So, I saw The Hunger Games

I saw The Hunger Games this weekend, with a group of teenage girls (plus one brave boy) from my youth group at church.  I was really excited to see it and I was glad I didn't have to drag Jeremy with me!

It had been quite awhile since I started the books (almost 18 months, according to my post on the first book), which I think was a good thing for me.  I didn't spend the entire movie picking out all the differences between the book and movie versions. 

**Spoiler Alert!!  If you have not seen the movie and don't want to know details about it, STOP here.

Overall, I was very, very happy with the way The Hunger Games was translated to the screen.  I didn't notice many differences between the book and the movie that I felt made a big difference.  Many people mentioned the fact that the movie doesn't show District 11's gift of bread to Katniss following Rue's death.  That generosity was fairly important in the book, to show how the people of the Districts are beginning to look to Katniss as a sort of inspiring martyr figure.  While I can see where that scene would have added a bit of depth to the movie, I think the depiction of the riot in District 11 and Katniss making the District's sign got the point across well.  If I remember correctly from the book, we only hear later that there was a riot in 11, and I thought inserting that scene carried a lot of symbolism in the movie.

The situation between Peeta and Katniss is a lot more clear in the book, which is to be expected since it is told from Katniss's perspective.  In the book, we see that Katniss is confused about Peeta and is largely playing a part during the games.  In fact, the end of the first book ends pretty sadly for Peeta, as he realizes that Katniss was not taking their 'relationship' as seriously as he was.  Her ambiguous feelings are not conveyed nearly as well in the movie.  Those who have read the book might have picked up some of Katniss's confusion, but those who have not read it may very well believe she is falling in love with Peeta.  It is hard to imagine how those subtle emotions could have been more clearly depicted on the screen, so I'll just trust that the writers and producers will work that out in the future movies.  (The cave scenes are not nearly as long and intense as they were in the book, which surely disappointed some 'Team Peeta' fans.)

Again, being more than a year removed from my first reading of the book made it a little easier to separate the book and movie in my mind, and it also gave me time to adjust to picturing Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss.  And let me tell you, from the moment she appears on screen, there is no doubt that she IS Katniss.  Jennifer Lawrence was amazing; the perfect embodiment of Katniss. 

ALL of the characters were pretty amazing, as a matter of fact.  Josh Hutcherson's Peeta may not have been quite as compelling as Peeta in the book, but I attribute that largely to the fact that we have to take him at face value.  His dry wit and people skills didn't shine through as much in the movie, but I think the actor will be able to portray all the various sides of Peeta accurately in the coming sequels.  Woody Harrelson's Haymitch was a bit of a letdown, but only because the character is softened a bit from the book.  He was definitely more likeable in the movie, and even made me laugh...but Haymitch was a not a likeable or even a particularly sympathetic character in the first book.  Harrelson can play a drunk though, no doubt about that.

Gale was hardly in this first movie at all (which makes sense, as he is only present in the beginning and end), so I reserve judgment on him for later.  Prim was wonderful--heartbreaking, but wonderful.  I was not as moved by Rue's death scene as I was in the book, but honestly, I was pretty much okay with that.  That part of the book wrecked me, and I didn't particularly want to relive that in the theater.  Elizabeth Banks brought Effie Trinket to life better than I ever imagined.  It was difficult to imagine Effie transferred to the screen, but Banks was fabulously over-the-top in her portrayal.

One thing I was totally unprepared for was my love of Lenny Kravitz as Cinna.  I'll admit, he is someone I have never paid much attention to before.  But in this role?  That man was SMOKING hot.  Cinna is a pretty complex character in the books, and was maybe a little hard for me to picture clearly.  He is definitely more laidback, more classy, than other Capitol residents, and Kravitz nailed every bit of it.  Knowing his fate in the future makes me eager (but also dreading) to see what Kravitz will continue to do with this character.

