Saturday, December 31, 2016

Personal Goals for 2017

I took a look back at my goals for 2016 just the other day and I had some pretty lofty goals. I met my blogging goals for the most part and at least made an attempt at my personal goals, many of which I accomplished at least halfway.  I am hoping that if I set less lofty goals (but no less important) that I can reach those goals in the coming year.  Many of them will remain the same as last year.
I recently found on Pinterest the post appropriate image for my goals this year . . .
I got a good jump last year on taking care of myself physically, I have been going to physical training since spraining my ankle last January. They have also assisted me with the neck and back pain I have been experiencing for years. I plan to continue until they discharge me and then start personal training. Last year I also had loads of blood work done, got off some meds and started others. I got my cholesterol under control and have so much more energy now that I am taking a vitamin D supplement. Now it is time to take care of myself mentally. I have been way over stressed too much in the passed year, it is time for me to hand over the reins a little more often and take a step back when I need to do so. In order to do that I plan to do a few things
~ Do something creative each week (making cards, coloring, crafting)
~Take some time for me (get a babysitter at least once a month during a weeknight)
~Not get over worked (do not let the boss call me in on my vacations)
I have also really been enjoying using Instagram (@easternsunset9) and will continue posting there but I am not going to push myself to post every day (though I would like to occasionally post daily tags).
I did manage to get my Etsy shop up and running but I haven't been able to update with new items, I would like to get better at that and really get it operating (with regular new listings and sales).
That will also tie into me being more crafty, I have really enjoyed making greeting cards this year and hope to continue making cards. I also will be trying to color in some of the many, many adult coloring books I own. I still haven't worked on the scrapbooks like I wanted to last year but hope to spend some of my crafty time doing that as well.
I made a big jump last year in getting organized but the second half of the year it really fell to the way side, I have recently found new motivation in this and have started purging the house again. I also started using my planner more but again the past couple of months found it not even being opened. I have started setting it up for the new year and plan to spend some time this weekend doing that as well.
Also in the new year as a result of taking better care of myself I hope to be a better wife and mom.  It is nice that several of you have told me I am doing a great job, and it is so nice to hear that, but I still see lots of room for improvement.  I am hoping with taking more time for myself that I will be able to reduce my own stress so that minor infractions from Munchkin don't send me flying off the handle. We unfortunately have extremely similar personalities with all the stubbornness and defiance that goes with it so often butt heads, (as my Grandma pointed out the other night, that at least I know that he will be intelligent and also be able to stand up and speak out for what he believes in) but I hope that we will be able to find some kind of compromise so we aren't constantly arguing.
So there are some of my personal goals for the coming year, mostly just take care of myself, reduce my stress so that I can be more pleasant to be around.  My headline goal for the year is 'I am a work in progress, I will get there but not on my own.'
What are some of your goals or resolutions for 2017?

Friday, December 30, 2016

Least Favorite Books of 2016

So yesterday I posted about my favorite books in 2016.  With reading so many books in a single year, I was bound to come across some that I really didn't like, either they weren't for me or I didn't connect with the characters or any other reason.
So here are some of my least favorite books of the year. . . .
I think Dr. Frankenstein's Daughters was one of my biggest disappointments of the year, I had such high hopes for it but it really just glossed over everything that could have made it great. - Full Review
So this was supposed to be some great book that would make children laugh and laugh reading about the raccoon's antics trying to eat pizza but neither Munchkin or I were all that thrilled.  - Full Review
I had downloaded the first three books of the Courtlight series some time ago because the synopsis compares them to the Graceling Trilogy by Kristin Cashore (one of my favorite authors and series) and Tamara Pierce (quote from Goodreads synopsis - "The latest release in the high fantasy series which has drawn comparisons to Kushiel's Dart, Graceling, and the epic world of Tamora Pierce.")but whoever made that comparison was so far off the mark, who makes these crazy statements?! Horrible editing, plot lines all over the place, poor world building, flat characters, etc. - Sworn To Raise Review, Sworn to Transfer Review, Sworn to Conflict Review
So I made the somewhat epic mistake of purchasing the entire Princess Diaries series to read this year (and learned a valuable lesson to read the first couple of books in a series before committing to it). I found the entire series to be annoying and exhausting to read, Mia was probably the most grating and irritating character ever. This series is clearly written for a very specific audience (and not just girls in their pre-teens to mid-teens, an even smaller and more specific audience than even that). These were my least favorite of the series - Princess on the Brink Review & Princess Mia Review
There were some other books that I read this year that were disappointments but these were definitely the least favorites of the year.  What books were among your least favorites this year?
(Don't forget to join my giveaway for my favorite books HERE and to answer my survey so I can plan for the future  HERE)

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Best Books Read in 2016 (and a Giveaway)!

