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Beautiful Butterflies Wall Decor

I have wanted to try this craft for some time now, and I must say, these colorful butterflies look super cute on my studio wall! Moms, I hope you try it yourself for a fun and easy summer decor idea!

You will need:

– Plasti-Tak or Wall Putty

– A Butterfly Template {such as the one I’ve designed on my Facebook Page}

– Markers & Scissors

Step One Print a sheet of blank butterfly shapes. You can use the template I’ve designed above, or seek out butterfly images online {this website has lots of awesome free options!}. If you have Photoshop, you can simply use the ‘butterfly shape’ tool or in Microsoft Word there are plenty of clip art images that would be great for this project!

Step Two If your butterfly shapes are a solid color such as the ones above, use a black marker to add dots, lines and other shapes to the wings.

Step Three Carefully cut your butterflies out and cut as close to the wings as you can.

Step Four Gently fold the wings of your butterflies and stick the middle ‘body’ to your wall using a wall putty adhesive such as ‘Plasti-Tak’. You can generally find this in any office supply store or Target.

Bonus Idea For a super easy way to complete this craft, simply adhere wall putty to the back of artificial butterflies from the flower store, and attach to the wall.

Hey moms! Are you seeking fun and creative private art lessons for your child? Ashley offers them weekly to families in Newport, Jersey City.  Click here to find out more and be sure to mention JCFamilies for a free tote of art goodies on the first day of classes! Ashley Lucas is a professional illustrator and crafts designer and creates murals for kids rooms in Jersey City. She offers artwork, books and gifts to kids in the Jersey City community through her business ‘Lady Lucas’.

Book Review: Uncle Bigfoot by George O’Connor for Ages 3-8

Uncle Bigfoot

Picture Book

Ages 3-8

By George O’Connor

32 pages

Roaring Brook Press

2008

Uncle Bigfoot was George O’Connor’s fourth picture book. He has since gone on to create several graphic novels, including the New York Times best selling Olympians Series about the Greek gods and goddesses of Olympus. The sixth book in the series, Aphrodite: Goddess of Love, is due out later this year. O’Connor’s fifth picture book, If I Had a Raptor, will be published in 2014 followed shortly thereafter by If I Had a Triceratops. O’Connor’s picture books have an irrepressible humor and immense appeal to both kids and adults, which is very important to parents who find themselves coaxed by little ones to read a book again and again.

In Uncle Bigfoot, our spirited narrator, a nameless young boy, is intrigued when he learns his Uncle Bernie is coming to visit. He doesn’t recall ever hearing about this uncle before so he asks his father if there are any photos of this mysterious person. The only picture they find is of Bernie, back to the camera, running away.

‘“Uncle Bernie’s a little shy around cameras,” said Dad.’

The young boy imagines a multitude of scenarios as to why his uncle would not want to be photographed and when his uncle finally arrives, the answer is obvious.

Stupefied, the boy runs to consult his book on Bigfoot. He’s quickly able to confirm all the telltale signs, but each time he tries to convince his parents of his findings they have perfectly reasonable responses, which negate the boy’s pronouncement.

Uncle Bernie is hairy, really hairy, just like Bigfoot.  When the determined boy points this out to his father, the response is no comfort, “Just wait until you get older, you’ll be hairier too.”

Uncle Bernie has big feet, just like Bigfoot, but Mom tells the persistent boy that lots of people have big feet.

However, the guidebook also says that Bigfoots are mean and scary and Uncle Bernie is neither of those things. He just seems different from the other people our inquisitive narrator knows. Maybe Uncle Bernie is just a little more different than most.

Relieved of his suspicions, the boy and his family enjoy a wonderful visit with Uncle Bigfoot. The newly won-over boy confesses that he misses his uncle (he left last Tuesday) but he’s excited about a pending visit from his Aunt Nessie!

O’Connor’s sardonic humor is coupled with cartoon-y illustrations, further highlighting the absurdity of the boy’s suspicions. Visual nods to various mythical creatures and unsolved mysteries—UFO’s, Mothman, aliens, and Atlantis, to name a few—will amuse older readers. O’Connor’s knack for depicting expressions adds yet another level of amusement and charm to the art.

