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December Reads {2020}

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It’s a new year, with hopefully lots of good books in my future! I ended my year reading a total of 98 books, which surpassed my 2020 book goal of 75. I again set this year’s goodreads goal for 75 books, which seems doable. While December seems so long ago, I’m sharing my reads from last month. It was a mixed bag of different genres and mostly good reads. Here are my December reads that I’m sharing with Steph and Jana’s monthly book linkup:

3 stars:

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Leave The World Behind by Rumaan Alam (October 2020, Suspense/Thriller) – A family leaves NYC for a week and rents a house out in a remote part of Long Island. A few nights into their stay the couple who owns the house arrive on the doorstep with news of a blackout in the city. Strange things start happening, but with no TV, internet or cell service, no one has any idea what is going on. This book was disappointing. I have no idea why it’s labeled suspense/thriller and even horror on goodreads. I’m not going to give away spoilers, but I hated the ending.

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The Girl In The Mirror by Rose Carlyle (October 2020, Suspense/Thriller) – Two identical twins, one who has always been jealous of the other. Now she has the opportunity, to live her twin’s life and gain a huge inheritance. But can she keep the truth from being exposed? This was an okay, not very believable read for the most part. But it did have some interesting plot twists.

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White Ivy by Susie Yang (November 2020, Contemporary/Suspense/Literary Fiction) – A coming age of story of a young Chinese girl who tries to fit in white suburban American. She develops a crush on a classmate, who ends up making a reappearance in her adult life. There are several plot twists, but I would not categorize this as a suspenseful read. In fact, it was such a slow read for me that I wish that I had given up on it earlier than making myself finish it.

4 stars:

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In a Holidaze by Christina Lauren (October 2020, holiday/romance) – A young woman makes a plea to the universe, “Please. Show me what will make me happy.” At the annual family and friends holiday get together at a cabin in Utah, she ends up in a loop where she relives the same holiday vacation over and over. This was a cute holiday romance read. I hadn’t read a Christina Lauren book in awhile and think I’m ready to get back into some of their more recent books that I had skipped.

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Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend (October 2017, Middle Grade/Fantasy) – On the night she is supposed to die a young girl finds herself being whisked away to Nevermoor. There she discovers that she has been selected to compete for a spot in the exclusive Wundrous Society and must pass the four trials. This book has been compared to Harry Potter and I can vaguely see the connection. It’s a fun and whimsical read. I couldn’t interest my son in reading it, but I may continue the series.

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When We Believed in Mermaids by Barbara O’Neal (July 2019, Contemporary Fiction) – A woman thinks that her sister is dead. But then she sees her on a news clip. So she travels from California to New Zealand to try to track her down. Will she find her? The book alternates between the two sisters POV as we discover their tragic past and secrets that they are keeping. This was an engrossing and enjoyable read.

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You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson (June 2020, YA/LGBT) – A poor, black teen has big plans to go to college to become a doctor and continue playing music. But financial aid is not providing enough money for her to attend. One of the few options she has is to try to win the scholarship for Prom Queen, despite the fact that there has never been a black or queer queen in the school’s history. This book portrays modern teen life in a realistic manner. I’m jealous of the diverse YA books available to teens today, so I have to read some of them!

Five on Friday {Ready for the Weekend!}

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Happy Friday! Is everyone else ready for the weekend too?! This weekend was busy with a LOT of errand running. I’m in charge of the fall product sales for my daughter’s Girl Scout troop. I had to pick up the troop’s orders and sort them so that parents could come pick them up. This week I had to run to the liquor store to pick up a bottle of wine to give to my co-worker for her 50th birthday. I got carded when I went to pay! Add in a library pick up, a stop at Walmart and a stop at Kohl’s and it’s been a busy week.

Last night was the first night of Hanukkah. Dana is half-Jewish and we normally celebrate Hanukkah with his mom’s side of the family….but obviously not this year. Since he and my son had Tae Kwon Do Thursday night, we are going to make latkes either tonight or tomorrow to celebrate.

