Budget-friendly Backyard Carnival

Three years ago I threw an epic carnival party for my two boys, but I got busy, forgot about it, and never posted about it on this blog. The party was full of fun DIY details and ideas... so I'm sharing it today. Take a look at this budget-friendly backyard carnival, and let me know what you think. (I've even included a three minute video highlighted some of my favourite parts of the party!)

GAMES -- Carnival parties are all about the games, and I made a bunch of simple games using things I had around the house and a few purchases from the dollar store.

One game I made was "Straw Draw". I put little bits paper inside short pieces of straws. Some of the papers were blank and others said "small", "medium", or "large". The kids picked out straws, opened up the papers, and claimed their prizes.

I also set up a little "guessing booth". I set a couple of dollar store jars in a cardboard box, and filled them with candy. Then, the guests guessed the number of candies in each jar and wrote their guesses on the clipboard. The closest guess won the candy!

I also made a ring toss from an empty paper towel roll and duct tape. I made rings for it with pipe cleaners. Simple and fun!

And I made a bean bag toss from plastic bowls I had in my cupboard.

And I made a ball toss from an old skate box.

PHOTO BOOTH -- In this age of social media and selfies, I love a photo booth at a party, and they are easy and inexpensive to make.

For the carnival party, I filled a dollar store jar with foam clown noses.

And I filled a basket with photo props from the dollar store.

And I covered foam boards with wrapping paper to make a photo back drop.

Check out how cute my little clowns were using the photo booth. 😁

FOOD -- Every party needs good food, and carnival food is really fun to serve. Of course, you'll need carnival staples like popcorn, cotton candy, and chips. 

You can also add fun elements like this "kissing booth" (chocolate kisses in a jar).

And this "pick a pop" treat... where one sucker stem has a hidden coloured stem... and the person that picks that sucker gets a special prize.

And I love displaying small bags of chips on a piece of twine with clothes pins. Get creative with the food and have some fun!

CAKE -- Every party needs a cake. It's simple to make, it looks great on a table, and everyone loves dessert!

Cakes don't need to be elaborate to be festive. For my boys, I made plain cakes and decorated them with sprinkles and their favourite colourful candies. Then, I finished them off with a little banner I made using paper straws.

PARTY FAVOURS -- Everyone loves a free gift to take home, and my favourite party favours are simple, inexpensive, useful, and fun. For our carnival party, I added cute notes to bags of microwave popcorn. The notes said, "Thanks for POPPING by!" 

I made the labels 4x6 so I could print them like regular pictures. They were cheap and easy!

For a closer look at our budget-friendly backyard carnival, take a look at the three minute video I made here.

What do you think of this fun little party? I absolutely love all the easy and inexpensive DIY party details.

Gina Bell (aka East Coast Mommy)

You might also be interested in the fun DIY party ideas here.

Organizing Kitchen Drawers... with CHEAP dollar store bins

Recently, I painted my lower kitchen cabinets. The process required me to empty my drawers, so it only made sense to take the opportunity to organize my drawers when I put them together. Today, I'm sharing my BEST tips and the DOLLAR STORE products I used. (I have a short video too!)

I had already organized my utensil drawer, but these four drawers (between my stove and refridgerator) were a mess!

The first step was to sort through the drawers and get rid of all the items I no longer used. Then, I figured out how I wanted to organize the items I had left, took some meaurements, and headed to the dollar store.

I used dollar store non-slip kitchen liner in all the drawers.

Then, I arranged dollar store bins in the drawers.

I put the items I use infrequently in the back, and the items I use most often in the front. I also focused on placing like items together.

This is my top drawer.

In the second drawer, I placed napkins, oven mitts, dish towels, etc..

I used the third drawer for baking supplies. Again, I focussed on using dollar store bins to put like items with like items.

Finally, I placed all my cookbooks in the bottom drawer. Easy peasy!

For a closer look at my organization hacks, take a look at this short (2 minute) video. And if you don't already, subscribe to my YouTube channel so that you don't miss out on any of my fantastic videos. 😀

Are your drawers in need of a bit of organizating? I hope you find these tips helpful. Have fun!

