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! COMMENT BELOW!

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.

RELATED: BEST CHRISTMAS MOVIES...Coco's choice.

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. 

RELATED: CHRISTMAS LIGHTS! FROM NASCAR TO CHRISTMAS TOWN USA.

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? Let me know! please comment below.  Happy Holidays!

 

**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!! 

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. 

RELATED: ADOPT, DONT SHOP: PALACE OF PAWS

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

DID YOU LIKE THIS ARTICLE? PLEASE COMMENT AND SHARE BELOW!

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.  If taking a class is not your thing, try a tutor instead. For instance, Preply.com is a great source to find the perfect tutor for your budget and needs.  

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.  

RELATED: INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL WITH KIDS

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.

RELATED: PARIS, CITY OF LOVE AND MANY OTHER AMAZING THINGS

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!

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Need some date night ideas?

If you read my post about my recent 10 year wedding anniversary- you know that my husband and I take the idea of date night seriously. We love to try new and exciting things, foods, places. Falling into a date night rut is easy, especially after you  have been together for 10 years, so here are a few date night ideas to try if you are looking for something outside the dinner/movie routine to spice things up!

Lazertag: We have ventured to play lazertag quite a few times and let me tell you, it makes for a really fun group date night! (And if I'm being completely honest, a really good workout!) Playing a couple rounds of guys vs girls or couple vs couple is a great way to blow off some steam and have some fun. Loser buys a round of brews when you're finished!

Drive in movie: While we haven't tried this one out yet together- It's on the short list of date night ideas. Bring a comfy blanket, snacks, and settle in for a couple new release movies. Much cheaper than a traditional movie theater at around $6 a person. Bring some cash for the snack bar! 

RELATED: NETFLIX NIGHT

Paintball: What better way to work out pent up aggression than to shoot your husband with paintballs? (I kid, I kid....kinda...) Another great group date idea, this one is best reserved for the colder months. Trust me on this- you will want to have several layers of clothes on for this one, those suckers sting! 

Take a cooking class: We tried this out while visiting NoLa earlier in the year. It was definitely a fun and unique experience. We got some great recipes and ate some freshly prepared food! Check out local universities or Sur la Table to find one near you! 

Try out a local ethnic restaurant: Hubby and I thrive on trying out new and exciting food spots. We have sampled some great restaurants in and around our area including Ethiopian, Vietnamese, Thai, and Colombian. Not only do we get to sample unique cuisines, but they often times take us into areas of the city that we have yet to explore. 

Brewery Tour: Breweries are popping up left and right these days and for good reason, they rock! Go take a tour (or two) and check out some local craft beer. You can often times check out live, local music while you sample new brews, this is a perfect summer month date night idea! 

RELATED: Want to experience good beer? Try GOOD HOPS Brewery

Murder Mystery Dinner: This was definitely, by far, the funnest date night! I actually found a Groupon for this one (half priced? Yes please!) and immediately snatched it up. We were treated to a night of murder, intrigue, dining, and drinks. The actors were all great, and really got everyone involved in the plot and figuring out the "who dun it" Professional photographers greeted us at the door to snap a 20's inspired shot. The almost three hour event flew by and we had a blast!

Catch a Game: Living in a large city like Charlotte, NC offers us lots of options for this one. Charlotte Checkers (ice hockey) , Knights (baseball),  Hornets (basketball), and of course, the Carolina Panthers (Go Cam!) No matter what time of year, there is always some sporting event to go see! Live in a smaller town? Head out to the local highschool/college games! Relax with a beer and some nachos and enjoy the night. (Can you tell snacks/food play a large part in our date night ideas- I'm a foodie at  heart!)

I am always on the hunt for new and exciting date night ideas, what do you guys like to do? Anything I should add to the list?

Kids are Weird: Part Three

If you haven't already heard, my kids are weird. I enjoy chronicling the absurd and ridiculous, and sometimes downright creepy things they say. I'm banking on using this as blackmail when they enter their ornery teenage years. 

