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    connecticut, family fun, literary road trip series

    Literary Road Trip Series: Winterberry Landscape & Garden Center in Southington, CT

    Spring has sprung here in the Northeast and is our area is now bursting with lush gardens and flowers in bloom. Mother Nature has certainly given us lots of rain this season so far. The rain has been great for all the plants, trees and flowers despite it dampening my mood and thwarting my plans at times.

    Two weekends ago, the kids and I had the pleasure of attending an event at Winterberry Gardens located in Southington, CT. Their 16-acre garden and landscape center is gorgeous! They have everything from native plants to unique plants all planted by certified growers.

     

    I will admit years ago I didn’t have a green thumb to save my life.  Every plant I had died. Now, I’ve learned how to take care of plants after much research, reading and watching videos online.  Now that I have Winterberry Gardens as an additional local resource that’s an added bonus!

    To help provide you with ideas for your home or garden Winterberry Gardens offers tours of their landscapes gardens and they host educational seminars. They also have a wide selection of hanging plants, trees, soil, mulch, perennials and annuals.  Oh, and did I mention they do landscaping too?  Yes, their expert landscape designers can create a plan for you that’s both stunning and easy to maintain no matter the size of your yard or budget.

    I’m so excited with the new plants I purchased from Winterberry Gardens and will be going back soon to buy more and attend their upcoming educational seminars.

    If you’re local in the area be sure to check out this amazing garden and landscape center.  It’s a one-stop-shop for all of your lawn and garden maintenance needs.  It would make an excellent educational field trip with kids and the local library (Southington Public Library) is just 10 minutes away.

    Winterberry Landscape & Garden Center
    2070 West Street
    Southington, CT 06489
    Phone: (860) 378-0071
    Email: info@winterberrygarden.com
    Web: http://www.winterberrygarden.com

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    Literary Road Trip Series: Adorablue Travel Tray for Kids + A Giveaway!

    Have you ever wondered how your child can make better use of their downtime while traveling on road trips or running daily errands in the car?  Don’t get me wrong, sometimes it’s okay to just look out the window and watch cars or people pass by.  However, if you’re looking for a travel tray to help keep kids entertained, I’d highly recommend the one made by AdoraBlue.  It’s convenient for kids to eat, draw, watch movies and most importantly it helps keep things organized.

    On one side of the tray, there is a station for kids to eat, play with toys (like the AdoraBlue Scavenger Hunter game) read books, or to watch/play on the iPad/tablet at eye level.  The erasable side is for drawing, writing and creating.  Yes, it’s reversible!

    I love the media tablet holder being secured by a zipped plastic pocket to keep it protected from accidental spills.  We all know how messy life can get with kids, right? I also like how versatile and portable the travel tray is.  You can either use it as a lap desk in the car/stroller, on a plane for various fun activities, or use it indoors sitting on the couch or in a restaurant.  The custom design appeals to boys and girls alike.  It also has easy access to a large storage with zippers and a built-in bumper to keep your space mess-free whether your child is creating a masterpiece or munching on snacks.

    Here are some of the features:

    • Made of a vegan leather surface that is is easy to clean and soft to the touch.
    • It buckles either around the child’s car seat or stroller.
    • It has large mesh storage pockets on the side and a 2 inch wall to stop food, toys, markers or crayons from falling.
    • It is ideal for short and long trips.
    • It’s portable!  It can also be used indoors at home on your couch or in a restaurant.
    • Fits most car seats and boosters.
    • Comfortable, safe and 100% waterproof.
    • Includes cup holders for baby bottles, water bottles or sippy cups
    • Erasable board for drawing and expressing creativity.
    • Contains 3 different stations to play, eat, draw or use the iPad/tablet in a zipped, waterproof casing.

    The best part?  Our friends over at AdoraBlue were gracious enough to sponsor an Instagram giveaway for one (1) travel tray.  In addition, for a limited time, our audience can get 40% off a travel tray as part of a Mother’s Day promotion.  Click here to get a travel tray using the 40% discount (discount applied at checkout).

    Connect with AdoraBlue!

