Saturday, March 31, 2012

Noshing on Milk Duds: The Hunger Games

Last week, I read 3 books:  The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mocking Jay.  I didn't know much about The Hunger Games, but when I saw that I could "borrow" it for free on my Kindle via Amazon Prime I decided to check it out.  At the time, I didn't know that it was written for teens.  I did notice that it was written quite simply.  Straight forward.  No big vocabulary words.  Kinda like this blog.

I thoroughly enjoyed the trilogy.  As I read the last book, Mocking Jay, I was surprised to find that I was enrapt by a book that was basically about war and politics.  That is so unlike me.  But, I couldn't put the books down because the author kept dangling the carrot of Peeta VS Gale.  Yup.  Like those vampire movies, the story line involves a girl with a choice between two great guys.  So, I read.  And read.  And read.  I won't spoil the outcome for you other than to say that my reaction to Katniss' default "choice" was a big, fat "Hmm."

Alan and I went to see the movie yesterday at 5:00 (to beat the crowds).  The tickets were $11 each because the movie was showing in the Xtra special XD theatre.  We shared our usual movie snack, a box of Milk Duds chased down with mediocre movie theatre Diet Coke.  As soon as the movie started, I knew that there would be a problem.  The movie is filmed in a very realistic manner.  The camera must have been balanced on the top of someone's head.  Some of the shots were so shaky, I had to close my eyes.  [think Blair Witch and Area 51]  Chase scenes?  Foe-gid aboud it.  Ever since I saw the "Chevy Show" at Six Flags in the '70's, I get motion sickness during films involving high speed chases, scenic helicopter rides through the Grand Canyon or just a plain old shaky shot of someone eating a bowl of Cheerios.  I can't even watch kids playing videogames.  I spent most of the movie looking down at my lap with my hand "shading" my eyes while taking slow, deep breaths. 

Was the movie as good as the book?  Nope.  I'm not just saying that because I didn't have to look away from my Kindle not one time to keep from feeling sea sick.  There are many important details in the book that fill out the fascinating story of how Panem developed and what the Districts were all about.  I did, however, enjoy seeing the Capital and its colorful citizenry.  The contrast to District 12 was as dramatic as going from black and white to color in the Wizard of Oz when Dorothy peers out a Munchkin Land.  Also, the tables laden with fantastical foods were a treat for the eyes.  The absolute best part of the movie was being able to see the Hunger Games "control room."  Bring on the fire!  BAM!  Bring on the tracker-jackers!  BUZZ!  That place was the dream room of parents with teens.  Oh no!  A hot, sexy 14 year old vixen has my son in her line of fire.  Make all of her teeth fall out!  Boo Yah!  Aha!  Little Sammy is skippin' Wednesday Night Youth at church, and he's heading for the House of Hidden Parents!!!!  Make the church keep popping up in front of his every move!  Kazaaaaam!  But, I digress.

You've probably already seen or heard about the cult-like following that The Hunger Games has developed.  Our theatre was void of costumed fans, but the unkempt 20-something, bearded, plaid-shirt-and-khaki-shorts clad guy with the bucket of popcorn, big box o' candy , and gallon of Coke that sat just down the row from us was definitely a "follower."  He laughed inappropriately loudly at things that wouldn't be funny to anyone who hadn't read the book and knew the "back story" of the line.  This I know because his HA-HA-HA-s were in sync with my own mild chuckles.   Every now and then he blurted out little unintelligible remarks.  I kept looking as far as I could in his direction with my peripheral vision to see if there was, indeed, a tiny person sitting on the other side of him.  Nope.  He was talking to Katniss.

I think that The Hunger Games is an important book for teens to read.  It brings up many modern day issues that merit overdue deep discussion.   Our addiction to voyeurism is at an all time high.  (I plead guilty.  Yes, I saw Teresa Giudice flip the table.)  We are already playing "hunger games" on a world-wide stage.  Seeing dozens of starving children clad in filthy, torn clothing on TV has the same effect on us that that viewing District 12 did on the lucky residents of the Capital.  "Oh my goodness.  Look at them.  Pity."  (Again, I plead guilty and feel guilty about being guilty.)  Then there's the issue of the minority having control of the vast majority of wealth.  And on.  And on.

