Category Archives: Open to my (p)Interpretation

My thoughts on various quotes and sayings. Strictly my opinion on them, of course. So please don’t be offended.

It’s Getting Hot in Here

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Hot coffee, that is.  And coupled with the gorgeous near eighty degree temperatures we’ve been enjoying here in the Piedmont, and I was actually hot, too.

It’s only fair that since I test drove a pumpkin frappuccino recipe last week, I should extend the same courtesy to another coffee house fan favorite, the pumpkin spice latte.  It took some planning though because it involves using hot- i.e. freshly made– coffee and… I’m about to make a confession here…

I don’t know how to make coffee.

In all fairness, my husband took the liberty of writing out instructions for me to actually use the coffee maker,  but he didn’t include an exact measurement for how to actually MAKE the coffee.  He just wrote out what button to push, and where to put the water, that sort of thing. He also showed me how to use the French Press, just in case the one button operation of the electric coffee maker proved to be too complex for me, but when you use a French Press, how much coffee you measure out is even more taste specific, plus you then have to factor in how long to let the coffee brew before straining/pouring it.  He says that he doesn’t know how I will want my coffee on a given day, so he can’t tell me how much coffee to use, which is silly because I want it just like he makes it.

Well, that’s not exactly true.   In reality… I just want him to make it for me.

So on weekends and his days off, he makes me coffee.  In the French press, which is the best way to make it, according to him, and he’s a “real” coffee person.  He doesn’t add sugar or sweetener, just a drop or two of half and half, and that’s it.  He likes the taste of regular old coffee.  Imagine that.  Anyway, yesterday, I took full advantage of his coffee making perfection and tried a twist on this recipe for pumpkin spice latte  from Recipe Girl.  I wanted to incorporate almond milk and splenda brown sugar and sugar substitute, but I did keep a little half and half to add a little fatty goodness. I’m not a dairy free girl, I just try to cut carbs wherever possible, and there are less carbs in a cup of unsweetened vanilla almond milk than a cup of cow’s milk, but hardly any carbs in a small amount of half and half.  Fat is my friend.  Carbs, not so much.  I wish my taste buds would remember that little rivalry as much as my hips try to remind them.

Here’s what I used (in addition to coffee, not shown):

1/2 cup  unsweetened vanilla almond milk

1.5 tablespoons pureed pumpkin

1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

1 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon Splenda brown sugar blend

1 cup coffee, HOT

2 tablespoons half and half

1 tablespoon splenda sugar substitute

whipped cream to top

nutmeg to garnish

While your coffee is brewing,  mix together the first five ingredients in a microwave safe cup.  Mix them up well so that you don’t have any large clumps of pumpkin or spices.

Microwave for 1-2 minutes, but keep close by and especially don’t take your eyes off of  it during the last 45 seconds or so.  When it starts to bubble and foam up, it’s done.  If you wait too long, it will foam up all the way to the top of the cup and bubble over– I know this to be a fact because my microwave is so high up that I can hardly see it, not to mention that it has some sort of frosted glass design, so I can’t see inside clearly even when I’m standing on a stool, and it DID foam over for me.  It was a quick clean up, but still, it’s avoidable if you are able to see inside your microwave.

Combine the milk mixture and the freshly brewed coffee in a big mug (mine will hold 16 ounces).  Add your half and half and splenda and stir.

Top it with whipped cream and nutmeg.

Enjoy your yummy “frou-frou” coffee, as my husband calls it, without even having to get out of your pajamas.  You can probably make this at home in less time than it will take you to get through the coffee house drive through!

Save the rest of the pureed pumpkin to use in one of the hundreds of pumpkin recipes you can find online or on pinterest.  Here’s a board I found that lists nothing but pumpkin recipes!  I’m sure you can find at least one that makes you want to get back in the kitchen!  According to Still Tasty, canned pumpkin puree that is stored in an airtight glass or plastic container will keep in the fridge for 5-7 days.

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Mickey Mania

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We did it.

Again.

We took the kids to Disney World.

The last time we made the journey to the “Happiest Place on Earth”, Christopher was 6.  He loved it, aside from the usual meltdowns associated with not being tall enough to ride various rides, and ignoring the middle of the day meltdowns from being tired, hot and sweaty. I enjoyed it because he enjoyed it, but I didn’t feel the need to go ever again.  I figured a kid should go once, and that was enough.

