Watch-It-Wednesday: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1

The year-long wait came to an end last week with the premiere of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1. I finally got to see it last night and I thought it was really good, despite what the critics say. I was curious how they were going to split the last book into two movies, but they did it, and even though it wasn’t my favorite out of the three movies, I still really enjoyed it.

Following her rescue from the devastating Quarter Quell, Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) awakes in the complex beneath the supposedly destroyed District 13. Her home, District 12, has been reduced to rubble, and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) is now the brainwashed captive of President Snow. She meets President Coin who convinces her to be the symbol of rebellion, while trying to save Peeta from the Capitol.

This movie was very different from the first two because it didn’t take place in the hunger games. It’s dark, emotional, and builds-up to what should be an incredible ending next year. Although I don’t think they should have split the last book into two movies, it ended just the right way and left you anxious to see the last movie. Jennifer Lawrence plays the character of Katniss perfectly once again, and the entire cast around her did their very best as well.

If you haven’t seen the movie, check out the trailer here!

What were your thoughts on the movie? Share with us in a comment below!

Happy Holidays Everyone!

Jessica M.

Must Read Tips for Black Friday Shoppers

Black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year, is just 3 days away and once again retailers are offering holiday deals in an attempt to get more shoppers into their stores. Several of the biggest retailers are opening earlier than last year in hopes to one-up their competition. Stay ahead of the game by checking out some of these helpful Black Friday Shopping Tips!

1. Check Newspaper Ads
Make sure to check your local Thanksgiving Day newspaper because it will be full of ads and coupons. You can also get a head start by searching the official 2014 Black Friday shopping websites for ads and deals from your favorite stores! It will  help you organize your day to maximize savings, since many stores offer special discounts (early bird sales and doorstoppers) that are time specific.

2. Black Friday Apps
There are now tons of phone apps designed to make shopping for the best deals on Black Friday easier. There are apps that will help you find the best place to park at the mall, help you find the best route to stores, alert you when the stores that you need to go to have coupons and special deals, and help you compare prices while you shop. Click here for some of the best Black Friday apps!

3. Do Your Research
If you are hoping to scoop up a deal on a big-ticket item during Black Friday sales, go ahead and get your research out of the way ASAP. A bad product is a bad deal no matter how cheap it is and being knowledgeable about the products you want to buy will help you avoid being sucker-punched with loud advertising for poor products.

4. Compare Prices
Utilize price-comparison Internet shopping sites such as PriceGrabber.com to assist you in comparing product prices. Compare the “options” included with the product. Some retailers will low-ball the advertised price on a stripped down product, and then you will be charged extra for the necessary parts that will make the product perform as expected.

5. Have a Plan….and a Budget!
Don’t go Black Friday shopping unless you have a list of the items you need, the places you want to go, and how much you want to spend. Before you decide to wait hours in the freezing cold weather, sit down and create a shopping budget! If you dive into Black Friday without any price limits, then the point of super low sale prices doesn’t really matter all that much, does it? Plus, having a list of the items you already need will cut back on time and help you avoid purchasing those unnecessary items that are only hurting your wallet.

6. Wait Until Cyber Monday
As much fun as it is to see all the crazy people on Black Friday, I have slowly pushed away from the chaos. If you hate the crowds wait until Cyber Monday to do your shopping. Here are 5 reasons why Cyber Monday is better than Black Friday:

  1. It’s easier and faster.
  2. If you are going to be busy or are traveling on Thanksgiving/ Black Friday and missing the in-store sales, Cyber Monday gives you another opportunity to take advantage of the deals.
  3. You can easily compare prices online.
  4. You can shop in your pj’s or from work! Best of all you have a virtual cart to carry all of your items!
  5. Great deals, especially on clothing, and there is usually no shipping costs!

So what is your preference? Black Friday, Cyber Monday or do you just like to avoid all of it?

Until Next Time,

Jessica M.

