Toy Story 4: See You [Space] Cowboy

As I mentioned in an earlier post, our family designated July 2018-2019 as “The Year of Disney” by buying annual passes for my daughter’s 4th birthday instead of putting that money towards a one time, birthday party. With July now here, the countdown has begun, and we are making an effort to squeeze in as many trips to Disney to experience all the magic before the clock strikes midnight (our passes expire July 13th ). Our most recent trip was a focus on Disney’s Hollywood Studies and the new Toy Story Land.

Quite appropriately, we saw Toy Story 4, the final installment to the Toy Story series, prior to our trip which made it all the more special. I don’t want to give any spoilers for the movie, but I will say it was my favorite of the 4 part series. I don’t know if it is because I have grown up with the characters and seeing the final movie was like a sweet farewell to part of my childhood, or maybe because Toy Story 4 focused on some very meaningful themes (rejection, acceptance, and healing) that I myself could relate to from my own experiences (there you go again Disney making me feel things!!). I can say that I was thrilled at the thought that my Toy Story adventure started at the age of 8 (I even had all the toys!) and I now get to share the magic of Toy Story with my daughter.

Toy Story Land is a colorful submersion into the world of toys with life-sized versions of common childhood necessities  (crayons, Uno cards, dominoes, etc.) all around. You will spot the stars of Toy Story where you can hear them chatting if you stick around to listen. Of course, the stars will come out to play and put on performances like the Army Men drum procession that entertains as you wait for your next ride. The main attractions are Alien Swirling Saucers  (a new take on the Magic Kingdom Tea Cup ride), Toy Story Mania (a new and improved take on the Magic Kingdom Buzz Light Year Space Ranger Spin), and Slinky Dog Dash (Kids must be 38” tall and we made the cut!) which we loved. It is fun, it is entertaining, and it’s got a bit of a wait time for rides (“Thank you!” to whoever decided to add umbrellas along the path of Toy Story Land. That Florida heat is no joke!), but check it out!

Tell me what you thought of Toy Story 4, Toy Story Land, or what was your favorite Toy Story movie?
#Disney #Toystory #Momblog

Hoggetowne Medieval Festival

Every year, the Gainesville fair grounds steps back in time to become Hoggetowne     , a medieval world full of fantastical characters and mythical creatures. I first started going about 10 years ago and I have been returning nearly every year, dragging along friends and family members ever since. Now we look forward to it all year, and here are my favorite parts of the Hoggetowne medieval festival to check out.


Get out your royal robes, cloaks, and elf ears! Some visitors to the medieval faire look like they walked of the set of Game of Thrones and it’s so exciting to see the lengths people go to to get into character. Of course, it’s absolutely acceptable to wear whatever is comfortable, but why pass up on an opportunity to be fancy? For my first visit, I threw together a gypsy-like costume. Now, every year, I try to make something different!


If you’re looking to purchase a costume, Hoggetowne is a great place to start building up a fantastic wardrobe. Vendors offer some amazing quality items such as unique props, leather works, and weapons are available. I like to see what each of my friends are drawn to. The guys now have kilts, another has a penchant for buying swords, and I took home a monstrous eye patch to add to our collections. Some day, I swear I’ll take home a pewter goblet I’ve been eyeing them every year and someday I’ll have one so I can be the real queen of our castle (home).


Eat, drink, and be merry! I like to do so by grabbing a turkey leg and paying a visit to the local pub! Set up at either end of the event are make-shift pubs where locally brewed beer can per purchased and enjoyed with a “stinger” of honey-mead wine that creates a whole new concoction to enjoy. Specialty mugs and even a bottle of mead are also available for sale. And don’t forget, “Huzzah to the tipper!”


Hoggetowne offers a number of activities such as axe throwing, carnival games, and dragon barrel rides. My favorite activity by far is archery.

Anyone can step-up and try their hand with the bow to attack the guards of the enemy castle. With the guidance of an instructor, you too can shoot the guard of the watchtower. If your aim shoots true and you hit the knight in the head, you will receive a commemorative wooden token for your troubles. Each year offers a new token design to add to an archer’s collection.


Any medieval festival wouldn’t be the same without a collection of wild and entertaining performers. Our of our favorites includes the Birds of the Gauntlet, which is a live performance of falconers with their beautiful, trained birds of prey. Mixed in with the show is a great message about animal conservation. Visitors can stop by their tent and meet the stars up close!

Next up is the Davince Brothers. This show is led by the amazing Bob who pulls the audience in to tell a love story that’s full of shenanigans and something about a donkey. You will cry laughing.

