First Day of School Buffet

The first day of school is big deal; and therefore, it deserves to be celebrated. It's a hectic day for everyone, but I love the idea of surprising kids with a simple after school "back to school" buffet. Today, I am sharing some fantastic ideas and free printable labels that will add to the fun.

The centerpiece of my simple first day of school buffet is this super-fun giant chocolate chip cookie(You can find the recipe for my soft and chewy cookie tart here.) The cookie tart is delicious plain, but for some added fun, you can use store bought icing to add a special message for your "smart cookies".

Sweet tarts are also a tasty treat, and they are perfect for the first day of school with a "Here's to a SWEET start to this school year!" tag.

And how cute are these gummy "book WORMS"?

And these packs of excel gum are a cute addition to a first day of school buffet with "I hope you had an EXCELlent day!" tags.

And teddy bear crackers are great in a jar with "It's going to be a BEARy good year!" tags.

Finally... it's fun to add a non-edible element to the first day of school celebrations. I love these silly and colorful dollar store glasses in a jar with a tag that says, "LOOKing forward to a great school year!" 

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

See how cute the first day of school buffet looks when it all comes together?

My boys are going to love enjoying these treats when they get home from school, and I'm going to love hearing about their first day!

Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)

A Peek at Our Back to School Shopping Finds

Every parent knows that the end of summer means it's time to do some back to school shopping. As a mom of three boys, it's a struggle for me because my boys do NOT enjoy spending time in malls. So, for me, online shopping is my "go to", and finding clothing items my boys all like is key. For my hockey loving boys, Gongshow gear* is always a hit.

This year, I let my boys browse the Gongshow website, and they were each allowed to pick out a hat. They were also given the choice between one long sleeve shirt or two short sleeve shirts. Here's what they chose: 

My oldest is a huge fan of hoodies, so he chose this one with skate lace detailing. He also selected an "always game" hat.

My middle son loves black and grey, so I wasn't surprised that he chose this "clutch nation" hat. And he is in love with this light weight hoodie with skate lace detailing.

And my youngest (who is just happy to have clothes that aren't hand-me-downs) chose two t-shirts and this fantastic "t-diddy special" hat. It's the perfect outfit for taping his new hockey stick! 😊

As you can tell by the smiles on my boys' faces in these pictures, they are all really excited about their new clothes. The clothes are stylish and are high quality! I love that my boys were able to shop online (with super quick shipping), and none of us had to endure a trip to the mall. #WinWin

If you have hockey fans in your house, I highly recommend checking out the new Fall 2019 Gongshow line. Happy shopping!

 (aka East Coast Mommy)

*Disclosure - I was given GONGSHOW clothing for free in exchange for my honest review of the products. As always, the views expressed on this blog are 100% my own... and my boys genuinely love these items.

Cookie Jar Teacher Gifts... with free printable gift tags

I love the idea of kids making gifts for their teachers, don't you? What is better than a handmade gift and card from a child? This is a tasty alternative to candles and mugs! Keep reading because today I am sharing the recipe and instructions for making this adorable cookie mix in a jar.

1) You'll need to start with a clean 1L mason jars.

2) Then, you'll need to 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: 1 1/2 cups quality, semi-sweet chocolate chips

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) Then, print off the cookie tag below, cut it to look like a tag, and attach it to the cookie jar with twine. 

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

Here is one that my son made. Isn't it cute?

And to make the gift a little extra special for your favourite teacher, you can attach a "A SWEET treat for a SWEET teacher!" tag.

To download the tag I designed: click on the photo below, right-click, save it to your computer, and print it like a regular 4X6 photo.

What teacher wouldn't love this adorable personalized treat?

This would be a fantastic teacher gift for the first day of school, last day of school or Christmas. Kids will love making it, and teachers will love receiving it! Give it a try and let me know what you think.

