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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!) 

 

 

Vote 2016

Election Day is almost here! Tomorrow is the big day. We have (hopefully) watched the debates, read up on the issues, and weighed our options with careful consideration. 

There is no doubt about it, this election is one for the record books. Never have we had two such polarizing candidates who seem to evoke such strong feelings in the hearts and minds of not just Americans, but people from all over the world. This election has caught global headlines, and people everywhere are holding their collective breath to see which way the tide will turn. (Trust me on this, we had quite a few political discussion with people from Paris, Italy, and Ireland while we traveled abroad this summer.) There is no in between, you either love them or hate them it seems. 

I, for one, will be happy to finally be able to enjoy Facebook and Twitter again without the constant bombarding and posting of political propaganda (I learned early on- STAY OUT OF THE COMMENTS SECTION- it was a hard lesson to learn...) and go back to the funny cat videos and pictures of your dinner. (Like really, the foodie pics have taken a sharp decline in the past months peeps, what gives?! Show me your latte! I wanna see your omlet!) All joking aside, this election is of monumental importance. I urge you all to do your homework, and not just on the two major party nominees for President but for all the smaller roles within our government which need voted upon (think Senate, House, Governor, Attorney General, etc). Find out who your states candidates are, how they have voted in the past (if they are up for reelection), and what their stance is on major political and social issues. Give your voice to someone who will represent your ideals and beliefs. This is an often overlooked part of the voting process and most don't give it the thought and consideration it deserves. Don't get caught up in the political drivel and bigotry that seems to be crawling all over social media. You know the posts, the long winded arguments played out on Facebook or in the comments sections of news articles, wrought with misinformation and hypocrisy. Steer clear! Focus on the facts!

Read up. Inform yourself. Vote!

May the odds be ever in your favor.....

 

Writer's Platform? What it is and how to start

A few years ago, well... let me rephrase that.  Many, many years ago, I decided I wanted to write a book.  I had a great idea.  Unique, fresh, mysterious; to me, it was the perfect way to start my writer's career.  

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I spent, also many years, creating characters, plots, and twists, and a few months writing everything down.  It also took several months to do editing (thanks Coco!). This book was my baby. Sweat and tears (not really tears, but lots of sweat, yes) and many hours of insomnia were involved in putting together my masterpiece.  

After I had, what I thought was the finished product, I proceeded to do some research as far as publishing. Self-publishing vs traditional publishing, agent vs publishing directly, publishing boutiques, how to spot a fake agent, how to write a query letter, etc. Believe me, I did my homework on that one! But, despite of all those hours of research and learning, I felt like I was missing something. 

I learned that in today's market, author involvement is crucial for a successful career. It's not just the fact that you find an agent and wait for them to sell your book. You, as an author, must be involved with your audience and potential readers. Think about it. There's nothing cooler (major nerd-girl issue here) than getting a tweet reply or a Facebook like from your favorite writer, or actor, or famous person. Nothing beats that (don't quote me on this one).  

WHAT IS A WRITER'S PLATFORM?

RELATED: WRITER'S BLOCK. BEAT THE BEAST

Putting it in simple terms, a platform is somewhere where you can stand. A writer's platform is where you stand as a writer. In a technology driven world, where the internet rules our lives, this platform is digital and you must build it.  

So, I slowly realized that in order for me to find the perfect agent, the perfect publisher, the perfect deal, not only my book needed to be superb - and honestly it's still a work in progress- but also, I needed to build my audience. I needed to find a way to create a fan-based group, and network with other authors. I knew I needed to learn more from others before I could even imagine publishing my book.

HOW TO START

I'm going to be honest with you. Starting is very easy, but you MUST maintain your enthusiasm and your will to make it happen. It's not just a matter of opening hundreds of social media accounts, but it's a question of interacting, building bridges, meeting people, attending events, blogging, taking advantage of technology. You can't gather hundreds of fans if you don't interact. You can't possibly assume people want to read your work, if they have no idea who you are. The beauty of building a platform is that, even if you have NEVER published something before, little by little your followers will start getting to know you, and eventually they'll be willing to read, share, and cherish your stories.

