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.

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.


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.

Thumbprint Fun

Moms, If you’re looking for something super easy and fun to do this week, think of setting up a ‘printing table’ for the kids. Remember those great books you read as a kid by Ed Emberley? Well, thumbprint art is hotter than ever, and can be fun way to express creativity!

For your printing projects you will need:

  • ink pads in bright colors {or paint on a sponge}
  • pencils
  • thin black pens or markers
  • white card stock
  • construction paper

Greeting Cards

Father’s Day is coming up and what greater way to make a cute and simple card for dad! Simply make a nice thumbprint, let dry, and decorate with a pencil or thin marker. See how simple it is to make a rabbit like the ones above? I made these as ‘welcome baby’ cards for my friend who has some baby showers to attend this summer.


Buy some manilla folders / blank note books from the dollar store and have the kids decorate them with thumbprint art. This is a great activity before any new class or semester starts! To make writing paper, take a few sheets of white copy paper out of your printer, and decorate only the top with a line of cute designs. This paper could them be used again to print on, or for writing a letter!

Trading Cards

Trading cards are a great afternoon activity for a group of kids. Cut a bunch of card stock to about the size of a business card and have each child make a thumbprint creature for his or her friend{s}. A great sharing activity and kids love to see what their friends created for them!

Other Ideas

Other easy and fun things to thumbprint could be bookmarks, party favors and gift tags!

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’.

Beach Fun Crafts

Floating Beach ‘Island’

I made this cute craft with some of my classes this week, and the kids were enchanted with the fact that it can float on water! Here’s how to make your own at home:

  • Cut a piece of styrofoam into a ‘squareish’ shape. Leftover packaging pieces work great for this, or you can buy styrofoam in a floral, dollar or craft store.
  • Paint the sides and top of the styrofoam yellow but not the bottom.
  • Sprinkle some sand on the top of your ‘beach’ and insert a cocktail umbrella.
  • Glue some tiny stones and shells on the beach and even miniature animals {like crabs or birds} if you have them.
  • Let you beach dry completely, then float it carefully in some shallow water; like in the bathroom sink.

Rainbow Shells

These will keep the kids busy for a half hour or so before dinner, and look great as a display in your home during the summer months!

  • Select a group of flat, easy to paint seashells.
  • Using a small paintbrush, paint your shells with a rainbow of colors. Purple, blue, orange, pink and yellow work best and really stand out. Acrylic paint works better than tempera.
  • If you want your shells to keep their ‘shiny’ look, add some clear nailpolish to the tops after the paint dries. They will stay shiny forever!

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’.

Mother’s Day Craft Ideas

Moms, you might want to forward this one over to dad 😉 Here’s some simple and cute ideas for Mother’s Day this weekend!

From top left to right…

A Card for Mom
The most important thing to give on any holiday – a cute card! Something I love doing is combining cut paper with markers and crayons. To make a super simple design, glue paper circles to a folded piece of paper and use markers to add faces, petals, stems and leaves. {I also heard there will be a card making station at this Friday’s JCFamilies event in Hamilton Park!!}

Plant Sticks
Shop Rite always has a great selection of plants this time of year… so why not go over and pick out a few pansies and other fun flowers? Then, have your little one decorate some plant sticks to add for decoration. Simply glue a sturdy piece of paper to a Popsicle stick and it’s done! I found these pre-cut cupcake designs at A.C. Moore… but just about any stationery or party store will have something like it too.

Mother’s Day Bunting
What cuter way to decorate your home this weekend than with a cute hanging bunting!  While visiting Paper Presentation in NYC this week, I noticed craft stores are now selling triangle pads of paper for a super easy way to make this decoration, or take a pile of construction paper and cut into uniform long triangle shapes. Decorate each ‘triangle’ with stickers, markers and crayons and attach to a long piece of string for hanging. Add some beads to the string to keep the kids occupied a little longer 😉

Framed Fingerprints
Pick up a super cute miniature frame at Duane Reade or even the dollar store, and add a tiny picture by your little Picasso. All kids love making fingerprint people. All you need is an ink pad and some pencils.

For a video featuring some of the crafts above, visit this link which features me teaching Mother’s Day Crafts on eHow.

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’.

