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Salud! Great beer from a craft Cerveceria.

In our hometown of Charlotte, NC, there’re always a lot of cool events happening daily.  There’re also many different districts, and parts of the city that host events constantly, and where you are almost always guaranteed a great time. 

One of our favorite areas is NoDa (the North Davidson area) which is known for its artsy laid back atmosphere, and craft beer breweries. We visit NoDa often, and it never disappoints. 

Right next to the corner of North Davidson and 36th St, there is a little beer shop called Salud.  Well, our friends from Salud, decided to venture into brewing their own beer a while back, and this past weekend they opened their brand-new brewery on the second floor of their beer shop. 

At 3100 sq feet, Salud Cerveceria is so cozy you feel as if you were hanging out in your best friend’s place. The decorations, the attention to detail, every single piece that adorns this place was handpicked and thought of with exact precision. You can’t deny the originality (and the good taste) as soon as you walk through their doors.

My favorites? The walls covered by book-pages at the entrance and bathrooms (I hope the books were recycled!), the gorgeous wooden floors, the over-sized shuffleboard, the small hanging plants that embellish the place (which are also for sale!), the colorful mural in the stage area, the living room atmosphere, and of course, the beer!

Did I mention that the place hosts their own art gallery featuring local artists? All items are for sale and they will change monthly. 

With 14 beers on tap, you can choose from IPA’s to Saisons, and everything in between, including non-alcoholic options.  The Raspberry IPA was to die for, too bad they sold out too soon… it was a popular choice and everyone wanted a taste of it. Names like Mesa para uno, Estacion, and Negra Bretta, are not only quite creative but also invoke the rich Latin flavor in each and every beer they craft.

So, needless to say my friends, the owners Jason, and Dairelyn Glunt shined like stars with the grand opening of this remarkable brewery, where you can not only taste great beer, but also hang out, drink some good coffee, sample their tea, and have a fantastic time. A truly remarkable story of hard work and dedication for what they love, that shows in every aspect of their business.

Wait! I haven’t told you, they also have enough room to dance! Bring it on Salsa!

One thing I thought that was quite fantastic… for the grand opening, they had piñatas for guests to enjoy…. This says it all…. It was a piñata a lot of people enjoyed beating.  (I’m still laughing inside).

So, next time you are in Charlotte, NC, stop by Salud Cerveceria, and when you are done having fun, follow the path downstairs, take some beer home from their shop, and have a bite to eat courtesy of Fud-at Salud, which has also been featured in Diners, Drive Ins and Dives by Guy Fieri! Yeah, it’s that good. 

Salud!

Great beer from a craft Cerveceria.

 

 

BEER FEST: Brews, Food, and Good Friends.

Oh beer, how we love thee! You all know that we LOVE craft beer and, fortunately for us, craft beer has become one popular house item (well, at least in our house).  Everywhere you go, craft beer breweries are constantly popping up and seem that they here to stay! That makes me happy.  

RELATED: FLYING SAUCER BEER CLUB

I was a light beer kinda girl before I met hubby (so was he), but for a few years now, we like to explore and play with beer flavors and visit breweries everywhere we go.

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So needless to say, we make it a point to go to Oktoberfest in Helen, GA every year, and to attend as many craft beer festivals in the area as we can.  

 

There are MANY beer fests in our hometown of Charlotte, NC. Moo & Brew has a good one every year, and we make every effort to attend and sample goodness.  

 

 Recently, we attended the Southend Hops Festival, benefiting the RescueMe dog rescue.  Southend Hops Fest featured 40 North Carolina and South Carolina breweries.  My favorites? The Corban Avenue Honey Blonde from Twenty Six Acres Brewery (Concord, NC)... AND a Mango IPA, which I cannot remember the brewery to save my life (shame on me).  

Craft Beer Fests are incredibly fun and relaxing. Taste some beer, eat some great food from the food trucks, bring your dog, have fun with friends and even make new friends... my type of fun.

 

It's easy to get hammered really fast (since most fests start at lunch time), so always remember to pace yourself, and drink lots of water...and eat! That helps. I'm talking from experience, folks!

On an exciting note, our friends from SALUD in NoDa (Charlotte, NC) are opening a brewery this weekend! I will be posting pictures and a review on their beer too.

Next step for us? A visit to Asheville, NC. I cant wait to try the many, many breweries and sample all their brews. I mean, brewing beer is an art!

RELATED: GOODHOPS BREWERY REVIEW, WILMINGTON, NC

So stay vigilant of any beer fests in your area, go try it and enjoy your beers! I'm liking IPA's now....who would've thought?

Always,

MIA

Cultivating my green thumb

Guys... I'm doing a thing....I planted a vegetable garden! 

Growing up, my family planted a large vegetable garden each spring with everything from tomatoes, peppers, green beans, to zucchini and squash. You would think having so much experience with a garden growing up, I would be a whiz at it as an adult right? Wrong. The green thumb gene apparently skipped a generation leaving me with nothing but a trail of dead plants in my wake when it comes to all things gardening. I'll be honest, a large part of my gardening failures come from the fact that I am a neglectful plant owner. I regularly forget to water, plant things in too much sun or too much shade, and would rather scrub a toilet than pull a weed. 

When we bought our house last May , one of the things I really loved about the house was the beautiful landscaping and the large raised vegetable garden. Everything was so lovingly cultivated and picturesque, I convinced myself that I too could maintain it's beautiful look. Fast forward a year, and I find myself knee deep in weeds, cursing myself for letting it get this out of control. 

This past weekend, I took the time to completely weed and till up the raised veggie garden. I wish I had a before picture because this thing looked liked a scene from The Jungle Book and was in no way a small feat. Let me tell you, I did not come out unscathed during what I like to refer to as "spring garden phase one". I sustained two mysterious insect bites which have caused three days of itching and red puffy-ness but fear not! I shall not be deterred! I planted (by myself) 3 tomato plants, 2 jalapenos, cucumber, red bell pepper, green bell pepper, and cilantro. Browsing all the various types of tomatoes at Lowe's alone was enough to send me into a mild meltdown. What's with all the different types of tomatoes? You've got your Cherry and Roma, OK I can get down with those. But then there were Betterboy, Brandywine, Tigerella, Big Beef, Hillbilly, and a few others I can't remember. I was really just in the market for the big red ones, not the little red ones, but unfortunately they didn't have a "big red"and "little red" label so I was really just winging it and chose, Betterboy since they seemed like the "better" choice. Ha. Get it? Better choice?  But I digress....

If all goes according to plan, I will be making my own spaghetti sauce, salsa, and pickles. (Also, I guess I should be googling "how to make spaghetti sauce", "how to can my own vegetables", "how to pickle"... feel free to help a sister out and send me helpful links and suggestions). 

I plan on updating you all regularly during this growing season to let you know how my little green babies are doing. (And also hoping this helps keep me accountable so that I remember to actually water them. No really, can someone tweet me daily as a reminder?)

For now, I leave you with a pic of my cute little baby tomato (or is this the jalapeno? I can't remember lol). 