RELATED:  KIDS ARE WEIRD

RELATED: KIDS ARE WEIRD: PART 2

  • I notice my 5 year old sniffling in the backseat. "What's wrong with her?" I ask my 9 year old. "Oh she's just upset that she's not psychic..."
  • "I love the way your armpits smell"
  • "Oh my gosh you scared me! I almost had a heart-a-cat!"
  • "I'm more mean now than when I was 4" *shrugs shoulders* "It's just how God made me"
  • When I tell my five year old that she is, in fact, not allowed to bring a purse filled with cosmetics to the Carolina Panthers Fan Fest "But Mommy, I need my lipstick so I can look good for Cam Newton!" 
  • L: "I am definitely getting married when I grow up." Me: "Oh yeah, why do you say it like that?" L: "Because I am NOT doing all the chores by myself"
  • "Why does music make me feel special inside and make me want to move around?"
  • S: "Mom have you ever been to a warehouse?" Mia: "Yes? Why?" S: Weren't you scared of the werewolves?!"
  • "Wouldn't it be great to be like a queen a never have to get out of bed, just have people come and carry you around on a chair like in the movies?" ** Glances disapprovingly at me** "Well maybe they could push you around in something that has wheels, you might break their bones if they had to carry you like that"

what at things do you hear from your kids? We want to know!!!!!   

Twas the Night Before School....

(I can't believe is back to school already!!! so, here...enjoy this classic with a tweak)

Twas the night before back to school, when all through the town,
not a child was stirring, they had all been lain down.
The bookbags were hung on their hooks with great care,
and nutritious school lunches packed in the fridge over there.

 

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
while visions of recess and new friends danced in their heads.
And Dad in his sweats, and I in my yoga pants,
had just settled our brains and did a happy little dance.

 

When up in the bedrooms there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the couch to see what was the matter.
Right on up the stairs I flew like a flash,
tore open the door and kicked aside kid trash.

 

The moon on the lawn of the summer burnt grass
and a child awake in bed, with a face full of sass
she wants a book, he some water, and of course a song too
"Who do these kids think I am, do they think that I'm new?".

 

With a little mom luck, being lively and quick,
I threw back on their covers with a simple old flick.
More rapid than eagles, I dashed from the room,
while Dad whistled and shouted and said with a boom:

"Now Daniel! Now Lily!
Or, Thing One and Thing Two!
All Children must listen!
It's bedtime for the both of you!
Back on top of the bed!
And right up under the covers!
Now go to sleep! Go to sleep!
Go to sleep all!" 

 

As quickly as possible we dashed from their rooms,
and down the great stairs, to the living room did we zoom
exhausted and tired we fell into the couch,
with a sigh and a hump,  let our weary bodies slouch.

 

The summer was over and thank God for it we thought!
For all summer long they fought and they fought!
Over old toys and broken crayons, video games and the lot
better behaviors than that I thought that I'd taught. 

 

Too much time together in the same four walls.
So we took them on adventures to pools, libraries, and malls.
Their insatiable appetite kept the grocery bill high,
I couldn't eat that much as an adult if I tried!

 

My house what a wreck! They delighted, how merry!
Let's take out all my clothes and be the fashion queen fairy!
And my makeup was raided for dressup of course,
have you ever seen lipstick on a plastic toy horse?!
Because I have this summer, and much more to be sure,
I even found some in the carpet, ground into the floor!
She giggles and prances, without a care in the world
Singing and dancing, "Mom watch this great twirl!"

 

And what about that letter I received, right there in the postbox?
"Summer reading project is due soon, and you have to dress as a fox?"
A mad dash to complete and craft a costume to wear
"No I wont dye red your bleach blond locks of hair!"

 

But this is all in the past, we thought gratefully with a sigh.
We lay our heads back and ride the euphoric high.
I hold tight to my wine glass and pray to God that I find,
my sanity and sense, as this summer I have lost my mind. 

