Cirque du Soleil, Avatar-style, is coming to Birmingham!

One of the very few movies we actually own that doesn't have "Disney" plastered on the cover, Avatar is one of my all-time favorite films. The setting is surprising and visually rich, and the plot is heavily mixed with the full range of man vs. man, self, and nature conflicts. There is a unique blend of science fiction with that all-too-familiar historical scenario of a native group's homeland being targeted by invaders...and oh, there's also some romance, too. Avatar is an underestimated and intricate movie that I count as a favorite, and I will go to my grave believing that Stephen Lang was robbed of an MTV Movie Award for Best Villain in it. Seriously, that last fight scene?! James Cameron is a genius. 

 http://www.ticketmaster.com/TORUK-The-First-Flight-tickets/artist/2114288

http://www.ticketmaster.com/TORUK-The-First-Flight-tickets/artist/2114288

Recently while scooting through downtown Birmingham, I noticed an Avatar billboard. Those blue Na'Vi people will just jump right out at you. As it turns out, Cirque du Soleil has this whole big Avatar-themed show! Called TORUK - The First Flight, audience members are immersed in the land of Pandora in a performance based on the first flight of the toruk, which is the gigantic dragon-like creatures with whom the native Na'Vi people must bond before taking flight throughout the floating mountains.

 My brain can't even sort out how they're gonna pull this off at the BJCC, but these three things I know for sure:

1. It is going to be fabulous.
2. I am so going to be there.
3. I want you to see it, too!

I've been given 4 free tickets to give away to the opening night of Cirque du Soleil's TORUK! They're good for Friday, August 19th (show time is at 7:30pm and it is considered family-friendly).

To enter, comment below for an entry in the random drawing. Just tell me why you want these tickets and who you'll take if you win.

This is a value of over $130, folks! The giveaway will end at 5:00pm on Wednesday, August 17th, and I'll post the winner shortly thereafter. Check back next Wednesday to see if you're the winner!

And if you're just not patient enough to wait til Wednesday, go here to buy your tickets now.

Out of the box meal planning

Maybe it’s just an eight-year-old thing, but Sassafras is firmly lodged in the “what are we doing next?” phase. Even when we are literally right in the middle of breakfast, she wants to know what’s for lunch. When we are rushing around the house at night trying to get all of these wiggleworm bedtime-haters in their rooms, she’s choosing that moment to ask what we are doing the next day, and what after that and what after that. Always looking forward, never really thinking about the moment right in front of her. It wears us out, mostly because we can BARELY keep up with the moment in front of us much less think about what is for dinner tomorrow night and what cup she will drink her milk out of and what shirt she will wear for green day at school…which could be two weeks from now. And then of course there’s that whole can you just be satisfied, child? thing.

She’s a planner, I get that. I totally, 100% get that. There are things in my life that I am always planning, always organizing, always thinking toward and thinking through.

Meal planning? Is so very much not one of them.

Y’all, I try. I really do. I use the AllRecipes app, I have a delicious pinboard, we joined this community co-op produce group (just co-buying, not co-growing; all I’d have to put in is a few cherry tomatoes which are delicious but tiny and rare), and all of my friends are forever sharing good-looking recipes on the FB.

Some times of year are better than others, and start-of-school month is just beastly when it comes to meal planning. Add to that our extracurriculars and my darling precious children might get a PB&J and some yogurt for dinner…and that’s only when they ask me at 6:00 what actually IS for dinner. I’m just not very good at it.

It’s the going to the store and the behavior battles that stem from taking already tired children to an entire building that is primarily designed to steal all my money. It’s the time and the couponing I so need to do but can’t keep up with, either. It’s the lack of foresight because all of my planning juices are directed elsewhere this time of year. And it's that they always want to eat, like, AGAIN. Aren't lunches enough? What else do you want from me? 3 meals a day? Mercy.

So. Meal planning? Blurg. I was just scrolling through FB one day because I needed just a minute…just one minute somewhat to myself when, lo and behold, some digital angel of the Lord, a holy algorithm, dropped me a coupon for HelloFresh. $35 off my first meal box, they said. And the meals looked pretty good…so I figured, hey. One box? Let’s give it a go. 3 meals for $30 total that are dropped straight on my doorstep? I’m game. What do we have to lose? Maybe some PB&J’s.