Library Room Makeover

So it's been a year since we bought our home, and slowly but surely we are getting things done around the house, making it our own. (Find making a garden post here!)  

One of the requirements on my "must haves" list that we gave our realtor while looking at houses, was a room that I could convert into a library. I had lofty dreams of an airy, two story monstrosity of a room (think library from Beauty and the Beast, complete with a gliding ladder and all), but alas, our budget was not very accommodating to my lavish plans, so I had to settle for something a tad more realistic. The house we put an offer on, and eventually signed the next 30 years of our life away to, had such a space. 

Once a formal living room, this room was perfect. In the front of the house, tons of natural light from the wall of windows, I knew the minute I laid eyes on it, it would make a beautiful library room. I'm not even ashamed to admit I dedicated boards on Pinterest to planning and plotting the decorating to my own personal treasure room. 

In keeping with the light and airy feeling the room projected, I opted for white bookcases. Not wanting to break the bank and working within a strict budget, I found these great pieces at Ikea. They are solid and sturdy and were fairly easy to assemble. 

The next items I saved my pennies for was the seating. My Aunt had mentioned that she had found lots of really nice pieces on the Wayfair website so I gave it a whirl. My only hesitation buying online is that I couldn't see/feel/sit on the items in person but I took a chance based on some positive anecdotal advice and went for it. I ended up purchasing two chairs, an end table, and a rug. Everything arrived in great condition and within two days no less! 

The last, and most fun, part of completing my library room was the decor. This is the one room in the house that I can fill with all of my fandom related decor and hubby really doesn't complain. I set up all my books on the bookcases and interspersed them with fun trinkets and decor, including my favorite nerd girl collecting pieces, FunkoPops! I don't know what it is about these little guys but I am insanely addicted to purchasing them.

Of course I couldn't leave the walls bare, and adorned them in similar nerd girl fashion. I found these awesome reading inspired vinyl decals to stick up on the walls from Amazon

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Mia, talented artist and best friend that she is, also took the time to draw me up a couple original sketches of two of my favorite mythical creatures, a unicorn and a mermaid. I found these cute frames at Hobby Lobby for 50% off (I love me a good deal). 

This canvas was made my non other than yours truly. A good friend of mine is a crafting whiz and we made these (and similar style with different sayings) as Christmas gifts one year. I may do a "how-to" on these another day. They are pretty simple and a lot of fun to make. 

This next section of wall space is kind of my favorite. Yes, you're eyes saw correctly, behold, a unicorn head! Another Hobby Lobby find, this guy just screamed my name and at 50% off, of course he had to come home with me. The two wooden signs beside it came from  Kohls, and kind of fit in perfectly if I do say so myself. 

So there it is, my completed library. My safe haven, refuge from the mean muggle world. A place where magic is alive and well and a good book can always been found. I will undoubtedly continue to add to my collection of books as well as my trinkets over the years, good thing the room next door is only a dining room. Who uses those anymore anyways? Quite convenient for extending my library into one day...

Where is your "space"? Do you have a room dedicated to your books and nerdy treasures? I wanna see it!

XOXO,

Coco

BIKINI OR BUST!

If you follow along with our blog, you know we recently took a 7 day cruise to the Caribbean. While it was beautiful and wonderful and magical and all those other lovely adjectives one usually uses to describe the tropics, we had some serious anxiety about one issue in particular. 

Bathing suits.

(Cue dramatic music)

Since the birth of our daughters 7 years ago, neither Mia nor myself has braved a beach or pool in a bikini. We settled for concealing but cute one pieces, and were resigned to stay covered up on the sidelines in our suits and cover-ups and let me tell you how much fun that is..... not so much!

It sucks to hang around the fringes of the poolside, hot and under layers because we are too nervous to show a little skin while everyone else is running free without a care in the world. 

So this trip we made a pact.

BIKINI OR BUST!

Our husbands have told us for years "Wear the two piece! No one cares! You look great in whatever." (Scored some brownie points with that one). But dang if it isn't hard to quell that inner voice telling you that your legs are too full of cellulite, your tummy isn't has tight as it once was, and your top half is, well.....lacking. But you know what I say to that little voice?

SCREW YOU!

We bought those two pieces and proudly (ok timidly at first, but eventually proudly) swam in that water, sun bathed on a lounge chair, and explored the islands in, you guess it, those bikinis. Cellulite, surgery scars, some extra jiggle and all. 

I'm not gonna lie and say it was easy, or that I wasn't nervous or intimidated by other more buxom/toned bodies, but I will say that I am so proud of us for doing it. No one on that cruise ship or on that beach cared a lick what I looked like and the only people whose opinion I value, don't care a lick about how I look in a bathing suit. My friends like me because I am funny and kind and like a good Harry Potter joke, not because I do or don't have abs. (Let me insert here that if you do have friends who care if you do or don't have abs, you need some new friends, seriously, you don't need that kind of negativity in your life).

My friends... BEHOLD: US IN A BIKINI:  A QUICK LOOK.... A VERY, VERY QUICK LOOK:

There you have it people, video-graphic proof of our accomplishment! 

So, to all you ladies and gents out there struggling with self esteem issues, or dreading going to participate in a social activity involving a swim suit, just put on the dang thing and have some fun! No one will ever be more critical of you than yourself (damn asshole brains), swallow that fear and criticism and... 

Dive right in, the waters great.

 

My First Cruise- Preparation Stage

So, we are going on a cruise! Yay! And as exciting as that sounds, for someone like me, it is also scary.  

RELATED: TRAVELING AS A CLUMSY PERSON

This is going to be my very first cruise, because after watching Titanic as a child, I've tried my hardest to stay away from boats, and deep ocean waters. I guess there's always a time in your life when you must face your biggest fears, and just do it... and when your hubby books a trip and says "We are going" in a very manly voice, you kind of have to.

So here are my fears: Besides the obvious anxiety that deep water produces, I'm also afraid of being terribly seasick (add this sinus infection crap I have going on), falling off the boat, my child falling off the boat, getting lost without use of my cellphone (#FirstWorldProblems), being forced to speak to strangers, getting roasted by the sun (this girl will burn!, I mean, I think I might be part vampire), missing the embarkation time at one of the ports, losing important documents, and of course, drowning or getting eaten by a shark while attempting to snorkel.  

There. You can stop laughing now.

So, needless to say, I've been terribly anxious this week as we prepare ourselves for this adventure. I mean, I've never been to that side of the Caribbean Islands before (Bahamas, Half Moon Cay, and Grand Turks). I've been looking at pictures online and, well, they look amazing. So yeah, I'm excited about it....however, still nervous.

To ease my anxieties, I've been focusing on the positive things about this trip.  Like, the beautiful weather, poster-worthy beaches, and the smile on my child's face when she sees all these things. I guess I'm underestimating the fun stuff... I bought the alcohol package as well, so that will help (wink wink).

It is also my daughter's seventh birthday while we are cruising. *AHHHH I CANT BELIEVE SHE"S SO BIG!* So she thinks this trip is mainly for her birthday, yeah, we're letting her believe that...why not.