Earth Friendly Crafts

Hi Moms! Monday April 22nd was Earth Day, so in honor of that special holiday I’d like to show you some easy and fun arts and crafts ideas that can be made a home with things you have lying around the house.

Potato People | recycled item: cardboard

This art activity is super fun, and after making these with some of my students this week, I can say for sure kids love them! For this cute work of art, simply cut ovals out of old cardboard boxes. For instance, that Amazon box on its way to the recycling bin 😉 Glue the cardboard ovals on brightly colored paper and have the kids give each potato a different face with stickers, cut paper and googly eyes.

Monster Roll | recycled item: toilet paper roll

What better thing to do with an old toilet paper roll, than to turn it into a monster! To make this little guy above, paint the cardboard roll with a bright paint color and let dry. Glue googly eyes, pom poms, paper and other found objects to create a cute and silly creature!

Radish Jellyfish | recycled item: vegetables about to spoil

Perhaps one of my favorite arty ideas in the last couple years, radish jellyfish are adorable and so easy to create! Simply cut a radish or potato in half and dip into a mixture of white, blue and and green paint. Make prints on a yellow piece of paper and let dry. Add tentacles, eyes and details with markers.

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’.

Help your child Grow and Learn – with Touch!

We all want our children to be the smartest, healthiest, and most socially adept they can be. And there is so much we can do! But one of the most important ways we can nurture our child’s minds and bodies is through touch!

Believe it or not loving and compassionate touch such a coddling and rocking your infant will help hormone levels, dendrites in the brain develop, it will improve immune function, weight gain, and food absorption, to name just a few. In toddlers and youths, it will help brain function resulting in faster processing of information, it shows that they are more adept at sports, stronger, they heal faster, and that children who are touched, hugged, and carried by their parents are more socially adept and can handle stressful situations better.

So.. as a massage therapist who has been dealing with this for over 14 years, I can tell you I’ve seen my share of what massage – therapeutic touch in general – can do!

Ways to implement beneficial touch for your child on a daily basis are as simple as playing with their hair, holding them in a rocking chair or holding them and rocking them with your arms, rubbing lotion on their backs and arms and legs, even learning a few massage techniques and talking to them about them importance of compassionate touch! (in my opinion this last one is quite important 😀 )

When it comes to post partum and even pre-natal depression, massage on mothers has shown to be highly effective. In fact, studies that deal with physical trauma and emotional trauma that incorporate massage – have always shown that massage has a beneficial role. To quote Dr Tiffany Fields “Just adding massage makes such an incredible difference… In everything we’ve done, massage is significantly effective. There’s not a single condition we’ve looked at—including cancer—that hasn’t responded positively to massage.”

If you have any furthers questions about how to incorporate touch in to your daily life, please contact me at [email protected] or call 551-689-0763


Quick and Healthy Toddler Snacks

Any mom will tell you that feeding a toddler can be a tough job. It’s especially hard to make sure they are eating healthy meals and snacks. Here are some great ideas for quick and healthy toddler snacks that will leave you feeling better about what your tot is eating – plus they are great for the whole family!

Fruit Smoothie:

This smoothie is so quick and easy to make. Kids sometimes drink quicker than they eat, so this one is a timesaver. Plus, you can edit the ingredients to fulfill many different nutrition needs and tastes. Try your child’s favorite fruits (frozen works great, but you can use fresh), instead of milk you can use orange juice or even water to thin the smoothie out, if you are looking for a lower glycemic index use agave syrup instead of honey. Hiding greens in the smoothie, gives it a highly-nutritious punch and you can’t even taste them with all the other flavors happening.

Note: I’ve found that the easiest way to make this is with an immersion blender (like this Cuinsinart model) – it takes just a few seconds to blend and cleanup is a breeze. But, feel free to use a blender!

1 Cup of low-fat Greek yogurt (like 2% Fage)

½ Cup frozen fruit (strawberries, blueberries, cherries, etc.)

Handful of frozen spinach, kale or any mixed greens

¼ Cup milk or another liquid of your choice

1 Tbsp honey

Combine the ingredients in a cup or pitcher. Blend with the immersion blender until all the frozen fruit is pureed. Add more liquid if you want a thinner smoothie.

Frozen Blueberry Treats:

These treats are perfect for spring and great for moms on-the-go. This is an easy and healthy snack that kids love. I call them “blueberry candies” to entice my son and he loves them. Plus, they are a great snack for mom, too!

