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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
Something Like Happyby 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.
Hooray for Friday! New York had its first big snowstorm earlier this week which resulted in a snow day for the kids and I on Monday. It was nice to ease back into reality after our 8 night cruise. However, even with a shortened week, it felt really long! We had such a great time with my family on our cruise vacation. Read more below!
1. The Ship – We sailed on Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas. This was our third cruise with Royal Caribbean, our favorite cruise line. The ship left from Cape Liberty in Bayonne, NJ, a little over an hour drive from our house. We enjoy cruising out of New Jersey, which allows us to not have to fly. With the Thanksgiving holiday, the cruise was filled to capacity with over 4,000 guests. However, since the ship is so large, it rarely felt super crowded.
2. Eating – Umm, what weren’t we eating?! The kids enjoyed ice cream cones at all hours of the day. It was truly vacation for them, where they were eating dessert with every meal. I may have indulged in some creme brulee and other goodies myself! In the past we’ve been happy with the food on Royal Caribbean. Unfortunately, we weren’t wowed by the food on this trip. But of course, we still did our fair share of eating.
3. Warm Weather – It was so nice to be able to shed our winter jackets that we wore when we departed and enjoy the 75+ degree weather in Florida and the Bahamas. The kids loved seeing all of the palm trees and we all couldn’t believe at how blue and clear the water was down there.
4. Family – My husband and I called this trip Thanksgiving on the Seas. Normally, my sister hosts Thanksgiving in Maryland. But this year, we (my parents, brother, and my sister and her family) all decided to take a cruise together instead. We had a lot to celebrate this year including me and Dana’s 15 year wedding anniversary, my 40th birthday and my mom’s 70th birthday. Plus, Dana’s birthday was a few days before we left for the cruise. And while we were on the cruise my niece turned 7. It was fun getting to celebrate her actual birthday on the boat!
5. Disconnecting – While you can pay for wifi on the cruise ship, we opted not to. We wanted to fully disconnect and enjoy our vacation. And enjoy we did! While we were in port we left the ship and enjoyed excursions and the beach. When we were traveling down and back from Florida and the Bahamas we enjoyed all the Anthem of the Seas had to offer including bumper cars, the rock wall, the North Star and lots of great shows!
It’s that time of year again, where we start making our lists of everyone we need to buy presents before. Before you run out and buy more “stuff” think about giving an experience gift this year. There are plenty of fun things to do in and around Westchester County. Check out some of these experience gift ideas! Below are links to past posts that offer a comprehensive list of Westchester County experience gift ideas! Even though some of the posts are a few years old, the ideas are still relevant. Only the prices may have changed. Please check websites for the current pricing. If you know of any experience gift ideas that we have not included, please let us know!
Hooray for Friday! We are super excited that we will be leaving for our cruise tomorrow! Tonight we are busy finishing up packing. Just a heads up, there will be no Five on Friday next week. I am truly taking a vacation. No work, no blogging, just relaxation and fun. Here are five from this week:
Reading – I am currently reading The Gifted School by Bruce Holsinger. It’s contemporary fiction about a group of friends who all are trying to get their children into the new gifted school opening in their town. So far, so good.
Celebrating– This week we celebrated Dana’s birthday. We didn’t go crazy knowing we had the cruise coming up. But we did go out for dinner and came home and had cheesecake to celebrate another year with our favorite guy!
Buying – last minute things for the cruise including waterproof cameras and a waterproof phone case. We found both on clearance at Walmart. I love a good deal!
Preparing – for the holidays. Since we leave this weekend and will be gone for 9 days I wanted to make sure we were prepped for the holidays. Last weekend we put the tree up and even got our Christmas card photo taken.
The holidays are coming and if you’re not sure what to get someone on your list, a subscription box may be the perfect gift. Depending on how many months you gift, it can be a gift that keeps giving. Plus, there is a subscription box available for everyone that you’re shopping for, no matter what they are interested in. There are even boxes for your pets! If you subscribe through Amazon, some of the boxes even have Prime member exclusive pricing as well.
