Love Makes a House a Home: Painting Upcycled Wood Signs

For Valentine’s Day, I wanted to create a sign and gift that would be relevant all year long. So, I designed a sign with a quote that I’ve seen floating around in various capacities.

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How true is that? And how relevant is this for this time of year, where love is the emphasis, but should truly be the emphasis all year long.

I created the text and image in PicMonkey and then used Cricut’s Design Space to apply my design and create my template.

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Before I did any painting, I prepped my upcycled wood. I sanded it a bit and then made sure it was clean of any debris. I then measured and painted where I wanted the different colored words to be. So, I used Dixie Belle Paint’s DropCloth for the white-ish secondary text and Barn Red for the Love and heart images.

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I love that you don’t need much paint when using Dixie Belle paints. I did several smooth strokes of each color, which was probably 2 coats in all.

Once it dried, I applied the vinyl template. I did the positive part of the template, meaning I applied the actual words, and then I will peel off later to reveal the color beneath. I prefer using Cricut for my template because I know it will stay. This step can be the most laborious and tedious part, but I promise, the end result is so worth it. When applying the template, be sure to lay it as flat as possible to avoid any air bubbles. Air bubbles can lead to bleeds and gloppy messes.

When the template is applied, go ahead and paint over everything with the color you choose for the base color. This color will be the main color of the sign, so be sure it contrasts enough without overpowering the underlaying colors. I chose a basic black chalkboard paint, so I can draw or write on it later with chalk.

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Paint 1-2 coats of paint, making it as smooth as you can. Alternatively, since the rustic look is in, don’t feel like it has to be perfect so you can adjust it later. Once everything is just about dry, locate the letters and take a pointy tool to start lifting the letters. I do this step slowly before it’s completely dry so that it has some give. Sometimes when it’s totally dry, it can be solidified, making it difficult to release the underlying letters.


Once you peel off the letters, you should see the underlying colors that you painted in one of the first steps. As mentioned, if you want to make it more rustic, feel free to hand sand the sign along the edges. I was planning on doing this, but I ended up loving the end result so skipped the sanding!

And there you have it! A rustic farm-house style sign that reads Love Makes a House a Home!

Full Disclosure: Dixie Belle Paints sent products to facilitate this craft. As always, opinions on NKT are my own.

Toy Fair 2015 Faves: Knit’s Cool, Snap Pets, Lego Minecraft, Plan Toys

There was so much to see and do at Toy Fair this year. Before I share about the trends I saw, I wanted to share a few of my favorites from this year’s show. Most of these toys won’t hit shelves until this summer or fall, so here’s your sneak peek at a few of my favorite next kid things:

Knit’s Cool

Spinmaster’s Sew Cool did so well last year that they’re riding the maker trend with a number of cool activity sets for Tweens. Knit Cool is an interesting set that allows kids to knit with ease, similar to that of finger/arm knitting. I can’t wait to see this generation of kids continue to make cool things with their own imagination and ingenuity.

Snap Pets

Selfies and tech toys were displayed loud and proud at Toy Fair. Snap Pets from Wowee is a fun selfie tool that can be used to take selfie images or as a remote. Tweens will love the small size of this cool selfie tool. 

Lego Minecraft

Speaking of creations, Lego, as expected, has a slew of cool new sets. Because Lego Minecraft was one of hottest gifts last holiday season, I thought I’d share a few photos of the upcoming sets in this series.

I saw a lot of new and upcoming Lego sets that encourage kids to forego the instruction manual and enjoy open-ended play. The crafting box is just one of many sets that give suggestions on what to build, but just like the digital version of Minecraft, this set capitalizes on pure imagination.

The Mine is another cool set that I loved seeing coming to life. The skeleton, creeper and spider are my favorite part of this set!

The Ender Dragon is another cool set that is sure to be huge among Minecraft aficionados.

Plan Toys

Plan Toys remains one of my absolute favorite toy companies, not just because they produce aesthetically pleasing goodies, but also because they’re eco-friendly and socially conscious.
Here are just a few of my favorite finds from my Plan Toys booth visit.
This chalkboard table set would look super cool in a playroom or classroom!

This rocket nesting toy is so eye-catching. The toys nesting inside were never-ending!