But then His Majesty was born, and with a 10 year gap between him and Christopher, there was a shrinking window of when we could go and have both kids enjoy themselves without making it too miserable on my husband and myself. Don’t get me wrong, Disney World is great, but we’re not exactly “Disney people”, and running through theme parks with a toddler in a stroller isn’t exactly our idea of relaxing, but as with most things, we’re willing to do it for our kids to enjoy it.  Plus, my Grandma had never been, so that added some extra incentive on my end.  Next to watching my kids experience something new, I absolutely love taking her on new adventures.

In preparation for our trip, I took the opportunity to make His Majesty a few Mouse themed t-shirts using a freezer paper stencil method I’d pinned from Urban Pioneer Story.  You won’t believe how easy this it was.

I started with two plain cotton t-shirts that I bought at Hobby Lobby for $6.  His Majesty chose the colors– he wanted a pink and a blue.  I printed the mouse ear profile on regular paper, and cut it out with scissors, and then traced it onto the dull side of a sheet of freezer paper (which I purchased at the grocery store in a huge roll for under $5), and cut it out with a razor knife, giving me an intact stencil. Then, I ironed it, shiny side DOWN, onto the shirt, resulting in this:

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You want to leave a little extra freezer paper around your stenciled shape, to allow you to easily paint while protecting the clean part of the shirt. Next, I put a sheet of cardboard inside the shirt (I used an empty cereal box folded down to be flat), and used a round sponge paint brush to apply black fabric paint to the inside of the stencil.  At the edges I pressed down with the brush, and brushed towards the inside of the shape, to keep from moving the edges of the stencil.  I painted two coats, letting it dry for about an hour in between coats. Image

The next day, I peeled the freezer paper off, leaving me with this.

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Oh boy.  I was excited.  And so was His Majesty.

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But for the pink shirt, I decided that I wanted to try something a little different, using spray paint, gaining inspiration from Scattered Thoughts of a Crafty Mom.  So this time, I used the shape of the ears as my stencil, and painted around them with spray paint (again, be sure you put a piece of cardboard inside of the shirt, as the paint will soak through). I held my hand about 10 inches away, and sprayed a light coat of paint, keeping my arm moving the whole time to avoid blotches and drips. Image

ImageWhen I pulled the stencil off, I basically did a happy dance. Image

His Majesty was pleased as well.

ImageI liked the results of the spray paint method so much that I decided to do it on the back of his blue shirt as well. You can only use each stencil once, so I cut another one out.  It’s so easy, though, that it’s hardly a big deal.

ImageAnd that’s how I made two shirts for Disney World in a breathable fabric (helpful, given that it was 90 degrees and all kinds of humid during our trip… I was melting, MELTING!!) for a fraction of the cost we’d pay at the park. And, these are one of a kind.  I’m proud of them, and His Majesty loves them.  For the record, I offered to make some for Christopher, but he deemed himself too cool for them.  He did, however, request that I make him a shirt with The Hunger Games symbol to go with his Halloween costume– He’s going as Peeta.

This method is amenable to any shape that you want to create.  You can do words, names, whatever your heart desires.  Once you have your paint and your freezer paper, you can probably even make a shirt for everyone in your family with supplies left to spare.  Birthday shirts for your little one?  Done.  Shirts to show support for your kid’s Little League team?  Done.  Bring it on, baby.  The sky is the limit with the freezer paper stencil shirts!

I made one other cool thing for our Disney trip, and also did some preplanning for our trip that saved me a little money and gave my kids some extra fun along the way.  Stay tuned for more on that this week 🙂

Batter Up! Another Swing at Cake Batter Dip!

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Earlier this year, I told you about how Funfetti Dip (which I learned about from Shannon at Adventures in Food, and pinned here) was a hit at a play date I hosted. Well, this past week, Christopher asked me to make some more, but I didn’t have any more funfetti mix or plain yogurt.  I did, however, have a box of yellow cake mix, and some vanilla flavored yogurt.

Cake batter is cake batter… and yogurt is yogurt… Sooo….why not change it up a bit, do a little ingredient experimentation?

I decided that there was nothing to lose by giving it a whirl with yellow cake mix and vanilla yogurt.

