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Bring the Magic of Halloween to Life with Pumpkins After Dark

Halloween and the fall season in general are by far my most favourite times of the year. I love the change in the weather, setting up seasonal décor (love my pumpkins and scarecrows!) and watching movies with the family under a warm blanket. Over the last year, COVID has (like for so many other families) disrupted our normal routines, took a loved one from us and changed the way we go out and participate in activities. Not only does this event have everything that I love about the fall season but it is COVID friendly for families like ours, who are just not quite ready to get back to packed events or who perhaps have a family member too young to be vaccinated.

Pumpkins After Dark is located in Milton, Ontario and was a short roughly 35 minute drive from our home in the GTHA area. Our youngest thought it was the perfect setting as we passed by some very interestingly shaped trees that looked like they came straight out of a horror movie (my youngest’s words exactly). They were older trees that looked misshapen and broken over time but fit the backdrop perfectly. The drive was nice as we travelled down several older roads and the traffic was light at that time of day. The entrance was a bit harder to spot but they had employees outside directing patrons into the site.

I had heard of Pumpkins After Dark a few times in the past but was not entirely familiar with the event. The site is a 2.5km (roughly forty-five minutes to one hour) pumpkin display exhibits. The art that was created from these pumpkins was incredible. The exhibits use a combination of craft and real pumpkins and each one is hand carved in 2D and 3D to fit their specific exhibit. Throughout the event, you are taken on a journey through movies, fairytales, cars, anime and so much more. I loved that the exhibits had a touch of scary but they were also appropriate for all age groups .

You enter into the exhibit by queueing in the parking lot just inside the entrance. Guests are expected to remain inside the vehicle at all times so I would strongly recommend bringing some snacks for the kids (and the adults!). We rolled down each of the windows (and even the sun roof so our youngest could sit on the arm rest and watch at times from there especially in the tunnels – the speed was incredibly slow so there was not much movement as he sat there) and had so much fun at each exhibit. I learned that my children were very much lacking in their nursery rhymes education (they did not get Humpty Dumpty!) and I was so excited to see their faces light up when they saw Kong and their favourite anime characters from Naruto (this was a huge surprise for all of us and I think was the icing on their cake for them that night). My personal favourites were the animals and the Greek mythology exhibits.

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Tips for the Event:

  • Order your tickets online in advance as tickets are not sold on site due to COVID (you can purchase tickets here and use the code September15 which will give you 15% off for the month of September dates)
  • Arrive no more than 15 minutes early as entry is based on the time of your ticket
  • Pack your snacks and warm drinks
  • Turn your radio to the assigned station and turn the volume up high
  • Roll down those windows, open your sun roof and get ready for some fun!

Pumpkins After Dark is a fun, family geared art exhibit that will meet the likes of every member in your family. There was a little bit for everyone and we loved that we were able to get out and participate in something fun despite our reservations due to COVID.

Have you been to Pumpkins After Dark? What was your favourite exhibit?

Make sure to follow Pumpkins After Dark on Facebook, and Instagram.

Disclosure: We received tickets to the event, all opinions expressed are my own.

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Safe Harbour Book Review

In Safe Harbour, as far-fetched as her father’s plan sounds, sticking to it is easy for Harbour — until it isn’t.

About Safe Harbour

Fourteen-year-old Harbour is living in a tent in a Toronto ravine with her dog, a two-month supply of canned tuna, and an unconventional reading list. She’s not homeless, she tells herself. She’s merely waiting for her home — a thirty-six-foot sailboat — to arrive with her father at the helm. Why should she worry when the clouds give her signs that assure her that she’s safe and protected?

When her credit card gets declined, phone contact from her father stops, and summer slips into a frosty fall, Harbour is forced to face reality and accept the help of a homeless teen named Lise to survive on the streets. Lise shows Harbour how to panhandle and navigate the shelter system while trying to unravel Harbour’s mysterious past. But if Harbour tells her anything, the consequences could be catastrophic.

My Thoughts

Safe Harbour is a powerful book that touches on several important topics including homelessness, child welfare system and mental illness told with compassion, understanding and sensitivity.