Uncle Bigfoot is a lighthearted, joyous picture book and an enjoyable read for parents and children alike.

How to Paint a Wall Mural

I have been painting on walls since my college days, and have recently been working on murals for kids rooms and nurseries. This week, I had the great pleasure of adding another wall painting to my niece’s nursery, and thought it might be a nice time to share with parents this special way of enhancing the walls of your child’s room. Also, if your child is over 9 years of age, you might want to work with them on creating their very own mural that they can complete themselves!

To create your own wall mural, first draw a sketch on a piece of paper of how you wish the picture to come out. This is an important way to start your journey, and you will need to reference it throughout your painting process. You could also reference a page from a storybook or magazine if you wish.

I know it’s almost impossible to see… but the image above is of a pencil sketch on the wall… which is what you’ll need to do next to complete your mural. Draw your entire picture on the wall in pencil first, so you have the ability to erase any errors before you paint.

After your pencil sketch is complete, use a thick permanent marker to outline your wall image. ‘Regular or thin tipped’ permanent markers won’t work, you need a heavy duty thick tipped marker to complete the job!

Using acrylic paints, color in your mural using brushes that are thick and thin, depending on what details you are looking to fill in. Acrylic paints work well on wall paint and are generally non-toxic and easy to use.

Outline your painting once more with a permanent marker to really emphasize your work of art. Enjoy your wall mural for years to come!

Hey moms! Are you seeking fun and creative private art lessons for your child? Ashley offers them weekly to families in Newport, Jersey City.  Click here to find out more and be sure to mention JCFamilies for a free tote of art goodies on the first day of classes! Ashley Lucas is a professional illustrator and crafts designer and creates murals for kids rooms in Jersey City. She offers artwork, books and gifts to kids in the Jersey City community through her business ‘Lady Lucas’.

Why I Love All-Inclusive Vacations

family on the beach
When it comes to traveling as a family I think some of the biggest challenges are budget, making sure there are activities for the kids, as well Mom and Dad being able to get some adult/date time.  While I believe there are several vacation choices that will conquer these challenges, at the top of my list is the All-Inclusive resort vacation.

Here are some of the reasons I love all-inclusive vacations:

1. Cost –  There are all-inclusive resorts to meet any budget.

The best part of going to an all-inclusive resort is the “all-inclusive”.  When everything is included you really do save money over other vacations, and you will not be surprised with a big bill when you check out. The only additional charges should be if you choose a spa visit or additional babysitting. Though, there are some great resorts which include babysitting, hey even your own personal Vacation Nanny. However, not all resorts are created equal, so that is why I am always doing research and visiting destinations to make sure you get to the “right” resort.
azul beach Blue restaurant
2. Amazing Food and Drink –  Long gone is the boring buffet line. There are now many gourmet all-inclusive resorts. The Azul Resorts in Mexico and of course the Beaches Resorts in the Caribbean are amazing resorts that cater to families and offer gourmet food and luxury accommodations. Even better the Azul Resorts have access to a 100,000 sq. ft green house where they grow their own produce.  These resorts offer your choice of  lobster, steak, amazing international cuisine, brick oven pizza, gelato and bakeries for those yummy afternoon snacks.  Many resorts are also serving premium brands of liquor and wine.  No watered down no name drinks.
3. Activities and Entertainment –  These resorts offer activities for adults, kids and the whole family. You can learn to scuba, surf or just relax on the beach. They have night time parties and amazing entertainment for the whole family.  A nice added feature is that many of the resorts like Beaches and the Hard Rock Punta Cana also offer great character experiences for the kids.
franklyn D nanny

4. Child Care and Kids Clubs – This is one of the great added values of the all-inclusive when it comes to families. Many resorts offer child care and activities for kids 4 and up.  But what about the little ones? Well, there are several resorts which include certified nannies.  At Franklyn D Resort in Jamaica and Generations Maroma every family gets their own nanny for the length of their stay. The great thing is that you can use the child care as much or as little as it suits your family. It is just nice to have it as an option. I think Mom and Dad deserve a little vacation too. Even if it is just to be able to have a nice dinner date.

5. There is an all-inclusive resort to match any family.  There are many all-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean, with the best deals being Jamaica, Dominican Republic and Mexico.  But, if you are looking for something closer there are actually some great resorts right here in the US, like the Club Med Sandpiper right in Port St. Lucie, Florida.