So in 2016 according to Goodreads I have read 390 books this year, I know I have read more than that because some were not on Goodreads and I still have 4 or 5 more to write reviews for before Saturday.  Anyway, I have read some really great books and some not so great books this year and it has been really hard narrowing my lists down.
Today I want to share with you the best books I read in 2016! I have broken the list down into Children's books (picture books up through middle grade) and everything else.  Because I have so many I have loved I also have a few honorable mentions.  Make sure you stick around through to the end of the post where I will be giving away copies of my top 3 books of this year (I wish I could give away more but that is all I could do this time around).
Children's Books - Middle Grade
I read quite a variety of children's books up through middle grade. I must say I am really impressed with the selection available in the MG genre and authors are still turning out some great picture books each year.  So here are my top 5 . . .
I can't even tell you how many times we have read this book, it is simple and fun yet has a great message. - FULL REVIEW
This was one of those surprise books for me this year, I picked it up randomly at a used book store and was so surprised. The book contains such a variety of poems and yet keeps a cohesive story throughout. - FULL REVIEW
I received this book via Netgalley and was again surprised at how much I really loved it. I love how it introduces and encourages story telling before kids really have the ability to write the words needed. - FULL REVIEW
I was looking for a good fall early reader book and stumbled across this one. I love the simplicity of the story, the diversity and the many ways it teaches without being obvious (Pumpkin Day by the same author is also fantastic).  - FULL REVIEW
I almost missed this book because it isn't listed on Goodreads (I almost thought I read it last year) but it has to be included. I discovered this book at my local author event and boy am I glad I did, it is one of Munchkin's favorite books even though it is a board book. The quirky art style and cute story combined with a great message make for a definite top 5 book! - Full Review/ Blog Post
Honorable Mentions:
Here are a few of the books that didn't quite make the top 5 but definitely deserve to be mentioned because we really did love them too!
All Other Genres
So here are my top books from all the other genres I read including YA, Fantasy, Romance, Contemporary, Graphic Novel, etc. I have read quite the variety of books this year and have found myself really leaning more and more towards the fantasy genre. But I have had some real surprises this year!! So here they are . . .
I picked this book up at my local author event, all I knew about it was a woman from the east coast traveled to Wyoming to escape a dark past. I wasn't sure what I was expecting from this book but OH MY GOODNESS! It was dark, beautiful, hopeful, horribly terrifying, bittersweet, heartbreaking, I could go on and on! I read this book back in April and I honestly still think about it at least a few times a week. I have passed my copy around to at least half a dozen people and they have passed it on to their friends as well and I keep getting the same reaction of just speechlessness, "That Book!"  - FULL REVIEW
I saw this cover and read the synopsis and had to request it on Netgalley, and was lucky enough to be approved. This is a debut book for Amanda Bouchet so I wasn't sure if the writing would hold up to my expectations but they really blew them all out of the water. It was a fantastic book to kick of her career and this trilogy (the next book comes out January 3rd). This one hit on all my favorite elements of strong female lead, snarky dialog between characters, high fantasy elements, magic, dragons, mythology, romance, kingdoms in flux, etc. I almost never pre-order books but the next book is one I have pre-ordered and paid extra for expedited shipping to get it the day of release. - FULL REVIEW
This was another when where I saw this cover and knew I needed to read it, thanks to Netgalley I was able to read it early! This is the first book in a branch off series, it may have been helpful to read the original trilogy first but definitely not necessary. This book again hit on many of my favorite elements in books, magic, fantasy, kingdoms in flux, romance, etc. While Dafne may not have been the strongest female character she was still intelligent and determined, and good gosh she is a librarian/scribe! Talk about writing to the bookworms of the world!! (the next book was just released and I am in the process of reading it) - FULL REVIEW
So this is where I am going to start cheating and why I couldn't giveaway my top 5 books, only the top 3 . . .
So there was a decent amount of hype before the release of A Torch Against the Night back in August and I had some Audible credits to use so I downloaded them figuring I was on a fantasy kick already. Boy I had no idea what I was getting into!! The Audiobooks were narrated by multiple people so it was great for settling into the various perspectives. I was completely sucked into these books and am dying for the next one but it isn't expected until 2018 I believe.  I loved them so much I actually bought print copies as well, and I honestly can't bear to put them away on my shelves in the basement (I actually took them down last night and brought them back up because I wanted them with me lol). - An Ember in the Ashes Review - A Torch Against the Night Review
See, I told you I was going to start cheating! These were some of the first books I read from last year and I literally inhaled them! While these may not be the best of writing or the most complex plots but they are still completely engrossing and entertaining. I would have fun watching these as movies. They are definitely guilty pleasure reads but ones that I have no problem announcing. Again I had listened to them on audio and enjoyed them so much (not to mention the stunning covers) and had to get them in print for my shelves! -  The Selection Review, The Elite Review, The One Review, The Heir Review, The Crown Review
Honorable Mentions:
Again, I read many fantastic books this year and here are some of the ones that just barely missed out on the list  . . .
So there you have my favorite books of 2016! Did you read any of these books too? Did you enjoy them as much as I did? What were some of your favorite books of the year?
So now about that giveaway . . .
I have for you copies of There Was a Fire, A Promise of Fire and Pages of the Mind in print. I will be giving one a way to each of the top 3 winners of the rafflecopter giveaway.
As always there are some rules:
~Open internationally (you are responsible for customs fees beyond shipping)
~ Must be 18 or over (due to all of them being books with adult situations and scenes)
~ Must give me a mailing address to send them to (believe it or not I have had winners in the past who didn't want to give an address so was unable to claim their prize)
~ Giveaway runs from now through January 5th at 12:00am EST
~Rafflecopter will randomly select the top 3. 
~Please enter the order of preference of books you would like, I will do my best to suit everyone but that may not be possible as I only have one copy of each.
*** Also, while not required, I would really appreciate you filling out my survey so I can best suit the blog to everyone's tastes - you can find it HERE