Gina Bell (aka East Coast Mommy)

Great Books for Getting Kids Engaged... with something OTHER than electronics

When I was a little girl, I owned a book called "Things to Make and Do", and I loved it. I would leaf through the pages of the book and get inspired to do science experiments, make crafts, and learn new games. There was something fantastic about having a book full of things to make and do. So... in keeping with my childhood experience, I thought it would be fun to get some books that would inspire my kids to get engaged with new activities... and away from their electronics.

Note: I was given these books (at no cost) by DK books in exchange for my truthful review. I have also included Amazon links in this post. If you purchase one of these books using my link, I will receive a small commission (at no additional cost to you). Thank you!

These are the three books I chose for my boys.

Science is Magic by Steve Mould - Teaches you to amaze your friends with spectacular science experiments.

The Campfire Cookbook - Recipes for BBQing at home and cooking over a campfire.

Science You Can Eat - Teaches you the science behind cooking and baking... part cookbook/part science reference.

Of the three books, "Science is Magic" was the biggest hit. My 10 year old really enjoyed it. 

We've already learned a couple of magic tricks, and we made a drawing come to life. We drew a picture on a plate, we covered it with cold water, and then we watch as the picture detached from the plate and floated around. Fun, right?

We still have a lot of activities in our books to try, but we are already having a lot of fun. If you are looking for a unique gift for your kids or their friends, these books are great options. I love finding new ways to engage kids WITHOUT electronics, don't you?

Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)

5 clever Plastic Cup HACKS

Plastic cups are inexpensive, and they are useful for more than drinking. I love that they come in different colours now too, so they can match your party theme / project vision. Check out these clever ways to use plastic cups.

1) Cut a hole in the bottom, and use them to protect little hands from sparklers

2) Use them for DIY party games. For example, they can be stacked at a carnival party for a good game of "knock down" or for "target practice" at a NERF party.

3) Make an inexpensive prize punch using plastic cups, foam core and tissue paper. Find the instructions and more examples of prize punch designs here.

4) Use plastic cups as gift packaging. Fill with treats and / or gift cards, wrap with cellophane and ribbon, and add a fun tag. (Check out the teacher gift idea here, and the Christmas gift idea here.

5) Use to make toys for kids. Who wouldn't love these simple pirate hooks made from plastic cups and tin foil. (Find the full tutorial for plastic cup pirate hooks here.)

And you can even turn the hooks into a party game. Check out the plastic cup pirate hook toss instructions here.

Aren't these plastic cup hacks fun? The prize punch is my favourite, but they are all fantastic. Do you have an idea to add? Leave it below. I'm always looking for new easy and inexpensive ways to have fun with my family.

A Letter to My Boys on the First Day of School

As the first day of school approaches, here are the things I want my boys to remember...

Dear Boys,

Academics aren't everything. Not everyone is going to get an A. Do your best. That's enough.

Be kind. You never know what someone in your class is dealing with. You don't need to be friends with everyone, but you should always be kind.

Take responsibility instead of making excuses. If you make a mistake, resolve to do better the next time. This is how you build character, and it's how you get those around you to respect you.

Try hard. You won't always succeed, but you will never succeed if you don't try.

Be respectful. Everyone you meet in your life has something to teach you. Education is a gift. Accept it with respect and grace.

You are not alone. Surround yourself with friends and family that want you to succeed... and know that I will always be cheering for you.



Top 10 Things to Buy for your FAMILY CRUISE

Our family just finished our first cruise, and I was super-worried about keeping my family of 5 organized in a tight space. I did a lot of research before packing for our trip, and I made sure to purchase the items that people recommended. Today, I am sharing my favourite 10 items that you should definitely buy before you cruise (and MORE useful items to remember to pack). You may be able to find some things locally, but I have also included some Amazon links in case you want to just order everything online. (The links are affiliate links, so if you use them, you I will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you... thank you!)

1) Clear Shoe Rack - I think the best thing I bought before my cruise was a clear shoe rack. The staterooms are small, and a clear shoe rack is a great way to keep organized. I filled ours with the items we needed to have easily accessible: sunblock, medications, towel clips, Ziploc bags, sunglasses, charging codes, earphones, water bottles, bathing suits, etc... Here is a link to the one I purchased.

