5 Birthday Party Hacks Every Parent Should Know

When it comes to planning kids' birthday parties, the pressure can be overwhelming for parents. But you don't have to be Pinterest-perfect to make your child feel special. Today, I am sharing 5 birthday party hacks that will help you reduce party planning headaches, while still creating a special celebration for your child.


1) It's OK to let someone else do the work - There are tons of fantastic places that will host parties for you. Check out local movie theatres, indoor playgrounds, rinks, swimming pools, and bowling allies. The "per child" fee is usually pretty reasonable.


2) You can easily (and inexpensively) make your own cake/cupcakes - You don't have to make a fancy cake or pay a lot to have one made. Using the recipe you can find here, you can make delicious cupcakes (from a mix) that your party guests will love. 


You can also buy party themed toys, and pop them onto a simple slab cake. It's an easy way to make a basic cake look custom... and the birthday boy/girl will love the toy.


3) The dollar store is your friend - The dollar store has many of the things you need to host an inexpensive and fun party. My boys love the prize punches I make for their parties using dollar store foam core, plastic cups, and tissue paper. Find the full step by step tutorial here.


4) Keep the party small - No one says you have to invite the entire town to your little one's birthday party. If you want to keep things simple, have a "just family" celebration or limit the number of guests to the age of the birthday boy/girl.


5) Netflix - Netflix is granting parents the ultimate birthday gift with the launch of 14 Birthdays On-Demand featurettes starring the characters in your kids' favourite shows. Clever, right? Your little one will feel like the characters are singing just for them. (Simple search "Birthdays On Demand", and choose the characters you want to sing Happy Birthday to your child.)


What is your biggest birthday headache? I hope you find some of these birthday party hacks helpful.


Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)


Disclosure: I receive special gifts and perks as part of my affiliation with Netflix.... however (as always) the opinions on this blog are 100% my own.

Hockey Tape Organizer

I love a good dollar store HACK... especially one that is simple and helps me organize my chaotic life. With three boys in hockey, I often have hockey tape all over my house, and no one can ever find it when they need it. So recently, I headed to the dollar store and came up with a solution for my hockey tape tape problem... a wire paper towel holder.


Don't you love finding a simple solution to a simple problem? This paper towel holder makes a perfect hockey tape organizer.


My boys will love being able to quickly find the hockey tape they need, and I will love having it organized all in one place. And if you are looking for more clever dollar store organization ideas, you can check out a few more here.


Fun, right? Do you have a clever dollar store organization idea that works well for you? I'd love to have you share it in the comments.


Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)

No Bake Energy Balls (with ancient grains & super seeds)

When my boys get home from school, they are starving and looking for snacks. I struggle to find options that offer a compromise between something healthy and something sweet... but the recipe I am sharing today checks both boxes! These no bake energy balls are delicious, and they pack a "power punch" that comes from the PC Blue Menu* ancient grains & super seeds blend.


To make these no bake energy balls, you'll need the following ingredients:
  • 1 cup (uncooked) oatmeal (I used quick oats.)
  • 2/3 cup sweetened shredded coconut
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter (So they are not safe to send to school if food allergies are a concern.)
  • 1/4 cup PC Blue Menu* ancient grains & super seeds
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp salt
Directions:
  1. Stir all the ingredients together in a large bowl. (I find it easiest to just use my hands.)
  2. Cover, and let chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  3. Once chilled, roll the mixture into 1" balls. (I used a cookie scoop to measure so that I was able to create 20 uniform balls.)
  4. Enjoy! You can store these energy bites in an airtight container in the fridge for about a week.


What's your favourite after-school snack/recipe? I'm always looking for new ideas!

♥ 
Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)


*Disclosure - I have partnered with President's Choice and have received compensation for this post. However, as always, all opinions in the post are my own.