 

Once our drinks we had finished, and our shows over and done
Upstairs we tiptoed the weight of summer off our shoulders equaling a ton.
Quiet as a whisper, Dad turned to me in delight:

"Thank God school starts tomorrow, I cant wait for daylight!"

Harry Potter Midnight Release Experience

Coco and I have spent numerous hours of our teenage and early twenties years devouring every single Harry Potter book, more than once.  In fact, we devour everything Harry Potter (and J.K. Rowling) related.  From movies, to spin-offs, to Hogwarts textbooks, souvenirs, and merchandise, you get the point. Harry Potter has been a part of our adult-ish lives and will continue to be, forever. Needless to say, when we heard about the release of "Harry Potter and the Cursed Child" we squealed - seriously, squealed out loud.  Now in our thirties, we are still young at heart.

RELATED: OPEN LETTER TO JK ROWLING

So Coco did some research and found some local bookstores that were having a midnight release. Midnight releases are not foreign to Harry Potter experts like us. We've been to numerous release parties before, including VIP movie releases (it is sooooo great to watch a movie before anyone else can!). We chose to go to Barnes and Nobles.

Since it's been so long from the time when we last adventured to a book release, we didn't know what to expect. Do we dress up (like we used to when we were younger)?, do we bring our own wands to walk around in silly-playful mode? Do we wear normal clothes? I had no clue, so I opted to wear my not-so-obvious Harry Potter gear. Earrings, Necklace, Bracelet. Coco wore her Hogwarts t shirt as well as her HP accessories.  

We arrived at 10pm. The party had already started, but we figured that two hours was enough for us. This Barnes and Nobles was set up to resemble a wizardry school experience.You signed up at a desk (where you got your pre-order reservation ticket). Then we were directed to the sorting hat station. Answer three multiple choice questions and you are sorted to one of the four houses. I got Gryffindor and Coco got Hufflepuff (they marked us with a letter stamped on our hand)- I was a little disappointing that they didn't provide pins or stickers of your house like they have done in years past, but I moved on.  

Then, we walked around the two story bookstore, navigating through the shelves, with various decorations of HP related themes. There were raffles, look-alike contests, and trivia competitions at the main station downstairs. It was a pleasant surprise to see other adults our age there. Most of whom were dressed up like the HP characters (At that point I regretted not wearing more Harry Pottery stuff). There were also a lot of teens and little kids dressed up in their best HP outfits. While we were in line, there was this little 10 year old boy who was dressed in full HP gear, from the robe, to the scarf, wand, and glasses. He -very enthusiastically- stated that he had read all HP books twice. His dad was shaking his head as he'd never read a HP book. By the way, after speaking to them, I think we convinced dad to read the books with his son, mission accomplished. 

We roamed the store and visited the Houses. There were stations of activities to do. I was super excited to see a "make your own wand" station, and a "Golden Snitch" station as well. After we decorated our hand-made wands, feeling like a true Ollivander's apprentice,  we took pictures at the "wanted" wizard photo op, had an encounter with Moaning Myrtle in the bathroom (they had a recording of Moaning Myrtle playing on a closed door near the bathroom, it was quite clever), and shopped for some HP Funko Pop figurines (LOVE THEM!).  

Our geeky hearts were full, and right at 12:01 am the registers opened and we were able to get our hands on Harry Potter and the Cursed Child ten minutes after. My life is complete. 

***** READ HARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD REVIEW TOMORROW!!!

Did you guys go to a midnight release? I want to hear other's experiences! leave me a comment with your story...

GISHWHES 2016: A Recap of a Week of Absomness

Another week of GISHWHES has come and gone. I am sleep deprived, behind on work for the blog, my house is a mess, and my kids have eaten more frozen dinners than I care to admit (but hey, they ATE, so that's something right?!) 

