Monkey Mat

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Perfect for park, beach, dirty floors, concerts, picnics, sporting events, camping, and more. No more bulky blankets! So go ahead – Make your space, any place! www.monkeymat.com

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Tips On How You Can Help

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Did you know September is Hunger Action Month?

According to a 2014 study by Feeding America46.5 million Americans utilize a food bank.

Lisa Tomasi, Philanthropy Expert and Founder of e-giving site YouGiveGoods, stresses that while many may feel that a small effort isn’t enough to make a change, every little bit helps someone who is facing hunger. Lisa has provided her insight for those who want to band together and help a good cause.

Tips to Fight Back During Hunger Action Month:

  1. Advocate. Use your voice to spread the word about hunger in your community. Social media has made this quite easy to do. Alert your online community that we are in the midst of Hunger Action Month and about the plight of the hungry in their own backyards. Share quotes and statistics about hunger and ask them to support their local hunger relief organization.
  2. Volunteer. Most food banks, pantries and soup kitchens rely on volunteers to make their operations work. Volunteers can sort donations, stock shelves and help with distribution. Volunteers can also frequently help from home in the form of virtual volunteering. Contact your local hunger relief organization to see if you can utilize your specific skills to help them with business operations like accounting, marketing, website and administration.
  3. Run a food drive. You can really increase your impact by organizing your own food drive. Food drives run in conjunction with your company, school, church or group tend to have the best results. And, always add an online component to your traditional drive (or run your online drive alone). Use YouGiveGoods.com to run an online drive for your local food pantry. The online drive service is free to use, easy to share on social media, and simple for supporters to shop online for brand-new most-needed food items which are shipped directly to the pantry at the close of the drive.
  4. Donate money. Hunger relief organizations need monetary donations to operate. Any size donation will be welcomed.
  5. Donate food. Don’t just walk by the donation bin at your school, store or company. Make a point to donate food whenever the opportunity arises.

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For more ways you can help, see Lisa’s site or contact your local Food Bank.  There is really no reason we should have a hunger problem here in America.

Estes Rockets Review

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At the beginning of summer, we were given the opportunity to try out some really fun air rockets from Estes Rockets.  The company sent us three of their most popular, The Sonic Boom, the Mini Blaster and the Whirlwind.  The kids were thrilled, and so were a few adults when we told them what had arrived, so on Mother’s Day we all congregated in a field to check these rockets out.

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One of our friends actually had Estes Rockets with the engines, so he added those to the mix and for the next 2 hours we all were kids again!  What fun these rockets are!  The air rockets were simple enough that even the littlest of kids could participate, but went so high into the air that the adults were just as amazed!  I think our favorite was the Whirlwind Rocket!

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The engine rockets were thrilling!  I had no idea how much fun and how high these little rockets can fly!  Simple to use, and the rockets themselves are reusable, so all you need to replace are the engines and fuses.

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Thank you Estes Rockets for a serious good time and allowing us adults to feel like kids once again!  I highly recommend everyone trying these!  Who doesn’t like being a bunch of kids in a field sometimes?!

The opinions and thoughts contained in this post are 100% mine. I only ever work with companies I support and think you, my readers, will like. Please read my full review and endorsement policy here.  All photos by myself, video courtesy of Jeff Hunt.

Minecraft Summer Splash

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A few weeks ago, Lola had the opportunity to participate in another Minecraft event hosted by Super League Gaming at the local Cinemark Theater in Bee Cave, TX.  Her and her friend spent every morning for 1 week at the theater working on their builds and gaming with other kids from all over the country.  They had a great time!  They were treated really well, had a lot of fun and made some new friends.  We highly recommend these tournaments when they come around.  This is the second one she has done and she is really looking forward to doing more in the future.

This time around it wasn’t just about the game, but they worked on tons of builds with an ocean theme.  The creativity of these kids and how they learn each others strengths and work together to complete these complicated structures is inspiriting.  Imagine if adults could always work together like that?!

So as summer comes to a close and school is just around the corner, we are grateful to Super League Gaming for giving Lola the opportunity to experience this event and look forward to more!

