2018 Year in Review... free printable

New Year's Eve is a time for reflecting on the past year and looking forward to the new one -- not just for adults, but for kids too. With this in mind, each year I put together a Year in Review Questionnaire for my boys and their friends to fill out on New Year's Eve. We always include the questionnaires in our New Year's Eve countdown activity bags. Here is our 2018 version (that you can download for free).


It is a pretty simple questionnaire, and you can download the free printable by: clicking on the photo above, right-clicking, saving it to your computer, and printing it like a regular 8X10 photo. I usually print mine at my local office supply store.

I love seeing what my boys come up with each year. Maybe someday I will make a book for each of my boys using all the questionnaires they have filled out over the years.
Happy New Year, everybody!


Gina Bell
(aka East Coast Mommy)

Check out more New Year's Eve activities and ideas here.

New Year's Eve DIY Details that will help you Ring in the New Year with Style

I've never been a big fan of getting dressed up and fighting crowds on New Year's Eve. I much prefer smaller (and more casual) gatherings... especially now that I have kids. Home parties with tons of fun DIY details are my favourite... so today, I am sharing some of my favourite New Year's Eve DIY ideas that will help you ring in the New Year in style. I'm also including a bunch of FREE printables too!

Isn't this a simple and charming New Year's Eve tablescape? I have dollar store decor, midnight kisses, treats to "ring" in the new year, a way to add sparkle to the festivities, and activity bags for kids. Keep reading for the easy and inexpensive tips, tricks, and freebies!


My best tip for New Year's Eve decor is to use leftover gold and silver Christmas decor. I purchased a cheap silver and gold garland, a gold tablecloth, and a silver tray at the dollar store. I also found this gold and glittery wreath at the dollar store, and I added numbers that I covered in glitter and attached together using hot glue. It's a simple way to add a festive flair to your front door.



And, my favourite way to entertain kids is by putting together New Year's Eve activity bags. I fill several bags with different treats and activities, and the kids open a new bag every hour. It's a lot of fun, and it's something my kids look forward to every year. (For some ideas on items to include in the bags, you can click here.)


Party food is also important. It's simple to transform store-bought fortune cookies into custom creations. Simply dip the cookies in melted chocolate and sprinkles, and let them set on a piece of wax paper. It doesn't get much easier!


Cookies and milk in wine glasses is also fun. I love that kids can take part in a midnight toast with the adults.


And don't forget to hand out party favours to your guests. I love these "Bring some sparkle to 2019" cards for sparklers. Print the cards (for free) below, cut slits in the cards, and insert sparklers. Aren't they cute?


To print the sparkler cards: click on the photo below, right-click, save it to your computer, and print it like a regular 4x6 photo.


"Midnight Kisses" also make adorable party favours. Fill plastic wine glasses with Hershey kisses, and package them with noisemakers. I put mine in clear bags and added a "midnight kisses" tags with some curling ribbon.



To download the "Midnight Kisses" tag I designed: click on the photo below, right-click, save it to your computer, and print it like a regular 4x6 photo.


And kids will LOVE candy rings packaged with "ring in the New Year" tags.


To download the "Ring in the New Year" tag I designed: click on the photo below, right-click, save it to your computer, and print it like a regular 4x6 photo.


When all these DIY details come together, you end up with a table that is packed with fun... and full of style.


These simple tips, tricks and free printables are perfect for a DIY New Year's Eve party at home. Adults and kids will both be impressed with all the fun details.

Happy New Year!


Gina Bell 
(aka East Coast Mommy)


PS (I love getting the kids to fill out a year in review questionnaire too. You can download a copy of the one I designed, for free, here.)


M & M Christmas Cookies

Tried and true recipes are my favourite, and I absolutely love my soft and chewy chocolate chip cookie recipe. I literally bake it a couple of times a month, and it is an absolute favourite in our home. So, last week, I thought I would take my classic chocolate chip cookie recipe and turn it into a Christmas classic. Today, I am sharing my recipe for super-easy M&M Christmas cookies. This is the perfect recipe to bake with kids... and these cookies would be perfect to leave for Santa.


Ingredients:

  • 2 1/3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup butter (at room temperature... NOT melted)
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups green and red M&Ms (or other holiday candy coated chocolate)

Here's the recipe:

1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2) In a medium bowl, whisk together the following dry ingredients: flour, baking soda, and salt.


3) In a separate bowl, use electric beaters to combine the butter, white sugar and brown sugar.