About a week and a half later our first box arrived. The packaging was pretty fancy. Nice, sturdy box with lots of insulation and cold packs for our ingredients. The upper layer (with the white boxes of ingredients) was not as cold as the lower section, where the meats were, but everything looked and felt extremely fresh. Each of our meats (shrimp, steak, and chicken) had their own cold pack, which reassured me their proper storage temps had been maintained in shipping.

Today we cooked up our first box, which was the Lemony Linguine Shrimp. Sassafras helped, although there wasn’t much to it for either of us. It came with the fresh shrimp, chili pepper flakes, a shallot, two cloves of garlic, six ounces of linguine, parsley, a lemon, and a red bell pepper. We followed our little recipe card and had a delicious dinner we would never have thought to make or have all the items for on hand without this meal kit.

hellofresh recipe card
hello fresh box

Their ingredients are non-GMO, farm-fresh, organic when possible (our beef and chicken were labeled organic), and they develop relational partnerships with their suppliers to keep quality high. They also offer accommodations for vegetarians, gluten sensitivities, and allergies, so don’t think they wouldn’t have meals to fit your unique dietary needs. Contact customer service (I have, and got a pleasantly thorough and rapid response) if you have specific questions about their meal types or ingredients.

hello fresh ingredients

The recipe card booklet is good quality, and perforated so you can remove them or leave them intact. Picky about my seafood, I was impressed with the cleanliness and quality of the shrimp. They were shelled and deveined, and the vacuum-sealed package they came in kept that strong shrimpy odor to a minimum. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but the shrimp that came in my mail-order box were fresher than the ones I get when I bring some home from less than a mile off the coast, which the seafood authorities say is totally a thing.

 I zested my lemon with what I THINK is a lemon zester tool from Pampered Chef. I jacked it up, though, because The Captain and I need a special learning plan for using Pampered Chef tools. So I ended up with lemon zest chunks. Zunks. Whatever, though. Still yummy!

I zested my lemon with what I THINK is a lemon zester tool from Pampered Chef. I jacked it up, though, because The Captain and I need a special learning plan for using Pampered Chef tools. So I ended up with lemon zest chunks. Zunks. Whatever, though. Still yummy!

 This is what was left over from my prep box. Waste reduction, check!

This is what was left over from my prep box. Waste reduction, check!

HelloFresh advertises that their boxes are designed to feed 2-4. This meal easily covered the girls and me, and there was also plenty left over for The Captain (sad to miss our first meal but has his eye on the leftovers). If you added a salad or other veggie side (thank you, co-cop) to this meal, it would easily feed 6.  

I have a referral code if you want to check out HelloFresh. It’s BETTER than the deal I got from the Facebook ad. This code will give you $40 off your first box (typically around $69). Once you join, you can get your own code to refer others. Referrals resulting in orders will actually bring you a $20 credit, so you can pay it forward while also helping pay for your own weekly boxes…which is obviously what I’d like to do by sharing my referral code. $40 off for your hungry people, $20 off for mine. And the time and angst we save by not having to plan OR go to the store? Now THAT, my friends, is priceless.

 Disposable plates, bowls, and cups: an August gift to ourselves.

Disposable plates, bowls, and cups: an August gift to ourselves.

HelloFresh is Amazon meets farmer’s market. You can’t go wrong by trying it!

Now, as an ADDED bonus (and your prize for reading this whole long post), is you can register for a drawing for a FREE meal box. What's that I just said? Free box? Free food? Yes, my friends. YES, a FREE box. I can give away a free box, so to get in the pot for that drawing, all you have to do is go to hellofresh.com and see what they're about. Comment below (sorry, FB and Twitter doesn't count! Has to be on the blog. Just make sure you log in with Disqus or FB before you comment and you shouldn't have any problems) with ONE thing you like about HelloFresh, and count yourself IN. Each comment is an entry and there is no limit. I'll draw a winner and send in your name Friday morning, so get your comments in by Friday morning at 6:00am. Good luck!