I can’t resist boat toys. This sailboat was so classic and cute!

If only NYC taxis could be this innocent and cute. Nevertheless, I love this sweet wooden taxi.

You can’t go wrong with wooden pull toys. Plan Toys owns the cute card in this category.

 More details and fun finds to come!

Trick or Treat at Jenkinson’s Boo on the Boardwalk

In the weeks leading up to Halloween, there’s no shortage of festivities, and that includes down the shore, here in NJ! In the spirit of Halloween, Jenkinson’s gets all tricked out for Boo on the Boardwalk. The fun on the boardwalk includes trick or treating, crafts and lots of tricks in between. We were onhand last weekend to experience the fun and I have the photos to prove it.


Boo on the Boardwalk has lots of games for the kids to play, with plenty of prizes too!  Entrance includes 2 free games, and there are several games that you can pay to play.

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I love that kids of all ages can participate in the games! Littles had a blast with this Plinko-like game! Lucky us, he won 5 little prizes!

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Boo on the Boardwalk is slated for this weekend, October 25 and 26 from noon to 4:00. Get the kids dressed up and head to the boardwalk for lots of family fun!


In between all of the activities, we did some trick or treating! We forgot our trick or treat bags, but Jenkinson’s gives you a bag upon entry.IMG 1578


The boardwalk performer, aka Frankenstein, entertained the kids with a little show!

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And what’s a visit to Jenkinson’s without a visit to the aquarium? We had a blast checking out our favorite friends.  We even caught the penguin feeding for the first time, something we always missed over the summer!

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We loved that the animals had their own pumpkins throughout the aquarium!

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And to stay in the Halloween spooky spirit, I was able to get my fortune read right by the penguins exhibit.

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Apparently, all of my ongoing struggle will pay off in the end! Good to know!

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It was a wonderful fall day on the boardwalk, which is my absolute favorite time at the beach: less crowds, more beauty and just as much fun! If you have a chance, be sure to check out Boo on the Boardwalk this weekend at Jenkinson’s!


Full disclosure: I am a Jenkinson’s ambassador and received compensation as part of this program. My family received complimentary admission to facilitate this review, but as always, opinions on NKT are my own.

Last Day of Kindergarten Survey Printable

It’s the last day of Kindergarten for my Big Boy, and what an exciting day it is!  The school where Biggie attends has been our extended family for the past two years—two important years where we’ve grown, learned and sought comfort.  We may be transitioning to our public school next year, so I wanted to do some special things to help us remember these first formidable years.

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Kindergarten is such a special time.  For many, it’s the first formal year of school.  For others, it’s a new beginning in a brand new place.  For us, it was another year at the same school, where Biggie attended transitional Kindergarten.  Nevertheless, graduating Kindergarten is a big deal for the littlest guys.  It’s a time when kids begin to learn how to read, spell and write.  At 5 and 6 years old, these guys often say the funniest things.  So, when I saw a friend on Face Book post this cool gift from one of her students, I thought I’d recreate it for my own use.  




 I compiled several easy questions for my Kindergartener to answer and complete himself.  This Last Day of School Kindergarten Survey is a great way for teachers to not only remember kids, but also a special way for them to see how far they’ve come!  It’s an easy add-on gift for kids to give teachers, especially if your class does a group gift.  Some people frame it, I just printed it out on card stock and used wash tape to attach a picture.  



 As mentioned, I didn’t create the questions myself, I just edited them for my own use AND designed this fun printable.  The survey can be easily edited for any grade. In Pic Monkey, just create an overlay on the grade and rewrite the text.  Anyway, since I had so much fun creating this Kindergarten Survey, I thought I’d share the it.  

To download the 8×11.5 PDF, just go here.  This is free to use for personal use.  If you use it and take a pic, send me a shout and tag me on Instagram.

Hosting a #DisneySide Playdate

After such a brutal winter cooped up indoors, not only for the crazy weather, but also because of the kid’s ongoing medical issues, we were more than happy to host our friends over for a #DisneySide playdate.  

Thanks to the generous party pack provided by Disney, we were decked out with supplies to entertain and enjoy.  It doesn’t take much for me to get excited about parties, but when it involves Mickey-shaped food, I’m all in.  From Mickey chicken to Mickey-shaped fruit, we were totally in magic mode.