Simple "make ahead" Meatballs

Now that school is back in session, weeknight meals are becoming increasingly difficult. I like to have a few simple meal ideas prepped and ready to go, and meatballs are always a crowd pleaser. Today, I am sharing my recipe for "make ahead" meatballs. You can cook a big batch in the oven, and freeze them for when you need them.

I like to make a big batch of meatballs on a foil lined tray. I use half for dinner, and I freeze the other half. 

To make a double batch of meatballs, you'll need:
  • 2 lbs (0.907kg) of hamburger
  • 1 cup bread crumbs (powder)
  • 2 eggs

Mix all the ingredients together, and roll into balls. Place the meatballs on a foil lined 9x13 cookie sheet. Bake at 400 degrees until no longer pink (approx. 18-22 minutes). Drain fat.


I like to place half the meatballs in a dish for that night's supper, and the other half goes in the freezer.


I usually turn my meatballs into "sweet and sour meatballs" using sauce made from the following:

  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tsp vinegar
  • 2 tsp mustard
  • 1/2 cup water
  • spices (as desired)

I just take half of my "big batch" of meatballs, put them in a roaster, and pour the sauce over them. Then, I cook them in the sauce for 30 minutes at 300 degrees.


These sweet and sour meatballs are great served over rice with some grilled broccoli on the side.


Does your family love meatballs? If you make the meatballs ahead of time, they make a wonderful and easy weekday meal.


Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)

First Day of School 2017

It's been a busy morning at our house, but I wanted to pop by the blog and share a couple of pics from my boys' first day of school. Isn't it crazy how fast time goes by when you are a parent? Today, my boys are going into grades 3, 5, and 7. As always, my boys reluctantly agreed to take a few pics holding their photos for the first day of school last year.


Cute, right?

We also started  the day with a special pancake breakfast.


Now, I'm going to do some work, a little cleaning, and bake a special after school snack for my boys. 


I can't wait until they get home so I can hear all their news. Happy first day of school everyone!

♥ 
Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)

Penny Spinners... a simple paper craft for kids

Sometimes a simple paper craft is the perfect way to entertain kids, so a few weeks ago I made these adorable penny spinners with my boys. They were fun to create, and even more fun to play with when they were finished. Today, I am sharing the simple instructions for this lovely little art project for kids... including an easy to follow video.


First, you'll need two circles. I used a cereal box for one circle and a piece of white card stock for the other. I wanted the strength of the cereal box and the bright white colour of the card stock (to highlight the bright colours of the markers).

Then, have the kids colour a pattern onto the white circle, cut a slit in the centre of the circles, and insert a penny.

My boys had a great time creating many different patterns, and watching the colours when they spun them.


Check out the video my boys made here:


Cute, right? I love that this craft works for kids of all ages. (Just make sure that an adult cuts the slit for the penny!) I highly recommend making penny spinners with your kids. It's easy, inexpensive, and a wonderful way to spend an afternoon together.

♥ 
Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)

5 Tips for Back to School Clothes Shopping

Summer is almost over, and that means it's time for kids to head back to school. As the mom of three rough and tumble boys who are hard on clothes (and fussy about what they wear), I have learned a lot about smart back to school shopping. Today I am sharing some of my best tips for back to school clothes shopping with kids.


Here are 5 ways to get an A+ in back to school shopping:

1) Purge - At the end of summer, get rid of the clothes that the kids don't wear by donating or selling them. Also, make sure drawers only contain items that the children will wear during the current season.

2) Shop early - Back to school clothes should be purchased as early as possible to ensure the best selection of sizes and choices. As a mom who needs six pairs of sneakers each Fall (3 pairs of indoor shoes and 3 pairs of outdoor shoes), I've learned that getting organized early really helps to reduce my stress.

3) Involve the kids - If you let the kids help with the selection of their own clothes, you will only be spending money on the clothes that they will actually wear. My boys are fussy about colours, designs, brand names, and textures, so it makes sense to let them help shop for their own clothes. Check out the fantastic items my boys chose when I let them pick out something special at Sport Chek* for the first day of school.

