Our Top 3 Films for 2014

Like almost everyone, watching movies is one of my family’s most favorite past times. When we want to spend a quite night in with the kids, we just pop in the DVD of one of our favorite movies and huddle up with a bowl of popcorn. However, not a week goes by without us hitting the movie house to watch the new releases.

2014 has been a great year for the movie industry. A lot of fantastic movies came out which includes another installment to the Hobbit Trilogy. Before I sat down to write this post, I sat down with my family to discuss our most favorite films of 2014. Without further adieu, here they are in no particular order.

Maleficent

This movie is a dark fantasy film that is told from the point of view of one of Disney’s most popular villains – Maleficent. If you aren’t a Disney junkie, Maleficent is the villainess in Sleeping Beauty. The main character is played by none other than Angelina Jolie. I must say, she portrayed the role beautifully.

Anyway, it is a story of love, betrayal, and revenge. However, the main reason why we love this movie is because it shows how humans really react when they are betrayed. This movie has allowed us to teach our kids the importance of not letting greed get the best of them and to never betray the people who love just so they can get what they want. Another thing that this movie shows is that no matter how dark a person’s path has become, there is always hope that he or she will someday see the light.

Annie

Annie is one of my most favorite Broadway musicals so I got very excited when I heard that a film adaptation was going to come out. As you can expect, I dragged my family to the movie house on opening night.

I wasn’t sure if my kids were going to like the film when I brought them to the movie house. After all, the original version of it was set during the Great Depression and it was about an orphan girl. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the movie adaptation was set in the present and that they even managed to squeeze in Instagram and Twitter into the story. That was really something my kids could relate to.

I’m glad my kids loved this film as much as I loved the Broadway musical when I was younger. Like me, my daughter was singing “Tomorrow” non-stop for days after we watched the movie.

the-penguins-of-madagascar-season-2-episode-2-it-s-about-time__140520210628

Penguins of Madagascar

Now who doesn’t here wouldn’t love the highly intelligent and witty penguins of Madagascar? Madagascar is one of my kids’ most favorite cartoons of all time! I’ll admit, it’s one of my too! When we heard that a movie focused on those darn penguins was going to come out, we knew we weren’t going to let it pass.

It’s one of those movies that will have laughing the entire time you are watching it. The wit and antics of the penguins were the same as how they were in Madagascar. My kids loved it!

The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul

We recently went to a holiday to Istanbul where we had the time of our lives. The main reason why we chose Istanbul for our family holiday is because we wanted to take the kids to a place that had a lot of history and culture. Also, John wanted to study the architecture of Istanbul’s greatest masterpieces – the Ayasofya Müzesi or Hagia Sofia– because his current client wanted the design to his house to be inspired by it.

11802366956_13b1cb1b69_k

We stayed in Istanbul for two weeks. Since it was the first time in a long while that we were taking a vacation abroad as a family, we decided we would go all out. We booked a room in one of the best hotels in the city. The room we got had a fantastic view of the skyline of seven hills of the Old City.

We took the kids sightseeing during the day visiting the museums, grand palaces, and imperial mosques that Istanbul is famous for. With so many places to see, two weeks of sightseeing every day was not enough to get through everything on our list. However, it there was only one thing I wouldn’t let pass, it was the opportunity to shop in one of the best bazaars in the world – Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar.

2450333089_aa51755415_b

The Grand Bazaar is popular for being the ones of the biggest shopping centers in the world. The place can be a town in itself because of the large area it covers. Just imagine how big it really is that is able 4000 shops. Okay, I didn’t exactly count the number of shops there but that’s what our guide told us.

Shopping isn’t the only thing you can do at the Grand Bazaar. There were also a great number of restaurants that served different kinds of cuisines that can satisfy even the pickiest of taste buds. In fact, one of my most favorite meals during our vacation was at a small restaurant at the bazaar.