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

2017 Reading Goals

I don't know about you but it seems like 2016 flew by in a blur! Now it is time to start looking forward to 2017 and my reading goals for the new year. 
 I am making a very odd goal for people who love reading, normally the goal is to read more and more books, I read nearly 400 books in 2016 (more on that in wrap up posts later this week), but in 2017 I am going to do the opposite. My goal is actually going to be to read less books! I know that sounds really crazy doesn't it?! There is a reason for this drastic change. It has been pointed out to me that I read so fast that I often miss tiny details. Another reason is that I want to be able to talk about events and characters in books more, I have been reading so many books so fast I haven't been able to retain as much information about them as I would like. I see book tags with characters and my thought is usually I can't remember any characters that would fit the questions or I can't even name more than 10 characters that stand out vividly in my mind. So I have made the decision to try to read less books, and to take my time reading them, maybe making notes and becoming more intimately aware of what I am reading.
Another goal for 2017 is I plan to make it the Year of Trilogies, I plan to read a trilogy each month to share with all of you. Some of those will be new to me, some will be re-reads, some will be fantasy some will be romance, some will be Middle Grade and others will be YA or Adult.
My final goal for 2017 is to instead of work on reading books on my TBR, I plan to read every book I receive this year. If I buy a book I plan to read it as soon as possible (I would like to say within a month but sometimes I purchase a stack of books at once so can't always read them immediately). I still will be receiving a book subscription box, so I plan to read that book with the month I receive it (at least before the next box arrives). I found that trying to read TBR helped but I still seem to be buying just as many books as I read even with the point system (so I will be doing away with my point system, for now at least).
So I plan to read between 250 and 300 books in 2017
And this is how it will break down . .
Children's Challenge  - 60 to 65 books
Early Reader Challenge  - 50 to 55 books
RI Authors - 20 to 30 books
Advent Reads - 25 books
Requested Reviews (Netgalley and Direct) - 25 to 30 books
Audio Books - 30 to 40 books
Trilogies - 36 books (plus any novellas)
Graphic Novels - 25 books
So there you have my general reading plans for the year. I hope to be able to take more time with each book and maybe read some larger books that I have been putting off too.
What are your reading goals for 2017?

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Blog Content Survey

Hello everyone! I have been wanting to do this for some time and finally took the time to figure out how to set up a survey.  I really want to know what all of you think about the blog, what you like, what you don't like, what you want to see more of and what you want to see less of in the coming year.