As for the violence in the movie, it is often implied rather than shown directly, with many of the deaths happening off-screen.  I keep saying the games scenes are somewhat sanitized...but when you're dealing with a book/movie in which the main plot involves kids killing kids, that may not be such a bad thing.  Watching it with a group of teenagers put it into perspective for me, and I know lots of kids younger than my group who read and/or watched it.  I really can't imagine that more direct onscreen violence would do them any good.  At the same time, as a parent who can be pretty sensitive to situations involving children, I didn't want to see any more violence either.  While reading the book, I often had to remove myself from the situation a bit, and avoid thinking too deeply about the whole idea of the hunger games.

In case it's not clear, I thought the movie was extremely well done.  There were a few 'extras' that were not portrayed in the book--such as the behind-the-scenes look at the Gamemakers and expanded scenes with Caeser Flickerman (the always-endearing Stanley Tucci)--that added a lot of explanation to the movie that would have been hard to work in otherwise.  Transposing any book to the movie screen has to be a difficult task, but it seems especially daunting in a book like The Hunger Games that relies so heavily on internal dialogue.  Despite a few imperfections, I just can't imagine how it could have turned out much better.  I'm only disappointed that we have to wait more than a year for Catching Fire.

Have you seen The Hunger Games?  Did you read the books?  Tired of hearing about it??  I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Even though Jeremy hasn't read the books (and doesn't intend to, I'm sure), I want to see the movie again with him.  I think he would like it pretty well, and I'm also interested in getting his impression as someone who doesn't know much about the story at all.  Plus, that's two and a half more hours of relaxation in a cool, dark theater for me.  : )


A Perfect Spring Weekend

This past weekend was one of those I wish I could copy and paste throughout the entire year.  It was one of those perfect weekends that we imagined when we started thinking about a family--spending time together, just hanging out and enjoying one another's company.

I ran out early to the first yard sale of the year, at the home of a friend with twin girls a year older than Addison & Mackenzie.  We just love to get a big box of new-to-us clothes!  After the yard sale, the girls and I went to a birthday party, where they had a great time running around in the morning sunshine.

When they got their fill of birthday cake, A & M were ready to come home, where they knew Jeremy was working in the yard.  As soon as we pulled in the driveway, I faced the fact that the girls would probably not be napping.  Not only was J working in the yard, but my dad was over installing a fan in the master bathroom.  Way too much distraction for little girls to want to nap!  I decided to be okay with that and to make the best of the afternoon.

Even without a nap, it was a great afternoon.  The girls alternated between watching their Paw Paw inside, helping Jeremy outside, and begging Adele (my stepmother) to push them on the swing.





Mackenzie did fall asleep for about an hour while watching Curious George, and Addison headed out to help Jeremy wash our cars.  As soon as M woke up she wanted in on that action, and they had a great time playing in the soap and water.






Sunday was the usual-- church, lunch, long afternoon nap.  We tried a brand-new restaurant for lunch, and it was a hit.  A new family joined us for lunch, which brought our kid total to FIVE (all age two and under).  It was loud, crazy, and perfect.  The kids got balloons and ice cream sandwiches with their meals, making the restaurant a new favorite in their eyes.

The more relaxing, enjoyable times like this that we have together as a family, the more sure I am that we probably won't have any more kids.  Things are just so much easier at this stage than they were a year or two ago, and I am so looking forward to all the new and fun adventures the four of us have in store!



March Photo a Day: Week 2

Through the window #marchphotoaday
Day 8:  Window

Red handprints on my refrigerator #marchphotoaday
Day 9:  Red

Loud lunch crew #marchphotoaday
Day 10:  Loud  (That's my BFF's husband and children...part of our big, loud Sunday dinners!)

I talked to my Sunday school class today...can't guarantee they listened! #marchphotoaday
Day 11:  Someone I talked to  (My youth at church...  I talk; they may or may not listen.)

The #fork I used to eat the first piece of the first bread I made from scratch #marchphotoaday
Day 12:  Fork  (with which I ate my first piece of the first bread I ever made from scratch.  More on this later, because hello, I MADE BREAD.  What is the world coming to?!)

Election Day! #sign #marchphotoaday
Day 13:  A Sign

Not too many #clouds in yesterday's sky #marchphotoaday
Day 14:  Clouds  (Not too many out that day, but I love this picture.)


