12 GENIUS Dollar Store Organization HACKS

Is getting organized on your list of new year's resolutions this year? If you ask me, spending a little time getting organized pays huge dividends. So, today I am sharing some genius dollar store organization hacks that have really worked in my house.


1) Under the sink plastic cups - My boys are notorious for leaving a sink full of toothpaste and a counter covered with toothbrushes and toothpaste. This solution ensures that every toothbrush and tube of toothpaste has a home. (Click here for the link.) Now I just need to figure out a way to solve the problem of the constant toothpaste splatter.


2) Stuffie storage - Who doesn't have too many stuffed animals? We love this solution -- stick them in a bean bag chair. (Click here for more details.)


3) Quick grab basket - A few dollar store baskets by the door will make mornings a little easier for everyone. Everyone gets their own basket, and every pair of mittens has a home. (Click here for more details.)


4) Cupcake wrappers - Dollar store jars make perfect storage containers for cupcake liners... and they look cute too.


5) Puzzle hack - Adding dollar store casters to the back of an old cork board creates a fantastic service for doing puzzles... and you can easily slide it under the couch when you aren't using it. (Click here for details.)



6) Toy bin labels - Labelling bins with pictures allows kids to easily clean up their toys. Use dollar store double-sided mounting tape, and self laminating sheets to create pretty and practical labels. (Click here for details.)


7) Jars for touch up paint - Small jars with labels are perfect for storing a little leftover paint which can be used for quick paint touch ups. (Click here for more details.)


8) Containers for snacks/school lunch staples - Taking snacks out of their original packaging and putting them in plastic containers from the dollar store is an easy organization HACK. This little trick helps save money, makes lunch items quicker to access, and frees up cupboard space. (Click here for more lunchbox HACKS.)


9) Over the door shoe racks - Clear shoe racks hang on the backs of doors, which is a wonderful way to utilize unused space and see a variety of items at a glance. Over the door shoe racks are great for holding craft supplies, hats and mitts, stuffed animals, and pantry supplies, LEGO kits. (Click here for more details.)   


A shoe organizer also makes a wonderfully organized homework station


10) Makeshift mudroom - A few hooks in an unused corner is all you need to create a makeshift mudroom. It's a simple and inexpensive storage solution. (Click here for more details.)


11) Backpack hooks - Hang some hooks on the back of a door, and you won't trip over the kids' backpacks again. It will also make your mornings run a little more smoothly too. (Click here for more details.)


12) Folding secret - This HACK doesn't even require a dollar store purchase. You can save space and get more organized by changing the way you fold your clothes. Kids will be able to find their favorite shirt without digging through (and messing up) their drawer. Clever, right?


These simple dollar store organization HACKS really are genius. They are easy and inexpensive... and they REALLY work. Happy organizing!


Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)

Celebrating New Year's Eve with Kids

After all the chaos of Christmas, I enjoy spending New Year's Eve at home with my kids. I love that I don't need to dress up, there are no crowds, I don't spend a ton of money on a babysitter... and I have the cutest dates in town. Today, I am sharing a few of the special (and fun) ways I celebrate New Year's Eve at home with my boys.
I always put together countdown bags -- one for each hour leading up to midnight. It takes a little time to assemble them, but it isn't difficult, and my boys love them. They really keep the kids entertained, and they add a special touch to the evening's celebrations. You can read more about our countdown bags here.


I have the kids fill out a Year in Review questionnaire. It's always fun to read their answers, and I enjoy looking back at how their answers change through the years. To download this year's "Year in Review" questionnaire: right click on the picture below, save it to your computer, and print it like a regular 8X10 photo.


Every party needs party favours, and two of my favourites are easy DIY party favours. You can check out our midnight kisses here and our breakfast for tomorrow here.



The highlight of any New Year's Eve celebration is, of course, the countdown to midnight. This can be a challenge for little ones that need an early bedtime, but there is no rule that says a midnight countdown needs to happen at 12 o'clock. Our solution... search "New Year's Eve Countdown" on Netflix for a fun countdown that you can do at 10, 9, or 8. (The King Julien one is our favorite... but they are all cute.) You can get a little preview here


After the countdown, my boys always enjoy a milk and cookies toast. It is a fun (and yummy) way to end the night. We rim some fancy glasses with sprinkles for a festive touch to our toast.


I hope you enjoy these fun, easy and inexpensive ways to celebrate New Year's Eve with your kids. Happy New Year!


Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)


Disclosure: As part of the Netflix #StreamTeam, I am given special perks and gifts, but all opinions on this blog our 100% my own.