I got sunscreen, dramamine, sunglasses, and a big ass hat ready! 

Now, I must decide what to pack.... This is going to take a while.... 

I need some wine.

Always, 
Mia. 

Hello Weird!!

I am weird.  Yeah I said it.  I need to embrace it.  Most times I forget to be myself because I'm afraid of being weird in public.  My social anxiety messes with my true potential.  

I want to be weird, because it's who I am.  It gives me purpose.  

But, for some reason, I fear people.  I don't fear being weird, I fear people and their reactions.  

It's like an irrational fear that people are going to eat my face if I say something outrageous like "I fear people are going to eat my face".  

Embracing our fandoms

Embracing our fandoms

For example, I'm the kind of girl that gets her nails and hair done...nowhere, because I don't want to talk to the hairdresser or the nail lady.  I avoid those instances because it produces a very irrational high level or anxiety... On a good note, I was kind of forced to learn to do my own nails and cut/color my own hair, at home. 

Then, I met Jenny Lawson, AKA The Bloggess.  She's amazing.  And weird.  I love it.

Jenny embraces her weirdness and it's a beautiful thing.  

I came across her blog when Coco mentioned it to me...Well, I didn't come across it.  I googled it, and I spent hours reading the random stuff on her blog.  The Bloggess gained a fan that day.

RELATED: THE BLOGGESS BOOK SIGNING

Reading the Bloggess posts was like a revelation; or better yet, an epiphany full of weird things. Good, weird things.

In a few articles, my eyes opened wide to the realization that I'm not alone.  There's many of us out there, and the world is a beautiful weird mess waiting for me to be me.  It was almost as if I was being born again.  Not literally, because that would be for real weird, and messy, and honestly kind of gross...but, metaphorically speaking.   

I was born again with the opportunity to be myself.  A new me, with the notion that there is an option of being who I was meant to be, which doesn't have to be shameful or a burden to my identity.  I woke up to the knowledge that I can face fear by simply be me.  

That's me...embracing my weird and delivering ice cream to our local fire department dressed as a fairy...this was for a scavenger hunt called gishwhes in 2016

That's me...embracing my weird and delivering ice cream to our local fire department dressed as a fairy...this was for a scavenger hunt called gishwhes in 2016

Now, that being said, it doesn't mean that it will be easy.  It's a rocky journey between what I discovered and where I am now.  Social anxiety, like other anxiety disorders, is a real thing and a feeling so real, it's tricky.  It will be hard.  I will be embarrassing at times, funny at others, and overwhelmed most of the way, but I know I can do it.  There are more people in the world that embrace weird than there are not, although not everyone knows it.  

It is my mission to free others from the oppression caused by commercialized behavior.  I'm making it my duty to wake up the weird in me, and the fellow humans (and magic creatures) who are searching for happiness in all the wrong places.  

Let's be weird together (not in a gross way). 

My family.  no lie. 

My family.  no lie. 

Always,

Mia  

P.S.  If you feel that you need support because the world doesn't understand your beautiful weirdness, you can always count on us! follow us on fb.com/reallifary, or twitter AND Instagram @RealLifary  OR comment here! I'll send you a virtual hug.  

No Excuses. Make time to READ! Here's how.

Y'all know I'm a huge bookworm. I mean duh, we have a blog about books with weekly book reviews, this shouldn't be a shocker here people. You wouldn't believe how many times I get asked some variance of the questions, "Coco how do you read so much?! When do you find the time?"

So I'm hear to tell you all, as a mother of two, a full time night shift worker, classroom volunteer, carpool queen, soccer game cheering dance mom, that you too can find time to read.

Now I am of the belief that everyone should read. Why? What better way to explore your imagination, learn new things, see the world from another point of view, experience new cultures or parts of the world, or just to plain old have fun.

In today's technologically advanced times there are SO. MANY. ways to get your hands on a good book. You've got physical copies, digital copies, audiobooks. You can go to the library, the bookstore, order same day delivery from Amazon, get a digital copy instantly uploaded to your phone/kindle/iPad/tablet. They are everywhere!

So now you've got your book(s), the tricky part, time?

Me personally, I have a book handy in my purse anywhere I go. (Anniversary dinner downtown? Yep. Going to see a play at the local theater. You betcha.) Why? You never know when you may some downtime, or when the zombie apocalypse may happen, either way, I like to be prepared.

Ok, so you have your book AND you have it with you. If you ask anyone who knows me, you can find me reading anywhere any everywhere I can snatch a few minutes including: carpool line (not while I am driving obviously- just while I sit and wait in the car for dismissal), soccer practice, lunch breaks at work, while I'm blow drying my hair, hell, I've even been known to read while cooking dinner! And these are just my "stolen minutes" my non dedicated to reading time. To maintain ones sanity with children (or a husband for that matter), self care is important. Taking some time away each day to do something you enjoy, or to even do nothing at all. Just time for yourself. Sometimes I use my self care time to read, sometimes I use it to sleep (third shift here people) sometimes I use it to binge watch the Gilmore Girls. The important thing is to carve out some time weekly (or daily) that is yours.

Although I haven't personally used audibooks before, I know several people who get there "reading" done while commuting to and from work, or while on business trips. Load up your smart device with your audiobook of choice and listen in the car, airplane, bus, train, bike ride to work. This is a really easy and time effective way to "read" every day.

Too often while I sit in a waiting room, hang out on the bleachers at soccer, idle in carpool line at school, all I see are people with their heads buried in their phones. (I admit- I am occasionally guilty of this as well). If you think of all the time you spend staring, scrolling, snooping on your device, I think you would be surprised to see how much time you could actually sneak in for reading.

Ok, so now you have your preferred reading method AND you have it with you AND you have time so what are you waiting for, get outta here and go get lost in a book!

I'm always open to book suggestions, what are you favorite books to get lost in? Need some recommendations, check out Cocos Corner for weekly book reviews!  

  

Bloggess Book Signing

Review coming soon! 

Review coming soon! 

In case you guys didn't know, my birthday was this past week! (I am still accepting gifts, flowers, and dinners for the entire month of March just FYI) In addition to the freaking amazballs picture she drew me for my library room *see below*, Mia  took me on a day trip to Raleigh for the book reading/signing event for Jenny Lawsons latest book, "You are Here". (She's kinda the best that Mia). 

 A "Mia" original drawing. 

 A "Mia" original drawing. 

Jenny Lawson, or The Bloggess as she is known on her blog, is the type of blogger we can only aspire to be. Her quick wit and ability to humorously and ironically write about all the shit life throws at you is hysterically relatable.

I stumbled across her first book, "Let's Pretend this Never Happened" while googling a memoir to fulfill a 2015 Goodread Book Challenge item ("a memoir"). I was hooked from page 1 and started following her blog shortly after. I laughed, snorted, and chuckled my way through her first book and preordered her second, "Furiously Happy" as soon as I was able through Amazon. 

