Thursday, January 4, 2018

Walking In A Winter Wonderland

Today is a Snow Day. Yesterday was a snow day. It feels like we are on the longest winter break in the history of school breaks. I am dubbing this my favorite week of 2018! This BombCyclone... Snowmaggedon... East Coast Freeze has reached its icy fingers all the way down to North Carolina (and beyond). We love every single digit moment!

Life has literally stopped. Everything in our area is shut down. No school, no work, no shopping. It's a nice way to be forced into simplicity. The boys are sledding with our one sled and making do with boogie boards as well. My husband and I managed a quick walk around the neighborhood before I cuddled up with my book and read all day. An legitimate excuse to read all day is another favorite.

I think we ended up with between 4 to 6 inches of snow here on the coast. Everything is so pretty and picturesque. The trees are covered in icicles. The trees are brushed with snow. The temperatures are low enough to keep everything frozen for one more day before it melts and life gets back to normal. I might have to bundle up and go for one more walk. 

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

2018 Is The Year

I'm putting all my eggs in 2018's basket. This is going to be an excellent year! 2017 had its ups and it also had downs. I think the Instagram #bestnine2017 says it all for the ups 

Our year started with a military deployment homecoming. Our last military homecoming before his retirement. Yep, we've being doing this life for 20 years and it is almost done. I've said it many many times, it goes fast. After the first 10 years, the second ten fly by. Remember  this advice young ones who are contemplating the direction of your military life, it goes fast. After he picks up some seniority, there won't be so much BS to deal with. Ok, there is always military BS to deal with, but you will be better at managing it.

We did a heck of a lot of traveling this year. It was our goal living on the East Coast to travel as much as we could before we left. We went to Florida, back to Iowa, around North CarolinaWashington DC, Virginia, New York City, and Kentucky in 2017.

Exploring this side of the nation has made me realize, I really do love the East Coast. I think I like it more than the West Coast. It so easy to get to so many places and  there is so much history. If it weren't so cold in the North and I wasn't such a misfit in the South, the East Coast could be our forever home. Unfortunately, I never caught on to the whole Southern Girl hospitality/charm thing. So, we will be moving in 2018. *All the NC people are cheering right now* 

This year was also the (beginning of) an end of an era for our family. Our oldest, Ky, started her senior year. If you have followed this blog for the past 7 years, then you are just as shocked as I am! She was a little girl when I started posting pics and telling stories. And now, she is going to be an adult, living outside this house for most of the year. Mommas, it is so hard to be on the cusp of launching children! It is emotional and frantic and exciting and all the emotions times a thousand. Sometimes, I'm ready and sometimes I want five more years. I'm thinking a pause button would be great to use sporadically over the next 6 months. Anyone got one??

This is one of the first pictures I posted of the kids back in 2011 when we vacationed to the Gulf Coast.

This year we've met a lot of quality people in our little town. People who we adore and call friends. I'll be packing them with us when we leave... along with the beach. 

Our biggest down in 2017 was losing our Charlie dog. He has also been around as long as the blog. He drove me absolute batty most of the time. He liked very few people outside our family, he would go after the neighbors, and bark when someone down the street pulled into their driveway. He drove me crazy like that. But he was our dog and a part of our family. Now he isn't here and it's sad to think about. 

I can't quite put my finger on what 2017 was all about. We had fun. We were together most of the year. However, the year just wasn't the greatest, you know?  2018 is the year of big changes and new beginnings for us. I am feeling the excitement. Next year at this time, I will (hopefully) be reflecting on a new home, new friends, new job, a girl home for the Christmas, two teenage boys in the house (Lord help me!), a husband who doesn't have to be gone for days/weeks/months, and all the things I can't even imagine. I'm hopeful for this new year and I wish you all the very best in 2018!

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Tuesday, January 2, 2018

A Year of Reading 2017

When it comes to book talk, I have been quiet these past few months. My reading life has been pretty dismal. I guess life happens and reading takes a back seat. However, a yearly wrap up is always fun. If you like that sort of thing of course :)

In 2017, I read 44 books. My goal was to read 30 books in 2017 which was significantly less than my 2016 total of 60 books and 2015 total of 52 books. Of those 44 books, only 2 were books I had read before. I totally needed a refresher on The Hunger Games. 38 years old and I still love the book/movie series. No shame here!

