Friday, October 31, 2008

Never Underestimate The Appeal of Cute Little Critters

My youngest daughter is 10, and sadly moving away from all things 'little girl-ish.' The Polly Pockets have been pushed aside to make room for her manga collection, the Pokémon posters have been replaced by ones of the Beatles, and her collection of candy dispensers she used to carry in her purse? Replaced by tubes of lip gloss. Shudder.

So when I received a copy of Littlest Pet Shop for the Wii, I wasn't sure how interested she would be. Would she put down her iPod long enough to play with a bunch of cute, virtual wide-eyed animals? Come to find out, the toy form of the small, plastic animals are still very coveted among her and her tween posse. In fact, she opened her backpack to reveal, somewhat sheepishly, a small collection of them stored in there that her and her friends break out on the playground after school. I didn't want to tell her how relieved I was that she didn't pull out a pack of cigarettes and a Danielle Steel novel.

The game, which features pets from the Littlest Pet Shop line of toys, allows the player to interact with their own pet and earn 'Kibble' as they play various games. They can then use their Kibble to purchase items such as collars and hats and also to earn new pets. This was a stroke of genius on the part of the game designers: Combine cute little creatures and shopping - what girl could resist? The only thing that could have made it any more appealing would have been to wrap the entire game in chocolate and bubble gum and make it redeemable for a day off of school.

Another feature my daughter loved was the way the 'new' pets arrived: riding into town on a spiffy little train. This is in sharp contrast to how our real cat arrived- hissing and being jostled around in a tattered cat carrier in the back of our van while I cursed and drove like a crazy person home from the animal shelter. You can see why I may never have a video game for kids based on my life.

But one of the things my daughter and her friends liked the most about this Littlest Pet Shop (and other similar games, such as Nintendogs) is that the play is all of a non-competitive nature. It's not really about winning so much as it is about taking care of your pet and helping them explore their environments. (The game features four unique 'worlds': Pet Plaza, Winter, Jungle and Garden.) I wish that could be a lesson for other game designers: not all games that appeal to kids has to feature the annihilation of other human beings. Granted, the average teenage boy isn't going to want to help his animated polar bear buy a new hat, but maybe something in-between? How about a kinder, gentler version of Grand Theft Auto, where the guy just nicely asks to borrow the car?

I can see my daughter and her friends getting a lot of mileage out of this game, especially in their quest to acquire more pets for their menagerie. And this works out great for me, too, since she's been asking for a dog, and another cat, and a hamster for some time now. I'm happy to let her have all the imaginary pets she'd like - as long as there's no pixelated litter box I'll have to clean.

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tags: | nintendo wii games reviews | |

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Thursday, October 30, 2008

If You Happen to be Craving a Play About Two Neon Debutantes in a Post-Apocalyptic Society

post-fact-productions-rachel-kolar-lauren-brownIn the mood for some experimental theater? Looking to escape one more newsmagazine analysis of who was booted off "Dancing With The Stars"? Then Post Fact Productions' "NEW" starring Rachel Kolar and Lauren Brown may be right up your alley.

Here is a description (from their website) of the production, currently playing at the Son of Semele Ensemble in Silverlake;

"In a post-apocalyptic setting, two young and flamboyant socialites, Rachel Kolar & Lauren Brown, are depressed by the bleak state of the aftermath of war. No longer is there room for extravagance, no longer are there parties and delusions of grandeur. In attempts to glorify the need for excessive materialism they devise a movement of neon colors, empty consumerism, absurd rules of engagement and foppish costumes. When their movement takes a turn too dark for the pretty pair of dipsomaniacal flamingos, chaos ensues. What is left for our sad debutantes? The only thing left after destruction, to build a bomb to blow up the world. Lost amongst the ruins they stumble upon a final opportunity for redemption and must each decide to live for love or money."

And further proving you're not in Kansas anymore, here is a bio of Post Fact Productions:

"Post Fact Productions is a community for the avant hard. The pulsing opus of art by the hands of the experimental, the socially aware and the unafraid virtuosos. Founded by Rachel Kolar & Lauren Brown in 2008, Post Fact Productions creates original theater, film, documentaries, dance, music, etc."

"NEW" Performances at 8pm, Tuesday-Thursday, October 28th-November 13th
The Son Of Semele Theater
3301 Beverly Blvd.
Silverlake, CA 90004
(213) 351-3507

For more information and to reserve tickets visit

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Monday, October 27, 2008

We Made Ice Cream in Our Living Room.

Earlier this year I purchased an ice cream maker, our first ever. While my two girls were excited, I could tell they were a little disappointed at how little they were involved in the actual making of the ice cream. Sure they mixed up all the ingredients, but then it was poured into the frozen bowl of the ice cream maker and they were left to wander aimlessly through the house, counting down the minutes to when they could dig into their frozen treat.

So when we received the Light-Up Ice Cream Maker Ball recently I thought it was the perfect opportunity for some good old-fashioned ice cream making. Well, as old-fashioned as you could get, seeing as the ball resembled a toy out of a futuristic space movie. The concept is simple: Fill up one end of the ball with ice, rock salt and the special light-up 'ice cubes' included, fill up the other end with your ice cream ingredients, toss and roll the ball around for awhile and voila - homemade ice cream! My kids had fun using it, although my 12-year-old likes our electric ice cream maker better for the simple fact that she can make ice cream and still talk to her friends on the computer while doing it. Kids these days.

