Date Night For Busy Parents (including a recipe for chocolate covered strawberries)

Like most parents, my husband and I are slaves to our kids' busy schedules. Finding the time and energy to get a babysitter and make plans to go out for a "date night" is almost impossible. So, "at home" date nights are the perfect solution for us. All we need is a bottle of wine, a special snack, and a good series to binge watch on Netflix.

Chocolate covered strawberries are a delicious and romantic date night snack, and they are super-simple to make.

To make chocolate covered strawberries:

1) Wash and dry strawberries (completely) with a piece of paper towel.

2) Melt 100% pure baker's chocolate in the microwave. I enjoy the rich taste of semi-sweet chocolate, but you can choose milk chocolate if that is your preference.

Break up the chocolate and microwave it for 1 to 2 minutes at MEDIUM heat until it is completely melted and smooth. (Make sure you check and stir it frequently.)

3) Dip each strawberry in the melted chocolate, allow excess chocolate to drip back into the bowl, and place the strawberry on a piece of wax paper.

4) Put the strawberries in the fridge for 30 minutes (to allow the chocolate to harden).

Now that you have the perfect date night snack, you'll want a good Netflix series that you can binge watch together. 

It's not always easy to find a show that my husband and I both want to watch, but Netflix always has fantastic date night options. Here are 5 of our favourites:

1) Stranger Things
2) House of Cards
3) Suits
4) The OA
5) Homeland

Do you have a favourite show to watch with your spouse? Do you ever "cheat" on your spouse and watch the next episode without him/her? We've all been there, right? Your binge buddy isn't around, you turn on Netflix, and you just can't help but watch without them. You're not alone. Netflix uncovered that 46% of global viewers are cheating right now... with their favourite Netflix shows.

Whether you cheat or not, you are going to want to make these chocolate covered strawberries the next time you plan a date night with your spouse. They are simple to make, and they will definitely make your evening a little sweeter. Enjoy!

 (aka East Coast Mommy)

Disclosure: I receive special gifts and perks as part of my affiliation with Netflix.... however (as always) the opinions on this blog are 100% my own.

DIY Hockey Canvas

As my active boys get older, it is getting more difficult to get them to sit still long enough to do something creative. However, the project I am sharing today is perfect for my hockey-loving sons. Check out this wonderful (and simple) DIY hockey canvas that kids can paint using their favorite team colours and dollar store supplies. It makes fantastic custom artwork for their rooms too!

To make the jersey artwork, start by painting a canvas a solid colour, and let it dry completely.

Then, add light coloured writing.

Finish by adding details/highlights in a darker colour.

I love that this project can be done inexpensively in any colours that the child chooses.

Check out the fantastic job my hockey-loving boys did on paintings for their rooms.

This is a great project to do on a rainy or snowy afternoon at home, and it would also be fun at an end-of-season team party or hockey-themed birthday party.

It would work for other sports too. The possibilities are endless! Do you have a sports fan that would love to make some artwork replicating their favorite jersey?

 (aka East Coast Mommy)

Simple Valentine's Day Pancakes

My boys love pancakes, so on February 14th, it is always one of the meals I serve. I like to make our Valentine's Day pancakes extra special with a simple trick I have been using for years. All you need is: your favourite pancake recipe or mix, a little red food colouring, and a heart-shaped cookie cutter.

To make simple Valentine's Day pancakes:

1) Divide your batter into two bowls, and add food colouring to one of the bowls.
2) Cook one pancake in each colour.
3) Use a cookie cutter to cut a heart from each of the pancakes.
4) Switch the hearts.
That's it! Isn't this the easiest way to make an impressive and festive Valentine's Day meal?

I always serve these pancakes with milk in a wine glass for a little added touch of fun.

What do you serve your kids on Valentine's Day? If you are looking for a simple solution to your mealtime dilemma, I highly recommend giving this a try. Happy Valentine's Day!

