DIY Christmas Monogram

I love having something unique and handmade on my front door at Christmas, don't you? Wreaths are wonderful, but a fun and festive DIY creation is a fantastic way to great guests during the holidays. Today, I am sharing my simple Christmas monogram. It is easy and inexpensive to make, and totally cute!

I made my Christmas monogram with red glittery wire ribbon, thick red yarn, and a handmade felt flower with a bell in the middle.

In the past, I have made monograms with twine, but I love the warmth of the thick red yarn for the holidays. You can find the full tutorial for making a monogram here. (Just substitute thick red yarn for twine.)

I'm so pleased with how cute this Christmas monogram turned out. It's a fun contrast to the greenery around my door.

Happy Christmas crafting!

(aka East Coast Mommy)

5 Non-toy Gifts That Kids Will Love

As the holidays approach, let's get real... our kids do not need more "stuff". When my kids need something, I buy it for them, so showering them with toys and gifts on their birthdays and at Christmas makes no sense to me. Today, I am sharing some great "non toy" gifts that kids will love!

1) Money - Since my kids have been little, they have been having "toonie" parties. Instead of gifts, we ask guests to give the birthday boy a two dollar coin. The guests spend less on a gift, we don't end up with more toys, and the birthday boy can use his birthday money to purchase something he really wants. 

Money in an education fund or foreign currency for an upcoming trip are great ideas too!

2) Amusement park tickets - My kids love our local amusement park where they can drive go carts, play mini golf, and grab an ice cream. A gift certificate to pay for an afternoon of fun is a wonderful gift idea!

3) Tickets to a live event - Tickets to concerts, sporting events, and live theatre make wonderful gifts... and wonderful memories. Take a look at upcoming events in your area, purchase tickets, and wrap them up. Event tickets make fantastic gifts!

4) An ice cream date - An ice cream date involves a sweet treat and time spent together. I love the idea of giving kids gift cards to their favourite ice cream restaurant or stand with a promise to take them out on a special date. It's inexpensive and fun!

5) A movie date - Who doesn't love a great movie with someone special? Movie gift cards attached to a box of popcorn make a simple and fantastic gift.

I love all these non-toy gift ideas, don't you? What's your favourite? This holiday season, consider gifting experiences. Kids (and parents) love it!

Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)

Halloween 2019

Halloween 2019 was bitter sweet for me, as this is the first year my oldest didn't go trick or treating. However, my younger two are still "all in" when it comes to dressing up and collecting candy. 😁

My youngest decided to go as a Minion, so I turned a candy bowl, a laundry basket, and a pop up hamper into the costume of his dreams.

My middle son couldn't decide what he wanted to be, so while he was at school today, I pulled this secret agent costume together using stuff we had lying around the house. He was pretty happy with it, and I think he looked pretty cute. 

We also managed to get a couple of pumpkins carved in between hockey practices. (Life of a hockey mom!)

The boys traveled the neighborhood with their friends and came home with too much candy! lol

They are currently sitting on the floor of my kitchen trading candy with their friends. Candy trading is pretty serious business in our house.

Happy Halloween from my family to yours!

Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)

Magic Potion Caldron Cakes... recipe and free printable tags

If you are looking for a fun activity, and a tasty Halloween treat, you are going to love the recipe I am sharing today. With only two ingredients, and less than a minute, you can create wickedly good (and super-simple) caldron cakes. I've even designed some fun tags so that you can share the treats with your kids, friends, classmates and trick-or-treaters. You are going to love these easy caldron cakes!

To make caldron cakes, you'll just need a high quality cake mix and chocolate chips.

Every caldron cake mix contains 3 tablespoons of cake mix and 1 tablespoon of chocolate chips. I packaged my mixes in cellophane bags with curling ribbon and the tags I designed. 

When ready to enjoy the caldron cake: dump the contents into a microwave safe mug, add 2 tablespoons of water, stir, microwave for 50 seconds, and enjoy! (The portion size is small because of the richness of the cake... but you could double or triple the recipe if you want more.)

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 picture.

I love the idea of gifting the mixes in black mugs.

And the little packages would be perfect to share with a class or trick-or-treaters.

The caldron cakes are delicious "as is", but they are even better topped with whipped cream and sprinkles.

Making these cakes is a great way to get kids cooking too. Here's a video showing how easy it was for my 10 year to cook his own caldron cake.

If you are looking for a fun activity / treat this Halloween, I highly recommend giving these magic potion caldron cakes a try!

Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)

         Find MORE ideas for easy and inexpensive Halloween fun here.