Being that this was only my second hunt, I still consider myself a novice Gisher, but yet again I am blown away by the creativity and sheer awesomeness of not only my group, but GISHWHES as a whole. Of course Mia participated with me, and we wrangled Stephanie (read all about this lovely lady here) as well as Mias hubby into our shenanigans. Since we had such an awesome experience in our previous hunt, we joined up with some previous members in both Australia, Oklahoma, and Arkansas.  

If you're not familiar with GISHWHES, read about our experience in 2014 here. This year was filled with just as many random, crazy, artistic, altruistic, and creative items. Yet again I was forced to step outside of my comfort zone, flex my creative muscles, and be weird

Trust me when I tell you, you haven't lived until you've fashioned a panda bear from nothing but sanitary pads, hosted an "all holiday party", or had red wine poured onto you (while dressed in all white might I add) from a second story window.

 

In addition to these insane acts of creativity, we also did some real good not only in our local community, but as a global community as well. We delivered cold ice cream on a hot August day to a local firehouse, created a donation page and solicited 10 donors to assist in raising money for Syrian refugees, and completed 7 acts of kindness (one for every day of the hunt). While crazy and nutty, this hunt is always a "faith in humanity restored" kind of week. It not only reminds me that there is good in the world, but reminds me to be it as well. 

Wold Famous Dessert Fairy! ain't she cute ;)

Wold Famous Dessert Fairy! ain't she cute ;)

Wanna take a look at some of our submissions? Of course you do, who am I kiddin?!

# 118Time-lapse this submission to 30 seconds or less. Paint a Bob Ross painting. We must see both the painter replicating the Bob Ross painting and the playback of the Bob Ross video the painter is replicating. You must paint in real-time while he is painting. The video should end with a side-by-side comparison of your masterpiece and Bob Ross’s.     

 

#81 This submission may be 25 seconds or less. Jason Manns is well known for his rendition of "Crazy Love." Show the Crazy Love you have for your fellow humans by surprising your favorite barista, convenience store clerk, or other underappreciated worker with a serenade. Don't forget to bring an instrument of your own creation.

This one was awkward, but we serenaded our waitress, Jessica (fake flowers and improvised glass instruments included)

Either way, Misha made us do it. 

 

#18 Recreate a painting by Goya in candy.

 

#47 Submit two images, side-by-side. Recreate a famous, iconic photo from junk food. For example, you could submit the black and white photo of Einstein sticking out his tongue, next to another photo of your best attempt to recreate that photo using various junk foods as your paints. I hope that makes sense. For some reason it sounds confusing as I type it. But you have to somehow figure out what I mean here and then do it. Best of luck.  

#102 Don't you hate that feeling when you walk out to your car and you see the dreaded ticket under your windshield wiper? Let's change that. Find small envelopes and stamp them in red ink with an ominous: “PARKING SALUTATIONS BUREAU!” Then find a row of cars and put positive messages in your envelopes under their windshield wipers.

#6 Submit two images, side-by-side. If you have or know a child under 6, have them draw a family portrait. Now, get your family to pose EXACTLY as they drew you all in the drawing. Try to replicate the clothing, individual heights and anything you need to do or add to your bodies to contort them to what the child drew.

#116 Submit two images, side-by-side: let's see what existential angst looks like next to what the meaning of life is. - Stephanie Magnolia

# 86 As you all know, Saturday the 6th of August is International Find Another Gisher Day. Meet up (reach out over social media to find gishers in your area) with AT LEAST 5 other Gishers that aren’t on your team at a bus stop and, together, decorate the bus stop with post-it notes inscribed with a mix of delightful, surreal, and uplifting messages. One must read, “Be the unicorn you want to see in the world.” Submit one image of all 5+ people standing in, on, or around the decorated bus stop. The submission description must include the gishwhes usernames of each Gisher in the photo. Each team can submit the same image if a team member was there representing the team.

