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Tips for a Simple Summer Staycation: BACKYARD CAMPING

Summer is a wonderful time for making memories with kids, but sometimes hitting the road for an exotic locale isn't possible. But don't fret... camping is a fantastic way to do something fun as a family, and you don't even have to leave home. Check out my tips (below) for planning a simple "backyard camping" summer staycation.


First, you are going camping supplies. We went to Walmart where I was able to get everything I needed for our camping adventure at everyday low prices.


Of course, our biggest purchase was a new tent. Our old tent was way too small for my husband and I and our growing boys, but our new 8 person tent has plenty of room for all of us. It was easy to put up too!


A fire pit is also a good investment. Nothing says "camping" like sitting around a campfire, and basic fire pits are pretty inexpensive.


My boys love s'mores, so for our camping adventure, I set up a decadent s'mores bar. I purchased lots of marshmallows and a variety of cookie and chocolate choices.


I also purchased a package of baby wipes because s'mores can be pretty messy!


My boys had a wonderful time coming up with new and delicious s'more combinations.


I even designed a little sign for our s'mores bar. You can download it (for free) by: right-clicking on the picture below, saving it to your computer, and printing it like a regular 8X10 photo. I printed mine for $0.39 at my local copy store and displayed it in an inexpensive black frame.


I also picked up some backyard games to keep the boys busy.


And when it got dark, we watched an outdoor movie. 


Our night ended with everyone piling into our tent for a good night's sleep. We stocked up on Energizer® flashlights and lighting solutions to keep everyone safe in the dark. We purchased a wonderful Energizer® lantern and Energizer® Vision Headlights for every member of our family so no one would have any trouble finding their way to the bathroom in the middle of the night.


A night of backyard camping is a wonderful way to spend a warm summer night. My boys still have their tent set up, and are having a great time playing board games and reading in it during the day.

Have you tried this simple staycation idea with your family? With the right supplies, it can be an enormous amount of fun. Enjoy!

♥ 
Gina Bell (aka East Coast Mommy)

Disclosure: I was given a gift card to purchase products to be used on our backyard campout. Although I was compensated for promoting the #EnergizeYourSummer campaign, all opinions expressed on this blog are 100% my own.

BIRTHDAY LETTER to my middle son on his 9th birthday

Today my middle son turns 9, and in keeping with family tradition, I wrote him a birthday letter as a way of preserving a "snap shot" of the little details that make him so special. Here is my birthday letter to my middle son on his 9th birthday.


My Sweet Boy,

You have a sparkle in your eye and a spring in your step. You have a carefree and adventurous spirit, and people are drawn to you.

You have a ton of friends, get invited to countless birthday parties, and have people shouting your name everywhere we go.

You love to play sports (ALL sports), and dad and I love to watch you play.

You love music, but you are shy to let anyone hear you sing.

You have a wonderful mind for figuring things out. You love fixing things, building with LEGO, and coding on the computer.

You are a master negotiator. You're always asking for "one more" or "just another five minutes".

You are very kind, and you love being helpful.

You love to cuddle, and you give wonderful hugs and kisses.

You are confident, strong, and stubborn... and I wouldn't change a thing about you.

I love you to the moon and back, my darling boy!

Love,

Mom

xoxo


DIY Pool Party Ideas

Earlier this week, I hosted a simple pool party to celebrate my boys' birthdays (as they turned 7 and 9). It's a simple theme that is perfect for birthdays. It's also a wonderful summer party idea. Today, I am sharing all the cute and fun DIY details of our simple pool party.


We spent the first hour of the party swimming at a local pool.


Then, we moved to a room for pizza and treats. 



The food table had things like: gummy sharks, pool water (blue juice), fish and chips (gold fish mixed with salt & vinegar chips), sea creature crackers, pool noodles (liquorice), and chips served in (clean) buckets.


To use the labels I designed: right-click on the picture below, save it to your computer, and print it like a regular 8X10 photo. I printed mine at my local copy store for $0.39.


