5 Tips for Planning a Covid-friendly Birthday Party

Like everything else during a pandemic, birthday celebrations are a little different than what we are used to. I have two July birthdays in my house, so I had to get a little creative with my party planning this year. Today, I am sharing my 5 best tips for planning for a Covid-friendly birthday party.

1) Adhere to public health protocols and gathering limits. Depending on where you are located, there are likely restrictions on the sizes of gatherings in your area. You are going to want to keep gatherings small, and if celebrating with friends isn't an option, planning a fun celebration at home is the way to go.

For my son's 13th birthday, I let him make a list of all the things he wanted to do. It was just family, but it was a lot of fun.

2) Consider hosting the party outside where social distancing is easier. For example, a mini putt golf course is a great option. I hosted my son's 11th birthday at a mini golf course, and it was great. They sanitized all the kid's hands before going onto the course, and the balls and clubs are sanitized between uses.

3) Be caution when choosing the food you will serve. You are going to want to make sure that guests don't share food. Individually packaged food items are ideal. Cupcakes are also great because guests can grab there own... and there is no germ transfer when the birthday boy/girl blows out the candles. Bringing hand sanitizer for the guests is a great idea too.

4) Use individual drink bottles for loot bags. For my son's party, I personalized water bottles for all the guests. It helped prevent "sharing" and the spread of germs, and the party guests had a fun "loot bag" to take home. #WinWin

5) Add an extra element of fun with a prize punch. A prize punch is a simple DIY project that kids will love. Prize punches are a staple at all our parties, and you can find the full DIY instructions here.

Our Covid-friendly party wasn't like the large celebrations we are used to, but it was a still a lot of fun. Fingers crossed we won't have to worry about viruses next year!

Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)

10 Simple Crafts Teens and Tweens will Love

Age appropriate crafts are a great way to get kids to exercise their creativity... and to get away from their screens. Younger children are happy with simple crafts with basic materials, but older kids prefer more sophisticated materials and projects. Today, I am sharing 10 fantastic crafts for tweens and teens.

1) Branch and yarn photo holder - What starts with a trek through the woods collecting branches, turns into a fun piece of bedroom decor. Wrap a stick with yarn, tie on a yarn hanger, use hot glue to attach two clothespins, and hang a favourite photo.

2) Felt finger puppets - Felt is a perfect material for young people learning to sew. It is cheap and super-easy to work with. Making finger puppets is wonderful sewing projects for beginners. They can be given as gifts or donated to a children's hospital! You can find a full tutorial for making felt finger puppets here.

3) Painted rocks - Painted rocks are fantastic because the materials are inexpensive, and the design possibilities are endless. They are fun for decorating a garden or leaving on a trail for strangers to find and enjoy. You can find a beginner's guide to painted rocks here.

4) God's Eye Crafts - This simple weaved ornament is the perfect summer craft. Who hasn't made one of these "camp" crafts? You can make them with yarn and popsicle sticks (or twigs). You can find the full step by step instructions here.

5) Pom pom crafts - Pom poms are a simple yarn craft with several possibilities for further crafting. Pom poms can be played with "as is" or they can be turned into yarn animals, wreaths, flowers, and more. Find the step by step instructions for crafting pom poms here.

6) No sew bag from a jersey or t-shirt - Old t-shirts that are destined for the donation bin can easily be turned into "no sew" bags. Find the full step by step instructions for crafting your own bag from a jersey or t-shirt here.

7) Toilet roll weaving - Toilet roll weaving is simple... and totally addictive. You can use a toilet roll, yarn and popsicle sticks to weave a snake, necklace, bracelet or rug. Once you start this fun craft project, you won't be able to stop. You can find the step by step tutorial for toilet roll weaving here.

8) Tassel bookmarks - Paper bookmarks are fun, but bookmarks with easy-to-make yarn tassels are even better. Find the full step by step instructions for creating these cute bookmarks here.

9) 3D handprint art - Simple handprint artwork can be created with only paper and markers. You can find the step by step instructions here.

10) Simple beaded key chain - Dollar store beads can be strung and attached to key rings to create a variety of beaded key chains. You can also add words and messages to wooden beads with a Sharpie. Make a bunch of these to hang from backpacks or give as gifts.

How much fun are all these projects?

Do you have tweens and teens that like to craft? Do you have a favourite project to share? Did one of mine make your list?

Happy crafting!

Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)

Birthday Letter to my Middle Son on His 13th Birthday

Every year, I take a little time to write my boys letters on their birthdays. The annual letters are my way of remembering exactly what they are like at each stage of their lives. I hope someday they will look back at their letters and see how special they were and how much I loved every year I got to spend with them. Today, my middle son turns 13... and here is his letter.

My sweet boy:

As you become a teenager, I can't help but wonder how you grew up so fast. I often think of you as a spunky toddler with crazy curls, but now you are almost as tall as I am. Time is passing quickly, but I am so proud of the young man you are growing up to be. Here are a few of the things that make you the special boy you are:

  • You are thoughtful and sensitive, and you are one of the most empathetic kids I know. I love your big heart.
  • You have a sparkle in your eyes, a fun spirit and a positive attitude.
  • You enjoy playing outside, being active, and being part of a team. You love hockey, golf, and basketball... anything with a ball or puck.
  • You dealt with living during a pandemic this year, and you handled it really well. Homeschooling was a bit of an adjustment, and you missed your friends, but you enjoyed the flexible schedule and the extra time with your family.
  • You love LEGO, the Toronto Maple Leafs, and playing with your friends, cousins, and brothers.
  • Even though you are 5'5", you still love to sit on my lap, cuddle me, and give me hugs. I hope it lasts!
You are stubborn when you feel strongly about something, but you are also very "go with the flow" and easy to get along with. Your balanced personality and kind heart will serve you well in life. I can't wait to see what you become.