Learning to eat like a grown up

Hi, my name is Deanna and I waste food.  I rarely eat leftovers.  I often buy fresh ingredients with a certain dish in mind, then let them all spoil before I actually get the meal cooked.  I purchase food, and it sits in the pantry, unused, until it is eventually thrown out.

Terrible, I know.  It was a couple of years ago that I first realized how much food we waste as a family, and since then I have tried to be more resourceful in our meals and shopping.  The small changes have helped, but we still have a long way to go.

I have learned to buy mostly our staple foods at the grocery store each week, things I am pretty sure will be eaten.  If I need specific ingredients for a dish, I try to think of other ways to use the remainder of that ingredient.  If I buy for a specific meal and our plans change, I try hard to squeeze that meal in another night.

I am still not good with leftovers, but I am learning which foods I do like reheated, and I am making those foods more often.  I have learned to decline a to-go box at a restaurant, unless I feel sure it will be eaten.  (This doesn't really help the wastefulness, but hey--it saves the use of a styrofoam plate and doesn't take up valuable space in my refrigerator.)

I have also started a kind of meal rotation, especially for weeknights when Jeremy is not home to help with the crazy dinner and bath rush.  It's not written down (yet!) or very specific, but I have a few standard meals that the girls and I both enjoy and that are easy to prepare.

One of our weekly standards is a Mexican night, when I pick up fresh chips, salsa, and queso from a Mexican restaurant on the way home.  Addison & Mackenzie LOVE "chips and cheese", and could easily make a meal out of that alone (healthy, right?).  For these nights, I usually have mexican chicken waiting in the crockpot, which we use to fill tortillas to go with our chips.

As a bonus, there is plenty of the chicken left for me to eat all week.  I have been making nachos for my lunch at least 2-3 days a week lately, and it really helps me feel a lot less wasteful to finish off that entire bowl of chicken!

What are your favorite weeknight meals?  Do you have any tips for becoming less wasteful?  Am I alone in my disdain for leftovers?

By the way, here is my mexican chicken recipe, which is super convenient for tacos, burritos, nachos, etc....

Combine the following in the crockpot:
2-3 Boneless chicken breasts
1 can Rotel tomatoes
1 package dry taco seasoning

Cook 6-8 hours on low or 4-5 hours on high, then shred the chicken and add a can of black beans (drained).  Heat another 30 minutes or so, and it's ready.

Mexican chicken


Bring it on, spring!

We have had a very mild winter this year, and now, all of a sudden we seem to be jumping headfirst into spring.  Flowers and trees are beginning to bloom, which is good for my soul, but not my allergies. 

With the approach of warm weather, I have been reminded yet again that my summer wardrobe is in desperate need of an overhaul.  I did a lot of cleaning out before my big yard sale last September, and the summer side of my closet is looking pretty pitiful.  I am also changing in my tastes as I get older (ugh!) and my body changes a bit.  I am learning to accept the fact that some things just won't work on me--ever--and I am moving on to things that make me feel comfortable and confident.

Here are a few things I am loving right now:

TOMS $58...I WILL own these

Old Navy $19.94

This shirt would be good for work.  Old Navy $26.00

Love this GAP dress for spring or fall $59.95

Target $22.00

Obviously I have a thing for dresses and skirts.  I wear them about 4 days a week during the summer.  That is one of the things I have come to accept:  I should not waste a lot of money on shorts or capris when I can just buy more skirts.  (Speaking of dresses, thanks for the comments on the dress in my previous post!  It came from Ross about two years ago; I'm not sure of the brand.)

I am stuck in a bit of a rut, so tell me, what is your favorite clothing store?  Seen any cute shoes lately?  What are you wearing this spring?


March Photo a Day: Week 1

I jumped on the photo a day bandwagon.  I had every intention of doing Rebecca's last month, but I totally failed.  Not one picture.  (Sorry, Rebecca!)

Despite my stress, I am doing much better this month.  This is the challenge I am doing for March, discovered through Instagram:

My pictures so far...