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Of course, I got Mia hooked on her hilarity, and we were both pumped when we read she would be making a stop in Raleigh, NC (at the beautiful independent book store Quail Ridge Books- seriously guys, a must see) on her latest book tour (about a 2 1/2 hour drive from our house). Being the super friend that she is, Mia preordered us copies of the book, and snagged us seats for the event!

Y'all I'm not gonna lie, I was pretty nervous to meet Jenny. I know, I'm a weirdo, but what can I say? It's irrational, yes, but that didn't make it any less true. Rest assured y'all, she was a doll. Just as humorous and kind as I had imagined she would be. We waited three hours to get our books signed, and you would think after so long to sit and ponder on just what we were going to say during our 45 seconds with Jenny we would have something witty and fun, something that would make her laugh and remember us by, but sadly, no. Of course we were tongue tied, and awkward, and the best we came up with was a few rambling sentences on how we were worried about her hands after signing so many books..... yeah..... I mean, who says that?!!! *insert facepalm here*

Us and Jenny! 

Us and Jenny! 

Anywho, we came, we saw, we listened, we had signed, and we made it home in one piece. 

Thanks Mia for a fun day trip girls day- you truly are my best friend and only you could make 3 hours of sitting in hard plastic chairs fun.

And thank you Jenny Lawson for not giving us a look of total bafflement when all we could talk about for those 45 seconds was your hand health....

Parental PTSD: A trip to the ER with my kid

After 10+ years of being a parent...it finally happened. 

Our first broken bone.

When I tell you this was the most traumatic event for me as a parent. I couldn't even have a glass of wine when it was all said and done that's how stressed I was! (I can hear the collective gasp from here- I know- no wine?!)

So it was already a pretty crappy (pun alert!) day in the Giraldo household. My youngest (6 years old) stayed home sick from school with some "tummy issues" (I know you all don't care to hear all the lovely details on that one....). So we were slumming in PJ's, just generally being couch potatoes when one fuzzy blanket + hardwood floors + clumsy child = fall to the ground with arms outstretched. 

Now anyone who has kids know they are always falling, slipping, stumbling, banging into, falling off of, really just generally accident prone little humans. As a parent, I typically kiss the boo boo, give a cuddle and keep it moving. In fact, I have often times prided myself on not being that over reactive parent who turns mountains into molehills. "Meh, you're fine, go play." But y'all.....those prehistoric, neanderthal, stomach churning mom chromosomes kicked in and I KNEW this was bad. 

*Insert panicked/frantic call to husband desperately searching for an adult to fix the situation when I was a puddle of nerves and anxiety*

**Insert double panic to realize that I, was in fact, the adult responsible for handling this situation**

So I pulled myself together, threw on some clothes, and drove us to the ER. 

*Insert Mama Bear-protect-my-baby-cub mode* 

The day was a whirlwind of x-rays, nurses, doctors, ambulance rides (yes we had to be transported to a larger hospital that could perform sedation to set her arm). When we finally arrived home, exhausted/hungry/drained, the kid was out like a light. Me you ask? Oh I just stayed awake half the night sleeping with her on the couch, reading online about possible side effects of sedation on children and checking her breathing by placing my finger under her nose ever few minutes. Fun times!

Just so you all know, beside the intial shock and freak out when she broke her arm- this was pretty much her disposition throughout the whole ordeal. She had all the nurses and doctors laughing. She is our performer that one! 

Just so you all know, beside the intial shock and freak out when she broke her arm- this was pretty much her disposition throughout the whole ordeal. She had all the nurses and doctors laughing. She is our performer that one! 

The days and weeks following "the incident" I have been suspicious and overly fearful of every mundane thing in the house. Mia has officially dubbed it "Parental PTSD".

"Don't run with socks on!"

"Dear God don't walk around the house holding that blanket!"

"WALK!"

"Please don't fidget in the barstool, you'll fall!"

The list goes on and on but I'm sure my family is pretty annoyed with my newly developed neurosis. (I even caught myself yelling at the dog to not run down the stairs...THE DOG...) But can you blame me?! Everything looks dangerous!

You will never feel more helpless than as a parent who can do absolutely nothing to ease your child's pain. It is the most gut wrenching/terrifying experience that I seriously wouldn't wish upon my worst enemy. I know this most likely won't be our last brush with a ER (God I can hope though) and I'm sure with time my fear of all things innocuous will wane and I will resume some semblance of normalcy (well, normal for me anyways) but for now, Mama Bear is on high alert!

Have you suffered from a Parental PTSD episode? Tell me I'm not alone here people!   

  

 

Dr. Seuss's Birthday day.... Come up with a costume, quick!

#ReadAcrossAmerica was celebrated this week. It coincides with the great Dr. Seuss's birthday, and many schools in the country celebrate this week by having special activities. One of these activities, and my daughter's favorite, is dress up like a book character day. Her school decided to have kids dress up as a Dr. Seuss character. Any character from one of his amazing books.  

This tradition is great. I love it because I can see the eagerness of the kids to learn more about these characters and to read. That's the point. Encourage a love for reading.  

The only bad part about this is when, you, as a parent, totally forget about the dress up day (because, let's face it, our brains not only get wiser with age, but mushier...*insert panic emoji*).  When my daughter reminded me the day before, about dress up day...I entered in super mom mode (after the total panic mode ended).

I came up with a great idea! Gather some black leggings, black shirt, an old cat tail from an old costume, voila! I would only need a red and white top hat to have the perfect Cat in a Hat outfit.

BUT, where can I get a hat on such a short notice??? Won't have time to have it shipped, plus I didn't want to spend an arm and a leg purchasing one. So I googled it. Have I mentioned I love google?

All you need is this:  A white poster board, a large white paper plate, red paint, scissors, glue, and tape. That's it. 

1. The first thing to do is to measure your child's head around. Cut the length and the width of the hat making sure you leave about an inch (side) to glue the sides together. Leave another inch at the bottom to attach it to the plate.  - also, it's always better for the hat to be big than small... if it's too small in diameter it's too hard to fix.

2. Measure the stripes.  Three red.  I did mine about 3 inches each...but they could definitely be smaller.  Paint 3 stripes red, leaving a blank (white) stripe in between.  Let it dry.  You can use acrylic or water color, or tomato juice or basically anything that you can find.  I was kidding about the tomato juice in case you didn't catch that. *wink*

3. Glue the sides together forming a cylinder.  Use tape to secure around the seam.  

4. At the very bottom... where you left about an inch untouched, cut small slits (1 inch) every inch or two.  fold them out to look like the brim of the hat.

5.  You can also use a paper plate and cut the diameter of your hat in the middle and push the cylinder through, using the paper plate as the brim.  Secure with tape.

There! You have the perfect Cat in the Hat hat!! And a happy child.

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P.S.  When my daughter returned from school, with no hat in sight, I asked her about it.  It was shoved inside her bookbag, shamelessly and wrinkled beyond repair.  I asked her why.  After all that work! She didn't answer.  I'm sure the wow factor died down after a full day of Dr. Seuss fun... next year I will probably buy a real, more durable hat.