1 container of blueberries

½ Cup Greek yogurt (and kind)

2 Tbsp honey

Wash and dry the blueberries. Mix the yogurt and honey in a bowl. Using toothpicks, coat the blueberries in the yogurt mixture and place them on a cookie sheet or plate. Once you are done, place them in the freezer for 1 – 2 hours or until frozen. Pop the yogurt covered blueberries into sandwich bags and you have a ready-to-go yummy snack.

Homemade Granola:

This bakes for 30 minutes, but the prep time is easy. Once it’s made, it’s a healthy quick snack for the whole family! You can add so many different ingredients to this granola to make it your own. Try different nuts, oil and dried fruit. It’s a very versatile recipe. Grab a baggie of granola on your way out the door, add milk and eat like cereal or add to yogurt parfaits.

3 Cups rolled oats

1 Cup sweetened, shredded coconut

1 Cup sliced almonds

½ Cup dried figs

½ Cup dried cranberries

1/3 Cup sunflower oil

1/3 Cup honey

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix oats, coconut, almonds and dried fruit together. Add the oil and honey and stir until mixture is completely coated. Pour mixture onto a baking sheet. Bake for about 20 – 25 minutes or until the granola is golden brown, stirring occasionally. Once granola is completely cooled, store in a container and enjoy!

Diaper Bag Roundup

All diaper bags are not created equal. Some are better for travel, while others are perfect for an evening out with baby. With all the choices out there these days, it’s hard to decide which bag is right for you. Here are some of my family’s favorite diaper bags and when we like to use them.

For Travel:

OiOi Baby Bags Canvas Satchel 

This low-profile bag is perfect for when you’re on the move. The strap is long enough to sling over your shoulder, like a messenger bag. It isn’t huge, which is actually a good thing when you are traveling. You can’t fit too much in there, so it stays organized and doesn’t get too heavy. The straps have magnetic closures in the front, so access to the gusseted front pocket is easy. The main internal compartment has elasticized pockets for easy organization. Plus, there’s an insulated side pocket with a zip closure, perfect for bottles or long, tall sippy cups. The bag comes with a large padded changing mat, insulated bottle holder and a wipes case. We used this bag while traveling to Costa Rica when my son was 18 months old. It was perfect for the plane – not too big and easy access to everything. As a bonus, this bag is very gender-neutral, so Daddy’s won’t have any issue strapping it on and carrying it.

For Events:

timi & leslie Annette Convertible Diaper Bag 

This bag actually looks like a cute purse! If you are going to an event like a wedding or party, this bag won’t make you feel sad about leaving your handbag at home. The exterior is made of easy-to-clean faux leather (PVC free) and boasts attractive hardware in a gold finish. The cross body strap is detachable, so you can go hands-free. Plus, it comes with matching stroller straps, so you can hang the bag safely (and stylishly) from your stroller. Seven interior pockets and a center divider zipper pocket give you various choices for organization, along with the three exterior pockets. Accessories include their specially-designed changing pad with a mesh pocket for storing extra diapers, a zippered sack for soiled clothing, an insulated bottle tote and (my favorite) a stylish clutch with interior credit card slots and zippered pocket. All this and it looks adorable! I save this bag for special occasions. It’s nice to have a fancier option.

For Daddies:

Skip Hop Duo Diaper Bag 

Although this bag proved too small for me – this is my husband’s go-to diaper bag. Sure, they make diaper bags marketed specifically for “dudes,” but this bag has everything a daddy needs. It’s smaller, compact and more convenient to carry than most bags, plus it comes in an array of colors! The exterior is made of durable poly-canvas, so it will take a beating (and it’s easy to clean). One of the best and most convenient features of this bag is the patented Shuttle Clips. You can easily take the shoulder strap off or use the clips to attach securely to a stroller or shopping cart. This bag works great with strollers. Low-profile magnetic closures make getting in and out of this bag a snap. The front boasts two large pockets and there is a cell phone pocket on one side and an adjustable mesh bottle/water bottle pouch on the other. Eleven pockets in total give many options for organization. The shoulder strap is padded and long enough to wear across your chest, for easy carrying. It also comes with the easy-to-clean Skip Hop changing pad, which fits neatly inside the interior of the bag. My husband always kept this bag really stripped-down – carrying just the essentials. It is still his favorite baby/toddler bag.

