Author Archives: Erin

Westchester Ninja Warriors

Westchester Ninja Warriors

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This week, we are lucky to have a guest blogger.  His name is Noel Reyes and after talking with him I realized there’s no way I could write this one up on my own.  He’s an accomplished American Ninja Warrior and he’s brought “Westchester Ninja Warriors” to our kids!   We are so lucky to have him and his program here in Westchester.    Here’s what Noel has to say…

“I could do that!”

These are very often the words of a soon to be “Ninja”. Just as often, these words are followed by “How do they do that?” or “That’s not as easy as it looks on TV.”

Now you’re hooked. I myself fell victim to the ninja addiction nearly 8 years ago. My name is Noel Reyes. I’m a 34-year-old FDNY firefighter from Brooklyn NY.  I’m also a husband, a father of 4 and since 2012 an American Ninja Warrior.  I have been fortunate enough to compete on seasons 4, 5, 6, and 7 of American Ninja Warrior. I have a season 6 city finals finisher’s badge and a trip to the Las Vegas Finals on my resume. I also competed on season 2 of Team Ninja Warrior where I was wildly successful winning my first 5 races against some of the top names in the sport.

Now I am trying to bring the sport that I love to the people of Westchester. I was lucky enough to team up with The Westchester Gym in Elmsford, NY to design and build “The Ninja Room”. I am happy to be able to provide a fun and unique environment for children and adults alike to explore their physical talents in a new way. With replica obstacles from the hit television show and some original designs as well, ninja hopefuls of all ages can come and train to become their strongest selves ever. For those with just a curiosity to try the obstacles for fun or those with the hopes of one day competing on national television, The Westchester Gym is the perfect place to hone your skills. We provide classes for all ages and skill levels with the curriculum designed and taught by myself with the help of fellow competitors that I have recruited to assist with coaching.

We also provide a fun new atmosphere for birthday parties as well as corporate events and team building seminars. With ninja gyms and leagues popping up across the country the goal is to create an unbeatable force of ninjas to take on teams from other gyms in local competitions. All of this will be done with the intention to prepare our ninjas through hard work and lessons in technique and obstacle fitness to one day compete on, what we call in the ninja community, “THE SHOW.”

Who will join me in jumping, swinging and climbing on the journey to conquer Mount Midoriyama?Links to myself on the Team Ninja Warrior:

Gym links:
Instagram: @westchesterninjawarriors
Facebook: @Westchester ninja warriors

Our Etsy Shop

Our Etsy Shop

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Your business isn’t complete until you have a website;  And Facebook page, a Twitter Account and an Instagram.  A pinboard on Pinterest is on the back burner right now….a YouTube Channel is likely NEVER going to happen, a podcast is in our near future (yes, we have this in the works) and we’ve just opened our Etsy Shop.   Just when we catch up, the next big thing happens.  Let’s enjoy this for a while.  Here’s the link to our Etsy Shop.   Yay!!

Simply click the link to see this screen appear.   We’ve got mugs, tees & journals so far.

***The women’s tees run small, sort of “junior sizing” so I suggest sizing up on these.   The unisex cut is a little more forgiving…..wider arms and fuller at the bottom.  ***

MUST give credit to our graphic designer Cassandra Caruso for making this all possible.  From the logo to the products, she’s helped us figure out what we wanted.   Our love for Cassandra started in early 2017 when we asked her to be our FIRST Westchester Woman Wednesday

Here’s the background on who Cassandra is and what she can do for you!

Shawna’s article focuses more on what Cassandra can do for your business!  (see our avatars below!) 

Westchester Woman Wednesday:  Meet Kimberly Giannelli

Westchester Woman Wednesday: Meet Kimberly Giannelli

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Earlier this week, I had my monthly in-person meeting/interview with this month’s Westchester Woman Wednesday choice, Kim Giannelli. I usually do my best to fit the person’s schedule and honor their restaurant (and meal) of choice. For some women, lunch is easier; for others, getting away mid-day is hard and they prefer dinner.

Kim chose dinner. At Playa Bowls in Bronxville. Not exactly what this mom would consider a great place for dinner, but off I went to meet Kim, with my 12-year-old, who happens to adore Kim almost as much as she does Playa Bowls. Three hours later, our conversation ended. The store was closing up and we had completely lost track of time, talking about just about every single topic, from her work, of course, the eat/shop/play topics, dancing, NYC, Playa Bowls, her dog Penelope and more. I almost don’t even know where to begin.

First- Who is she? Kim is a thirty-something who has figured out a way to achieve balance by doing all of the things she loves. I consider this the definition of success. She’s a lifelong dancer/ballerina, the VP of a boutique PR firm and she’s mom to Penelope, her French Bulldog. Besides these three very time-consuming roles, she works on lots of other creative projects with children; from private dance lessons in Scarsdale, producing musicals with Young at Arts in Bronxville and choreographing dances with Jazz Co in Eastchester. Those are just a few of her small projects.

I must mention that in our 3-hour chat, almost every group of kids and moms stopped to say hello to her, as she has worked with them in one way or another. I observed her interactions with the kids each time and noticed that they were so interested in what she had to say and vice versa. “Are you going back to Young at Arts?” “Will you be dancing at Central Park Dance again this year?” “You were great in hip-hop, but don’t forget how much you loved ballet.” My ulterior motive in bringing my daughter along was in hopes of her giving her some smart advice, which she did, but never did I expect that every tween and teen roaming through Bronxville would receive the same treatment that evening. It was incredible to watch.

A lifelong dancer, Kim finished college and worked in marketing– for Lincoln Center. What’s a better fit for a recent graduate who loves art and theater? After ten years there, her career evolved into public relations. Naturally, she would join In the Lights PR, as they represented many artistic clients that she genuinely understood and loved. It’s clear that Kim is a master at helping businesses and personalities find their story and figure out innovating, interesting and impactful ways to tell them. She’s aware of the shift in the market right now and is enjoying herself in building campaigns that involve PR and social media marketing.

