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.


Smoke & Mirrors

I am part of the problem.

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Motherhood is messy. It is messy, and hard and not for the faint of heart. Yet, this isn’t a side that we usually see.

Behind all the pristine photos of sunny Saturday breakfasts, art projects and crafts gone right is, most likely, a fight about how you have to eat something other than just the chocolate chips on your pancakes, or no you can’t put glue directly on the table.

But, we never see this.

We are made to believe that all children are perfect, all houses are spotless and every party and gift giving occasion is Pinterest worthy.

Well, the jig is up.

I am here to tell you that it is hard and that we need to start cutting ourselves so slack when it comes to parenting.

For example, in the photo above, we were having a melt down because we wanted to drive a blue Corvette because we felt it was our size.

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This photo, we didn’t want to take at all. We were tired and just didn’t want to have our picture taken.

Did I post these photos on the corresponding blog posts? No. Just like everyone else, I choose to forget the bad and remember the good.

And you know what? It’s OK to show the difficult side of family life.

It’s OK to have a cranky kid sometimes. It’s OK if they end up coated in chocolate. It’s OK if a craft doesn’t turn out the way you hoped it would.

The only thing that isn’t OK is if you feel like you never measure up to other parents.

Everyone’s parenting journey is different. Some have more bumps in the road than others, but everyone has their fair share of struggles.

So you never have to feel like everyone else has it together while you are worn down negotiating with your toddler about bedtimes and wishing you could just lock yourself in the closet with a bag of Doritos just to have five minutes of peace.

Because behind every sunshine smile of a little one is a nervous Mom or Dad just praying that they could get just one photo to capture this beautiful memory to hold on to when the days are long and the houses are messy.


Kennywood’s Open

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Growing up as a kid in the Pittsburgh region, it wasn’t summer until you made the annual pilgrimage to the holy land of childhood fun and memories: Kennywood Park.

Since my dad worked there for many years when he was younger, I grew up going to the park ever since I could remember.

When I was younger I remember riding The Turnpike with my Dad in the passenger seat thinking I was a big deal because now he was the one in the the back seat.

When I got older, high school age, I couldn’t wait to go to Kennywood with my friends as part of our school picnic. We would ride from morning to dark when the lights would come alive and transform the park to a magical, neon fed world that made it seem like summer would never end.

Then for awhile it seems like life gets too busy and you are between college classes, work and starting out on married life and you just don’t think about going back for awhile.

But everything changes when you have a child of your own and you want to take them to give them the same kind of experience that you had when you were growing up.

Luckily for us Kev’s work hosts an annual company picnic at Kennywood and we take advantage of the offer and spend the day in the park where I grew up.

I remember the first time we went to Kennywood with Lily it was a different experience then the one I just had this past week which was three years later.

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Kennywood 2016

This year we were able to try Lily on a couple of different rides that she was unable to ride last year, like the Kangaroo. She really enjoyed this ride, but at first she was afraid that it was too fast, but she ended up really liking it.

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We did spend a lot of time in Kiddieland riding the numerous rides that she enjoyed a couple of times. I felt bad for the poor ride operator that had to basically pull her out of the helicopter ride while she was a sobbing mess.

The carousel was my favorite attraction to enjoy with Lily. We rode it twice and the first time Lily didn’t like it because she said her horse went up too high. But the second time we opted for one that didn’t move. She liked it a lot better.

But, her favorite ride was Garfield’s Nightmare. This 3-D boat ride through different scenes depicting a nightmare for the orange fuzzy cat (ie attacking ice cream cones, a menacing vet getting ready to give a shot, and more).

The ride is more funny than it is scary and is brightly painted and highlighted by a black light.

Speaking of things that are funny, Lily has the best of luck when it comes to playing games at amusement parks.

She loves the fishing game or duck game where you pick three of the animals to see what you win. Lily picked three ducks at Kennywood and she walked away with a large prize, which was a big frog that she named Ribbit.

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We had a wonderful day and were so thankful to Kev’s company for having the picnic and giving us many more memories that we will cherish for years to come.

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Meeska-Mooska-Get Early Reservations-ska

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Photo courtesy of Walt Disney World

There are a few restaurants in Walt Disney World that are very difficult to get “advanced dining reservations” (ADRs) for because they are a very coveted dining experience.

One such place is Chef Mickey’s located in the heart of the bustling Comtemporary Resort situated on the monorail line.

There are a couple of factors that contribute to making this dining location so popular including the fact is it is on the monorail line, is a buffet and features a character meal with some of the most popular characters on property.

Menu

Chef Mickey’s is open for all three meals and features a buffet that is sure to please all sorts of pallets.

Breakfast

Seasonal melons and fruit, smoked salmon, quinoa salad, hard boiled eggs, ham and cheese scramble, carved ham, tofu scramble with spinach, chef’s specialty pancake of the day, Mickey waffles, Minnie muffins and more.

Brunch

Peel-and-eat shrimp, assorted salads, yogurts and toppings, barbecue pork ribs, baked salmon with seasonal garnish, chicken nuggets, macaroni and cheese and more.

Dinner

Fresh mixed fruit salad, baked chicken, carving station selections, chef’s selection of pasta, seasonal bread pudding, create-your-own sundae bar and lots more.

Dinner and a Show 

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Photo courtesy of Walt Disney World 

In addition to being visited by the characters table side, there is also some music, dancing and even napkin twirling that takes place that makes the experience so much fun.

Cost

The cost of Chef Mickey’s is pretty much on par with other character buffets within the resort.

For breakfast and brunch for an adult it is $41 and for a child it’s $25. Dinner is $50 for adults and $30 for children.

If you have the dining plan you can use it at Chef Mickey’s.

When to make reservations

You will want to make reservations right when you reach 180 days out. Like I said earlier, it is a hard ADR to secure, but it can be done.

Breakfast is the most coveted and dinner is a close second, so you might want to try for brunch during an off eating time. Another benefit of brunch is you get to taste both breakfast and dinner foods.

Does Chef Mickey’s seem like a restaurant you would like to try out? Leave your comments below.

For more tips about where to grab something to eat at Walt Disney World, pick up your copy of Mousekatots.

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