For Everyday:

Skip Hop Bento Ultimate Diaper Bag 

I always felt like I never had enough room in my diaper bags…until I got the Bento bag. Yes, it’s big, but if you are looking for a bag that you can carry with you all day long – look no further. I recommend this bag for long days out at the park, museum, day trips, etc. The exterior is made from the same durable poly-canvas, which is easy to keep clean. The patented Shuttle Clips offer many carry options, such as removing the shoulder strap (there are padded tote straps, as well) or attaching to a stroller. The shoulder strap can be worn messenger style across your chest, for hands-free mode. Fifteen pockets offer limitless organizing options, including five mesh pockets, two insulated bottle pockets (on the outside of the bag) and (the best part about this bag) the Mealtime Kit compartment. This insulated zipper compartment is on the bottom of the bag and includes an eight-piece kit with insulated cooler bag, three plastic CLIX food containers (BPA- and Phthalate-free) and a flat freezer pack. This little compartment really makes the bag for me. It’s so convenient to cut up some fruit, cheese and other snacks and take it to-go! This also comes with the padded changing pad, which fits into the interior pockets. I can’t even tell you how many things I have fit into this bag. From the basics like diapers to full clothing changes and even items for me – this bag can haul it. Remember, if you overfill the bag, it does get quite heavy, so you may not want to carry it around all day, but it conveniently straps to strollers or carts.

10 Things to do when you lose it with your child

10 Things to do when you lose it with your child

I have never spanked, hit, pushed… or used any other form of corporal punishment with my daughters. But… I have yelled at them, I have taken their ‘priviledges’ (whatever that means) as a consequence for ‘bad behavior,’ I have even done a couple of time-outs (yes! not time-ins, time-outs). I KNOW none of those actions are right, but in the heat of the moment, on those (rare) occasions when I lose it, for a few seconds, I thought it was fine to do it (but it wasn’t!).

Did they work? No; Did they scare, anger, sadden… my girls? Yes; Do I regret it? Absolutely! And that’s why every day, I work on myself, to better myself as a parent. Because, at the end of the day… when we lose it, it has nothing to do with our children, it has to do with ourselves. It has to do with our lack of ability to cope in a positive, constructive, respectful way in that particular moment. So… to avoid those situations, we shouldn’t try to change our children, but ourselves! Now, that’s another article!


While I know each day is better, and this ‘crazy momma‘ moments are very rare; I also know that they might never completely dissapear. I wish they would, but I’m human, and therefore, imperfect. So, just in case, I lose it again, I make sure I know what to do AFTER the storm, to repair the connection with my daughters, learn and move forward. This is it:


My feelings: “I got really angry with you when you made a huge mess in the bathroom”

My actions: “I yelled at you for it, and that was not nice or respectful”

My intentions: “I was trying to get you to understand that it is not nice to throw all the bath toys, body soap and towels on the batroom floor. I also wanted for you to fix it. But yelling didn’t accomplish any of that, right?”

My child’s feelings: “I scared you very much, didn’t I?”


“I am so sorry for having yelled at you. That wasn’t nice at all. I disrespected you and scared you, and I’m very sorry about it.”


“I love you very much, regardless of what you do”

My kids tend to hug my by this point, which is tremendously heartwarming, and a lesson on forgiveness. Our children are incredibly forgiving of our mistakes, especially while they’re young.


“I promise I will do my very best, every day, to find ways to control my temper, and not to yell at you again. If I ever do it again, please know that I’m having a hard time controlling myself, that it has nothing to do with you, and that it doesn’t mean that I don’t love you”

I don’t promise them I will never do something again, because you can only promise to do your best to change that behavior. I don’t like lying to my kids, and wouldn’t make them a promise that I might break if I lose control.


“Will you help me avoid yelling again at you? If you ever see me about to yell, or if I start yelling, please remind me that I am a nice mom and that I don’t want to yell because it scares you and makes things worse not better”


“Thank you for being so understanding. I love you! What can we do to have some special time together now?”

It can be hugging, reading a book, racing, having a snack… anything that brings back the love and connection with your child. Always connection, before correction! We will deal with the mess later.

mother and daughter


Now it’s the time to deal with the issue at hand, the one that drove me crazy to beging with.

