Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Awesome Painted Pumpkin Ideas from Around the Web

Get those paintbrushes ready!  It's pumpkin decorating season!  I searched the web for some of the coolest painted pumpkins I could find, and here's what I came up with.  I tried to give credit where it's due and link back when possible, so please know that these creations are not my own.  They certainly inspired me, so maybe they'll inspire you, too.  Happy painting!

Minion Pumpkins!!


The minions themselves would be proud of these perfect replicas created by CraftBerryBush.  If you visit her site, you'll see that she even included a fabulous tutorial on how you can make these yourself.

Minion Pumpkins from CraftBerryBush

Cookie Monster Pumpkin


This guy was found on the TruedeKids web page.  Apparently, he was made by their Aunt Jill, but there was no other info about him.  He sure seems easy enough!

Cookie Monster pumpkin from TreudeKids

Mummy Pumpkin


Okay, so maybe this guy's not painted, but what a clever idea!  The folks at BetterHomesandGardens created this fella.  It might even keep the squirrels from eating the pumpkin, don't you think?  Or am I the only one who has that problem?  Dang squirrels!

Mummy pumpkin from BHG.com

The Jack o' Totem


Layla Palmer from TheLetteredCottage created this adorable "totem pole" for HGTVBlog.  There is a great tutorial for making your own on the HGTV page.


Jack o' Totem from HGTV blog


Candy Corn Pumpkins

Those folks at BetterHomeandGardens sure know their stuff.  Here's another cool painting idea, which seems pretty simple, especially if you use spray paint.  Candy corn pumpkins!


Candy corn pumpkins from BHG.com

Angry Birds


There are a lot of examples of Angry Birds painted pumpkins on the web, but these beauties by MycksArtStudio were my favorite.  Not only Angry Birds, but Star Wars Angry Birds (The Jersey Momma Boy's favorite!)


Angry Birds Star Wars pumpkins from MycksArtStudio


Grumpy Cat Pumpkin


This one is my favorite.  I just love his face!  How can you not love Grumpy Cat?  Made by the artists over at SwellDesigner, there is a tutorial to help you make your own (aren't the people on the internet nice??)


Grumpy Cat pumpkin from SwellDesigner

R2D2 Pumpkin


I wish I knew who the actual artist of this fabulous Star Wars R2D2 pumpkin was.  He's from the TropicalTexana site, and he was part of a pumpkin painting display at a school.  All of the pumpkins on this page are amazingly adorable, and were made by children and families.  They are part of a "Storybook Pumpkin Patch" and are made to look like the characters from favorite books.  I think these are the most talented, creative families ever!  


R2D2 pumpkin, TropicalTexana


Hello Kitty Pumpkin


Anyone who knows me knows I love, love, love Hello Kitty.  So to find this painted version of Kitty herself was a real treat.  Ain't she pretty?  And once again, there is a basic tutorial on the DIYInspired site to help you create your own.


Hello Kitty pumpkin from DIYInspired

Now get out there and paint your own!  






Monday, September 29, 2014

A Review of Space Farms Zoo & Museum in Sussex, NJ

Space Farms Zoo and Museum in Sussex holds many memories for me.  I recall going there on a field trip as a child, and seeing the great bear Goliath with my own little eyes (I even bought a stuffed animal of him in the souvenir shop).  Back then you could feed the animals, and you were permitted to slide crackers to them down a little metal chute (you can still feed animals today but only in designated areas with special food!).

Goliath was alive when I first saw him as a child.  Here he is now!

Fast forward 30 years or so and I can tell you about visiting Space Farms with the Jersey Momma's Boy and my nephew, Joey.  Joey was two at the time, and our son was 3, I think.  It was the last happy trip we would take with Joey.  The last place we would see the boys, two sweet cousins, playing together.  Because a few months later, cancer would come and take Joey away from us.  Yes, cancer.  Brain cancer.  He passed away shortly before his fourth birthday.  He was my nephew.  My adorable, mischievous, silly, funny nephew and I loved him with all of my heart.  So I dedicate this blog entry to him, and I hope it helps everyone realize how important these little day trips are, and how much they can really mean in the grand scheme of things.

Joey
Joey at Space Farms

What is Space Farms Zoo and Museum?

I was always fascinated by the name of this place.  It sounds kind of like an interstellar animal haven or something, but really it's named after its owners, the Space Family.  It has a rich history that you can read about here.  They house over 500 animals and 100 different species.  There is a museum on site where you can see antique cars, farm equipment, artifacts and more.  So much to see!  There are free roaming ducks and chickens and even a playground.  They are open April through October.  It's been around for 85 years, and according to their website, they are the oldest New Jersey attraction still owned and operated by the original family.  Now that's impressive!!  You go, Space family!