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Tres Lunas Resort Part 2

(This is the second part of an article on our experience at the Tres Lunas Resort.  For Part 1 please click here.)

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Morning time.  After an amazing meal and dining experience the evening before, we awoke to a beautiful morning full of promise.  I was already trying to push away the feeling of sadness at having to leave this day, I promised myself I would savor every last moment.  Oh what a morning awaited us and I had no idea that the experience there would flourish even more.

We were warned that breakfast would be hearty.  That the morning meal is indeed a true feast.  We were not disappointed!
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When we walked into the main room, the smell of fresh coffee greeted us and the the table was set and ready for us to be seated.  Craig came out with fresh squeezed orange juice and asked us if we could spare some time after eating so we could all chat.  I was looking forward to that!  Within moments he sat before us a beautiful bowl of fresh fruit, yogurt and homemade granola which was followed by eggs cooked to our taste, homemade hashbrowns, bacon and a small skillet of biscuits.  The condiments were just as beautiful as the meal!  We ate until we couldn’t take another bite and after freshening our coffee, Carol came and sat down with us.  This is honestly when the entire experience really began I realized later.

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Carol is a breath of fresh air.  She has this amazingly positive aura about her and her smile just lights up the room.  Craig is a gracious and generous host who makes you laugh and feel at ease immediately.  That is a gift!  We had dozens of questions about how they got started, the history of the property and the resort itself.  Both Carol and Craig have backgrounds in the hospitality business.   Craig has worked for a few gourmet food companies and Carol is an amazing chef having taken classes with some of the top chefs in the world.  When they met, they dreamed of running their own establishment.  They had a few other bed and breakfast establishments before finding this magical piece of property.   The story is that Craig found this and within 30 minutes made an offer.  He knew right away this was the place they had to have.   Both are Hill Country proud and appreciate the history of the area, especially this area.  The original house that was on the foundation the resort now resides upon was a 2 story ranch house that had been damaged in a tornado at one point.  It sat on 100’s of acres that had been divided up by the family over the years.  The moment they saw the views and felt the spirit of the land, they knew this was the place.  It was a stretch with all the renovations they needed to make, basically tearing down the structure to the foundation and starting over.  But their dream was to create a retreat.  A magical place where people could come and feel their spirit renewed.  They want people to experience what they do, to offer them the ultimate in care and are obviously so grateful to be where they are.  It shows on their faces and in their voices.  There is an amazing amount of warmth and love that come from this couple.  It took my breath away to be honest.  So much Peace and gratitude lives in this home.

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As I mentioned in the first article, the resort caters to weddings and retreats (I will be doing a feature on this for the last installment).  One area that I fell in love with is the yoga patio.  Carol has so much experience in spiritual practices, traveling around the globe to learn from the masters.  She is truly a student of the spirit and freely gives all that she has been taught.  She created a place where yoga enthusiasts can come and practice their craft surrounded by this spirit of peace.  Everything planned to help with the hot Texas sun, to create a sacred space,  all geared towards maximum comfort and serenity.  Listening to her share her stories, I got goosebumps and a bit teary eyed.   If you go visit her, ask her to share with you.  They are her stories to tell, but I promise they will affect you in a way that you won’t expect.   She wants to share her love for life and the spirit with those who come to Tres Lunas and to help them find a restful and healing place in their lives…even if just for a moment.   And she is doing just that.  I can only imagine the healing she has participated in just by providing such a space.

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Our tour continued into their private quarters where I was greeted by beautiful works of art created by friends and Carol herself.  Her mother was an incredible artist and she has a few of her pastels hanging.  One of which was drawn on a piece of brown paper bag while on a picnic in those very same hills decades before.  It was of a beautiful deer found in the Hill Country.  The pastels were so soft and soothing and it looked like you could reach out and feel the softness of that creature.  Carol didn’t know that she would end up finding her home in that same countryside.  What a special gift!