Beyond her impressive resume, Kim is a truly beautiful person. She’s pretty in a way that is different than most. She’s simple, yet edgy. She’s stylish, but she’s bold. She’s unique and she pulls it off perfectly. I had to ask the question that I don’t ask most people. Who inspires her? Her answer: Betsey Johnson. It all made sense. The pops of color, the punk meets glam look, that’s Kim. In talking about Betsey’s style, she shared her story about going to her 70th birthday party and giving her this photo (below) telling her that she had been a creative inspiration for her for so long. Kim shares that same energy and boldness.

It almost seems silly to share Kim’s eat/shop/play favorites after the above paragraphs. Playa Bowls covers eating, most of the above is about her work and talents, so I’m left with shopping and playing. I will end off with her favorite “play” thing, which is her dog Penelope, who she’s currently working on making #InstaFamous. If anyone can do it, it’s Kim!  You can follow Penelope on IG here.

Bunk 9’s Guide to Growing Up- Book Review

Bunk 9’s Guide to Growing Up- Book Review

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This is a book I wish my mom had given me at about 12 years old.   Having my own 12-year-old daughter, I am happy to have it so I can educate her in a way she can understand, by reading a book that appears like another girl’s journal.   Over the years, I have bought the dorky books on growing up and bodily changes, only for her to roll her eyes and laugh at the illustrations and eventually say thanks, but no thanks.

The book is called “Bunk 9’s Guide to Growing Up” and it’s very well done.  (Follow link here– Amazon has some good photos of the inside.)  It helps girls, as well as their moms, get through these tough parent/child topics in a comfortable way.  The book is user-friendly and contains all the secrets, tips and expert advice on the good, the bad and the awkward moments of adolescence.

It’s written in the form of a diary from ‘Camp Silver Moon’ as if the lessons on changes of life are passed down from one group of girls to the next.   There are 9 voices (girls) who share their experiences with everything from menstruation, hygiene, health and of course, crushes.   Luckily there’s a table of contents, so girls can feel free to read it in any order they please!   The voices of each girl are ones girls can relate to and the stories are likely things girls today can relate to as well.

I did snap some photos of the pages to share, only because I know some won’t link to Amazon if they’re reading on a smartphone.  It’s easier to scroll so scroll below to see inside the book.  Not the best quality but you’ll get the idea!

Bunk 9’s Guide to Growing Up:  Secrets, Tips and Expert Advice on the Good, the Bad & the Awkward.

Written by Adah Huchi and Illustrated by Meg Hunt

Buy Links



Barnes and Noble:

Books A Million:


menstruation materials…..
all about bras
skin care
Westchester Woman Wednesday:  Meet Shannon, Lori & Christine

Westchester Woman Wednesday: Meet Shannon, Lori & Christine

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I’m thrilled to share this month’s choice for Westchester Woman Wednesday.   In fact, I should say “women” because it’s a trio of talent that has taken The Dance Gallery in Tuckahoe to a new level.   The Dance Gallery had been previously owned by Stephanie Urbina (since 2012) and it was pretty much a one woman show.  In 2018, Shannon DiNota stepped in as the new owner of The Dance Gallery and helping her with the transition are Lori Mortensen and Christine Magliari.  Each one has their own skill set that they bring to the table, but the commonality is their shared vision for the studio.

Besides already having been instructors at The Dance Gallery, they were also parents (one an aunt) of dancers at the studio.  It was a natural move for the three of them to come together and build upon the things that were already great about where they worked and chose to have their daughters (and nieces) dance.  Each brings a different experience;  Shannon is a lifelong dancer who has studied, performed and taught in cities across the US and London. Lori has a music and theater background and is the business manager for the studio. She brings along her communications background and experience. The office manager is Christine, who wears many hats.  She’s an actress, a pilates & yoga instructor, stylist and musical theater instructor.   All three women have ties to the Tuckahoe/Bronxville/Eastchester community and are truly an asset to the young dancers at The Dance Gallery.

Their mission is to offer quality dance instruction by experienced professionals who possess a passion for teaching students of all ages in a disciplined and nurturing environment. The Dance Gallery teaches dance as an art form, emphasizing fundamental technique and diversity of styles including classical ballet, jazz, tap, modern, musical theater and hip-hop.  Since the takeover in early 2018, new programs such as Irish Dance, Bollywood (Indian dance) and Adult Tap Dance classes have been added.

What I love personally is their gentle, yet serious approach. It’s age appropriate and allows girls a safe and comfortable dance environment. It’s a mixture of traditional and “new” which was evident in the June recital.  Some classic ballet pieces, some modern selections and my favorite, the “Annie Fusion” where the younger girls performed Annie’s “It’s a Hard Knock Life” the traditional way (imagine buckets and rags) followed by the older girls who performed the modern version of the same song, with choreography and outfits that were a little more mature.  Everyone gets what they need and everyone leaves happy.

THE DANCE GALLERY is located at The Main Street Depot, 25 Main Street, 2nd Floor, Tuckahoe, NY 10707​​

Phone: (914) 255-4092

Email: ​  

Fall 2018 Class Schedule can be found here.

DGNY bracelets made by Beads by Meg… @beadzbymeg on IG or
L to R- Lori, Shannon and Christine at The Dance Gallery Recital, June 2018.













Links to all Bios can be found here.

The Truth About Hosting an Au Pair

The Truth About Hosting an Au Pair

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I’m a SAHM and I have an au pair.  People ask me, “Why?”   My reply, “Why not?”  When I resigned from teaching full time, I never expected that I would be in the house with my kids 24/7/365, waiting for my husband to get home so I could throw the household responsibilities on him as he walked in the door.  More than ever, I needed a life outside of the home now that I would not be at work, interacting with people, using my lunch hour to run an errand or enjoying five minutes alone in my car.   We decided to hire a part time nanny when my son was born, mainly to deal with the morning madness.  Getting my 4 year old to PreK, with an infant was going to be hard (not impossible) and stress inducing.   Being on a pick up and drop off schedule for school at the same time as an infant’s changing nap schedule was not something I was looking forward to either.   We decided having someone 4-5 hours a day was all we needed.   It gave me a break, helped keep the baby on his routine and allowed my daughter to make it to school on time, fed and prepared each day.  I was happy to food shop alone, get to the gym and enjoy a break before the big one came home and we ran to and from the playground and after school activities, followed by dinner, baths and bedtime.