Gina Bell (aka East Coast Mommy)

A Birthday Letter for my Middle Son on his 15th Birthday

Every year on my boys' birthdays, I write them a letter. My intent is to create a yearly "snapshot" of their personalities. It's my version of a "baby book". 😀 Today, I am sharing my birthday letter to my middle son on his 15th birthday.

To my spunky, thoughtful, and sweet middle son,

When you were little, people told me "the days are long but the years are short"... and truer words were never spoken. I can barely believe my sweet little boy (who walked before he crawled) is now a 15 year old boy turning into a man before my eyes. 

You keep me on my toes, but I couldn't be more proud to be your mom. Here are some of the reasons you are the most special 15 year old in the world:
  • After not making the hockey team you wanted to make last year, you worked hard to make it this year... and then you broke your arm. You were disappointed, but you handled the situation with the positive attitude you always adopt when faced with adversity. 
  • You enjoy running around the yard and neighbourhood with your brothers, playing basketball with your buddies in the school yard, playing a round of golf with friends and family, and being part of a hockey team. If you are moving, you are happy.
  • Friday nights are your favourite. You love pancakes for supper (with chocolate chips), cuddling with your family for a movie, and munching on gummy bears.
  • You have the best memory for movies I have ever witnessed. You know all the details and backstories related to every Marvel, Star Wars, and Harry Potter movie ever made.
  • When it comes to school... you are a perfectionist and a procrastinator. I'm pretty sure that if you master time management, you'll be able to take over the world. 😜
  • You are 6'2" and skinny as a rake... though with the way you eat (especially Shreddies with milk), I'm pretty sure you have a lot more growing to do.
  • You are stubborn, sensitive, spunky, thoughtful, and sweet... and you always have a twinkle in your eye.

I love you to the moon and back! You are a special boy, and I'm so grateful and blessed to have you as my son.

Lots of Love,
Mom xox

GENIUS Dollar Store Finds for TRAVEL

When it comes to travel, being organized is key. I'm also a fan of budget-friendly travel, so I love finding unique and helpful items at the dollar store. Today, I'm sharing GENIUS dollar store hacks for travel. (I have a short video here too!)

The dollar store is a great place for snacks... and when you are travelling with kids, snacks are key! I like to buy these little containers in the craft section and fill them with goodies!

A dollar store first aid kit is another great idea. I buy a container with a snap lid and fill it with all the items I might need. I also use duct tape to make a cross on the top to make the kit easily identifiable. Pretty clever, right?!?

Travel sized items are also fantastic for saving space. The travel tubes from the dollar store are also great -- as they allow you to create your own travel sized items.

Zipper storage bags are a definite MUST HAVE items. They come in handy for wet bathing suits, leftover food, snacks, and more! I never leave home without them.

These dollar store storage bags are also very handy. They are great for a toothbrush and toothpaste or a device and earphones.

What do you think of my list of travel items? Is there something you would add to the list?

For a closer look at my dollar store travel hacks, take a look at this short (2 minute) video. And if you don't already, subscribe to my YouTube channel so that you don't miss out on any of my fantastic videos. 😀

I hope you found these dollar store finds helpful, and I hope you get to take a wonderful vacation with the people you love. Travel safe!

Gina Bell (aka East Coast Mommy)

A Birthday Letter to My Youngest Son on his 13th Birthday

With three boys under four, I was not very good at keeping baby books up to date... especially for my youngest. lol So, many years ago I started writing annual letters to my boys on their birthdays. My hope is that I'll capture "snapshots" of my boys' personalities each year. Someday, they'll be able to read through their letters and understand how much I've enjoyed being their mother through every stage of their lifes. Today, I'm sharing my birthday letter to my youngest son on his 13th birthday.

To my sweet "baby" boy,

I can hardly believe that you are 13. Seriously, it seems like only yesterday you were taking your first step and picking up your first "mini stick". Now, you are heading into your last year in the junior school and starting your first year of Bantam hockey. 