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There is Carol’s office which is filled with prayer flags and a massage table, and yes, more beautiful art pieces.  Even their private quarters were designed for maximum serenity!  And I know with a resort you need a good size laundry room, but their’s made me completely envious!  So bright with windows everywhere….perfect place for Carol to paint as the laundry area only took up a portion of the huge room!

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Craig’s office is the ultimate of man caves!  Jason loved it!  Craig’s father and grandfather were both Texas lawmen and Craig was able to find an old jail cell that he restructured to fit inside his office as a guest quarters for family or friends!  It’s really awesome!  On the wall behind his desk hangs the head of a huge Longhorn.  Craig told us that someone had given the living animal to Carol as a gift at one time and they loved him!  He was their pet who they truly loved, and when he finally died of natural causes they donated 800 pounds of ground beef to the food bank in Mason, TX and mounted their beloved pet’s head on the wall of Craig’s office.  It is an impressive site!

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We talked for a good 2 hours about life, our backgrounds, our love for nature and art.  Carol and I especially found that we have so many similar feelings about our journeys in life.  I felt like I have always known her.  We all found we had so many things in common and I don’t think any of us wanted to conversation to end.  But as all good stories must wind down, so did our time there.

We left with our arms bearing gifts and our hearts filled with the brightness of new friendships.  I can honestly say we both felt renewed and so relaxed.  It was a true healing experience and one we hope to repeat in the future!  I am so grateful for the opportunity and for the compassion that Carol and Craig show to others.  It’s truly remarkable.  I promise if you make a reservation there, you will honestly be able to leave your cares and worries at the front gate.  Once you drive in, the magic begins and the spirit smiles down upon you.  It is a rarity in life to find a place like that.  I am grateful that we did.

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*All photos are credited to myself and Jason Locher.  Some of these were taken on my phone, hence the quality.  Look for Part 3 on weddings and products used at the resort!

An Interview With Candy Coburn

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I am so excited to be introducing you to such a beautiful spirit and a great friend, Ms. Candy Coburn!  Candy is not only a bright light on a dark night, she is also an incredible songwriter and performer.  Just as beautiful on the inside as she is on the outside.

Candy currently resides in Austin, TX  but was born and raised a southern girl from Kentucky- Southern Missouri and East Texas.  You hear the variations in her thick Southern accent.  You also hear the joy in her voice when she speaks.  We can sit down for a cup of coffee and have just as much fun as if she is on stage entertaining.  Hanging out with Candy is always fun.  There is no pretense, no super star ego – although she is in super star territory with her music.  Candy has shared the stage with such people as Montgomery Gentry, Blake Shelton, Bret Michaels, Brooks & Dunn, Zac Brown Band, Josh Turner, Marshall Tucker Band, Rodney Crowell, Little Big Town, Lady Antebellum, Charlie Daniels Band, Pat Green, Miranda Lambert, Darius Rucker, just to name a few.  Yes, she is up there with the country superstars for sure!

She is currently working on a new album, “The Good Life”, and just started a Kickstarter campaign for production costs.  This album is all Candy and tells an incredible story about where she is in life right now.  She is truly living the Good Life.  She jumped at the chance to answer some of my questions for you all.  Introducing the wonderful Candy Coburn:

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Tell us a little bit about your new album.

I am so excited to be doing a new studio album which will be my 5 th but it has been 4 years since I did the last one. “THE GOOD LIFE” Album is about raw, rockin, real, songs- poured out after some revelation and reinvention! Joy+Hope=this Redemption Jam! It will be out in late July for release most likely, but for Investors of my Kickstarter Campaign who go on and PRE-Buy the advance release album now at this link, they will get the album in June!

What inspired you to come up with the tone of this latest album and it’s title?

I have had a major DO-Over in my life in the past 2 years. My life is truly unrecognizable. After struggling with addiction, getting sober, focusing on my family, and finding my way back to a place God had intended me to be the entire time… I am living, breathing, proof that miracles DO happen! My die hard fans are saying I have finally found “MY Sound”.  I think this sound is more about feeling like I am really exactly where I am supposed to be. God laid it on my heart as a part of my new mission and purpose to get these real, soul rockin’ songs out there to others who might have had some struggles and those who may still suffer in silence. This IS the Good Life so that had to be the title because it was one of the first songs that flowed right out first!

