Book Review: Wizard and The Lizard by Katie Reed

I got the chance to read the brand new children’s book series, Wizard and the Lizard by author Katie Reid. Katie is not only creative but supportive of fellow authors (more about that later)!  We read her second book first (Wizard and the Lizard:Wacky Weather) which is actually about the main characters dealing with a literal storm raining on their picnic and as someone born and raised in Florida, I can totally relate with the ups and downs of ever-changing weather!

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This book is a fun adventure with Wizard and his friend Buddy the lizard and their shenanigans as they try to change the weather so they can enjoy their day outside! Now that I’m the mother of a 5-year-old who wants nothing more than to play outside, I frequently experience the frustrations of the rain putting a damper on our outside adventures! Their attempts to bring out the sun got the whole family laughing at the silliness of their antics. It’s a light hearted story that will get your child giggling over goofy spell-casting and the unexpected friendship between a wizard and his friend lizard.

This book series is great for any fantasy-lover like myself. Nothing like a good, old fashioned wizard with his castle and potions to make me reminisce of classics such as Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit, and maybe even act as a stepping stone for your little ones who may someday feel drawn to them as well. In summary, Wizard and the Lizard is a fun, fantasy adventure perfect for little ones with a lession about friendship and loving yourself.

Lastly, by reading this fun series as a family we learned that my husband has an impressive wizard’s voice! He had my daughter and me laughing with each page, and we had to share a quick reading with you all…if my husband and daughter can control their giggles! Check out the video on my Instagram!

As I mentioned earlier, Katie is supportive to fellow authors like Candy Keane and myself as we progress to publish our first ever children’s book ! Her support will actually give her a cameo in our upcoming book and I’m so excited to share it with you! So go support Katie and you can get her book here!

Check out Katie Reeds website https://www.katiereedauthor.com/

Free Wizard and The Lizard Coloring Pages: https://www.katiereedauthor.com/coloring-sheets

#bookreview #books #childrensbooks #author

 

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.

Costumes

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!

Shopping

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).

Grub

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!”

Play

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.

Entertainment

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!

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

How to Make Your Own Plant Monster- A Tutorial

 

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I love everything about Halloween from making costumes to decorating my house for spooky fun! One year I did both by creating my own Monster Plant that acted as a prop for my Bombshell Poison Ivy costume and later as a spooky Halloween decoration around the house! Here’s how you can make your own.

Supplies

  • Mini, Plastic Pumpkin
  • Flower Pot (I used terra cotta)
  • Glass Bottle (I recycled a typical beer bottle about 9.5” tall)
  • Wooden Dowel (Needs to be about an inch taller than your bottle)
  • Green Gardening Tape
  • Glue Gun/Glue Sticks
  • About 2 feet or less of Plastic Vines
  • Gorilla Glue
  • Spray Paint (base color of choice) and Acrylic Paint for details (lighter base color pink and white)
  • Paint Brush
  • Box Cutter (or other cutting tool of choice)

 

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Step 1: Prepare the “bulb” of your Monster Plants by sketching out some pointy fangs on your pumpkin. I used a pencil to draw 2 scalloped rows, facing away from each other that wrapped around the pumpkin from one side of the stem around to the other side. The scalloped points will act as the teeth for your pumpkin. On the row that will act as the top teeth, add “canines” with a longer and large fang on either side of the pumpkin’s bottom. Check out pictures below to visualize it before drawing your teeth.

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Step 2: I then slowly carved along those lines using a box cutter. It was a long and tedious process but it got the job done. I would not recommend this for children to attempt.

 

Step 3: Set up your Monster Plant stem! I stood up my recycled glass bottle and placed my dowel in it at an angle (instead of straight up and down) with the bottle end snug against the angle of the glass and the top leaning against the rim with just a few inches of dowel sticking out the top. Hold the dowel in place with a drop of hot glue on the bottom of the dowel before inserting it and copious amounts of glue on top where it touches the rim of the bottle.

 

Step 4: Attach the “bulb” to the “stem”. I propped my “bulb” (mini pumpkin) on the end of the dowel so that the top end of the dowel sat in a crevice of the pumpkin stem (1) and the bottom “jaw” of the pumpkin rested on the rim of the glass (2). I then doused those 2 points of contact with hot glue. You’ll have to hold this in place and allow it to dry.