The weather isn’t looking great for Saturday, so we are not sure yet what we will be doing. Our school district has gone fully remote until January. Being home all this time has been rough for the kids, so I like to get them out of the house on the weekend. Here are five from this week:

1. Cooking – My daughter requested Gigi’s (Hadid) Pasta that is trending on TikTok. Of course I told her that she had to help make it. We made some minor tweaks to this recipe and I have to admit it was pretty good!

One of our favorite meals this week was this Vegan Creamy Sausage and Potato Soup. We used Sausageless Sausage from Trader Joe’s. It doesn’t look like much from the picture, but it was delicious!

2. Watching – It is a family tradition to watch Elf every December. We watched it this past weekend and it is STILL so funny! What is your favorite Christmas movie?

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3. Reading – I am slowly making my way through White Ivy. It was very hard to get into, but I’m about halfway through and it’s picked up. I have a fun looking holiday read that I’m looking forward to next!

4. Shopping – Sunday we visited the White Plains Holiday Market. We bought some treats from Flour Power and I got a candle from Two Knit Wits.

5. Eating – We made a stop at The Hummus and Pita Co. and enjoyed a Vegan Shawarma Bowl and a Falafel Laffel.

We ate these donuts from Beascakes Bakery after I found out they had sold out of Hot Cocoa Bombs.

We are enjoying Jingle Jangle from Trader Joes. It’s a delicious mix of milk chocolate and dark chocolate covered pretzels, dark chocolate covered caramel popcorn, chocolate covered Joe-Joe’s cookies, milk and dark chocolate mini peanut butter cups and milk chocolate gems.

6. Hot Cocoa Bombs – I wrote my Hot Cocoa Bombs blog post and mentioned not being able to get any in time, since most have to be pre-ordered. Jane Street Sweets reached out to me and offered to deliver me some! As I’m writing this post, we haven’t tried any yet. But we are super excited to! They have 4 different varieties: classic chocolate, gingerbread, cookies n’ cream and peppermint.

ICYMI this week on the blog:

Monday I shared Where in Westchester County you can get Hot Cocoa Bombs.

Tuesday I shared my November Reads.

Wednesday I posted the newest edition of Westchester Weekly.

Sharing with Friday Favorites. Have a great weekend!

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Five on Friday {It’s Fall Y’all!}

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Happy Friday and happy fall!  I am all about all things pumpkin spice, cozy sweaters and fall foliage!   This is such a fun time of year! School is going well for the kids. My daughter is loving high school! Last night we attended virtual back-to-school night for my son, who is in 7th grade. I have to say, I kind of enjoyed “attending” from my couch, wearing my pajamas! We are looking forward to a three day weekend. Happy Yom Kippur to those who celebrate. Here are five from this week:

1.  Supper Club Picnic – We finally got to see the other couples from our supper club!  The last time we had gotten together was in February, pre-pandemic.  Sunday we met up at the Kensico Dam and enjoyed a picnic lunch. It was a beautiful day with great company!

After our get together, our family walked along the dam and visited the 9/11 memorial, the Rising.

2. Shopping – Last Saturday we took our daughter shopping at Plato’s Closet.  She has become a big fan of thrifting and second hand shopping.  Me and my wallet are not complaining!  

Joanna Teplin, left, and Clea Shearer

Photograph: Christopher Patey/Netflix

3. Watching – This week I watched the first episode of both The Home Edit and Sing On on Netflix.  The Home Edit has gotten me wanting to organize ALL the things! I will be checking out some of their books for sure for some more ideas. Sing On is a karaoke singing competition show, hosted by Tituss Burgess, from The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.  It’s a fun show that I can watch while doing other things.

4. Eating – This week we went to The Hummus and Pita Company while we were shopping in Brookfield, CT. Their vegan Shwarma is tasty and we love all the sides!

For our supper club picnic I made roasted eggplant sandwiches with roasted peppers, artichoke hearts, tomato, fresh mozzarella and some balsamic vinegar.

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5.Reading –  I am currently reading The Last Flight by Julie Clark. This suspense book had me interested from the very beginning. I’m hoping to have it finished by the end of the weekend.

ICYMI this week on the blog:

Tuesday I posted shared 7 Fall Weekend Getaways.

Sharing with Friday Favorites!  Have a great weekend!