I must admit that I set up a pretty ambitious posting schedule for 2016 with posts everyday and on most days 2 times a day. While I enjoyed being so active on the blog it did take a lot of time and energy to keep it up. I am not in a slump or anything like that but I think that I would like to cut back on the posting schedule, so I really want to know what you would like to see stay. I am really proud of myself for sticking to that schedule and I was able to grow the blog so much in the past year and I hope that it continues growing.

So anyway, enough of my rambling, I hope that you will take just a couple of minutes to fill out the survey so I can plan for the coming year.  Thank you all for following my blog and many of you have become dear friends, so thank you!

Monday, December 26, 2016

Monday Reading List

Its Monday! What Are You Reading? is a weekly meme hosted by Shelia at Book Journey. Share what books you have finished in the last week, are currently reading and what might be coming up next!

Reviews Posted Last Week:
Links will take you to my review

A Cheyenne Christmas by Caroline Lee
Deck the Halls, We're off the Walls by Dan Gutman
The Lump of Coal by Lemony Snicket
A Midnight Clear by Katherine Paterson
Starry Night by Debbie Macomber
Little Critter's Night Before Christmas by Mercer Mayer
 Books Finished Last Week:
Reviews will be posted at a later date

More than Cocoa by Christine DePetrillo - 3pts
Welcome to Headquarters - 1pt
I Won't Share - 1pt
The Night Before Christmas - 1pt
Christmas with Tucker - 5pts

Currently Reading:
The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski - Audio - 28 %
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by JK Rowling - Print - on page 202 of 341
Snow Like Ashes by Sarah Raasch - Audio - 32%
Tale of Elske by Cynthia Voigt - Print - on page 134 of 384

 Books to be Read Soon:


Total Points Earned
78 points + 12 points earned = 90 points

Total Points Earned this Year: 2270
Total Points Spent this Year: 2175

Pages Read/ Time Listened
277:16 (11 days 13 hrs 16 mins) Hours Listened (none listened this week)
45,468 Pages Read (604 this week)

Books Added to Shelves

Interesting Tidbits on the Web:



 Happy Boxing Day to those of you who celebrate! (I honestly don't even really know what Boxing Day is but I hope that those of you who celebrate enjoy). Thankfully today is a holiday off for us here. We are all going to sit around and recover from the very exciting holiday. I hope that you all enjoyed your Christmas as much as we did, for all my stress for the passed month everything came together (maybe not as smoothly as I would have liked but it didn't matter in the end). Munchkin of course had a blast and being the only kid in the family was utterly spoiled and got to be the center of attention all day.

Over the next week I will be posting about wrapping up the past year and what to look forward to in the next year.  I will also be hosting a giveaway for my top books of the year! So stay tuned for that later this week too!

Hope you all have a chance to relax and enjoy your family and hopefully some new adventures that may have been left under your tree!

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas!!

I just wanted to wish all of you and your loved ones a Merry Christmas!
I hope that you are spending the day surrounded by those you love.
Hope you all have a wonderful day filled with love and laughter!
Merry Christmas from My Family to Yours!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Advent Reads Day 24: Bedtime Story: Little Critter's Night Before Christmas by Mercer Mayer

Welcome to Advent Reads!
This is an event I have had on my blog for several years running now.  Each evening I feature a different holiday themed book. Think of it as your Book Advent Calendar! I post a variety of holiday books including romance, children's, middle-grade, mystery, paranormal, and I try to find some that are other holiday celebrations than Christmas too. I hope you will stop by each evening to see what new book I have for you!
Synopsis: "In a sprightly retelling of the holiday classic, Little Critter dreams of dancing sugarplums while patiently waiting for Santa and his reindeer to arrive."

My Review: As I have said before, Little Critter has a special place in our hearts and our shelves but we had never read this one before. I love how the words and rhyme were slightly altered with more modern words young readers will recognize and to also fit the characters of the story, but it wasn't so drastic as to turn off the lovers of the classic story. It is a fun one to read to the kids during this holiday season.
My Rating: This is probably my favorite re-telling of this classic that I have come across so far, and Munchkin loves it as well. We give it a rating of Four Paws!
Good Night! Sweet Dreams!

