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December Reads {2019}

I ended my year of reading with holiday themed reads. If I read these types of books any other time of the year, I’d think they were cheesy and hate them. However, there’s something about Christmas time where, even though many holiday themed books rank high on the cheese factor, they are still enjoyable. Reading these themed books makes for a nice, light ending to the year. As always, I’m sharing these December reads with Steph and Jana’s SUYB linkup. Enjoy!

3 stars

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25 Days ’til Christmas by Poppy Alexander – Kate, a young widow, wants to make this the best Christmas ever for her 6 year-old son Jack. She creates an Advent calendar with a fun holiday activity each day for the two of them to do. But with hardly any money and a dead-end job, she needs a miracle to pull it off. She then meets Daniel, who is as lonely and sad as she is. The two end up befriending each other and help each other through the holidays. This was actually a pretty sad and depressing holiday read that touched upon a lot of tough topics. If you want a light and fluffy holiday read, skip this one!

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The Christmas Boutique by Jennifer Chiaverini – Basically, this story is about a group of quilters that pulls together to make sure the annual Christmas Boutique runs, after a major disaster occurs. I did not realize when I put this book on hold from the library that 1. it was about quilting (not really a topic of interest to me) and 2. that it was part of a series. Overall, it was an okay holiday read.

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Christmas at the Little Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan – Polly is busy with Christmas baking. Her best friend, Kerensa has a huge secret that Polly is burdened with keeping. Then Polly has to deal with her own personal family issues. Christmas is not looking so great for her, but can she make it a happy holiday for everyone? I really enjoyed then first book in this series, but found this book to be just okay.

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Let it Snow by Nancy Thayer – Christine owns a toy shop (shed) on Nantucket. When her landlord raises the rent, she and her fellow shopkeeper friends have to come up with a plan to save their businesses. She also meets Wink, a nine year-old little girl and Andy, her uncle, who both end up having a big impact on her.

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You’ve Been Volunteered by Laurie Gelman – In this sequel to Class Mom, Jen Dixon is class mom of her son’s 3rd grade class. This year she is also roped into organizing the 5th grade school safety patrol. Her emails to the parents are filled with her usual snark and sarcasm, that is not appreciated by everyone. In addition, she’s also dealing with family issues, which leads to her feeling a bit overwhelmed. This book was a bit of a letdown, since I enjoyed Class Mom so much. It was an entertaining read, just not as funny as the first. This is also my only non-holiday read of the month, since I started this one after Christmas.

4 stars

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The Christmas Sisters by Sarah Morgan – Three sisters, Hannah, Beth and Posy are reunited in Scotland with their adopted parents for the Christmas holiday. Each sister is dealing with her own personal issues, but spending time together as a family helps them all. This wasn’t too sappy of a holiday read.

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Finding Christmas by Karen Schaler – Emmie loves Christmas. She sets up a big, fun holiday-themed weekend scavenger hunt for her boyfriend Grant, but a different guy accidentally gets the clues. She ends up discovering that Sam, the other guy, loves Christmas as much as she does. When Grant finally does arrive in Christmas Point, he’s not very interested in all of Emmie’s special plans. She eventually has some decisions to make regarding their relationship. This was cute and sappy in a good way! Last year I read and really liked Schaler’s book Christmas Camp. This book didn’t disappoint either.

4

Five on Friday {Ready for the Weekend!}

Hooray for Friday! Even though the week hasn’t been super busy,  I am exhausted and so happy for two days off. My daughter has her first cheer competition this weekend.  This is her first year doing modified cheer so I will finally get to see what we have gotten ourselves into!  I’m hoping to do a little more cleaning and organizing this weekend as well. Here are five from this week:

1.  Exercise – I’ve been continuing my walks during lunch most afternoons. I did skip yesterday, when it was 28 degrees…..just couldn’t get myself out there! Dana and I are also doing Yoga with Adriene’s 30 day Home challenge together. He’s been so good at keeping me accountable. For his first time doing yoga, he’s doing really well too!

2. Art Museum – Last weekend we visited a new-to-us museum, the Hudson Valley Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA). Their current exhibit is “How We Live.” There were some interesting and fun pieces of art. Although the museum is small, we had a fun visit. While we were there, we paid a small fee to take a watercolor and collage class. Dana is very artistic and our kids inherited his art skills. They were all in their element and created some great pieces that I am hoping to frame.