I visited the Grand Bazaar about five times the whole time we were there. I had the kids with the first couple of times but when I told them I was going to go shopping for the third time around, they flat out refused to go because they claimed that it was too exhausting. I really can’t blame them. The place just made it too easy to forget about the time that you don’t even realize that you’ve already spent an entire day there.

Despite my sore feet and limbs, I was always remained in very high spirits when I got back to our hotel. So did I manage to buy? All sorts of things! I got an authentic Turkish hand woven rug that now lies handsomely in front of the fireplace in our living room, glazed tile and pottery pieces, some copper and brassware to add to my collection, and also an array of clothing and bags made from beautiful leather.

Needless to say, I spent a lot more than my allotted shopping budget but I have no regrets. After all, it’s not like we’ll be going back to Istanbul any time soon. If you plan on including Istanbul in your bucket list, make sure that you allot a couple of days of shopping at the Grand Bazaar. Trust me, a single visit is not enough to get your fill of what the place has to offer.

My Latest Discovery: Pressure Cooking

Pressure-Cooker-500x264

I am ashamed to admit that I didn’t discover the joys of pressure cooking until three weeks ago. Ridiculous, right? I know that the process of pressure cooking has been around for more than a century but I’ve never really given it much thought. In fact, I was quite against the idea because to me, it was only for people who were too lazy or too impatient to cook.

You see, I was brought up a very traditional way. My mom baked in a brick oven that was fueled with firewood and my dad chopped wood for our fireplace. That’s right, we didn’t have centralized heating in our home. Instead, we had a fireplace in our living room and radiators in our rooms. Although I don’t practice simple living to that extreme, I have used traditional methods when cooking. In fact, I even had a brick firewood oven built in our backyard. To this very day, it’s still what I use in baking breads, oven roasting meats, and cooking homemade pizza in.

That said, I never really had any problem in simmering a particular dish for long hours so I didn’t see the need to invest in a pressure cooker Besides, I had some backward beliefs about pressure cookers. For one thing, I thought pressure cooking wasn’t healthy because the food would lose all of its nutrients because of high the high heat and pressure that the food was being subjected to.

Next, I thought they were a hazard because they could explode if too much pressure is contained inside. I had a friend whose pressure cooker blew up and scattered Bolognese sauce all over her kitchen. It’s a good thing she was in her living room when it happened or else she could have been seriously hurt.

Last, pressure cookers were expensive. The cheapest pressure cooker in the market is around $100. I’m no cheapskate especially when it comes to things for the kitchen. However, I just couldn’t justify the thought of spending that much on a pot.

All this changed when I was gifted with a pressure cooker set by my sister. The first thing I did I opened the gift was laugh. I asked her if I’ve ever served her rubbery meat because I couldn’t understand why she was gifting me with a pressure cooker. She told me in reply that it was about time that I stepped into the 21st century when it comes to my kitchen.

In the days that followed, I kept researching about pressure cookers and how they affect the quality of the dish being cooked. It was then that I was able to disprove my initial thoughts about pressure cooking.

First, it’s not true that essential nutrients in food. According to my research, pressure cookers are able to preserve a lot more nutrients because cooking time is a lot less. Since the food is cooked faster in a pressure cooker, less nutrients are broken down. Next, pressure cookers these days are equipped with safety features that eliminates the risk of explosion. My last point (that pressure cookers are expensive) is still true but since I was given one as a gift, my argument was kind of moot.

Since I received my pressure cooker, cooking has been a lot easier. I no longer have to wait hours for dinner to be done. This has allowed me some free time to play with my kids and enjoy quiet time. It has also improved my dishes especially in the broth department. Broths have always been a problem for me because I am rarely able to make that perfect gelatinous broth no matter how long let the pot simmer. Overall, I think a pressure cooker is something everyone should have in their kitchen.