Thanksgiving Dinner on a Budget

Thanksgiving is all about abundance, and I like to keep it that way—without breaking the bank that is. So I’ve carefully come up with recipes and tips for preparing a Thanksgiving dinner. The entire meal will please your appetite and will keep your wallet happy too. Now that’s something to be thankful for!

  1. Turkey: Turkey is usually about 40 percent of the cost of the meal. Save money by buying a store-brand frozen turkey (with a coupon) instead of a fresh turkey. Be sure to allow enough time to thaw the bird: one day in the fridge for every five pounds. Then do some research on how to prepare it and spice it up with flavor! Here is a super easy recipe for you first time turkey bakers out there!
  2. Stuffing: Although it is probably more fun to make stuffing from scratch, I think it’s easier to just buy it at the store and prepare it. My all time favorite stuffing is the Pepperidge Sage and Onion which you can buy from any grocery store. Instead of adding water though, I like to add chicken brother to give it a little more flavor.
  3. Mashed Potatoes and Gravy: If you are crunched on time, there is nothing wrong with making boxed potatoes. These are cheap and can be made in just minutes. But, if you are looking for the real deal, check out this simple yet delicious recipe! Don’t forget the gravy!
  4. Green Bean Casserole: It’s the dish everyone’s expecting on the holidays, but it’s so easy to make, you can serve it any day. What makes this green bean casserole so good?  A secret ingredient – cream of mushroom soup. Check it out here!
  5. Corn: You can buy corn on the cob, canned corn or frozen corn. Whatever you decide, it’s easy and quick to prepare! Just add a little butter, salt and pepper to give it some flavor and there you have it!
  6. Dinner Rolls: Buy them in the package or make your own. Whatever the case, these are always great to add to your Thanksgiving dinner!
  7. Deviled Eggs: These are one of my absolute favorite appetizers at Thanksgiving time. For those of you who are unsure how to make deviled eggs, click here for the recipe! I always like to add a little more mayo to mine to make them softer and sweeter.
  8. Pumpkin Pie: What’s Thanksgiving without pumpkin pie? I have yet to make my own pumpkin pie but I found a simple recipe online for you guys! Check it out here! Just don’t forget to double up on the whipped cream!
  9. Veggies: Veggies and dip are a good appetizer for everyone to snack on. Buy your favorite veggies (carrots, cucumbers, broccoli, cherry tomatoes), chop them up and spread them out on a platter for everyone to enjoy!
  10. Cheese and Crackers: This is another great option for you and your guests to snack on before and during the main meal!

 

Tips:

  1. Make It a Potluck: Don’t be embarrassed to ask for help. People are happy to pitch in and bring a dish or two, and potlucks are trendy right now. Not only will it save you time and stress, but it will save you quite a bit of money as well!
  2. Make a list and stick to it!: Without a plan for what you’re going to serve for Thanksgiving dinner, you are likely to spend more money than you would with a set menu. Make a list and stick to your list in the grocery store. You’ll save both time and money!
  3. Use Coupons!  There’s a reason millions of people use coupons – simply put, they’re free money. After you’ve made up your menu, look through your local Sunday paper and clip coupons for any of the items on your list. For those of you who don’t get the paper, you can go online to coupons.com or mycoupons.com to get coupons for your favorite Thanksgiving items!

 

Until Next Time,

Jessica M.

Giving Back This Holiday Season

Whenever the holidays roll around, I get this overwhelming urge to give back. I am a strong believer in supporting charities and giving back to my community year-round. But there’s something about these winter months that makes me want to give a little more.

Just remember that your caring acts can make a huge difference in someone’s life. Want to give back but unsure where to go? From now until December 15, 2014 if you drop off a non-perishable food or toiletry item at Community 1st Credit Union in Cedar Rapids, you will be helping out the less fortunate members of our community.

Items to donate:
Canned meats, canned vegetables, canned fruit, soup, cereal, pasta, baby foods/formula, diapers/wipes, laundry detergent, new bath towels, pillows or twin sheets, Ziploc bags, shampoo/conditioner, deodorant, and paper products.