What is your writing process? Do lyrics come first or the music? From a dream or experience?

I have a wild(unorganized) way of writing-I use a voice recorder on my Iphone-I have 100s of weird melodies on there that might have been taped at 3am when I heard it in my head literally waking up from a dream and leaned over in the dark and hummed it (quietly so I don’t wake up my hubby). I am a melody based writer-I always have a melody in my head and then write generally from that “hook”- I have a journal I keep my entire life in and ideas that are significant to me are really big and bold so I can flip back thru when I write and pull those amazing nuggets out of that beat up journal everyone makes fun of that I carry around me with all the time;) (Side note from me, Cat, I have seen this described journal, have watched her all of a sudden open it and write quickly….from what I have glanced at it when sitting next to Candy, this journal in and of itself looks like a work of art!)

Who are your musical influences or favorites?

I am asked this often and I know it would literally take me an hour to tell you all about my wide variety of influences I will put it this way.. My idea of a “boy band concert” was a gospel quartet, like the Cathedrals, Kingsmen.. in a tent revival when I was a little girl (my grandma didn’t allow any “rock” music growing up), I loved classics like Kenny Rogers, John Conlee, Eddie Rabbit, Alabama, Loretta Lynn to Glenn Miller Orchestra.. enter Middle school freedom and I fell in love with the Eagles, The Cars, The Cure(later), Violent Femmes… a list so long it would take all day—but top heroes in my life that I want to grow up to even attempt to try to be like..Patty Griffin, Bonnie Raitt, and I can go on and on….but I know you have to keep it short right?! ha!—Like I said, this is the most impossible short answer interview question in my career and influences.  🙂

Did you always see yourself as a musician?

Always knew this is what made my heart patter- I remember watching the awards on tv as a little kid and knowing I had something butterflies in my stomach—I would get so excited my hands would sweat. Ha!– now to call myself a “Musician” would require that I played a real instrument “really well”—so Nope, I still don’t call myself a “real” musician ha!

Where did you get your start?

My grandmother was a great singer-she is 91 and still sings on occasion with me at a gospel brunch over in Conroe where my dad lives. She taught me the love of singing and literally had me singing in church from age 3 I think!

What are some of your other interests?

I love to stay (what I say..) “strong not skinny”! I love to work out and get the natural endorphins to have energy and feel like I can still “pack my own gear” for gigs. 😉  I love to be outside fishing, and especially riding my Harley!! I love working with at-risk youth and do music with them—I have a small music project here in Austin working with some of our foster shelters and homeless youth. I love them AND am so excited that I belive we are going to be able to have them doing some back up vocals on a “fighter “ song called “WALK TALL” on the record!

Favorite movie and why?

Love the Godfather-if I had to take one trilogy with me, I think I can always seem to find something new in it-what a classic! Also LOVE Heart like a Wheel which was the Shirley Muldowney story of on of the first female race car drivers!

You are a mom. Tell us a little about your kids. Are they musicians as well?

LOVE being a mom-more than anything I have done in my life I say those 2 boys are the BEST thing I have and will ever do in my life. Insane how much we can truly love them like we could just squeeze them forever;) They are NOT musicians and have grown up around it and on a tour bus so they have “been there, done that”—ha—probably a blessing since this is not exactly the “easiest”career path…;)

What is a typical day for you?

Totally different every single day! I usually get my kids to school, do a quick work out and get into my office to do one of many hats I wear—write music, coach new artist, some days teach or speak for schools or colleges, lead worship music as a guest artist for some churches around the country, fly out to do shows out of state, play live in Austin, have rehearsals, do my Soulful Inspiration Music Project with the youth here in Austin- I am usually movin and grooving with a wacky schedule every day and then hustling to get my kiddos to ballgames and activities.

Anything else you would like to add?