Fast forward 5 years and it’s kindergarten for my baby.  (Fourth grade for my older child.)  The part time nanny has been with us all these years and she’s ready to start her career after finishing up her schooling.   It was then that I decided to consider hosting an au pair, not because I needed “child care” but I wanted an extra set of hands at home, more of a mother’s helper.   A consistent, reliable mothers helper.  Sure, MOST au pairs are considered for 45 hour a week child care for working parents.  I needed about half of that, but I wanted one consistent person, who knew my children, my household rules and routines, that could be the other adult in the house for when I needed it.  So after a 4-6 week process, we selected our first au pair.   We went with Cultural Care Au Pair, mainly because they had about 50-60 au pairs in my zip code.   

Currently, we are on our third au pair in three years and I truly believe that it’s been a great experience for all.   It wasn’t until the end of this past school year when I discovered my daughter’s memoir writing assignment that I realized how much this has meant to her.   The assignment was to think about three memories that were meaningful to them and describe it.   My daughter (age 12) wrote about meeting our first au pair and “Learning a New Culture.”   I would love to post it, but couldn’t do that to her….as it was likely one of the most personal pieces of writing ever.  She talked about how excited she was to meet her, the things they did together, how she is like a sister to her and how much she learned from her.   In her year with our family, she treated my daughter like a little sister and gave her some wonderful advice on friendships and hard work.  Much of this same advice was given to her by me (her mom) over the years, but if you know tween girls, they believe it when someone other than mom says it!

AP 1 and AP 2 meeting up in Colombia to pass along the AP iPhone!


Here are some “truths” about hosting an au pair.   From here on in I will use the abbreviations: AP, HM and HF- au pair, host mom and host family.   The lingo is quite interesting and after three years, we have a good understanding of it.

  1. It’s not a luxury.  It’s actually quite affordable.  It’s assumed by many that live in help is so expensive.  It can be– but with an AP you’re paying a weekly stipend of $200.  Some APs work 20-25 hours a week, some work 45.  Some have 1 child to care for, while others have 4.   It’s the same stipend whether you live in NY, LA, Miami or North Dakota.   The other money that is paid goes to the agency that transports the APs to the US, handles Visas with the Department of State, trains the APs, supports them while here, etc.  It’s bundled into an administrative fee paid directly to the agency that you’re with.  Depending on the agency it’s in the neighborhood of $8,000 per year.   So plan on your 45 hour work week costing around $350-$375 per week more or less.  If you consider day care will cost that for one child, it works out when you have a second or third child factored in.
  2. Your schedule is flexible, unlike any other child care situation.   If your needs change from week to week, you’re able to switch up the schedule as needed.  If you work odd or rotating hours, it works.  You can schedule 3 long days, a weekend day, evening hours or a “split schedule” which is what parents with school aged kids set up.  Morning 7-9am and Afternoons 3-7pm.   When there are changes to the schedule (half days, school breaks, sick kids) you can adjust it, with notice.
  3. Sometimes the AP is your 3rd adult.  Sometimes she’s your 3rd kid.   I mean this in the nicest way.   Our APs have all been trustworthy and responsible.  But at the same time, they have been like an older sister to my two– who were 5 and 9 when we started the program– Now 8 and 12.   Although they have all been in their early 20s, I have made sure to buy them Valentine’s gifts, like I do for the kids, winter boots for the snow, Halloween costumes and more.   The APs are often leaving their family’s home for the first time and still need a mom.  APs refer to moms as the HM, host mom.
  4. It’s good for the marriage.    This should have been #1 and I think my husband would agree.  There’s no “his and her” lists of things to do for the kids.  If he wants to go to the gym after work, I am not telling him he can’t because of homework or showers.   Having a second adult in the house to stay back and shower one kid while I’m out picking up the other from an activity is simpler all around.   I could bring my son to sit outside the dance studio and do his homework while eating an afternoon snack– but having someone home to let him have a quiet house (or a playdate of his own) is a nice option to have too. It doesn’t hurt that we can go out to dinner alone every Thursday and that when I have nights out, I tell him that dinner is in the fridge and the kids are covered!
  5. They don’t clean!   You would not believe how many people ask me this question, so I am including it.   NO.  They aren’t your cleaning person.   They can straighten up the toys or wash the kids clothing but don’t expect a sparkling bathroom.  The way a typical member of a family will load or unload the dishwasher, they can be expected to pitch in and help.  The same goes with cooking.   My au pair can grill hamburgers for the kids or make ravioli for them for dinner– but when we order in, I make sure to get her the dinner she wants too.  So preparing meals for the kids and packing a lunch are OK, but don’t leave a gluten-free cookbook with sticky notes on the pages on the meals you want.   On nights that I cook the full meal, she’s kicking a ball outside with my son and reminding my daughter to get into the shower or pack her school bag for the morning.  Pets are also a no-no.  People do it, but not the responsibility of the AP.
  6. Their lifelong dream isn’t to watch your kids.   This job is a full experience.  Many APs come to the US to learn English, take classes, meet new people from other countries and travel.   This job enables them to achieve a lot of these things.  Most are college educated, even professionals in their home country.   Some use this year as a gap year before starting their studies.  Overall, they have their own wish list while they are here and it’s important to be mindful of this.  They are usually not formally trained to deal with little kids, so they have a lot to learn when they get here.   Again, many are coming from their family home to yours, without living on their own, owning their own car, paying bills, etc.   They intend to do this for a year (the maximum is two years) and pursue their other life goals.  To take it a step further, I might even add that they aren’t here because they have to be.  It’s a decision they make with their family and the family allows them to go and have this experience in the US.   I have found (just in my own experience with APs and their friends) that they come from wonderful families, who value the learning experience and want them to have an opportunity like this- sort of how American families allow their kids to study abroad for a semester.
  7. Your kids will thank you for it.   There’s a lot of benefits for children.  Language is usually the most common interest for the HF.  They want their child to learn from the AP but really the AP learns from the kids.   My children have only a handful of Spanish words after 3 years of Spanish speaking APs.   My kids have asked to see pictures of what it’s like back home, wanted to learn about their families, often FaceTiming with the parents.  We have been unusual in that we’ve hosted some family members and friends over the years and met up on vacation with the families of the APs.   I do not think that’s typical but it’s worked out for us and my children have enjoyed this time more than I ever imagined they would.