I used the same ratio as the Funfetti Dip:

3/4 cup dry yellow cake mix

1/2 cup vanilla flavored yogurt

1/4 cool whip

And I mixed it for about a minute on medium speed.  It was pretty thick.

I served it with animal crackers and pretzel crackers.

I let Christopher taste test it, and the results were favorable.  But really, who doesn’t like cake batter?

His Majesty certainly does.

I’m pretty sure that you can use any dry cake mix and come up with a dessert style dip.  You can mess around with different yogurts and give it your own flair.  Strawberry pound cake mix, strawberry yogurt and cool whip perhaps?  Or butter pecan mix, vanilla yogurt, and cool whip?  There are so many flavors of yogurt and cake, you could really make it interesting.

Have you made any new recipes, lately?  Or put your own twist on an old one?

3 Quick NYC Tidbits

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Just popping in to share 3 quick helpful pieces of information that I learned while I was in NYC last week.  Then I’ll be back blogging later this week, starting with sharing a Mother’s Day project.  Ooooh, it is going to be so cute!!

Ok, so here are the tips that I learned. These will be useful if you decide to plan a trip to New York, which, by the way, I highly recommend. Here’s what you need to know:

1).  There is no sales tax on clothing or shoes priced at less than $110 per item.   That saves you 8.5% (4% NY state and 4.5% city) on some of your purchases… I’m not proud to admit how much I used this savings to my advantage, or of the fact that I used said savings when describing my purchases to my husband: “Oh honey, I spent XYZ, but I SAVED so much money!”

2). If you go to the Vistor’s Center in Macy’s and show them your out of state ID, you get a discount card for 11% off of your purchases (with a few exclusions, such as cosmetics and fragrances). But I mainly bought clothes and shoes, so when you add that to the tax discount, I saved almost 20%, right from the get go.  I then applied some of that savings towards the cost of the postage for shipping a few boxes home, since I broke a cardinal travel rule and didn’t leave enough room in my luggage to account for my purchases.  I wasn’t the only one who broke that rule, though.  There were several other women in line with me at the post office on 52nd Street doing the exact same thing!  Desperate times call for waiting in line at the Post Office on your last morning of vacation, I guess.

Ok, so let’s get to #3.  You should know that a lot of people come to Macy’s… tons in fact… and that the bathrooms were yucky.  Suffice it to say that my 4 foot 8 inch tall Grandmother was diligently looking for a manager to complain to until I managed to talk her down.  Which brings me to this seriously useful piece of information:

3). Starbucks has public bathrooms. You don’t have to buy anything to use them, and I’m happy to report that they’re remarkably clean.  With 194 locations in Manhattan alone, you won’t have a hard time finding one, although you might have to wait in line for a few minutes.  People love them some Starbucks, even in NYC.  They didn’t cram 200 of those bad boys 34 square miles for nothing, that’s for sure, and there was a line at the register at every one we passed, regardless of the time of day.

Anyway, tips aside, the visit was wonderful, we did everything we wanted to do and more, and I have 900 pictures to show for it.

Here’s just one of me and my Grandma at the top of the (obviously extremely windy) Empire State Building.

Isn’t she the cutest thing? You should see the outfits she wears, she is adorable.  And the woman loves to shop as much as I do– maybe more.  We’d be out for 12 hours running around from here to there, and she’d see a window display that she liked, and in we’d go.  She’s an awesome shopping buddy.

So, for now, it’s back to the normal grind, plus making Mother’s Day crafts, and figuring out what to give His Majesty’s play school teachers as an end of the year gift.  Plus, I’ve read two more books, and tried a few new recipes, and I want to tell you about those.  Oh, and you just wait until you see what my husband built me for our screened porch!  I’m excited to share some more stuff with you.

What did you do last week?  Make anything?  Buy anything?  Go somewhere? Do something fun?  I want to hear all about it!

 

 

On the Road Again

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I’ll be on the road again– well, really, I’ll be up in the air– traveling to another destination on my Places and Spaces Board this weekend.  I’ll be going here:

Image obtained from Breakfast At Sephora, with original source credit to Vogue for Fashion

Don’t you just love the green expanse of Central Park in the middle of the bustling city?  It’s striking.

