploded" was eliminated.  The game continued until there was only one child left.

To make the dynamite, wrap three empty paper towel rolls in red tissue paper.  Then, attach the rolls together with black electrical tape.  To finish, attach a cheap kitchen timer from the dollar store, and add a few wires (for looks), if desired.

2) Pom pom shooter target practice - The party guests had a great time shooting pom poms at this target (which was made from an old box).

You can find the full tutorial for the pom pom shooters here.

And you can find instructions for making a target practice from a box here.

3) What's missing? - This is an easy game, but it was very popular with the party guests.  To play, the guests were shown a bunch of "spy items".  Then, the children were asked to close their eyes while I took an item away.  After they opened their eyes, the kids had to guess which item was missing.  Fun, right?

4) Spy training relay - This game is simple, but lots of fun for active children.  I divided the kids into two teams.  Then, the kids did a relay where they had to change into a "disguise" before they ran their leg of the race.

5) Pin the disguise on the spy - This "spy" version of "pin the tail on the donkey" is simple, fun, and totally cute.  I printed an 8X10 picture of my son's head, I taped it to a piece of bristol board, and I added a hat.  Then, each child was blindfolded and given a moustache to tape to my son's face.  Cute, right?

I love how easy and inexpensive these DIY spy party games are. They'd be fun for an afternoon of "playing spies" too.

Do your little ones love pretending to be spies?  My boys definitely do!

Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)

Find the full spy party details here.

Dishwasher Tips and Tricks

With three busy boys that are constantly eating, my dishwasher gets A LOT of use.  I don't have a lot of time to spend on dishes, so it is important that I get the most out of this useful appliance.  Here are some tips that I have found helpful:

For me, loading the dishwasher properly is key.  I am still training my family to do it (as I am obsessed with doing it properly), but a well loaded dishwasher means: cleaner dishers and fewer washes.  You can also learn some fantastic tips from Frigidaire here

My favorite feature of my Frigidaire Gallery® dishwasher with OrbitClean® technology is the 30-minute quick wash feature.  When my boys get home from school, I unpack their lunches, pop the dishes in the dishwasher, and turn on the 30-minute cycle.  By the time they have a quick snack, and get ready for their after school hockey practice, the dishes are done, and I can quickly pack their lunches before heading out the door.

What's your favorite dishwasher tip? I have read my manual from front to back, but I am always interested in advice from other moms!

Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)

Disclosure: I am part of the Frigidaire Canada Ambassador program with Mom Central Canada and I receive special perks as part of my affiliation with this group. The opinions on this blog are my own.

FREE e-books and a chance to win a $100 Visa Gift Card - CLOSED

Winner - Michelle Tremblett (Thanks to everyone that took the time to enter.)

Recently, I was asked to check out "The Adventures of Napkin Man" e-books with my 5 year old.  I easily downloaded the three e-books {for free} onto my iPad, and they were a hit with my little guy... and his two big brothers.

This is the first time I have ever downloaded e-books for my kids, and I had a great experience.  Each of these e-books starts with a tale a child facing an emotional challenge, and then the story provides coping strategies in an entertaining way.  These e-books are highly interactive and intuitive, and they include a series of activities, songs and games.

Here are the links to the 3 e-books (for iPad) that my boys and I downloaded and read:

Penguin-A-Go-Go Messaging around calming down

Treasure for All Messaging around sharing

Say Hello Messaging around shyness

Free e-books are awesome... but that's not the only good news I am sharing today.  I also have a $100 VISA gift card to give away to one of Canadian readers.  (As Napkin Man can only be read on iPads and downloaded through iTunes, maybe the winner could put the $100 toward his/her own iPad, or purchasing other educational material.)

To enter, please leave a comment below letting me know which e-book your little one would be most interested in reading.  Don't forget to leave your email address (if you don't have one linked to your profile), so that I can contact you if you win. Contest closes February 8th.

Enjoy the e-books, and good luck with the giveaway!

Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)

Disclosure: I am part of The Adventures of Napkin Man campaign and I receive special perks as part of my affiliation with this group.  The opinions on this blog are 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 Canadian Residents only.
3) This contest is not being hosted or sanctioned in any way by Facebook.
4) Contest closes on February 8, 2015 at 11:59pm EST.
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.
7) Readers may enter across many blogs, but they may only win once.
8) Winners can expect their prize in approximately 4-6 weeks.

Olaf Hat {free printable template}

Who doesn't love an adorable snowman that sings? I know I do! So, when it came time to do alphabet crafts for the letter "O" with my Preschool class, I knew I had to come up with a fun Olaf craft. Take a peek at the adorable Olaf hats we made (below)... and download the FREE template to make them with your own kids or class.

How cute is my 5 year old in his Olaf hat?  To make your own hat:

1)  Download a pdf version of the Olaf hat I designed here and print it onto cardstock. Or... if you have trouble accessing the download:

Click on the photo below, save it to your computer, and print it like a regular 8x10 photo. (Please enjoy this free printable for your personal use... but do not sell it or republish it.)

2)  Have the child color the template.

3)  Have the child cut along the line to separate the face from the teeth and branch.  They should also cut out the branch and teeth.

4)  Add another strip of paper to the face to form a headband that fits the child.  Tape in place.

5)  Use tape to attach the branch and teeth.

That's it!  Do you have a Frozen fan that would enjoy making this Olaf hat?  I think it is a fantastic craft for Preschoolers (and older children too)!

Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)

You must also enjoy the crafts, activities, and freebies here.

Hockey Party Loot Bags

The theme of my oldest son's 9th birthday was "hockey", and because I really dislike junky loot bags, I came up with a unique loot bag idea for his party.  We gave out personalized hockey card books.

I love that they are easy, inexpensive, fun, and USEFUL!

I bought a bunch of duotangs and filled them with plastic hockey card holder sheets.  Then, I made little personalized stickers for the front of each book.

I also made homemade hockey cards with wallet size photos of my son playing hockey.  I added his name and number (with, and I stuck each photo in a self-laminating sheet from the dollar store.

Cute, right?  Each guest of the party left with a gold medal and their very own hockey card book.

I love how these hockey party loot bags turned out.  Do you have a hockey fan in your house that would enjoy sharing these hockey card books with his/her friends?  I'll be sharing more DIY details from my son's hockey party soon!

Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)

5 DIY Playroom Projects

This time of year makes me want to get organized, and playrooms can be tough rooms to keep under control.  So, today I am sharing 5 DIY Playroom Projects that I absolutely love!  I have done these projects myself, and they are all easy, inexpensive, and totally cute.

1) Artwork display - Children's artwork deserves to be celebrated, and this DIY artwork display in my boys' playroom is adorable.  I decorated some clipboards (using the tutorial you can find here), and crafted some letters (using yarn and the technique you can find here).  I love it, don't you?

2) Stuffed animal bean bag chair - This project creates two things... storage and comfy seating.  Buy a bean bag chair cover, and fill it with stuffed animals.  That's it!  Don't you love how easy and practical this project is?

3) DIY artwork - I think a playroom should be decorated with artwork that means something to the children that play in it.  So, in my boys' playroom, I created some unique hockey card artwork (that you can read about here), my boys painted their own hockey jersey canvas art, and I framed pictures of the boys at Jedi Training Camp (from our trip to Disney).  Fun, right?

4) Toy bins - Every playroom needs a toy storage solution.  In our playroom, I created an entire wall of toy bins for my boys.  Each bin is labelled with a picture of its' contents.  (You can read all about our toy bin labels here.)

5) Book nook - Reading is an important part of childhood, so it is important for every playroom to have a display of books that are easily accessible.  I used IKEA spice racks to create this little book nook for my boys (which you can read about in detail here).  I also took a photo of a page in one of our favorite books, added a quote from the book with, and framed the picture.  I think the DIY artwork adds a little extra fun to the space, don't you?

All of these DIY playroom projects are easy, inexpensive, and guaranteed to help you transform your current playroom into a fabulous space in your home.  Do you have a favorite DIY playroom project?  I'd love to hear all about it.

Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)

A Cleaner House in 3 Easy Steps

Keeping a house "clean and tidy" when you have 3 busy boys is no easy feat.  I rarely have a full day to do a major clean (and I don't love cleaning), so I find it easier to do a little bit every day.  I have also resolved to get more organized in 2015.  Want to join me? Here's the plan...

Before I had kids, my house was almost always sparkling. However, the arrival of my three busy boys has changed things a lot.  I no longer have time to be a Domestic Diva.  It simply isn't a priority for me.  I am aware that my boys are only going to be young for a short time, and I don't plan on wasting it by fretting over a pile of unfolded laundry sitting on the living room floor.  (Read more about, "why my house is messy and I don't mind" here.)

That being said, I can't stand a house that is a disaster either.  I am more of a Serene Superstar.  I don't need everything spotless all the time.  A dish in the sink won't drive me crazy. I clean on my old schedule, and I prioritize.

A clean kitchen is always a priority for me.  It's the room that gets the most use in my home, and I can't let the kitchen mess get out of control.  Before I sit on the couch at the end of the day, all my dishes go in the dishwasher, all the counters are wiped clean, and the floor is swept.

My new Frigidaire dishwasher is key for me.  I don't need to prewash my dishes, and when I am in a hurry, I can use the 30-minute Quick Wash feature.  (A busy mom needs all the timesaving features she can get!)

What is your cleaning personality?  Do you have any fantastic cleaning/organizing tips you can share with me?

Gina Bell (aka East Coast Mommy)

Disclosure: I am part of the Frigidaire Canada Ambassador program with Mom Central Canada, and I receive special perks as part of my affiliation with this group.  The opinions on this blog are my own.

Hockey Wall Art {free printables}

My boys love to play hockey, and my husband and I spend countless hours at the rink... so I thought it would be fun to make some cute DIY hockey artwork for us to hang in our offices.  I plan on printing one of these pictures for each of us and putting them in simple black or white frames. {Scroll down for printing instructions.}

For a Dad with one child

For a Dad with more than one child

For a Mom with one child

For a Mom with more than one child

To print your own printable 8X10 copy of this DIY artwork: pick the version you want to print and right-click on the photo.  Then, save the photo to your computer, and print it like a regular 8X10 picture.  I always send my printables to my local office supply store where I can print great color copies for $.39.

Do you know a hockey mom or hockey dad that might like to hang one of these pictures in their office or home?  I think they would be great for mother's day or father's day too!

Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)

PS (Please download and print any of these pictures for your personal use; however, I still retain copyright.  If you share one of my photos, please include the link to this post.  Do not share multiple photos, and under no circumstances should you resell my work.  Thank you!)

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