Eclipsing Hope

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Photo courtesy of Pix Geek

Unexpected changes that seem to blot out the light can be scary or they can be a thrilling adventure.

For example, today the cosmos will host a unique event, a total solar eclipse (cue the Bonnie Tyler music).

While we will only see an 80 percent eclipse where we live, we will still be able to experience the event.

Leading up to the eclipse, I have been reading about a lot of people traveling to different destinations to find the optimum viewing location, it made me do some thinking.

A few weeks ago, about a month actually, I had shared that I had lost my job as a newspaper reporter after the paper I was working for was purchased by another company.

When this happened, I went through all the emotions of grief (anger, sadness, loss of hope, etc.). Here I was suddenly flung into an unknown situation against my will.

So for a few weeks I felt like I was in the eclipse part of this situation.

However, for the past few weeks I feel like I have transitioned to the other side of the eclipse.

I have realized how blessed I am to have the opportunity to follow my dreams of being a children’s book author and eventually middle grade novelist as well as continue my love of being a blogger.

I think that sometimes it becomes difficult to trust when things happen that it is actually a gift. We can’t see because the sun is being blocked out. But, once things seem to get back to normal or, for most of us, the new normal, the hope returns and we can then again see the silver lining of life’s situation.

Have you experienced any difficult life situations that have made you better for it? Leave your comments below.


More to the Mouse

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Many people go to Walt Disney World or set sail on the Disney Cruise Line to escape reality. Let’s face it, the real world can be an ugly and scary place.

For me, this is the main reason why I return to the various Disney properties time and time again. I want to escape.

Another benefit of going to the parks time and time again can be because you can apply the Disney principles to your everyday life.

A lot of different corporations implement the Disney management style to their businesses.

But on a smaller scale, what if you could apply the Disney principles to your everyday life?

For myself and my family, we look at the world through the lense of Christianity. Others might look through a Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist or other spiritual lense, and that is the great thing about Walt Disney World. Walt Disney was very careful to not exclude any religion in his films or vacation properties.

However, if you are of the spiritual faith there are some books available that can marry the two together.

One book that I really enjoyed is “Faith Trust and Pixie Dust” by Mark I. Pinsky.

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Photo courtesy of Amazon.com

Pinsky, who is a religion journalist, according to the book’s Amazon listing, wanted to take a deeper look at one of the biggest influences on children: Disney.

Each chapter looks at a different film and the biggest message it tries to impart on the viewer.

For example, “Dumbo” looks at a mother’s love while “Robin Hood” looks at tax rebates.

This book does not really have a Christian leaning, or any other denominational leaning. It is more a look at morality and the Disney influence.

For anyone looking for a more direct approach to Chrisitianty and the Walt Disney World vacation, check out “A Christian’s Guide to Walt Disney World Resort” by Jeff Chaves.

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Photo courtesy of Amazon.com

Unlike “Faith, Trust, and Pixie Dust” this book definitely is geared toward the Christian denomination.

This is sort of almost a “Bible study” type of book that takes a look at a Walt Disney World attraction, attaches a Bible verse to it, a little bit of details about the attraction, how it can connect to Christianity and questions for further discussion.

For example, Space Mountain, located in Tomorrowland of the Magic Kingdom, the author uses the verse “God is Involved in Every Detail of Our Lives” — Matthew 10:30-31.

It further tells people to look out for the Earth that is shown at the end of the coaster and how God is involved in everything that goes on on Earth.

There are then four different questions that can help develop a deeper discussion of the connection between the two.

This format continues through the rest of the book.

Two books that go together well that combine one of literature’s most beloved characters, as well as a bear that has been a part of the Walt Disney World family for many years is “The Tao of Pooh” and it’s companion book “The Te of Piglet,” both by Benjamin Hoff.

These two books explore Buddhist principles through the lense of Winnie the Pooh and his fellow Hundred-Acre-Woods neighbors.

I have only read “The Tao of Pooh,” but I really enjoyed it.

The author interacts with the characters and uses many of their stories that are told in their books as an example of Buddhist teachings.

Hoff even talks about the different personalities of the character factor into the principles as well.

I really enjoyed these books because they are an easy way to learn about what is Tao and offer a different perspective on life.

Obviously, these are just a sampling of these types of books that are available out there. There are lots that look at the connection between spirituality and Disney. A simple search will bring up many of them.

Is this something you are interested in, or do you prefer to keep everything at an entertainment level when it comes to Disney? Leave a message in the comments below.


Game On

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Being a parent means that it can be difficult to find time to go out on a date. But, it is still important to make time for taking a break from being a parent and just focus on being the two of you.