So here are some ideas on how to start:

OPEN A TWITTER, INSTAGRAM, AND FACEBOOK ACCOUNT

Choose the same username across all social media accounts to create uniformity. Like, comment, and follow other authors, artists, and community leaders. Share stories related to writing or to the subjects you are going to write about. And this is important: do not share personal opinions about controversial topics, politics or religion, UNLESS that is the topic of your target audience and work. Also, DO NOT abandon your accounts after a few weeks. Post something at least two- three times a week (minimum)... or several times a day for twitter. Research how to use hashtags! They are your best friends when using social media!! (Check out my author twitter and instagram accounts @AngeluxSeries to see an example).  

CREATE A BLOG PAGE

Blog, blog, blog blog.  I can't say this enough.  If you want people to get to know your style, they need to be reading something you write. If you are a writer, blogging shouldn't be a hassle. Writing is what you love, right? You can write about what inspires you, or you can tell your fans short stories, or things that happened to you throughout the day. Blog with a pseudo-name, or with your real name. Either way, blogging is writing, and the more you write, the better you become at it. You don't have to spend lots of money by buying your own domain (but if you can afford it, go for it!).  I like blogger, or world-press - they both have free versions and are easy to work with as well and very customizable.

NETWORK WITH OTHER AUTHORS

Regardless of where you live, I guarantee you that there are successful, published authors living in a city near you. Do some research about the authors in your area. Participate in book signings, conferences, or simply reach out to them through Facebook, email, or other social media platforms. Many writers will be glad to speak to you and give your advice, tips, or let you pick their brain.  

Whatever route you choose to get your name out there, do it consistently and be motivated to continue, despite the ups and downs that the road will bring you. My first book hasn't been published yet. Instead, I'm gathering stories of a different genre into a different project. I'm still building my audience, and continuing to work on my platform.  It takes a while, but consistency and willingness will get you there.  

As always, happy writing!

Mia

Do you have other tips or ideas on how to build your writer's platform? Share them with us!

Halloween Hunting: Finding the perfect haunted attraction

In case you guys didn't already know, I am a huge fan of Halloween. Second only to Christmas (because, hello? Christmas rocks! Pressies, cookies, huge dinners, snow, Santa & elves...you seriously can't beat that) I have tubs upon tubs devoted to all my decor. Every year on Oct 1st the decorating begins. I agonize for weeks about my costume and always delight in planing and prepping for the annual Halloween party, so it should come at no surprise that making a night of experiencing a local haunted house is a yearly must. We have frequented tons of spots around our hometown of Charlotte, NC and want to give you a run down of the top picks if you are in the area to go check out for yourself!

1) Scarowinds, Charlotte- Every year the local amusement park, Carowinds, transforms itself into spook central. This option is a tad pricey at a $55.99 per person ticket but you can always find a deal online, they are running right now for $31.99 if you purchase online. While that may still seem steep for a haunted house you have to keep in mind that you have a whole amusement park of rides at your disposal, including the worlds tallest gigacoaster, Fury 325. Top it all off with a handful of mazes, spooked out decor, you are set with plenty of thrills for a night of terror...errr...fun. 

2) Boogerwoods, Rockwell- This is probably one of my favorite haunted attractions. Boogerwoods is a haunted trail located in Rockwell, NC. This one has some amazing displays, plenty of terrifying props and people, and a perfectly desolate wooded location. Boogerwoods is only running for 5 nights this year with tickets going on sale at 2pm each day for that day only. Tickets are $15 per person and proceeds go to benefit cystic fibrosis. Don't want to wait in a long line? They offer a fast pass for $25 which allows you to skip line! 

3) The Haunted Mill, Belmont- The Haunted Mill is a haunted house located in, you guessed it, an old mill. Opened Fridays and Saturdays from the end of September through October, this 20,000 square foot house boasts loads of thrills and scares and is even rumored to have experienced a run in with real paranormal activity. Snag your tickets on Groupon for a deeply discounted price of $19 for 2 tickets! 