My kids in Disney. Age 11, 7 and AP, age 22.
Giant Selfie–my kids, my AP, her sister and cousins visiting from Colombia, another Colombian AP friend living in the area w her host kid!
My kids with our 2nd AP and her parents in Mexico. 2017.
My daughter, age 10 in March 2016 with AP and her sister and cousins. Still asking me when we can go to Colombia to visit them. Until then, they communicate on social media.


My son (age 8) and our 3rd AP.
My kids in Feb 2018, when we brought our 3rd AP a winter coat at the training school in Tarrytown. AP2 and AP3 had a week overlap with the kids.
Glamping in NYC

Glamping in NYC

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Last weekend, my husband and I visited the brand new Collective Retreats site on Governors Island,  Collective Retreats is known best for their glamorous camping concept.  The company seeks out to find locations where there are no other lodging options available. Governors Island was the perfect place as it’s the only patch of land in NYC without a living space!   I was surprised at how much there was to do on the island.  It’s an amazing day trip for those that believe they’ve covered every square inch of NYC.

Collective Governors Island, one of the higher-end glamping experiences in the area, offers private bathrooms as big as a Manhattan apartment, custom-made furniture, 1,500-thread-count sheets, housekeeping and three meals a day.

Besides loving the island, we loved the experience.   However, it was certainly NOT like being on a camping trip, which suits me fine.  Sure it was quiet, relaxing and peaceful.  But not a bit remote. No worries of even a squirrel running past the tent while you sleep.   If you’re looking for the camping experience, this is certainly not going to give you that feel.  In the evening, when the island is closed and the last ferry has left, it’s nice and quiet.  By morning, you quickly realize…. you’re still in NYC with helicopters buzzing overhead and the Staten Island Ferry passing by.  Constantly.

Meals were better than OK.   A limited menu, but again it was only open for less than 2 weeks.  Breakfast was a continental breakfast and there were choices for dinner; a BBQ box complete with tools and picnic items, or a choice of two menus. Service was somewhat non-existent.  We checked in at the ferry terminal, got our bracelets and tent number and once we arrived on site, we did not encounter staff or fellow guests, other than at the dining tent.  The communication preference seems to be via text, but we did not have a need to utilize that during our stay.  Tents were beautifully furnished with all high end bedding and bath items.   Journey tents are smaller and have a shared bathroom trailer, while Summit tents are larger and have private bathrooms and showers.

Before visiting Governors Island, I checked with fifi+hop for their review.  I’m not going to attempt to write about the island based on my few hours exploring, but I will share some pics of things I enjoyed below!   This article is worth a read, especially if you intend to visit the island with kids.

I also loved this New York Times article on the Children’s Junkyard Playground.   Worth a read.

Visit Collective Retreats online here:

Collective Governors Island 

Our photo gallery:

Westchester Woman Wednesday:  Meet Lauren Ferrara

Westchester Woman Wednesday: Meet Lauren Ferrara

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Lauren Ferrara, Precision Spa

We’re slowly getting back into the routine of weekly posts but we never want to miss the chance to highlight a Westchester Woman.    Lauren Ferrara is an aesthetician at Precision Spa in Harrison.

About 18 months ago, I went for a routine brow shaping at a local spa and the aesthetician asked if I had considered microblading.   She herself was not trained, but was considering it because this form of cosmetic tattooing was becoming the craze in Westchester.   After learning more about it (and realizing that my brows were not quite keeping up with my dark hair color) I asked her, “Where’s the best place to have it done?”

Her response, “Precision. It’s like a factory.  They are the best.”

So, I went home and googled it, called and made an appointment for microblading.  At that point, there was a 3-4 month wait.  I was placed on a cancellation list and I was called early, about 5-6 weeks later.   I was greeted by Lauren, who spent a good two hours with me from start to finish.   Almost a year and half later, my brows are still looking great and I will go for my second treatment in September to avoid having them fade this summer.

Lauren was introduced to Nicole Zillitto, the owner of Precision Spa in early 2016.  She calls Nicole the “pioneer” of microblading in Westchester, which is why she went to her for her own brows in February 2016. By June 2016, Lauren was working alongside her at Precision Spa.  Although Lauren had been working as an aesthetician at another spa, she felt it was an incredible opportunity to work and learn from Nicole.  Lauren’s first customer was her husband, Jesse, who volunteered to be her first microblading client!   Currently, Lauren and Nicole take turns doing brows for each other on their days off.

At Precision, Lauren sees 40-50 clients per week between microblading, brow shaping, tints, lash lifts and facials.   I’ve gone to her for pretty much everything at this point and besides getting exceptional services, Lauren is completely entertaining, genuine and fun to talk to about pretty much anything and everything!   It’s for this reason, that I decided to discuss “eating, shopping, playing in and around Westchester” with her and surprising her with this article today!

She’s not a cook.  Both Lauren and Jesse work long hours and enjoy going out to places like Mason Sandwich Co in Eastchester and Harvest on the Hudson in Hastings.   She’s obsessed with working out at SLT Studio in Scarsdale and enjoys browsing the aisles at Home Goods.  She is a dog mom to her beagle-mix, Rosie.

Follow Lauren on Instagram (by clicking here) or visit Precision Spa online at
Before and After Pics

The stages of microblading.   Before and After, with some steps in between!


We’re Back!

We’re Back!