My 11 year old loves hats and loves hockey, so I wasn't surprised when he chose this great Under Armour hat. It's high quality, and the size S/M fits his head perfectly!



My 9 year old is heading to a new school, and loves to collect (and carry around) "treasures and trinkets", so he was obsessed with getting a new backpack with lots of pockets. He couldn't be more excited about the new Under Armour backpack he picked out! 



My youngest loves hockey and will only wear soft, comfy clothes. He loves the texture and look of this fantastic Under Armour t-shirt... and I love that it matches his eyes!



4) Shop online - Shopping online allows you to research and shop without leaving the comfort of your home (without dragging your kids "who hate shopping" to the mall). SportChek.ca is a great choice because they have guaranteed footwear sizes, easy returns within 60 days, a large variety of brands, online shopping/research opportunities, and online customer service. There is also free in-store pick and and free shipping on orders of $99 or more. Sport Chek is a convenient one-stop shop.


5) Buy quality clothing and shoes - If you spend a little more on children's clothing, it will last, get worn, and save you money in the long run. I have three boys, and quality clothing gets passed down to younger siblings, and it still looks great. You can also resell brand name clothing on "buy & sell" sites or at consignment shops.


My boys are happy and ready for the first day of school!

I hope you find my tips helpful, and that you take some time to check out the fantastic, high quality, back to school styles available at your local Sport Chek store or online at SportChek.ca.


Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)


*Disclosure - I have partnered with YMC and Sport Check and have received compensation for this post. All opinions in the post are my own.

DIY Hockey Decor (and keepsake)

Recently, I was cleaning out my garage, and I came across my boys' first hockey sticks. I am usually pretty good at clearing clutter, but there was a part of me that was sad to think of getting rid of these particular items, so I decided to up-cycle them into decor for their rooms. I love the way this project turned out, and today I am sharing all the details of this DIY hockey decor project.


I started out with my boys old, banged up sticks. I removed the old hockey tape, spray painted the sticks with black paint, and re-taped the sticks.


Then, I painted wood letters (that spelled out their names) in bright and cheerful colours.


I used hot glue to attached the letters to the stick.


Didn't they turn out sweet? I love that they are room decor AND a precious keepsake.


I'm redecorating the room that my two older boys share, and I plan on putting these sticks above their headboards. I'll be sharing the big reveal of their new room soon!


Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)

How I Convince my Husband to Watch MY Shows on Netflix

With three young (and very active boys) our family is always on the go and very busy. It's often a struggle for my husband to go out together, so we do a lot of "at home" date nights. We'll order in food, or snuggle up and watch a show or movie at the end of the day. Our biggest problem then becomes: "Who decides what we watch?" We definitely have different tastes, so today I am sharing the THREE ways I convince my husband to watch MY shows on Netflix:


1) Careful Selection - When my husband and I first started dating, I convinced him to watch "Terms of Endearment" by telling him it was a comedy. Apparently, it wasn't his kind of movie, and it took years for him to trust my choices again. Lesson learned -- don't try to get your spouse to watch shows that you know he isn't going to like.

These days, I am much more careful with my suggestions. Recently, we have found some great selections that we both really enjoy. "Atypical" and "Ozark" are our current favourite binge-worthy shows.



2) Trickery/ Positioning - Phrases that work: "I heard this is really good", "This is a lot like that other show you like", "Let's try one episode, and if you don't like it, we won't watch any more."

3) Treats - When all else fails, bribing my husband with tasty sweet treats always works. Wine and chips work well too!


How do you convince your spouse to keep you company on the couch? What is your current favourite binge-worthy show?


Gina
(aka East Coast Mommy)

Making a Bouncy Egg... a fun and simple science experiment for kids

My boys love science, so it's always fun to spend a rainy summer day doing simple science experiments. This year, we decided to make a bouncy egg. Today, I am sharing the super-simple instructions and the super-cool results!