Christmas Fun Day 24: Christmas Eve Box and Traditions

Hello and Happy Holiday season everyone! In addition to my Advent Reads event this holiday season, I thought I would post earlier in the day with different things we do each day to have fun and celebrate this season. I hope you will join us and also maybe share some of your own traditions or ways you celebrate.
Yay! It is Christmas Eve!! Munchkin is so excited (and so am I honestly). I wanted to share a few of our Christmas Eve traditions with all of you and hopefully hear a few of yours. 
Every year for Christmas Eve I used to go to the church service that had the children's play in it (a lot of adults like to go to the candle light service but I love when the children act out the nativity).  While I wish I could still do that, especially with Munchkin, we haven't been able to make it since he was an infant.  I usually work every year until 3 or 4 and then to get Munchkin, get him fed and to church in time to get a seat has proved to be too much.  Hubby always has to work on Christmas Eve so I am on my own trying to make it magical but still keep Munchkin in control and get everything set for hosting the next day (again because Hubby works at night he usually just gets up for Munchkin to open a few presents and then goes back to sleep until company arrives). Anyway, years ago I saw either on facebook or Pinterest a Christmas Eve box and I have done one for Munchkin every year.
By the time we get home from the day there is a box waiting for Munchkin, it contains new Christmas PJs, a Christmas movie, popcorn and goodies, hot chocolate, marshmallows and a new Christmas story to read at bedtime.
Again, like Friday Night Movie Nights we put on our PJs and eat a light snack dinner and watch our new movie. 
Then we put out cookies for Santa, they have to be homemade (this is the only batch of cookies I make) and Munchkin helps decorate them. We also leave a carrot for the reindeer and a note for Santa. We then cuddle up with a few Christmas books (including the new one) and read them by the tree and listen to Christmas music.
Then Munchkin goes to bed and my work really begins!
Another one of our traditions, one I am surprised more parents don't do but everyone I tell about it think it is brilliant. Munchkin has to clean his room before going to bed on Christmas Eve (if not I tell him Santa will think he has too many presents already). If he has a clean room, Santa will leave a present or two in his room for him. The gift is usually a book (like a search and find) and maybe a puzzle. This way I get him to clean his room and it also keeps him occupied in his room in the morning so I can get a few extra minutes of sleep before he gets into the presents in the living room.
Also we keep the gifts from Santa kind of light, he usually gets a big toy, a game to play with the family and the book and puzzle that were left in his room (and of course the stocking usually stuffed with undies and socks).
I am really looking forward to this year, Munchkin is really at that age where he understands and believes and it is all magic! 
How do you celebrate Christmas Eve?

Friday, December 23, 2016

Advent Read Day 23: Starry Night by Debbie Macomber

Welcome to Advent Reads!
This is an event I have had on my blog for several years running now.  Each evening I feature a different holiday themed book. Think of it as your Book Advent Calendar! I post a variety of holiday books including romance, children's, middle-grade, mystery, paranormal, and I try to find some that are other holiday celebrations than Christmas too. I hope you will stop by each evening to see what new book I have for you!
Synopsis: "’Tis the season for romance, second chances, and Christmas cheer with this new novel from Debbie Macomber.

Carrie Slayton, a big-city society-page columnist, longs to write more serious news stories. So her editor hands her a challenge: She can cover any topic she wants, but only if she first scores the paper an interview with Finn Dalton, the notoriously reclusive author.

Living in the remote Alaskan wilderness, Finn has written a mega-bestselling memoir about surviving in the wild. But he stubbornly declines to speak to anyone in the press, and no one even knows exactly where he lives.

Digging deep into Finn’s past, Carrie develops a theory on his whereabouts. It is the holidays, but her career is at stake, so she forsakes her family celebrations and flies out to snowy Alaska. When she finally finds Finn, she discovers a man both more charismatic and more stubborn than she even expected. And soon she is torn between pursuing the story of a lifetime and following her heart.

Filled with all the comforts and joys of Christmastime, Starry Night is a delightful novel of finding happiness in the most surprising places."

My Review: Another one of Macomber's standalone holiday romances, but I think this is the best one I have read yet! I absolutely fell in love with rugged and gruff Finn, and tenacious and fearless Carrie was a great match for him. I love the way the story developed and it certainly gives those warm feels that are so perfect for the holiday season. This is definitely a book to curl up with next to your tree, and you won't want to put it down!
My Rating: I really enjoyed this one and (this doesn't happen very often at all) really wish it was a movie I could enjoy every year. It gave me all the feels I was looking for this holiday season. I give it a rating of Four Paws and a Stump Wag!
I hope you have all had a lovely Christmas Day surrounded by your loved ones!