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In case you haven’t noticed, we took a brief hiatus.   At the end of 2017, Shawna and I decided we’d take some time “off” from the blog and resume posts in the new year.  A couple of factors contributed to this decision.  Shawna’s day job was changing and she needed some time to adjust to the newness of it all.   I had a bunch of family issues going on– nothing serious, just things to deal with at home;  changing au pairs, some school issues with my son and extended family members with needs that took some more time than usual. I also had some group outings to plan and organize for my daughter’s social life (Two Girl Scout Community events and two Broadway shows.)  So Shawna resumed her role as F/T working mom and I resumed mine as a crazed SAHM.   The break was a nice time for us to reflect on things that we did well, things we wanted to continue and things we did not want to continue.  The best way to really think is to walk away from something and revisit it with new eyes. Emma Westchester has been a work in progress since 2013 and while 2017 was likely our best year yet, most productive and lucrative, it was a little too much to keep up with!

So we sat down after the first few months “away” and decided:  we want it to be fun again.   So we came up with a new format for ourselves.   Instead of posting on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays– we will post once a week, only on Wednesdays.  Mondays are the first day back to work after the weekend and everyone is catching up on all things, starting off the work week– and Friday everyone is just “done” and ready for the weekend to focus on family.   Wednesday is the lull, where we you can take a minute for yourself and enjoy a minute at the computer and catch up on all things Westchester, if you’re so inclined.   Starting next week, we will change the newsletter to go out on Wednesdays, maybe even every other Wednesday, so we don’t hit your mailbox too often.   We realize everyone is tired of e-mail.

We’ll still post on things related to eating, shopping & playing in and around Westchester, with or without kids.   We will still post Westchester Woman Wednesday articles.  We will post on things we truly enjoy, as always, because we believe that it’s important to be genuine and authentic.  We won’t post about something we haven’t tried ourselves or something we wouldn’t do on our own, as we have always done.  We’ll continue to stay true to our core mission.   While we’ve been happy to share things for some people, we can’t share one 5K event and not another– or one Charity Shopping event and not another.  So we’ll have to learn to say “no” once in a while.  We’re going to cut out the extra stuff on the site and live by the “Less is More” rule and we’ll practice what we preach each day.

Here’s to “Year 6” of Emma Westchester– keeping it honest and real– and maintaining a work/life/balance for these two moms.  🙂


Westchester Woman Wednesday:  Meet Diane Clehane

Westchester Woman Wednesday: Meet Diane Clehane

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With the Royal Wedding just a few days away, I felt that this week was the perfect time to feature, Westchester’s own, Diane Clehane.  Well, I still consider her a Westchester woman. I met Diane about 12-13 years ago when she was living in Scarsdale, her home for about 20 years. She moved to Greenwich a few years back, but is back in town regularly for work meetings, hair appointments and lunches at the Scarsdale Metro Diner.   We’ve been Facebook friends for a number of years and when she writes about the Royal Family, I really feel like I am hearing the honest truth, because she’s truly an expert on them.   Her two novels, both about Diana and her numerous articles about the Royal Wedding can be found below.

Diane Clehane is a New York Times best-selling author and award-winning journalist who has reported on and written about the lives of some of the world’s most intriguing people for Vanity Fair, Forbes, People and many other national publications. Her new book, “Imagining Diana,” (<–link to download) imagines what Princess Diana’s life would have been like if she survived the crash. The book has garnered a wave of media coverage in international outlets including The New York Times and The Daily Mail. called this novel “one of the best books on Diana.” Diane is a well respected commentator on popular culture and expert on Britain’s royal family. In fact, she has been cited as an authority on a variety of topics in outlets including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, WWD and Harper’s Bazaar.

Most recently, she’s been contributing to a lot of news outlets for readers who want to know every latest happening as we lead up to the Royal Wedding this Saturday.


DIANA:  The Secrets of Her Style and Imagining Diana are available by clicking on these hyperlinks.

Published in 2018, available for download
A best seller– available for purchase










If you’re interested in binge reading some recent stories about the Royal Wedding, The Best Life Online and MSN have picked up some of Diane’s articles.   

***A total aside….Not royal related….I enjoyed following Diane’s coverage (and honest criticism) of the American Girl Doll collections in recent years.   The article below is a 3-in-1, so make sure to click on the hyperlinks inside the article to get the full story: 
She’s a wonderful writer, dedicated mother and wife and we’re happy to have such a valuable resource here in Westchester…..OK, Greenwich.

And a few things we wanted to share, just for fun.  We can partake in the Royal Wedding festivities online here at home.

  1.   If you love Prince Harry and Meghan…..join this Facebook Group.   I especially like the rules for this group– not that any of this needs to be said, but you know….it’s Facebook.

*No negative comments about Meghan or Harry – if you don’t like them as a couple, you should not be in this group
*Posts must be in English (or translated)
*No pictures of Charles/Camilla – and no bashing them or other royals
*No blocking admins
*No fighting and certainly no defaming/cursing at other members
*No racism/no politicizing (including no using the term fake news)
*memes/pictures/comments that feature other royals and not Harry/Meghan
(much less those that feature something totally unrelated) should be featured on a different page
*Close to saying no cursing — please be mindful, careful, minimal with cursing

2.   If you want to find out what your Royal title would be…This was Shawna’s idea– to include this quiz!   Find your Royal Title.  We can all pretend for this weekend.  🙂

3.  If you’re looking for details on the timeline of events for Saturday. 





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As you know, Shawna and I enjoy hosting and attending parties.   I usually enjoy being the hostess and Shawna’s more the “What can I bring?” partygoer.   When we both find something that we love, that suits our very different personality styles, it becomes an Emma Westchester story.  We want you all to know what graze boards are and we think everyone can find a reason to order one.