The Polar Express (Mini Van Edition)

For several years, we have been taking the boys on surprise Polar Express adventures. We pretend it is a normal night and get them all ready for bed, but when they get to their rooms they find Polar Express tickets on their pillows. I play a loud train whistle (that I found on YouTube), and the kids come running downstairs. We grab some hot chocolate and treats, and we head out to look at Christmas lights.


To print one of the Polar Express tickets I designed, right-click on the picture below, save it to your computer, and print it like a regular 4X6 photo.


Then, when our trip is over and we have chosen the winner of the "best lights in town", the boys find bells from Santa's sleigh on their pillows. Pretty fun, right?


Have you ever taken your little ones on a Polar Express adventure? It's one of our favorite holiday traditions, and I highly recommend giving it a try.


Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)

Netflix Gift Card Giveaway - CLOSED

WINNERS - Betty S. and David H.

Looking for a last minute gift idea for that "hard to buy for" person on your list. Why not put together a movie night basket? You could include: cozy PJs, a blanket, movie treats, and a Netflix Gift Card.


And because it is the Christmas season, and I love all of my wonderful readers, I have 2 "six month Netflix subscriptions" to give away to my lovely Canadian readers. Fun, right?



It's EASY to win too! Just leave a comment below letting me know your favorite holiday show or movie playing on Netflix this month. If you need some ideas, you can check out some of my family's favorites here.


Don't forget... if you aren't logged in (with an email address linked to your account) when you leave your comment, please leave your email address so that I can contact you if you win.

Good luck, and Merry Christmas!


Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)



Disclosure: I receive compensation as part of my affiliation with Netflix.... however (as always) the opinions on this blog are my own.

Contest Rules {I am a mom... I can't help it}:
1) The winner of the contest will be chosen by the Random Number Generator.
2) To enter the contest, you must leave a comment on this post. Contest is open to Canadians ONLY.
3) This contest is not being hosted or sanctioned in any way by Facebook.
4)  Contest closes on December 22, 2015 at 11:59pm.
5)  Prize will be accepted as awarded. 
6)  Winner will be contacted via email and will have 48 hours to respond. After 48 hours the prize will be forfeited, and another winner will be selected. 

Simple Christmas Crafts

Christmas crafting is a great way to spend time with kids. My boys love creating and looking back at all the their past holiday creations. Today I am sharing a few simple Christmas crafts that don't require a lot of craftiness or special materials. (You likely already have everything you need in your craft cupboard.)


To make the Paper Santa:

1) Start with a red triangular piece of construction paper.
2) Cut the top from a white cupcake liner, and glue it to the triangle with white glue.
3) Cut a circle from card-stock for the face, and use glue to attach it.
4) Cut a belt and gloves from black paper, and attach with glue.
5) Finish by adding googly eyes, a paper moustache, buttons, and cotton.


To make the Paper Strip Tree:

1) Start with a sturdy piece of paper. (I used yellow cardstock.)
2) Cut strips of paper in various colors and lengths.
3) Glue the strips to the card-stock.
4) Add a glittery star sticker to the top of the tree.


To make the Sock Snowman: 

You'll need: a single white sock, some peas or rice, felt, a pom pom, googly eyes, elastics, cotton, buttons, and the step-by-step tutorial that you can find here.


And if you are still feeling crafty, you can check out more simple Christmas crafts here.


Making Christmas crafts with kids is a fabulous tradition. You can use them for gifts, use them to decorate, or simply take them out each year as treasured keepsakes. I remember creating holiday crafts as a child, and now I love making them with my boys each year. Happy Crafting!


Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)

The Best Holiday Cookies (and movies to match)

Two of my favorite holiday traditions are: baking with my boys and cuddling up and watching Christmas movies together. Today I am sharing a collection of some of our favorite cookie recipes, along with a list of our favorite Christmas movies that you can enjoy on Netflix while the tasty treats are baking in the oven.



First, let me share my top 5 holiday cookie recipes to bake with your kids:

1) Soft and chewy ginger cookies - These are my youngest son's favorite cookies, and they are fun for kids to roll in balls and dip in sugar. Click here for the recipe.

2) Double chocolate cake mix cookies - If you love chocolate, you need to try these rich and delicious cookies. You can't go wrong with chocolate and cream cheese. Click here for the recipe.

3) Make-ahead gingerbread cookies - These cookies are soft and full of flavour, 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. Click here for the recipe.

5) The best chocolate chip cookies - Sometimes you just need an old fashioned staple that everyone loves. Click here for the recipe.

While the cookies are baking, why not check out some fun holiday movies?

Here are our top 5 holiday Netflix movies to watch with your kids:

1) How the Grinch Stole Christmas - Jim Carey and a Dr.Seuss classic. You can't go wrong with a combination like that.

2) The Search for Santa Paws - My boys love movies about animals, and this is a cute one.