    Website | Instagram | Facebook

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    blogger events, literary road trip series

    Book Expo America: Highlights from My 2018 BEA Adventure

     

    There are so many amazing literary events that take place every year all over the world.  One of my favorite events by far is Book Expo America.  Last year was my first time attending and I’m happy to report I made it back for the second year in a row!  You can read about my 2017 experience here which includes some helpful tips to keep in mind if you’ve never attended before.

    Ok, so what is Book Expo America (BEA)?
    I think BEA is a great event to attend if you want to network and get some face time with publishers/vendors, attend educational sessions, meet book bloggers or authors/illustrators, and get a glimpse of new and forthcoming books.  Don’t forget to bring a rolling suitcase to help you carry all of the “free” books you’ll get while at the event.  (I put the word free in quotation marks because while you don’t have to pay for any of the books you receive, there are costs associated with attending the event: travel, time, food, hotel, parking, etc.)  So yes, the books are FREE (can you say book heaven?), but not really free if that makes sense.

    Here is the official description from the Book Expo America website:

    BookExpo is carefully crafted with content and experiences for all those that play a part in the publishing industry. It’s where authors, booksellers, distributors, librarians, literary agents, publishers and more unite to build relationships, learn tactics to bolster business and get the pulse of what’s trending in today’s shifting marketplace.

    Are you excited yet?

    Some of the people I met this year include:

    • Don Diamont from the soap opera The Bold and the Beautiful (Can you say handsome?)
    • Author Tomi Adeyemi (I was totally fangirling…HARD.  It’s so great to see all of her recent success!)
    • Vera, “The Tutu Teacher” (She is EXACTLY the same in person as she is on social media…except better!)
    • Author/illustrator Christian Robinson (I adore him and ALL of his work!)
    • Actor Taye Diggs (Again, can you say handsome?  I’ve been a fan for years!  Did you know his real first name is Scott?)
    • Illustrator Shane Evans (Love ALLof his work!  Have you read his latest book with Taye Diggs yet?)
    • Author Susan Verde (I finally got the chance to meet her in person…such a gentle soul.  I totally want her to be my Yoga teacher!)
    • Illustrator Sean Qualls (Such a fan of his work!  He signed my Grandad Mandela book…Yass!)
    • Illustrator Peter Reynolds (Finally got a signed Peter Reynolds book!)
    • Author Nic Stone (She is beautiful, amazing and so fun in person!)
    • Author Euka Holmes (What a beautiful and talented woman!)
    • Author Sarai Gonzalez (She’s so cute and such a great role model for young children!)
    • Author Angela Dalton (She came all the way from California to attend the event!  She took a selfie with Vera and I on the stairs along with some other folks attending the event.)

    In addition to meeting all of these fantastic people, I mingled with a few vendors including: Moonlite and Book Beau.  I also met up with literary agents, book bloggers, publishers, librarians and subscription box owners.  Overall, it was another amazing experience and I’m looking forward to attending again next year.

    Mark Your Calendars for the 2019 Book Expo: May 29 – May 31, 2019 at the Jacob Javits Center in New York City.  Book Con will take place June 1-2, 2019.

    Your turn: Have you ever attended BEA (or Book Con) before?  What was your experience like?  Feel free to share in the comments.

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    family fun, literary road trip series

    Literary Road Trip Series: Sun Valley, Idaho

    Sun Valley is a gorgeous resort city located in Blaine County, Idaho, known for its fantastic ski activities and beautiful sights.

    Thousands of tourists flock to the Sun Valley each year to ski Bald Mountain or to take their children to Dollar Mountain to master the art of skiing and snowboarding.

    However, there’s more to the Sun Valley than snow sports. Here, you’ll find a hidden cultural scene which is wonderful to discover as well as several educational hot spots where you can kick your feet up, grab a book and learn something new.

    If you’re planning on visiting Sun Valley this season, continue reading this article to find some exciting tips as well as the best things to see and do in the region.

    Where to Stay in Sun Valley

    While there are a wide variety of places to stay in Sun Valley, one thing you most certainly need to keep in mind is that depending on the season, accommodations can really fill up fast. In order to avoid disappointment, it’s recommended that you always be sure to book your Sun Valley Idaho Lodging or some of the many alternatives prior to your arrival.

    Family Activities in the Sun Valley

    Now it’s time to start planning the destinations you’ll explore and the activities you and your family will participate in during your stay in Sun Valley.

