New Year's Eve Activity Bags

In 2012, I made activity bags for my boys as a way of entertaining them on New Year's Eve. Since then, I have been making them annually, and the contents of the bags have changed each year to reflect the fact that they are getting older. Today, I am sharing the contents of the New Year's Eve activity bags I put together this year.


I started with dollar store bags. Then, I cut circles from coloured paper and drew clocks on the circles. I did bags for 6pm, 7pm, 8pm, 9pm, 10pm, 11pm. and midnight. 

The idea is to have the party guests open a new bag every hour.

Here's what I put in our bags:


6pm - Year in review sheets and pens. You can download my 2019 version for free here.



7pm - Chocolates and popcorn.



8pm - A game and a prize. I used LCR with three cash prizes, but any game would work. Chocolate bar Bingo would be fun too. (Bingo with chocolate bar prizes.)



9pm - Candy rings with "Ring in the New Year!" tags. You can download the tags for free here.



10pm - Supplies for a New Year's Eve photo booth. I got a bunch of supplies at the dollar store, and I designed a few photo props (which you can download for free here).



11pm - Midnight Kisses (which are really chocolate kisses packaged in clear bags with free tags that you can download here).



Midnight - Noise makers, sparklers, and cookies. Everything you need to ring in and celebrate the new year!



Isn't this a fun idea? I do 7 bags, but you can do as many (or few) as you want... and if your kids are younger (and won't make it to midnight), you can open the bags earlier.



Have you ever done activity bags with your kids on New Year's Eve? It really is a wonderful idea for a party full of kids, and it works well for a quiet evening at home too. 

What are you going to put in your activity bags? I'm always looking for new ideas.



Gina Bell
 (aka East Coast Mommy)


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

2019 Year in Review... and FREE printable photo booth props

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 the 2019 version I designed (that you can download for free). 


To print the "2019 Year in Review": click on the 8 1/2 x 11" photo above, right-click, save it to your computer, and print it. (I sent mine to my local copy store and printed them, and they look fantastic!)

I also have some fun photo props you can print, cut out, and attach sticks to. To print the props below: click on the 8 1/2 x 11" photos below, right-click, save them to your computer, and print them.






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.

Christmas Dice Game... a family Christmas gift exchange

Making gift giving into a game is a fun idea for Christmas parties and family gatherings too. This year, my extended family will be playing a “Christmas Dice Game” together on Christmas Eve. Keep reading for all the details on how to play this simple game (and get a free printable instruction sheet).



To play, all participants are asked to bring an inexpensive wrapped. For my family, we are doing a kid's exchange and an adult's exchange. The kids will each bring a $5 gift and the adults will each bring a $10 gift.

The game starts with every person choosing one wrapped gift. (I suggest letting people choose their original gift based on age... from youngest to oldest.) Then, everyone sits in one big circle and takes turns rolling a die and following the instructions for the roll. E.g. A one means “keep your gift”, two means “steal someone’s gift”, three means “everyone pass your gift to the left”, four means “everyone pass your gift to the right”, five means “keep your gift” and six means “steal someone’s gift”. Continue playing until every participant has rolled three times. At the end of the game, whatever gift you end up with is yours to keep! Fun, right?


To download the instructions: click on the photo below, right-click, save it to your computer, and print it like a regular 8x10 photo.




Have you ever played a game like this? Did you have fun? I can't wait to play with my family on Christmas Eve. If you have any tips for me, let me know.


Gina 
(aka East Coast Mommy)


Update: Our family played the Christmas Dice Game on Christmas Eve, and it was a huge success. This will definitely become an annual tradition for us.

Homemade Nuts and Bolts... a DIY holiday gift to give to neighbors and friends

Every year, I make treats to share with my neighbours during the holidays. I love simple DIY gifts that are packaged in a fun way don't you? This year, I filled little jam jars with homemade bits and bites. Today, I'm sharing my recipe (and an adorable packaging idea) for this savory snack.



The best part about this recipe is that you can "change it up" based on what you like. (For example, if you really like Shreddies and don't like Cheerios, you can add more Shreddies and less Cheerios.) As long as you have the same number of "cups" of dry ingredients, you'll be good to go. As a guide, here's what I used...