Where is Space Farms Located?

Space Farms is located on Rt 519 in Sussex, NJ.  It's "out there" in true Jersey farmland!  But it's a nice ride, very scenic and you will spend enough time there to make the drive worthwhile.

How Much Will it Cost Me?

Always check their website for accurate pricing info, but as of the publication date of this blog entry, tickets for adults are $15.00, children 3-12 are $10.50.  Seniors 65 and up are $14.00.  Parking is free.  Yay for that, Space Farms!!

What Will I See There?

There is honestly so much to see, I don't know where to start.  Space Farms is composed of dirt paths and large stretches of land where you can walk and see a variety of different animals fairly close up.  There are bears, tigers, deer, prairie dogs, birds, snakes, pigs, deer, jaguar, just to name a few.  Check out some of these photos to see what I mean:


The boys and the bear!
Well hello there!

He was smelly, but oh so cool to look at!

There is also a fun playground, which is a nice break from the walking and animal viewing.

Relaxing at the playground.

Okay, here's where you'll laugh, but I don't have a single photo of the museum and antique cars.  Why, you ask?  Because my nephew and the Jersey Momma's Boy had so much fun in this section that they were literally disappearing around every corner to see all the cool things.  I had to move fast to keep up with them, I tell you!  Anyway, there are buildings filled with old cars, farm equipment, rocks and minerals, Native American artifacts and so much more.  The cars were really cool and most of them have little stories about where they came from.

Where Can We Eat at Space Farms?

Space Farms opened a brand new pizzeria on site last year called Extreme Pizza.  They are open even when the zoo is closed.  However,  it wasn't there when we visited, so I can't attest to the quality.  If you've been to Extreme Pizza and want to add a comment about it below, feel free!  I can, however, whole heartedly recommend The Chatterbox Drive-In, which is not far down the road in Augusta.  It's an AWESOME 1950's style eatery that is so much fun to visit.  They have great food and a fun atmosphere, with real cars inside.  

Inside the Chatterbox!

Things To Note

Space Farms is over 85 years old.  It is family owned and operated.  It is old (I just said that, right?).  There is history here.  So you can't go in there expecting a brand new, shiny facility.  If you were there 30 years ago like me, you'll find it largely unchanged.  Take, for example, their 'stroller' rental:

Are they serious about these?  Or are they here for history's sake?  Hmmm.
And when I was there, we found one bear still in an old-school cage.  




I felt sorry for this big guy.  I don't believe in caging wild animals or making them perform for guests.  If they are in a zoo for educational or rehabilitation purposes, then they should be in a natural setting behind secure fences.  

You'll find mixed reviews online about Space Farms, and most people who complain are complaining about how the animals are kept (like the bear above).  Some complained about the taxidermy in the main entrance hall (but I can understand the taxidermy, as some of the Space animals had been in this zoo for decades and they were part of the zoo's history.  I can understand the Space family wanting to preserve their memories).

Space Farms has some of the longest living wild animals in captivity, so they must be doing something right.  I would hope the state would not let an institution like this abuse its animals for 85 years.  I am not an animal expert or a zoologist,  but I would think that if the state knew something was wrong, they would have shut this place down years ago.  At least I hope they would have.

So if you plan on visiting, know that you are going to an 'old-school' zoo.  That means you will find animals in cages or areas with cement flooring.  If this is something that offends you, you might want to reconsider your trip.

Mr. Jersey Momma with our nephew and our boy.

Jersey Momma Tips:


*There's a lot of walking involved, so wear comfy shoes.

*Bring your own stroller or even a wagon (we had one of those Little Tikes wagons for the boys at the time.  It was very helpful!)

*You used to be able to picnic here but I couldn't find anything to attest to that on their website, so call ahead to be sure if you want to bring your own food.

*Bring hand-sanitizer, just in case you wind up feeding some of the animals!




Sunday, September 28, 2014

5 Alternatives to Pumpkin and Apple Picking This Fall

I hate to admit it, but I am not a fan of apple picking in the Fall.  Well, that's not exactly true.  I am not a fan of apple and pumpkin picking during the weekend in the Fall.  Why, you ask?  Because everyone and their mother is in those apple orchards on a sunny day in the Fall!  And I know some people don't mind the crowds, but I can't take it.  I'd rather hit the local orchard after school with the Jersey Momma's boy if I can (that does exclude Mr. Jersey Momma, but he's okay with that).  Or I'd rather find an alternative.  So here are some ideas for fun things to do besides apple and pumpkin picking this Fall.

1.  Visit a Reservoir:  Almost all of them are free off-season.  Most of them are dog-friendly.  You can picnic, hike, go on a leaf walk (follow-up with some easy leaf pressing!), bike ride and even play in the sand at some of them.  My favorites?