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Five on Friday {Another Year Older}

Happy Friday!   This was a great week.  My birthday was Wednesday. As I’ve gotten older, I’m really not into making a big deal about the day.  Especially, when it falls on a Wednesday during a pandemic! But for the first time ever I took the day off of work!  Work has still been crazy busy and I just didn’t want to have to a stressful day!  Here are five from this week:

1. Apple Picking – It’s a little early in the season, but last weekend we went apple picking at Soons Orchards, a new-to-us orchard in New Hampton, NY (Orange County). This was a no frills experience, but the apples are delicious and we had a great time!

2. Shopping – On the way home from apple picking we stopped at Woodbury Common Outlet Center to do some back-to-school shopping. There were some pretty good sales and the kids got some stuff for school. We have another shopping trip planned this weekend.

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3. Watching – This week I watched the documentary Social Dilemma. It was very eye-opening on how damaging social media is. It’s kind of crazy how these social media companies manipulate us users.

4. Eating – One of our favorite dinners that I cooked this week was this Banh Mi Pizza.

This Burrata Salad that I had as an appetizer at Farmers and Chefs for my birthday lunch was delicious!

Apples, apples apples! We have sooo many apples from apple picking. I am going to have to cook/bake with them.

You can’t go apple picking and not get cider donuts. Unfortunately, these weren’t hot and fresh. But we did get some powdered sugar, cinnamon sugar and plain ones for our annual cider donut fix.

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5.Reading – This week I started reading An Unwanted Guest by Shari Lapena. This is one of the few books by the author that I haven’t read yet, so wanted to give it a try.

6. Birthday – I started my day off getting a haircut. Then my husband and I stopped at Half Time in Poughkeepsie and we stocked up on craft ciders (for me) and beer (for him). We enjoyed lunch at a new-to-us restaurant, Farmers and Chefs that has been on my want to try list. My husband took my son to his Boy Scout meeting and had to stay for a mandatory parent meeting. So we had a late dinner of Chinese takeout when they got home, with strawberry shortcake for dessert. I am very hopeful that this next year will be a great one!

ICYMI this week on the blog:

Tuesday I posted about Clover Brooke Farm Llama Alpaca Hike.

Thursday I wrote about apple picking at Soons Orchards.

Sharing with Friday Favorites!  Have a great weekend!

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August 2020 Reads

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Summer is officially over and today is the first day of school for the kiddos. It’s also Steph and Jana’s monthly Show Us Your Books linkup. August was another great reading month for me. Out of the 10 books I read, they were all 4 star reads except for one! I’m not sure if I’m being more selective about which books I read, but I’m not going to complain. Here are my August 2020 Reads:

3 stars:

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Good Girls Lie by J. T. Ellison – (suspense, December 2019) A student at an elite, all-girls boarding school in Virginia is found dead. Was it suicide or murder? I found this book so unbelievable, yet had to finish it to see what happened.

4 stars:

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Always the Last to Know by Kristan Higgins – (Contemporary Fiction, June 2020) A couple are married for almost fifty years. The husband is bike riding when he gets hit by a car and ends up having a stroke. During this time the wife discovers a secret he’s been keeping from her. Meanwhile their two adult daughters are facing struggles of their own. This book shows all the messiness and complications of family dynamics. This is only the second book that I’ve read by this author, but I have to read more of her stuff.

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Eliza Starts a Rumor by Jane Rosen – (Contemporary Fiction, June 2020) An online moderator for a women’s parenting forum starts a rumor after she learns of a rival online parenting group. Unfortunately, this rumor has major consequences for some women. I was interested in this book since it takes place in the Hudson Valley and I actually live in the Hudson Valley. I wasn’t sure what to expect before reading this. But it was really enjoyable. The characters were all likable and there was a lot more depth and emotion to the book than I thought there would be.

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A Good Marriage by Kimberly McCreight – (suspense, May 2020) Described as Big Little Lies meets Presumed Innocent. A lawyer gets a call from a college friend who is accused of murdering his wife. While she tries to help him, her own marriage is slowly falling apart. This was a fast paced thriller that had me guessing until the end.