4) The Amazing Maize Maze, Huntersville- This is definitely a more family friendly Halloween activity. Opened for day or night time maze exploring, The Amazing Maze Maize includes 265 acres of corn field, a pumpkin patch, corn hole, hayrides, and various other family friendly activities. Pack a picnic lunch and make a family day of it! Normal ticket prices range from $6-$18 depending on adult versus child and day versus night tickets. Be sure to check Groupon for deals! 

5) Spooky Woods, High Point.  This is also a favorite in our family.  Spooky Woods has been featured in USA Today, ABC, the Travel Channel, and Forbes Magazine due to its movie quality sets and super scary trails. Tickets are a little pricey but if you are looking for a good thrill, they are worth it.  $25 - $50 will get you in, depending if you want a general or VIP admission. You can also get discounts on their website!

6) Campground Massacre, Fort Mill. Michael Myers lives here. Seriously, he roams the camp and he will get in your face.  It's realistic and terrifying.  Tickets are $22 with offered discounts on certain dates.  Check their website for more info! http://www.campgroundnightmare.com/

7)Maze of Terror, Albemarle.  If you go in the afternoon, this is a very family friendly corn maze. Amble about the fields and loose yourself in the rows of golden corn. At night, it transforms into a field of terror. Take a menacing school bus out to the middle of the corn field before traversing through a guided tour of mayhem. Just imagine walking in total darkness, through a corn field, where the only thing you can see is the sky. If you scream, no one will hear you...yeah...enter at your own risk.  Tickets are $15 but several discounts are available in their website.  http://www.getlostcornmaze.com/maze-of-terror/

8) The 13th Acre at Aw Shucks Corn Maze, Monroe.  If you dare to go into the 13th acre you are a brave soul. But if you still want to enjoy a family-small-kid-friendly Halloween experience, this is the place for you.  For the not so brave member of the family, there's Aw Shucks Corn Maze. There's so much to do in this place! Besides the main attraction, the huge and challenging corn maze, there are games, bonfires, spooky story time, pumpkin patch, animal barn, an 1800's train cart, paddle boats, and much more!  Fun guaranteed! visit http://www.awshuckscornmaze.com/things-to-do/corn-maze/ for more info!

Where do you get your scares from?

Not home most of the day? Here’s how to keep your pets happy

It’s true, sometimes it really seems like our pets have a secret life and do crazy things when we are not home.  I always wondered what my dogs do all day while I’m out working.  I mean, I leave pretty early in the morning, take the kiddo to school, work for 9 hours and come home.  That’s an average of 10 hours a day out of my home. 

If you are like me, and you love animals, you probably have a pet.  I have 3 beautiful dogs that I adore with all my heart.  And - here comes the tricky part – how can you juggle a full time, family time, and time for your pets?  Here are some suggestions on how to make our pet’s lives happier and less stressful when you have a full time job outside your home.

1.       BUY GOOD QUALITY FOOD

Just like our human food, dog and cat food is filled with preservatives, and lots and lots of fillers that can harm our fur-friends in the long run.  Well, let me tell you how I figured this out.  I was very naive when I thought that dog food was just dog food, and that they could eat basically anything.  Well, the same way that eating junk food everyday could make you, my human friend, sick; cheap, low quality dog food can make them sick as well.  I’m not ashamed to admit that many, many times I've been on a budget and I'd always bought whatever food was on sale for my dogs… the cheapest the bag, the cheapest it is to produce, the more fillers and “junk” it has.  When my dog Katy (a beautiful golden retriever-Chinese Sharpei mix) started to get sick, I was very worried.  She wouldn’t play, she would throw up all the time and eat grass and throw up again.  She was also having accidents in the house, which was totally not like her.  I was worried, and took her to the vet.  They ran all kinds of test and everything came back normal.  I spent more money trying to figure out what illness she had than what I spent in cheap dog food in a whole year.  I was very sad until someone told me to start feeding her raw foods for a few weeks and then switch to a good quality, natural food.  So we did.  We fed her raw meat and raw eggs, and yogurt, and other things for a couple of weeks, then, after lots of research and self-education, we got her on a more natural, yet affordable over the counter dog food.  Slowly, Katy grew healthier and happier.  It was her gut.