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Since we had an after school soiree, the boys played Disney Infinity while the girls did Disney-inspired crafts.  

Untitled Because we’re all about Frozen, we did a fun Olaf project.   After we cut up the Olaf printable, we connected him at the joints with brads and then sang all about summerrrr!


Thanks to Hanes, we broke out the fabric markers and decorated our own t-shirts.  Everyone’s shirts were beautiful, but Jack’s Spidey-themed tee was one of the faves. Even our littlest guy designed his very own tee!

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From primary colored decor to the awesome HP photo paper to print our favorite photos, our playdate was Disney-fied through and through.  And after so many not-so-easy days this winter, a little magic is just what the doctor ordered.



For more ideas on how to post your own DisneySide party, check out, DisneySide and DisneySide Celebrations. Thank you to Disney and MomSelect for including us in the #DisneySide Party initiative.  Samples were provided, but all opinions on NKT are my own.

Toy Fair 2014 Day 2: Moose Toys, VTech, BToys, Hasbro, Skylanders and More



Even though Toy Fair is winding down on day 4 now, I thought I’d share some thoughts from a few days ago.


By the middle of day 2 of Toy Fair, I was thinking about how many new toys I had just previewed.  Nonetheless, it was a good variety of new toys, some good, others not so much.


I started the day by meeting with Pillow Pets, the makers of the plush pets/pillows.  The brand has a variety of new characters joining their already robust lineup.  They’re also introducing an inspirational line with faith-inspired sayings and designs featured.  The highlight of their new offerings, however, are Tricksters, a line of bike helmets with the plush characters on top of the helmet. Stuffed animals meet function and safety.

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I checked out Moose Toys’ latest wares, which included the latest series of Trashies and Ugglys.  Moose Toys, known for their gross factor and great girly crafts, are set to release lifelike electronic pets.  The Little Live Pets look and feel real, without all the fuss. 


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The butterfly pets have a cool fluttering feature that seems so tranquil and the birds look so exotic and cool.  

My personal favorite from Moose’s new line up are Shopkins, which is being dubbed as Trashies for girls.  Untitled

These tiny collectibles are shaped as food items that you’d find at a grocery store.  Emblazoned with cutesy faces with lots of pink throughout the line, this new line of toys from Moose will be a hit with girls looking for that next big collectible.



B. Toys, one of my absolute favorite toy lines has some great beach toys coming out this year.  Ranging in size, the beach toys are grouped into sets featuring gender-neutral pieces. 



Perhaps one of the most eye-catching elements of this line is the jewel-toned color scheme.  I’m always a fan of the musical instruments from B. Toys, and that makes no exception for the beautiful carousel bells.




In my travels, I found several new toys including baby toys constructed from plant materials and silicone and other cool baby accessories.  I discovered Sand Alive, which is one of my favorite play materials, something I think would be ideal for OT and Early Intervention.  I found this sand product in other booths, sometimes referred to as Kinetic Sand. In particular, I’ll definitely be checking out where I can get these for my guy now. 


Surprisingly, I haven’t found too many Rainbow Loom accessories.  Rainbow Loom, who isn’t at the show, but won four Toy of the Year awards.  I did find, however, Loomey Time, which is a company that creates time pieces that are compatible with Rainbow Loom bracelets



VTech was my next appointment of the day.  At this electronic toy maker’s meeting room, I had a chance to preview the highlights in their line’s new toys.  The Switch and Go Dinos have a new starting point and also a a cool RC car joining this popular lineup.



I checked out Playmobil who had a cool offering up new toys.  Their warrior line is the main focus, with dragons and fairies as awesome focal points, too.

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Skylanders showcased a few new characters being released for Swap Force. My favorite?  Springtime Trigger happy which will be available in the next few months.

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Hasbro was the highlight of my day because it meant that I got to see Transformers, Super Heroes, Sesame Street, Ponies and much more.  There was so much to see and check out in their showroom, but a few of my favorite highlights were definitely Dohvinci, a new take on Play-Doh, but much more malleable and can be released in a hot glue gun-like device.  The Star Wars toys, too, look to be incredible, as well as the Marvel Mashers which are my absolute favorite thing right now.  Elmo has a new toy, which touts his imagination and use of hats.  My Little Pony has a quite a few new offering such as a DIY pony line and rockstar Equestria Girls.