3. Reading – I’m currently reading What the Wind Knows by Amy Harmon. This is a historical fiction/romance/fantasy read.  It’s my work book club pick and even though it’s gotten amazing reviews on goodreads, I have to say I’m not loving it.  I am curious to see how it ends though.

4. Watching – I haven’t been watching much of anything recently. Dana and I are still watching an episode of Mrs. Maisel and The Man in the High Castle on the rare occasion, but we just haven’t had much time to sit and chill in front of the television.

5. Broadway Show – Dana was in the city over the weekend for an alumni event. While he was down there he went to see the Broadway show Come From Away. He raved about how great it was….but what Broadway show isn’t?!! It’s definitely on my want to see list.

ICYMI this week on the blog:

Tuesday I posted Getting Organized in 2020.  

This week on the podcast we talk about bumper cars on ice, indoor skiing and more! 

Sharing with Friday Favorites!  Have a great weekend!

Getting Organized in 2020 {A Life Well Lived}

My first step for “A Life Well Lived” in 2020 (and the start of every new year) is to get organized! I thrive on planning and organization and I’ve discovered that being organized is super helpful in reducing daily stress.

Every year I wait until after Christmas to buy a planner and calendar for the new year. Not only do I get them on sale, but I enjoy spending the time between the end of the old year and the start of the new one setting up my calendar.

Planners and calendar systems are very personal. There is no one system that will work for everyone. You really have to try different kinds out (electronic, paper planners, bullet journals) to find the one that works for you. If you don’t use a planner though, I highly recommend you start using one this year!

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Cozi App

I used to be a strictly pen and paper calendar user and even had a mini one for my purse. However, Dana and I now use the Cozi app to keep track of doctor appointments and the kids’ activities. I then transfer any appointments or activities that are entered in Cozi onto the regular wall calendar. In our house, if it’s not on the calendar, it’s not happening!

Each Sunday evening, I set up the weekly schedule in my paper planner. I used to use a bullet journal but have found that I prefer a regular paper planner. This is where I write the daily to-do tasks, like laundry and vacuuming, errands like the library and grocery store and the kids’ activities. I also write what the kids are eating for breakfast and lunch and what we are having for dinner. The kids no longer ask me, “What are we having for dinner?” They know they can look in the planner, which I keep open on our kitchen counter. They daily planner is what really keeps our family organized with the day-to-day stuff.

If I’m feeling especially motivated, I’ll even decorate the planner with stickers and motivational sayings……I do love a good motivational quote! I’ve seen YouTube videos and Instagram photos of people who are REALLY into decorating their planners. I’m luckily not one of them, but when stickers go on sale at Michael’s craft store, I’ll usually pick some up.

So this is how I’m planning for 2020. How are you keeping yourself organized this year?

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Five on Friday {Hello January!}

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Happy Friday and Happy 2020! I am so excited for this new year and all of the new possibilities!  Short intro this week – here are five from this week:

1.  New Year’s Eve – Since having kids, Dana and I have enjoyed almost every New Year’s eve at home.  Our most recent tradition as the kids have gotten older is to have appetizers/snacks for dinner and have an epic family game night.  This New Year’s was no exception. Our menu consisted of truffle fries, vegetable dumplings, Bang Bang Cauliflower and Vegan Garlic Buffalo Brussels Sprouts. We played lots of games including Spot It, PicWits, Canine Chaos and Q-Bitz.  After an early sparkling cider toast with the kids, I was in bed by 11 PM!

2. Reading – I finished my first book of 2020 on New Year’s Day!  Book #1 was The Arrangement by Robyn Harding. It was a quick, suspenseful read.  I was short of my Goodreads goal of 75 books read in 2019 by 2 books!! I have decided to try for 75 again for 2020.

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3. Watching – The family had a movie night and watched Dora and the Lost City of Gold.  It was actually a surprisingly funny movie. We think this is because our kids grew up watching Dora.  My husband and I have been watching The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and The Man in the High Castle. How have we made it this long without watching either of these?!!  I had tried Mrs. Maisel a long time ago and quit it after five minutes. I have no idea why because we are loving it! A member of my book club recommended The Man in the High Tower.  This is not a light and fun show, but it is good.  

4. Holiday Fun – Last weekend we visited the Grand Holiday Illumination at Untermyer Gardens in Yonkers.  We visited last year as well, but fortunately, the weather was so much milder this year! These gardens are beautiful and it’s so nice to see them decorated and lit up for the holidays. It was a fun way to wrap up the holidays.   