Here are some pros and cons we found:


• The ball requires no electricity, which means it's perfect for picnics, camping and especially appropriate for young kids.
• According to my 10-year-old, the Light-Up Ice Cream Maker Ball made "the best ice cream ever," even better than our electric machine could churn out.
• Tossing and rolling the ball provides a fun activity to do while you're waiting for the ice cream to freeze. Cuts down the whining that parents are subjected to, which is a big plus.
• It's a great, interactive activity for a large group of people. I can't imagine ten people huddled around an electric ice cream maker, but the Light-Up Ice Cream Maker Ball would be great at a party.


• Because the ball is made of hard plastic, any rolling or tossing needs to be done over carpet or grass. I was afraid of scratching my hardwood floors, or the ball cracking if it hit the floor, so our activity involved more shaking the ball and passing it around.
• The ball tended to leak after a few minutes, so make sure and check both covers periodically.
• After twenty minutes, the consistency of the ice cream was still pretty runny, despite following the instructions to re-fill the receptacle with ice and rock salt and stir up the ingredients. But my kids didn't care, digging out the frozen parts by the scoopful and devouring it.

Bottom line is, the Light-Up Ice Cream Maker Ball would make a great, unusual gift for anyone with young children (or those not already jaded by the presence of an electric ice cream maker.) You can buy yours online here, and check out their extensive selection of ice cream products and supplies here.

See the Light-Up Ice Cream Maker Ball in action:

Important to note: Although the people in this video are seen kicking the ball, the box clearly states, "DO NOT KICK OR THROW! This could result in damage to the Play and Freeze Ice Cream Maker Ball and is not covered under warranty." So play at your own risk.

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tags: | play and freeze ice cream maker | |

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Friday, October 24, 2008

Got Flu?

Last year was the first year my entire family got flu shots. But with four of us, the scheduling seemed more complicated than trying to plan the Geneva Convention. We had all planned to go in at once, but with a couple of us getting sick, conflicting work schedules, holidays and school events we ended up going in around three different times, spaced weeks apart. I think by the time we all had our shots five different strains of flu had come and gone and it was time to get vaccinated all over again.

So how's this for convenient? CVS/pharmacy, in connection with MinuteClinic, is offering flu shots everyday inside select CVS/pharmacy stores. Flu shots are only $30, and you don't even need an appointment. I saw staff from the MinuteClinic giving shots at The Women's Conference, and they were quick, clean and efficient. And apparently painless, since none of the mom bloggers cried, from what I saw.

Click here to find a location near you, or call 1-888-FLU-SHOT.

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tags: | cvs pharmacy flu shot | |

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Friday, October 17, 2008

Halloween, Without The Cavities

If you haven't already, head on over to Disney's California Adventure for Mickey's Trick-or-Treat Party. It's a great bargain for $29 ($37 on Halloween night), and takes place on several evenings through October 31st. The kids get to trick-or-treat throughout the park for healthy treats between spins on Mulholland Madness and the new Toy Story Mania (which was fun for all of us.) It isn't nearly as crowded as on a regular night (we just walked on to most of of the rides) and there's great light shows and character appearances throughout the park. The parade, though short, is fun to watch (I dare you to get the theme song out of your head when it's over) and with the small crowds it wasn't hard to get a front row seat.

One of the things I like about this event is Disneyland's strict costume policy, which states that "Costumes should be child-friendly and may not be obstructive, offensive or violent." My younger daughter still gets freaked out at the sight of masks with exploding brains and realistic-looking limbs hanging off of bloodied torsos, so it's nice not to have to walk around with her head buried in my arm like I had to do at an event last year.

Besides trick-or-treating, this is one of the few Halloween activities we do with our kids, and the only one that's fun for my husband and I as well - he gets to ride California Screamin' (which I won't go near) and I get to ride the best ride on the planet.

Thanks to Michele Himmelberg in Disney PR and Maria Bailey for making this night possible!

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tags: | disneyland | |

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Let Me Scare You By Mentioning Christmas

I'm not one of those crazies that starts shopping for Christmas gifts in October (my apologies to all you crazies who shop for Christmas gifts in October.)

I am, in fact, one of those crazies that starts shopping for Christmas gifts on December 21st.

But I'm determined to cross at least one thing off of my list early this year: my holiday cards. I'm getting a little tired of waiting until the last minute and then finally getting them in the mail on December 26th. Because then I usually have to make up an elaborate story to explain why my cards are late, about how our local post office got robbed and the only thing they stole were my cards and then the Postal Police discovered them in the trunk of an abandoned Geo.

I've decided to do small booklets like the ones I made of the girls' trip to AnimeExpo, only this time they'll be made up of family photos and some drawings. If you haven't tried out the HP Photo Creations kiosk at Longs Drugs, you should check it out; it's the first in-store photo processing thingie that I've tried and I'm totally hooked. Plus, you can shop for sodas and tampons while you wait for your order to be processed.

If you want to try it out, I've got a downloadable coupon here for a buy-one-get-one free calendar, courtesy of Maria Bailey at BlueSuitMom. It would make a great gift. And it's already October, so all you crazies can start your holiday shopping now.

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