Halloween Family Movie Night... with skeleton party tray and family friendly Halloween movie suggestions

I love a themed movie night, don't you? You can put up elaborate decoration and make a bunch of fancy snacks, or you can keep it simple with a Halloween snack tray, some popcorn and a great Halloween movie. Today, I am sharing everything you need to plan an easy, inexpensive and fun Halloween family movie night.

When it comes to movie night, you need a variety of fun snacks. I love the idea of creating a simple Halloween snack tray, don't you? I picked up this silver tray at the dollar store, I laid out a skeleton (that I also found at the dollar store), and covered it all with Halloween candy. Fun, right?

And you'll need a family friend movie too, right? Of course, different movies are appropriate for different ages, so you'll need to do some research, but here are a few fun, family-friendly Halloween movie options.

Note: I have included some links that will allow you to purchase these movies easily at a great price. These are affiliate links, so if you use them, I will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thank you!

1) Hocus Pocus

2) Halloweentown (and its sequel)

3) Hotel Transylvania (and its sequels)

4) Casper

5) Beetlejuice

Do you have a favourite Halloween movie? Did it make my list? I hope you take the time to make a simple Halloween snack tray and watch a family friendly Halloween movie with your friends and family this year. Happy Halloween!

Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)

You can find more ideas for easy and inexpensive Halloween fun here.

A Simplified Version of BOOing The Neighbours

My boys have been "Booing" our neighbours since 2011, and although they are getting older, it's still a tradition they enjoy. If you have never "Boo'ed" the neighbours on Halloween, you should give it a try. It's simple and a lot of fun!

Basically, you bag up treats, add a sheet of instructions, and "secretly" deliver treats to neighbours. (i.e. You ring the doorbell, leave the treats, and run away.)

To download the sign that you include with the treats: click on the image below, right-click, save it to your computer, and print it like a regular 8X10 photo.

Pretty simple, right?

You only need to leave treats for two neighbours, but you can deliver more treats if you like. My boys always like to leave treats for several of their friends. Here are the treat packages they will be delivering this year...

If you have any questions about "Booing", let me know. It really is a fun Halloween activity. Kids love it, but there is no reason adults couldn't do it too. People of ALL ages like treats, right?!?

Happy Halloween!

Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)

PS... Check out this adorable picture of the first year that my boys went "Booing". Pretty cute... if I do say so myself! 😀

How to Save Money on Halloween Costumes

Kids love dressing up, and they often have very specific ideas of what they want to wear for Halloween. Over the years, I have loved helping my kids fulfill their visions, but I have never wanted to break the bank on something they are only going to wear once. Today, I am sharing my best tips for saving money on Halloween costumes.

1) Get crafty - Making costumes yourself is awesome because it saves money AND you end up with unique creations. The best thing is... you do NOT need to be super crafty. I have OVER 20 ideas (that require NO sewing) on my blog here. (e.g. I made this Ninja costume using black shirts and red duct tape!)

2) Buy second hand - Search "buy and sell" sites, ask friends, and visit second hand stores. There are a lot of fantastic deals to be had!

3) Shop at the Dollar Store - The dollar store has tons of masks, wigs, accessories, etc... It's a fantastic (and inexpensive) place to get inspiration and purchase what you need to pull together a wonderful costume on a budget.

4) Use what you have - Sometime you don't need to spend ANY money on a costume. With a little imagination, you can create a costume using what you already have in your home. For example, my son used a t-shirt he had to create this simple Clark Kent costume. We grabbed glasses, a dress shirt, and a tie from his closet, and we were good to go! You can also recycle old t shirts into costumes. You can find "use what you have" inspiration here.

5) Take advantage of "after Halloween" discount - If you really plan ahead, you can stock up on "after Halloween" clearance items and save them for the next year. 

How do you save money on Halloween costumes? Have your kids picked their outfits yet? I love these ideas for saving money on Halloween costumes, don't you?

Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)

You can find more easy and inexpensive Halloween ideas here.

Shortcut Family-Friendly Lasagna

Weeknight dinners can be a struggle, so I'm always looking for shortcuts to make my life a little easier. This family-friendly lasagna is one of my favorites. I love that it makes enough for two nights, my kids will it without complaining (a rarity around here), and it's easy to make. Keep reading to check out my recipe for family-friendly lasagna... and the shortcuts I use.