Signs of life #marchphotoaday #up
Up.  (Loving the signs of spring popping up around us.)

Weekday breakfast #marchphotoaday #fruit
Fruit.  (My usual weekday breakfast)

Neighborhood #marchphotoaday

Bedside, always a pile of discarded socks and pj pants #marchphotoaday
Bedside.  (I had to include part of the pile of discarded socks and pants that lives on my side of the bed.)

Bath time smiles, part 1
Smile, part 1 (Addison)--I cheated and used two for this day!

Bath time smiles, part 2 #marchphotoaday
Smile, part 2 (Mackenzie)

5 pm; picking up chips & queso for Mexican night #marchphotoaday
5pm (Picking up chips and queso, for our semi-weekly Mexican night at home)

Something I wore: my favorite dress (and the towel dispenser in work bathroom) #marchphotoaday
Something I wore (A current favorite dress...and yes, it was taken in the bathroom at work.  Classy!)



Back in college, I used to get in these moods where I felt totally and completely overwhelmed by all my schoolwork, commitments, jobs, and other obligations.  It happened most often around the time of finals or when I had a big project due, or when I was working on a major event for sorority.  I would long to curl up with a book I wanted to read, as opposed to whichever one I was supposed to reading, and to just do nothing for awhile.

In graduate school in particular, I distinctly remember thinking I could not wait until I finished my degree so I could just work.  I anticipated the days when I would do my job, then go home and do whatever I wanted to do, without worrying about research, classes, or exams.

For the most part, I really did enjoy all the free time I had after finishing school.  Jeremy and I were already married when I completed my master's degree, and I had recently moved into my current job, which was a lot slower-paced and with much more normal hours than my previous one had been.  It felt so good to just be able to relax and enjoy the evenings and weekends, without anything hanging over my head.  (And I remember SO many weekends early on in our marriage when we both slept until nearly lunchtime, then might take a long afternoon nap, accomplishing absolutely nothing for the day.  The beauty of being a young adult with few responsibilities, right?)

I have done well keeping my promise to myself to remember how stressed I get when I am over-committed, and I have kept a pretty low-key schedule for the most part.  Sure, there have been times when I got a little too busy with one thing or another, or we had weeks when it felt like every moment was packed full.  Once, just a few weeks after the girls were born, I was convinced I was going to have to give up teaching because I just couldn't handle it on top of managing newborns.  (See--that "do nothing but work" phase did not entirely last...within a year or so of beginning my current job, I also started teaching part time at a local community college.)  Naturally, I settled into the routine better after a few weeks, managed to finish the semester, and am still teaching today. 

In the last month or so, I have realized that I have been letting my commitments and obligations stack up again.  Addison & Mackenzie (and Jeremy!) are the first priority, as always, but I am also juggling my regular job, two online college courses (which I do still enjoy and plan to keep), serving on a local board, teaching Sunday School and working with youth at church, among other projects and everyday things.  I let a project fall through the cracks this month, and for the first time in a long time, I feel like I really failed at something I said I would do.  It's not a good feeling at all.

Still, at least I am aware enough to realize why it happened and to put a stop to the underlying issue right now.  I am still the same type of person I have always been:  when my day is done, I want to retreat with a book or tv (or a sewing or craft project), and let everything else go.  I don't want to spend the hours between the girls' bedtime and my own working on something I don't even really want to be doing.  Some commitments bring me joy, for the most part--teaching my online classes, working with youth, blogging and reviewing books--but my plate is full with all those things.  For now, I need to face the fact that I can't add anything else, and focus on those activities I truly enjoy.

After all, I am an adult now; I get to pick and choose what I want to do with my time.  I have learned that I function best somewhere between a jam-packed schedule and a wide-open life of leisure, and I just have to move it back into balance at times.  I am getting back to being a little more picky about what I choose to do, and learning to say no a little more often. 

Do you ever feel over-obligated?  Have you learned your limits and when to say 'no'?  Do you like to be busy or have lots of free time, or somewhere in between like me?