Overall,  I really do believe that for families an all-inclusive vacation is a great choice.  They offer great food, activities and fun for all.  Even better I like that you don’t have that big surprise bill at the end.  Also you can choose from so many great destinations.    Are you ready to start planning?

Need Help With All That “Stuff”

As the Chief Memory Officer at Adventures By Kim I am always on the look out for the best destinations for families, as well I am also always on the look out for other business’ that support families that travel.   Here is some great information I hope will help make your next family vacation even more fun and stress-free.

Besides flying,  I think one of the biggest hurdles of traveling with little ones is all the “stuff” you have to bring.  There are diapers, strollers, bottles, food/snacks, high chairs, toys, etc. etc.  Who wants to have to lug all that “stuff”, especially when we are being charged extra bag fees.

I always suggest to my clients to send a box ahead to your resort or vacation destination with the baby or toddler supplies you will need while away.  It will save you on bag fees, but more importantly it saves you having to push/carry everything from home, to the airport, to your transfer, and then to the resort. No wonder many of you would just rather just stay home.  Well, I think you deserve to be able to get away, relax, reconnect and create those amazing family vacation memories.  While Adventures By Kim is here to take the stress out of planning your vacation. I am always on the look out for great business’ that will make it easier for families to get away.

To help with all the “stuff”, I recently discovered Jet Set Babies and Baby Chic NY Rentals. These 2 companies will provide you with just about anything you could want or need while away and the best part is it will be waiting at your destination.  Just a few clicks and you are set.  No shopping, packing,  or lugging all your supplies.  I love it.

Jet Set Babies has a wide variety of baby and toddler supplies.  They offer name brand formula, food, supplies and more.  As well, I think the prices are very reasonable.  One great feature of their site is the,  Baby Vacation Packages.  It makes ordering that much easier since they have already created packages with  just about all you will need for any destination.  While Jet Set Babies does not rent equipment, they have links to companies that do rent, like Baby Equipment Rental These are companies they have tested and who they trust.   Also, Jet Set Babies will ship your order internationally.   As well , they have created relationships with companies like Lots for Tots in Mexico, where you are not allowed you to bring in food or formula. They also will take special requests. So if you do not see what you need or want on their site, do not worry.

Baby Chic NY Rentals is a sister company to Jet Set Babies. You can order many of the same baby/toddler supplies, but they also do offer equipment rental.   My favorite item they offer the is the “Fun in the Park” package.   If you are traveling to NY with little ones Central Park is not to be missed, with the open fields, playgrounds and the awesome Children’s Zoo.   The package includes: a weather proof Tuffo Blanket, Frisbee, Bubbles, Bat and Ball or Jump Rope, Side Walk Chalk, Kick Ball and many other items you can customize.

It is so nice to all the companies out there that are supporting families traveling with little ones.  You don’t have to stay home, with a little planning and support you can have an amazing stress-free vacation.   What are you waiting for?

Go Back in Time A Day at Field Station Dinosaur

 

Last summer the boys and I decided to check out the newest attraction in our area Field Station: Dinosaurs. The boys really love dinosaurs and they had a blast. It was nice that it was close and that the park is really not too big. It makes for a great day trip

I have to say, I was impressed by the dinosaurs. There is a lot of attention to detail.  They are big, moved and roared.  The boys thought they were “cool”. There is a nice selection of dinosaurs, in all different shapes and sizes.

Go Back in Time A Day at Field Station Dinosaur Go Back in Time A Day at Field Station Dinosaur

What Is There To Do: Of course, you are going to see the dinosaurs, but they also had a lot of other fun activities for the kids.   When you enter the park you are given your Credentials. When you visit different areas and activities through out the park the Park Rangers will stamp your credentials. This added to the adventure for my boys as they were on a search to see where they could get their stamps. It is also a nice FREE souvenir.

Go Back in Time A Day at Field Station Dinosaur      Go Back in Time A Day at Field Station Dinosaur

  • LEGOS : There was an area where the kids could build and play with Legos. Of course, my boys did not want to leave this area. It was a bit crowded, but they have a few tables and different Lego pieces so everyone had a chance to play.
2012-06-27 14.20.00
  • The Dig: This is an area where you get to be a Paleontologist.  The park provides shovels, brushes and other tools for the kids to dig and discover dinosaur bones. All the kids were having a lot of fun and were so excited when they found some bones. But on a hot, sunny day it would be nice if it was a little more covered. Though, they did have a covered area for the parents to sit.
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  • Crayola Art Area: This was an area sponsored by Crayola. They had crayons, markers and activities for the kids. The kids got to color dinosaur pictures and other related crafts.
Go Back in Time A Day at Field Station Dinosaur
  • Shows and Games: They have the Dinosaur Meet and Greet, where you meet the dinosaur babies.  This was really cute. There is also an amazing dinosaur puppet.  The show has “handlers” to teach you about the dinosaur and even try to feed it.  It is as if it is all “real”.   There are also games shows like Raptor Feud and T-Rex Games.  They are educating the kids about dinosaurs, but in a game setting that I thought really kept the kids engaged.   The park had something to see about every 30 minutes which I thought was great.

2012-06-27 15.03.09 2

  • Dinosaurs: Well, we can’t forget the main attraction. There are 31 life-sized animatronic dinosaurs, in different areas of the park.  The areas are Base Camp, The Quarry, The Plateau and The Lookout. Each dinosaur also has a sign that has the name and information about that dinosaur.  I liked how they were displayed each in a different setting.  Example, the Velociraptors were a bit hidden in the reeds, but you could here them. I felt like I was in the “Jurassic Park” Movie.
2012-06-27 14.06.39

Where is it: The park is located at 1 Dinosaur Way, Secaucus, NJ, right off Interstate 95, Exit 15X.  You can drive or even take the NJ Transit Train. If you take the train, the park is a short 10 minute walk from the train station. Also, during the summer there is a free shuttle from the train station to the park  You just have to confirm the pick up times.  If you drive, parking is $10.

2012-06-27 14.02.49

Hours: The park is open April through the beginning of November.  The park is open now Saturday/Sunday 10am-6pm.   Check their website for exact hours and days it is open in the other months.

2012-06-27 14.06.39 2

 

DAY PASS
Guests age 2 and above $15.00 online All day admission to the park
Guests age 2 and above $16.50 at the box office All day admission to the park
Guests under age 2 Free All day admission to the park

*** These are the prices if you buy online.  They do not show prices if you buy at the park.

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Overall, Field Station: Dinosaurs is a fun day. Make sure you wear comfortable shoes as you will be doing some walking. The trails are smooth and OK for a stroller, but it can be a bit bumpy. You can bring snacks and drinks in to the park, but they also have a snack bar as well.  Beware when you are leaving the park as they make you go through the merchandise tent.  Needless to say, I did not get out of there without opening my wallet. But I know the boys and I will be headed back there again.

Last Minute Ideas for Dad

Father’s Day is this Sunday June 16th, and it’s a great time to think of some last minute gift and crafting ideas for dad! Here’s some thoughts to get you started…


A Handmade Gift

A handmade gift for dad is always the best. It’s one he’ll cherish and keep around. The key is to keep it simple. I made this little fish above as an example for a workshop a few years ago. It literally takes 30 minutes to cut newspaper and construction paper into a really cool subject, such as the fish above. The frame cost less than a dollar at IKEA, and I added paint to with sponge brushes. Wood frames like this you can find at any arts and crafts store.


A Handmade Card

A card is by far the most important part of Father’s Day! One of my favorite methods for little kids to try is the ‘tear and glue’ method. Have the kids tear some colored paper and glue it on their card. Add markers for details. It’s always fun to see what the paper ends up looking like. A bear, some balloons, a fish? It’s a great way to get creative!

Go Local

My dad is a major gardener, and I was able to snag an awesome garden trowel at Smith & Chang {located by Hamilton Park} yesterday. If you’re seeking a special gift in addition to your homemade goodies, I highly suggest checking out this store for its great array of BBQ utensils, gardening items, kitchen goods and bath products for men. Also, if you’re looking for a great kid friendly restaurant GP’s is located very close to Smith & Chang and offers wonderful Italian fare.