 

#124 Submit a screenshot. Create a website, blogpost, or in-depth social media post explaining an aspect of the elusive Miss Jean Louis’ biography. - Inspired by Holli DeWees

Read the hilarious post here!

**For those who don't know, Miss Jean Louis is known to the Gishwhes community as "Misha's babysitter"**

 

This is just a drop in the bucket of all the crazy, weird, exceptional things we were able to accomplish this week- not to mention all the hard work our other teammates in Australia, Oklahoma, and Arkansas put forth to create equally amazing moments in time. 

Until next year my GISHWHES loving friends! Stay weird and don't forget to leave a little sparkle wherever life takes you! 

**If you enjoyed this post, please let us know by commenting below! thank you gishfriends!

The Elusive Miss Jean Louis

The Elusive Miss Jean Louis, A Little Known History

Little is known of the background and upbringing of the elusive Miss Jean Louis, she seems to have popped up on our radar sometime back in 2011 with the advent of GISHWHES. Beloved by all, and the well-known leash keeper of our friend and comrade Misha Collins, she has quickly won the love and adoration of Gishers worldwide (I myself have a 5 foot statue made out of kale displayed in my home in her honor).

As for what we do know of Miss Jean Louis, it’s mostly conjecture and hearsay but I do have it on good authority that she actually saved Mishas life, which henceforth,forever more, bonded the two rapscallions to a lifetime of friendship.

The year was 1994 and Misha was just a young buck, only 20 years old. Taking a break from his woodworking and carpentery in the Berkshire Mountains, he decided to indulge in a week long cruise to the Caribbean (he always was one to indulge, that Misha). Lounge singer and sometimes stand-up comic, Miss Jean Louis was working the cruise lines. It was a hard life, on the road (or seas) months at a time pandering to drunk, happy go lucky cruise goers. No friends, alone and adrift in the world, it was a lonely life, one she despised. But still she carried on (like a wayward son) for it was all she knew.

It was day 2 into the cruise when the high winds and rough waters began. Tossing the large cruise ship like the ball in a drunken game of hot potato (not that I would have any experience in that, obviously..), the vessel was tossed and heaved for 2 long days and nights, battered with rain, winds so high as to give you wind burn if you so much as dared to step out on deck.

Being the unwaveringly dedicated soul that she is (I’ve heard that she once won a staring contest against the Mona Lisa- but that’s neither here nor there), Miss Jean Louis sang for those 2 days, without rest or nourishment to provide comfort to those fearful (and at this point severely nauseous) cruise goers. Never wavering in her commitment to fulfill her job duties of providing quality musical entertainment for all aboard.

It was the end of day two when the winds, rain, and waves had finally reeked so much havoc on the ship that it could bear it no more. Under the strain and stress, it began to take on water. It began to sink.

The deck was filled with screams and panic as people quickly made their way to the life boats. Having no clue about proper emergency disembarking procedures (he had enjoyed perhaps one too many Mai Tais during the mandatory safety class on day 1) Misha panicked and jumped overboard. He quickly realized his mistake as he had never mastered the art of swimming began screaming for help.

 Miss Jean Louis witnessed the incident and quickly jumped into action, diving overboard to the rescue (it is rumored she once competed in the Olympic Games back in 1984 bringing home the gold in the 800 meter freestyle or the USA under the pseudonym Tiffany Cohen- but that’s just conjecture at this point).

Floundering around like bacon grease on a griddle, Misha gasped and gurgled. Miss Jean Louise quickly and deftly free styled her way to Misha, battling the choppy waves and needle piercing rain to grab ahold of Misha , flip him on his back, and safely place in a the America Red Cross approved hold while making her way to the nearest life raft. (There is some debate at this point if she delivered a death dealing blow to a circling shark with nothing but her well chiseled right leg, scissor kick style but I feel it’s worth mentioning in any case.)