New York City has been on my Grandma’s bucket list, so she and I are going together on a “Girl’s Trip.  I got us orchestra seats– 5 rows from the stage– for Chicago (scored cheap at Broadway Box), booked a walking tour with NYSEE Tours using a great groupon deal that I picked up a few weeks ago, and a hooked us up to go on a snazzy brunch and yacht tour.  We’re also going to go up to the top of the Empire State Building and Top of the Rock at Rockefeller Center.   The Statue of Liberty is under renovations, and since we’re not able to go inside of it, we decided to stick to seeing it from our yacht trip, which I’ve read gets us close enough to get decent pictures.

Oh, and I scored us a private tour through Big Apple Greeter.  Yep, just me and Grandma, matched with an NYC resident who is going to show us around all sorts of hidden gems in the city that we might not otherwise know to look for.  I already spoke to our assigned greeter, Bob.  He’s actually the one who gave me the scoop on where to buy our Broadway tix.   He also gave me a bunch of recommendations on where to eat, told me all about the area we’re staying in (we’ll be at the Belvedere Hotel in Midtown/The Theater District), and gave me helpful pointers about navigating the city, like “It will take you longer to take a cab to such and such location than it will to walk” (I needed to hear that, because I’m a big fan of cars, and I would have spent a lot of time and money in cabs if he hadn’t given me that info).  He also taught me that 5th Avenue divides the Eastside from the Westside, and gave me the helpful information that the Avenues run North and South, whereas the Streets run East and West, which I anticipate will make our adventures go a little more smoothly.  He even said he’ll take us on the subway– my Grandma’s request–, so that I won’t have to figure that whole situation out on my own.  Whew!  Glad that I dodged that bullet!  Bob chatted with me on the phone for over and hour at 9 o’clock at night, and he’s even picking us up right at our hotel to take us around town.  I’m excited to meet him, I feel like we’re friends already!

How much do you think a sweet set up like Bob from Big Apple Greeter costs?

How about a big fat ZERO?!

For real.  Big Apple Greeter is a VOLUNTEER service.  You just hop on their sight, give them your travel itinerary, and they find a volunteer who is available to show you around the part of town that you’re staying in.  It’s like having a friend waiting for you in the city.  Pretty cool.  Read about it, it sure seems like the sweetest deal going.

Besides that, there’ll be shopping, and eating, and hopefully at least a little bit of sleeping!

But do you want to know the big surprise that I scored, just for my Grandma?

I got us tickets for a taping of Live with Kelly!  When Grandma asked me about getting them, I initially thought it was too late, since they didn’t show any seats available during our visit, but I took a chance and sent them a letter via snail mail and, low-and-behold, they mailed me tickets!!  (I *might* have mentioned my elderly grandma checking things off of her bucket list in that letter… hey, it’s the truth!  Don’t judge me 😉 )  So, we’ll be there in the audience on Monday.  Pretty exciting stuff, right?

So, see you in a few days, friends!  Drop me a line and tell me what exciting plans you have in store for this weekend, it will give me something to read while I’m waiting around in the airport!

Leaving or Going

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As much as I love living in the beautiful South, I miss my family back up in Michigan.  I get to see them a few times a year, but I still miss them.  I especially miss them at times like when my 4-foot-8-inch tall octo-genarian Grandma kicks butt in a bowling tournament that I wasn’t there to watch, or when my Dad is the guest speaker at an Alcoholic’s Anonymous “Open Talk” and I am not there to hear the applause he receives (he’s been sober for more than 4 years now, and he truly has made the most of his second chance), or when my Mom and my Aunts get together for a luncheon, or when my little brother, who’s not so little anymore, buys his first home, and I’m not there to help him move in, or to celebrate with him.

So when that new homeowner little brother, who happens to also be the World’s Greatest Uncle to my two boys, asked me to come to Michigan to help him decorate his new place, I jumped at the opportunity.  I especially jumped at it because Southeastern Michigan has been unseasonably warm so far this year, with temperatures right up there in the 70’s with us in the N-to-the-C.  I booked a flight right away, weeks ago, and I even started a board with all sorts of things that I thought he’d like, based on the information he’d given me about the space.  My brother is colorblind (for real colorblind, not just in the “Gosh, he doesn’t match his clothes, what is he, colorblind?!”), so he doesn’t really know what colors he likes, so I get to have some real fun helping him out.  I’ve been excited, and anticipating this trip for weeks.