While we don’t go out that much, we have started making date time on Fridays by playing a board game while enjoying some wine after our daughter has gone to bed.

This is the perfect solution because we don’t have to leave and we get to dive into our collection of board games, which doesn’t cost any additional money.

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Depending on what types of games you like to play, you could spend all evening playing or just an hour. For us, we usually like to find a game that takes about an hour and half to play.

When you are looking for a new board game it can be difficult to figure out which game you want to play because there is a huge selection available both in stores and online. Here are just a few of our favorite selections.

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Photo courtesy of Amazon

“Betrayal at House on the Hill”

We really enjoy this game a lot. The premise is that your character (or characters if you are just playing with two people) have stumbled upon this house. You take your time building the house by drawing room cards and laying them down.

Once you draw too many “haunt” cards, that is when the fun really happens.

Depending on what card was drawn, what room you were in and who drew it will decide on what “story” in the book you will follow.

The final part of the game is following the instructions and watching the scenario play out.

Depending on how long it takes to draw the final “haunt” card, the game can take anywhere from an hour to an hour and a half to complete.

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Photo courtesy of Target

“Machi Koro: Bright Lights, Big City”

If you are a fan of the computer game “Sim City” then you would like this game.

You spend time building up your city, winning money based off of what business you put in your town and trying to make your city bigger than your opponent’s.

What I really like about this game is that there are different ways to play and different strategies on how to win.

Plus, having a little friendly competition makes it extra fun.

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Photo courtesy of techartgeek.com

“Mysterium”

If you are looking for a game that will test your mental connection as a couple, then you will want to try Mysterium.

In this game the set up is sort of like the game Clue. You have to find your suspect, the weapon and the place where the murder happened.

However, one of you is the ghost and the other person is a psychic. It is up to the ghost to use beautiful cards of fanciful images to try and relay this information to your partner. You can’t say anything, but just give them the card and they to try and interperate it to solve the case.

These cards can help you see if you two are on the same wavelength.

These are a few of our favorite board games to play on our date night. But, you don’t need to have in-depth games to play. Just a simple round of a card game or even video games can make a quiet night at home more exciting.

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Read All About it: July Book Picks

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We are little late with this month’s book picks. But, as I say better late than never.

For us, we really look forward to the summer reading program at our local library. We have been attending special shows featuring magicians, acting troupes and much more.

We also still visit the library every other Friday to pick out new books to enjoy during story time.

Here are some of our favorite library book picks for this month.

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“Vanishing Valentines: Scooby-Doo Picture Clue Book”

We love getting these Scooby-Doo Picture Clue Books from our library. They have the regular story but instead of some of the words they have a picture. For example, instead of the word “Scooby-Doo” they just have his picture. We love this because the parents can read the words and our little one can say what the picture is.

If you own the book, there are flashcards of the picture words that are used in the back of the book that you can cut out.

The story is pretty short and cute and it is perfect for any Scooby fans out there.

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“A Day at the Fire Station” by Richard Scarry

I think it is important to introduce your kids to the classics. In my opinion Richard Scarry and his busy world is a classic.

The illustrations are great and it gives an in-depth look at a fire station, which is something that kids around preschool age are pretty interested in to begin with.

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“The Noisy Paint Box” by Barbara Rosenstock and Mary GrandPre

This was my favorite book of the bunch. Not only was it colorful with beautiful illustrations but it told the story of the abstract artist Vasya Kadinsky.

The story was really easy to identify with about a young boy who could see color when he heard different sounds like instruments at an opera. While he was forced into painting more realistic art he fought against it and painted what he wanted to paint and what made him happy.

I love that they made a book about an artist that was easy accessible to children.

In the back there are some examples of his work and it was fun to have Lily pick out her favorite painting, which was “Two Ovals.”

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“How to Wash a Woolly¬†Mammoth” by Michelle Robison and Illustrated by Kate Hindley

This was a really sweet story about a little girl who wanted to wash her woolly mammoth. (Surprising I know!)

It is really great for little ones because it helps teach them sequencing and even cause and effect on a certain level.

A fun accompanying activity might be to ask your little one to talk about the steps they would take to wash their imaginary pet and then to draw a picture of the process or one of the steps of the process.

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“Pipsqueaks!: Maze Day A Book of Beginning Mazes”

Ever since Lily was a little baby she would watch “Baby Maze” on Baby First TV and she loved it.

This book features a bunch of different types of mazes that are not just your typical “labyrinthine maze.”