State of Affairs, February Edition

Trips taken:  None, sadly.
We are beginning to dream of the beach, and vaguely discussing some type of spring getaway. Maybe to Gatlinburg, TN? The girls have never been. Spring puts me in the mood for adventure, so there is no telling where we might end up in the coming months.

Jeremy and I did have a date night the weekend after Valentines Day.  Dinner and a movie is always a treat!

Books I read:  3.5
Laugh with the Moon--I finished this one from January, and I really enjoyed it.  It is written for younger teens, I think, and I will recommend it to some of the kids in my youth group who like to read.

Good in a Crisis--This was a memoir, by Margaret Overton, mostly about the years following her intense, mid-life divorce.  I have a love-hate relationship with a lot of memoirs, and this one was solidly in the middle...I neither loved it nor hated it.

Exclusively Yours--A quick, fluffy romance.  It feels very much like a classic Harlequin, which I do still enjoy every couple of months.  It's nice to have a break between more intense, in-depth books that take my full attention and concentration.

The Flight of Gemma Hardy--Full review here, but easily my favorite book of the month.  Actually, my favorite of the year so far, if you don't count Harry Potter, which was a reread.  I recommend this book if you're looking for a story to get lost in.

Mumford & Sons is still in heavy rotation.  Adele has made a reappearance, and Addison is back to requesting "Rollin' in the Deep" on a regular basis.  On recommendation from my sister, I added The Civil Wars to my Pandora rotation, and I really like their music as well.

Addison & Mackenzie are into the Fresh Beat Band, thanks to a 'Wizard of Song' special we watch at least three times a week.  They have watched a few other Fresh Beat Band songs on YouTube, but the tv special is the clear favorite. 

February also goes down as the month when the girls discovered Johnny Cash.  I am not sure how long this phase will last, but right now, they are loving his music.  They listen to it in the truck with their daddy, and I love to watch them sharing those moments.  I remember listening to The Everly Brothers and Marty Robbins with my dad on the way to school in the mornings, and I still stop to listen whenever I hear any of those old songs come on.

Crafts and Projects
I made a skirt, painted a desk, and painted a frame to make a dry-erase board (picture soon!).  I also made various fabric bookmarks while playing around with my sewing machine, which I think I might give to my kids at church for Easter.  It was a good month for crafting in our house, and there are lots of ideas on tap for next month, mostly related to the birthday party coming up the last weekend of March!

The girls had a lot of fun making Valentines, both at home and at school.  They are really into "gluing hearts", and are constantly requesting I cut out more hearts.  I am happy to oblige that fairly simple request...I can cut out a mean paper heart.

Saturday morning at the library

Random/Notable Memories
Hmmm....apparently we had a pretty quiet month!   One thing I can think of is that we had a couple of afternoons when, for whatever reason, the girls did not get a nap or had only a very short nap.  Compared to the fiasco an afternoon without a nap would have been a few months ago, these afternoons were not so bad.  I am in NO way ready to give up our standard two-hour afternoon nap, especially on the weekends, but it is nice to know that we are to a point where we can make plans knowing that a skipped nap is not the end of the world.

We have continued to have warm weather this month, along with rain and storms on a weekly basis.  As much as I enjoy a few weeks of winter, it has been very nice letting the girls play outside a bit more than is usual for February.  Last night, they even got to run through the rain for a few minutes--which was probably the highlight of their week! 

A & M are getting very excited about their upcoming birthday.  They have begun to answer "three" or "almost three" when someone asks their age, and we have to remind them they are still two for a few more weeks.  We have also been talking about the big change that is coming up for A & M... they know that on their third birthday, we will be done with pacifiers.  It might be a rough couple of weeks for all of us, but it is way past time.

Finally, I would call this the month of the library--we are on a solid two-week rotation for Saturday morning visits--and the month I realize I have to learn to say no sometimes.  I am feeling very over-committed and overwhelmed with outside obligations, and it is stressing me out a little.  The most stressful things will be over in a few weeks, and I am counting down the days.  I am determined this will be a lesson learned, though.  I like my free time, and if I have to turn down a few things in order to preserve it, then so be it.

Silly face

How was your February?