Best for last, our caravan of friends always makes it a point to see Barely Balanced. This team of acrobats never fail to amaze with their flexibility, balance, and strength nor their ability to get a packed out audience dying with laughter. A visit to Hoggetowne without them just would not be the same.

Hoggetowne medieval faire has become a tradition! Check it out if you are in the area between the end of January and beginning of February every year. It is a chance to step away from the distractions of the modern world and visit one of history, fantasy, and fun.

#momblog #momlife #igers #florida #fun #familyfun

GAAM Love Night- A Token of My Affection

GAAM Love Night was a time to celebrate love of friends, partners, and –of course- video games! Held at the contemporary Aloft hotel, 400 visitors gathered together to party and play the night away. Every GAAM event is unique but one thing does not change, it ss GAAM’s desire to be original and do good! For this event, I’ll share how GAAM raised money for local LGBTQ group, JASMYN, and how a group of invitational GAAM artists got together to give visitors a token of our love.

GAAM Love Night II

Traditionally, GAAM features artists who create and donate one-of-a-kind creations inspired by video game favorites to go up for auction for charity. GAAM Love Night was no different, but unlike the main GAAM event, the Love Night found a creative way to raise money by auctioning off GAAM Stars for a group date like no other! Promised with a night of fun, winners threw down cash for a good cause. There’s always a few surprises thrown in to every event. For Love Night, winning bidders even got bottles of Carve Vodka to take home!
Photo by Mark Pariani Productions

There’s always some element of art at every GAAM event, and I’m very proud and blessed to say I had the chance to head up the art direction for Love Tokens for this year’s GAAM Love Night! Taken from the early 19th century concept of ‘love tokens’ that were used to share one’s affection with another, I combined this idea with my love for games to create GAAM Love Tokens. These tokens featured characters from Overwatch, Sailor Moon, Zelda, and Final Fantasy for attendees to share with a special someone or take home as a keepsake of a fun night! To make this happen, I had an amazing team of talent to create the art for each token. Artists include: Fluffy Butt Arts, Kami Comics, Hannah the Bird, and even GAAM founder himself.

Love Tokens

To get a special love token, attendees took part in silly challenges like “do your best Fort Night dance” or “recite a haiku, sonnet, or rap to the closest person”. It was a great way to spark some fun throughout the night. If you would like a Love Token, you never know when they may show up again! Limited GAAM swag has a way of rolling over to the next event!

2018 GAAMYs

Some people get excited for the Golden Globes, Emmy Awards, or CMA’s, but nothing gets me more excited than the GAAMYs!


To understand, I would have to first explain a little bit about GAAM which stands for games, art, and music. GAAM is an event local to Jacksonville, Florida that started in 2012 as a way to get people together to enjoy video games while also raising money for charities. Along with music, dancing, costumes, and art, these events are a lot of fun but require a lot of work to pull them off. Back then, the GAAM auditions were looking for models for their promotional material. Being the huge nerd I am, I submitted my mine and my husband’s pictures for fun. Over time, we went from models to attendees and now volunteers for the greatest event Jacksonville, Florida has had in years! The rest is history.
Credit to Mark Pariani Productions

As a ‘Thank You’, the founder of GAAM started “The GAAMys”, asa night to celebrate everyone’s hard work and showcase some stars who make GAAM possible every year. Models, “volunstars”, and stars chosen from the community gathered together, dressed to impress, to praise those in this wacky community for all they do. And what better way to celebrate than with the yummiest pizza (shout out to GLHF), macaroni and cheese, and a visit from The Rock!
Credit to Mark Pariani Productions


Here’s to another successful year and many more!

#gaam #igersjax #jaxfl #jacksonvillefl

Kindness Rocks

Have you heard of Kindness Rocks? Well you may have found a colorful rock in a store or along a walkway and never realized you were blessed with one of these little pieces of art! Some mystery artist left it there to brighten your day. These artists get rocks and decorate them with pictures and sayings before hiding them in public for someone to find.

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Zoe finds a Kindness Rock at a playground

What started as a little art project, has become a family tradition for us. We have spent many evenings painting rocks and hiding them around town. We have even been lucky enough to see some of our rocks discovered to the delight of the lucky finder!

Pictured our some of my favorite rocks I have made. It is easy to make your own, inexpensive to start, and a great way to spread some cheer. Here are a few tips to get started.


1. Picking the right rock
Any rock will do but we prefer, smooth river rocks that are not porous which allows for better paint application. We found a local gardening store that let us pick out any rocks we wanted and sold them by the pound which was cheaper than buying by the bag at a typical home improvement store.