My 2017 book list was equal parts fiction, nonfiction, and middle grade this year. Not a good reflection on my overall favorite genres. My favorites are contemporary fiction and celebrity memoirs. I read more suspense/ thrillers this year than I have in the past. I'm starting to like the new thriller genre that is taking off with all the twists and diversions. Hoping to get in more psychological thrillers in 2018.

1. Best Book You Read In 2017?

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng. A contemporary fiction novel about the slow destruction of a family after the death of a child. We get to see the impact on each member before and after the incident. This book gets mixed reviews and yet something about it touched me to the core. You can go back to my August book review to read more. I have all the book love for Celeste Ng.

2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?

Sadly, there were several books that fit into this category. I was excited about the Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough. The ending just didn't do it for me. I was excited about finally reading Farewell To Manzanar by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston. It was boring and unemotional. I can't believe it was required reading in school at one point. I think the subject matter is way more interesting than this author's shared experience. The last book, The Dry by Jane Harper, didn't meet my expectation. It was well written. It had a good storyline but I think the book was overhyped. I expected something more original and nail biting.

 3. Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read? 

The Arrangement by Sarah Dunn 

 4. Best series you started in 2017? 

To All The Boys I've Loved Before series by Jenny Han. Otherwise known as Lara Jean series. It's a young adult series I picked up as a fluffy read and ended up loving it. I thought it was written in a way that adults would like it without being too sugary sweet. 

5. Favorite new author you discovered in 2017?

 Celeste Ng is going to take this one. I read all new authors this year with the exception of my re-reads.

6. Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone?

Although most of my books were young adult, I do not usually read the genre. I was happily surprised with all the YA I read. Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon was the "best". 

 7. Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena kept me up to all hours. 

 8. Book You Read In 2017 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year?

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a book I will read over and over again. 

9. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2017?

Inside Out and Back Again has a great cover. 

10. Most creatively written book read in 2017?

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

11. Most Thought-Provoking/ Life-Changing Book of 2017?

The Arrangement by Sarah Dunn. I don't know why but it was!

12. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2017 to finally read? 

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah isn't that old to have waited until 2017 but it was that good. I'm always so hesitant to read overhyped books but I felt this one deserved the praise. 

13.Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2017?

Shortest Book: We Should All Be Feminists, 52 pages
Longest Book: The Nightingale, 440 pages

14. Best Book You Read In 2017 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else/Peer Pressure:

The Nightingale was solely read from recommendation. Thank you friends!

15. Best 2017 debut you read?

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi was my favorite debut out of the 8 (I think) I read.

16. Books That Made You Cry in 2017?

I rarely cry when reading a book but this year I did it twice.  I cried reading Everything I Never Told You and The Mothers. I wanted to cry about all the unfair treatment I read about, the stupid endings, and the lack of emotion in other stories :/ 

17. Hidden Gem Of The Year?

My hidden gem was The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt. It a middle grade novel full of history and conversation starters. We listened to this as an audiobook on a road trip and we all loved it. I would recommend reading it with a child or reading it then have your child read it. Then talk about all the things.


1. One Book You Didn’t Get To In 2017 But Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2018?

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood. Sorry scholarly readers, I let you down! I promise to make up for it in 2018 :)

2. Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2018?

The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks

3. One Thing You Hope To Accomplish Or Do In Your Reading Life In 2018?

My first goal for 2018 is to read only good books. Lately, I've been feeling the burn-- as in burnout. I'm not sure how to control the only good books thing, trust Goodreads ratings maybe. My second goal is to read all the books I bought in 2017 that went unread. Buying books is definitely my weakness and the library sale is two months away. I can't justify buying more books when I have so many still unread from 2017. My third goal is to re-read an old favorite or two.

Now it's time for you to answer some bookish questions. What was your favorite book of 2017? What book are you committed to reading in 2018?