Ingredients:

7 cups of Rice Chex cereal
4 cups of Shreddies
3 cups of Cheerios
4 cups of pretzels
2 boxes of cheese stick crackers

2 cups of melted salted butter
1 1/2 tbsp seasoning salt
3 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp garlic powder
1/2 tbsp onion powder
1 tbsp paprika


Instructions:

1) Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.
2) In a large roaster, combine the first 5 ingredients (i.e. all the cereals, pretzels and crackers).
3) In the microwave, melt the butter. Then mix in the seasoning salt, Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, onion powder, and paprika.
4) Bake for 1 1/2 to 2 hours... stirring gently and thoroughly every 30 minutes. You'll know you are done when the cereal is dry (i.e. all the butter mixture has been absorbed).




You can package the bits and bites in any airtight container, but I put mine in these little 250mL "jam jars". I used curling ribbon to attach gift tags to the jars. Because I used jam jars, my tags had a little play on words. My tags said, "Spreading Christmas Cheer... one jar at a time." Cute, right?




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




Don't my little jars look adorable? The treats are delicious too!



Do you have a favorite DIY Christmas gift to give? Or have you gotten one that you absolutely loved? I'd love to hear about it!


Gina Bell (aka East Coast Mommy)



You can find more simple DIY gift ideas here.

Elf Shopping List (free printable list included)

Who knew Elves made shopping lists?!? Yesterday, we woke up to find our Elf on the Shelf holding a pen next to a shopping list he made. Apparently he likes sugar because his list included: candy, candy canes, candy corn, and maple syrup.



To print off a copy of the this Elf on the Shelf shopping list: click on the photo below, right-click, save it to your computer, and print it like a regular 8x10 photo. (I printed mine at my local copy store for less than $1.)




Cute, right? And if you are looking for more Elf on the Shelf inspiration, you can find tons of easy and inexpensive Elf on the Shelf ideas here.




What are some of your favourite Elf on the Shelf antics? My boys love searching for our Elf each morning and seeing what silly thing he has done.

♥ 
Gina Bell (aka East Coast Mommy)

The BEST Christmas Cookie Recipes

Baking (and eating!) Christmas cookies is one of my favourite holiday traditions. I love spending time in the kitchen with my boys this time of year, and the promise of cookies helps convince them to join me. Today I am sharing my favourite holiday cookie recipes. They are all unique and fun... and totally delicious!




My favourite Christmas cookie recipes (in no particular order) are:


1) Soft and chewy ginger cookies - These are my youngest son's favorite cookies, and he likes to help make them because he can roll the dough into balls and dip it in sugar. I love these cookies because they taste delicious and they make the whole house smell like Christmas. Click here for the recipe.




2) Red and Green M&M cookies - These cookies are festive, and super-simple to make. They are basically a soft and chewy chocolate chip cookie with M&Ms instead of chocolate chips. If you give these a try, they will become a holiday staple. You can find the cookie recipe here, and you can find instructions for making a "cookies for Santa" cookie mix jar here.






3) Make-ahead gingerbread cookies - These traditional cookies are soft and full of flavor, and they make your house smell like Christmas. Kids have fun rolling out the easy-to-work-with dough and cutting out all their favorite cookie shapes. Click here for the recipe.





4) Butter cut out cookies - Orange juice is the secret ingredient in these wonderful holiday cookies. They taste delicious, and the dough is easy to work with. Kids will love cutting out all their favourite cookie shapes. Click here for the recipe.





5) Shortbread cookies with buttercream icing - Nothing says "Christmas cookies" like a tray full of light and fluffy shortbread cookies topped with rich and delicious buttercream icing. You can find my recipe for classic shortbread cookies here.





6) Peanut butter reindeer cookies - With a few simple decorative touches, a plain soft and chewy peanut butter cookie can be transformed into a darling reindeer cookie. Find the recipe and the "how to" here.




7) Chocolate and peanut butter "kiss" cookies - If you love the combination of chocolate and peanut butter, these little "kiss" cookies are for you. They are fantastic for baking with kids too. Little ones will love unwrapping the kisses and pressing them into the tops of the warm cookies. Click here to find the recipe for these little gems.