First and foremost, it’s an art form.  All food boards are created by founder (and Westchester mom) Shari Ivler.   Graze boards end up looking like they’re fake because they’re almost too pretty to eat.   The breakfast board contains fresh fruit, mini croissants, cinnamon rolls, mini muffins, cheese and jam.  There are bread boards, with assorted bread, breadsticks and crackers, topped off with some garnish or a flower for decoration.   The meat and cheese boards contain cured meats and artisanal cheeses, fruit, nuts and crackers.  Crudité boards contain locally sourced vegetables with hummus.  My personal favorite is of course, the dessert board because it’s (kind of) guilt-free with some dried fruit, some sliced fresh fruit and a healthy amount of chocolate.   Boards are available in three sizes (small, medium and large) depending on the number of people you’re intending to serve.  

So….pricing.  It’s always the question people have.  Sure that looks great but how much does it cost?   Well, less than sending a fruit basket or fruit flower arrangement through an online delivery service.  Less than one would spend on a Harry and David gift basket. To me, those food baskets are not really a good value or “sum of its parts.” (Paying $59 for 5-6 apples and a box of crackers isn’t a good value to me.)  In a way, I feel like Shari is a personal shopper for healthy food items combined with an artist/chef who puts it all together.  Way better than I could ever do and a great value.  To top it off, you get to keep the board, in case you’re inspired to create your own board.  Or if you’re like me, you’ll keep ordering.   Prices begin at $75 per board.  More on pricing here.

Each board is wrapped in cellophane and safely delivered to points in Westchester or NYC. (see below).  Graze boards are ideal for book club gatherings, hostess gifts, neighborhood get togethers or picnics!   Shawna and I decided we’d surprise our kids middle school teachers with them this week for Teacher Appreciation Day.  Sure not to disappoint, give them a try– tell Shari we sent you!    














Please note that all boards include nuts.  If there are any allergies, Graze is happy to accommodate.  Graze New York offers Free Pick-Up & Delivery Options:  $10 within 10-miles of 10804; $25 delivery over 10-miles with a minimum order of $125.

Kids Cooking Co. Winter Classes

Kids Cooking Co. Winter Classes

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The Kids Cooking Co. was founded on the belief that when we teach our children the fundamentals of cooking and give them the time and space to prepare a meal from whole ingredients, we are gifting them something special.  In this fast-paced world we live in, all too often meal time is an after-thought resulting in prepackaged and processed foods on the run.  The Kids Cooking Co. aims to help instill in our young people, a life-long love of learning about what and how they eat.  And we do this in a fun and exciting atmosphere.

The Kids Cooking Co. serves the lower Westchester County NY area offering classes for our school aged children at our Bronxville location.  These classes take place in a commercial kitchen.  For our younger clients, the Kids Cooking co. will come to your preschool and extend the day with cooking enrichment.



Farmers Markets Move Indoors

Farmers Markets Move Indoors

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Cold weather doesn’t mean the end of the Farmers Markets.  I’m thrilled that Scarsdale and Pleasantville are moving indoors for the winter months.    Scarsdale just started theirs in the fall, just outside the Harwood Building on Boniface Court.   They will move inside to 24-26 Harwood Court until spring.  Found it to be a little “light” on fresh produce but had some healthy baked goods, prepped meals, pickles, meat and cheese.   My personal favorite is of course the brownies– They have orange flavored brownies!   And I’ve seen H-Mart’s Mozzarella Man there too.  A must try.

Scarsdale Farmers Market, Thursdays 12-7pm

Pleasantville Farmers Market moved indoors on Saturday, December 2, continuing its service to the community as the largest year-round farmers market in Westchester County.

Opening its 6th indoor season with over 40 vendors, the Market continues to focus on presenting shoppers with the most diverse selection of foods possible, including fresh winter-grown vegetables, humanely raised meats, and regionally sourced prepared foods. The Market is also rich in items stored from the recent outdoor growing season such as crisp apples, squashes, root vegetables, cheeses, honey, preserves and more.

Pleasantville Middle School – 40 Romer Avenue, Pleasantville, NY

8:30am – 1:00pm, Saturdays through March 31

In all, the Indoor Market features 3 winter-growing produce farms (2 Certified Organic), 1 fruit orchard with crisp apples and fresh ciders, 3 artisan bread bakeries, 4 dairy product vendors with cheeses and butter, 7 meat vendors including fresh seafood, and the Market has prepared foods such as soups, quiches, pies, pickles, sauces, and gluten-free items. The complete vendor roster is posted on the website, along with a map on the site’s homepage that lists the week’s weekly and rotating vendors.

Simply Gather Helps Make Healthy Weeknight Dinners Easier

Simply Gather Helps Make Healthy Weeknight Dinners Easier

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December is such a busy time of year – holiday shopping, social commitments, end-of- year work rushes and parent-teacher conferences – it’s hard to fit anything else in the day, including food shopping, meal planning, and cooking lovely family dinners. Fear not(!) as that’s one reason Simply Gather was founded. It’s a hyper-local Westchester meal-kit delivery service that strives to take some stress out of your weeknight dinner routine, and is such a help during extra chaotic times of the year (which lets face it, is just about always today).

Shrimp and Cannellini Bean Bruschetta Toscana

Simply Gather delivers organic meal-kits right to your door, in a reusable tote bag. All their meals can be cooked in 30 minutes or less, and the result is a healthy meal your entire family can eat. has five new meals to choose from every week, including two vegetarian and multiple gluten-free options. Ingredients are locally sourced, pre-measured, and mostly ‘prepped’ for you – a lot of the vegetables come cleaned and cut already, they pick the herbs, chop the garlic – so all you need is a few basic kitchen tools (as noted in each recipe online, like a pot, pan, baking sheet, and olive oil; all stuff you would already have at home). Additionally, Simply Gather partners with local Westchester and tri-state area farms, restaurants and vendors to source ingredients like produce, meat, fish, grains, multigrain pizza crust, bread, tortillas, and whole grain pastas.