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Sunday, December 31, 2017

Holidays In The City - Macy's Thanksgiving Parade 2017

Back to the city on Thanksgiving Day, parade day! Yesterday I recapped Day 1 and Day 2 in NYC. Today is all about Day 3. Our intentions were to see what the weather was like on T-Day and decide if we would do the parade. I was worried about the crowds and the cold, so I was ok with either choice, watching on TV or standing along the street. My daughter wouldn't hear it, "We are in NYC for Thanksgiving, so we must go to the parade." I mean when you put it that way.

We woke up early on Thursday morning with the best intentions to get to the ferry by 6am. Everything I read said, if you don't have your parade spot by 6:30am, then you might as well go home. Three teenagers later, we finally arrived at the ferry at 7:30am and were on the parade route by 8am. It wasn't nearly as crowded as we imagined. We were close enough to the front that we didn't miss anything. And yes, it was cold. And it was fun. And I wouldn't do it again! I like the parade from my warm home in my pjs! There is no other way:)

My assumption is, if you want front row seats, then you will need to be there by 6:30am. However, we were 3 people deep and we didn't miss anything (remember: we got there at 8am). Bring your blankets and (possibly) thermos. Wear all the layers and then add one more for good measure. We were icicles by the time we left the parade wearing double layers and cold weather gear.

If you research and research, you will find the same advice, don't leave your seats after you get them. I would echo that a hundred times. The closer you get to parade time, the more people fill in the spaces and you won't have a place anymore. Bathrooms are limited in general, so be warned. Starbucks and CVS are your best bets for bathrooms.

The parade was everything you would imagine. The balloons were so fun to watch overhead. The people walking the parade route exuded holiday joy. They waved, smiled, and wished everyone a Happy Thanksgiving. The celebrities on floats were hit or miss along our part of the parade route. Some were on their phones, some talking to their people around the float, some lip sang when they didn't have to, and others worked the crowd. Jimmy Fallon was one of those people working the crowd. I did fan girl when I saw him. He was the best. 

After the parade, we went to the Soldiers', Sailors', Marines', Coast Guard, and Airmens' Club for Thanksgiving dinner. We celebrated with other military families visiting the city for the holidays. We exchanged all our best tips for NYC touring. One of my favorite topics is travel talk! After our Thanksgiving lunch, the boys headed to the hotel to warm up and the girls spent the final day in the city.

We headed back to Rockefeller Center and explored the NBC studio stores, Rockefeller Center area(again), and New York City Library.

I wasn't giving up anymore time in the city than necessary on our last day.

Every trip across the river we went right past the Statue of Liberty. New York is everything I thought it would be minus the rude people and high crime. What I mean is, I expected the people to be rude and to feel uneasy walking around. We had only good experiences! People were nice, the city was clean, everybody minding their own business, and people out and about at all hours. I loved it!

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Saturday, December 30, 2017

Holidays In The City

Merry Christmas. Happy Holidays. Happy New Year. I wish this season of joy and kindness could last another month. Our family may not have made a Christmas bucket list or advent countdown, but we have enjoyed December all the same. There is just something about the holidays that make people re-prioritize the right things. I hope you have seen the lights, drank the hot chocolate, baked the goodies, donated the stuff, and snuggled the ones you love all month. Of course, you can continue to do that after December 25th :)

Today I am sharing our trip to NYC! Going to New York City during the holidays was a dream come true. I don't even know other words to say about it. It surpassed all my expectations and I want to go back as soon as possible. Some times I find myself justifying a weekend trip  to get out of town. Sadly, I don't live in a world where I take weekend trips to New York City :( So I have to suffice with planning an in-the-future trip :) and hoping that means in 2018 future!


We made the trip by car A.) because that is how we travel and B.) it made more sense for car travel versus air travel. By the time, we drive to Raleigh (2.5 hours), get there a couple hours early (2+ hours), fly 2.5 hours, do the whole unload/luggage pickup (1hour), AND THEN travel to our hotel (apx.1 hour) plus the expense, car travel looked like the better choice. How can that be? I was happy to drive up north to be able to travel through new states. I'm soaking up all the East Coast things!   

