Beaches, Cousins and a Handmade Gift

We just got back from a week away on vacation. (my first “real” vacation since the summer before 8th grade!)  It was a fantastic week, and as my husband said “And now for a sentence you never thought you’d hear: Thanks for a great week, New Jersey”

Yes, we see the irony, that we went FROM the Ocean State to the beach in New Jersey. What is even more ironic, is that my husband flew back, literally the night before our trip from a business trip to Florida. He left one of biggest destinations for beach vacations to go to New Jersey.  In defense of our vacation, we didn’t go to stereotypical “New Jersey”. There was no Snookie, JWoww, Bruce Spingsteen, or Asbury Park. Where we went is a little sliver of paradise in the Garden State.  The beauty of LBI is that there are no boardwalks, so you don’t get that rowdy crowd you can get at other beach locations. It is quiet, clean, and there is such a sense of pride and community.

A short back story as to how we ended up where we did, which was Long Beach Island. (which, for the record, I don’t even count Long Beach Island as New Jersey – it’s more like Nantucket, or Martha’s Vineyard in my mind. Like it’s own separate entity). When I was a kid, my family went to Long Beach Island pretty regularly. My dad had gone there as a child as well, he even taught water skiing one summer (I would pay to see that now!)

One of my Aunts moved there in her early twenties, and lived just off of the island, on the mainland, and every summer, I was sent to spend weeks with her, and my cousin. Every family get together was there, and every time I had the chance to get to the island, I would. Buses down from Brooklyn, drives from Philly when I was visiting my parents, you could not keep me from the Island. I knew it by smell and sound. It was my dream for my kids to be able to visit and love the island like I did, and do.


Now, my Aunt that lived on the Mainland has moved to Virginia, but my other Aunt owns a home on the island and spends late spring to early fall there. Last year, we did a much overdue family reunion (and isn’t it a shocker when you do a reunion after a long time, and realize how much your family has grown with kids and spouses?) We used to be a little compact family of 17, but last year, we swelled to 31, I think? Crazy!

But the best thing that came from that family reunion was a reignited friendship between my cousin and I. He is a couple of years older then I am, but now that we are older and we both have kids around the same age, that age gap has shrunk considerably. It also doesn’t hurt that his wife and I have become friends (and along with my Aunt who lives on the Island spearheaded the reunion). But that visit planted the seed for us to vacation on the island together the following summer. And make good on it, we sure did. We laughed ourselves into the wee hours of the night – making mornings with young kids painful, but worth it.

But in preparation of going for the week, I thought it would be nice for Sophia to make her cousin a little gift. I had a bunch of wood squares, probably 2″ x 2″, and I thought a puzzle would be perfect.

What we did was we dyed one side of the wood with food coloring (I made everything non toxic due to one year old they also have in the house) I had Sophia draw a picture the same size as the 20 squares, and then we transferred the image, and she colored it in, and then we just dyed the background with a yellow food coloring. It turned out so cute! It was super easy, and at the end after it had dried, I just sprayed it with a water seal for wood so the marker and food coloring wouldn’t bleed if they got wet.

Take a look at what we did:

When we finished it, we put all of the pieces into a wooden box we got at Michaels that we  painted gray and put a pretty decorative paper on the top with Modge Podge.I think my only suggestion if you are going to attempt this project, is to do a much larger image then we did, it will make the coloring easier, and faster – plus the puzzle will be easier to put together, especially for younger children. Also, make sure to take a picture of the puzzle put together (it helps considerably!)But overall, it was a super fun, easy and fast handmade gift to give to someone.

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