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Albanian Family Dinner {Monthly Family Dinner}

Are you looking for a fun way to spend time as a family?  Try having a monthly family dinner!  I’m not talking about a dinner that you cook and you all sit down and eat together.  I mean a dinner that the entire family cooks and eats together.   I know that sit-down family dinners are important.  However, during the week I am the one cooking dinner and most nights it’s just the kids and I eating together.  One of my goals for 2018 was to have monthly family dinners where we cook an entire meal together.

Our Albanian family dinner was a tasty and delicious meal.

Last month we had our first monthly dinner.  We decided to start with an alphabetical country-themed dinner.  For our “A” dinner we chose Albanian.  For our Albanian family dinner we made Tave Kosi, Byrek with Spinach and Baklava for dessert.  As seen from our menu, Albanian cuisine has Mediterranean influences.

Tave Kosi is the national dish of Albania.

Tave Kosi is the national dish of Albania, which seemed appropriate to make.  It consists of lamb and rice baked with a yogurt and egg mixture.  My husband and son adapted this Tave Kosi recipe.  They halved the recipe and instead of lamb shoulder used ground lamb.  They also used plain Greek yogurt instead of regular plain yogurt.  This was a tasty comfort dish.  The yogurt mixture made a sort of souffle on top of the ground lamb. The yogurt gave the dish a slight tang.

Byrek with spinach is an Albanian spinach pie.

My daughter and I made the Byrek with Spinach (Byrek me Spinaq).  This is a simple dish with few ingredients and is fairly easy to make.  Phyllo dough can be a bit tricky to work with but we managed the best we could.  This was a tasty dish and we all loved the crispy, flaky top.

A sweet and tasty dessert we made for our Albanian family dinner.

For dessert, we enjoyed baklava.  I forgot how much I love baklava.  It’s a fairly easy dessert to make, minus that phyllo dough again.  It’s very sweet, but addicting!  We cut it into small squares and the whole plan was gone within a couple of days.

Tips for planning your family dinner:

The meal doesn’t have to be fancy….. – We all enjoyed this Albanian family dinner and are excited for next month’s dinner.  You do not need to do an international-themed dinner.  Pick your family’s favorite meal and maybe add a special dessert to the menu.  The point of a family dinner isn’t to see how fancy of a meal you can make.  It’s getting everyone into the kitchen and working together to cook a meal that you will all sit-down and enjoy.

…..But make the dining part of the meal special – Eat in the dining room, if you have one.  We normally never eat in our dining room unless it’s a holiday or we have company over.  Use the special plates and glassware!  We ate on our wedding china and drank sparkling cider from our  fancy wine glasses.

Choose dishes everyone will like – There’s nothing that will ruin a dinner more than making something you know your kids will not eat.  If you have picky eaters, choose recipes that they are familiar with and enjoy.  If you have more adventurous eaters, maybe pick new recipes with ingredients that they are familiar with and like.

Plan the date of the meal in advance – A weekend obviously works best for a family dinner and planning in advance ensures that there’s no other conflicting activities.

Start cooking early – I recommend starting earlier than later.  Remember, you are cooking with kids.  What may take you a half hour to cook on your own will likely take double the amount of time when children are involved.  Plus, you don’t want to feel rushed or stressed.  We started cooking at 4 PM and were eating by 5:30 PM.

 

6 Fun Games for Family Game Night {Tween Edition}

6 fun games for a tween family game night that parents won't mind playing.
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We are a big gaming family.  Although my husband and son enjoy video games, I’m not talking the electronic kind.  I’m talking about board games.  If my daughter had her way, we’d play board games every night.  Finding a board game that is fun for EVERYONE, including the adults, can be challenging.  It has to be easy enough that the kids can win, but also have a high interest factor for the parents, so we don’t get bored to tears.  Here are some of our newest game additions and a couple of family favorites.

A fun domino game perfect for family game night!

Mexican Train – This is a domino game where the object of the game is to get rid of all of your dominoes.   Our set came in an aluminum case that stores the dominoes.  You can play a quicker game and just do a round or two.  Or, you can play 13 rounds, in which the game can last hours!  This game is recommended for ages 8+.  We first learned about this game from my parents and we often play on family vacations to their Rhode Island beach house.  This is a great multi-generation family game.  I recommend that you purchase domino holders, if your set doesn’t come with them.  They are super helpful in keeping your dominoes organized when playing.

An award-winning maze strategy game perfect for family game night.

Mine Shift – This is a maze strategy game for 2-4 players.  It is recommended for ages 8+.  The object of the game is to be the first player to move all four of your jewels from one side of the board to the opposite side. This is a Mensa Select game winner and a 2018 Toy of the Year Finalist.  Our first time playing took about 25 minutes.

A fast-paced matching game perfect for family game night.

Spot It – This is a fast-paced matching game for 2-8 players.  It is recommended for ages 8+.  Each card has only one matching symbol to another card.  You need to “spot” the matching symbols and call it out.  Believe me, it is not as easy as it sounds.  When you’re competing with others and under stress, it can be difficult to spot the match.  The instructions come with eight different game variations that can be played.  We usually play each game one time and all games can be played in about 20 minutes.

A fast-paced dice game that is fun for tweens and adults.