Reading and the love for books is very important.  How do you celebrate Read Across America?

Releasing your inner child... Laser Tag edition

My nephew’s (Coco’s son) birthday celebration was this past weekend, and like every cool ten year old kid, he wanted to invite his friends to play laser tag and have some pizza and cake.  Obviously, I was invited because I’m the cool Aunt…. and because my daughter is very close to her cousin so she had to go….mostly because of the latter.  Maybe I made up the part about being the cool aunt...whatever.

Anyway, we all gathered at this place in town called SportsConnections; an arcade kind-of place where they showcase a large selection of arcade games, jumpy houses, mini-bowling, wall climbing, ropes course, laser vault, bumper-carts, and yes, laser tag. 

It was the first time playing laser tag at this place.  I decided to play because my daughter wanted to be on my team… and because I wanted to beat the hubby.

The place was a big warehouse looking room, with a maze of tall walls with holes and columns, so you could see through them and spot the adversaries. They asked us to grab a vest/gun set and step into two lines; each of about 10-15 people.

One “marshal” took one of the lines to the left of the room, the others were taken to the right of the room and towards the very end of the play area.  That was our zone; the red zone. 

We realized that we had all adults and two 6 year old in our team.  All other, agile, sneaky, intrepid kids were on the green team. 

Oh lord. 

We were going to get beat. 

I admit, I’ve only played this game once or twice before.  And you all know I wasn’t the sportiest person in the room, so the idea of getting blasted by a group of ten year olds was, well, not very appealing and quite ego-painful. 

I was determined to defend my self-esteem, and I released my inner child. 

Oh boy, I released my inner child.

As soon as the game started, I crouched and carefully made my way towards their “base” for a surprise attack.  Nobody was guarding it, as they didn’t expect a hit so soon.  I took advantage of this and took many points out of their board and into ours. 

Then I got killed, and had to shamelessly return to base for a “recharge”.

I got ready, ducked, and sneaked silently like a hunting cat waiting for its prey as I made my way around the rubber walls. 

I got killed.

Again.

Re-charge.

I decided I was going to change my approach and stay put to defend our base. 

I patrolled the perimeter, making sure every green light was turned around by the beam of my red laser.  I was the defender; the all-powerful guardian. 

Until a group of 4 ten- year olds blasted me out of my base, forcing me to run and recharge.   

Apparently you get points taken out when someone hits you, so the “millions” of points I thought I got, I didn’t.  I lost most of them.  But I still did OK. 

Game was over fairly quickly.  We played six short games in one hour.  All of them packed with unique roll-playing action and fun. 

By the time the game was over, I was drenched in sweat, and thirst took over my will to speak. 

Pizza and cake worked wonders to quench the tiredness.  All the kids were still excited although sad that MY TEAM WON.  Apparently, the other adults in my team were pretty good, so we beat the green team.  No thanks to me, I’m sure.  Either way, we had so much fun; I seriously want to do this again.

Maybe an adult game so I don’t feel bad for defeating the kids. They didn’t care that much though.  They were happy just to play. 

By the way.  My legs hurt so much!!!!! Crouching and sneaking for an hour is not good when you are not in the best of shapes.  Oi Vay! 

Valentine's Day Shenanigans of a Married Couple.

Oh Valentine's Day... the day of love.  The day every woman looks forward to.  The day I circle on my calendar counting down with anxious expectations....NOT.

I don't do that anymore.  In fact, I've never done such thing, and I consider myself a pretty normal woman... well... not-so-normal, just..nevermind.

Anyway.  My point is that in our "culture" we have learned that us, women, must never be single on Valentines's day (as if that was a sin), and must expect a bouquet of roses, and chocolate, and teddy bears from our significant others, ALWAYS.  If he doesn't, he's not a keeper.  

NOT TRUE.  

Valentine's day is just that, a day.  Being single on any other day doesn't kill you, why should it be different on February 14? It's not.  Don't believe Hollywood, or Facebook. You are beautiful in February too. 

If you happen to be in a committed relationship on this day, good for you! If your significant other is planning a load of gifts and candlelight dinner, that's great! Enjoy it!

If you are single, use this day to remind yourself of how amazing you are and pamper yourself. Eat your favorite meal, take a bubble bath, and binge on your favorite TV show (here are some ideas). 

When hubby and I were dating (a long, long time ago), he used to go over and beyond to impress me on Valentine's day.  Yeah, I enjoyed it, but, as our relationship grew, so did our love for each other...wow, no cliche intended. 

Since we love each other, we show our love on a daily basis, and not just in the middle of February. Over time, Valentine's day becomes less important. We don't need a box of chocolates to know that we are there for each other, or a romantic dinner at an overpriced restaurant after a three hour wait... maybe on our anniversary, on our terms, and not because we are told by commercialized teddy bears and candy hearts that we should show love.  

So, after so many years of marriage, Valentine's day is a day where we cook at home, open up a bottle of good wine, and binge on our TV shows. Life is good.  

But, don't drink too much wine or you might break your hand... that's a story for another time.

Valentine's day is just an over-commercialized day, like any other day, so ladies (and sensitive guys), don't take it too hard if your loved one plays blind to the millions of ads and Facebook posts, and forgets to get you gold earrings. Instead of exchanging gifts, save up your money and take a trip! (I wish I would've had this mentality when I was younger) Or just look into each other's eyes and express your love sincerely, not just on Valentines Day, but every day.  

RELATED: DATE NIGHT IDEAS

We don't exchange gifts on this day.  We spend time together, and recognize that cupid didn't make it a rule to present chocolates to your loved one on a particular day.  Not just because we have been together many years...SERIOUSLY, it is NOT a rule.  Going out to dinner, or mandatorily being in a relationship on this day is NOT a rule either.  You are free to go about your day, as you would do any day.  Mind blown? you are welcome.

Feel special every day, and/or make your boo feels special every day.  Not just one day.  Every day.  That's what Cupid really wants.  

 

DIY Book-Inspired Rug. *A Bookworm's Dream*

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OK you all know this, because I've said it over and over.  I LOVE Harry Potter and everything that has to do with the wizarding world.   So, you can only imagine how heart-broken I was when I realized that they actually don't sell any Harry Potter themed BIG rugs.  

I searched, and searched the web for a while, and all I could find were small mats and welcome mats, but nothing bigger...Unless I was willing to pay hundreds of dollars from a sketchy website and get my credit card stolen, no way.  Not me.  I've learned my lesson the hard way.

So I took it upon myself to research other ways to complete my library room.  After almost all search results showed me Harry Potter blanket throws that were about the size I was looking for, I stopped for a moment to think.  "What if I do it myself?"

I swear I love Google, because I can almost do it ALL after reading and watching DYI videos....no magic wand needed.  Granted, some people make it more complicated than what it really is, OR make it look easier than reality, but I like to try it out myself....I'll tell you later how I discovered a great way to cut and color my own hair, and how to clean those annoying spots in between the oven glass...Oh Google.