Thank you for being so supportive and amazing to me Cat! I love your sunny spirit and the encouragement and inspiration you have given me!

How can my readers discover more about you and you work?

Website:  Candy Coburn

Facebook:  Official Candy Coburn

Twitter: @candycoburn

As Candy briefly mentioned above, she does far more than just music.  Candy has brought her gift to those who feel they are lost in the darkness, especially lost girls and boys.  Candy’s heart is huge and her energy contagious.  She is also an advocate for women who need an ally in life.  Reading her blog posts, you can actually hear her voice and laughter, and more importantly her love!  Candy is all about giving back…

Thank you so much my dear friend….for everything you do!

Don’t forget to check out Candy’s campaign and website!

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Baby Knitting

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A friend is having a baby!  Which means I get to knit baby surprises!  I will reveal the finished project later, but I am having fun creating it!  Have a list of things I want to get done for her, it’s been awhile since a brand new baby was arriving!  If anyone has any retro 1940’s style patterns, shoot me an email!

Happy crafting!

Ratatouille

Last month I had the extreme pleasure to attend my dear friend, Jaime Rubensteins’s January Cooking Class.   Jaime is an art and cooking instructor and holds classes in both mediums once a month.  They are fantastic!!  I had the best afternoon and met some really beautiful people!

For the January class, Jaime taught us how to make Ratatouille, Hummus, and DIY Pita Chips.  I love Mediterranean food and so this class really appealed to my taste buds!  Jaime had also just taken an amazing journey through Israel last Fall, so I knew she would have some authentic tips.

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We started off by roasting the vegetables for the Ratatouille.  The smell in that kitchen was heavenly!  I never really thought about roasting vegetables much prior to using in dishes, however Jaime explained to us that this brings out the true flavors.  We drizzled with Olive Oil, seasoned with salt and pepper and popped them in the oven for about 20 minutes.  After they had cooled they were chopped up and sauted on the stove.  The great thing about Ratatouille is there are no really wrong ways to make it.  We used squash, eggplant, onions and tomatoes, but you can add and subtract anything.  And you can spice it up as much as you want.  What Jaime made for us was amazing!

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While veggies were roasting for the Ratatouille, we worked on the hummus.  Simple and easy!!  I have this same Ninja and I have to say it is my favorite kitchen appliance next to my Instant Pot!  Everything for the hummus just goes in here and walla!  There are so many different things you can put into it too!  Delicious and fresh hummus was ready!  The pita chips were made with pita bread cut into triangles and drizzled with olive oil and spices.  Again, you can spice these up as much as you want!   We baked them under the roasting vegetables for about 15 minutes.  Delicious!!!  I could have eaten the whole bowl by myself!

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If you are local to the Austin area, I highly recommend getting on Jaime’s email list and taking one or more of her classes.  They are fun, affordable and best of all, delicious!!!!  Bon Apetit!!

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Tree Mamas

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A Tribe is defined as:

“A group of persons having a common character, occupation, or interest”

“A large family”

These are definitions found on the Merriam-Webster online dictionary.

Seth Godin in his book “Tribes” says,

“A tribe is a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea….A group needs only two things to be a tribe: a shared interest and a way to communicate.”

We all have several tribes we belong to; family, work, social.  For this post, I am going to focus on a specific tribe of mine.  The Mothering Tree Mamas.

We all found ourselves in the same position 11 years ago; we were all pregnant and due in the same month.  None of us knew each other prior to when we all joined a due date group on the MotheringDotCommunity forums.  I cannot remember the exact number of people in that group at the time, there were quite a few from all over the world, but we all had a common interest in natural parenting.

Within the forum, we all discussed the normal growths and fears that pregnancy brought to us.  For some this was their first.  For some of us this was our last.  We spanned 20 year age gaps (yes, I was close to 40 at this point) and had different plans on where and how we were giving birth.  Out of all these women, a few of us began banding together more and more.  Our discussions started growing from the obvious pregnancy commiserating to more personal topics.  One of these beautiful women, my dear friend Amanda emerged as our leader and started a website forum just for us, a way to communicate.   We became known collectively at that point as The Mothering Tree….we were the Tree Mamas!