5. Puzzling –  Most of my New Year’s Day was spent working on this puzzle.  It was a Christmas present from my son…..he knows me well. It’s been a while since I worked on a puzzle. They become addictive and I really can’t start one when there’s things like holidays coming up! It was so nice to relax and listen to a podcast while I worked on it.  

ICYMI this week on the blog:

Wednesday I posted A Life Well Lived.  

This week on the podcast we talk about our holidays and the new year.  We also have a new format where we focus more on Hudson Valley news and things to do.

Sharing with Friday Favorites!  Have a great weekend!

2020: A Life Well Lived

Happy 2020! I stopped making New Year’s resolutions years ago because I never kept them. Then I started choosing a word of the year, which in the past have included “happy,” “growth” and most recently “abundance.” This year, I’ve chosen a motto to help guide this year for me. 2020 is all about “A Life Well Lived.” A new year means a blank slate with so many possibilities!

What exactly is, “A Life Well Lived?” To me it is spending quality time with family, a healthy lifestyle and fun. It’s new experiences and living in the moment. It’s becoming my best self, both inside and out. Join me on my journey as I document my year and maybe encourage you to live “A Life Well Lived” as well!

Five on Friday {Happy 2020}

This post contains affiliate links. Please read our Disclosure Policy for additional info.

Happy Friday! I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas and a Happy Hanukkah!  It’s been a busy couple of days celebrating the holidays. While my husband and I have been working this week, the kids have been enjoying sleeping in and relaxing! It’s hard to believe that the next Five on Friday will be in 2020! We are planning a low-key New Year’s Eve celebration with family game night and appetizers and snacks for dinner! Honestly, I may not even stay awake to watch the ball drop. I hope everyone has a happy and safe New Year’s Eve! Here are five from this week:

1. Christmas Eve – our tradition is to spend Christmas Eve at my cousin’s house in Connecticut.  We only usually see this side of the family once a year, so it’s a fun time catching up.  We brought a dessert pizza and a variety of Christmas cookies from the different cookie exchanges.  There was also apple crisp, lots of other cookies and a panettone. But my brother brought this flourless chocolate cake that was not only beautiful but delicious!

2. Christmas – We always host Christmas with both my parents and Dana’s parents.  Plus, my brother came up from Pennsylvania and Dana’s aunt came over. We made turkey, rice and gandules, mashed sweet potatoes and roasted root vegetables with a balsamic sauce. It was another delicious meal and we all ended the evening stuffed! 

3. Holiday Gifts – Two of my gifts this year were this mug and a Fitbit Inspire HR.   Some of our other gifts included a new air fryer and sheets for our bed.

4. Reading – I have been reading holiday themed books this month.  I just finished Let It Snow by Nancy Thayer, which was a cute Christmas read.  My last holiday book for the year is 25 days ‘Til Christmas by Poppy Alexander. I hope to have this finished before the new year.

5. Watching – This past week we watched a couple of movies.  My daughter and I watched Where’d You Go Bernadette? I read the book ages ago and remember not liking it. However, the movie wasn’t bad. It rarely happens where I enjoy the movie more than the book! Dana, our daughter and I also watched The Art of Racing in the Rain since the three of us had all read the book.  It followed the book pretty closely and we all liked it.

Sharing with Five on Friday! Have a great weekend. Happy New Year! I’ll be back in 2020!!

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Five on Friday {Have a Holly Jolly Christmas….}

Happy Friday everyone! This is the home stretch to the holidays!
Hanukkah begins on Sunday this year. The kids requested that we celebrate with potato latkes and jelly doughnuts. We will also be busy finishing up our holiday shopping and wrapping all the presents this weekend.

This will be the last post on the blog before the holidays. So before I get into my five from this week, I want to wish everyone a Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas and Happy Kwanzaa. Whatever holiday you celebrate, may you enjoy the time with your family and friends. We will be celebrating Christmas Eve at my aunt’s house. Then Christmas Day we will be hosting my parents and brother and my in-laws and my husband’s aunt.

Here are five from this week:

1. Supper Club – This month’s supper club was our annual pizza night and cookie exchange. Above is a picture of the different pizzas we had. My husband made a Chocolate Chip Dessert Pizza and I made a Mushroom Arugula Pizza. Plus, the daughter of one of the couples in the group decided to make pretzels. It was a delicious evening, but needless to say, we were stuffed!