Food Subscription Boxes:
Carnivore Club – If you have a meat lover in your life, this box is for him/her. Each box features 4-6 handcrafted cured meats. All the meats are cured and shelf stable, so they don’t require refrigeration. They also offer a snack subscription box that includes a variety of jerky and meat sticks ($39/month) and a wooden crate subscription which includes 20 – 32 oz. of cured meats that arrive in a wooden crate ($85/month) Base Price: $55/month Amazon Savings: 30% off first box
SnackNation – This subscription box includes a variety of healthy snacks each month, like nuts, seeds, chips, jerky and more. The small box includes 8 snacks, with other options available for more snacks. For every box received, a meal is donated to a family in need. Base Price: $14.99/month Amazon Savings: 43% off first box
Subscription Boxes for Her:
Allure Beauty Box – The Allure Beauty Box subscription includes full and travel-sized makeup and beauty products that are selected by Allure experts. Each box has a $50-$90 value and includes a mini magazine with tips and step-by-step instructions. Base Price: $15/month Amazon Savings: 33% off first box
Ipsy Bag – Ipsy is a makeup and beauty product monthly subscription. Each month you get 5 deluxe samples of products, customized to your profile, that you complete before ordering. Ipsy is not quite a “box” but even better, each month you get a makeup bag. I have subscribed to Ipsy in the past and liked it. I enjoy trying new products and brands that I’d never buy on my own. Plus, it’s super affordable. Subscription Price: $12/month
TheraBox– This is a self care box curated by therapists. Each box includes a monthly happiness activity plus 6-8 full sized wellness items, valued at over $100. Base Price: $40/month Amazon Savings: 13% off first box
Subscription Boxes for Him:
Birchbox Men– Birchbox has a women’s subscription box as well. However, there aren’t nearly as many men’s grooming and personal care subscription boxes available as there are for women. This box comes with five grooming samples from anti-aging moisturizers to facial care supplies and more. Subscription Price: $10/month
Gentleman’s Box – This subscription box includes a variety of products for the, “savvy man” in your life. It includes 4 – 6 grooming items, style accessories and more, valued at over $100. Base Price: $29/month Amazon Savings: 20% off first box
Subscription Boxes for the Kids:
Bitsbox– This is a coding subscription box aimed towards kids ages 6-12. No coding experience is necessary, as kids will learn to code through fun projects like video games and greeting cards. Each box builds off the previous one and includes a grownup guide. Base Price: $29.95/month Amazon Savings: 25% off first box
Raddish Kids – This is a monthly cooking kit subscription box geared for kids ages 4 – 14+. Each month has a different theme and includes 3 laminated recipe cards, a kitchen tool, shopping list and more. Base Price: $24/month Amazon Savings: 58% off first box Prime Member Savings: 63% off first box
Subscription Boxes for Pets:
BarkBox– This subscription box is perfect for your dog. You choose the size of your dog (small, medium or large) for a customized box. Each themed box has a $45 value and includes two toys, two bags of treats and one dental chew. Base Price: $29/month Amazon Savings: 45% off first box
KitNipBox – Cat owners will enjoy getting this box for their favorite felines. This box includes 5 toys, treats and/or other goodies. Each month’s box has a fun theme. Base Price: $19.99/month Amazon Savings: 15% off first box
Other Fun Subscription Boxes:
Adults & Crafts – This box comes with all of the materials, tools and instructions to complete a craft project. Past crafts have included wood burning, string art, alcohol ink paper project and more. Base Price: $39.95/month Prime Member Savings: $15.98
Hunt a Killer – This immersive game takes place over a six-episode season. Each month you receive a box filled with documents, letters, clues and more to help you eliminate a suspect. With your first box you are given access to an online community of other crime solvers. This box is intended for adults.Base Price: $33.95/month Amazon Savings: 25% off first box Prime Member Savings: 30% off first box
Succulent Studios – Plant lovers will enjoy getting this subscription box. Each month subscribers will receive two organically-grown baby succulents. They arrive in 2″ eco-pots and include care instructions. Base Price: $16.50/month Amazon Savings: 45% off first box
Hooray for Friday! Yes, in one more week (plus a day) we will be boarding Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas for our family cruise! We booked this cruise so long ago, that it seemed like the time would never come. It’s finally starting to sink in that it’s happening and I’m kind of freaking out a little! The packing and making sure the kids have correct seasonal clothing that fits…..amidst our regularly packed schedules. It will all go smoothly, or at least that’s what I keep telling myself! So of course we are going to pack this weekend and I’m also hoping we can put up our Christmas tree. However, we are in the middle of a house project (read more below!) that needs to get finished before go. Here are five from this week:
1. Supper Club Dinner – Hudson Valley Restaurant Week is taking place until Sunday. Ever HVRW our supper club goes out to dinner. Friday night we tried a new to me restaurant, the Clock Tower Grill, in Brewster. We had an amazingly delicious dinner, which included these shrimp and grits with bacon marmalade.
2. Reading – I am currently reading Something Like Happy by Eva Woods. It’s the story of an unlikely friendship between two women, one of whom is terminally ill. Polly, who is sick, has recruited Annie to join her in her quest for 100 days of happiness challenge. I’m enjoying this book and will likely finish it over the weekend. Then I want to start some holiday reading.