Our group spoke almost everyday at some point or another.  We all exchanged gifts to each other (we had a monthly exchange for awhile recycling items we no longer used but wanted to gift to the next mama), listened to our problems together, we fought, we cried and we cheered each other on.  We had become a family…a sisterhood.  We had never met each other in person at this point, but we knew we could rely on each other.  When one member was sick or in a dire situation, we all banded together sending care packages, financial help when we could, even phone calls of support.  We had a bead exchange and all made nursing necklaces for our babies, knowing we were all using the same beads.  We all knew each others secrets and fears, and still do.  We had a commonality of all wanting the most natural births and lives possible.  We never judged each other on our decisions.  I remember a particular phone call the day my dear friend Michelle gave birth to her super huge baby boy by c-section.  I cried with happiness that he was healthy and she was fine!  We cried together about miscarriages, last babies, fertility problems and relationship issues.  We laughed about our own short comings, our children’s antics, our own private jokes.  And in all those 11 years, not a day has gone by that one or more of us hasn’t checked in with someone in the group.

Over the years we have had the privilege to meet several of each other in person. And many of us speak on the phone regularly.  The beautiful thing about meeting is it’s like this enormous gift because we finally get to hug each other in real life.  I nearly broke down the hotel room door when Jill showed up to the convention we were both attending for our oils business.  Our other team mates just laughed and laughed at our sheer joy of finally getting that hug!  And spending several days at a knitting retreat with Michelle will still be one of my most favorite journeys.  I can’t imagine my life without these strong, beautiful mamas walking beside me.

Mothering magazine started back in 1976.  Peggy O’Mara became editor in 1980.  The magazine’s web forum, MotheringDotCommunity or “MDC” began in the 90’s and has 160,000 registered members as of February 2011.  Peggy’s goal was to bring a natural, alternative and beautiful rhythm of ideas and support to mothers and fathers within the pages of the magazine.  The forums provided a place where people could discuss these ideas, for many it was the only place to do this.   The magazine’s last print issue was the November-December 2010 edition.  The magazine announced it would end online publication with it’s March-April 2011 edition and become solely the Mothering website.  By this time Peggy had moved on but her legacy remains within the tone and strings of lives brought together during her years with the magazine.  The forums are still the meeting place for women looking for their tribe and support.   I don’t know if Peggy realized she was creating amazing, life long sisterhoods when she first sanctioned having an online presence, but this is the most beautiful part to come out of Mothering, in my opinion anyway.  I gained a whole new group of sisters.

All of us Tree Mamas are getting older, and I am so looking forward to one day all of us getting together and dancing in unison that we have each other. We may be super old ladies by then, but it won’t matter.  We are strong!  We are loved!  We are a tribe!  We are the Tree Mamas!  And I love them all!

The mamas, well a few of them anyway:

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Goblin Glow

We went to the Goblin Glow event last night with the kids at the local City Park.  Live music, face-painting and other activities for the kids, a movie in the park and hot air balloons that the kids got to trick or treat at.  They had a blast!  We didn’t stay for the movie, but the kids didn’t mind as they got to see friends and run around after a sugar rush…haha!  They wore their costumes and we all had a great time in the night with the glow of the balloons and good friends around. 

Today is getting ready for the week day, but I find myself wanting to be outside in the garden instead.  The weather is absolutely fantastic!  The garden is loving the sunshine after all the rain and looks better than ever.  Soon it will be time to start cutting back all the perennials and getting ready for the winter.  But right now I may forget about the mop for a bit and go play in the dirt. 

Hope your weekend is gobliny good and full of sunshine and laughter!

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 The balloons are so colorful!
 
 
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Every few minutes the balloon operators would stoke the fires
 
 
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Friends and candy (limited quantities of course)…a possibly dangerous combination.  hah!
 
 
Luckily the girls ran off their sugar rush so going to bed wasn’t too difficult when we got home.

Peace!