    Although the Sun Valley is a relatively small destination, there are several experiences which families simply cannot miss during their trip to the region.

    Learn how to Ski or Snowboard

    Visiting Sun Valley and not experiencing the snow is like going to an ice cream shop and not spoiling yourself with an ice cream. There’s nothing inherently wrong with avoiding the winter months in Sun Valley, but if you do, you’re missing one of the highlights of the destination.

    Take advantage of the fantastic instructors and community surrounding the Dollar Mountain to learn all you need to know about skiing, snowboarding, and a variety of other snow sports. This is an excellent opportunity to bond as a family and have a fantastic time playing in the snow.

    If you’re already familiar with the snow sports, you might want to head over to the Bald Mountain, or Baldy as the locals call it is the best spot to ski in the region. With dozens of beginner to intermediate trails to ski as well as some expert routes for those who are experienced skiers.

    Visit the Ketchum/Sun Valley Heritage and Ski Museum

    Alternatively, if you and your family are not too enthusiastic on participating in the winter related activities and would like to stay warm and dry but still care to learn more about skiing, we recommend you make a quick stop at the Ketchum/Sun Valley Heritage and Ski Museum.

    The Ketchum/Sun Valley Heritage and Ski Museum is a fantastic place that both preserves and tells the story of the region, it’s cultural and economic growth through the ages and the importance of skiing to the Sun Valley and its community.

    Mountain Hiking

    You can also experience the sights and beauty of the Sun Valley region mountains without having to wear skiing gear. You can take a leisure trek through the region and bond with your family as you walk through this fascinating destination. If you and your family are hikers, you will really love the hiking trails available in the area.

    Have an Educational Tour at the Sawtooth Botanical Garden

    Whether you’re traveling with young children or visiting with your significant other, touring the Sawtooth Botanical Garden is a fantastic way to learn about the natural diversity of the region, the importance of native and cultivated plants, and the beauty of gardening and its relationship with humanity.

    Not only are the botanical gardens absolutely stunning, but you’ll learn a great deal about the ecology of the region and a number of other things you might not know about gardening and plants.

    The Chapter One Bookstore

    For those who love reading and can’t be far away from a local bookstore while traveling you should stop by the Chapter One Bookstore, a fantastic shop that feels just like home.

    A perfect mix between an indie bookshop and large favorite bookstores, this place is perfect to dive in and seek out rare books, enjoy a cup of coffee, and chat with some locals about the community.

    The Community Library

    If libraries are included in your idea of a great family trip, you won’t want to miss the Community Library of Sun Valley.

    With contemporary exhibits, dozens of different programs to educate the community and its visitors, and thousands of resources to learn from, The Community Library is an excellent place you should visit if you’re an avid reader who loves this essential part of life.

    Discover Ernest Hemingway’s Legacy in the Sun Valley

    Ernest Hemingway is one of the most memorable writers in American history. An author that influences millions of writers worldwide and still is held with high esteem in the places he lived and gathered.

    Sun Valley is the final resting place of this magnificent writer, and there’s a great legacy that surrounds his works that you can find in the region.

    You can find his home, which doubles as a museum thanks to the efforts of the Community Library, where hundreds of different artifacts and items of his life are on display. The exhibit is an excellent place to learn about the life and works of this influential writer.

    Experience the Indie Art and Music of Sun Valley

    With the influence of Ernest Hemingway and dozens of other artists who once called this region home, Sun Valley has become a fantastic scene of contemporary art, indie music, and theatrics.

    From the Sun Valley Summer Symphony to the other art galleries set throughout the region, the Sun Valley has an impressive display of places to enjoy art and surround yourself with a loving community.

    More than just Snow and Ski — Experience Everything Sun Valley has to Offer

    While many tourists assume that Sun Valley is simply as a ski resort or a winter getaway for those looking to take part in some of the many snow sports on offer, it’s actually much more diverse than that.

    From learning about the legacy of Ernest Hemingway to exploring and discovering surprising new artists who live and perform in the venues of the valley, there are dozens of activities and events for everyone in the family, regardless of the age difference.

    Hopefully, you’ll find the locations and tips in this article helpful for your plans to make a literary road trip to Sun Valley, Idaho, and you can enjoy this magnificent location and all the experiences it has to offer.