4) Add eggs and real vanilla extract to the butter/sugar mixture. Beat with electric beaters until well combined.


5) Using a wooden spoon, mix wet and dry ingredients together (just until combined). Then, add green and red M&Ms (or any candy coated chocolate candies).

6) Drop tablespoon-size balls onto a Silpat or parchment lined cookie sheet, and bake for approx. 10 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.



This is such a classic cookie recipe... and kids will love them!



They freeze really well too... and they are a perfect choice for leaving for Santa. A glass of milk and a few of these cookies will give Santa all the energy he needs to deliver presents on Christmas Eve.

Happy Holidays!!!

♥ 
Gina Bell (aka East Coast Mommy)


Note: If you notice that your cookies are flattening out, try putting the batter in the fridge for half an hour before baking. Also, use fresh baking soda, don't melt the butter, and don't put batter onto a hot cookie sheet.

Felt Angel Ornaments

Every year, I design and stitch a new felt Christmas ornament for my family and friends. I like to keep the design simple, and I use felt so that it is light and I can mail it with my Christmas cards. This year, I made adorable felt angels.


I started by cutting the follow from felt: 2 red bodies, a gold heart, gold hair (front and back), a beige face and white wings. I also cut a piece of yarn to be used as a hanger.


Then...

1) I stitched the heart to the front of one of the body pieces, I attached the hanger, and I stitched the front and back of the body together (with the wings inserted between the two pieces).


2) I stitched the hair to the front and back of the ornament.


3) I added eyes and a mouth with black fabric paint.


This is a simple design that is easy to sew, and it results in a charming little ornament to share with friends and family. 



I love this ornament, don't you? The felt is super-easy to work with too, so this is a fantastic project for beginners. Do you have any special homemade ornaments on your Christmas tree? Handmade treasures are my favourites!


Gina
 (aka East Coast Mommy)



PS (You can find more simple felt ornament designs here.)

DIY Grinch Ornaments and Class Treats... with free printable tags

My boys love taking treats to share with their friends at Christmas, but allergies and nutrition policies mean that sweet treats are prohibited. So, I like to come up with fun trinkets that I can package in a fun and festive way. This year, my two youngest boys went with "Grinch" themed treats

I based my treats around my favourite quote from the Grinch movie... "Maybe Christmas," he thought, "doesn't come from a store. Maybe Christmas... perhaps... means a little bit more."

I found some heart-shaped ornaments, tiny presents, and green balls (that I DIY'ed with some red glitter glue) that fit my grinch theme perfectly!


Then, I designed these adorable tags. To download these tags: click on the photo below, right-click, save it to your computer, and print it like a regular 4x6 photo.


You can just add the tags directly to ornaments, or you can package a few trinkets in clear bags and secure the tags with curling ribbon.


My boys both chose different options, and they equally cute!



Aren't these Grinch treats an adorable Christmas class treat option? I especially love the green balls with the glitter hearts, don't you?


Gina 
(aka East Coast Mommy)

Planning a Christmas Fundraiser with Kids

My boys have been hosting a "Letter Writing to Santa" Fundraiser annually since 2011. In the past, we have hosted a party, but the last couple of years, we have sold "kits" instead of hosting an event. It's a great way for people to take part in on fundraiser at a time that is convenient for them. This year my three boys raised $250 for Cystic Fibrosis in honour of their 6 year old cousin that has the disease.


I'm pretty proud of my boys, and I think teaching the to give back during the holiday season is really important. Here's how we organized our fundraiser:

1) I posted the details on Facebook.


2) My boys put together supplies to write a letter to Santa. e.g. They folded letterhead and put labels on envelopes.

3) My boys baked cookies and put special labels on packets of hot chocolate.

4) My boys made magic reindeer food

5) My boys assembled tree ornament craft kits. (See below.)

Note: If you are interested in making one of these ornaments, you can download a PDF version of the Santa ornament instructions here.

6) My boys sold complete kits for $10 and donated the profits to charity.


I'm super-proud of my boys and their hard work on this Christmas fundraiser, and I'm extremely grateful to all our friends and family that supported us this year. Merry Christmas!

♥ 
Gina Bell (aka East Coast Mommy)

Tips for Healthy Eating over the Holidays... and a recipe for a simple Christmas appetizer

*sponsored post

Recently, I had the opportunity to meet with a registered dietitian at my local Atlantic Superstore. I participated in an in-office consultation, and I took advantage of my store's "shop with a dietitian" program. I learned a lot of simple tips for improving the eating habits of my family, and I got some fantastic ideas that will help us eat better over the holidays. Today, I am sharing the tips I learned... including a recipe for an easy and delicious holiday appetizer.