We also had some festive tropical decor. I made an adorable pool noodle garland by slicing pool noodles and stringing the pieces together with yarn.


I also carved a shark from dollar store foam core (with an X-acto knife). I embellished it with blue paint and a black sharpie. The shark was cute decor, and it also functioned as a fun photo booth.


I also had a few summer themed games to entertain the 21 party guests. We started with chocolate bar bingo. I purchased some bingo games at Walmart for $1 each and a bunch of chocolate bars for prizes. The kids loved it!


To download the "chocolate bar bingo" sign I designed: right-click on the picture below, save it to your computer, and print it like a regular 8X10 photo. I sent my sign to my local copy store and had it printed for $0.39.


We also had a "guess the number of fish" game. I filled a summer drinking glass (from the dollar store) with candy fish. Each party guest had a chance to guess the number of fish in the glass, and the child that was closest won the cup and the candy.


To print the sign I designed: right-click on the picture below, save it to your computer, and print it like a regular 8X10 photo. 


The final party game was a "prize punch" made from dollar store foam core, plastic glasses, and tissue paper. Each child was given the opportunity to punch through the tissue paper to claim a prize. Prize punches have become staples at my boys' birthday parties. You can find the full tutorial here.


Of course, every party needs a fun cake, and my boys wanted something "swimming" related with gummy sharks. You can read all about the cakes I made here


Finally, at the end of the party, all the guests left with a "cool" gift/ party favor. My boys gave their friends Gatorade bottles filled with freezies, but I have other options for pool party loot bags (and free downloadable tags) here.



It was a really fun party, and my boys had a great time.


We had a wonderful afternoon with a terrific group of kids. I love a good DIY party with lots of fun details, and I think a pool party theme is a lot of fun, don't you?

♥ 
Gina Bell (aka East Coast Mommy)

Fun Things to do in Antigonish (Nova Scotia)... with Kids

Antigonish, Nova Scotia is full of fun things to do in the summer. Since it is my hometown, I thought I'd do a quick post to share some of my boys' favorite summer activities. Maybe this will convince you to come visit our wonderful little town. :-)


If you are looking for a place for the kids to play, you will want to check out Columbus Field and "The Playground for Everybody" at Antigonish Education Centre. Columbus Field has a playground, a splash pad, and tons of room for the kids to run around, and "The Playground for Everybody" is a wonderful accessible playground that is sure to delight little ones.


Columbus field is also the site of the Antigonish Highland Games. If you are interested in Scottish culture, you should definitely plan to visit during the games. There is even a competition for the kids called "Tir Nan Og" where they can compete in various events... including a mini caber toss.


During the games, you will also get a chance to check out the Highland Games Parade... which is an annual highlight for my boys.


If you need a little break, you can pop into The People's Place Library. It's a great place to sit in comfy chairs and read, and there is a fantastic children's area. They also offer a Summer Reading Program that you may be able to take advantage of.


If you are in town on a Saturday, you'll want to pop into the Antigonish Farmer's Market. There is plenty of locally grown produce and a variety handmade goodies. My boys love checking out the market on Saturday mornings. 
When you are ready for something to eat, there are many wonderful options for local fare. My boys favorites are: The Koala Cone ice cream stand (on Main Street), The Rolling Bricks wood fired pizza (at the Farmer's Market and on Main Street on Fridays), The Waffle Bus Stop (just off Main Street), and Boyd's Seafood Gallery (at Cribbon's Point).


If you are in the mood for an easy hike with the kids, you can check out The Landing. I have been visiting with my kids for years, and it is a favorite spot of ours. You might even see an eagle or two.


Finally, if the weather is good, I recommend a trip to the beach. There are many beaches just outside of Antigonish, and they are fun to explore with the kids.


If you are considering a trip to Antigonish, you should make plans to come for a visit soon. It really is a fun town to explore in the summer. Hope to see you around!