Anyway, let me tell you the easiest way to make your dream rug and feel proud about it when you are done.

 Here's what you need:

* A blanket, tablecloth, or throw that inspires you. I chose the Marauder's Map throw, because the colors matched my library room (and look at it...it's just awesome).  Don't worry if it's not 100% Cotton. I think the one I got is mostly Polyester and it worked just fine.

*WATER BASED Polycrylic OR Polyurethane.  Make sure it's WATER BASED, and CLEAR Satin.  I got a small can (32 oz) and it was enough for 3 layers on my 4ft x 5ft throw.  If your rug is bigger, you will definitely need the bigger can, as you will need at least 3 layers. 

*  A small paint roller.  A cheap one would do.

* A plastic paint tray

* A Rug pad, or no-slip mat.  Big enough to cover your rug.  You can trim it accordingly.

* All purpose, permanent bond glue spray. I bought Elmer's permanent spray glue because it was only $2 add on when I bought the rug pad on Amazon, BUT it didn't work as good.  I recommend something stronger.

*Scissors, measurement tape, and a tarp (I used a large open box) so you don't stain your work area.

WHAT NEXT?

Prepare your work area with a large tarp, plastic cover, or something to protect your floor. PLEASE do this next step in a highly ventilated area.  I used my garage, with the door open, and still got a little loopy.... believe me, it doesn't seem like it, but that polycrylic is no joke!

Make sure your throw is not wrinkled. This step is important because if you apply the polycrylic and it's wrinkled, it will dry wrinkled. Iron it first if you have to. Once you have your throw set up on the tarp, apply the polycrylic with a paint roller, as if you would paint. Try to cover all surfaces. Do not apply too thick of a coat, as you will do this step two more times, so there's no need. Let it dry for at least one-two hours in between layers. 

Once you are done with the last layer, you'll notice that the throw/blanket has changed in texture.  It's no longer soft and foldable, but rather stiff, but still flexible. Once it completely dries, it's time to measure the rug pad and trim it to fit your throw.  

Then glue the rug pad to the throw, and let it dry.  VOILA! you have a new, unique, beautiful rug to suit your nerdy needs. Oh I was soooo happy with my rug. I can't stop staring at it.  

What are you waiting for? Get started and make your own! For your room, your work, for your book-lover friends. This can make the best birthday, or Christmas gift for ANYONE! The possibilities are unlimited! 

Have a questions?? Ask me or tell me about your rug!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Always, 

Mia

******* READ MORE IN OUR DIARY****

Did I just eat that? Anecdotal accounts of weird food tasting

Oh food! How we love thee.  Yes, you all know how passionate we are about good food, different food, and great places to eat. We hunt for the perfect place to dine in every city we visit, and we are not afraid to try new plates. We love ethnic food, simple food, elaborate dishes, or just plain different. Never say no to food tasting should be our motto.

Here are some foods that we have tried and successfully eaten. The golden rule is to remember that things do not taste the way they look.

BLOOD SAUSAGE

I've tried two versions of this sausage. Come to find out, this is a very common food product in many European and South American countries. Growing up in Colombia, we ate this on a regular basis. I'm pretty sure my sister stopped eating it the day she saw my aunt preparing a large batch for the family but that's besides the point. Now before I get a bunch of "ewwwws" and "grosssss" and a rapid clicking of the x in the top right corner of your screen, just hear me out. Blood sausage is just what it sounds, but it has lots of other yummy ingredients and spices in just the perfect combination to make you forget you are eating....well....blood.  A blood sausage is the delectable mixture of rice, onions, spices and coagulated pork or beef blood housed in a fresh sausage casing. The Spanish version, Morcilla is very savory, while other variations such as the Polish blood sausage contains different spices (but still very tasty!)  If you ever have the opportunity to try this weird sausage, do it! It's exquisite.

RAW FISH (whole- eyeballs and all!)

While in Rome, we stopped at a little neighborhood restaurant which served amazing food. One of us had an appetite for fish, so fish was ordered (keep in mind that we didn't speak Italian, so we were guessing the menu). What we didn't know was that the fish was raw and solely cured in salt. I've heard of this before but had never tried it. We had eaten raw fish before (duh! Sushi!), but this fish was whole, with intact eyes and everything. Before they serve it to you, they will hammer the rock salt coating in order to break it open and extract the fish. Next, they will clean the scales off the body, de-gut it, and deliver it proudly to the table. WHAT? We tried it and O.M.G. Here goes the BEST fish I've ever had in my life.  So fluffy, so savory, so fresh.  

TRIPE

We love beef, so when we saw a dish called Tripa in Italy, and we guessed the word "cow" on the menu... it couldn't be that bad, right? Well, come to find out, Tripa or tripe is the lining of the cow's stomach. COW STOMACH! If textures aren't your thing when you eat, you may want to think twice about trying this one, it's a tad chewy but I will say, the spices it was cooked in made the whole experience much more pleasant. Although very tasty, the thought of eating a cow's stomach makes me feel a little...well, icky.  

TURTLE SOUP

Turtle is one of the things I'd never even imagined as a thing to eat in my life. When a dish called Turtle Soup showed up in one restaurant while in NoLa, we had to try it (duh- we ordered everything that sounds weird on a menu!) And I've gotta say, it wasn't bad. It was very savory, but the gritty texture of the meat is something that I'll have to pass on next time. 

We have also tried snail, alligator, conch salad, and frog legs...all tasty in their own way, yet not something we would eat as comfort food.

What is the weirdest thing you have eaten? We want to know!

Always,

Mia

Christmas lights! from NASCAR's Charlotte Speedway to Christmas Town USA.

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One of our (many) holiday traditions is to visit Christmas shows, tree lightings, and of course Christmas light shows around our area. Fortunately for us, we don't have to travel far to experience the best Christmas light shows in the Carolinas. The two places we visited this year were, not only breathtaking, but full of the Christmas spirit we were looking to find! 

Charlotte, NC is famous for many things, and among those, NASCAR.  Home to the NASCAR Hall of Fame, we also house the Charlotte/Concord Motor Speedway. Just a short drive outside the city, the Speedway presents races like the All-Star Race and the Coca Cola 600, as well as many other events and car shows year-round.  

From November 19 through December 31, the Speedway Christmas is the place to go. One word of advice, come in early so you don't have to wait too long to get in. Gates open at 6pm and you will have the opportunity to drive your own car on the tracks! (not at race speed though) Cover is $30 per car. Signage will direct you inside the speedway grounds, and through a magnificent spectacle of thousands of lights dancing to Christmas music. You can tune your car radio to their personalized station and listen to the music in your own car. The perfectly synchronized Christmas lights move to the Christmas jingles making your spirit bright...and if that doesn't put you in a jolly mood, stop at the movie drive-in and Christmas village.  The village includes a walk through, live nativity set, petting zoo (with beautiful, well-taken care of animals), carnival rides, carriage rides, local vendors, great food, and of course, pictures with Santa!.  

