November 19, 2014

Mockingjay the Movie

“I participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Influence Central for Lions Gate. I received a book, products, and a promotional item to thank me for participating.”

Is anyone else as anxiously awaiting the Mockingjay Part 1 Movie as we are?  My two oldest and I have been counting down ever since we saw Catching Fire last fall!

I first read the Hunger Games trilogy myself a few years ago.  My kids were just in the early elementary grades and I was volunteering at the book fair at their school.  As we were working, another mom mentioned how much she'd loved the series.  At first I was hesitant... young adult fiction?  teens in a dystopian society battling to survive in a televised game?  I wasn't quite sure about the whole premise.  However, the other mom and I had similar tastes in other books we'd read so I picked up the Hunger Games and started reading.  I loved it, quickly read all three books, and started recommending the series to my friends (with a "no, really, trust me, you'll like it" when they had the same hesitation I did).  

As we chatted in the carpool lines about Katniss, Peeta and Gale, we all tended to agree that even though the series was initially marketed to teens, it appealed to us adults too.  The characters were strong, the storyline was really interesting, and as odd as the plot was, it kept us hooked.  I felt that it was more like regular adult fiction, but was appropriate for younger audiences too.

Fast forward to 2012.  My kids were a little bit older and there was a lot of buzz about the Hunger Games movie.   My two oldest were begging me to go see the movie everyone was talking about.  Since they were strong readers, I told them we could go see the movie IF they read the book first.  They eagerly read the Hunger Games book and then, just like mom, devoured the rest of the trilogy as well.  It was so cool to have a series that I liked and they liked.  We were able to talk about how strong Katniss was, how smart thinking could be even better than strength, how some choices could be both wrong and right at the same time.  Once we saw the movie, we were able to compare the similarities and differences between text and screen.

Last fall, when we left the theater after seeing Catching Fire, we were bummed that we had to wait a whole year to see the continuation when Mockingjay was coming to the big screen.  Now, that year is almost over and we're eagerly planning our return.  We've all seen the trailer ...

and the kids and I have been busy rereading Mockingjay to refresh our memories and getting a sneak peak at some of the characters on the Mockingjay website.  My oldest will be heading to the theaters with some of her middle school friends this Friday for the premier, and my son and I will be heading out to see it ourselves in the next week or two.

How about you?  Are you heading to the theaters?  Just yourselves or with your kids too?

March 18, 2014

Saltine Challenge: Can you eat 6 saltines in a minute?

Desperate times call for desperate measures.  We've had an overabundance of snow days this winter and the kids are actually getting tired of all the days off school.  When they don't want to play outside anymore and cabin fever is setting in, I've had to reach deep into my bag of tricks to keep us all sane and entertained.

Here was a little trick that brought lots of laughs (along with a few crumbs)...

This trick was from way back in my college days.  My friends and I learned about it somehow, then challenged people every chance we got.  In all the times we presented the challenge, we never had anyone who was able to do it (and we won tons of free meals and free drinks in the process!).

You most likely have the supplies on hand, a box of saltine crackers (salted, not unsalted), a timer, and some willing participants.

The challenge is simple... all you have to do is eat (and swallow) the six saltines before the minute timer goes off without getting a drink of water.  You can eat them one at a time, two at a time, or even all six at once.  It sounds easy and you might be feeling pretty confident after the first one or two.  However, you'll soon find that the salt produces extra saliva but then the dry crackers quickly absorb any and all moisture in your mouth.  By the time you get to the last cracker or two, you'll be laughing and crumbs will be flying everywhere.

Check out the fun the girls had with their friend...

We did have to run the vacuum to sweep up some crumbs, but it was a fun little break and brought lots of laughter and giggles.

March 12, 2014

Creamy Shrimp Alfredo

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Giant Eagle for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.

I love seeing my kids grow and become more independent in the kitchen.  It's my hope that by the time they move out of my house, they're able to follow a simple recipe and be confident enough to make a decent variety of basic meals.  Over the past few years,  my girls especially have had a lot of fun using the stove and oven with some supervision and are now pretty adept at making their own cupcakes or simple pasta side dish.  (Now I just have to keep working on my son!).  

This Creamy Shrimp Alfredo dish was a great way to get them to expand their skills a little bit and make a yummy main dish for our dinner the other night.  The recipe starts with a packaged pasta side dish that they're used to making, but adds shrimp, tomatoes and spinach to make it a full meal.

Check it out...

Looks really delicious, doesn't it?  The girls kept commenting about how much it looked like "restaurant food."  They were so proud of how it turned out, but it was really quite easy and simple to make (even on a Monday night after homework.)

Here's all you need...
  • 1 package Knorr® Pasta Sides™ - Alfredo (plus milk, water and butter to make)
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 cups baby spinach leaves
  • 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 lb. uncooked medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 2 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese

The prep was really simple, just peel the raw shrimp and half the cherry tomatoes.

Next, they headed to the stove.  Simply cook the Alfredo pasta according to the package directions and stir in the tomatoes and spinach during the last five minutes of cooking time.  Meanwhile, in another pan, heat the oil and cook the shrimp for about 5 minutes until pink, stirring occasionally.

That's it, once the pasta is tender and the shrimp are cooked, simply stir the shrimp into the pasta mixture, add a little parmesan cheese and serve.  

This new recipe was a delicious meal on our busy weekday night  yet was easy enough that even my 8 and 11-year olds could make it with just a little supervision.

You can find the Knorr Pasta Sides at Giant Eagle and they even have a Free Recipe Book with this recipe and several others to help kids (and adults) make simple yet tasty main dishes.
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