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    Literary Road Trip Series: Wee Faerie Village + Old Lyme Public Library


    The Wee Fairie Village is pure magic!  The kids and I recently visited for the first time a couple of weeks ago after learning about it from a friend.

    What is the Wee Fairie Village?
    The Wee Faerie Village, is a popular, annual tradition at the Florence Griswold Museum.  This year the theme was Lettersburg Junction, which featured enchanting regions where faeries live in alphabetically placed houses resembling all the letters of the alphabet, from A to Z. There were also the Numbertown and Punctuation Stations which were all amazing to see in person.

    Upon entering the museum we were provided a handy DIRECTIONARY (map) to begin exploring Lettersburg Junction one fairie destination at a time.  Before we headed out to the village, we spent about a half hour inside the museum learning about Florence Griswold who transformed her home into an art colony in the early 1900s.  Her home is now a national historic landmark which is today known as the Florence Griswold Museum.  The museum exhibits both American art and historical material. Its collection spans fine art, sculpture, works on paper, artist’s studio material, toys and dolls, ceramics, furniture, textiles, decorative arts and historic artifacts, and the Lyme Historical Society archives.


    With our map in hand, we began search the grounds for the elaborate faerie dwellings.  Each one was a beautiful miniature habitat made out of natural or found materials.  The map listed the faerie dwellings along the route using cute faerie-sounding place names such as “Beachy Bungalow”, “Umbrella Utopia”, and “Gnome Sweet Gnome Home”.  Each village had witty monikers that were often wordplays on some aspect of the historic artist or their art.  Also, at each fairie dwelling there were hidden items to find which added a fun scavenger hunt and reading theme to it.

    Can you find the garden gnome?

    Can you locate Lily’s little locket?

    Can you find our magical quiver filled with rainbow arrows?

    Checking out the Pagoda Palace fairie dwelling

    The Wee Faerie Village project was designed to encourage visitors to explore, use their imagination, enhance their creativity and develop love and appreciation for the arts.  I think it definitely meets and exceeds those goals – we truly had an amazing time!  I loved seeing the kid’s faces light up as we marveled at each enchanting fairie dwelling.  The range of artistic expression in the faerie dwellings was astounding!  It was also great to see other kids exploring the grounds with parents and sometimes even grandparents making it a fun inter-generational event for everyone.  We’re looking forward to attending again next year!

    Old Lyme Public Library, Old Lyme, CT

    After visiting the Wee Fairie Village we headed over to the Old Lyme Public Library which was only a two-minute drive from the museum.  It was our first time visiting that library which was originally established as a free public library back in 1897.  The library was recently expanded in 1995, which more than doubled the square footage of the previous building, including a large Children’s Room and Community Room for public use.

    Your turn: Have you the annual Wee Fairie Village yet?  Feel free to share in the comments.

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    Literary Road Trip Series: Riverview Farms Fall Festival at Robb’s Farm


    Disclaimer:
    Riverview Farms for provided my family with complimentary admission to the Fall Festival in exchange for writing an honest review. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.

    The Riverview Farm Fall Festival Season kicked off Saturday September 8, 2018 and runs through the first weekend in November.  The festival is held at Robb’s Farm in South Glastonbury and is open Fridays noon-6pm and Saturday & Sunday 10am-6pm.

    Robb’s Farm is well-known for their ice cream and in the fall, they partner with Riverview Farms to bring a Fall Festival to the area.  The festival includes hayrides, a pumpkin bounce house, corn maze, pumpkins, baby animals, pony rides (on weekends) and goodies to eat.  Did somebody say apple fritters and ice cream?  Yum!  We were able to check out almost everything on our recent literary road trip.

    Riverview Farms Fall events includes a petting zoo, hay rides, face painting, birthday parties, tours, baby chicks to hold, plus a 24′ Pumpkin Bounce.  There was a birthday party going on the day we visited and it looked like the kids attending were having a blast!  Riverview Farms also operates a petting zoo out of the Old Cider Mill in Glastonbury in the fall, which would be another family-friendly place to visit for animal lovers.