Until right now. As the time to travel draws closer, and as I prepare to leave for the airport, to do some of my favorite things (shop, and visit my family), I am wrought with anxiety at having to first do two things that I wholly I dread, the first being subject myself to actual physical contact with the government at the hands of TSA, and the second being get on an airplane.  No matter how many times I do it, the lack of control I have while on an airplane never ceases to make me want to have a panic attack.  Couple that with leaving my own sweet family, my husband and sons, behind at home, for 4 whole days, and well, I’m a nervous wreck.  I know I’ll have a good time, but now instead of missing one part of my family, I’ll be missing another.

Which begs the question that always pops in my mind when I prepare to visit the state I was born in:  Am I leaving home, or am I going home?

Funny how when I booked the flight, I felt that I was GOING home, but now that the time has come to actually go, I feel like I’m LEAVING home.

It’s all in how you look at it, I guess.

Just like it’s all in how you look at where I’m going.

I’m going to Southeastern Michigan, best known for being the home of Detroit (although there is so much more to Michigan than Detroit that I’ve dedicated an entire board to it).  Detroit is fascinating in that it can look like this:

Or it can look like this (see the pin here):

Source: Wandering Souldier (Who is another native of Michigan! Shout out!!)

I have seen it hold true to both images, even on the same day, sometimes without traveling more than a few city blocks.  I can be two things at once, both full of possibilities and seemingly devoid of hope, at the same time.

So, if a place can be two things at once, I guess the same is true for home.  My home can be Michigan, and it can be NC.  Maybe the reality is that I’m leaving home AND going home at the same time.  And then Monday, God willing, I’ll be doing the same thing when I head back South.

Oh, and if you want to say any prayers for me to have safe and smooth travels, I would be very thankful.

Hope you have a great weekend, wherever you decide to go 🙂

In ONE Day

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What did I do in ONE day, you ask?

I read The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins.  AND in that same day, I got everywhere I needed to be on time, and my husband and children were fed, and the house was cleaned and the laundry was done.   I think this is quite the feat.  It’s been a long time since I’ve read a book that quickly, but The Hunger Games was unlike anything I’ve ever read, and I was all in from the first page.

My first inkling that I needed to read it was that several of my friends had remarked that it was the best story they’d ever read.  Some claimed to enjoy it more than both the Twilight and the Harry Potter series– neither of which I have personally read–, and given the phenomenon that is those two series among women my age, I figured that was quite a statement.  Plus, when I found out it was being made into a movie, it made me want to get my hands on it sooner rather than later, since I prefer to read the book before I see the Hollywood version.

The final step in getting my hands on the book was when our friend got Christopher hyped up on the story, enough so that I even allowed him to read it as part of his lessons for the week.  He doesn’t often get too enthusiastic about books, and I wanted to take advantage of his positive energy.  It is my dream for my children to love the written word as much as I do, and while His Majesty seems to be well on his way,  Christopher often takes some coaxing.  Since it was part of his lessons, I gave him five days to read it.

He completed it in three.

But what’s more than even that, he was EXCITED about it as he read it.  At the end of the week, he had to do a 2 page summary of the selection, as is his usual assignment.  Typically he fights me over ever character, and writing assignments often leave us both frustrated.  However, this essay, THIS essay, was 3 and a half pages long, and in perfect cursive.  And then he asked to go to the library to pick up the sequel.  I was so stoked.

Except that right about the time that he was handing me his summary to review, I realized that I couldn’t review it.  I didn’t know what to compare it to, what the book was actually about, or if he was on the right track, or way off in left field.  Additionally, he’d borrowed the book from our friend, and it needed to be returned within a reasonable period of time.

So, I decided to seize the day and read it for myself.  I began reading it while sitting on a bench on the campus of a local university, while Christopher and a friend attended an art class, and His Majesty hung out at play school.  It was a beautiful spring day, perfect for being outside, and it was early, so the campus was still quite.  I made myself comfortable, and turned that first page.

From that point on, I think the campus could have caught on fire, and I wouldn’t have noticed until my hair started to singe.  I was hooked.  I read for my full hour of alone time, ignoring the world around me, and then in between driving home, making lunch, checking off my to do list, taking His Majesty for a wagon ride, nap time, checking lessons, and making dinner, I managed to brush off more than 250 pages.  COULD. NOT. STOP.