Once they were both safety aboard the life raft (Misha a blubbering mess at this point so I’m told), Miss Jean Louis had an epiphany. Amid the torrid waves, unrelenting rain, and hurricane like winds, a small ray of sunshine peeked between the clouds, shining almost as if Rob Benedict himself was highlighting the significance of the moment. Bathed in a heavenly glow of otherworldly light, Misha (laying on the floor of the raft, fetal position) suddenly became her mission. It was clear to her that her lifetime of solitude was over, she had found her cause. From that moment on she left her life of riding the high seas and devoted it instead to babysitting…errr….friending Misha. The two became thick as thieves, inseparable. In fact, it was due to this life changing event that Misha finally decided to finally become a certified lifeguard.

And so goes the tale of the beginning of the lifelong, inseparable bond between Misha and Miss Jean Louise. 

Reflections on 10 years of Marriage

Today is our ten year anniversary and so I find myself reflecting on marriage. Husband and I were young, still in college, and (surprise!) expecting a child. We had NO idea what we were doing. We knew we loved each other, we knew we wanted to be a family, but other than that, we had no idea how to "be married". So we figured it out. Together. I can't say that our story would have turned out the same for anyone else, but it worked for us, and here's why:

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1) We take time for ourselves (individually and together). We are so lucky to have amazing parents who really support us and our marriage. My parents live locally and take the kids every Saturday overnight so that husband and I can enjoy some time alone. The work week is crazy. We see each other in passing as I work night shift at a local hospital and he does his 9-5 thing downtown at a bank. It's SO IMPORTANT that we have that time to reconnect and be present with one another. Hubbys mother lives in Colombia and even though she is far- she checks in on us daily, encouraging and supporting us from afar. We also have friends and interests separate from each other. Hubby is a member of a local beer club and goes weekly to sample new, local brews and unwind with his friends/colleges. I make time with my girlfriends to watch the latest RomCom and binge on popcorn or attend a bookclub to devour coffee and discuss books. It's equally as important to have time apart, doing things we love separately, as it is to do things together.

2) Understand that marriage isn't disposable. Although we were young and star-y eyed when we exchanged vows, we both understand the gravity of promising your life to someone. Through the good and the bad we know at the end of the day- neither of us is going anywhere. There is something comforting in knowing that no problem we encounter can't be worked through. Don't get me wrong- there have been times I have wanted to pull my hair out (and his hair out) in frustration. We have argued and bickered and been stubborn and unforgiving, but we are human, we are going to have bad days. But bad days don't equal a bad life. And that's important to keep in mind.

3) We don't take ourselves too seriously and we have fun! While we both are working professionals, raising children, doing the whole "grown up" thing- we are both still kids at heart. Date night for us may be paintball and drinks at a local bar, running in a "Wipe Out" style 5k (also please note I am NOT athletically inclined), lazer tag, epic gin rummy showdowns (I AM THE RUMMY MASTER!), haunted corn mazes, you get the drift. It's so easy to get caught up in "adulting" that you don't take some time to just have fun. We make it a point to have adventures and never shy away from trying fun things together.

In a world where people treat marriage as such a disposable commodity, I am proud that we have made it 10 years. We have fought hard for it, worked tirelessly at it, and loved fiercely through it. Looking forward to however many more decades God gives us on this merry-go-round of life!

 

What do you all do to keep your marriage alive? Any fun date night suggestions?

Got Scared? Best Horror/Mystery TV Shows to watch

We are BIG fans of horror, mystery, sci-fi and supernatural genre shows.  It’s the mysteriousness of the plots that twists our minds into this never-ending web of happiness.  It’s food for our minds, I guess, if I had to simply explain it.  So I put together my top 10 shows to watch, if you want to feed your mind with our kind of fuel. From number 10, to my number one, they are all worth your time.