2. Cookie Exchanges – At our December supper club we also do a cookie exchange. This year, I made Cranberry Bliss cookies, based off the Starbucks Cranberry Bliss Bars, which I’ve never had. Dana made Maple Brown Sugar cookies. Luckily, my cookie recipe made four dozen cookies, because I brought some in for my office cookie exchange, which was this week as well. This is always a delicious time of year!

3. Reading – This week I finished another Christmas read, Christmas at Little Street Bakery. This was an okay holiday read. I’m hoping to get a couple more holiday themed books in before the end of the year.

4. Band Concerts – This was also the week of band concerts. Of course, the kids’ concerts were on separate evenings. So we had two nights that we had to go. We always love hearing my daughter play with the smaller jazz band (pictured above) before the regular concert. They are really good!

5. Another Day Off – Tuesday, we got hit with an ice storm and enjoyed another day off school/work. It’s days like these, when the roads are hazardous, that I’m especially grateful that my husband can work from home.

ICYMI this week on the blog:

Wednesday, I wrote about Westchester Winter Wonderland.

Sharing with Friday Favorites. Have a great weekend and a happy holiday!

Westchester Winter Wonderland

Hey locals! Have you been to Westchester Winter Wonderland yet? This Westchester County attraction is a holiday family must-do. Located at the Kensico Dam Plaza in Valhalla, this is Westchester Winter Wonderland’s 6th season of holiday family fun.

Bundle up and get ready to enjoy all that Winter Wonderland has to offer. When you first arrive, you will be amazed by all of the lights! The attraction is festive and brightly lit with all kinds of colorful lights.

The $20 admission price is all-inclusive. Entertainment, rides, ice skating and a visit with Santa are all included. This year, there are ten rides including a Fun Slide, Ferris wheel, Cyclone and more. Most of the rides are geared towards the younger kids. However, our family enjoyed a ride down the Fun Slide and on the Ferris wheel.

Make sure to enjoy some skating on the ice rink. As I mentioned, skate rentals and ice skating is included in the ticket price. Dana and my son enjoyed some time on the ice. Before skating, you are given a pink wrist band, which is basically a waiver acknowledging and accepting the dangers of the activity.

Do not miss the Winter Wonderland Circus performance during your visit. Even Dana and I were impressed with the juggling, acrobatics and other circus acts crammed into the tent.

If you are hungry, there is plenty to eat, including pizza, hot dogs, fries and more. Save room for the funnel cake, fries and popcorn too! Plus, there’s a heated dining tent where you can eat and warm up!

Families with young kids will want to make a stop at Santa’s Village at the North Pole. In this tent you get to meet Mrs. Claus and get your picture taken with Santa. Elmo was also inside available for hugs and pictures. This tent had the longest line of any attraction during our visit. Unfortunately, my 11 and 13-year-old would not go anywhere near this tent, even though it was heated!

Other attractions include Santa’s Reindeer, a hay ride that rides along the dam, and a train ride that travels around the Lights of Wonder display. There are a couple of game booths that have an additional cost.

The Lights of Wonder was my favorite attraction at Westchester Winter Wonderland. This is a large colored lights display that is choreographed set to holiday music. Each song has a different combination of lights. If it wasn’t so cold, I could have watched this all night long!

Make sure to visit Westchester Winter Wonderland before they close on January 4th! It’s a great way to enjoy some winter fun with the family!



(Thank you Westchester Winter Wonderland for hosting NY Foodie Family. As always, all opinions are our own.)

The Details:
Westchester Winter Wonderland
Kensico Dam Plaza
1 Bronx River Parkway
Valhalla, NY 10595

Hours: Fridays (5 PM -9 PM) Saturdays (4 PM – 10 PM) and Sundays (4 PM – 9 PM) November 29 – December 22
Monday – Friday (5 PM – 10 PM) Saturday & Sunday (4 PM – 9 PM) December 23 2019 – January 4, 2020
Closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day

Tickets:
$20/ticket, Free/children ages 3 and under
Tickets can be purchased online ahead of time and are good for any day that Westchester Winter Wonderland is open. You can also purchase tickets when you arrive.

Parking:
Free – plenty of parking

Tips:
*Get there early to beat the crowds

*Dress warmly! All attractions are outside, except for Santa and the Winter Wonderland Circus. It was very cold the night we visited and we wished we had worn warmer socks and winter boots!