2) Magnetic Hooks - All the walls and doors in the staterooms are magnetic, so it only makes sense to make use of this space for storage. We used our hooks to hang hats, bags of jewellery, lanyards, schedules, etc... Here is the link the hooks I ordered... and they worked perfectly.

3) Lanyards - Your sea pass card is something you are always going to want to have with you on your cruise. It holds your dinner show reservation, and excursion information, it allows you to charge things to your room, and it's your ID for getting on and off the ship. A lanyard is a convenient way to carry it with you and make sure you don't lose it. You can get your sea pass "hole-punched" at guest services, or you can get a lanyard with a plastic sleeve. (I've heard some people recommend the plastic sleeve because sunscreen can cause the ink on the seapass to smear.) I purchased mine at the dollar store, but I love the cruise-themed ones you can find here.

4) Rubber Ducks - I know this might be a strange one, but if you have kids (and even if you don't), hiding rubber "cruising" ducks is a fun activity. You can read all about it here.

5) Backpack or bag for excursions - Backpacks are perfect for excursions, and for packing items that you may need on the days you are getting on and off the ship (when you may be a few hours without your luggage). You can fill a backpack with everything you need (e.g. a bathing suit, sunscreen, change of clothes, snacks, ID, phone, etc..). I love the lightweight version here because it would be easy to stuff in a suitcase.

6) Ziploc bags - Ziploc bags are fantastic for many things. We use them for packing wet and dirty items and for packing items in suitcases that could possibly leak (like shampoo, sunscreen, etc...) They are also great for packing food for excursions. We always packed snacks like bread, peanut butter, and pastries when we left the ship.

7) Towel clips - Cruise ships and beaches can be windy, so towel clips are great for securing towels to chairs. You can also use the clips to keep the curtains closed in the stateroom (and the light out). You can purchase towel clips online here.

8) Water bottle - Insulated water bottles are great for on and off the ship. There are places on the ship to refill water bottles for free on the ships, and keeping hydrated while at sea is very important.

9) Travel size containers - Saving space in luggage and in the tiny stateroom bathrooms is a great idea. Leaving full size bottles at home is easy if you use travel size size containers. 

10) Hanging clothes dryer - The bathrooms in the staterooms are small, so clothes dryers can be really helpful... especially when you are travelling with a family. We used ours to hang bathing suits to dry and for drying items that we washed out in the sink.

These are my top 10 items to buy for a family cruise, but here are some MORE items you might want to purchase and pack before you get on a cruise ship: 

  • folder for important paperwork (e-ticket for the way there, boarding passes for the cruise, cruise documents that mom sent, itinerary for the cruise, e-ticket for the way home, travel insurance info, copies of birth certificates and passports)
  • small container of laundry detergent (for washing out small items in the sink) and a Tide stick
  • night light or small flashlight to put by your bed... because the staterooms can get pretty dark
  • sea bands (if you are worried about motion sickness)
  • power bar / surge protector (for extra plugs for hair dryers, curling irons, and charging devices)
  • sunscreen... because it is very expensive on the boat
  • first aid kit (containing tylenol, benedryl, band aids, etc...) - These items are very expensive on the ship, and it might not be convenient to get them when you need them, so be prepared.
  • poo-pourri spray... helpful when sharing the close quarters of the stateroom bathrooms
  • sticky notes...helpful for leaving notes for other passengers in your room. Small magnetic white boards work well too.
  • highlighters... to highlight the items on the ship's daily schedule that you want to take advantage of
  • cash in small bills for tipping
  • game for passing time in airports... we like Skipbo because it is easy and fun to play, and it is portable
  • reusable straws... which are great for people that aren't fans of the paper straws used by the cruise ship
  • hats for excursions
Have you taken a cruise with your family? Is there one item you found really helpful? Did it make my list?

I really did find these items invaluable on our family cruise. I hope you find my list of 10 things to buy for your family cruise list helpful!

Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)

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