Christmas Fun Day 23: Family Holiday Night In from NovelTeaClub

Hello and Happy Holiday season everyone! In addition to my Advent Reads event this holiday season, I thought I would post earlier in the day with different things we do each day to have fun and celebrate this season. I hope you will join us and also maybe share some of your own traditions or ways you celebrate.
As you may recall, I have been loving my NovelTeaClub monthly tea and book subscription box, well back in October they announced that they would have a special family Holiday box for sale separate from the subscription boxes. I of course jumped on that as soon as it went up on the site (in fact through later emails with them, I discovered I ordered the very first one).  Well, it arrived this last week and I have been saving it for Friday night with Munchkin, we already have special Christmas Eve traditions but this was perfect for our Friday night.
This box was stuffed full of holiday goodies, books, tea and activities

There are a ton of different chocolates (I don't really eat chocolate but Munchkin and Hubby will really enjoy them) there are also 4 little hot chocolate ornaments (2 of them seem to be white hot chocolate with peppermint or candy cane pieces which is right up my alley), 4 sets of gourmet marshmallows (I can't wait to try the vanilla and raspberry), 2 different teas (one is candy cane and the other has a chocolaty smell to it), a children's book of The Night Before Christmas (we have loads of re-tellings of this story but I don't think I have ever read the original to Munchkin so that will be a fun bedtime story tonight), a book of Christmas ideas, histories and traditions (I love these types of books, it gives me ideas for next year) and a Christmas coloring book, it looks like an adult coloring book but it has images simple enough for Munchkin to color too, I think we will have fun coloring after dinner.
I am looking forward to our cozy night in tonight and a great way to get in the spirit for Christmas Eve tomorrow! Thank you NovelTeaClub!!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Advent Reads Day 22: A Midnight Clear by Katherine Paterson

Welcome to Advent Reads!
This is an event I have had on my blog for several years running now.  Each evening I feature a different holiday themed book. Think of it as your Book Advent Calendar! I post a variety of holiday books including romance, children's, middle-grade, mystery, paranormal, and I try to find some that are other holiday celebrations than Christmas too. I hope you will stop by each evening to see what new book I have for you!
Synopsis: "Each Christmas Eve when John Paterson was a pastor, he read an original story to his congregation--a story that illuminated the true meaning of the holiday season, written by his wife, two-time Newbery Medalist Katherine Paterson. Now you, too, can share them. Whether depicting a child coping with disappointment, friendship between young and old, or a couple awaiting the birth of their baby, these stories present a vision of hope and peace harking back to that first Christmas over two thousand years ago. Here is the perfect holiday gift for friends, families, and church congregations--to read aloud and share throughout the Christmas season and beyond."

My Review: This was a nice collection of short stories for a younger audience but everyone can enjoy them. The stories for the most part seem to be about connecting the younger generation with the older generations. Some sweet sentimental stories and some great lessons can be taken away from these stories. They do tend to lean more toward the religious side but don't smack you over the head with it so they can be enjoyed by nearly everyone.
My Rating: This is a great cohesive collection of holiday stories that would be great to read with children or even the whole family over dinner or dessert during the Christmas season.  I give it a rating of Three Paws.

Christmas Fun Day 22: Polar Express Train

Hello and Happy Holiday season everyone! In addition to my Advent Reads event this holiday season, I thought I would post earlier in the day with different things we do each day to have fun and celebrate this season. I hope you will join us and also maybe share some of your own traditions or ways you celebrate.
So as I said earlier this month, Munchkin has been obsessed with the Polar Express book and movie, well it just so happens that the oldest running Polar Express Train is located here in Rhode Island! The tickets are not cheap and they sell out quickly, but I managed to snag some for us.  I have to say it was quite an ordeal and I was a little nervous about how he would react (he doesn't do well with anything outside our normal schedule or familiar places). He was super shy at the beginning and wouldn't take pictures at any of the photo scenes. He wouldn't interact with anyone and insisted I carry him (a nearly 40lb 4 year old gets heavy very fast). But once we got on the train it was like magic!
It wasn't snowing on the day we went, but the company added to the magic by using a snow machine to blow snow as you exited the station to get on the train. Munchkin was very interested in the wheels and magnets.