The illustrations are so cute and it is fun to try and see what all the mice are up to in the illustrations.

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“Players in Pigtales” by Shana Corey and Illustrated by Rebecca Gibbon

Any fans of the 1990s film “A League of Their Own” would love this book that follows the character of Katie Casey who wants to grow up and play baseball. She is told over and over that girls can’t do that until they start the women’s professional baseball leagues during World War II.

It is a wonderful story, not just for girls, but for everyone that loves baseball and is interested in learning more about this unique section of women’s sports history.

Tara’s Books of the Month

I don’t have any photos that I took of my book picks because most of them were read through my Kindle.

Catching Big Fish

“Catching the Big Fish” by David Lynch

I love David Lynch. “Twin Peaks” is my favorite series of all time and “Mullholand Drive” is one of my favorite movies.

This book talks a lot about Lynch’s beliefs in transcendental mediation and how it affects his every day life, how it drives his creativity and also stories about the various films and “Twin Peaks.”

I can’t recommend this book enough. There are a lot of chapters but they are all super short.

You don’t need to necessarily be a fan of Lynch. You can really get a lot from it if you want to develop your creativity.

Milk and Honey

“Milk and Honey” by Rupi Kaur

It has been a long time since I read a book of poetry. After seeing it on the top 10 bestsellers I had to check it out.

The poems are very personal and share a lot about the author’s personal life including childhood abuse, her current relationships and finding herself.

Some of the poems at the beginning were uncomfortable to read, but later the poems were beautiful and really touching.

 

“The Lumberjanes”

I have never read a graphic novel before. But, since our library card includes membership to the ebook, television, movie, music and graphic novel renting site Hoopla, I thought I would give one a shot.

After a lot of research, I found the “Lumberjanes” series.

It is about a group of girls who are at summer camp when all these strange things start to happen. It reminds me of the Disney series “Gravity Falls” which I also love.

I read the first two volumes as ebooks and I had to request the third volume from the library in physical form because they didn’t have an electronic version.

 

That wraps up our books picks for this month (better late then never). Have you and your Mousekatots read any good books lately?

Also, here is a video showcasing Lily’s favorite book from this month:

 

 


The Gift that Keeps on Giving

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We are so lucky to live close to Pittsburgh that has a bunch of different activities and places for families to visit on the weekend.

The city hosts wonderful history, art, science and children’s museums, which provide families the opportunity to have places to explore over the weekend.

Since we try to go out and do something every Saturday as our “Adventure Saturday” the cost can really add up if you try to pay out of pocket each time you go.

Luckily, many of these places offer the opportunity to purchase memberships.

For example, the Carnegie Museum system (which encompasses the Natural History Museum, Art Museum, Andy Warhol Museum and the Carnegie Science Center) if our family of two adults and one child wanted to visit the Natural History and Art museums it is $19.95 per adult and $11.95 for our daughter. That would be a total (without tax) $51.85. This can really add up if you like to go frequently.

However, if you go with a family membership, which is two adults, four children and a caregiver it is $150 for unlimited visits for the entire year. This membership also covers the Andy Warhol and Carnegie Science Center.

The same is for the Pittsburgh Children’s Museum. One visit for the three of us is $46, but a year long membership is $135 for the same family.

As an added bonus, this membership (and the one at the Carnegie Museum system) can also be used at other participating ASTC centers across the country.

One of the best things is these memberships can be given as gifts.

When Christmas time rolls around, we like to ask for these memberships as family gifts. This way we have a whole year of experiences to look forward to.

It is great because if we just want to stop by the Carnegie Museum of Natural History to see the dinosaurs, we can just pop in, say hi to T-Rex and then leave. We don’t have to worry about cramming in so much stuff so that we get the most bang for our buck.

This past weekend, we went to the Carnegie Science Center and just visited the Exploration Station Jr., an area that is geared toward Preschoolers with a water table, playground area, ball factory, big blue building blocks and more.

We just popped in and played there for about two hours and left. We didn’t feel the need to try and do too much, which is great with a preschooler who can become overwhelmed if you try to do too much in one day.

Here is just a brief video to give you a look of the Exploration Station Jr. area of the Carnegie Science Center.

What do you and your family like to do on the weekends? Leave your comment below.


I’m Still Here

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Photo courtesy of Indian Express

I’m still here and I’m sorry for the radio silence.

Things in the “non-Mousekatots” world have been a little chaotic and things have been pretty stressful.

I have not mentioned that frequently on the blog, but for my day job I was an entertainment reporter for a local newspaper. Awesome, job am I right?

