Monday, October 31, 2011

Teenage Dream: Extra Dessert Delights

Did you know that teenagers love gum? Did you know that for a teenager, a pack of gum is like a secret weapon – if you pull out a pack of gum at school, not only will you have more friends than you can count, but a stick of gum can be traded for all sorts of wonderful things; paper, pencils, even entire lunches, according to my 13-year-old, who swears she doesn't know this information first hand.

(Yes, it's true that gum-chewing is against school rules, but – surprise! - ALL teenagers do it anyway. They also have friends on Facebook they've never met in person, say they don't have homework when they do, and occasionally pretend they didn't get your text.)

But yes, GUM. I can't go through the grocery checkout without both my teenagers throwing a couple of packs into my cart, and the choosing of the gum is a complex process in itself, requiring great concentration and thought. I let them take their time while I catch up with my tabloid reading, hoping they make a choice by the time the cashier starts ringing up my groceries. A few months ago they found this:

How crazy is that? A gum that tastes exactly like Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream! Apparently just crazy enough that it became my teens' favorite, and pretty popular with their friends, too. Word has it that just one stick of these bad boys was worth TWO lunches.

Then I happened to get asked to try out some new Extra Dessert Delights flavors, and my teens jumped at the chance. Personally, I'm more of an old-school spearmint fan, so I turned over the tasting to my girls. That's right, I ASKED them to chew more gum. Here are their thoughts:

Root Beer Float – Hands down my teens' favorite. Didn't hurt that they all love root beer floats - and who doesn't? A couple of the 13-year-old's friends tried it, and they too agreed it was the best - really tasted like an actual root beer float! I wonder how it would taste with french fries?

Bananas Foster – Right off the bat they all remarked that the gum had an odd smell, and I had to agree. They couldn't get past that, and didn't care much for the gum. I'm thinking it might go over better if it was tweaked to taste like a Banana Split instead. Or maybe take a cue from Elvis and make a Banana-Peanut-Butter-Sandwich gum? Maybe not.
Lemon Square - Their second favorite flavor, and I liked this one too. As I mentioned, I'm more of a spearmint fan, but this was the only one out of the three that wasn't overly sweet. I think a lemon-flavored gum is a natural fit – sort of a refreshing citrus taste to clear your palate.

The final verdict? They'll definitely be picking up a pack of Extra Dessert Delights Root Beer Float gum when it hits the shelves, although chances are they wouldn't turn down any of the flavors if it was offered to them during history class – after all, we're talking about GUM. Now if only I could get them to answer my texts during lunch.

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And guess what? Only ONE of these flavors will be produced in 2012, and you can help decide which one by voting. So do your civic duty, even if it is only for gum by clicking here and casting your vote. (Vote for Root Beer Float. This biased message was paid for by teenagers who chew a lot of gum.)

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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Halloween By The Numbers and Chocolate By The Book

As you may know by now, I hate Halloween. I don't like putting on a costume, I don't like going to Halloween parties and I'm not a huge fan of candy corn – so really, what is there left for me? But my kids (and to a certain degree my husband) are waaay into it, so every year I do my best to take part. I help with the costumes, I buy the candy, I throw up a few decorations – sure I complain incessantly while I'm doing it, but everything has a price. I even carve a really mean pumpkin if I must say so myself:

Something to go along with my chocolate
To get me in the Halloween spirit, the people at Mars offered to send me some TWIX bars, which went over VERY big in this house. TWIX happens to be my girls' favorite candy, and I'm not just saying that because they offered to send me a box. Look, I've got enough candy laying around the house so if someone offered to send me, say, a box of wax lips or a bag of Tootsie Rolls I would politely decline. Well, maybe not the wax lips since I could always melt those down and make a big candle.

A huge box of TWIX. My teenagers refer to it as "a two day supply."
And here's another reason we are digging our TWIX bars: In the controversy surrounding some chocolate manufacturers' unfair labor practices (including the use of child labor on their farms), Mars is one of the few companies who are taking steps toward using only cocoa that is produced in an ethical and sustainable way. The company is partnering with certification organizations like Fairtrade and Rainforest Alliance and has pledged to certify 100% of its cocoa as sustainably produced by 2020.