 

2.       GET A CHEW TOY or TWO

I couldn’t imagine being at home all day without doing anything.  We keep our dogs inside just because here in our state it can get really, really hot in the summer, and really, really cold in the winter and there is not a lot of shade for them in our back yard.  I’ve purchased a lot of different dog toys over the years and I always come home to millions (yes, millions) of small particles of the toy all over my floor.  The voracious chewing of my 12 year old Katy, is like no other.  She won’t, however, chew ANYTHING that is not given to her.  She’s a good girl.  One chew toy that seems to work very well is the Nylabone Durachew chicken flavored bone.  I guess it really taste like chicken because my dogs love it and it doesn’t smell and voila! No mess to clean up!

3.       BRUSH AND GROOM

All my dogs are pretty hairy, and they shed a lot (but what dog- other than a labradoodle doesn’t?)  We have to regularly brush them, and brush them and I can literally take enough hair to stuff a pillow every time I brush Chloe, Skyler, and Katy.  Even though this sounds like chore, make it about your dog.  Make it a way to spend time with them.  I’m sure they will enjoy your brushing and your love and you will too.

 

4.       GO FOR A WALK

When Katy was little, we lived in a home with a large back yard and she would run a lot and get her exercise that way.  At that time I had no time to take her for walks, but she would be so exhausted from having fun outside that she didn’t mind.  Now, fast-forward more than twelve years, her hips are bad, and her back legs give up many times so she can’t go for long walks without pain.  I wish I could go back in time and take her walking.  Our daughter does walk the newest addition to our family, Skyler.  She is a spunky 3 year old Chiweenie (Chihuahua -dachshund mix) and loves to walk around the neighborhood. 

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5.       ATTEND TO THEIR ILLNESSES

If your child is sick, you take care of him/her.  If your child is really sick, you take him/her to the doctor and buy medicine for them to feel better.   That’s common sense.   It puzzles me beyond believe how people can see their dogs or cats suffering with pain and do nothing about it.  I understand that vets are expensive, but many local vets offer affordable payment plans and other charity organizations have vaccination clinics and checkups for free.  If you can’t afford it, no problem, just inform yourself of the resources out there and you will find a place that fits your needs.   A pet is part of your family, and it should be treated as such.  If your pet is healthy, they will be happier. 

And finally, spend any free time in your schedule with your pet.  You don’t need to do much…if you sit down to watch TV, pet your dog while you are binging on your favorite tv show or movie.  All you have to do is move your hand.  They will be utterly happy to get some attention from their beloved master.  A soft stroke, a kind word, and even a smile will be recognized by your fur-friend as they comfortable curl up on your lap content and fulfilled.  

***READ OUR DIARY HERE!

What do you do to keep your pets happy? 

Always,

Mia

How to learn a language fast. Ten tips that will help you say Hola.

So many people have asked me before for tips and tricks to learn another language (especially Spanish) throughout the years, that I actually took the time to think about it.  For me, learning another language was a natural thing,  I learned Spanish and English since I was a kid.  I’m not going to deny that it took a little while to get good at it, but everything gets better with practice.  

Our fast growing society goes through changes every day.   If you must learn a new language due to necessity, travel or just simply because you want to expand your knowledge, there are a few simple steps that could help you engage in this task. NOTE: these tips will only work if you are willing to learn.  Just so you know, there is no magic formula that this muggle can provide.

  1. HAVE A POSITIVE ATTITUDE

The first thing you need to understand is that your attitude towards something has a great effect on the product.  You have to want to learn a new language in order to prepare your brain for the mission.  Motivation is a key element in initiating and keeping up with the desire of learning something new.  Try to change your state of mind from “I need to learn Spanish” to “I want to learn Spanish”.   Once you had convinced yourself that this is something that you want, it is time to search for a good course.  