It was a whole lot of fun having the opportunity to write about concerts, plays, art shows and more that were coming to our area.

About four/five weeks ago our local newspaper was sold to another company, Ogden Newspapers, which is owned by Bob Nutting who also owns the Pittsburgh Pirates and a local ski resort in the area.

Long story short, myself and about half of the entire staff of the newspaper were told that our positions were eliminated, our service was no longer needed and to pack up our desk because that was our last day.

I feel they did it in a respectful way and gave us enough time to get everything together and say our goodbyes.

 

But, it was still heartbreaking.

I was so sad I wouldn’t see my friends on an almost daily basis, I was sad I wouldn’t be able to continue doing a job I loved and I was so mad that by the end of the day, the entire staff of the paper, from all departments, was cut in half.

So many talented and hardworking people lost their jobs, without much of an explanation except that our position was terminated and thank you for our service.

When I hoisted my cardboard box into the trunk of the car, I just felt numb and lost.

I am a writer, what do I do now that I don’t have a place to write anymore?

A few days isolated from the “incident” I have made peace with it. It was the only way I would have left my comfort zone and explored other options in life.

I had one job interview this past week and one coming up this next week, so it looks like things are going to work out.

 

So I wanted to share this to let you know that I haven’t left the Mousekatots, I was just under a lot of pressure for about four weeks while I found out my fate and I just wasn’t in the right mindset to blog.

But, now that I am back there are going to be some exciting things happening that you will want to keep an eye out for.

Much love, Mousekatot family,

Tara


Eat to the Beat Lineup Announced

It is hard to believe that Fourth of July is almost here and plans are already in motion for the fall at Walt Disney World.

One of the highlights at Epcot during this time of year is the Eat to the Beat concert series that is included in the price of admission.

These concerts, running from Aug. 31-Nov. 13 often feature interesting acts that you might have to pay a pretty good price to see elsewhere.

If I lived down in the Florida I would be making frequent trips to check out a lot of these concerts.

This year’s concert series will feature 32 different acts who will take to the stage at 5:30, 6:45 and 8 p.m. each day.

This year’s festival includes:

Aug. 31-Sept. 1 — Delta Rae “Bottom of the River”

Sept. 2-3: The Hooters “And We Danced”

Sept. 4-5: Baha Men “Who Let the Dogs Out”

Sept. 6-7: Fuel “Shimmer”

Sept. 8-10: STARSHIP starring Mickey Thomas “We Built This City”

Sept. 11-12: Lauren Alaina “Road Less Traveled”

Sept. 13-15: Plain White T’s “Hey There Delilah”

Sept. 16-17: Sister Hazel “All For You”

Sept. 18-20: Air Supply “All Out of Love”

Sept. 21-22: David Cook “Light On”

Sept. 23-24: Everclear “Santa Monica”

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Everclear (Photo courtesy of Walt Disney World.) (As a side note, in my other life I had the chance to interview the lead singer of the band for my work. Really nice guy.)

Sept. 25-27: Sugar Ray “Every Morning”

Sept. 28-29: 38 Special “Hold on Loosely”

Sept. 30-Oct. 1: Mark Wills “19 Somethin”

Oct. 2-3: American Authors “Best Day of My Life”

Oct. 4-5: Christopher Cross “Sailing”

Oct. 6-8: Devon Allman “Ragged and Dirty”

Oct. 9-11: Dennis DeYoung: The Music of STYX “Come Sail Away”

Oct. 12-13: Taylor Dayne “Tell It to My Heart”

Oct. 14-15: Jeffrey Osborne “One the Wings of Love”

Oct. 16-17: Postmodern Jukebox Various Hits

Oct. 18-20: 10,000 Maniacs “Because the Night”

Oct. 21-22: Toad the West Sprocket “Walk on the Ocean”

Oct. 23-24: Kenny G “Songbird”

Oct. 25-26: Billy Ocean “Get Outta My Dreams”

Oct. 27-29: Tiffany “I Think We’re Alone Now”

Oct. 30-Nov. 1: Hanson “MMMBop”

Nov. 2-3: Blue October “Into the Ocean”

Nov. 4-5: Living Colour “Cult of Personality”

Nov. 6-8: Boyz II Men “End of the Road”

Nov. 9-11: Big Bad Voodoo Daddy “Go Daddy-O”

Nov. 12-13: Squeeze “Black Coffee in Bed”

If you want to make the concert a complete event there are also 15 popular Epcot restaurants that you can eat either breakfast, lunch or dinner at and will give you confirmed seating for a same day performance.

Which concert are you most interested in? Leave your comments below.