We arrived Monday evening at Navy Lodge Staten Island. For all my military people, this is the way to go! Yes, I would have loved the convenience of staying in Manhattan. However, for the price, Navy Lodge Staten Island is the way to go. If you are staying in prime tourism season (aka holidays), then staying outside the city is going to save you big time. The lodge is nice, well kept, and sizable for families. We were technically on a Coast Guard base which has some amazing lookout points of the river, the bridges, Manhattan, Brooklyn, and all the other places that converge in this area. It was AMAZING. We never went back to the lookout (pictured above) in the daytime but that would definitely be on my list next trip. 

Tuesday morning was our first day in the city. We drove our car to the Staten Island Ferry terminal and parked in a lot nearby. The lot had a shuttle bus which we used when the weather got colder; otherwise, we walked the quarter mile every time. The Staten Island Ferry is free and hundreds of people use it every day. It is heated, there are plenty of seats, lots of security, and food/drinks are allowed on board. There are also bathrooms. I was really hesitant about the Staten Island Ferry because I didn't know much about it. Rest assured, Staten Island Ferry is the way to go. Did I mention it is free? When you arrive on the Manhattan side, there are a few subway stations right out the front doors of Whitehall Ferry terminal. So easy for someone who has never been to New York City.

We had tickets to the 9/11 Memorial museum mid morning. We took our time walking up through the financial district seeing the sights. I liked this area of the city because it wasn't crowded and busy. We missed a lot of big things down here like the New York Stock exchange and Federal Hall. We did see the Charging Bull, Wall Street, and St. Paul's Chapel of Trinity Church which was pretty cool in real life. We also saw One Freedom Tower and the 9/11 

The rest of our first day was spent walking around the city. We went to Times Square, Rockefeller Center, and the USO New York. Rumor is USO New York City often receives show tickets to give to military patrons. This probably rings true when it isn't the busiest week of the year :) We were totally ok with that. The options for tickets were a little grown up for us so we passed. I was happy to roam the city instead.  

Day 2 was our busy day! We were up early and back late that night. I'm not sure what a NYC bucket list would look like for you but bagels and pizza were on ours. All the research I found said eat the bagels!! You don't have to tell me twice. We went for the best...literally, Best Bagels & Coffee. Of all the flavors we tried, a plain bagel with fresh made strawberry cream cheese was the best. Doesn't that sounds delicious?

After searching for incredible bagels, we headed towards Central Park. We had plans to see Central Park, Museum of Natural History, and a peek of the parade prep. I could have watched them prepare all day. It's like a science to lay those balloons out, inflate them, and keep them contained.

We took a break to tour the Natural History museum. We didn't spend too much time there. I think the SemperFiFam is starting to get burned out on museums. I guess a lifetime of museums gets old?? Opps, who knew? I wouldn't feel right about skipping it all together. It's the Night At The Museum museum! P.S. I love Ben Stiller. 

After the museum, we went to Central Park. Some of the streets had been closed at this point to prepare for the parade so we struggled a bit. The boys got separated from the girls and we used GPS to find our way back together. You can imagine the challenge with the less than accurate GPS system.

Central Park is gorgeous. We only saw a small area of the south side. Central Park would be on my list when we go back again.

We (think) we found the Elf bridge where the snowball fight takes place. So we had to take a picture. We love the Elf movie!

The boys went to find the ice skating rink in CP and we hung out on the rocks. Wednesday night we made a quick tour of Rockefeller Center and Fifth Avenue. We toured the windows and watched the light show outside Saks Fifth Avenue. We also took a quick visit to St. Patrick's Cathedral.


In Rockefeller Center, the tree wasn't quite ready. We watched the ice skaters and warmed up in the Lego Store.

Every store in NYC seems to be on board with decorating for the holidays. The Lego Store is always a must visit with the kids no matter their age. We ended our day with some pho and other Vietnamese cuisine which was so good!

I'm going to stop here and come back with a Part 2 of our Holiday in the City :)

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