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The Charlotte Motor Speedway light show is a tradition every year in our family.  We come in prepared with warm outfits, hats and gloves since it can get chilly at night, and it's best to enjoy the outside attractions when you are comfy and warm.  

 

McADENVILLE, NC

Another amazing Christmas light adventure is also a short drive south of Charlotte, NC.  The nationally famous, McAdenville, also known as Christmas Town USA is located between exits 42-47 on I-85.

Arrive after dusk, and this quaint little community comes alive with Christmas festivities. You can choose you park and walk the streets, taking in the sights or slowly drive through the pre-selected route through the streets guided by local officers. If you choose to walk, bundle up and make sure you put on your walking shoes! Stop in at the town center and enjoy some hot chocolate and sweet from the bakery! Christmas music can be heard playing through the streets and don't miss the beautiful water lights at the pond. The attention to detail and originality of the decorations is truly breathtaking.

McAdenville is open for the month of December from 5:30pm-9:30pm on weeknights and until 11:00pm on weekends and is open to the public free of charge! Be sure to check out the community page for exciting and fun events going on during the month of December! 

Cocos Christmas Edition: Top 10 Christmas Movies

My love of all things Christmas is pretty well documented, so it would only be natural for me to share my top 10 Christmas movies with you all. Bound to fill you up with Christmas cheer, make you laugh, make you cry, or simply sigh with nostalgia, my 10 picks are a must-watch each year at Christmas time. So pop that popcorn, warm up some hot chocolate, and cuddle up with a fuzzy blanket because you have some serious binge watching to do!

10) Die Hard (1988)- Now I know this may not seem like your typical Christmas movie, but Christmas just isn't the same unless I watch Bruce Willis outwit Hans Gruber as he takes his wife hostage during a Christmas party at Nakatomi Plaza. And can we all just go ahead and agree that Bruce Willis is a total hottie in this movie?  

9) Elf (2003)- Quite possibly Will Ferrells best piece of work to date. I could listen to Buddy the Elf one liners all day. "Buddy the Elf whats your favorite color?!" You seriously have no heart if you can watch this movie and not be infected with the Christmas spirit. 

8) Prancer (1989)- Perhaps not as well known on the Christmas movie circuit, this was a favorite of mine as a girl. (It doesn't hurt that Sam Elliott is a total babe in a rugged/cowboy kinda way). Young farm girl Jessica Riggs finds, and nurses back to health an injured reindeer she believes to belong to Santa. Her infectious spirit and kind heart are the epitome of Christmas spirit, eventually reaching her emotionally dejected father. 

7) Miracle on 34th Street (1947)- This one has been remade a couple times, but I prefer the classic, black and white version. Proving Santa is real in a court of law? And making one skeptic of a little girls Christmas wish come true is enough to leave even the grinchiest among us with not a dry eye. 

6) Scrooged (1988)- A modern take on the Dickens classic, A Christmas Carol, cold hearted TV executive (played by Bill Murray) is visited by three ghosts on Christmas Eve. Now you know ANYTHING by Bill Murry, especially from the 80's is gonna be golden. 

5) National Lampoons Christmas Vacation (1989)- Hands down, no questions, my favorite Christmas movie of all time. Perhaps it's because they remind me so much of my own family dysfunctions, but the Griswolds are legends in my eyes. As is any big event in their family, the Christmas celebration planned by Clark turns into a hilariously delightful disaster. 

4) A Christmas Story (1983)- Played on a loop for 24 hours every Christmas and I still never get tired of Ralphie as he tries for 94 minutes to convince his family, friends, and teachers he should get a Red Rider BB gun for Christmas. "You'll shoot your eye out!"

3) Home Alone  (1990)- Back before Macaulay Culkin fell off the map and sunk into child star oblivion, he rocked it as 8 year old Kevin McAllister who gets left behind in Chicago as his large family travels to Paris for Christmas. His trickster trouble-making with the bumbling burglers Marv and Harry are hilarious and clever. 

2) A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)- What better way to learn the true meaning of Christmas than with the lovable Charlie Brown? A Christmas classic, I can remember watching this on VHS as a child (yes I know, I'm old...). These classic characters are sure to bring a smile to your face. 

1) How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966)- An oldie but goodie, watching the recluse grinch learn the turn meaning of Christmas is a good reminder to us all this time of year! "Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more!"

What are some of your favorite holiday movies? Did I miss any goodies?

 

**photos used courtesy of www.IMBD.com

The Lighting of the Tree; An American Town Tradition

If you pay close attention, your city (or town) will have a Christmas Tree displayed for the public. Usually located in a central place, easily accessible, and highly transited. If your city is large, they may have several Christmas Trees around town. These special trees are no ordinary trees.  hey must be gigantic and splendid in order to be visible from far.  

If you must have a visual, think about the famous Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree that appears in so many movies, TV shows, and pictures. A magnificent tree 80 ft in height, and illuminated with over 20,000 lights. You know what I'm talking about. It's a Christmas staple of our country.  

There are other famous Christmas trees, like the US Capital Tree, or the National Christmas Tree in Washington DC. There are also festivities, music, shows, and just plain Christmas magic happening every time one of these trees are lit for the first time every year.  

But, not every town or city can afford to place an 80 feet tall tree. And not everyone can make it to NYC or Washington D.C. to watch the tree lighting. Don't fear! You can still participate in this amazing Christmas experience from your own town.   

***RELATED: SOUTHERN CHRISTMAS SHOW

The lighting of the tree happens in almost every city, town, or community in the US, and, although it's not Rockefeller Center, it can as wonderful and Christmasy as one of the famous ones. We visited our hometown's lighting of the tree, and our kids loved every minute of it!

Our town had a beautiful tree in the park across from the Town Hall. There was live music, dance groups, local artists and crafters, local cuisine, horse drawn carriage rides, free candy for the kids, and of course, Santa.

***RELATED: DANCE FUSION OF HARRISBURG

The ceremony was short as the crowd counted down with anticipation to the lighting of the center tree. Once lit, the party began! Local dance groups, like our friends at Dance Fusion of Harrisburg, participated with beautifully choreographed Christmas performances, as well as  local school and churches chorus and music bands performed to Christmas music.  

Our spirits were lifted, Christmas mode was on, and we left the place with big smiles and ready for Santa!

So next time you are wondering what it feels to attend a lighting of a tree... check out your town or community events! You will have a jolly time.  

Friends!!! What is your towns' tradition?? We want to know!

 

Game night fun! -Grown up edition

You all know we LOVE to spend time with the kiddos and we often have family game nights or family movie nights, which are great...but from time to time, we, the adults, need our own "adult-time" with our friends. I typed adult-time in quotations because, when we get together we don't really act like adults... We are all kids at heart (which makes our night that much more fun).

Here's a list of games and activities that we recommend. We usually have some drinks and cocktails mixed in, but all these are also totally fine for a sober night.  Just enjoy and play!