I love you to the moon and back!



How to BBQ Donuts

Summer is the perfect time for sparking up the BBQ, but grilling isn't just for meals, it's wonderful for desserts too. For years, I have read about people grilling donuts, but I never got around to trying it... until a few week sago. Let me tell you... grilled donuts are easy to make and they did NOT disappoint!

Step 1 - Buy a box of glazed donuts. We tried chocolate and plain, and the plain were much better. I've heard it works well with old fashioned sugar donuts too. That's next on our list!

Step 2 - Clean your grill really well. You may even want to turn it up really high to burn off any nasty bits of food.

Step 3 - Place donuts on grill (over medium heat).

Step 4 - Cook a couple of minutes on each side. Watch them closely. You want the glaze to caramelize, and you want grill marks... but you don't want them to turn black. You'll want to use tongs and a spatula to keep the donuts from breaking apart.

The donuts will be slightly crispy on the outside, and warm and soft on the inside. You can eat them plain, or you can top them with ice cream and a bit of chocolate sauce.

Grilled donuts were a big hit in my house, and we will definitely be making them again. If you give them a try, let me know what you think.

Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)

You might also enjoy the campfire treats here.

Birthday Letter to My Youngest Son on His 11th Birthday

Every year on my boys' birthdays, I write them a letter. My hope is that each letter is a snapshot that captures each boy's personality at this point in time. I want them to know how much I love them and how proud I am at each stage of their lives. Today, I am sharing the letter I wrote to my youngest son today... on his 11th birthday.

My sweet boy:

Your birthdays are particularly tough for me, because as my "baby", you are my last chance to enjoy each age and stage of being a mother. It is bittersweet though because the older you get, the more special you become, and the more I cherish my time with you.

Here are some of the things that make you the awesome 11 year old you are:

  • You tried being a goalie for the first time this year. I always hesitated to let you try because I know how sensitive you are, but you did great. You learned a lot about hard work and adversity, and I know you will carry these lessons with you through the rest of your life.
  • You dealt with living through a pandemic. You impressed me with how well you adjusted to the seismic shift in your schedule and your life. It is a crazy time we are living in, but you are handling it really well.
  • You still like to have me read you stories at bedtime. I know this is something that will come to an end soon (and without warning), so I will continue to treasure this special time we have together... for as long as it lasts.
  • You had a great year at school. Every year you gain a little more academic and social confidence. I know it is something you work out, and I am super-proud of your efforts.
  • You are a clown with a quirky and clever sense of humor. You are always making Dad, your brothers and I laugh... and when you get giggling... I sometimes wonder if you will ever stop.
  • You love playing with your friends, your brothers, and your cousins.
  • You really love playing outside. Some of your favorite activities are: riding your bike, playing street hockey, making trick shot videos with your brothers, playing golf, and shooting baskets.
  • You have a wonderful way of quietly observing a situation and asking thoughtful questions.
  • You love multi grain crackers and fruit roll ups.
  • You give the best cuddles.
I know this year (with Covid restrictions in place) your birthday is a little different, and you won't be having the big party you are used to, but I hope you still have a fantastic day. You are a special boy, and the sweetest 11 year old in the whole world. I love you to the moon and back!

Happy birthday!



THE BEST Homemade Ice Cream Sandwiches... from a cake mix!

Summer is synonymous with ice cream, and there is nothing better than a homemade ice cream treat. Today, I am sharing a recipe with you that is easy to make and totally delicious. You are going to love these homemade ice cream sandwiches (made with the help of a cake mix).

The key to these ice cream sandwiches is the easy to make cake mix cookies.

Ingredients for cake mix cookies:

1 box (quality) chocolate cake mix (I like the Duncan Hines chocolate fudge)
1/3 cup canola oil
1 tsp real vanilla
2 eggs
1/2 - 1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup sugar (for rolling)

Directions for cake mix cookies:

1) Mix cake mix, oil, vanilla and eggs until well blended. 

2) Stir in chocolate chips.

3) Refrigerate dough for 20 minutes for easier rolling.

4) Roll dough into 1-inch balls, roll in sugar, and place on an ungreased cookie sheet about 2-inches apart. (I like to use a cookie scoop to get uniform cookies... and it speeds up the process too!)

5) Bake at 350℃ for 9-11 minutes. Let cool on tray for 1 minute, and then move to a cooling rack. Store in an air tight container.

To transform the cookies into ice cream sandwiches:

Let ice cream soften slightly, flatten a scoop of ice cream on a cutting board, and place ice cream in between two cookies.

This face says it all!

You are going to want to save this recipe, so I made you a printable recipe card. 

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

Have you ever tried making your own ice cream sandwiches? The possibilities really are endless. Pick your favourite cookie, pick your favourite ice cream flavour, squish them together, and enjoy!

Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)

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