Jonathan Auxier at the ALA Annual Conference 2016 #ALAAC16

I had a fantastic time at the ALA Annual Conference held in Orlando June 22-28.

I attended on Friday June 24th and Saturday June 25th. My agenda was packed full of roundtable discussions, informative presentations, and of course, the exhibit hall.

This year I broke from my tradition of going to conferences alone and brought along my two oldest children. Both avid readers, and lovers of the library, I wanted them to be able to experience some of the joy and wonder that I experienced when I was their age and my parents would take my sister and me to the International Pizza Expo. I loved wandering through the large exhibit hall as a young girl, sampling all sorts of wonderful pizza. I imagined the same experience for my daughter’s but with books and tech instead of pizza. I was right. They were both in utter and total awe.

My girls loved ALA. The highlight for both of them was the chance to meet one of their favorite authors, Jonathan Auxier. Jonathan is the author of the 2015-2016 SSYRA book The Night Gardner, but my daughters love him for his debut novel, Peter Nimble and his Fantastic Eyes. Haley admittedly is his biggest fan, and when I noticed she wrote him a note on an exhibit hall table I quickly snapped a photo, tweeted it to him, and received a reply with an invitation to stop by for his meet and greet. #Number1Fan


We may have been the first in line J

Not only did Haley and Ella each receive a brand new hardback copy of his newest release (the sequel to Peter Nimble) Sophie Quire and the Last StoryGuard (and not an ARC, either!) but Jonathan drew a personalized photo for each of them in the front of the book and posed for a photo with them individually, too.

Jonathan told us two things:

1)   He only poses for photos with people who will act like monsters.

2)   His personalized drawings will be gory.

He asked Haley what her favorite animal is, real or mythological. She told him a unicorn. He drew a photo inside her book of her being impaled on a unicorn’s horn. He drew blood drops and everything.


He asked Ella what her favorite animal was in the Peter Nimble book and she told him the sea serpent. He drew Ella hanging out of the mouth of the sea serpent. 


Jonathan spent close to 10 minutes with us and it was an experience that I am sure Haley and Ella will never forget, and I will always remember hearing the girls say “this was the best day EVER.”



Push Away the Screen: Summer Nights at Busch Gardens Tampa 2015

It's no secret that my family are huge fans of Busch Gardens Tampa. When we were recently invited to be VIP guests at the opening of 2015 Summer Nights we jumped at the chance to attend! Despite all our years attending events at Busch Gardens we'd actually never stayed long enough to see the fireworks, and I was super excited to see some great fireworks! And Kinetix, I thought that was a magnetic game that kids played. We were certainly in for a wonderful treat (no pun intended....)

 With our VIP pass we quickly hopped on our favorite rides: Cheetah Hunt and Montu, and before we knew it it was time for us to head over to the Sesame Pavilion for the VIP experience. All we knew was that there was going to be desserts!!

And desserts there were!

They had a chocolate bar where you could dip all kinds of fruit, pretzels, marshmallows, and more. They had unlimited dipping dots, eclairs, and so many tasty treats. The kids (and James) LOVED the dessert bar. I was very good, and only snacked on pretzels, not even chocolate covered pretzels, just pretzels. 

The trio also had the opportunity to meet some of the cast of Kinetix, and this is when I realized that it was REAL people, not the magnetic game I had imagined. Silly Jenny.

There was a GREAT pre-show where kids and adults were able to dance, and sing, and just have a good time! I know for sure that these two (and maybe their mama) danced the Cupid Shuffle and they LOVED it!!

 And then as the sun began to set, the show really got started and it was AMAZING!! Acrobatics like I have never seen before!

And the stunts were all performed to LIVE music. It was SO GOOD!!


There was a lot of cheering from the crowd, and I heard my trio say more than once "hey mama, DID YOU SEE THAT??"


And then the fireworks started and they were as amazing as I had hoped they'd be!

 I'm pretty sure you can tell by the look on their faces that they are in awe too! I took a short video and you can see for yourself what a great show Busch Gardens puts on!

 And then once the show and fireworks are over, Busch Gardens remains open until MIDNIGHT! And yes, we closed the park down!! My gang finished up the night by riding Shiekra, Falcons Fury, Scorpion, Sand Storm, and the Phoenix. We had a GREAT night!!

Busch Gardens is open until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays throughout Summer Nights beginning June 27 through August 16. Plus, the fan-favorite, award-winning Kinetix show returns to Summer Nights with nightly performances of its rock-fueled blast of music and acrobatics. This thrilling performance pumps up the crowd every night in Gwazi Park at 9 p.m. Experience the amazing fireworks finale right after the Kinetix show. The best views are on Gwazi field, but the fireworks are visible from all over the park. And this is all included with your daily park admission (or season pass if you opt to go that route, which really, if you live in Tampa, you should!!)

Have you ever been to Summer Nights at Busch Gardens??

The Illusionists at the Straz Center Tampa May 26-31


On Wednesday May 27th, the #TampaTrio and I were invited to the Straz Center to experience The Illusionists. This mind-blowing spectacular showcases the jaw-dropping talents of seven of the most incredible Illusionists on earth. The Illusionists - Witness the Impossible™ has shattered box office records across the globe and dazzles audiences of all ages with a powerful mix of the most outrageous and astonishing acts ever to be seen on stage. This non-stop show is packed with thrilling and sophisticated magic of unprecedented proportions.

The Wednesday performance was Broadway Family Night and  we arrived early for fun activities and then we had every intention to stay after for a talk-back with company members, but a late show start, and some technical difficulties after intermission prevented us from staying late.

You can see with your own eyes how AMAZING this show was. 

Ronin LOVES magic and illusions. I mean LOVES it. Look at how intently he is staring at the illusionist from the Downtown Tampa Carnival in early May. He really tries so hard to figure out the tricks. 


Each of the kids had their own idea of who they liked the best simply based on this sign. Ella liked The Trickster, Haley like the The Warrior and Ronin liked The Futurist

I don't want to give too much away, but post show Ella had a new favorite....The Anti-Conjuror.

The #TampaTrio loved sitting up in the Starz Tweet Seats, which is where we moved post-intermission. Ronin needed a bit more space for dancing and after drinking a lot of Shirley Temples at dinner, bathroom breaks were frequent and I didn't want to keep walking in front of other theater guests. 

Overall, we had a great time! There were a lot of surprises, and some super funny one-liners. And while those one-liners are not really appropriate for the younger crowd, they will go right over their heads, so no worries.

The show did a GREAT job in interacting with the crowd, though my gang was disappointed that they weren't chosen to get on stage, but we sat in the back, and they only picked from the first 2-3 rows. Oh well. Better luck next time! you like magic/illusion shows? Have you ever seen one live??

Disclaimer: As part of my association with the Tampa Bay Bloggers, my family was provided with tickets to experience The Illusionists. I had planned to only take Ronin but the girls demanded that they be taken as well. I don't regret that decision at all.