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The Guest List by Lucy Foley – (suspense/thriller, June 2020) The most perfectly planned wedding is taking place on a remote island off the coast of Ireland. Except nothing is turning out as the bride expected and then someone ends up dead. Although I didn’t really like any of the characters the story itself kept me reading.

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Pachinko by Min Jin Lee – (historical fiction, February 2017) In early 1900’s Korea a young woman is impregnated by a wealthy man she falls in love with. But he’s married with kids. A sick minister staying at her mother’s boarding house offers to wed her and the two move to Japan. The story covers a span of over 50 years. I learned so much about Koreans living in Japan during this time period.

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Pretty Things by Janelle Brown – (suspense, April 2020) Two young women get involved in a game of deceit. One a petty swindler has her eye on conning the other, a heiress and Instagram influencer. But of course, things don’t go as planned. This was a good, suspense book and I read it’s being turned into an Amazon series adaptation starring Nicole Kidman.

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Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim – (YA Fantasy, July 2019) This YA fantasy book is described as Project Runway meets Mulan. A teen girl who is an excellent tailor pretends to be a boy so she can compete to try to become a Royal Tailor to the Imperial Majesty. This is the first book in a series. My teen daughter read and enjoyed this so I gave it a try and liked it as well.

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The Summer Cottage by Viola Shipman -(Contemporary Fiction, April 2019) A woman inherits her family’s cottage. She leaves her cheating husband, quits her job and attempts to renovate the cottage into a bed and breakfast. This was a touching, light summer read. I’ve enjoyed all of Shipman’s books that I’ve read.

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The Young Elites by Marie Lu – (YA Fantasy, October 2014) Ten years ago a deadly blood fever left some teens with special powers. These “young elites” are targeted by the king to be destroyed before they destroy the country. One new elite just discovered her power but it may be too dark for even the Young Elites. This was a YA fantasy book that we’ve had sitting unread on our bookshelf for ages. I was surprised that I enjoyed it as much as I did. This is also the first book in a series.

You may also enjoy these posts:

July 2020 Reads

June 2020 Reads

May 2020 Reads

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Five on Friday {Last Weekend Being 39}

(This post contains affiliate links. Please read our Disclosure Policy for additional information).
Happy Friday the 13th! No bad vibes here! I am excited for the weekend because my husband and I are going away to celebrate my birthday. Technically, my birthday is on Monday, but who can celebrate their birthday on a Monday?! Plus, it’s a milestone birthday….I’m turning 40. Fortunately, I don’t feel old and my mantra this year is going to be “40 and Fabulous!” Hopefully, we will enjoy a nice, quiet weekend in the Poconos at a bed and breakfast. I will report back next week on the birthday celebrations. Here are five from this week:

1. Supper Club – This weekend we had our monthly supper club. This month’s theme was “Farm-to-Table.” We all visited our local farmer’s markets and made something using seasonal ingredients we found. I made a Mexican Street Corn Salad that was tasty. But my husband made this Skillet Peach Cobbler with the sweetest, juiciest peaches we’ve had.

2. Reading – Guys, I’m in a reading slump! I have book club next week and need to finish reading Beautiful Ruins. This had been on my to read list for awhile, so I was excited to read it. However, it is not holding my attention and I have little interest in reading it. I started reading this on the 2nd of September and have still not finished it! I’m over half-way through though and if it wasn’t a book club read I’d have given up on it a long time ago. But, I will have to read something quick and suspenseful next!

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3. Watching – We had a family movie night recently and watched the 2019 Tim Burton directed version of Dumbo. Dumbo, the elephant, was super cute, but I wasn’t wowed by the movie itself. Although we were all familiar with the story of the flying elephant with the big ears, none of us were sure we’d ever seen the original version!

4. Eating – This week my husband represented NY Foodie Family and attended a tasting event at a new organic market that opened. He was given a reuseable tote bag that had some food items including this Better Almond Butter. This was my first introduction to the nut butter scene. I’m usually a peanut butter eater, if I’m eating nut butter at all. But I tried this one on toast. It has no sweetness, which takes some getting used to. But it’s healthy and I’m REALLY trying, at least during the week, to eat better.