2. Picking your paint
It took some time and experimenting but we’ve found our favorite go-to paints for rocks. We love POSCA as well as Artistro acrylic paint pens which are so convenient and come in vibrant and quick setting colors. The points also allow for fine details or print.

3. Setting the rock
A rock can make for a beautiful blank canvas, but if you want an alternate color, you can save time and get a lovely smooth finish, by spray painting a lot of rocks first. Once dry, paint as usual.

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Spray painted rocks



It is as easy as that! If you need some help, search facebook for a local rock group by county or city. Join in and get rocking!

#kindnessrocks #momlife #momblog #jaxfl

Drink and Draw II- Let’s Get Artsy

Drawing is a creative outlet for me that I usually enjoy in the privacy of my home. Somewhat self-conscious, I never really enjoyed drawing in public, but I thought I’d give the Drink and Draw a try. Hosted by GAAM and local Jacksonville artist, Chappy Lips, it was located at local brewery, Aardwolf Brewery in San Marco area of Jacksonville,  Florida.

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Mark Pariani Productions

GAAM (which stands for Games, Art, and Music) is an organization making strides in the Jacksonville gaming community (I will have to dedicate  post to GAAM in the future) that hosts fun gaming related events throughout the year while raising money for charity. Recently, GAAM, started spot-lighting local, up-and-coming artists to host Drink and Draw where anyone can come, draw, and share a drink among friends.

Chappy Lips , AKA Leslie, wasthe gracious host who set-up a welcoming event and provided her own supplies for guests to explore. Her tools of trade include traditional Japanese inks and brushes that give her often modern influenced art, an old-world charm.

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Mark Pariani Productions

After admiring Leslie’s set-up, I grabbed a beer (a saison) and took a seat in a corner where I set up base. Within an hour, the reserved room was full and bustling with activity. As Leslie’s speakers played hip hop tunes, people could be seen sketching, painting, inking, and having a good time.

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All skill levels were welcome but what about ages? Breweries are changing. I’ve seen more locations that are marketing themselves as family friendly or places to enjoy the community. Despite this, I was not sure what it would be like bringing my four year old daughter.

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As a mom, there are so many variables to factor in when introducing your child to new experiences…How will my child act? Is she sleepy? Will it be loud? Will she feel comfortable around so many people? How will people feel with her around?…To add to these concerns, being  somewhere that resembles a bar crosses into what feels like taboo territory. All concerns aside, we gave it a try and my daughter got to enjoy some art time. She got to  meet and see different artists, sample different art tools, and make her own masterpiece. Drink and Draw was a night of creativity and fun! I look forward to the next event.

Zoe titled her art piece “Rainbow Cave”

Check out Chappy Lips on Facebook and Instagram to check out her art or purchase some of her one-of-kind pins and stickers!

gaam drink_draw 2-103What are your thoughts on children at breweries? I’m interested to hear about your experience!


Photos by Mark Pariani Productions


#momblog #jaxfl #jacksonvilleflorida #momlife

ZOO Lights

As I’ve already mentioned, our family loves the Jacksonville Zoo! When we heard about the ZOO Lights  , we decided we had to go to celebrate the ending of a great year.

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The funny part was that we tried on two separate weekends to go and it was raining! When we finally went, the rain caught us in the middle of the zoo but we still had fun. If anything, the rain, and the reflections made in the puddles created made for some very fun photos.

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Dancing in the rain

You can imagine, with the zoo being closed at night, you might not see many animals but we were able to experience the Stingray Bay which was open to the public (it usually costs an additional fee on regular days) and saw some beautiful flamingos who were still enjoying their lagoon as usual.

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The rest of the park was lit up with beautiful lights in patterns of animals from the entrance all the way to the Asian Bamboo gardens. Along the way, Christmas music played to get you into the holiday spirit.

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Beautiful carousel at night.
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The trees played to music near the giraffe area.
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The Moon Gate entrance to the Asian Bamboo Garden

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There were some surprise visitors as well such as The Grinch who was seen lingering around the Petting Zoo (and handing out green glow sticks!), Disney Princesses were spotted exploring the Range of the Jaguar, and The Jingle Bell Jukebox Revue performing on the lawn among a little Winter Wonderland complete with fires and smores.

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This was the first time in a while that I brought my camera to the zoo, and I was so pleased with the results. It inspired me to play around with photography more into 2019. Here’s to 2019! It’s looking bright!

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And thank you to Community First who sponsors to many wonderful events in our Jacksonville community.