    Here were the things we were able to check out during our visit back in September:

    • Hayride
    • Pumpkin Bounce
    • Apple Fritters – Highly Recommended. (They are melt in your mouth good!)
    • Plenty of photo opportunities

    We also went in to check out the ice cream shop because the kids wanted water to drink since it was quite warm outside.  They have an assortment of refrigerated juices and bottled water inside the ice cream shop.  Although we didn’t taste their ice cream it sure looked good.  Plus, it’s all homemade and there is a nice variety of flavors to choose from.  We ate our apple fritters, drank water and had an impromptu story time on the picnic tables under the pavilion.

    The kids said they enjoyed the hayride the most followed by the pumpkin bounce house.  I enjoyed the hayride too, but was happy I donned my comfy Koral workout pants instead of wearing shorts because there was lots of hay on the seats of the wagon.

    The kids and I headed to the Glastonbury Public Library after our trip which was just a short car ride away.  I had the opportunity to read a little and check out some new books while the kids spent about an hour playing in the adorable play house at the library.  It was the prefect way to end our fun-filled mommy and me literary adventure.  We’ll definitely be back next fall to visit the Fall Festival again!

    Glastonbury Public Library

    After Thanksgiving, Robb’s Farm opens their Holiday Shop featuring trees, wreaths, hand-made bows, garland, kissing balls, seasonal pots and seasonal plants.

    Your turn: Have you ever visited the Riverview Farms Fall Festival?  Feel free to share in the comments.

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    children's books, family fun, literary road trip series

    Literary Road Trip Series: A Night with Author Jacqueline Woodson at the Mark Twain House

    I recently had the honor of listening to Jacqueline Woodson, the 2018-2019 National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature speak at the Mark Twain House in Hartford, CT.  The event was sponsored by RJ Julia Booksellers and The Mark Twain House and was the first stop on Woodson’s current book tour to promote her latest books.

    Woodson received the 2018 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award and 2018 Children’s Literature Legacy Award. She is the 2014 National Book Award Winner for her New York Times bestselling memoir Brown Girl Dreaming, which was also a recipient of the Coretta Scott King Award, a Newbery Honor, the NAACP Image Award and a Sibert Honor.  Woodson’s new picture book, created along with two-time Pura Belpré Illustrator Award winner Rafael López, is The Day You Begin, a poignant, yet heartening book about finding courage to connect, even when you feel scared and alone.  Her new chapter book is entitled Harbor Me which celebrates the healing that can occur when a group of students share their stories.

    The night started off with Woodson reading passages from her popular middle grade book Brown Girl Dreaming.  As she read, she told us different things that were going on during her life that inspired her to write the passage.  She also talked about parts of her childhood and how she migrated from the South before eventually ending up in New York City.

    Next, she read aloud the book The Day You Begin followed by reading a few pages from Harbor Me.  You could hear a pin drop as she read in a “sing songy” type of tone which was completely captivating.  After she finished reading, audience members had the opportunity to ask questions before heading out to get our books personalized and signed.

    A few things I loved most about the event:

    • Jacqueline was everything I thought she’d be and more!  I loved her added bits of humor and the amount of thought/detail she put into answering each question from the audience.
    • She challenged educators and parents in the room to have classrooms/home libraries that reflect “windows”, “mirrors” and “sliding doors” in order for all children to be able to see themselves, understand others and slide into different experiences.
    • Learning more about the inspiration behind writing her books.  Fun fact: The picture book The Other Side was intended to be a story about a present day experience in Jacqueline’s life, not an experience from the past.  It was the illustrator who set the book in the past (1950’s), not her.  Since authors and illustrators aren’t allowed to have any contact with each other during the book writing process, she had no idea what the illustrations would look like until they were completed.

    Overall, it was an amazing event and I’m so thrilled to have had the opportunity to meet her in person, shake her hand and receive a signed copy of her book.  Thanks to RJ Julia Bookstore and The Mark Twain House for putting on such a fantastic event.  Now I need to take my kids on a literary road trip to visit the Mark Twain House so we can explore the entire museum.  It looks like an incredible place!


    This amazing Mark Twain Lego statue greets you at the door as soon as you walk in the Mark Twain House Museum.

    Your turn: Are you planning to attend one of Jacqueline Woodson’s upcoming book tour events?  Which one of her books is your favorite?  Feel free to share in the comments.

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