Fourteen year old Harbour has found herself living in a Toronto ravine in a tent with her dog Tuff Stuff while she waits for her Dad to join her on his sailboat. As we learn, this is not unusual – Harbour has had a very interesting childhood. She has been homeschooled in an untraditional manner – learning more about real life application about topics close to her Father’s heart. Harbour is kind, thoughtful and independent. She is used to being on her own and making do, this time getting by on cans of tuna and crackers. But this time, something is not quite right as the days turn in to weeks waiting for her Father. She develops a friendship with a young woman named Lise, who helps show her how to survive on the streets of Toronto especially as fall is closing in quickly and the weather is changing quite quickly. She also helps her to realize and support her when it appears something bad has happened to her Father and he may not be coming.

This was a beautifully written book that many times had me in tears over the kindness and compassion that Harbour finds in Lise. Being witness to their struggles on the streets of Toronto hurts, hearing the stories of the youth, their struggles with the system breaks your heart because you know that these stories hold true for so many of our youth. Lise approaches life with caution but with humour, getting by by trusting her instincts and the people who have been there for her judgement free. Both young women are trying to get through each day looking for food for themselves and Tuff Stuff, to keep warm and clean, and to find a way to move forward while facing extreme weather, mistrust of the system and being judged by society. While the ending may not be an ending that all youth will experience, it warmed my heart and helped bring the story full circle.

Safe Harbour was an incredible read from start to finish that I could not put down. It is perfect for all age groups and covers some very important topics with compassion. Safe Harbour is a definite must read novel this summer!

You can purchase a copy of this book on Amazon.

Rating: 5/5

About the Author

Christina Kilbourne is the author of Safe HarbourDetached and the award-winning Dear Jo. Her writing has been translated into Spanish, Portuguese, Slovenian, and Ukrainian. She lives in Bracebridge, Ontario.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in order to facilitate this review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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The Wilderness Spa Book Review

iRead Book Tours

The Wilderness Spa brings people from three quite different sources together to survive catastrophe in the Alaskan wilderness. 

About The Wilderness Spa

The Wilderness Spa brings people from three quite different sources together to survive catastrophe in the Alaskan wilderness. They amaze themselves in their ability to coalesce and work cohesively in the face of hunger, injury, insecurity, and possible death. With that on their minds, they explore statistics, logic, social justice, and challenges to philosophies and social norms.

After rocky starts when new members enter the group, they learn to find the best in their fellow travelers, how to help, follow, and lead when necessary. Nothing is ever easy. Without attacking each other, they dig deep to reconcile their differences.

Join the group as they make the best of what they have. Struggle along with them and reconcile your own philosophical belief systems with logic and science.

My Thoughts

Take a dive into the Alaskan wilderness where a group of individuals from different backgrounds must work together to survive.

An earthquake has hit the Alaskan wilderness and has put several different groups of individuals (with very different backgrounds, comfort levels and survival skills) on a different path of survival. Each one of the individuals has their own strengths and weaknesses, and each is vital to the survival of the group in the face of such uncertainty and wildness. Tom brings his knowledge of the land and strong survival skills, while other brings medical skills, food handling skills, leadership and hunting skills. They have been thrown together in an almost impossible situation – facing death, injury and hunger. They not only have to survive but have to learn how to trust each other as well (no easy task under such intense pressure!). Can Tom ensure that the group survives? Can he tame the personalities and encourage them to work together for the greater good?

This was an incredible tale of survival, and how individuals from different walks of life can come together to overcome obstacles. It is also an important reminder that every member is vital to the groups survival – bringing to the group different skills necessary. The novel is well written and the characters each bring with them a different approach and flavour to the novel that you can appreciate and recognize in real life (you may even be able to recognize a few of your own colleagues in this group). You do not want to put this novel down, as you follow along with their struggles and achievements in the wilderness, a great summer time read.

You can purchase a copy of this book on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, Books a Million and Indie Bound.

Rating: 4/5

About the Author

J​im Halverson is the author of Trials & Trails (2019) and Ponce, What Actually Happened at the Fountain of Youth (upcoming, 2021). Jim grew up in the rural, gold-mining town of Mokelumne Hill, CA and received his MBA from Golden Gate University. He spent part of his life on a ranch and is an avid student of psychology. He recognizes the struggles of all men and women seeking equality and respect. Jim and his wife, Gail, spend their time traveling from their small farm in Forestville, CA.