Gina Bell (aka East Coast Mommy)

How to Make LOVE BUGS for Valentine's Day

I first made "love bugs" with my kids several years ago, and it is one of our favorite Valentine's Day projects. Today, I thought it was time to make them again, and this time, my boys and I shot a video so that we could share the full DIY instructions. These love bugs take less than 10 minutes to craft, and they are perfect for Valentine's Day.

Ready to get started?

First, you'll need to gather your supplies: yarn, an empty egg carton, googly eyes, pom poms, pipe cleaners, a scrap of cardboard, scissors, and glue.

Then, check out this video:

As a recap, here are the instructions:

1) Wrap yarn (approximately 60-100 times... depending on the thickness of the yarn) around a piece of cardboard (which should be approximately 3-4 inches high). When you have finished wrapping, tie a piece of yarn tightly around the top of the wrapped yarn and cut the bottom. 

2) Use a pencil to poke two holes in a piece of an egg carton, and thread a pipe cleaner through the holes.

3) Spread out the yarn, place it on top on the egg carton, and twist the pipe cleaner to secure the yarn in place.

4) Wrap the pipe cleaners around a pencil to make spirals.

5) Use white glue or hot glue to add googly eyes and a pom pom nose.

Seriously... isn't this LOVE BUG the most adorable Valentine's Day craft you have ever seen? If you decide to make this darling craft with your Valentine, let me know how it turns out. Happy Valentine's Day!

Gina Bell
(aka East Coast Mommy)

Minion Valentine... finger puppet instructions and free printable tags

Valentine's Day treats don't need to be sugar filled goodies. Check out this adorable (and easy to make) Minion finger paper and free printable tags. Isn't this an sweet candy-free Valentine option?

To make this delightful Minion finger puppet:

1) Cut two Minion shapes from a scrap of yellow felt. (It's basically a rectangle with a little curve at the top. Just make sure it is wide enough to fit over a finger.)

2) Stitch or glue the edges of the felt together.

3) Hot glue a black stripe and a googly eye to the front of the finger puppet.

4) Use fabric paint to draw a mouth on the finger puppet.

5) Stitch some embroidery floss "hair" to the top of the puppet.

Then, you can create a Minion Valentine by putting the finger puppet in a bag and adding an adorable tag. To download the tag I designed: right-click on the picture below, save it to your computer, and print it like a regular 4X6 photo.
Isn't it cute?

I love candy-free alternatives to sugary Valentine's Day treats, don't you? This Minion finger puppet is easy to make, and it is sure to delight your little Valentine. They'd be fun to share with a class too!

Gina Bell
 (aka East Coast Mommy)

Kindness Door for Valentine's Day

We live in a world where social media makes it easy for people (and kids) to be mean. So, as a mom, I am always trying to find simple ways for my boys to be kind. With this in mind, for Valentine's Day, our family created a "kindness door" in our front entryway.

I picked up a bunch of paper hearts at the dollar store, and everyone in our family wrote kind things about other family members on the hearts. Then, we used painters tape to attach them to our front door.

I love that my boys took the time to write kind things about their parents and brothers. I also think it is nice that they are able to read positive things about themselves every time they walk by the door.

I love our kindness door, and I think it makes a wonderful addition to our Valentine's Day decor.

Sometimes simple ideas are the best, and I think this kindness door is a fantastic way for our family to celebrate each other. Do you think you'll try this in your home? I hope you take this opportunity to embrace positivity this February 14.

Gina Bell
 (aka East Coast Mommy)

Simple Valentine's Day Door

I have a confession to make... before today, my Christmas wreath was still hanging on my front door, and my Christmas garland (covered with ornaments) was still surrounding it. So, rather than take it down, I thought I could change it up and transform the Christmas decor into Valentine's Day decor. Clever, right?

This is what my door looked like before.

This is what my door looks like now!

I replaced my Christmas ornaments with foam hearts from the dollar store. I also replaced my Christmas wreath with a felt heart wreath that I made for Valentine's Day. (You can get the instructions for my felt heart wreath here.)

What do you think of my Valentine's Day decor? I think it is pretty fun... and it lets me enjoy my Christmas decorations for another couple of weeks. Win-win!

Gina Bell
(aka East Coast Mommy)
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