9 Healthy Dishes to Have for Thanksgiving Dinner

Healthy Thanksgiving dishes nowadays are full of flavor to compliment everyone’s taste. You’ll find that those who are looking to live healthy won’t hesitate filling their plates with food that’s good for them. A lot of these recipes were developed from family recipes, but some have been stolen from our friend suzy, a former personal chef and current owner of http://www.culinarydreaming.com

Here are 9 healthy Thanksgiving dishes you can whip up for dinner without feeling that guilt of overeating:

1. Brined, Roasted Holiday Turkey
You can change the flavor of this roasted turkey by playing around with the liquid. Try substituting a bit of wine or apple cider for water when brining turkey meat.

2. Blueberry Cornbread Stuffing
Adding in fruits to stuffing has become a tradition for the holidays. Blueberries provide a wealth of taste and colour with herbs such as thyme and sage. Whether you’re stuffing turkey or serving the stuffing as a side, it’s an accompanying aspect that won’t be forgotten.

3. Roasted Carrots
Switch up your usual carrots for roasted ones to bring out their flavor. To craft a captivating presentation, slice the carrots in long pieces and have them arranged on a bed of parsley.

4. Roast Root Vegetables with Herbs
This recipe can be used as a guide for roasting separate vegetables like that of parsnips or potatoes including a dish of mixed root vegetables. Have them served with herbs with your turkey.

5. Gluten-Free Cranberry Pecan Stuffing
This stuffing involves a combination of French-Canadian flavors. This can be served as a side or can be tossed into a casserole with other festivity leftovers. Every bite guarantees a pecan crunch and cranberry flavors.

6. Three-Vegetable Mash
This chef-worthy dish is basically mashed potatoes tinted and flavored in several ways consisting of beets, spinach, and sweet potatoes.

7. Lower-Fat Pumpkin Pie
This Thanksgiving favorite involves using pumpkin puree instead of the usual pie filling, and fat-free condensed milk instead of heavy cream. This gives you a healthier pumpkin pie version.

8. Butternut Squash Baked Risotto
This dairy-free fish makes use of low-salt broth and olive oil to achieve a richer consistency. With just four cups of butternut squash and kale, this dish is one easy way to incorporate veggies on Thanksgiving. To make this a truly vegan food, skip the usual grated parmesan.

9. Roasted Vegetable Galette
This vegetable tart involves carrots, parsnips, butternut squash, and shallots to give of a rich and healthy flavor. With the addition of goat cheese crumbles, you get a satisfying salty finish. Try experimenting with a whole wheat crust for additional fiber goodness.
These healthy dishes can keep one full and happy during the holidays. It doesn’t hurt to add a few vegetables and this can be a good starting point for those who want to be a vegan.

What Makes Family Vacation Very Important

Being a member of the Smoot family, I am a huge fan of family vacations. Family and travel make up a perfect recipe for fun and enjoyment. Whether it is a simple camping or a day in the beach, a time spent with the family outside the confines of your home will always bring out treasures that you can carry and reflect on for the rest of your life. It does not really matter where you go or what you do, what truly matters is that you spend time with your family.

The reason why this is very important is that your family is the one you can turn to ion times of trouble and problems and you can be confident that they would stand by you no matter what.

Here are the best things that you can benefit from when you travel with your family:

Strengthen bonds as a family

It is a common knowledge that taking a break from the stress of work can bring a ton of benefits for you. The stress that we encounter every day is, most often than not, the same reasons why our relationship with our family thins out. When you travel with your family, you are giving yourself a chance to unwind and free yourselves from all the daily stress and ultimately refresh your relationship with one another.

Make memories to cherish

Spending a night out in the field with my father is one of the fondest memories I have as a young boy. When you travel with your family, go to a beach, or even spend time in Disneyland, you are actually building lasting memories; one that you can cherish for the rest of your lives. The best thing about it is that you are not the only one who can cherish it but your children as well. That is because when you gather together, you get to talk about these experiences and memories and they would have a good laugh with you on some of these memories.