You can connect with him on his website.

Disclosure: I received a digital copy of this book in order to facilitate this review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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The Art of Time: A Mother – Daughter Sprezzatura on the Spirit of Time Spotlight

iRead Book Tours

The Art of Time offers concepts and images that introduce readers to a new—and wonderful—realm of being.

About The Art of Time: A Mother-Daughter Sprezzatura on the Spirit of Time

In The Art of Time: A Mother-Daughter Sprezzatura on the Spirit of Time, Martine Therese and her daughter, Martina Franca, invite you into a lush world where time has no limits. Consisting of paintings, meditations and poetry, The Art of Time merges maternal & youthful wisdom into a one-of-a-kind artistic showcase with a powerful message: humanity’s experience can be enhanced by developing our minds into sensual thought.

A gorgeous book to be treasured by everyone from art connoisseurs to children, The Art of Time offers concepts and images that introduce readers to a new—and wonderful—realm of being.

You can purchase a copy of this book on Amazon.

About the Author

Martine Therese was a practicing Certified Public Accountant when she became pregnant with her daughter, Martina Franca. She decided to leave her accounting job and focus on her daughter instead. The transition, while “brutal,” completely transformed Martine’s life, and opened up a whole new world of possibility.

For Martine, who has been writing poetry all her life, motherhood expanded her creativity, and she finally felt the courage to bring her work to the world. Martine and her daughter discovered a love for painting, and their artwork, combined with Martine’s poetry, form the basis of The Art of Time; A Mother-Daughter Sprezzatura on the Spirit of Time. The book is a token of their shared loves and talents.

Martine and Martina Franca are putting together a follow-up collection on the topic of what it means to be human, exploring the theme of building the potential of humanity. Martina Franca embraces her maternal side on a daily basis, be it with caring for her baby dolls or her puppy, Marcello. She gets a kick out of tailgating with Mom and watching people’s reactions, and playing practical jokes like hiding Daddy’s shampoo bottle, and she loves having conversations. She regularly chills out with Mom during yoga in their special “rainbow room,” a room just for the two of them to recharge. On sunny days, gorgeous rainbows fill the wall of the Rainbow Room, and Martina and Mom bask in those colors—which is why Martina loves infusing her art with rainbows.

You can connect with her on Facebook and Instagram.

Giveaway!

Enter to win a $25 Amazon Gift Card here.

Disclosure: This is a spotlight tour, I did not receive compensation for this post. All opinions expressed are my own.

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Counting Campers: One, Two, Three..Help the Campers Get Their S’mores!

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Reinforce important math skills with this fun new game from Goliath which has kids adding and subtracting on their mission to get the s’mores.

About Counting Campers

Counting Campers is a fun counting game for your little camper. Players move their pawn forward or backward on the board along their individual hiking trail by drawing a ‘plus’ or ‘minus’ card, thus allowing little ones to practice counting and to develop fine motor skills. Follow the path through the muddy swamp, across the fishing pond, over the old bridge, and more, to get back to the campsite. The first camper back to camp wins the game!

Each game includes:

  • folding board game
  • four coloured camper pawns
  • playing cards
  • instructions

Our Thoughts

We fell in love with this adorable, bright and fun game that all members of our family enjoyed, regardless of their age. Each player takes a turn choosing a card and they will have to move their player forward or backwards on their colour markers depending on the card drawn. To add a little bit of variety, there are also “happy” and “sad” camper cards that cause you to lose a turn or take an extra turn.

As a parent, I loved how this game encouraged simple addition and subtraction for little ones, they weren’t simply sliding down a ladder, they had to think about how many spots forwards or backwards they had to move. I actually liked the fact that there were no dice, instead just the cards to help guide the movement across the board.

While this game is perfect for ages 4 to 9, we all had fun playing this game (right up to the adults). It was competitive but fun game to play all together (although you have to watch the moves of the little ones trying to steal extra spots!). The board, card and pieces are durable, which is a bonus with younger children that can be rough on their items. Counting Campers will make a great addition to family game night for the whole family.

You can purchase this game at Walmart and Amazon.

Make sure to follow Goliath on Facebook and Twitter to keep up to date with the newest games and products.

Disclosure: I received the above mentioned product in order to facilitate this review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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