 

10. LUCIFER (Fox)

Lucifer on Fox

Lucifer on Fox

This show just aired its first season over the winter/spring 2016 on Fox.  I wasn’t so sure about it, as it seemed kind of dumb. The devil himself decides to take a vacation from his devil-ing duties in Hell and moves to L.A. only to meet a beautiful lady detective, and help her solve crimes. I watched the first episode, and then the second, and the third, and next thing I knew, I was into it.  It has the perfect combination of crime, drama, comedy, and mystery. The plot of the series got better as it went on (I was a little afraid it was not going anywhere), as more characters are introduced and a more substantial storyline is revealed.  Plus, Lucifer is British, and, well, he’s quite charming.

 

9. ARROW (CW)

Arrow - The CW

Arrow - The CW

Arrow first aired in 2012 and since it's debut, it has stolen a piece of my heart. Stephen Amell, who plays millionaire (spoiled-brat-womanizer) Oliver Queen, is a fantastic actor. After a boating “accident” Oliver gets stranded, alone, on a remote island, where he must learn to find his real-self in order to survive. Throughout the show, flashbacks of Oliver’s life on the island explain why he does the things he does, as he returns home. Oliver adopts the alter-ego/vigilante identity that everyone knows as “The Green Arrow”.  This storyline is so rich, dark, and full of surprises that you will not be disappointed.  

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8. SHERLOCK (BBC One)

Sherlock - BBC One

Sherlock - BBC One

I love everything to do with Sherlock Holmes.  From the many movies and books to the random stories incorporated into other shows; so when I learned about the series Sherlock (starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman) I squealed. The episodes in this series are broken into only three, one and ½ hour, episodes.  Each episode is like a mini movie in itself. The ingenuity, and the level of acting, along with the cleverness of the plot is just marvelous. The only thing I dislike is the fact that the seasons are so far apart. You must wait over a year (or two) for a new season to be released.  Season 3 ended in 2014, and season 4 is set to be released sometime this year, hopefully.  

 

7. HUMANS (AMC)

Humans - AMC

Humans - AMC

The first season came out in 2015 and it was only 8 episodes. This show explores a world where artificial intelligence takes a step forward, and humans are trying to deal with it, both morally and technologically. In this story, “synths” (as they call AI-robots) are here as helpers and each household has one to assist with chores. But a few synths are not who they seem to be. They are more than intelligent; they feel, they reason, they remember. And there is, Leo. A human who also has part synth in his body (must watch to know why).  He will do anything to find his synth family and be reunited them, before they are destroyed.  

 

6. SLEEPY HOLLOW (Fox)

Sleepy Hollow - Fox

Sleepy Hollow - Fox

A spin off on the original movie. Yes, it has a headless horseman, and the iconic Ichabod Crane. It is filled with witches, demons, and even angels. I was very skeptic at first because a whole TV show dealing with a headless horseman can get old after a while; but they found a way to make it interesting and, now going on season 4, they’ve introduced other folk characters and villains to keep things fresh. Can’t wait to see what season 4 brings!

 

5. AMERICAN HORROR STORY (FX)

American Horror Story- FX

American Horror Story- FX

What’s really neat (if you can call horror and gore neat) about this series is that while all 4 seasons consists of (roughly) the same cast of actors, the story lines change from season to season. A haunted house,  an insane asylum in the 40's, a coven of witches in New Orleans, and a traveling circus/freak show in the 50's. Season five which hasn't been released yet on Netlix was my favorite so far alternating time periods in a haunted hotel. (Lady Gaga nailed it in her TV debut!). It should be available in October 2016 at the same time that Season 6 will debut on TV.

 

4. DAMIEN (A&E)

What I like about this series is the fact that it reminds me of the Omen; which was a big part of my childhood mystery/thriller-watching upbringing. The Omen was one of my favorite horror movies, and the whole idea of Damien Thorn fascinates me. In this series, Damien starts off not knowing he is the Antichrist. Now 30 years old, he’s lived his life as a news photographer, photographing the world's most dangerous zones, without a scratch. But, when mysterious deaths start to occur all around him, he realizes something is wrong. Little by little he learns his fate. The question is, will he allow the monster in him to be woken?