The other day I heard that The Hunger Games merchandise was hitting the shelves.  Whut?!  One man on TV said that because of the popularity of the books and the movie, "franchising" was going to be huge.  Seriously?  Peeta posters?  Starvation simulation games? Action figures with special skills and weapons?  I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it for myself.  Your children and grandchildren can re-enact Hunger Games in their very own rooms with a Duplo-bucket-turned-on-it's-side "Cornucopia" filled with GI Joe weapons and Barbie beauty products.  Walking past their doors with an armful of folded towels, you will hear them chirping, "Quick!  Set off da bombs!"  "Kiwl huh!  Kiwl huh!"  "Oh, no!  Wun fast!  The wittle gween ahmy guys arh comin' to life an' day ah shootin' at us!!!"  

Toys-R-Us is "on it."
I'm not sure what I think about this.  What do you think?

Will I go see the upcoming Hunger Games movies?  Not in a theatre.  Unless they make a Non-Drowsy Dramamine that doesn't make me sleepy.  I'll probably wait until "Catching Fire" and "Mocking Jay" go to Netflix (in the year 2016) and watch on a small screen noshing on a movie-sized box of Milk Duds in my luxurious home on my cushy leather couch in my soft, comfy pajamas.

I leave you with this:  May the odds be ever in your favor.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Risky Behavior "PointsPlus" Calculator

Alan is out of town where he will be wined and dined mighty fine.  He loves to call me and tell me about the amazing restaurants he gets to enjoy.  I counter with how much I enjoyed my dinner of Lean Cuisine or leftover 4-day-old stew.  There came a time when I developed a little tradition.  Every time Alan went out of town, I hopped in the car at about 5:30pm and headed to one of my favorite little guilty pleasure eateries:  Chicken Express. 

Drive-thru-speaker-person:  May I help you?

from Chicken Express website
Me:  I'd like combo #5 - LIVERS ONLY!  NO GIZZARDS! - with fried okra and a large unsweetened tea.  That's all.  (I always add "that's all" to resist being tempted by fried apple pies.)

A few minutes later (it's almost scary how quickly they can fill the order),  Drive-thru-speaker-person hands me a sack filled with chicken liver and okra goodness.  The perfume of greasy fried food fills my Suburban.  My mouth begins to water.  I tell myself that this is a very special, very occasional treat knowing full well that every day I'm one emotional surge of "starvation" away from the Chicken Express drive-thru window.

So, this evening I was feeling sorry for myself because Alan mentioned last night that he would be dining a Smith and Wollensky during his travels.  Staring into the freezer deciding which Lean Cuisine looked the most delicious, I thought about his juicy filet with a side of Smith and Woll hash browns or truffled macaroni and cheese.  Then, I began to feel sorry for myself.  Then, that old familiar hankering for fried chicken livers flared up in my brain like the grand finale of a 4th of July fireworks extravaganza.

"I've lost 14 pounds on Weight Watchers!  I deserve a treat!"

"But, I had 'treats' I had in San Antonio a couple of weeks ago and in Houston a week ago."

"That was different.  It was a birthday celebration weekend for Alan's dad.  EVERYONE had treats."

"Weight Watchers says that I can eat whatever I want if I count up the points and stay within my point range (26 per day).  I wonder how many points a liver combo would set me back?!"

"I'll go online and find the nutritional info for Chicken Express, then I can figure out the points!  Maybe I could eat 1/2 an order!!"

Search online.  Search online.  Calculate.  Calculate.  My rough math came up with 25 points for 3 oz of fried chicken livers (I don't know how much a single fried chicken liver weighs.), 1 cup of fried okra and 1/4 cup of cream gravy.  I feel totally peaceful about forgoing the warm bisquit that comes with the combo.  