Shortcut Family-Friendly Lasagna


  • 9-12 oven ready lasagna noodles (Short cut - you don't have to cook the noodles before assembling the lasagna.)
  • 1 pound / 500g hamburger (Short cut - have cooked hamburger ready to go in the freezer or fridge.)
  • 2 (640mL) jars of pasta sauce (Short cut - use jarred sauce.)
  • 500g lasagna style cottage cheese (regular cottage cheese or ricotta would work too)
  • 2 tbsp dried parsley (Short cut - you can use fresh, but using dried is quicker.)
  • 1 egg
  • 3 cups grated mozzarella cheese (Short cut - you can buy pre-grated cheese.)
  • 6 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese (Short cut - you can use fresh, but using the canned/shake version is quicker.)
  • 3/4 cup water


1) Fry hamburger and add 2 jars of pasta sauce.

2) Combine cottage cheese with parsley and an egg.

3) In a 13x9 greased baking dish:
  • spread 1/3 of sauce
  • top with 3 1/2 lasagna noodles
  • top with 1/2 the cottage cheese mixture
  • sprinkle with one cup mozzarella cheese and 2 tbsp Parmesan cheese 
  • spread another 1/3 of sauce
  • top with 3 1/2 lasagna noodles
  • top with remaining cottage cheese mixture
  • top with 1 cup mozzarella cheese and 2 tbsp Parmesan cheese
  • top with 3 1/2 lasagna noodles, remaining sauce, remaining mozzarella cheese and remaining Parmesan cheese
  • drizzle with water 
4) Cover with tin foil and bake in a 350 degree pre-heated oven for 50-55 minutes. Remove covering for the last 10 minutes.

5) Let stand for 15 minutes, and then serve.

I like to serve my lasagna with garlic bread and a simple salad. (I love spring mix with strawberries, a crunchy salad topper, and an olive oil/balsamic vinegar dressing.)

I highly recommend this simple, short cut family-friendly lasagna. It's fantastic for a weekday, but works well for a Sunday supper too. Who doesn't love a meal that feeds a crowd and everyone enjoys?

Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)

PS - You can find more family friendly recipes ideas here.

10 Questions to Ask your Kids After School... that won't get one word responses

Now that the school year is well underway, you might be finding it difficult to get information about the school day from your children. After school, kids are tired, and getting more than a "fine" or a "good" can be a challenge. Today, I am sharing 10 questions that you can ask your kids after school... that will get more than a one word response.

1) What did you do at recess / lunch? Who did you play with? Who did you sit beside at lunch? - Great questions because they lead to a bigger discussion about who their friends are, what they are interested in playing, and what sort of drama is happening on the playground.

2) Did anything funny happen at school today? - A simple question with a positive focus.

3) Did you find anything hard or upsetting today? - A great question for uncovering emotional struggles.

4) What are you working on in math? What are you reading? - Wonderful questions for showing interest in the academic part of a child's day.

5) What was the best part of your day? What was the worst part of your day? - Simple questions that can lead to more detailed discussions.

6) What did you learn today? 

7) What are two positive things that happened today? What is one negative thing that happened today?

8) Did anyone get in trouble in your class today? What were they doing? - This is a wonderful question to ask because it allows you to talk to your kids about acceptable and unacceptable behavior and what your expectations are for them.

9) Did you eat your lunch? Why or why not? - Sometimes kids don't eat their lunch because they were worried about something and had a sore belly. Or, sometimes they don't eat their lunch because they were in a hurry to get outside to play with a new piece of playground equipment. Either way, it's a good question that can help uncover further information.

10) Do you have any homework? Do you have any projects or tests coming up?

  • Of course, you aren't going to ask all these questions every day. Pick the questions that work for you, and feel free to "mix them up". You should also consider the timing of asking your child questions. Some kids love a chat while enjoying an after school snack, but others prefer to share information at bedtime. You know your child best, so go with your gut.

  • What's your favorite question to ask your kids after school? Did any of your favorites make my list?

Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)

Movie Night Snack Board

Spending time together as a family is not always easy... especially when kids are busy with after school and weekend activities/sports. In our house, we try to have a "family movie night" every Friday, and it is the highlight of the week for all of us. Making it special with simple snacks adds an extra element of fun. Check out our latest movie night treat... a movie night snack board.

I started with a few of my family's favourite snacks, small bowls I had in my cupboard, and a tray from the dollar store.

I covered the tray with popcorn, inserted the bowls, and filled the bowls with candy. Soooo easy... but soooo much fun!

This movie night snack board was a definite hit at our last movie night. I think my boys are going to be looking for it next week too!

I love a charcuterie board, and I think this is a really fun "sweet and salty" version the whole family will love, don't you? I highly recommend making this movie night snack board for your next movie night. It's simple, fun, and really tasty!

Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)

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