Artkive Giveaway

All kiddos are rather attached to their artwork. Even if it's a simple color sheet or scribbles on a sad little bit of paper, children are always proud of their work. I mean, choosing the right shade of blue or cut pattern might be the hardest thing some kids do all day. Our Pearl Girl is by far the most attached to her art/paper scrappage. The Captain and I have to whisper and sneak and use silent signals and hide the things we can't keep at the bottom of the garbage can, and then take the garbage out when she's not looking because she has been known to inspect that trash can. 

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I think it has something to do with missing such a chunk of her early life, and trying to make up for that by holding on tightly to every single piece of paper on which she places her Crayola. And though I try to be sensitive to that as her mama, you guys, we just can't keep it all. We just can't. Especially now with our house on the market again, the Beast of Clutter is a monster we battle every single moment of every single day.

Artkive is a tool I use to keep that Beast of Clutter at bay AND protect my Pearl Girl's tender little heart. It's a free app that helps parents save, manage, and organize pictures of children's artwork and the interface is really pure genius. There are three main features that I think make Artkive distinctive among all other organizational apps out there.

1. Artkive easily organizes and sorts your images of your children's artwork, by each individual child AND by their age/grade levels. I can easily locate Sassafras's K-4 artwork even though that was 4 years ago. I do save my girls' artwork, but in the last year I also started saving copies of notes to teachers, things we signed, class pictures, other paperwork from school, etc. Because of Artkive's brilliant organizational system, you can use it for all sorts of things.

2. Artkive includes descriptor fields, that help you remember what the subject or occasion was for that piece of paper, and you can use their handy dandy selector wheel to enter a specific date or just the general year. All of THAT information is very important if/when you go to print a book of your kids' art.

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3. Artkive has a print option that enables fast design and ordering of simple books that lets your precious one "keep" their artwork, but also saves you from dying a slow death by drowing in scraps of paper. You have lots of options on this... printing a book for a calendar year, school, year, by individual child or all together, etc. The Artkive peeps have thought of it all!

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They also think pretty highly of you guys, because they're offering one of my lucky little readers a...hold on to your hat...a $50 credit toward Artkive printing!

This giveaway will end Monday night, July 13th, at midnight CT. I'll notify and announce the winner Tuesday morning. See the Rafflecopter widget below for all the ways you can enter!

Artkive is absolutely one of the single best family management apps out there.

Download it today (it's FREE)! Just think...no more ninja-rolling to the trash can or crushing your kid's spirit when they discover you had to dispose of that sad little pile of sloppy glittered pinecones.

And all the mamas and papas said "Amen." 

ASR News: Bham Bloggers, Here We Come!

The only thing that sounds more fun than writing about my people and my city is writing in community with other unique and very interesting people about this here beautiful city. I'm incredibly thrilled to share that I have been accepted to the Birmingham Bloggers society, and look forward to networking with these folks in the days to come! You'll find ASR listed on the Lifestyle members' page, and while you're perusing, be sure to check out all other Bham bloggers as well.

To celebrate, I think I'll give away a new car!!! Yeah...uh, no. Unless you're into the Matchbox kind. But. I do want to mark this momentous occasion with a sweeeeet little Magic City giveaway. Join my email list for details and to enter. I am thinking maybe Steel City Pops or some McWane Center IMAX passes or perhaps some Seeds Coffee or maybe even a little credit at Wheelhouse Salon or The Southern. Whatever I can come up with, I tell you, it's gonna be Birmingham-tabulous. WELL worth the 3 steps to signing up as my email friend

*Subscribe by Tuesday, February 24th to be entered! (And yeeessss, my sweet precious old faithfuls who have already subscribed, you're already included. Love you all! Mwah.) 

Giveaway: Bham Home & Garden Show

Giveaway time!

I have four lovely little passes to the Birmingham Home and Garden Show (Feb. 12-15), absolutely free of charge.

They have patio and organizational design ideas as well as a plethora of top quality products for your perusal.

Our favorite is always...the samples ;) and this year they are promising more than ever.

Ladies love this thing and gents do, too, so comment below and tell me what you'd most like to see at the 2015 Bham H & G Show! Perhaps you have a home improvement project you've been eager to pursue but just aren't sure where to start, or maybe you just want out of the house for a night. There are no wrong answers here.

This time The Captain shall choose a winner for us. *Giveaway ends at midnight on Thursday, February 5th and will be announced on Friday morning.

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