2. TRY A CLASS

There are a variety of classes, books, DVD’s, CD’s, and a combination of all of the previous that will work just fine.  The price varies, as well as the technique.  You need to look for one that can accommodate your needs as far as how much time you are going to dedicate a day, or how many days a week you are willing to spend studying.  Once you have found the class, or book, or course that you feel comfortable with, is time to start.  

3. NOTHING IS THAT DIFFICULT

Never think that learning another language is difficult.  Saying this to yourself will undo your desire and motivation.  You already learned to speak a language once.  So you are living proof that language is part of our brain, you just need to find the right approach.

4. THINK LIKE A CHILD

Yes, as weird as it sounds, we all learn to communicate as children.  So, in order to learn a new language, think like a child.  Children learn word by word first, and then they learn to put phrases together.  Start with the objects around your house.  Tape little signs or label random objects around your home with the corresponding word in the language you want to learn.  If you tend to forget how to pronounce the word, make sure you also write down the phonetic spelling in a way to can understand it.  When you are at home, practice out loud by naming the object around you and try to incorporate them in sentences, even if the sentence is half in English and half in your targeted language.  Doing this exercise will familiarize your brain with the association of a certain word and an object.  

5. AVOID LITERAL TRANSLATIONS

Again, the same way children learn a new language.  Associate words with things you already know.  For example, if you want to learn the Spanish word for happy, “feliz” you should picture a smiley face in your mind, and not the actual word “happy”.  If you want to remember the word for “cold” then picture the feeling you have when you open the refrigerator.  Thinking about the feeling, emotion, or object will make it easier to remember than just trying to memorize the definition.  

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6. TV SAP FEATURE IS YOUR FRIEND.

Practice by watching television shows in the foreign language you are trying to learn, if possible or use the SAP (Secondary Audio Programming) when available.  OR  Watch videos, or listen to music in the foreign language online and try to pick up all the words you can.  Download lyrics to a slow song, and follow the lyrics while listening to the same song will help you practice your listening abilities, and will also help you with pronunciation.

7. START A CONVERSATION

Once you have a more extensive vocabulary, it is time to expand your conversational skills.  Follow the instructions on your chosen method of learning to engage in grammar and sentence structure.  This will be much easier if you already have the needed vocabulary.  This is perhaps the trickiest part of learning a new language.  It is very important not to get discouraged at this point.  The most important thing to remember is not to be afraid of making mistakes.  Practice as much as you can, even if you are not saying the word or phrase one hundred percent correctly.  If you have a friend that speaks the language you are trying to learn, ask them to help you by engaging in conversational exercises.  

8. YOUR BRAIN WILL DO THE WORK

Remember, once you had practiced and repeatedly listened to native speakers, whether in person or on video, your brain will create its own idea of how this new language is supposed to sound.  You will eventually know if something doesn’t sound grammatically correct when you say it.  Follow your instincts and use your resources.  

9. NETWORK WITH OTHERS TRYING TO LEARN

Networking is a good tool when you are trying to achieve anything.  It’s imperative to create good business relationships, and to further your social skills.  But it’s also a good way to meet and learn with others, like you, who are in the same situation.  There’s nothing better than to exchange anecdotes and tips with fellow language-mates.  They might have ways to learn that you wouldn’t have otherwise thought of.  

10.  MOVE TO A FOREIGN COUNTRY.

This is perhaps the more radical way to learn, but also the most efficient.  If you want to learn Spanish, consider moving to a Spanish speaking country for a little while and mingle with the natives.  When no one speaks English around you, you will be forced to learn the language and the survival instincts of your brain will kick in, allowing you to learn without even noticing it.

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Motivate yourself every day in the quest of learning a new language because you want to do it.  Don’t be embarrassed to say something wrong, as long as you correct yourself in the process.  Perseverance, dedication and practice will ensure your success in learning a new language fast.  And remember, you got this!