All of these items will be donated to Waypoint Services. Waypoint provides shelter and support for women and families in crisis due to homelessness, poverty, and domestic violence. It also provides quality, affordable child care.

For more ways to help give back this holiday season, check out this article here!

I hope some of those ideas inspire you to give back this season and spread the holiday cheer far and wide.

 

How will you give back during the holidays?

 

Happy holidays!

Jessica M.

Preparing Your Car for Winter Road Conditions

Well, it’s official. The first “real” snowfall of the year is in the forecast. Depressing, I know! If you haven’t already, now is the time to prep your car for winter road conditions. We all know the chances of getting stranded on the highway or in a ditch become way higher once the snow starts falling. The problem is in the extreme cold weather we experienced last year, getting stuck in your car for an hour or so can be a dangerous situation. To better help you prepare for the winter conditions, here are some things that you should do/ keep in your car for the next couple of months:

Preparing Your Car:

  • Take your car to a mechanic and get the following things checked: antifreeze level, battery, oil, thermostat, heater, brakes and defroster.
  • Check to make sure your tires have adequate tread. If the treads are worn, replace them. Better yet, exchange them for a set of snow tires, which have treads that provide better traction and are equipped to handle extreme winter driving conditions.
  • Keep the gas tank at least half full throughout the winter. This will reduce condensation, making your vehicle easier to start on cold mornings.

Packing Your Car:

  • Blanket: In Iowa, weather can be unpredictable. Temperatures can drop quickly and you’ll need a good blanket to stay warm. Keep an extra pair of gloves and a hat in your trunk as well in case of an emergency.
  • Snow Shovel & Ice Scraper:  Keep a folding snow shovel and ice scraper in your kit in case you need to dig your car out of a ditch or snow bank.
  • Flashlight: Be sure to keep a small but bright flash light in your glove box in case you get stranded at night. You will also want to make sure you have fresh new batteries in your kit as well.
  • Cell Phone Car Charger:  Put an extra cell phone charger in your glove box! Too often do we become overconfident on the roads knowing we are only a phone call away from help…BUT what if it dies? Then what do you do?
  • Emergency Contact Numbers:  If you are relying on your cell phone to be the storage unit for all your emergency info, just think what would happen if your phone dies or if you got in a car accident and your phone is damaged. Just to be safe, write down all of your emergency contact info on a piece of paper and store them in both your glove box and your wallet.
  • Important Documents: Proof of insurance, vehicle registration and owner’s manual. Easy enough right?
  • Non Perishable Snacks: Keep plenty of bottled water and nonperishable, nutritious food items, like energy or protein bars, in your kit to keep you hydrated in case you are stranded or have to wait a long time for assistance. Check expiration dates periodically and replace these items as needed.
  • Sand or Kitty Litter: If you find yourself stuck in snowy slush, non-clumping cat litter can be a lifesaver (or at least a timesaver). Pour it in the path of your wheels to help get traction.
  • Jumper Cable
  • First Aid Kit

Always check the weather forecast before commuting or venturing out on a long drive this winter. Weather and road conditions are often very unpredictable here in Iowa. As important as it is to have your car tuned and have a winter survival kit in your trunk, it’s equally imperative to know how to protect yourself while driving in the snow and ice. Follow these tips and you will feel safer and more prepared this winter!

Stay Warm,

Jessica M.

Why You Should Get Your Holiday Shopping Done Now!

The cold weather is officially here, meaning the holidays are right around the corner! Have you started your holiday shopping yet? Don’t get stuck buying your gifts at the last minute. In fact, you could save money by doing your shopping early!

1. You will avoid breaking your bank all at once. Spending in smaller amounts over time is more manageable. Plus, it doesn’t feel like your wallet is taking such a big hit.

2. It gives you more time to find a thoughtful gift. Shopping early gives you more time to think about what the person you are buying for might really want or need. Instead of rushing around last minute, and coming out with a gift that you feel less-than-pleased with, shop early and find something that you know the person will love!