But seriously, can I use those points in such a wildly delicious manner?  Yes.  WW gives me a bunch of "extra" weekly points.  

Given the choice, this is what I figured out.  Chicken livers don't taste as good as skinny feels. 

Then, I had a funny thought about something I need to invent - a point-calculator iphone app for teens who are considering risky behaviors.  

The Risky Date Combo:
Date with risky person (be it male or female...)  - 100 points
Going alone with date to a secluded place - 200 points
Consuming drugs or alcohol - 500 points
Total:  800 points for one evening

Daily allowance for points which leads to living with no regrets - 75

In the game of life points count.  I'm all about skinny and no regrets.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Oh, No He Did-ant

Last Friday night, we had a little family celebration for my birthday.  "The Olds," as Alan calls them (Meems, Leonard, and Alan's mom) were in attendance along with a fun friend from my Baylor XO days and her daughter who is a freshman at Tech.

I told them about the great visit I had had with family in Maryland earlier that week.  Then, I told them about my flight back home.  Apparently, I caught a stomach bug from my aunt.  I was determined to get on my Wednesday afternoon flight back to Lubbock via Austin.  However, I had that old familiar feeling...

Long story short.  I ended up having to race to the tiny airplane bathroom not once, but twice, during the first leg of the trip.  Now I can truthfully say that I have lived one of my "worst nightmares."  Vomitting on an airplane.  While I was retching into the little white airplane "sick bag" in the bathroom, I actually wondered if the activity qualified me for the "mile-high club" whose membership requirement is equally as revolting.

In the retelling, the story was actually humorous.  I was sitting in the middle of the plane but chose to go to the rear bathroom so that I wouldn't have to make eye contact with anyone on my way back to my seat.  When I get sick, my face gets all blotchy and my eyes look like I've been crying.  OK.  I usually have been crying because I HATE to puke.  Then, there was the lady sitting next to me who turned her back to me for most of the flight.  Her shoulders were literally perpendicular to her seat.  I guess my burping, swigging on a Sprite, and declining the tiny bag of peanuts made her suspicious.

As you well know, one good humorous vomit story leads to another.  Lori told about the time when her son, Max, (then a little boy) threw up for the first time.  She was in bed asleep when she heard his little voice calling, "Mom!  Mo-om!"  "Coming!" she said shuffling out of her cozy bed.  "What is it, Max?  What's wrong?" she queried.  Max had never thrown up before, so he didn't quite no how to respond other than to say, "I accidentally spilled on my bed!" 

I countered that tale with one about Jonathan.  Other than baby spit-ups, he didn't really have a good puke until he was almost 3.  I remember the time vividly because we were on vacation in Utah.  We left Moab early that morning stopping by a grocery store for quick breakfast supplies that we could manage in the car.  The boys had little packs of powdered sugar donuts and chocolate milk.  They were happy as clams buckled up in their car seats in the back seat of our minivan as we ventured down a 2 lane highway across a desertous area in the middle of nowhere.  All of a sudden, we heard that unmistakeable sound of vomitting coming from the 3rd seat.  Then, Jonathan's deep toddler voice bellowed, "Mom!  What that come out of my mouth is?!"  He is now 24 years old.  I think that he has only thrown up about 3 times in his whole life.  If only I could be so lucky.

Ha!  Ha!  Ha!  We laughed and laughed.  All the while, Mom's friend, Leonard sat quietly taking it all in with not even the slightest reaction to any of our tales.  Finally, I turned to him and asked, "Well, Leonard, you're pretty quiet!  Do you have any good vomit stories that you'd like to share."  

Pause.  "No, I can't remember the last time I threw up," he replied in a deadpan manner.
Pause.  "I did have diarrhea not too long ago."

Touche, Leonard!  You got the biggest laugh of my 55th Birthday Dinner!  Thanks for the memories!

Try one of these!  I'm sure you'll be just fine.


Meems had a very special visitor this weekend.  Our friend, Laura Ard, flew down from DC to spend time with her.  Laura lived next door t...