5. Cooking – Yeah for back-to-school! (insert eye roll here!). We are in full swing with activity schedules and my chauffeur hat is really getting a workout. Meal planning is so important for us and I’m continuing to have the kids choose a recipe and help cook dinner one night a week. My daughter chose spaghetti and meatballs, her favorite. Since my son didn’t pick a recipe, he helped me make these Chicken Tikka Masala Flatbreads. These are so quick and easy to make and so tasty, that it has become a “regular” recipe for us (I put regular in quotes since I rarely make the same thing twice and we’ve now had this about 3-4 times since I first discovered it months ago). I’ve been using this sauce that I can easily find at my local Shoprite.

This week on the podcast we talk about Part II of our Weekend in Cooperstown.  Then we end with our Quick Hits of the week!

This week on the blog I posted about the new Mike’s Organic Market that opened in Stamford, CT.

I also shared my August 2019 reads.

Sharing with Friday Favorites!  Have a great weekend!

You may enjoy these posts:

Five on Friday {The Kids are Back in School}

Five on Friday {I Wanna Soak Up the Sun}

Five on Friday {Summer Days Driftin Away}

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Five on Friday {Summer Days Driftin’ Away…}

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Happy Friday! I hope everyone had a great week. The summer is starting to feel like it’s over. Today the kids have their last day of summer camp. They are spending next week with the in-laws up in Ulster County while my husband and I work. Tomorrow, my daughter had requested we do some back-to-school shopping. Wish me luck! Here are five from this week:

1. Supper Club – Last weekend we hosted our monthly supper club. This month’s theme was Brazilian and I made this Brazilian Fish stew. It was pretty easy to make and very tasty. Although really, everything was delicious, as usual. It’s a lot of fun trying new cuisines to cook!

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2. Reading – This week I finished The Art of Racing in the Rain, which I had mentioned in last Friday’s post. I have started reading Us Against You by Fredrik Backman. It’s the sequel to Beartown, which I loved. Even though I just started this, I know I’m going to love it just as much.

3. Hudson Valley Food Hall – This food hall recently opened in Beacon, so of course we had to check it out. One of the dishes we enjoyed were these momos (Himalayan dumplings). It was a mixed bowl that included two chicken, two beef and two spinach and cheese. I will have a full post next week about this new eatery.

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4. Watching – So I’ve previously mentioned that I recently read The Bone Collector. I remember watching the movie YEARS ago, and decided that I needed to watch it again after reading the book. Well, the movie isn’t as good as I remembered! And I found it to be a lot different than the book. Lesson learned.

5. Cooking – It worked so well having my daughter pick a recipe and cook dinner one night a week, that this week I had my son take a turn. He chose this Bacon Mac and Cheese. I of course supervise and assist when needed, but it’s been great watching them gain cooking skills and take ownership of dinner. Too bad they aren’t around next week! I hope that we can keep this up during the school year, but we will have to see how busy their schedules get.

This week on the blog I shared my July 2019 Reads.

I also posted the show notes to Episode 4 of the NY Foodie Family Podcast.

Sharing with Friday Favorites. Have a great weekend!

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Cooking Lately {April 2019}

Life has been busy as usual, but I’m still trying to get tasty, homemade meals on the dinner table each night. I haven’t had the time lately to write a weekly meal plan post, but I figured a monthly spotlight post on the best recipes of the month is doable. As you will see, this month we had a lot of burgers! They are easy to make and quick to cook, which is helpful on busy weeknights. And it’s so much healthier to cook your own than get fast food/take out ones.

Baked Breakfast Taquitos – I apologize that there’s no picture – sometimes, the dish isn’t photogenic or we’re in a rush to have dinner…..regardless, breakfast for dinner is always a winner in our house. These taquitos are made with Italian sausage though, not the breakfast sausage that “breakfast for dinner” recipes usually call for. We had more filling than tortillas so my husband used the leftover filling to make breakfast burritos. We thought the sausage to egg mixture was off as well and would recommend using more eggs. Otherwise, this was a tasty meal.

Maple Bacon Beer Burgers – Another dinner that I didn’t take a pic of. We had a lot of burgers this month. They are so versatile and there are so many recipes out there to try! The maple syrup gives these burgers a slight sweetness. I substituted ground turkey for the ground beef and they tasted good.