Here are some of "healthy eating over the holidays" tips that my local dietitian Ellen gave me:

1) Eat healthy snacks. Try to eat snacks that include both fibre and protein to help you stay full longer. If you feel full, you are less likely to overeat at meal times... or when you are attending a holiday party or gathering.

2) Plan meals. Try to plan meals ahead of time so that when things get busy, you are still able to stay on track. Ellen had tons of ideas for eating on the go, eating on a budget and feeding a young family.


3) Stock the fridge, freezer and pantry with healthy convenience items. Pre-cut veggies, frozen vegetables, and high fibre/low sodium frozen food items can be super-helpful to have on hand this time of year.


4) Find balance. Don't deprive yourself of the tasty treats that are abundant during the holiday season, but try not to go overboard. Balance indulgent treats with healthy options like fruits and veggies. 

This strawberry and goat cheese appetizer with a balsamic glaze was recommended to me by the dietitian I met with, and is based on a President's Choice recipe you can find here. I love how simple this recipe is, and it's red and green, so it's the perfect holiday appetizer. 

Here's how I made my version:


Strawberry and Goat Cheese Crostini with Balsamic Glaze

Ingredients:

  • 1 baguette
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • balsamic glaze
  • strawberries
  • goat cheese
  • fresh basil


Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Cut baguette on an angle... about 1cm thick.
  • Brush one side of the baguette with olive oil, bake in the centre of the oven for approximately 10 minutes, remove from oven, and let cool.
  • Top each baguette with 1 tsp of goat cheese, sliced strawberries, and basil.
  • Drizzle with balsamic glaze, and serve immediately.


Isn't this a festive looking red and green appetizer? I love how easy it is to make. If you know how to toast bread, you can make this impressive looking holiday treat.


If you are interested in improving the eating habits of your family, I highly recommend setting up an appointment with the dietitian at your local Atlantic Superstore. They offer a variety of services tailored to you and your family's nutrition needs and goals, including: nutrition consultations, phone check-ins, practical shopping tips, meal ideas, healthy weight management programs, and more. You can set up an appointment online here to meet with Ellen or a dietitian at your local store. (And, if you aren't ready to sign up for a one-on-one consultation yet, there are also free workshops you can sign up for. Check your local store for the topics and times.)


Gina 
(aka East Coast Mommy)

*Disclosure: I have partnered with Atlantic Superstore and have received compensation for this post; however, as always, all opinions on this blog are 100% my own.

Ways to Make Christmas Magical for Kids

Kids won't always remember the gifts they receive, but they will remember the things their family does together every year. I've always enjoyed making Christmas magical for my kids, and today, I am sharing some of my favourite tips, tricks, and ideas. I hope you enjoy them as much as we have!


1) Polar Express - Every year, my boys and I go on a Polar Express adventure. They go to bed, find tickets on their pillows, and we head out in our van with hot chocolate and cookies to look at Christmas lights. Then, when they arrive home, they find bells from Santa's sleigh on their pillows. You can print FREE Polar Express tickets, and read all about this fun activity, here.




2) Magic Reindeer Food - Every year the boys and I make magic reindeer food. Then, on Christmas Eve, we sprinkle it on the lawn to make sure Santa's reindeer can find our house. You can get the receipt and FREE printable tags for magic reindeer food here.



3) Elf on the Shelf - We adopted our scout elf ("Elfie") many years ago, and he has been bringing magical fun to our family every year. He has done many fun things, which you can read about here, but we absolutely love when he brings Magic Elf Seeds. In the past, he has delivered magic elf seeds that grew into cookie pops AND magic elf seeds that grew into a candy cane garden.




4) Letters and Videos from Santa - Nothing epitomizes the magic of the holidays like the jolly guy in the red suit. So, of course, letters and videos from Santa are always exciting to receive. Our Elf on the Shelf often brings us our letters from Santa, and he lets us know when Santa has sent us special video messages.




5) Magic Santa Key - Several years ago, my boys were concerned about how Santa was going to get into our house without a chimney. Luckily, Santa left us a magic key, and he has never had any difficulties leaving presents. You can get your own FREE Magic Santa Key tag here.


In addition to the above, we also like to focus on the magical power of giving. My boys always buy gifts for each other, and they host a "writing a letter to Santa" fundraiser. How do you make the holidays magical for your family?

Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)


“Children see magic because they look for it.” 

Christopher Moore


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