Spruce Run Reservoir in Clinton.  There are trails, beaches, paths, playgrounds, and water.  What more can you ask for?  And it's free.

a warm Fall day at Spruce Run

A cool Fall day at Spruce Run

Merrill Creek in Washington, NJ.  There are paths to hike/walk on here, water to skip stones in, and a fun little nature building with interactive exhibits.  Free, free, free!


Inside the nature center at Merrill Creek


Playing by the water, Merrill Creek 
Skipping stones at Merrill Creek (late summer)

Round Valley Reservoir in Lebanon.  Bring the beach toys and a sand chair!  Ride your bike, play on the playgrounds- it's a great place to spend the afternoon and the trees are amazing in the Fall, so bring your camera!  Also, FREE!

Round Valley in Spring - during the Fall, the trees look amazing!!

2.  Go Down the Shore!  Many people forget that the shore is still a fun place once the summer has ended!  Especially on a warm, sunny day.  Check out Island Beach State Park or stroll on the boardwalk at Point Pleasant.  If you're lucky, the sun will be warm and you can still have an amazing time on the beach.

An early Fall day at the beach means less crowds!

3.  Visit The Raptor Trust:  Outdoors and totally free (all they ask for is a donation), you can walk the gravel paths and look at their beautiful birds of prey.  Check out my past blog entry about the Raptor Trust to learn more about it.  If you have time remaining, you can even swing by the Great Swamp for a nature hike.

Bald eagles at The Raptor Trust

4.  Check out the Last Fling Pumpkin Sling:  This year's event is held at the Pocono Raceway (it had previously been in Warren County, NJ), but it's always fun to watch giant, man-made machines chucking pumpkins across a big field!!  Read my past blog entry to find out more about it.

Pumpkin slinging machines!

5.  Play Miniature Golf: Laugh if you must, but this is one of the most fun Fall activities you can plan on a weekend.  Stress-free, inexpensive and fun, there are so many to choose from around the Garden State!  My favorites?

Tee-rific Golf Center in Branchburg...


Tee-rific Golf Center, Branchburg (in summer)

Al Bohem's Golf Center in Lebanon (small, but sweet, and has great italian ice!)...


Al Bohem's (in the summer)

Jimmy's Ice Cream & Holey Moley Golf Course in Milford....


Holey Moley Golf (Jimmy's)

Although they can get crowded, too, there are other fun, outdoor places to visit throughout the state (and close by) in the Fall.  The always adorable Turtle Back Zoo even has Halloween activities in October.  The Lehigh Valley Zoo (in PA) is also cute and affordable.  If you're willing to spend some extra money, try out Boo Blast at Planet Snoopy (part of Dorney Park in Pennsylvania) or The Count's Spooktacular at Sesame Place in Langhorne, PA.

Do you have other ideas for fun things to do in the Fall?  Share them in the comments below!


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Top Ten Coolest Halloween Cupcakes That You Can Make Yourself

This year I am the Homeroom Parent for the Jersey Momma's Boy's class (I was the only one who volunteered, go figure!).  Anyway, that means Halloween parties are quickly approaching, so I've already started looking for cute treats to serve in the classroom.  Fortunately, the kids can still enjoy a sweet treat if we offer some healthy treats, too.

So I put on my Pinterest hiking gear (Hey! Are you on Pinterest?  Me, too!  Find me and all of my anal-retentively organized boards here) and started climbing through mountains of cool ideas.  I managed to find some of the cutest Halloween cupcakes I have ever seen in my life (and believe me, I've been to a lot of bakeries. A LOT of bakeries).

In all fairness, I know there are some incredible cupcake works of art out there (just check out THIS adorable pair) but my list is really about cupcakes you can easily make yourself.  At home.  In your own lil' kitchen.  And I tried to give credit where credit is due, but if anyone has any issues with me printing their links or photos, please don't hesitate to let me know!  Drum roll, please....

The Top Ten Coolest Halloween Cupcakes You Can Make Yourself 

1.  Frankenstein Cupcakes from YourCupofCake.  Cute little Franks, no?  She gives you such a great tutorial on how to make them, too.  Ya gotta love that.