I'm super proud of the young man you are becoming, and here are just some of the reasons you are a special boy:

  • You always have interesting facts to share -- random thoughts of things you wonder about, things you've learned at school, and trivia you have read. I love how your mind works!
  • You love everything about being a goalie -- the gear, the practices, and the game. I love to watch you play, even though I sometimes find it stressful. I'm super-proud of the physical and mental effort you put in.
  • You had your first (and hopefully last) broken bone. You were so sad to miss hockey… but you were tough. 😊
  • Crackers are your favourite food. You also love all dressed Crispers and Froot Roll Ups.
  • Playing with your brothers is your favourite activity, and I love seeing you playing in the yard, shooting hoops, and heading to the golf course together. You are definitely best buddies! (You love spending time with your friends and cousins too.)
  • You are smart and funny. You have a quirky sense of humour, and you aren't afraid to be silly. I love your dance moves -- especially "the gritty".
  • You enjoy all sports, but hockey is definitely your #1 -- though your love of golf is growing with every round.
  • You give the best cuddles and foot rubs, and your smile lights up your eyes.
You may be a teenager, but you'll always be my "baby". I love you to the moon and back!

Lots of love,

Mom xox

Summer Checklist 2022 🌞 50 Fun Activites for Families

I love summer, and one of my favourite summer traditions is creating a summer checklist with my boys. We make a list of 50 fantastic summer activities, we print out a copy of the list, and we use it as a blueprint for summer fun! Today, I'm sharing my 2022 summer checklist... including a FREE copy you can print for your own family. Fun, right?!?

Here are the items we have on this year's list:

1) Celebrate Canada Day

2) Watch fireworks or play with sparklers

3) Have an outdoor picnic or BBQ

4) Swim in a pool, at a lake, or in the ocean

5) Buy a meal from a food truck or local restaurant

6) Paint a rock and leave it on a trail for someone to find

7) Read a book outside

8) Have a water fight or NERF gun battle

9) Have a movie night outside or go to a drive in

10) Play a boardgame outside

11) Eat donuts from a string (with no hands)

12) Have a “one on one” date with mom (kid’s choice… under $20 & less than 2 hours)

13) Have a “one on one” date with dad (kid’s choice… under $20 & less than 2 hours)

14) Make a craft (design a t-shirt, personalize a water bottle or have a "paint night")

15) Learn a new dance move

16) Get ice cream in PJs (drive throughs are OK)

17) Play catch, basketball, tennis and street hockey

18) Make a homemade ice cream cake or milkshakes

19) Go for a bike ride

20) Decorate a cake or bake cookies

21) Spend time at a cottage, beach or park

22) Do a science experiment

23) Sing around a campfire

24) Go geo-caching

25) Have a "kids pick the meals" day

26) Play chocolate bar BINGO (like regular BINGO, but with chocolate bar prizes)

27) Play golf or mini golf

28) Do a “trick shot” or learn a magic trick

29) Try a new food or a new recipe

30) Have a theme day ("spend our gift cards" day is a fun one)

31) Camp at a campground, in the backyard or in the living room

32) Spend an afternoon in PJs, eating snacks, and watching a movie

33) Build a large puzzle

34) Make a video and post it on YouTube or Tik Tok

35) Fly a kite

36) Have a dance party or sing karaoke

37) Go on a scavenger hunt

38) Organize a drawer, closet or room

39) Play with water balloons

40) Do a good deed or raise money for charity

41) Go on a road trip to another city or town

42) Go on a hike or a short walk in the rain

43) Roast marshmallows, make s'mores or cook a different campfire treat

44) Write and mail a letter or postcard

45) Visit at least 5 different ice cream stands

46) Go stargazing

47) Celebrate Owen and Jack's birthdays

48) Go to PEI

49) Go to Toronto


To download a copy of the list for your family: click on the picture below, right-click, save it to your computer, and print it like a regular 8x10 photo

I also have a blank one you can print and add your own activities.

We put our summer checklist in a dollar store frame, and check off the items as we complete them.

Do you have a summer checklist / summer bucket list in your home? I hope our list inspires you to add a couple new things to your "to do" list this summer.

Gina Bell (aka East Coast Mommy)

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