3. Less stress! Shopping early gives you less stress during the holidays, therefore, more time to actually enjoy yourself! Also, you can avoid getting caught in the holiday chaos. Avoid becoming a mad-person running around the mall in gift-hunt mode.

4. You can save money! If you shop early, that means more time to compare prices and look for sales so that you can get the best deals. If you shop last minute, chances are you will take what you can get. If you are a busy persona and have a hard time making it to the mall, wait until Cyber Monday (the Monday after Thanksgiving)! Tons of deals online and usually no shipping costs!

5. You can avoid hideous gift-wrapping. Whenever I am crunched for time during the holidays, my gift-wrapping comes last on my list of priorities. I’m not going to lie, there have been times I used newspaper as my gift wrap because I was running late and didn’t have time to stop at the store to pick some up. It’s the thought that counts right? ;)

Until Next Time,

Jessica M.

Spooky Halloween Recipes

Halloween is now just a week away! Are you prepared for the best holiday of the year? If you are looking to throw a Halloween party with some creepy yet delicious appetizers, check out some of my favorite recipes below! These super simple spook-tacular Halloween recipes will be fun for you and all your party guests no matter what age you are!

1. Mummy Dogs:

2. Mummy Pizzas

3. Halloween Deviled Spider Eggs

Halloween Deviled Spider Eggs on Shockingly Delicious

4. Jalapeño Popper Mummies:

Jalapeno Popper Mummies - a little bit hot, a little bit sweet and a lot of fun. Jalapeno Popper Mummies are the perfect Halloween treat.

5. Oreo Stuffed Spider Cupcakes:Capture

Do you have any favorite Halloween recipes you’d like to share with us? If so, leave a comment below!

Until Next Time,

Jessica M.

Thrifty Thursday: DIY Halloween Costumes for Girls

Halloween is that time of year where rules do not apply. You can be anyone or anything that you chose. But, the hype of Halloween can get pretty costly. That’s why I always recommend making your own costume! It’s so much more fun than walking into the costume shop and spending between $50-$75 on a costume that you could easily make yourself for under $20! Below is a list of my top 5 favorite DIY Halloween costume ideas for 2014! Check them out!

1. Ninja Turtles

2. Minion

3. Sun Drop Girl

4. Gumball Machine

5. Mario and Luigi

Homemade Mario and Luigi Costumes

If you are looking for more creative DIY Halloween costume ideas, check out the Coolest Homemade Costumes website! There are tons of creative ideas you might be able to use this Halloween! Or get creative and think of your own idea! Whatever it is that you decide to do, have fun and be sure to send me your pictures of your costume!

Until Next Time,

Jessica M.

Watch-It-Wednesday: 10 Best Halloween Movies of All-Time

Sometimes to get in the Halloween spirit you just need a little scare or a childhood memory to remind yourself of why you love the holiday so much. What better way to do that than watching your favorite Halloween movies? Check out this list of my top 10 favorite Halloween movies. Ranging from kid friendly to the scariest movies of all time, these are all worth checking out! Enjoy!

1. Hocus Pocus (1993): Why is this on my list of the best Halloween movies of all time? Because it is by far the best and most important part of Halloween. Three witches (played by Sarah Jessica Parker, Bette Midler and Kathy Najimy) return 300 years after being hung for their spell work in 17th-century Salem, Massachusetts. To hold onto immortality, they have to take the life of a child, and the three kids who accidentally resurrected them are doing all they can to stop the witches from returning Salem to the way it was when they first lived. This over-the-top comedy has witchcraft, black cats, and lots of laughs, and it’s sure to make your Halloween a blast!

2. Halloweentown (1998): Halloweentown is a Disney Channel Halloween classic in which three siblings who aren’t allowed to celebrate Halloween run away with their Halloween-loving grandmother and discover that she’s a witch from a town called Halloweentown! Sit back, relax and have a Halloweentown marathon this year—it has three sequels!

3. Beetle Juice (1998): Adam and Barbara are a normal couple…who happen to be dead. They have given their precious time to decorate the house and make it their own, but unfortunately a family is moving in, and not quietly. Adam and Barbara try to scare them out, but ends up becoming the main attraction to the money making family. They call upon Beetlejuice to help, but Beetlejuice has more in mind than just helping!