“How can we fix this mess together?”


“How can I help you remember not to do this again in the future?”


This is one of the hardest steps for me, because I know better, because I am a parent coach; and for some reason, even though I know I am not perfect and will never be, in my mind I still require that of myself from time time and I’m pretty hard on myself when I’m not the best I can be.


The last step is figuring out what made me lose it, was I too tired?, was I sleep deprived?, was I stressed about something?… what was it that put me in a state in which I couldn’t control my temper? It was not what my daughters did or didn’t do, that I know, so I always try to figure out what was going on with me, that made me too stressed, too tired, too overwhelmed, too distracted… to control my reactions.

More often than not, I blow up because I’m too tired or because I haven’t had the time to just relax and leave my mind wonder. If that’s the case, I make sure to go to sleep early that night and rest, and to take a bath before that to relax and free my mind.

Do you find yourself losing your temper with your children? What are your strategies to reconnect with your children after you blow up?

Much love, gentle mamas!

Diana Blanco~


Diana Blanco, M.B.A., is a Certified Youth, Parenting and Family Coach; Positive Discipline Educator; Child Sleep Expert; and the founder of Smooth Parenting, a gentle parenting and positive discipline advocacy, education and coaching center for parents, childcare providers and educators.

Smooth Parenting provides private parent coaching as well as online and live parenting education; helping parents around the world develop gentle positive connections with their childrens, solve their discipline and power struggles, get a good night sleep and live a peaceful, smooth and happy family life. Her approach to parenting, discipline and child sleep education is gentle, individualized and effective. New York Family Magazine recently wrote “Blanco was everything she had seemed like on the phone—sweet, smart, and passionate about baby sleep, […] she reminded me of a gentler version of the SuperNanny“.

Diana is the author of  the book ‘Smooth Baby Sleep. 6 Simple Steps to Gently Help Your Child Sleep,’ a clear, easy to read and effective guide to gently help children sleep from birth to toddlerhood. She is also a contributing author of ‘Celebrating Moms and Motherhood.’

To read more articles by Diana and learn more about Smooth Parenting, parenting coaching, healthy child sleep, positive discipline and loving guidance, teleseminars, webinars and events, please visit

Claim your FREE copy of our audio class ’7 Strategies to Gently Help Your Baby Sleep’ at, and receive our complimentary weekly ezine ‘Smooth Parenting Secrets‘ full of simple, proven and easy-to-implement parenting tips that will help you take the guesswork out of baby sleep, potty training, discipline and many other parenting topics. Download yours here!

Follow us on Facebook at

now also in Spanish 

Downtown Adventure Day – A Creative City Trip for Your Budding Artist!

As an illustrator, I’m always looking for inspiration and ideas to add into my artwork. Oftentimes I just go into New York City for the afternoon and take a walk to gaze at new stores, restaurants, art galleries and museums. Here’s an easy trip to take with the kids this Spring in lower Manhattan just steps from the PATH train. I completed this adventure day with my parents when they visited this week and it was lots of fun and a day full of really good memories.

1) Exit the PATH train at the World Trade Center station shop and start heading South on Broadway.

2) Take a moment to gaze at the amazing animals and gargoyles on the buildings surrounding Zucotti Park and Trinity Church yard on Broadway. Have the kids take some shots of their favorite faces and animals with your digital camera. It will be a great memory of the day. Set your camera to ‘black and white’ for a special effect.

3) Head to the National Museum of the American Indian by Bowling Green Park. It’s a free museum with amazing exhibits and kid friendly activities available 7 days a week. DO NOT MISS THIS GREAT MUSEUM! Visit the website here.

4) Finish your day with a trip on the Staten Island Ferry. Another great, free and fun thing to do in lower Manhattan is to take the Staten Island Ferry. It’s about a 25 minute ride each way. You’ll see the Statue of Liberty, a great view of lower Manhattan , and kids will love the sea gulls that follow the ship! Read about the ferry schedule here.

On your way back to the PATH train, try walking on a different street to see even more great sites, such as Battery Park which works its way up the waterfront and is located directly next to the exit of the Staten Island Ferry Terminal.

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 currently teaches weekly crafting classes with JCFamilies.