All you need to make a bouncy egg is a glass, an egg, and vinegar. Fill the glass with vinegar, drop in the egg, and wait for the vinegar to dissolve the shell. The process starts immediately, and it will take about 24 hours to complete.


After the 24 hours, rinse the egg in cold water, and dry it off. Children will be amazed by the "rubber" egg they have created.


Check out this little video we made to show the show the finished product.


This really is a fun way to explore science with children. My boys loved playing with the bouncy egg, shining a flashlight into it to see the yolk, and poking it with a knife to see the inside. Is there anything better than feeding the curiosity of a young mind?

♥ 
Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)

Start the year off WRITE with this perfect first day of school class treat... and free printable tags

Every year, on the first day of school, my boys bring little treats to share with their new classmates. I think this is a simple way to teach my boys about kindness, giving, and the importance of friendship. This year, my 8 year old wanted to share some brightly coloured pencils with his friends, and today I am sharing the finished product, and the adorable tags I designed.


I designed 4X6 tags in Picmonkey.com, had the tags printed at my local photo lab, and cut the tags in half. Then, cut little slits in the tags and inserted pencils. Cute, right?


You can design your own tags, or you can download and print the generic tags I designed. To download these tags for free: right-click on the photo below, save it to your computer, and print it like a regular 4X6 photo.


I love how the brightly coloured pencils contrast with the chalkboard tags!


I think bringing a little class treat on the first day of school is a wonderful way to start off a new year. The pencils are a fantastic alternative to sugary treats too... especially when allergies and nutrition policies are an issue. What do you think about sending something small to share with friends on the first day of school? It's definitely not necessary, but it is a fun little tradition that my boys' enjoy.

♥ 
Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)

Back to School Tips, Tricks, and Traditions... and a great giveaway from Sharpie and Paper Mate

Back to school is a busy time for families, but with a little planning, it can be stress-free and a lot of fun! Today, I am sharing some fantastic back to school tips, tricks, and traditions. I am also sharing FREE printable gift tags and a fun contest from Sharpie* and Paper Mate*.

1) Shop early, and let the kids pick out their own school supplies. Shopping early will ensure you get everything on your list, and children will be excited to fill their backpacks with their favourite items. Make sure to pick up some Paper Mate Ink Joy gel pens in fabulous colours. (My boys LOVE them!) Also, keep things simple by shopping all in one place. Chances are Walmart* will have everything you need at great prices.


2) Get organized. My secret weapon is this wonderful homework station that hangs on the back of the door leading down to our basement. A clear shoe rack full of school supplies doesn't take up much space and keeps everything handy and easy to find. Using colourful pens to make lists and update family calendars is also a great way to keep things organized and fun. 


3) Prep for first day of school traditions like: special photos, treats for classmates, and a little gift for the teacher. Sharpies in a cup make a perfect first day of school teacher gift. I found this super-cute mug at Walmart, I filled it with assorted Sharpie markers, and I added a fun "A little something to keep you sharp on the first day of school" tag I designed. (24 Sharpie Fine or Sharpie Ultra Fine markers fit perfectly in a mug.) I know my boys' teachers will love these colourful, fade and water resistant markers!


You could also forgo the mug, and just attach a tag to a package of markers. Check out the tag I designed that says, "MARK my words. We are going to have a fun year!" Cute, right?


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



I love the idea of kids bringing a gift on the first day of school. Teachers and students spend a lot of time together, and giving a gift to a new teacher is a nice way to start off the school year.



And I know how you might be able to create these fun first day of school gifts for free! Just take a moment to enter a great contest for a chance to win one grand prize of a $250 Walmart gift card and Sharpie & PaperMate gift pack (ARV $315). You also have the opportunity to win one of three Sharpie & PaperMate gift packs (ARV $65).

For all the details and a chance to win, check out the Sharpie and PaperMate Back to School Giveaway here.

♥ 
Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)


*Disclosure: I have partnered with YMC and Sharpie/Paper Mate have received compensation for this post. All opinions in the post are my own.
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