4. Hotel Transylvania (2012): Dracula, who operates a high-end resort away from the human world, goes into overprotective mode when a boy discovers the resort and falls for the count’s teen-aged daughter

5. The Addams Family (1991): They’re creepy and they’re kooky, they’re all together ookie … so they’re perfect for Halloween! The Addams Family is another classic to watch this Halloween no matter what age you are!

6. Scream (1996) : The original Scream movie is a Halloween classic. The Ghost face killer that reappears in the subsequent movies makes its first appearance in this movie, killing teenagers living in a small town. A girl and her friends set out to find him, but doesn’t end so well for the majority of the group!

7. Halloween (1978): You might want to keep the lights on when watching Halloween—it’s seriously scary! It’s about a murderer who killed his brother and sister when he was little, so he was institutionalized. But then he escapes and that’s where the horror begins.

8. Disturbia (2007): Shia LaBeouf stars in this thriller about a teen who thinks his neighbor is a total serial killer. Watching the movie, you’ll be trying to figure out the same thing! Great plot with some crazy twists!

9. The Ring (2002): I still believe this is the scariest movie of all time. A young journalist, Rachel Keller, must investigate a mysterious videotape which apparently caused the death of four teenagers. There is an urban legend about this tape: the viewer will die seven days after watching it. If the legend is correct, Rachel will have to run against time to save her son’s and her own life.

10. Paranormal Activity (2007): This is one of those movies you are either terrified of or find extremely comical. Unfortunately for me, this movie haunts me. After moving into a suburban home, a couple becomes increasingly disturbed by a nightly demonic presence. If you haven’t seen it but are looking to do so, make sure you watch with someone else or keep a light on just to be safe ;)

What are your favorite Halloween movies? Did your favorites make the list?
Until Next Time,

Jessica M.

How-to-Tuesday: DIY Halloween Decorations on a Budget

Halloween is by far one of the best holidays of the year! It’s a perfect way to channel your inner child and I encourage you all to do so! Get creative, dress up, make spooky recipes and have fun with your friends! Whether you throw a Halloween bash, or just want to impress the neighborhood trick-or-treaters, decorating for Halloween has never been easier! Check out this list of DIY Halloween decorations that are sure to add to the holiday fun while saving you some extra cash!

  1. Floating ghosts: Blow up a balloon and drape a white sheet over it. If you place the tied end of the balloon at the top, you can insert a safety-pin through the sheet and the tied end of the balloon to suspend the ghost from the ceiling or from a tree using ribbon, string, etc. Once the sheet is on, secure the bottom with a rubber band to make the shape of the head. Use a black sharpie to draw the face.
  2. Tombstones: Use Styrofoam to shape gravestones. Color the tombstone with gray spray paint. Use a black marker or paint to write on the front of it. Hang your tombstone on a door, or to stake it in the ground, by inserting long dowel rods through the bottom of the gravestone.
    Capture
  3. Spider Webs: Hang fake spider webs and plastic spiders to spook up a hall, corner, or chandelier.
  4. Window Silhouettes: This is more of an indoor/outdoor decoration. Cut out popular Halloween shapes in black paper and stick them to your windows. When the indoor lights are on, the shapes will come to life!Window Stencils
  5. Glowing Eyes: These spooky eyes are super easy to make. Cut the eye shapes out of cardboard tubes and place a plastic glow stick inside the tube. Once they are finished, tuck a few sets of eyes in bushes around your front yard to give the trick-or-treaters a little fright.Eyes Glowing Eyes
  6. Specimen Jars: Fill old glass jars with plastic rats, toy bugs and doll heads or whatever you have lying around the house, then add a little colored water. Stick a label on the jar with the name of your specimen – shrunken heads, poisonous tarantulas, baby rats, human brain, etc.

 

What are your favorite Halloween decorations to make? Share with us in a comment below!

Until Next Time,

Jessica M.

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