3. Watching – This past weekend we watched Aladdin on DVD. Will Smith did a great job and we all enjoyed the movie. When I was in high school, we sang a medley of songs from this movie for chorus. And after our wedding ceremony my husband and I walked down the aisle to “A Whole New World.” So this movie has some memories for me.
5. House Project – We decided to FINALLY repaint our kitchen cabinets. This has been something that I’ve been wanting to do for a long time. My husband and daughter worked super hard last weekend priming the cabinets and then I helped get the first coat of paint on them. The school/work week is too busy to work on them, so we have to get them finished painted and back up this weekend. It’s amazing how much a coat of paint and new handles can change the look of the kitchen. I wish I had taken before pics. There’s not much to look at right now, except the insides of my crowded, messy cabinets. They used to be a light blond wood color, and this is the new color, a dark grey.
6. Playing – And a bonus. We were able to sneak in a quick family game night and played PicWits! again. This is a fun game that we’ve been enjoying. It’s similar to Apples to Apples but uses captions and picture cards. I wrote more about it in my recent 3 More Games for Family Game Night post.
The day after Halloween seems to unofficially begin the start of the holiday season. While that may be a little early for us, there is something special about the December holidays. Advent calendars are a fun way to count the days until Christmas. Although you don’t start opening Advent calendars until December 1st, now is a great time to start shopping for them. We have rounded up Advent calendars for everyone in your family to help you enjoy counting down the days until Christmas!
Disney Tsum Tsum Advent Calendar – Tsum Tsum fans will love this Disney advent calendar. It includes 18 tsum tsum figures, 6 large, 6 medium and 6 small. It also comes with 6 holiday themed accessories.
Haribo – Maybe stretching this in the Pop Culture category, but Haribo gummies are super popular. This calendar comes with 24 individually wrapped gummy candies in a mixture of fruit and cola flavors, marshmallow, licorice and gums.
Super Mario Brothers – This calendar has 24 days of surprises. Each numbered door has either a figure or accessory behind it.
Bonne Maman – We love Bonne Maman! This calendar has 24 1 oz. jars of fruit spreads and honey. This set includes holiday exclusive flavors like rhubarb & strawberry, purple fig with cinnamon and more. This set is sold out on their site, but is currently available at World Market.
Jerky Advent Calendar – This calendar includes 12 days of jerky. There are a variety of different brands and types of jerky, which totals to almost 2 pounds worth.
David’s Tea – This David’s Tea calendar has 2 servings of tea per day and includes 24 loose leaf teas like Candy Cane Crush, Gingerbread, Let It Snow and more. There are many other tea advent calendars available
Joe & Sephs Popcorn – This popcorn calendar has 24 days of snack size popcorn. There are 12 unique flavors, including Strawberries and Cream, Chocolate Orange and Banoffee Pie, so there must be two of each flavor. However, the popcorn ships from England.
BYOB Hot Sauce – This set contains 25, 2 oz. Christmas-themed hot sauces. Each has a different Christmas label and are made from peppers including Scorpion, Ghost Pepper, Banana, Habanero and more. Perfect for the hot sauce lovers in your life!
YAWN Coffee – This YAWN coffee advent calendar has 24 sachets of specialty coffee and comes in either ground or whole bean. This is the only 24 day coffee advent calendar. Unfortunately, the company is based out of and ships from England. However, there are many 12 Days of Christmas coffee sets including this Christmas Sampler, this K-cup Christmas sampler and more.
NYX Sugar Trip – This Advent calendar comes with *** NYX also has a Love Lust Disco Greatest Hits Lip Advent Calendar as well.
Macy’s 25 Days of Beauty– This calendar has 25 beauty products including masks, makeup, creams and more from brands like Clinique, Origins and Sunday Riley.
Alcohol Themed Calendars
Hard Seltzer Advent Calendar – This calendar contains 12 curated hard seltzers from brands like Truly, White Claw, Henry’s and small-batch hard seltzer brands.
Aldi Wine Calendar – This calendar contains 24, 187 mL bottles of wine. The wines come from all over the world (Italy, France, South Africa, USA, Chile, Argentia and more) and include a variety of red and white wines. They are only being sold in store though and customers are limited to 2.
Heritage Distilling Spirits Calendar – This calendar has 24, 50 mL bottles of spirits. It includes vodka, bourbon, gin, rye and whiskey. Due to shipping restrictions, this calendar can only be shipped to a few select states.
Voluspa 12 Days of Gifting Candle Set – This 12 scented votive candles set includes scents like Prosecco Rose and Violet & Honey. The candles are made from coconut wax and come in pretty glass votives. Each candle has a 15 hour burn time.