Tamari Steak Stir Fry with Noodles and Shoots

Founded by Caren Weintraub, a local Larchmont mom who has two young children, the recipes are all designed to produce two slightly different meals from a single work stream or cooking effort – one for
more grown up palates and the other for pickier eaters. This way you can cook once and get both, a more sophisticated meal for the adults and something simpler for the kids. ‘Kids Kits’ are included with each night’s meals when ordered for kids, and those include extras just for the kids like panko and tartar sauce to kid-friendly that fish filet, or veggie sticks as an alternative to a salad or roasted brussels sprouts.

There are also fun activities to engage the kids while you quickly cook dinner, and keep them from hanging on your ankles or apron strings.

Mediterranean Chicken Quinoa Bowl

We’ve tested the competition, and can tell you that Simply Gather’s low carbon footprint is another major differentiator. There’s no shipping involved, and every week when the meal-kits are delivered, they pick up the tote bag and ice packs from the week before. They use the biodegradable plant-based containers and bags, and if you return any of the packaging items to them they’ll recycle or reuse it for you. And with no shipping, ingredients are really fresh and less jostled by the journey.


We all know how important eating dinner together as a family is, and Simply Gather has found a great
twist on helping make that easier – and healthy – for your family.

You can find Simply Gather online at

on Instagram at

or on Facebook at

 (646) 883-9469

10 Gift Ideas for Girls

10 Gift Ideas for Girls

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Each year, I find it more and more difficult to shop for my almost-tween daughter.  She’s only 11, but the average eleven-year-old today has wonderful taste, coupled with no concept of a dollar.   So they want their big ticket items (electronics, laptops, iPhones, FitBit watches, headphones) and then what?  Moms scramble for the “other stuff” to make Christmas morning fun.   The hardest part for me is that the little brother has the giant pile of toys, LEGO sets and trucks, making big sisters pile of accessories and things look pale in comparison.  So mom has to find some cute girl items that they didn’t know they wanted.  Here are my top 10 for this year.

1. Strap-Its Bras and Bra Straps

I found these locally at Three Gems Unlimited in Scarsdale.   My daughter loves hers (looks like this one to the right.)   I found their website and loved their story.


is a collaboration between 

our daughters and ourselves.  

We were tired of seeing our girls going out 

in outfits showing their bra straps.  We knew

there had to be a way to wear fashion with class. 

Searching on the Internet we could not find the kind of 

straps that we envisioned. So, we decided to start designing 

new straps with a bit of edge and sophistication. 

Once we began wearing them, our friends started asking for

them… and so began the story of strap-its…

We hope you wear and enjoy them and share 

strap-its with your daughters,

nieces, and sisters..












2. Fairy Lights

I came across these at the Winter Village in Bryant Park and struck up a conversation with the owner, a lovely French woman, who lives in Larchmont– Feels like this happens to me everywhere I go- Always a Westchester connection.   I was overwhelmed by the color choices and the sizes and had to come home to measure and look carefully at the color schemes in my daughter’s bedroom so I could place my order online.   I have a bunch of girls to shop for this year (girls who have just about every “in” thing or will have it by Christmas morning) so I have to be creative.  They’re all getting Fairy Lights!

3. Melsy’s Illustrations

Another one from Bryant Park… Melsy designs very cute phone cases, prints, journals/notebooks, coffee cups and more! She sells on sites, at pop ups and through her Etsy Shop.   Check out these links below:










4. Love Your Melon Hats

Love Your Melon is an apparel brand dedicated to giving a hat to every child battling cancer in America as well as supporting nonprofit organizations who lead the fight against pediatric cancer.

You’ll find really cute beanie hats, pom pom hats, infinity scarves, family sets with books and all for a good cause.   50% of proceeds go directly to charity so you won’t find a great sale on them– but for the Black Friday to Cyber Monday weekend they are offering free shipping to meet a company goal of reaching $1 million for pediatric cancer patients.


5. Lokai Bracelets

Another “shop for a cause” item are the trendy Lokai bracelets.  The Lokai circle has made a huge impact and raised millions of dollars for various charities – funding schools, building clean water wells, supporting research for diseases, and so much more.  My favorite are the new metallic ones below

Here’s a link for 20% off your first Lokai purchase:


6. Slime Monthly Subscription Box

Needs no explanation.   These girls all love slime.   $30 per month and you can buy as many months as you want.  I’ll never understand how this craze became so popular but I do like that it gets my daughter off of her screen, mixing ingredients and playing like an 11 year old girl should.

7. Mini Backpacks

Ummm…they’re everywhere and I feel like they are the go-to pocketbook right now.   Even Target has some cute ones! Nordstrom Rack online too.

 8. LulaRoe

I sort of have a love/hate relationship with it for myself but I think it’s perfect for kids who outgrow clothes from season to season, whether in size or in taste.   Some women pull it off better than others but I think kids can pull them off really well.    Kids can find leggings with dogs, ice cream cones or hot dogs or depending on the season, Disney/Christmas/Valentines patterns.  I’ve shared a link to one of my favorite consultants pages.  Nicole is a local mom, who does live sales usually after the kids have gone to sleep.  Even better, sometimes they are in her home shop, which is always stocked well, organized and user friendly.To the right you’ll see a really nice photo showing ways to wear LuLaRoe “well.”

9. S’well Bottles 

25% off on the site for Black Friday but can be found locally at LOLA in White Plains and Tuckahoe and at Athleta in Scarsdale too.  Love the many color choices and collections.

10.  Don’t Forget the Stocking Stuffers! 

I hate to put anything too valuable in the stocking.   It is usually filled with “just for fun” stuff but getting it full can be costly.  I usually fill it with the 3 for $15 Bath and Body Works soaps and creams, bath bombs, make up remover cloths and beauty supplies from ULTA (dry shampoo this year– Batiste Brand is $6-$7 a can) and some candy or socks.

And as I finished this post up, I realized that my searches and the pages I was viewing were being tracked– because THIS article wound up finding it’s way to me.  Those Google Gods are always watching us!!   20 Gift Ideas for Young Women literally wound up on my screen as a result so I had to share this: .  It’s a pretty good rundown and offers some things I had not included in my list.

Happy Shopping!