3) Dreamworks: Happy Holidays from Madagascar - This collection of holiday movies includes a couple of Christmas shows.

4) Curious George: A Very Monkey Christmas - My youngest son loves Curious George, and I have a soft spot for him too... even when he is a little too curious. 

5) The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot about Christmas - Dr. Seuss is always entertaining, and The Cat in the Hat makes this show a lot of fun.

Do you have a favorite cookie recipe or holiday movie? I hope you check out our families favorites. Enjoy!

♥ 
Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)

Disclosure: As part of the Netflix #StreamTeamI am given special perks and gifts, but all opinions in this blog our 100% my own.

The BEST Butter Cut-out Cookie Recipe

I love baking cookies with my boys, and these simple and delicious cut out cookies are always a hit. They are easy to make, they taste fantastic, and they are fun to decorate. Orange juice is the secret ingredient that makes them so great!


To make these fantastic cookies, you'll need:

2 1/2 cups white flour
1 cup white sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 egg
1 tbsp vanilla
3 to 4 tbsp orange juice
1 cup softened butter

Directions:

In a large bowl, whisk the dry ingredients together. Then, add all the other ingredients, and beat at low speed until well mixed. 

You can use the dough immediately, but I like to wrap it in wax paper and refrigerate it until it is firm. (Cold dough will hold the cookie shape better when you bake it.)

Roll out the dough on a well floured surface to 1/4 to 1/2 inch thickness. Cut out with a cookie cutter, and place 1 inch apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.


Bake for 8-10 minutes at 400 degrees (until the edges are lightly browned).

Allow to cool slightly on the cookie sheet, and then move to a cooling rack. 

These cookies are fantastic plain, but they are great with icing too. Decorate as desired.

I have been baking these cookies with my boys since my oldest son could stand. We love using it with fun cookie cutters for every occasion. Here are some we baked for Halloween:


And we use them for birthday parties too!


This is a fantastic recipe, but if you want the cookies to keep their shapes, make sure you: refrigerate the dough before you roll it out, don't overwork the dough, and ensure that you always place the cookies on a cool cookie sheet before baking.

I hope you have as much fun with this recipe as my boys and I have. Enjoy!

♥ 
Gina Bell (aka East Coast Mommy)

Spare Sock Snowman

I am in love with the adorable little craft that I am sharing today. This sweet snowman is made from a single white sock and a few other basic supplies. Adults and kids will enjoy making this spare sock snowman, and it is really simple to create using my step-by-step tutorial.


To make your own spare sock snowman, follow the pictures and instructions below.


1) Start with a plain white sock, and fill the toe with split peas (or something else that will give it some weight and keep it sturdy). Secure with an elastic.

2) Add some cotton filling for the head, and secure with an elastic.

3) Fold the top of the sock down to form a hat.

4) Use glue to add a pom pom to the hat, googly eyes, a felt carrot nose, and buttons. I used tacky glue that is suitable for use with fabric.

5) Draw a mouth with a permanent marker.

6) Cut a strip of felt to make a scarf, tie it around the snowman's neck, and use scissors to fringe the ends.


Don't you just love how cute this little guy is? He really was simple to make, and a spare sock has never looked so good!


Gina Bell (aka East Coast Mommy)

Simple Christmas Fundraiser (hosted by kids)

This is the 5th year that my boys have hosted a "Letter Writing to Santa" party/fundraiser. We host a party, charge people to come, and donate the money we earn to charity. It is a fantastic way for my boys to give back during the holiday season. This year they raised $222.75 for Cystic Fibrosis. I love the idea of kids hosting their own fundraiser, and today I am sharing the details of how we did it.


We promoted the event and charged everyone $10 to attend. We also had a little raffle for a gift basket. Every attendee received supplies to write a letter to Santa (paper, envelope, pencil and stickers), supplies to make a simple craft, a cookie, a juice box, and supplies to make a bag of magic reindeer food.

The boys made two batches of cookies. We made butter cut-out cookies and gingerbread cut-out cookies.


We also made a simple snowflake ornament from popsicle sticks and dollar store "jewel stickers". I used a glue gun (ahead of time) to glue the sticks together, and the guests used the jewels to decorate the ornaments.


Every guest also had an opportunity to make some magic reindeer food. You can find the recipe and FREE printable tags for magic reindeer food here.



Of course, we had Christmas music playing and balloons for the kids to play with, and a good time was had by all.


I'm really proud of my boys and all the hard work they put into their "Letter Writing to Santa" party/fundraiser. They prepared for the party, they greeted all the guests, and they helped me clean up. Isn't it wonderful when kids find a way to give back during the holiday season?

♥ 
Gina Bell (aka East Coast Mommy)
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