All of these cookies are perfect for Christmas. Which one looks best to you? What's the #1 cookie on your Christmas baking list?


Gina Bell
 (aka East Coast Mommy)






"Cookies for Santa" Jars... with free printable tags

Today I am sharing a "sweet" Christmas idea... jars of cookies for Santa. I have the best recipe for delicious cookies and adorable (and FREE) printable gift tags. These cookies jars make great gifts, and they are perfect for baking on Christmas Eve.




Isn't this mason jar filled with cookie ingredients adorable?!?




To make this "Cookies for Santa" jar:

1) Start with a clean 1L mason jar.

2) Layer the ingredients below (patting down each layer before adding the next one):

First layer: 1 3/4 cups flour, 3/4 tsp baking soda, 3/4 teaspoon salt
Second layer: 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
Third layer: 1/2 white sugar
Fourth layer: a 200g bag of red and green M&Ms

To make the process easy: use a wide-mouthed funnel to fill the jars, and make a tool to press down the layers. I attached a round piece of cardboard to the end of skewer and covered it all with tin foil.


3) Print off the cookie tag below, cut it to look like a tag, and attach it to the cookie jar with twine or ribbon. 


To download the tag: click on the photo below, right-click, save it to your computer, and print.


To bake the cookies: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Then, beat 3/4 cup softened butter, 1 large egg, and 3/4 teaspoon vanilla in a large mixing bowl until well blended. Add the jar of cookie mix, and stir with a wooden spoon until fully combined. Drop by rounded tablespoons onto an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 9-12 minutes.







Isn't this an adorable Christmas DIY? It's a fantastic Christmas cookie recipe, and it's an easy, inexpensive and adorable homemade gift. If you give it a try, let me know what you think.

♥ 
Gina Bell (aka East Coast Mommy)

Snowy Day SNOWMAN Felt Ornament

Every year I make felt ornaments for my family and close friends. I choose simple designs because I don't have a lot of time, and I like to make quite a few ornaments. This year, I made adorable "snowy day SNOWMEN" felt ornaments... and I absolutely love them!



To make a felt snowman ornament:

1) Cut two felt circles from red felt. (One is the front and one is the back.)

2) Cut a "hanger" from a piece of yarn. Tie a knot in the end.

3) Cut a snowman shape from white felt and an a nose from orange felt. Sew both pieces to the front piece.

4) Cut three pieces of "scarf" from green felt, and sew onto the snowman.

5) Use black fabric paint to draw a mouth and white fabric paint to draw snowflakes falling from the sky. (I actually used "glow in the dark" paint on mine for an added surprise.)

6) Sew the front and back pieces together.


Isn't the finished ornament sweet?




Sharing handmade felt ornaments with the people I love is an important Christmas tradition for me. Do you have a DIY gift that you like to share with family and friends during the holidays?


Gina Bell
 (aka East Coast Mommy)





You can find more ideas for simple felt ornaments here.

9th Annual "Letter Writing to Santa" Kits Fundraiser (organized by my boys)

Every year, my boys raise money for charity as part of their Christmas celebrations. In fact, they have been hosting a "Letter Writing to Santa" Fundraiser annually since 2011. In the past, we have hosted a party, but the few years, we have sold "kits" instead of hosting an event. It's a great way for people to take part in our fundraiser at a time that is convenient for them. This year my three boys raised $315 for Cystic Fibrosis in honour of their 7 year old cousin who has the disease.



We posted the details on Facebook, and waited for people to place their orders.


Then, my boys got to work filling orders. Each kit contained supplies for writing a letter to Santa, magic reindeer food, supplies to make a Christmas ornament, a package of hot chocolate, and a homemade cookie. The boys worked hard putting all the elements of the kits together.


Look at these proud faces as they hold the $300 they raised. I couldn't be more proud at how kind my boys are, and I am super-grateful for the support they receive each year.


I love the idea of using the holidays as an excuse for charitable giving, and I love that my boys organize this fundraiser and do all the work required to assemble the kits. I hope my boys continue this tradition for many years to come!


Gina Bell
 (aka East Coast Mommy)

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