Santa, Shopping & More

Santa, Shopping & More

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Every so often, I post a bunch of links from other bloggers that I think you might enjoy.  These all pertain to the holidays so figured now would be a great time to share some great info from those who want to do all the research for us. (Lots of hyperlinks below….click where it’s underlined!)


The first share of this week is an incredible roundup of Santa Experiences in the area.  I have taken my kids to a few over the years, usually the easiest is the Santa at The Westchester Mall.  I have the photo of that same green chair year after year.   I loved Baby Got Chat’s summary of the good, the bad and the ugly– or as she called it the Naughty or Nice Santa’s.   I don’t know how she got all of this info on the Santa’s but this is some good scoop! 


If you’re gearing up for Black Friday the online way, I recommend following MyPurseStrings Twitter posts on best deals, some of which are available right now!   I don’t know how she scours the site for the best deals, but when she posts, I know it’s the lowest it’s going to be.    She will share them on her Twitter page but her site is worth following too.  Her posts are about apps, technology and suburbia.   Oh, she just got a really cute dog too, if you’re interested in reading that!


LOVE fifi + hop for family travel stories.   Shawna and I worked with her recently on a post about a ski vacation to Whistler and this week she posted about Christmas in New York.   She’s Westchester based and a great resource for family travel, day trips, staycations and more!

Travel Exchange: Why Whistler Resort Makes for the Ultimate Ski Vacation


Last but not least….and there are many.  Shopping Events, live and in person, supporting local vendors and independent sales consultants.  I don’t have them ALL but I will share yours if you give me a shout.   The few I know off right now are:

Athleta Scarsdale– Black Friday, 11/24

Junior League of Central Westchester, Scarsdale, Friday 11/17

Moms of Pleasantville Holiday Boutique 12/4

Moms of White Plains Holiday Boutique, 11/30 at La Bocca 6:30-10:30

Westchester Reform Temple, Scarsdale, 12/4

Westchester Woman Wednesday:  Meet CC Benitez

Westchester Woman Wednesday: Meet CC Benitez

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Each month, we feature a Westchester Woman for our “Westchester Woman Wednesday” series.   This month, we’ve decided to feature CC Benitez, who is relatively new-to-Westchester mom.   CC is originally from Oregon (she and Shawna connected instantly) and believe it or not, we found each other by way of Twitter.   CC lived in Brooklyn for a time and recently moved to the suburbs, just over the city line to Yonkers with her husband and son, the way many city dwellers do.   The goal was space, schools and ultimately a new business!   Not the typical path for most of us, but CC decided to take her fashion and retail background, along with her Brooklyn sensibilities and open Lil Chameleon in Tuckahoe.

I find more and more, that women are not working in the fields they started out in.   So many of us “Westchester Moms” have gone to school for something, worked at it for a time and then veered off in another direction.   Sometimes it’s an entirely new career path (the lawyer turned yoga instructor) and sometimes it’s using the same skill set just in a different way.   CC decided to create the “mommy haven” that every mom wants and needs, that many of us did not have when we were new moms.   Lil Chameleon is exactly what she dreamed up: a play space for kids to take classes to learn and grow, a cafe for moms to hang out and meet other moms over a cup of coffee and a healthy mom and child snack and a resale boutique where moms can buy, sell and trade outgrown clothing items and toys.   It’s a 3 for 1, one stop shop and it’s not like anything else nearby.

People ask me: Is it a consignment store?  Not really.  Is it a jump-around play place?  No.  Is it a drop off?  Nope.  Really, it’s an experience and you won’t truly get it until you check it out for yourself.   It’s a place where moms can meet up with other moms while their kids play.  It’s a shop that takes things off your hands, gives you cash on site or store credit for future purchases.   It’s a place where your child can take a toddler yoga class or Intro to Spanish class, while you catch up on your email and make some new mom friends.  It’s clean and beautifully decorated and takes the stress out of hosting a playdate at home.   (I think of those embarrassing times when my son refused to share with a child we’d invited over our house.)   Everyone’s on neutral territory, you’re not locking up the dog or feeling like you have to prepare delicious and healthy snacks that your guests will enjoy.   I honestly would have loved Lil Chameleon when my kids were younger.  A place to eat, shop and play…. my three favorite things.

CC is a woman who recognized a need and made it happen.  She spent months researching and planning, settling on Tuckahoe as her desired location.  Since construction in the summer and her grand opening this fall, CC has learned a lot about Tuckahoe and the surrounding areas, including Eastchester, Bronxville & Scarsdale.   The locals are stopping in and supporting her store (yay!)  The moms have great taste and are savvy spenders (absolutely!)  The surrounding businesses offer city life in the suburbs, with great dining, shops and now a place just for moms (and dads) to buy, sell, trade, relax and play.


Lil Chameleon is located at 29 Elm Street in Tuckahoe.

You can find CC in the store pretty much any day and anytime or follow her happenings on the Facebook page:

Visit Lil Chameleon online, view class schedules and more:

World Kindness Day

World Kindness Day

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Today, on World Kindness Day, reveals the results from a timely new poll on bullying, which finds that bullying is still a massive issue in school and that most of it is happening online in the form of cyberbullying. 

  • 68 percent of the 716 people surveyed between the ages of 13 and 24 said that they’ve had cyberbullying problems at their school, and more than half of those polled said that they themselves have been cyberbullied. It also revealed that 62 percent of those polled have considered transferring schools because of a bully.


  • Cyberbullying doesn’t only happen in the comments section on Instagram. More than 20 percent said that someone has stolen their password or cell phone and pretended to be them online as a means of humiliation. Those polled also said that appearance and weight are the top issues that drive the bullying they experience and witness.


  • With the presence of bullying in the classroom and online, teens today truly appreciate the power of kindness. When asked what characteristic is most valued in their peers, 90 percent said kindness (followed by 50 percent of those who value humor). Popularity was the lowest valued trait in peers.

You can read more about the survey results here:


The survey also revealed that many young people actually don’t know what bullying is or what it entails, so features a new piece breaking down the definition of bullying and cyberbulling, and how to stop a bully: