Make a Fine Art Monster!

This is a fun variation on the monster project I taught my private art students this week. It’s easy to elevate a simple craft into a work of fine art after adding a wooden pedestal to the bottom!

For your fine art monster you will need:
empty toilet tubes
acrylic paint in light green
googly eyes
office stickers
pipe cleaners
felt scraps or cotton rounds
wood cube *optional
glue, scissors, markers, hole puncher

Step 1 Make two holes towards the top of your empty tube and towards the bottom of your tube. These will be where the arms and legs go through. This step adults need to help with!

Step 2 Paint the outside of the tube light green and let dry completely. This should take less than 5 minutes 😉

Step 3 Add office stickers for facial features and googly eyes using some small dots of glue.

Step 4 After your paint is completely dry, it should be easy to add features to your monster like dots or stripes.

Step 5 Pull two pipe cleaners through the ‘arm’ and ‘leg’ holes of your monster.

Step 6 Using craft glue to the interior top of your tube, add some ‘hair’ to the top of your monster. I used wool felt for this which is nice and thick… but you could use any plush fabric or even cotton rounds from the pharmacy!

Step 7 {optional} Elevate your monster to a piece of fine art by gluing a wooden cube to the bottom of a piece of stiff felt or cardboard. Display in your child’s room!

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’.

Picture Book Review: Who Is Melvin Bubble? by Nick Bruel for Ages 3-9

Who is Melvin Bubble?

Picture Book

Ages 3-9

By Nick Bruel

32 pages

Roaring Brook Press


Nick Bruel is the creator of the enormously popular Bad Kitty series, which features a feisty and mischievous cat. His writing is funny and clever, his exaggerated characters have vast appeal and his art is brightly colored and engaging.

Who Is Melvin Bubble? opens with a letter from a boy named Jimmy, imploring the author to write a book about his best friend Melvin Bubble. What follows is both an excellent lesson in perspective and a well-crafted picture book.

The author asks several people the same question, who is Melvin Bubble? Each response generates a different perspective on this young boy, and gives a bit of insight on the responder as well. The caricature-like characters are vibrantly colored and their responses are encapsulated in giant word bubbles and coupled with visualizations.

Melvin Bubble’s dad calls Melvin a chip off the old block; his mom says he may be the messiest boy in the world.

Melvin Bubble’s teddy bear tells readers how much Melvin likes hugs.

His best friend says “Melvin’s the coolest kid I know! He can whistle “The Itsy-Bitsy Spider through his nose!”

Santa Claus has only good things to say about the boy who always makes his nice list, but the Tooth Fairy had an unfortunate experience having to do with the boy’s very large head.

Taking some hilarious turns and building comic momentum, the author also solicits responses from a big, ugly monster with three eyes, a beautiful princess and a magic rock (a wonderful homage to Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig). The rock turns out not to magic after all so the author turns to a talking zebra instead. The zebra’s response, a nod to the humor of Looney Tunes, is my favorite.

Finally, the author asks Melvin Bubble himself to describe who he is, and all the pieces fall neatly into place.

Through its layered perspectives, Who is Melvin Bubble? offers children an opportunity to recognize alternate points of view. It may also prompt them to think more about the concept of identity and how one person can be different things to many people. This hilarious and energetic picture book is sure to be a read-aloud favorite.

Jennifer Lavonier has worked in the children’s book world for nearly twenty years. You can find more of her children’s book reviews on her website,


Book Review: Courage by Bernard Waber for ages 2-8


Picture Book

Ages 2-8

By Bernard Waber

32 pages

Houghton Mifflin


Bernard Waber (1921-2013) wrote and illustrated over thirty books for children and is best known for his series of books featuring Lyle the Crocodile. The first book to introduce the world to the lovable and talented crocodile was The House on East 88th Street (1962). It tells the story of the Primm family who has just moved into their new home when they discover Lyle living in their bathtub. In no time at all, the talented and helpful Lyle is a loved and cherished member of the family. Several more books featuring Lyle followed.

Waber’s straightforward and, often, humorous text coupled with his approachable and cheerful art results in entertaining stories with enormous appeal. Though his characters are rarely human, their troubles are familiar and are gratifyingly resolved in an encouraging manner.

Waber departs from his customary animal characters in Courage; his quivery-lined, active art depicts human children carrying out every day acts of courage. It’s easy to spot courage in a firefighter or a police office or an ordinary citizen performing a brave act, but sometimes very small endeavors also require boldness.

The opening illustration features a female ice-skater executing a mid-air split.


“There are many kinds of courage.”

In the following pages, Waber expounds on the many varieties of courage; some are awesome, like performing in a trapeze act or climbing a mountainothers are small, such as having two candy bars and saving one for tomorrow.


Courage is riding your bicycle for the first time, going to bed without a nightlight, jumping off the high dive, or getting a haircut. Courage can also be checking out the noises in the dark or keeping the secret you promised not to tell. Courage is telling the truth, exploring new places or holding onto your dream.


“Still, courage is couragewhatever kind.”

