East Coast Mommy 2018 DIY Gifts and Gift Guides... OVER 100 gift ideas included

Christmas shopping can be stressful, but today, I've made things a little easier for you by collecting over 100 of my favourite gift ideas... all in one place. Keep reading for a gift suggestions for everyone on your list at a price point that works for you!

  • Gifts for board game lovers - A good family board game is always a good choice. Playing games is a great way to spend time together, and you can find some of our favourites here

  • Gifts for LEGO fans - LEGO is a classic gift and always a favourite on Christmas morning. You can find some fantastic gift ideas for LEGO fans here.

  • Stocking Stuffers - Stockings are one of the best parts of Christmas, and it's extra fun if they are filled with unique and inexpensive treats and trinkets. Here are some ideas kids will love.

  • Gifts for Moms - The special lady in your life deserves to be celebrated, and here are a few inexpensive gift ideas she will love to find under the tree on Christmas morning.

  • Gifts for Dads - Men can be tough to buy for, but they are guaranteed to love something here.

  • Hockey Gift Guide - If you have a hockey fan, you are going to want to buy something off the list you can find here.

  • And don't forget teachers and neighbours. I love this simple DIY "warm wishes" gift, and you can add a gift card too!

I hope you found these gift ideas helpful. Did you find something for everyone on your list? Happy shopping!!!

Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)

EASY DIY Christmas Decor Ideas (that you are going to want to try THIS year)

Holiday decor doesn't need to be expensive or elaborate to be fantastic. In fact, sometimes easy and inexpensive DIY ideas having the biggest impact. Today, I am sharing a few of my favourite ideas for easy DIY Christmas Decor Ideas.

1) Wrapped pictures - Wrapping existing artwork is a wonderful way to transform a space, and it barely costs anything. I always wrap the pictures in my hallway, and they automatically make the area look festive and fun. What do you think?

2) Holiday wreath (from a dollar store frame) - Making a custom wreath for your front door is a fantastic way to decorate the exterior of your home. I love the uniqueness of this square wreath made from a dollar store frame, don't you? Check out the simple "how to" here.

3) Garland and lights - Nothing adds Christmas sparkle to a home like garland and lights. It's inexpensive and adds a "cozy feel" to a space.

4) Felt Santa wreath - A whimsical homemade wreath is a fun option this time of year. I adore this simple Santa wreath made from felt and a dollar store hat. Find the full "how to" here.

5) Makeshift mantle - Unfortunately, my current home doesn't have a fireplace, but I still need a place for the kids to hang their stockings. If you're in the same situation as me, consider using stocking hangers on a window sill. It's not as good as a fire place, but it works well and looks great.

6) Epson salt Christmas scene - How cute is this little "snowy" scene I made in less than 5 minutes? I used a glass container I already had, added epson salts, and inserted a little glass house and glittery trees I found at the dollar store. I added small battery operated lights, but it's cute without them too.

7) Grinch Door - I love this simple vignette made from construction paper and dollar store supplies. Find the full instructions for this adorable Grinch door here.

8) Jingle Bell Wreath - If you can wrap yarn around a wreath form, you can make this simple jingle bell wreath. Find the step by step instructions here.

9) Yarn Wrapped Christmas Mongram - This DIY monogram is a fun alternative to a traditional wreath. You can find out how easy it is to make here.

10) "Bottle Brush Tree" Winter Wreath - This wreath is great for Christmas, but the winter theme makes it perfect for after the holidays too. Find the simple DIY instructions here.

What's your favourite DIY Christmas decorating tip? Do you think you will try any of my ideas? I just love decorating this time of year, don't you?

(aka East Coast Mommy)

5 Tips for Preparing Kids to Stay Home Alone

Two questions parents struggle with as their kids get older are: "When are kids old enough to stay home alone?" and "How do you prepare kids to stay home alone?" Like most moms, I wanted to find the answers to these questions for my own family. I searched for information online, I asked friends, and I discussed the situation with my boys and my husband. Today, I am sharing my best tips for preparing kids to stay home alone.

1) Start early - It's never too early to start teaching kids how to be safe. Set a good example for your kids and try to find "teaching moments" where you can. In our house, we've always tried to find time to chat while having an after school snack. Bedtime is great too.

2) Wait until kids are ready - In addition to checking the legal requirements for staying alone in your area, it's important to consider the maturity of your child. All kids mature at different rates, and parents are the best judges of how responsible and "ready" children are. Don't rush it.