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Step 5: Wrap your stem with green gardening tape from bottom to top. I like how the layers gave it some texture. You could even lightly paint the tape with different shades of green or brown acrylic paint if you want to get fancy.

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Step 6: Spray paint your “bulb” in your color of choice. I chose spray paint because it’s quick and I wanted vibrant, even color, but you could use acrylic paint. If you choose spray paint, cover the bottom portion of your plant with a garbage bag to avoid color getting on the stem, and make sure you do this is a well ventilated area following proper precautions.

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Step 7: Using a super glue of your choice, glue the stem (bottle) to the inside of a flower pot. Hot glue will not stick if using terra cotta which is what I used. Keep in mind, the bulb is fairly light but you will have to choose a flower pot “base” that is heavy enough to keep your stem and bulb portion of the Plant Monster from tipping over.

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Step 8: Once dry, add details like spots on the bulb to give it some character! Choose an acrylic paint that is lighter than your base color for the spots to really pop. Paint those teeth white!

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Step 9: Give your Plant Monster some leafy limbs! I wrapped a small length of plastic vines around my Plant Monster stem and let in sit inside the bot.

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Tip: For an extra creepy touch, leave some “leftovers” from its last meal lying around your plant. You could place icky, fake bugs or even some fake limbs sticking out of its jaws! “Feed me, Seymour!”

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This creation was inspired by a drawing I saw in a Halloween workbook my daughter had. I affectionately named our little creation Zoe II which made me realize it would be a fun prop for any Little House of Horror fans out there too. My little Zoe II tagged along with me for my DC Poison Ivy Bombshell group before settling at home for the holidays.

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If you choose to create your own, please share your photos! I’d love to see your little monsters.

Happy Halloween!!

#momblog #Halloween #nerdymom #cosplay

One upon a time.. The Yelp Storybook Soiree

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My first Yelp event was a definitely a night to remember! It was a night of food and fun with bites and brews from some of Jacksonville’s best local businesses, and of course a soiree wouldn’t be complete without a fancy dress code! Keeping with the literary theme of the night, guests were encouraged to dress as their favorite literary figure. I’m happy to say, attendees were quite in character.

The Soiree filled all 3 floors of the Jacksonville library with vendors, food, music, and fun to explore. The night flew by but here are a few of my favorites.
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Food
Bento cafe
You can never go wrong with sushi but there’s something special about Bento Cafe. Spicy tuna was a favorite, but that vegetarian roll- Wow. I never would have thought it would have so much flavor!
Bento

Blue Bamboo offered a chilled noodle cup with a light vinaigrette and shredded vegetable topping with satisfied my noodle cravings.
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Here’s a storybook made of actual cake! Sweet by Holly were there to satisfy our sweet tooth!

I’ve never been to 4 Rivers Smokehouse, but after trying their 6 Shooter, I know they are with a visit. This bite layer cheese grits, pulled pork, pickles, jalapenos and topped with their BBQ sauce. Yum!
4 rivers

My favorite bite of the night was Jaguars Eats who stole the show with fresh cut tuna poke bowls. Who knew football players ate so well?! They’re cooking up a menu that’s always winning.

Vagabond Coffee was brewing up sunbathing social with a mini cocktail of bourbon, coffee, and a chili coffee rim. 10 points to Gryffindor!
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Still sporting those Gryffindor colors, we had two cocktails with Manifest Distilling.
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Next magical potion comes from Aardwolf with their new peach IPA and their violet colored, shimmery sour.

After all those drinks, Thea and I got friendship tattoos 😱 but no worries, they are temporary art designs by really tattoo artist Myra Oh

What an amazing time to experience my first Yelp event which coincidentally was their largest fundraiser of the year. Not only was it a blast, they were able to raise over $7000 for the Jacksonville Public Library! That I can get behind!
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Thank you Thea for some of the above pictures! Check out my fellow Food Adventure Team member at https://adventuresofthea.wordpress.com/ for her experience at the Soiree!