Photo from YourCupofCake.com


2. Pumpkin Cupcake Cake from KraftRecipes.  It's not as difficult as it looks, and it's such a neat idea to think you can pull it apart!

photo from KraftRecipes.com 

3. Ghost Cupcake Cones from ConfessionsOfACookbookQueen.  I love that these are so easy to pick up and eat.  Is it a cupcake?  Is it a cone?  It's whatever you want it to be!  However, if I'm making these for kids, I just might not use as much frosting, 'cause that would be a BIG mess for the lil' ones, you know.

photo from Confessions of a Cookbook Queen

4. Monster Cupcakes from MyCakeSchool.  Okay, so these are really, really cute, and maybe you're thinking, "I can't do THAT!" but sure you can!  They might not look exactly like these, but if you follow her steps, chances are they'll be pretty darned close.


photo from MyCakeSchool.com

5. Easy Pumpkin Cupcakes from MyCakeSchool.  I like you, My Cake School!  You give fabulous tutorials.  And your page isn't flooded with ads so it doesn't take an eon to load.  What more can a momma ask for?

photo from mycakeschool.com

I made these for the Jersey Momma's Boy's class last year.  They looked like this:

photo from me, thejerseymomma.blogspot.com

6. Candy Corn Cupcakes from TheCurvyCarrot.  I know there are recipes out there where you can actually dye the batter the color of candy corn (see my tutorial on dying cupcakes here), but this seemed a lot easier to me, and just as cute.

photo from The Curvy Carrot


7. Spider Cupcakes from AllYou.  I liked these spider cupcakes because they were different from all of the others that I saw, which mostly entailed using black licorice for legs.  I liked that you could just stick candies on these for a cuter effect.


photo from AllYou

8. Scarecrow Cupcakes from BetterHomesAndGardens.  I don't know if kids will really eat the cones, but it sure looks cute!


photo from BHG.com

9. Owl Cupcakes from CatchingFireflies.  I think these were originally from the Hello Cupcake series of books by Karen Tack and they are SO easy to make, just maybe a little time consuming.  Catching Fireflies has a great tutorial on them.

photo from CatchingFireflies


10. Halloween Polka Dot Cupcakes from BetterHomeAndGardens.  Pretty basic, and look even cooler if you make them in varying sizes!

photo from BHG.com

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Creative Things to Do with Colored Chalk

I am forever indebted to Crayola for making sidewalk chalk.  The Jersey Momma's boy took a liking to it when he was just a wee lad- maybe two?  Possibly even younger?  And our driveway became the biggest canvas he could ever get his hands on.  Better yet, he expanded beyond the driveway.  We've found sooooo many creative uses for chalk over the years, so we thought we'd share some with you.  He often came inside looking like this, too, by the way:


And we had quite a chalk collection to make our creations.  It wasn't hard to gather so much, since it's not too expensive.  You can buy it really cheap on clearance at the end of the summer!


The Jersey Momma's Boy started simple enough- he liked color and lines, and drawing both around you if you happened to be sitting down:


He eventually expanded to the whole driveway:


He liked using Crayola's chalk tools, too, like the brushes.  He made his own blurred lines.  Robin Thicke would be proud:


Sometimes the lines would go down the driveway, too:


And then there were pipes, filled with chalk 'water:'


Our sweet Milo liked to sit with us when he was still alive.  His white fur would turn rainbow colored if he happened to sit on a creation:

   

Then the chalk drawings got larger.  And I mean really large. Like this life-size rainbow:


Or all nine planets across our whole driveway:


Sometimes we copied what we saw in our every day life.  This was our Halloween decor:


Our friend Cher suggested we try chalk drawing on a wet surface.  So we tried it in the rain:


And hosing down our driveway canvas when it was sunny outside:


Sometimes we used our chalk for games or projects.  We traced all of the cracks in the driveway to make what we called, 'jewels:'


And then we played a target game with the buds that fell from the trees.  It was really fun because the buds smashed like mushy tomatoes when we threw them:


Now this was painstaking on my end, but well worth the effort- I often made chalk roads or chalk towns for the Jersey Momma's Boy to ride through on his bike.  Some of them were pretty elaborate, with shops, gas stations, houses and parks:


Sometimes we used more Crayola tools.  Like their stencils:


Or their rainbow rake:


We tried a Mandala stencil from Alex Toys:


And once we even made our own sidewalk chalk.  Stay tuned for the recipe!


And at times we moved way beyond the driveway and the sidewalk.  Like the trees:



And the leaves on the deck (this was all the Jersey Momma's Boy's idea):


And then I got a little silly and decided to make some familiar faces on our log pile.  I spy Angry Birds!


The rest are my creations.  I liked sitting on the driveway myself, on our favorite little quilt, drawing away.  Here's a silly rainbow:
:

And a "thank you" that the Jersey Momma's Boy posed next to for a picture.  We used the photo to make cards at Shutterfly.  They were a big hit after his birthday party, when we sent them to guests.




Let's not forget St. Patrick's Day...


Or Autumn...


Or Thanksgiving...


Or my favorite Chalk Garden...


So you see, you can do a lot of things with chalk, in any season.  You just have to think outside the box!  

Oh, and by the way, if you like any of the chalk products I mentioned in this blog, I set up a widget on the side of the main page with links to where you can by them on Amazon.