More a guide than a story, Courage offers parents an opportunity to teach their children an invaluable life lesson: experiencing fear is a universal trait and overcoming that fear, large or small, is an act of bravery. Furthermore, once we find that bravery within ourselves it can be shared with and fostered in those around us.


“Courage is what we give to each other.”

Jennifer Lavonier has worked in the children’s book world for nearly twenty years. You can find more of her children’s book reviews on her website,

A Few Of My Favorite Things – 10 of My Favorite Travel Gadgets

When traveling with kids there is all the “stuff” you have to bring. I think some of that “stuff” should at least make the vacation less stressful and more enjoyable.  Here are some of my FAVORITE travel gadgets:

1. Wireless Mobile Hot Spot – I recently purchased a hot spot and don’t know how I have survived so long with out it.   When traveling it really can save a lot of money if you need to be connected. Some well reviewed choices are:  Novatel MiFi 4620L Jetpack 4G Mobile Hotspot (Verizon Wireless) or we have the  AT&T Mobile Hotspot Elevate 4G

att wireless hotspot

2. e-Reader –  Who doesn’t like to read a book while lounging on the beach or by the pool? But, what I love about an e-reader is that it is not just for books alone.  You can download apps or even movies for you and the kids.  That is if you want to share.  But of course, I think the best choices are either The Nook and The Kindle.  It is nice because they each have so many choices and also prices to fit just about any budget.

nook hd kindle fire 2

3. Trunki BoostApak – I think this is awesome!  It can be such a hassle to have to lug your booster seat with you for the plane or to have when renting a car while you are away.  The  Trunki BoostApak is easy to use and easy to take with you. I just wish I had found this sooner.


4. The Ride On Carry On – I first saw this on Shark Tank. I love that show.  When I saw this I thought what a GREAT idea and so simple. I also like that it is easy to use and compact.  I have a friend whose sister is a flight attendant, and she swears by it.

ride on carry on

5. Travel-Tot Childproofing Kit I think for a lot of Mom’s a big worry when traveling with their small children is safety.  Well, this kit will make your hotel room or condo safe and let Mom and Dad relax a bit. A great idea would be to have this shipped directly to your destination. It would be one less item to pack.

travel tot childrproofing kit

6. Waterproof Cases –  When I am at the beach or pool I am always worried that my iphone, computer or tablet is going to get wet.  Well, I found these very cute waterproof cases on Etsy.  The are created by Seen and made from recycled banners. They also have bags as well.  It can’t hurt to be cute and practical at the same time.

seen 1 waterproof bag

7. Fisher-Price Laugh & Learn Apptivity iPad and iphone Case – I have mentioned these before but I really think they are great for the little ones. If you are going to let them use your iphone or ipad, at least they have a better chance to survive when they inevitably get dropped.

fisher price apptivity ipad case fisher_price_iphone_case 2

8. Gorillapod Flexible Tripod – This tripod is great in that it is small, easy to use and of course flexible.  They have choices that will fit just about every point & shoot and video cameras.  I like that it allows you to really set your camera up anywhere. They even have a magnetic tripod. Say goodbye to out of focus and shaky pictures.

gorillapod flexible tripod

9. Travel Bingo Game – I remember playing this game on many a road trip growing up. I think it is a great way to get the kids to actually look out the window instead of the ipad or the video screen.  Also check out my blog on the Flip to Win and other great travel games by Melissa and Doug.

travel bingo
Travel Bingo Game

10. PowerTrip – This is a GREAT charger. My husband recently received this for his birthday and loves it. It charges mobile devices such as Blackberry’s, cell phones, smart phones, iPhones, iPods, IPads, digital cameras, GPS and MP3 Players.  It even has a solar panel on one side so you can set it on top of the stroller while you are out to charge it.


I would love to hear what you think of any of these products. Also, please let me know if you have any travel products that you love and have helped you on your journeys.

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


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: Dinosaurs

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’s easy to get to and the park is big enough to enjoy all of the attractions yet small enough to not cause your littles ones to complain about walking too much. 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 To Do and See:

When you enter the park you are given your credentials which allow you to enjoy all the activities they have to offer. When you visit different areas and activities throughout the park the Park Rangers will stamp you in! 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


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. However, they did have a covered area for the parents to sit.

2012-06-27 14.37.02 2

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 dino 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. There are also game shows such as Raptor Feud and T-Rex Games. These games aim to educate children about dinosaurs. The park had something to see about every 30 minutes which I thought was great.


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Well, we can’t forget the main attraction! There are 31 life-sized animatronic dinosaurs, in different areas of the park. These 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 in different setting representing what the dinosaurs ecosystem might of looked like. For example, the Velociraptors were a bit hidden in the reeds, but you could hear them. I felt like I was in the “Jurassic Park” movie.

How To Get There:

2012-06-27 14.06.39






The park is located at 40 Fort Lee Rd, Leonia 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 decide to drive, parking is $10.  The park is open in the spring through the beginning of fall.  Make sure to check out their website for exact hours and days they are open!

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 stroller friendly 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. 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.