After His Majesty went down for bed, I polished off the rest of it.

The gist of it, without spoiling it for you? It’s fantasy, but the characters have real emotions that made me feel like their reality could be my reality, even with the weird sci-fi technology references. There’s heart ache and bloodshed and plot twists.  Kind of like real life, but set to a post apocalyptic theme, which pertains to the dark and twisty thread that occasionally creeps me out when my mind gets to wandering

The main character, Katniss is young in years, but definitely not in the bubbly, carefree kind of way.  She’s somewhat of an “old soul”, the provider for her family, too focused on tangible needs like basic survival to worry much about puppy love, but with a rebellious streak that makes it impossible for her to lie down and take the abuse that The evil Capital sends her way, at least, not without a fight.  She’s a scrapper, and a survivor, but despite having lived a tough and labored life, full of plenty of reasons to be bitter and heartless, she still has a soft spot for children, and a fierce need to make good on any and all debts.  She’s honest, and she has a strong moral character.  She is willing to put her life on the line for her little sister.  She’s a good female heroine.

There is a bit of a love story to the plot, but it was a very PG love, thank goodness, considering Christopher had already finished reading it.  And there’s a fierce battle theme, which I suspect specifically appealed to my Christopher. He liked the war/survival strategy, and to be honest, so did I.  I wouldn’t have thought that I’d enjoy that part of the book as much as I did.

My favorite part of the story was when Katniss gives the ultimate middle finger to the government and defies the rules of The Hunger Games, which of course, is the precursor to the follow up novel (which Christopher tells me is very good).  I was a rebellious teenager myself, and some of my anti-authority nature has managed to stick around, despite the whole business of being a law abiding citizen/grown up/whatever, so a rebellious, not to mention clever, plot twist was right up my alley.  Katniss outsmarts her enemies. She’s a thinker. What she lacks in brute force, she makes up for in calculated thought and planning.  Kind of a cool “Girl Power” message, I’d say.  She’s not weak, or a victim.  She’s a strong female lead.

It has political undertones, which I loved, because anyone who knows me knows that I love to harp about the ails of government control and coercion, and the twisted nature of politics, but at first glance, I thought I was going to have to suck it up and muddle through some very different political viewpoints. Initially, I thought that the residents of The Capital were representative of the 1%; You know, the “Evil Superrich” that the talking heads claiming to speak for the 99% like to say are so evil, greedy, and out of touch with the rest of our Free Market society.  But then I paused and thought about it, and I have come to the conclusion that nope, I was wrong to assume that.  The reality as I see it is that the nation of Panem is a Communist nation, a socialist society.  Everyone gets their very basic needs met, and their duties and roles are assigned by the ruling class.  Yep.  Not a Free Market economy at all.  Given that realization, I would like to think that it sends a message to anyone with a clue that a socialized society might not be free of the evils people like to point out after all.  In fact, for me, it seemed to point out that the real danger to be feared is the danger of our government holding too much power, which, in my book, is always a great danger to keep in the back of our minds, especially in an era where you can be prosecuted for not wearing a seat belt, or having a lemonade sale on your front lawn.  (Of course, that’s the message I got from the book.  It will be interesting to see if the very left wing Hollywood spin on the tale will give it more of an Anti Capitalism theme.  I’ll report back.)

In any regard, this book was a page turner, and a heart pounder.  It kept me on the edge of my seat wondering just how it was going to play out.  I imagine it would have been more suspenseful if I had the heart to shut down Christopher’s spoilers, but I just couldn’t do it, and I can tell you now, having read the book, that his summary was spot on.  But above all else, The Hunger Games provided me with a great bonding opportunity with my oldest son.

And, in a household where I am often the odd one out, the only one not entirely enthusiastic about some athletic venture or a camping trip or a video game, and the only one paying attention to things like flowers and decorating and making things pretty, I’ll take pretty much any opportunity that I can get.

The movie comes out Friday, by the way.  Which will give me the perfect opportunity to take Christopher out for a Mother-Son date, while also providing me with the luxury of taking down an extra large bucket of movie theater popcorn… extra butter.