There was so much fun to see and check out, I’ll be sure to share more soon.



Trick or Treating with Moose Toys Trash Pack and Glitzi Globes

Halloween has always been one of my most favorite times of year. The crisp, cool air, costumes, monsters—oh, and the treats!

With two younger guys, we love getting all into the Halloween fun. I’ve made the boys’ costumes the past two years, and even threw something together for myself too! We went as a Star Wars-themed group with Biggie as Luke Skywalker as an X-Wing Fighter Pilot, the babe as Wicket the Ewok and me as Leia. We had a blast with it, and I’ll always have the boys’ smiles and laughter from the Halloween festivities etched in my mind. Having missed out on two Halloweens in a row, this year made it that much more special.

And speaking of special, one of the Halloween events we enjoyed this year was our community’s trunk or treat. Trunk or treat was a fun way to connect with our lake friends while watching our costumed kids parade around the parking lot. And once again, we teamed up with Moose Toys to hand out some fabulous non-candy treats. As superfans of Trash Pack and a new adoration for Glitzi Globes, I’m not sure who was more excited about our treats.

In fact, as our box of treats arrived, I immediately posted a Vine of the uber cool Glitzi Globes. I’ve been collecting snowglobes for as long as I can remember, so the concept of being able to create tiny collectible globes almost blew my mind.

It turned out, the Glitzi Globe samples that we handed out at Trunk or Treat were quite the hit. Several friends came by not two or three times, but as many as five! I don’t blame them!

The tiny glittery globes that are put together with a few drops of water transform into cutesy collectibles. Glitzi Globes make a fun activity and if you’re like me, they make for a fun new obsession. Like the big kid I am, I have my eye on the Mega Dome Showcase. I just need a girl of my own to help me out with toys like these! Or, I can just get them for myself, ahem.

Trash Pack are definitely a mainstay as well, so it was equally awesome to hand out sample packs of those too. Both boys and girls had a fun time comparing characters. And best of all, after all the parties and candies and trick or treating the kids did this year to make up for last year, it was great knowing that we handed out non-candy treats that we know and love instead of adding to that sugar rush.

A big thanks to our friends at Moose Toys for helping us spread the fun for a very special Halloween.

Full disclosure:  we were provided with samples, but were not compensated for this post.  As always, all opinions on NKT are my own.

Welcoming the Season with Spring-inspired Crafts

Spring is well underway, and it’s finally starting to get warmer here in NJ. I just noticed my tulips and peonies are starting to emerge. It’s been a long, cold winter, so we’re all excited to see the landscape and outdoor color scheme transition from gray to lush, green and bold.

With that in mind, my boy and I have been crafting every chance we get during Spring Break. When we weren’t out playing or visiting family, we’ve been busy cutting, ModPodging and thinking of spring-inspired crafts. So, I thought I’d share a few that we found and enjoyed, much thanks to Pinterest.

First of all, a few weeks ago I scored a crafter’s delight at our local TJ Maxx. I scooped up a few containers of Mod Podge, a variety of baker’s twine and a cool date stamper—all for under $20. Not bad, considering a large container of Mod Podge can run you close to $10. I’ve had my large container of Mod Podge for 5 years, and I craft with the kid a lot! So, be on the look out at TJ Maxx and HomeGoods for crafting supplies.

Biggie has been inspired by the timely activities they do at school. So, to build on this conversation at home, I let him go to town with construction paper, crayons and scissors. From that, he created these imaginative spring objects. I especially love the bee and tree—they’re crazy-looking, but so fun.

The tree he created, we actually spotted on Pinterest. The craft originally found on

CrazyMommy’s site was intended to be a flower with hand cutouts as the petals. J made it a tree and made his handprints into the leaves. It originally had 4 handprints, but it looks like we lost one along the way. I love the way he decorated the trunk; I had a hand with the heart :)

This morning, we did a spring-colored decoupaged jar this morning, which I’ll share the results later.

And here’s our current work in progress:

As this guy dries, we’re off to enjoy this amazing day at the zoo!