3) Start off slow - Parents and kids will both be more comfortable if kids are gradually introduced to the concept of being left home alone. Start by talking about staying home alone, progress to leaving the child home for short periods of time, and build up to leaving the child at home for longer periods of time. My oldest son is 13, and although I have been leaving him alone for a few years, I have only recently started leaving him in charge of his brothers for long periods of time.

4) Make sure the rules are clear - Make sure the kids know the rules before you leave them home alone. For example: Do the doors need to stay locked? Are friends allowed to be in the house when adults aren't home? Is the child permitted to use the stove? In our house, the kids are not allowed to use the stove or oven when they are home alone. They make a lot of sandwiches, cereal, and microwavable oatmeal.

5) Sign your kids up for an online safety course - Sometimes it is difficult to find the time to talk to your kids and give them all the information they need. Recently, I had my boys do the SOS 4 Kids online safety course*. The program is inexpensive, easy to use, and comprehensive. There are modules (that the kids can do at a convenient time... from the comfort of your home) on: street smarts, people safety, at home safety, online safety, fire safety, first aid, and accident prevention. The course is simple enough for the kids to do on their own, but doing it with your kids provides a wonderful opportunity to open a dialogue with your kids and to reinforce some of the information included in the course.

The program is interactive... using videos, digital media and checkpoints to engage kids. They even get a printable certificate of achievement when they have completed the course. The program is designed for kids aged 9-13... but it would also be a useful platform for kids with ADD, learning disabilities, or older youth with developmental disabilities. You can read more about the home alone safety course here.

Have you started leaving your kids home alone? What tips do you have to share? Leave your ideas in the comments below, and if you have any questions, please let me know.

Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)

*Disclosure: I have partnered with SOS 4 Kids and have received compensation for this post; however, as always, all opinions in this post are my own.

Birthday Letter to My Oldest Son on his 13th Birthday

Every year I write my boys letters on their birthdays. It's my way of celebrating them and documenting their personalities as they grow another year older. I hope that some day my boys will look back at their letters and know how much I love and appreciate everything that makes them special and unique. Today, I am sharing my letter to my oldest son on his 13th birthday.

Dear Cameron,

I can't believe you are a teenager. It seems like only yesterday you depended on me for everything, and now you are becoming an independent young man. It really is bittersweet for me. I'm super-proud of the wonderful human you are... but I hope you still need me a little... at least for a few more years. 😉

Here are a few things that make you special:

  • You are resilient. This year was tough for you as you struggled with a recovering from a broken collarbone. I know you are missing the sport you love, but I admire your dedication to recovery. You go to all your hockey practices and games to support your team (even though you can't get on the ice), you never miss your physio, and you are doing whatever you can to keep fit. I love your resilience and dedication.
  • You have great friends, which is a testament to your kindness and your ability to make good choices.
  • You work hard in school, love to play the guitar, and live to watch and play hockey.
  • You love hanging out with family... especially your brothers and your cousins. Nothing makes me happier than listening to you and your brothers playing mini sticks... even if close games sometimes end up in a fight. lol
  • Peanut butter sandwiches are your favourite, you love chocolate chip cookies, and Auston Matthews is your hero.
  • You have a kind heart. This year you started a summer business making jars of cookie ingredients, and you gave $1 from the sale of every jar to charity. You made over $100 for Cystic Fibrosis.
You may be a teenager, but you will always be my baby. I love you to the moon and back!

Mom xo

Chocolate Kiss Peanut Butter Cookies

Who doesn't love a recipe that combines chocolate and peanut butter? These chocolate kiss peanut butter cookies are easy to make, look cute and taste delicious. They are perfect as a special holiday treat or just as a special after school snack. Check out the simple recipe and instructions below.

The base of these cookies is a peanut butter cookie recipe I have been making for many years. In the past, I have used it to make teddy bear cookies in the summer and reindeer cookies at Christmas. It's a simple recipe that always turns out well. Here's how you make them:

1/2 cup butter (softened)
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup white sugar (and some extra for rolling the cookies in)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
Hershey Kisses (approx. 24)

1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2) In a large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to combine the butter, peanut butter, white sugar, and brown sugar.
3) Add baking soda and baking powder, and beat until combined.
4) Add egg and vanilla, and beat again.
5) Stir in flour.
6) Roll spoonfuls of dough into balls, roll in white sugar, place on a cookie sheet, and bake in a preheated oven (at 375 degrees) for 8-12 minutes.
7) While the cookies are still warm, insert kisses into the tops of the cookies
8) Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

These cookies are the perfect balance of peanut butter and chocolate. Trust me, you are going to love them!