*Food is available for purchase. For price reference, funnel cake costs $6, fries cost $4 and a small cotton candy costs $6. Most food vendors accept both cash and credit cards, but there is an ATM if needed.

*Beer and wine is available for purchase.

*Strollers are not allowed in the circus tent and there is a stroller parking area.

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Five on Friday {…’tis the season to be jolly….}

Happy Friday! It’s lucky Friday the 13th! Christmas is less than two weeks away and we are busy, busy, busy!  This weekend is filled with Christmas festivities! I am going to a friend’s annual holiday party Saturday night and then Sunday we have our annual supper club pizza and cookie exchange.  Here are five from this week:

1. A Christmas Carol – last weekend we traveled up to Kingston to see the Ulster County Ballet perform A Christmas Carol.  The dancers were so talented and did a great job. It was a nice way to celebrate the holiday season!

2. Westchester Winter Wonderland – This past weekend, Westchester Winter Wonderland hosted us at their annual event.  This outdoor attraction is filled with lights, music, rides, entertainment and more. Stay tuned for a future post.  We had a fun time, but it was so COLD!!

3. Reading – I have been reading all the holiday themed books this month.  I am finising up Let It Snow by Nancy Thayer, which is a cute Christmas read that takes place on Nantucket.

4. Snow Beautiful – We had another snowfall this week and I ended up with a 2-hour delay and the kids had a 3-hour delay which was nice. The drive to work was so beautiful with the snow on the tree branches.

5. Holiday Prep – Our Christmas cards arrived from Snapfish and we are working on getting them addressed and stamped to mail out. Dana and I are heading out tonight to do some Christmas shopping. I’m really hoping it’s not too crazy.

ICYMI this week on the blog:

Tuesday I shared my November reads.

This week on the podcast we talk about Holiday Traditions.  Then we end with our Quick Hits of the week!

Sharing with Friday Favorites!  Have a great weekend!


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November Reads {2019}

It’s December and I’m currently all about the holiday themed reads! But today, I’m sharing my November reads with Steph and Jana’s monthly book link up. I’ve been averaging 4-5 books a month and last month was no different, with five books read. Here are my November reads from least to most liked:

3 stars:

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The Gifted School by Bruce Holsinger – This book revolves around four families that are great friends. They all have children in the 5th grade and met when the kids were babies. When a new public charter gifted school, Crystal Academy, plans to open, the parents end up going to extreme measures to try to get their kids into the middle school. The book is told from the perspectives of different characters in the story. It has been compared to Big Little Lies, which I really liked. Overall, I found this to be a decent contemporary fiction read and rate it more of a 3.5, if half stars were available on goodreads.

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Little White Lies by Jennifer Lynn Barnes – Sawyer Taft’s estranged grandmother shows up at her door with an interesting proposition. Sawyer has to participate in debutante season and in exchange she will get a six figure award. Sawyer is immersed in an unfamiliar world of wealth and parties. As she upholds her end of the deal, she is also able to investigate her unknown birth father’s identity. This was a fun YA book that’s been compared to Pretty Little Liars.

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Royal Holiday by Jasmine Guillory – Vivian Forest is accompanying her daughter on a work trip and is visiting England for the first time. On her first day there she meets Malcolm Hudson. He ends up showing her around the area and of course, a romance begins. But this is a vacation…..can/will they do a long distance relationship? I didn’t realize that this was the fourth book in a series, so it can be read without reading the others. I enjoy a good contemporary romance, but this was just an okay read for me. I found it very predictable and a little cheesy. This was my first book by Guillory, and I think I’ll pass on her others.

4 stars:

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The Orphan’s Tale by Pam Jenoff – This book tells the story of two women, Noa and Astrid, who are trapeze artists in a traveling circus during WWII. This historical fiction book was last month’s read for my in-person book club and we all enjoyed it. I enjoy reading historical fiction, especially books about WWII. I enjoyed this book’s unique perspective of the time period, as I didn’t even realize that there were traveling circuses during this time. Definitely a book that you need to be in the right mind frame to read, but in my opinion, worth the time.

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Something Like Happy by Eva Woods – Annie feels stuck in her miserable life. Then she meets Polly who is terminally ill, but living her 100 Days of Happy Challenge. She ends up recruiting Annie, which has drastic changes on both of their lives. Although not everyone may enjoy this book, I think there are takeaways that we can all use. This book is a good reminder to embrace life and live with no regrets.