Aquadoodle Draw ‘n Doodle is Educational, Mess-Free Fun

Like most preschool-aged kids, my guy has been practicing his letters and numbers.  There’s so many great toys and tools that promote reading and writing-readiness, and Aquadoodle‘s mess-free mat is one that’s become a mainstay in our lesson enrichment stash.


This toy has been around for a few years, but it just recently found its way into our inbox.  There’s so many reasons to like this educational toy, but I especially  like the fact that it promotes kid-powered creativity and brain power. With just water and the included pen and mat, the Aquadoodle Draw ‘n’ Doodle Mat is both fun and educational, while remaining virtually mess-free. The kid loves the pen; it’s ergonomic shape for littler hands and cool water “ink” were quite the novelty for my 4 year old.  He loved seeing the different colors appear within the various sections of the mat.

Not too many complaints with Aquadoodle, although, I will warn that the pen will leak water if you don’t twist it tightly.  The water filling, too, can become a preschooler “I can do it myself” nightmare, as I’ve learned.  No really, kid, you don’t need a refill after writing one letter!

Here’s a little video where I try to get the kid to draw an “A” on the Aquadoodle.  Ten requests later, he finally complied. Sheesh!

In the $20 range, the pricepoint of the Aquadoodle classic Draw ‘n’ Doodle Mat is very reasonable and a great pick for toddler and preschooler birthday presents.  In addition to the Aquadoodle Draw ‘n’ Doodle Mat, Aquadoodle has several products in their line, such as the Travel Doodle, Plush Doodle Pet and the Doodle Wall Mat.

You can find Aquadoodle products as retailers such as Target, Toys R Us and Amazon.

Full disclosure:  I was provided with product samples for purposes of this review.  As always, all opinions on NKT are my own.

Crafts Go Green: Eco-friendly Art Supplies for Kids

Crafts are a fun family activity, and one that we love doing outside on our deck.  When we’re painting and doing messy crafts outside, the little artist’s canvas seems limitless, and thankfully, cleanup time is much easier—or so it seems.

Many of my favorite eco-friendly crafts are of the DIY variety.  The kid and I are fans of repurposing old household items and painting scraps of wood from our ongoing remodel.  Even better than recycling the medium is making your own tools.  Aside from DIY crafts, there’s a myriad of eco-friendly and kid-friendly art supplies that make craft time safe and colorful.

Here are just a few of my faves:

Glob Arts and Crafts Paints

Glob Art & Crafts Paints are botanically-based paints that also have fruity scents. These paints are colored naturally with pigments from fruits, vegetables, flowers and spices with natural food-grade ingredients. I love the Glob paints that come in packets; all you do is add water when you’re ready. Whether you and the kids are more watercolor painters or gauche painters, you add water and can determine the desired consistency. Glob also comes in Easy Shake jars, paint sets and other kits.

The color palette that’s offered is pretty basic, but after mixing and matching the paints, the spectrum of colors is seemingly endless. Glob can be used for paints, as well as for coloring DIY play dough, coloring eggs and more.


P’kolino, the makers of gorgeous modern children’s furniture and toys, also have a great line of art supplies.  Through a collaboration with Jovi, P’kolino offers kid-friendly, non-toxic art supplies that includes, Triangle crayons, fingerpaints, markers, colored pencils, dough, creative dough and poster paints.  P’kolino recently introduced their new line of art supplies which are inspired by famed Pop Artist, Romero Britto.  And a coloring book inspired by Romeo Britto?  Yes, please.  The sustainability, bold colors, combined with the modern influence of P’kolino’s products make these art supplies ones to check out.

Stubby Pencil Art Studio

Stubby Pencil Art Studio is the mecca for eco-friendly art and school supplies. This online shop has a plethora of kid crafts and a great selection of supplies that are non-toxic, recycled, fair trade, educational, sustainable or environmentally responsible. I love perusing all of the different crafts and unique supplies, many of which you’d be hard pressed to find at your local big box craft store. Of all the green crafting goodness, however, I’d have to say my personal favorites are the cupcake crayons (!) and the colored Smencils. Ideal for birthday party gifts, the colorful, hand-poured cupcake crayons come in a 4-pack and are made of soy. The Smencils are made from 100% recycled newspaper, sharpen just like wood pencils, and have delicious scents like watermelon, bubble gum and cotton candy!