Sushi Dice –  This is a fast-paced dice game for 2 – 6 players.  It is recommended for ages 6+.  Two players go head-to-head, rolling their set of six dice, to try to complete one of the sushi platter cards.  When they have all the matching items they ring the bell and the next round begins.  However, you mus beware of the black skulls.  If you roll one and your opponent sees, you have to re-roll all of your dice.  If the players not actively rolling the dice spot both players with black skulls, the game ends.   The first player to win five sushi platter cards wins the game.  This is a quick game and can be played in about 15-20 minutes, depending on the number of players.

A fun pass the cards game for tweens!

Sushi Go Party! – We first played this game at a school-sponsored family game night.  My son enjoyed it so much he requested it for Christmas.  This pass-the-card game is for 2-8 players and recommended for ages 8+.   In this game, you win points by selecting different sushi combos.  However, since you pass cards, you never know what you will end up with.  There is a card-only version available.  However, the Sushi Go Party! game comes with a board and pawns for help to keep score as well as a menu board that allows you to customize games and play different variations.  The game consist of three rounds and can be played in about 30 minutes.

Wits and Wagers is a fun guessing trivia game for the whole family!

Wits & Wagers – This is a trivia game, where you don’t actually need to know answers.  You just have to be able to guess well!  It’s for 4+ players and is recommended for ages 8+.  Someone reads a question that everyone answers on their mini dry-erase board.  Then everyone bets on which answer is closest to the actual answer.

What is your favorite board game for family game night?

2

Escape the Mystery Room {Family Date Night}

 

We recently celebrated my husband’s birthday.  When asked what he wanted to do, he requested we visit Escape the Mystery Room at the Palisades Mall.  This is one of those places where they lock you in a room and you must solve a series of clues to escape before time runs out.  My children are 9 and 11 and we thought this sounded like a fun family date night.

Escape the Mystery Room has locations throughout the Eastern part of the United States and one location in Austin, Texas.  There are several different themed rooms to choose from with a variety of difficulty levels (1 through 5).  During our visit themed rooms included Black Ops, Escape from Alcatraz, Treasure Island, Superhero’s Adventure, Houdini’s Magic Cell, Sherlock’s Library, Special Agent, Zombie Apocalypse and Hollywood Premier.  The room themes change approximately every twelve weeks.

We arrived at the Palisades location around 3:3o PM.  When we arrived we went to the desk and asked for suggestions of themed-rooms appropriate for families.  The girls at the desk noted that their most popular room is Escape Alcatraz.  However, they had no more reservations for the evening.  The other two rooms they recommend for beginners are Superhero’s Adventure and Treasure Island.  They did note that only 50% of visitors are able to escape the room on their first visit. We let the kids choose and they voted for Treasure Island.  However, the next reservation available wasn’t until 7:05 PM.

Escape the Mystery Room costs $20 a person, regardless of age.  The experience for the four of us cost $80 plus tax. They accept credit cards and once we paid and reserved our spot, we were told to come back at 7 PM.  Luckily, the place is located in a large shopping mall, so we shopped and ate dinner before our reserved time.

We arrived back at Escape the Mystery Room at 7 PM.  We were given a sheet of rules and instructions to read over before our experience.  There was also a list of charges if you broke locks, keys, or other items in the room.  Phones had to be turned off and pictures are not allowed to be taken.  Although you can be grouped with others, fortunately, it was just the four of us in our room.

We were escorted to the Treasure Island room, given a super brief overview and locked in. We were allowed to call for assistance two times, if needed. We had 50 minutes to figure out the 4 digit code that would unlock the door and set us free. There was very little direction given as to what you were supposed to do and it took a good 10-15 minutes before our daughter found our first clue!  We were on our last clue when we needed to request a clue.  Honestly, we didn’t find the info given very helpful, but we were at the last clue.

This was a Level One (beginner) room and we escaped with 6 minutes to spare!  We were told we could use the extra minutes to continue on and try to figure out the Level Three puzzle.  Unfortunately, there was not enough time for us to complete it.  But we were super excited that we were able to complete Level One!

I thought that there would be a fun photo op at the end or some recognition for escaping the room, but there wasn’t.  So we had to take our own picture in the lobby as a souvenir!

I think my 9 and 11-year-old were at a perfect age to do Escape the Mystery Room.  The Level one room was challenging, even for us adults.  If your children have short attention spans, are easily frustrated, or are not interested in puzzles, then I don’t recommend this experience.  My kids enjoy these types of challenges so this was right up their alley.  As soon as we left, my daughter wanted to try another room!

The Details:

Escape the Mystery Room
Palisades Center (this was the location that we visited, but check the map for the nearest location to you!)
3681 Palisades Center Drive
West Nyack, NY 10994
(845) 358-1978

Hours:  Sunday – Thursday: 10 AM – 9:30 PM, Friday & Saturday: 10 AM – midnight
Cost:  $20/person
Parking:  Plenty of free parking

Tips:
*Reservations are highly recommended.  You can call or book online. If you want to make a reservation while at the mall, arrive several hours before your targeted time.

*If you want to make this a couples only date, I recommend gathering up some friends to make it a group date.  Otherwise you may be grouped with other people.

*If this is your first time doing an Escape the Mystery Room try a Level One room.  My husband and I found this room challenging for our first experience.