1. CARDS AGAINST HUMANITY

Yes, this is REALLY a game for horrible people, but the truth is that it is sooooooooo funny, my belly aches every single time we play this game, because we all laugh so hard. The objective of this game is basically be the first one to collect a certain number of black cards (usually 7). If you do, this probably means that you are the worst of them all... in a dirty-mind kinda way. Players take turns drawing a black card and reading it out loud. Whoever reads it is considered the "judge" for that round. Then, players throw in their white card (facing down) so the judge doesn't know which card belongs to who. The black cards have a question, fill-in-the-blank, or statement that you must pair with what you think is most appropriate using your white cards. For example, the judge can read "What's that smell?" and you will answer that with the white cards, which I probably shouldn't type here (in case a kid reads this...lol). The white cards are outrageous and surprisingly politically incorrect at best. The combination depends on how dirty your mind can get.  P.S. to win this game you must play the player, so if you know the judge well, play to their sense of humor.

2. REVERSE CHARADES

Just like the regular charades game, reverse charades is played in groups. The twist is that instead of one person performing in front of the teammates, the group must act out the card and only ONE person guesses. The more you guess correct, the more points you get. Trying to get a group of people to act out the same thing in a few seconds WITHOUT talking is both challenging and hilarious!

3. HEADBANDS

Everyone wears a headband on their foreheads, and every person places a card on the slit of their headbands, facing the group. You can read everyone's cards, but you have no clue what you card says. Each player takes turns asking questions to the group to gather clues and guess your own card. You only have 30 seconds per turn. You must ask only yes or no questions like, "Is it a thing? An animal? A place?" "Can i find it in a house?" etc, you get the point... kinda like playing 20 questions but everyone takes turns, and you must remember where you left off when your turn comes back around. If you guess your card, you keep it and put another one on the headband. The player that gathers the most cards wins.   

4. SPOONS

This game is truly hilarious. You only need a regular deck of cards (or two depending on how many players) and spoons (forks might be a little too dangerous). Let me explain; if you have five players, you will need four spoons. One less than the number of players. Everyone sits around a table and the spoons are placed in the middle (making sure everyone can reach them). Each player starts with four cards.Then one person starts passing cards to the left from the remaining deck (facing down). The objective is to gather FOUR of a kind (four queens, four 8's, four 7's etc). When you get a card from the player beside you, you will try to match it with the cards you already have to see if you can gather four of a kind. You will have to make a split decision and choose one of your cards to pass to the left. This is a very, very fast paced game, and you must have four cards at a time and pass the rest. If you get four of a kind, you have to reach out and grab a spoon. Once someone reaches out for a spoon, all other players must reach and try to grab their own spoons. One person will be left out each round. Get ready to laugh all night.

5. SCATTEGORIES 

This is another one of our favorite games! The game contains different cards with a series of 12 categories each. Things like, "a boys name", "things that are cold", "a villain in a movie or book" etc.  Then a letter is produced with a unique 20-sided die. Each player must then jot down an answer to the category which contains a word that starts with the letter that was rolled. For example, if you rolled the letter J, all your answers MUST start with J.  "a boys name" you can answer Jacob, "things that are cold" juice, and so on.  You have three minutes to answer the 12 categories. It's fun to see who's more resourceful with words in the group. This game is always a lot of fun!

We often make up our own games, or try to find new ones. For example, can't wait to try the new "Watchamouth" "Speak Out" or "LOLz" which are both played using a mouth piece to distort your words.  We also like to play Cranium, Monopoly, and just plain 'ol rummy. Mix a little wine in the games and you will have an amazing game night.  P.S.  You can make any of these games drinking games if appropriate.  Just remember, drink responsibly and don't drink and drive.  

What are your favorite party night games? I want to try some new ones!

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

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Mia and I have been anxiously awaiting the release of this movie for months. So it should come as no big surprise that we bought tickets online weeks in advance and saw the movie opening night. And it should also come as no big surprise that we have to dedicate a post to discussing the newest movie from our favorite wizarding world (or really just our favorite world in general if we're being honest here).  

So, without further ado, lets dish people!

*Disclaimer- there will be spoilers so save this read for after you watch the movie if you plan on doing so!*

As any Potterhead would be, I was anxious for this movie to be released. And not just  "I'm so excited, I need this in my life now!" sort of anxious (although trust me, there was certainly a fair share of this anxiety as well) but there was also the anxiety that this wouldn't quite live up to the "Harry Potter level" of amazing. That it would be a huge let down. 

So what did I think?

IT. WAS. FANTASIC!

Now, don't get me wrong, this isn't Harry Potter. There will never be another Harry Potter in my opinion, but this movie is authentic, magical, and hopeful, perfectly in line with what I expected from the wizarding world. 

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is based on the wizarding world in New York City circa 1926. Newt Scamander has been traveling the globe collecting and cataloging the multitude of magical creatures in the wizarding world. His quick stop in New York City turns into an international incident when his case of magical creatures is mistakenly swapped with a similar case owned by Jacob, a No-Maj (American term for muggle!) who accidentally releases some of these animals into the city. These two unlikely allies work together to track down the creatures while a separate deadly creatures wrecks havoc on the city simultaneously. 

One of the unique aspects of this movie, which sets itself apart from the Harry Potter books/movies, is that it incorporates both the magical and non-magical worlds. It was simply hysterical to watch Jacob Kowlaski be introduced into the world of magic and navigate the city with Newt in search of the lost creatures. His humor and comedic timing were on point, he made such a wonderful addition to the cast of characters. Newt Scamander was thoughtful, tenderhearted, and brave (as any good hero in this universe ought to be!) I was absolutely tickled to hear talk about Dumbledore and had a sense of foreboding foreshadowing was happening with the mention of a mysterious LeStrange in Newts past. Anyone else feel like she is going to turn up in a later movie to tug on poor Newts heartstrings?!

Now for the stand out character in this movie? 

This quick fingered Niffler had me rolling with his crazy antics. Snatching up every bright and shiny object within reach, plundering jewelry shops, and pilfering the pockets of unsuspecting No-Majs, he was a hoot! 

And can we talk about Newts suitcase for a minute?! Anyone else just want to LIVE in that thing? God, all the beautifully exotic magical creatures were almost too much for my heart. And the tender and loving way in which Newt tends to them all is so charming. That case is like a magical breath of fresh air. I have also decided that I need a BowTruckle for Christmas...I'm gonna need someone to look into this for me.

While we don't learn too much about Newts background, other than the fact that he was kicked out of Hogwarts (gasp!) and had a once very close relationship with a LeStrange, I get the feeling Newts story will come into more focus as the series progresses. The big reveal was a shocker at the end! I was hoping Graves would have been our Snape for this series. The one you were certain was bad all along until he is finally revealed as the ultimate hero? Well that theory went out the window pretty quickly when he was revealed as non other than GRINDEWALD! Like, THE Grindewald people! Ekkkkk, did NOT see that one coming. 

Overall, I can't write enough good things about this movie. To be back in a world that gives me so much joy, is, in a word, magical....

What did you guys think of the movie?! Did it live up to your Harry Potter Hype? And who was your favorite new character? (Human and creature both!)