Italian Rice Ball Skillet – I have to admit, I’m not sure that I’ve ever made an Italian rice ball. However, this skillet was quick, easy and tasty.

Broccoli Rabe Turkey Burgers – Here’s another burger recipe. I’ve actually made these burgers before. I like that there’s chopped broccoli rabe both in the burger and as a topping. Although I served these on buns, the recipe recommends serving on a piece of lettuce.

30 Minute Chicken Fajitas – I did not make the roasted pineapple salsa verde which the original recipe includes. However, the chicken was flavorful and this recipe is so easy. I’m not sure why I haven’t made fajitas on a sheet pan before. This was so quick and easy to make! We will definitely be having these again soon.

Apple Cheddar Turkey Burgers – This is another burger that I’ve made before and we’ve all enjoyed. They are tasty with the apple, cheese and cranberry sauce. I opted not to use the English muffins and served them on hamburger rolls.

What have you been cooking lately?

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Five on Friday {Weekend Celebrations}

Happy Friday! The kids have been relaxing and enjoying their Spring Break. It’s been a slow work week as well, with school not in session. We are gearing up for a full, busy weekend. First, we are celebrating Passover with my husband’s family tomorrow. Then Sunday we will be hosting Easter while also celebrating my daughter’s 13th birthday with the family. Monday, my daughter is celebrating her birthday with a party with her friends. Here are five from this week:

1.Supper Club – Last weekend we had our monthly supper club dinner. This month’s theme was grain grab bag. At the last supper club we each wrote down two different grains, for a possible of twelve different selections. We folded the papers up and each chose one. I got corn and my husband got buckwheat. So for this supper club I made a Corn and Poblano Lasagna and my husband made buckwheat pancakes topped with roasted tomato, baby spinach and gruyere. I was surprised at how tasty, but filling this meal was!

2. Birthday Celebration – My daughter turned 13 on Sunday. We went out to dinner and she had the macarons she requested for dessert. Stay tuned….more birthday celebrations are coming.

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3. Reading – I am currently reading The Storyteller’s Secret by Sejal Badani. I picked this book from its high ratings on goodreads. However, it’s been a pretty slow read for me.

4. Friend Trip – My daughter just got back from Savannah, Georgia last week. This week she spent Wednesday through today at Camelback Resort, an indoor waterpark in the Poconos, with one of her friends. Lucky girl!

5. Lunch and Arcade Date – With his sister away, my son got a special lunch date with my husband and I this week. We took him to the Palisades Center Mall where he enjoyed a sushi lunch a this favorite restaurant East. This is a conveyor belt sushi restaurant where you can pick the dishes you want as they pass by. We then went to Barnes & Noble and Dave & Busters (arcade). He was a very happy kid!

This week on the blog I debuted a new weekly post called Surviving Thirteen.

Sharing with Friday Favorites! Have a great weekend! Happy Passover and Happy Easter!

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Surviving Thirteen {A New Parenting Series}

Are you the mom of a teenager? For the past couple of years, I’ve felt like I was. Eleven and twelve were filled with attitude, talking back and lots of tears (from both parties). But as of last week, I am officially the mom of a thirteen-year-old girl. And I feel like it’s a whole new ball game.

I’ve expressed concern to my husband that I’m not sure I can handle the next couple of years. Each day feels like I am tiptoeing around my daughter, not sure if I’m going to get Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde. He tells me, “we will survive it.” Yes, I say, we will survive, but surely not thrive.

But does 13 and beyond have to be a constant battleground? By nature, I am a reader and writer. This is how I make sense of things. What have others experienced? What does the research say about raising teenagers? Because whatever I did during the tween years evidently hasn’t worked.

And so this new weekly blog series was born. A place for me to share (a.k.a. vent!) about life with a 13 year-old daughter. Parenting is the most difficult job in the world and it’s only seemed to get harder the older the kids have gotten. Bigger kids = bigger issues. I know that there’s no one right or wrong way to raise our teenagers. However, I always find it nice to hear how other parents deal with parenting issues. So join me on my journey in “Surviving Thirteen.” I’m really hoping that my reading and research will help the two of us thrive together through the teenage years. Hear is to wishing me good luck on this journey!