Ashley Lucas is a local illustrator and crafts designer based in Jersey City, NJ. She offers private art lessons to children in Newport, Jersey City {contact JCFamilies for more info!}. Her specialties in include holiday crafting and making art ‘cute’ for young children! Ashley designs murals for kids rooms in Jersey City, and offers kid friendly artwork and decor to the community through her business ‘Lady Lucas’.

What Type of Artist is Your Child?

The really exciting thing about teaching art to kids, is that every child is completely different and has a unique way of creating things. Allow your child to create as they wish, and take a look at the list below to better understand the artist that they are.

The Modern Artist
Does your child just love working with colors and shapes? Lines and squiggles? Do they love to just experiment instead of making actual ‘things’ or ‘drawings’? Then he or she might be a budding modern artist. It is completely natural for some children, even after reaching age 8 or 9, to just love creating geometric patterns and shapes.

The Free Spirit
One of my favorite types of art student, is the free spirit. I generally bring an example to every single class… because young children are visual learners and of course it’s easier to see something, then to spend an hour describing it. The children that take my idea but make it completely their own are free spirits. They go the extra mile to be creative and take the initiative to always ‘do their own things’. The free spirit kind of child, is usually the type that will become a professional artist as an adult 😉

The Perfectionist
The examples of art projects I present, are copied exactly by my ‘perfectionist’ students. They love to replicate every single color and method I use. They don’t like to deviate at all from the project I’ve presented… and that’s completely fine with me! It shows me that they are paying attention and that they love to achieve.

Have a question or concern about your child’s creative development? Send me a message or add a comment below! I’d love to shed some light…

Ashley Lucas is a local illustrator and crafts designer based in Jersey City, NJ. She is the author and illustrator of various children’s books and has contributed to such popular sites as eHow and ModernMom. Her specialties in include holiday crafting and making art ‘cute’ for young children! Ashley designs murals for kids rooms in Jersey City, and offers kid friendly artwork and decor to the community through her business ‘Lady Lucas’.

Check Out The NEW Legoland Discovery Center

legoland discovery center westchester

Over spring break the boys and I made a trip up to the new Legoland Discovery Center which recently opened in the new Westchester’s Ridge Hill Shopping Center in Yonkers.  In the US there are also Legoland Discovery Centers in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas/Fort Worth, and Kansas City. Needless to say the boys were very excited to check it out.

2013-04-09 13.50.42     entrance to legoland

From where I am in New Jersey it is a quick 20-30 minute ride over the George Washington Bridge to get there.  It is also close to my beloved Stew Leonard’s as well.   Love that store.   It was suggested that we buy our tickets in advance on-line as they stagger admission so it will not be too crowded.  We could not get a ticket until 2 pm, because I bought the day we wanted to go, so I suggest buying a day in advance.   Ticket prices are $22 (+tax) adults and $18 + tax) for children.

Upon entering you are directed in to the Lego Factory.  The lab technician gives the kids a lesson in how legos are made.  It is a nice interactive space with buttons push, levers to pull and more.  Before you make you way to the next room, the lab technician gave the boys a “special” lego.

lego lab     lego lab tech

lego lab painting     Legoland special lego

After the lab you make your way to the Kingdom Quest ride.  It reminded me of the Buzzlight Year ride at the Magic Kingdom.  You have to hit the targets and save the Princess.  It was cute and I thought the design and video elements were well done.  They boys were just happy to be playing a “video” game.

kingdom quest ride     kingdom quest ride 2

Once you are off the ride you make your way to Miniland.  Of course, our Miniland is all about NYC.  It is so well done. I am always amazed at the level of detail.   There is Yankee Stadium, Times Square, the subway and more.

miniland NYC     2013-04-09 14.01.27

miniland subway     miniland builder

After Miniland, you walk into the main area of the Discovery Center.  We first made our way to Lego Races: Build and Test.   I was not so impressed with this section, as we could not find any wheels for our racers. The boys liked being able to build, but I did not think it was very organized.

lego racers build and test     lego racers build and test 2

Next to Lego Racers, there is the Earthquake Table where you can build and then turn on the table to see if it can stand up to the earthquake.   Next, the table is the Lego Master Builder Academy.  The Academy has a new class every 30 minutes.  I think it is great for the older kids who want to learn new building tricks.