 Every one gets a golden ticket, we went with Hubby, Uncle B & Uncle B2
We rode the Comet car and each car has its own Storyteller (ours was Jen), a Chef (ours was Deb), and an Elf (ours was Mia), they all do a great job of interacting with not only the kids but the adults as well and keeping everyone engaged.

For the first part of the ride, the storyteller reads the story (I read on one blog that it was a good idea to bring your own copy of the book so we did but it really wasn't necessary).

Halfway through the story (on the page where they all got hot chocolate) they stop and pass out hot chocolate and cookies to everyone.

The hot chocolate was the perfect temperature and you get to keep the cup. Of course that sent Munchkin into quite the sugar rush but oh well, that is the fun of the day right?!
I think the thing Munchkin was the most excited about was getting his golden ticket punched by the conductor!

The train stopped at the North Pole (they had a lot all decorated with a sign for Santa's workshop and lights and a big pole for the kids to look at) while they switched the engine and picked up a special visitor. . .

Santa came down through the car and said hi to each child, they didn't get long to talk to him but there was an opportunity after to take a picture with Santa on his sleigh at the station.  Santa gave each kid a "first gift of Christmas" the silver bell.

The way back was filled with singing, dance parties in the aisle, candy canes and coloring books for each child. It was really a fun time, I think I had as much fun as Munchkin did!  I don't know if we will do it again next year because it is so expensive but it was definitely a memory we enjoyed making!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Advent Reads Day 21: Bedtime Story: The Lump of Coal by Lemony Snicket

Welcome to Advent Reads!
This is an event I have had on my blog for several years running now.  Each evening I feature a different holiday themed book. Think of it as your Book Advent Calendar! I post a variety of holiday books including romance, children's, middle-grade, mystery, paranormal, and I try to find some that are other holiday celebrations than Christmas too. I hope you will stop by each evening to see what new book I have for you!
Synopsis: "This is a story about a lump of coal who can think, talk, and move itself around."

My Review: This book has been on my wish list for some time but found the audio version available on Overdrive. It was narrated by Neil Patrick Harris (who has quickly become my favorite children's book narrator). This was a little bit of a silly story but has a great message. I must admit it was a little hard to picture in my mind but the message gets across just fine, though I would suggest if you are reading this with kids to get a book with pictures. I really love the message of miracles where you don't expect them, and while you may not get what you want right away, you may get it in a round about way.
My Rating: We listened to this on audio book and while I love Neil Patrick Harris' narration, I think it would have been better to see the illustrations along with the story. It does have great message and one that might come in handy for those families who can't produce the much wished for special gift. I give it a rating of Three Paws.
Good Night! Sweet Dreams!

Christmas Fun Day 21: The Joy of Giving

Hello and Happy Holiday season everyone! In addition to my Advent Reads event this holiday season, I thought I would post earlier in the day with different things we do each day to have fun and celebrate this season. I hope you will join us and also maybe share some of your own traditions or ways you celebrate.
I try to teach Munchkin new things by setting a good example and by having him participate or do it himself. Part of Christmas for me has always been giving back to others. When I was a kid my dad worked swing shifts so would often work on Christmas, so we would just adjust our celebration a few days earlier or later, and instead of sitting at home my Mom would take us to the local soup kitchen to help serve lunch or dinner, or on Christmas Eve we would be wrapping and delivering gifts to families who couldn't afford them. Now I want to instill that same spirit of giving in Munchkin, he is still too young to go work at a soup kitchen but we can still donate toys to kids who don't have any.
Over the course of the year we put together shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child, the drop off day was back in November but I thought I would share our stack of 12 boxes with you. It was relatively easy to stuff these boxes, I ended up with a few bags of extra things that I couldn't fit. Munchkin had fun helping pick out the little toys that would go in each one and he helped make sure each box got a toothbrush, soap, wash clothes, undies, socks and a stuffed friend. He hugged each stuffed friend before he put them in the box.
The other way that was easy to give back was Toys for Tots. Dropping off the gifts this close to Christmas really sparked some pouting that lead to some great discussions about appreciating what we have and giving to those who don't have anything. After some intense conversations, Munchkin eventually came around and picked out some toys to donate and put them in the box (which was huge and Daddy had to lift him up).

How do you give back during this holiday season?