Discover new things

When you plan a personal vacation, chances are you would look into your own personal interests. The result would be that you would go to places where you are most comfortable in. While this is a good thing because it is a lot safer for you, you are actually hampering yourself from discovering new things. This where travelling with family becomes a bonus, you get to discover new things and develop new interests.

I remember one time we decided to talk a walk around the neighborhood. My elder sister decided to opt out of the walk because of her baby. My brother told her about buying the best jogging stroller like the ones in toddlervirtues.com. This is new for her as the baby was her first. We looked into it and got one for her. We really had fun with just that simple walk around the neighborhood.

If you are planning on a simple family activity, you can actually try that activity. Just be sure to have a jogging stroller if so you can take the baby with you. If you have a twin, you can consider a double jogging stroller like the ones in this page. You would be amazed at how much fun it you can have even in such a simple thing.

Spending Time Together While Playing Video Games

Our family has always been close and interacted along well. We like to do activities that allow us to play together, rather than isolating ourselves from each other. This helps to builds the ties between us and keep us connected. The more time that we have to interact, the stronger we can become as a family which is what we desire. Not to mention we have a great time hanging out with each other. Sometimes during the colder months or while the weather isn’t so great, we need to find things to do indoors and have always enjoyed playing video games. We avoid any shooting games like Call of Duty that encourages violence and prefer to play more strategy and exploration based games where everyone can play together. This article is about a few of our favorite games and why we enjoy playing them so much.

The original game that we started to play together was World of Warcraft which is one of the most popular games of all time. This was one of the first games that we started playing together and is a great way for everyone to relax and have some fun. We all had our own characters and played in the same room in the house so we can interact in person and within the game. We went on many grand adventures and spent quite a few hours leveling up our characters to keep advancing in the game to move onto the later levels. At the highest level, much teamwork and coordination was required to achieve the tasks helping to build leadership and cooperative working skills in the kids. We really enjoy working together as a team and playing this great game. If you are looking for a starter video game to play with your family, this can be a great one. It is very simple and cartoon-ish making it a nice casual form of entertainment.

Another game that we play on occasion when everyone is around is League of Legends. This game requires 5 people to have a full team of your own which is the best way to play. This is fun because it is easy to pick up and play a game if you have an extra hour or two to relax before heading to sleep. We have been able to keep all of our accounts at the same level by using an elo boosting service. This game is quite a challenge though and can be frustrating so we tend not to play too often. It is also necessary to do research while playing since the game is so advanced. While playing, you need to know exactly what items to purchase and how to build your character. You can check out this Jax build guide to see exactly how complex the game is. This one is probably not the best choice if you and the family aren’t advanced gamers.

The latest rage and most fun game that we have ever played is Minecraft. It is amazing how such a simple game can be so much fun! This does explain why it is the most popular game in the world having almost 60 million purchases. We have done it all in Minecraft, from playing simple team based games to building huge castles, there are an endless amount of things that can be done. We love that every time you play the game it can be something different due to the amount of modifications through various things that can be added to the game which are known as “mods”.

The Smoot Girls’ New BMX Hobby

Our two youngest daughters, Ashley and Terri, have dabbled with indoor and outdoor cycling here and there.  Now that the older of the two has a boyfriend who lives and breathes BMX, obviously she and her sister had to give it a go.  Ashley was instantly hooked, whereas it took Terri a couple more weeks to really decide whether or not she liked it and if she felt that BMX biking was a good enough workout for her.  Two months down the road to the present day and it seems like the two of them have found a new family hobby.  They understand that a large part of BMX biking is safety, so we’ve enlisted the help of Ashley’s new pro shop boyfriend, Ryan, of Ryan’s BMX to give us some advice on the best full face bicycle helmets out on the market today.  It’s quite important that you get a full faced helmet when riding BMX, because you never know how you could land if you wipe out.  That’s why we don’t let any of our kids out the door without a helmet. It’s also wise to equip your bike with the proper safety lights. As the timeless saying goes, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Ryan has been riding BMX for about a decade now and gave us 5 helmet brands that he recommends using.