Earthquake Table     Lego Master Builder Academy

Next to the academy there is the Duplo Village.  This is a great area for the little ones, ages 1-5.  They can climb around and there is also a little slide.     Also, not to leave the girls out of the mix there is the Lego Friends area.   It is a cute little house for the girls to play. They even have karaoke.

duplo village     Lego Friends

Next up, is Merlin’s Apprentice.  Yes, there is actually another ride here. The kids can peddle their flying boom to make it go up and down.  I like that even the little guys can ride as well.  There is also the Lego 4D Cinema.  We saw 3 Lego movies, each about 10 minutes long.  The 4D is there are wind, water and bubble (snow) effects.  I thought the movies were well done and the boys were thoroughly entertained.   The movies we saw were: Clutch Powers, a Lego Racer movie and a Kingdom Quest.

Merlin's Apprentice     Lego 4D Cinema

In the middle of all the action is the Lego Fire Academy.  This is a great play area with a slide, many levels as well as building area.  A big note for this area:  BRING SOCKS!.  I did not know this so of course I ended up buying socks for $2 a pair.   There is a nice little cafe with seats so you can sit enjoy a cup of coffee while the kids play.  They have the usual snacks at the cafe.  The big item is the kids lunch for $15. I thought it was a bit pricey, but it comes in a big lego.

lego fire academy     2013-04-09 16.02.21
lego cafe lunch

Overall, we had a fun day.   I was impressed with the space and thought it was very clean.  It made for a great afternoon with the boys.   Beware, as to exit you have to go through the Lego store.   Needless to say I did not get out of there without opening my wallet.

I also really liked the new Ridge Hill Mall.  There are a lot of great stores and restaurants.   On a nice day you can take a walk, get something to eat and enjoy the little playground they have as well.  Though I have to say a metal playground with no shade covering, maybe not such a great idea.

ridge hill mall     ridge hill play area

Tips to SAVE your Next Vacation

broken luggage

I was reading a post on a Facebook group I belong to and was reminded of some very important travel tips. I know many of you are looking forward to traveling this summer, so wanted to share and hopefully save you the headache and hassle.

Here is one family’s story:

Clients traveling to Rome on May 10. Due to numerous weather related and mechanical problems their flight was delayed and to make a long story short, they didn’t arrive in Rome until very late at night on May 11. Their original arrival time was 9:30 a.m.  Because of the changes in their air schedule their luggage didn’t make it with them to Rome. It didn’t catch up with them until five days later.

When the luggage was finally delivered, they found them zip-tied shut. Upon opening themthey discovered items were missing. Two laptops, one I-Pad, and an expensive diamond bracelet. The lady in the party had also packed her much needed medications in her luggage as well.

And to top it all of, they did not take travel insurance, which would have probably covered those items.

Here are my tips:

1.  Do NOT pack valuables in your checked luggage.  It might be a pain to have to carry all the extra “stuff” in your carry-on, but you will know it is safe. Also take a picture of your bag and the airline tag, just in case.

2.  Pack a change of clothes, medication, and basic toiletries in your carry on bag. Especially, when traveling with children make sure you have everything you might need for at least 24 hours, that means, clothes, diapers, formula, etc.

travel toiletries

3.  Do NOT pack medications in your checked luggage.  As well I always tell my clients to carry an extra prescription when traveling just in case.

4.  BUY travel insurance.  I have written about this before, and I know we all think nothing will happen.  But when you are spending thousands of dollars on your vacation it is best to make sure you will be covered.

5.  Do NOT pack your passport or travel documents in your checked bags. If your luggage is delayed or lost you will be vacationing in the airport.  NO fun.

passport
6.  Make sure to leave  a copy of your passport, license, credit cards, travel documents with someone at home.  As well make sure you have a copy with you as well.  Leave in the hotel safe so you have in case they are lost or stolen.

7.  Call your credit cards and let them know you are traveling. Especially if you will be out of the country. You don’t want to have them decline or lock your card thinking it was stolen.

8.  Turn off your data roaming when traveling out of the country. Call your cell carrier to check on an international plan and rates.  You can rack up a HUGE bill very quickly.

cellphone

I hope you find these tips valuable.  It is just something to think about and to make you trip one to remember, for the RIGHT reasons.