♥ 
Gina Bell (aka East Coast Mommy)

DIY Pool Party Cake Tutorial

Today, I am hosting a joint "pool party" for my two youngest boys (who are turning 7 and 9). They told me they wanted gummy sharks on their cakes, and I went to work designing something simple and fun for them. Below, I am sharing pictures of (and a tutorial for) the DIY Pool Party Cakes I made for my boys.


For each cake, I started out with two 8 inch round cakes. I levelled the cakes and used icing to create a double layer cake. I added a crumb coat, and refrigerated it overnight.

Then:

1) I added some icing and covered a "beach" area with sand (aka graham cracker crumbs).
2) I used food coloring to tint some icing blue and covered the remainder of the cake with the blue "water". I used an icing knife to create waves in the blue icing.
3) I added details to the cake: bear cookies floating in peach gummy rings, bear cookies laying on froot roll up towels, gummy sharks, and cocktail "beach" umbrellas.
4) I also added some sand and water (icing) to the serving tray, but this step is optional.


Check out the final product. Isn't it cute???


I made two because my boys each wanted their own cake. One is chocolate and one is white, so everyone is happy!


A pool party is a perfect theme for a summer birthday, don't you think? I can't wait to share the rest of our party details with you soon.


Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)

Coding for Kids

I am always looking for ways to encourage my boys to learn new things during their summer vacation, and finding something they can do on a rainy day is a bonus. So, when DK books offered to let me check out their "coding" books, I jumped at the chance!


Both books provide easy to follow step-by-step instructions, and were a hit with my older boys... especially my eight year old. He was able to create a simple game in under an hour. I would highly recommend both books (Coding Projects in Scratch and Coding Games in Scratch), but Coding Games in Scratch was our favorite.


If your kids have an interest in computers, you should totally check out these books. The step-by-step instructions are clear and easy to follow, and the pictures are fantastic and really helpful.


Have you ever tried coding with your kids? Do you have any tips you'd like to share?


Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)


Disclosure: I was provided with these products (free of charge) for reviewing purposes. No monetary compensation was received, and all opinions are 100% my own.

BIRTHDAY LETTER for my youngest son on his 7th birthday

Today, my "baby" boy turns seven, so in keeping with family tradition, I wrote him a letter as a way of remembering all the little details that make him special. Here is my letter to my youngest son on his 7th birthday.


My dearest, sweet "baby" boy,

This was another big year for you as you continued to work hard at conquering your anxiety in new social situations. Though you continue to be a cautious boy, you are willing to try new things, and you are getting more confident with each passing year. 

On your 7th birthday, I want you to know that I am very proud to be your mom, and I want to share some of the reasons you are such a special little boy:

  • You have a sweet smile, an awesome giggle, a gentle spirit, and adorable freckles on your nose and cheeks.
  • You love to cuddle... especially if I am reading you one of your favorite stories.
  • You have a love for reading, and you are getting really good at reading on your own. You are pretty proud of your ability to read "chapter books".
  • You took part in a multi-sport program this year (12 sports in 10 months), and you learned a lot of new skills. Hockey and Tai Kwon Do were your favourites!
  • You get pretty cranky when you get tired and/or hungry... but most of the time you are a sweet boy. ;-)
  • You love riding your bike and playing sports with your brothers, and you want to be a hockey player when you grow up.
  • You ask me for crackers a hundred times a day. I actually think you are happiest when you are sitting on the couch with a bowl of crackers watching a TV show.
  • You are getting very grown up... but I still catch you saying "bees" instead of "because". It's pretty cute!
  • You had a great year in Grade One. You loved your teacher, the new "month" song you learned each month, and the baby ducks you hatched in your class.
  • Your favorite color is green... especially sea-foam green.
  • You love white cake with white icing, and you often order vanilla ice cream when we go to an ice cream stand.
  • You are a bit of a clown with a wonderful sense of humour. Dad, your brothers, and I are always laughing at your silly antics and your crazy dance moves.
I love you to the moon and back my darling angel, and I hope you will always know how grateful I am to be your mother.

Lots of Love,

Mom xoxox


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