They pair well with milk, coffee, tea and hot chocolate... and they are fantastic after a cold winter day playing in the snow. They are a "snow day" favourite in our house.

Do you love cookies that combine chocolate and peanut butter? If you do, you should totally try this recipe for chocolate kiss peanut butter cookies. Let me know what you think.

Gina Bell (aka East Coast Mommy)

Tips for Managing Airborne Allergens

*sponsored post*

For those of you who follow my blog regularly, you know that I have been testing out the Philips Series 2000i Connected Air Purifier in my son's room. He struggles with airborne allergens, and I have been trying to help him breathe more comfortably at home. My biggest challenge has been that I am fighting something I can't see, but my new air purifier has helped me by making the invisible visible. 

Since I haven't heard my son coughing in the night for a while, I think that what I've been doing has been helping him. Here are the steps I have taken to help my son with his airborne allergies:

1) I keep his window closed, and I close the door to his room. When his window or his door is opened, I can see the numbers on his Philips Series 2000i Connected Air Purifier rise... which means there are more allergens entering his room. It's been a good lesson for me, and it was something I didn't think of before I had the air purifier.

2) I keep his room clean. If I dust, vacuum, and change his sheets frequently, I've found it improves the air quality in his room a lot. Plus, when I shake out the bedding in his room, I can see an immediate rise in dust particles in the air.

3) I try and keep his room as free from clutter as I can. It's hard to make a kid's room clutter-free, but I try to reduce it where I can. With less clutter, there are fewer items to collect dust and it is easier to clean his room.

4) I monitor the outdoor air quality. The Philips Series 2000i Connected Air Purifier comes with an app that alerts me to poor air quality conditions outside. In real-time, AeroSense shows you the air quality data from anywhere with the connected app. The Air Purifier constantly feeds indoor air quality data to the app, which is then combined with outdoor pollution and pollen data to give me a complete picture of indoor and outdoor air quality. Of course, I don't forbid my son to go outside when the air quality is bad, but it provides me information that I can use to help my son prepare for air conditions outside. For example, I might suggest he have a shower as soon as he comes in from playing outside if pollen counts are high.

5) I use my Philips Series 2000i Connected Air Purifier to keep the air in his room clean. I can't control the allergens that he encounters outside, but I can make sure that the air in his room is clean so that he can get the best sleep possible. My air purifier automatically monitors and purifies the air. Thanks to a 3 layer filtering system (pre filter, active carbon, and heap filter), it removes 99.7% of allergens from the air. Philips AeraSense technology continuously monitors the air and automatically adjusts the fan speed when it detects a change in particles. It's easy to use, easy to clean and easy to change the filters too!

Does someone in your home struggle with airborne allergens? How do you manage their day to day? I hope you find my tips helpful. If you have any questions that I can answer for you, please let me know... or if you want to find out more about the Philips Series 2000i Connect Air Purifier, you can do so here.

Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)

*Disclosure: I have partnered with Philips Canada and have received compensation for this post. However, this post reflects my own opinions and experience with this product and does not necessarily reflect claims from Philips Canada.

Magic Elf Glove... tutorial and free printable tags

Have you ever had to move your Elf on the Shelf? Or has there been a time that your child wanted to hold your Elf on the Shelf? This Magic Elf Glove is the perfect solution to your Elf on the Shelf problem, so keep reading to find out how to make your own. I've included a free printable tag for you too! (Or if you aren't feeling crafty... you can order one here.)

This magic glove is made from an inexpensive stretchy red glove  and a banner of white felt. To make one: cut a banner from white felt, stitch it to the top of a glove and package it with the fun tags I designed. You can add a little glitter to the inside of the bag too... for a little added magic.

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

Seriously... isn't this a cute Elf on the Shelf accessory?

Elf on the Shelf is one of our family's favourite traditions. Do you have an Elf on the Shelf? Do you have a child that would like this Magic Elf Glove? I hope you enjoy creating this simple little piece of Christmas magic.

Gina Bell (aka East Coast Mommy)

PS - You can find more easy and fun Elf on the Shelf Ideas here.

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