 

3. BATES MOTEL (A&E)

Bates Motel on A&E

Bates Motel on A&E

Another spin-off of a classic. Roughly based on the storyline of the movie Psycho, Bates Motel integrates the good-ole Norman Bates, and his crazy, but not-so-crazy mother, Norma. The depth and the way the characters are written, combined with outstanding acting, makes this series one of my favorite. Its mysterious, terrifying, twisted, sad, real, and surreal all at the same time. It’s one of those things that makes you say “well, this could happen in real life” or “I wonder how many people think like that”. Yeah, it’s spooky because it’s very realistic. By the way, this show gets better and better with each season.  

 

2. THE WALKING DEAD (A&E)

TWD on AMC

TWD on AMC

No horror/thriller list is complete without mentioning zombies. But, for those who don’t know, this show is way more than just dead walkers. It’s about people, and the aftermath of the end of the world as everyone knows it. It’s about the most inner feelings of our society, it’s about how far, we as humans, would go to survive and to defend our family. It’s not about the zombies at all (well, yeah, just a little bit about the zombies), but about the depth of the characters and their individual stories. This show is amazing as far as the complexity and the freedom it provides to explore human behavior in a end-of-of the-world setting.

 

1. SUPERNATURAL (CW)

Supernatural on the CW

Supernatural on the CW

And now my number one pick. Supernatural. 11 seasons of awesomeness. We have been watching this show since the beginning, that’s back in 2005. I mean, after 11 seasons (going on 12) it becomes part of your family. In fact, the Supernatural fandom considers itself a family. Dean and Sam Winchester are two brothers that were brought up in a world of demons, ghosts, ghouls, witches, and angels. A world where they grew up hunting (the family business) supernatural creatures, in an effort to keep their world secret from the rest of humanity. Throughout the course of 11 years, they have made friends with angels and demons alike, and have fought Lucifer himself when preventing Armageddon from happening (thanks boys). I love this show because it has the perfect combination of action, horror, mystery, comedy, not to mention that the Winchester boys are delicious eye-candy (insert cheesy smile here). The main actors, Jensen Ackles, Jared Padalecki, and Misha Collins are constantly involved with the fandom, as well as their own charities and events to help society overcome many “real ghosts”, like mental illness, and depression, which are overlooked and dismissed by many.

Besides my top 10 favorite thriller tv shows, are others that I actually just started to watch.  Preacher on AMC is a great one so far (only a few episodes into the first season). And of course there's the cable TV shows like Game of Thrones and Dexter - but that's another review.  So many great shows to choose from! What's your favorite and why? 

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Always,

Mia

Fairy Gardens 101

Let me let you guys in on a little secret, I'm kind of obsessed with fairy gardens. Really all things whimsical and magical, but fairy gardens hold a special place in this fantasy lovers heart. 

"What in the world is a fairy garden?" you ask.

A fairy garden in a small little container garden where fairies come to hang! You can jazz them up with moss, miniature sized furniture and gardening equipment, flowers, houses, the possibilities are endless. 

I've put together a little "how-to" on creating your fairy, I mean very, own!

First you need some sort of container. You can really use anything, I happened to have this flower pot from a recent move that the sellers left behind (free? score!)  

Next you need some moss to cover the dirt inside the pot. I purchased all my supplies from Hobby Lobby (tip: download the lobby lobby app for a 40% off one item coupon). Here is an example of what to look for- check your local plant nursery or crafting store as well! 

Using scissors, cut the moss to cover the container you chose:

Now decorate with your choice of fairy decorations! As with the moss, you can find these miniaturized accessories at crafting stores (Hobby Lobby, Michael's) or local plant nurseries. Amazon also has tons to choose from. 

Ready to see the finished product?

For more examples and ideas for inspiration, check out this little garden my mom put together:

 

I wanna see your fairy gardens! Tag us on Instagram and Twitter with your magical creations! 

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