1) Parachute Helmets: Parachute Helmets, used by the master Ryan himself, actually have a speaker inside that you can use to listen to music while on your bike.  Pretty sweet! Even with that added perk, Parachute Helmets are some of the most lightweight helmets available, as they are made from a carbon matrix shell.  Ryan says his helmet, the Parachute Helmet Dissident FX, comes with an internal cooling system, which can be super helpful if you’re competing or riding in the heat.

2) Cipher FF Helmets: I was so happy that Ryan listed Cipher FF Helmets, because this is what he talked Ashley into using! I’m glad that she now owns what is considered a good helmet! To be honest, she was only drawn to it because of the cute travel bag it came with.  Anyway, this helmet comes with a protective visor that can be adjusted up or down.  We find this very useful for super dusty or muddy courses.  The inside is super padded and is the most comfortable full faced helmet we’ve tried.

3) Cortex Flow Helmets: The Cortex Flow Helmets have a patented gel padding, which helps with comfort, odor-control, and keeping riders’ heads cool.  These helmets are for daredevils and videographers, as the helmet comes with a built-in camera mount.

4) Fox Helmets: Fox Helmets (which Terri uses) are lightweight, breathable and comfortable full face helmets.  She prefers the most lightweight helmet.  She believes that feeling as though nothing is on her head helps her concentrate when she is out on the bike.

5) Volt Axis Helmets: Volt Axis Helmets were one of the first companies to put out full faced helmets.  They’ve been around almost as long as the sport and they continue to manufacture lightweight and sporty designs that are some of the safest available.

For all of you BMX lads and ladies out there, be safe and make sure you invest in a helmet that’ll protect that beautiful cranium of yours!

The Right Way to Deal with Termite Problems

There are only a few ways to ensure that your termite problem is gone immediately. You don’t have to try out other methods that don’t work.

No one wants to deal with termites at home. They are disgusting and really annoying. They multiply really quickly. Before you know it, they have already occupied your entire home. The worst part is that they easily conceal themselves behind walls. Thus, the moment you know it, they have already scattered all over. In your attempt to kill them, you look for solutions online and fix the issue right away. You hoped that the problem would go away, but it just keeps on coming back. Don’t expect it to be better in the next few days. I have committed the same mistake before.

If you really want to solve the problem, there are only two possible solutions. Don’t attempt anything on your own or based on what you have read online since they will not solve the problem or make it even worse. Take note that you are not an expert. Therefore, you cannot expect the best results as you would have hoped for.

Buy a DIY treatment package

Though you have to do it by yourself, the thing is that it is already proven. The solution really works. All you have to do is to mix the package and the job is done. You don’t have to research further. Everything is written on the package. Thus, the moment you apply it to the problem, you can expect it to be over in no time. If you are interested in the best DIY termite treatment, you can check the termite treatment cost first. Once you have applied the solution to areas in your house that have been infected by termites, you can expect it to be over soon.

Hire a termite extinguishing company

Another option which will surely end your problem is to just hire a company that will extinguish termites in an instant. They have a certain solution to the problem. They have also tried it out many times. They have also worked for various clients. Therefore, when you ask for their help to do the job, you can expect only the best results. All you have to do is to prepare your home for the actual process by covering things up and they will do the rest. When the job is done, you have to wait for a few hours or even days first before going back. The best thing here is that they can provide you with warranty for the services they offer. Thus, if the problem comes back after a few days, you can ask them to solve it again for free.

Indeed, termites are a huge problem. However, there are a lot more problems that you have to face at home. Thus, the soonest you can solve this termite issue, the better. For sure, you can find people who can help you out. You can also find a DIY treatment online or in local stores. If you face other insect related issue, you need to do the same thing. Don’t look for other ways to solve it since you might just end up failing.