On a lighter note, they also sent along an amusing survey pertaining to Halloween candy, and it certainly rings true, especially the item about hiding candy from a loved one. How else would I ever get to enjoy those twenty mini-Snickers bars if I didn't stash them away in the video cabinet? 
  • The 30 year-old trick-or-treater: Nearly 7 out of 10 adults (69 percent) ages 18 to 24, and half of adults ages 25 to 34 said they would do it if they could. Trick-or-treating, that is. The only thing holding them back is dirty looks from the neighbors.
  • Hide and seek: More than half of all adults surveyed (52 percent) admit to hiding a treat from their loved ones to keep the treat for themselves. Most hide their treat stash in their room (41 percent) or in another “super-secret place” (41 percent).
  • Fruit-flavored non-chocolate Halloween treats get no respect: Only 3 percent of all adults surveyed listed fruit-flavored non-chocolate treats as their Halloween favorite. The winning treat combination? Chocolate with peanuts or peanut butter topped the list at 39 percent, followed by a chocolate and caramel combination as a close second (30 percent).
  • Men seek the crunch; the ladies prefer something they can chew on: When it comes to treats, women prefer chewy treats more than men do (42 percent to 33 percent), while more men than women seek out treats with a crunch (33 percent to 23 percent).
  • Taking candy from a baby: One quarter of all adults surveyed (26 percent) admit to taking candy from their child’s Halloween stash or a friend’s or co-worker’s candy dish and denying it.
  • Sweets are social: Two out of three adults (64 percent) would rather enjoy treats with others than alone.
Any of these statistics sound like you? Don't be afraid to speak up - we're all friends here, and besides I've already told you where I hide my candy.

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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Cody Simpson Is In Da House! And Probably In Your Living Room

I have to admit that when I first got the invitation to the Cody Simpson concert at the House Of Blues in Downtown Disney last month I had no idea who he was. Was he another Disney protege? A Nickelodeon star? One of my daughter's friends having an elaborate birthday party? Which is why I initially ignored it, until I asked my 13-year-old if she wanted to go and she let out one of those little gasps that's usually reserved for the premiere of a new Harry Potter movie or when I let her get the grande size at Starbucks.

My daughter describes Cody as the "Australian Justin Bieber" and I think that's pretty accurate. And judging by the fawning crowd of teenagers gathered outside, it looks like he might be on his way to honing in on some of the Biebs' action.

Waitin' on Cody
(In fact, Bieber's manager Scooter Braun was at the show and attracted a fair amount of attention on his own. Was he checking out the competition?)

Cody's music seems to be straight-ahead teen pop; catchy choruses, simple beats and slick choreography - perfect for the legions of tween and teen girls screaming and professing their love. It was hard to fathom that the object of all this attention is only 14-years-old, a fact that the older girls behind me – who appeared to be 17 or 18-years-old – didn't seem to mind. (I believe I heard my daughter refer to them as 'Cody Cougars.')

You should have heard the screaming
The show started much later than they had said on the invite, which I know was a problem for some of the other parents there who had younger kids. However, for my teen and her friend it was nothing but excitement – besides, they remarked, they often stayed up much later than that just doing homework. Plus, they were extra amped because they managed to score a couple of seats near Cody's entourage and chatted up a couple of his friends. I think I heard the words 'hot' and 'awesome' mentioned. They sure were disappointed when I had the sudden urge to sit right between them and start talking about homework.

The 'Meet and Greet' that was promised afterward turned out to be disappointing, a long wait and then a rushed photo with Cody while standing in front of a backdrop. There was also a stern warning not to take any of our own photos, which was confusing since one of the staff just previously had told us we could take a quick shot if we used our camera phones. Overall I think his staff could have been a little friendlier and a little less militant, especially in light of the fact that some of these kids had been waiting for hours for this moment.

In the end, the late start and their rushed Cody moment didn't seem to dampen the spirits of my daughter and her friend, who thought that going to a concert at Downtown Disney on a school night was pretty cool, and hey – a hug from Cody Simpson is a HUG FROM CODY SIMPSON. There'd be a lot to talk about on the 8th grade lawn the next day for sure.

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The concert was sponsored by Dove Go Fresh and the 'Don't Fret the Sweat' campaign. I received two passes to the concert and transportation was provided to and from the venue. No restrictions were placed on the content of my review nor was the posting of a review required as part of my participation in this event. All opinions are 100% mine. 

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Friday, October 21, 2011

HalloweenTime at Disneyland: Teenagers Unleashed Edition

A couple of weeks ago we were invited to Disneyland and Disney California Adventure to check out the park in all it's Halloween Time glory. I've said this before, but Disneyland is one of those places that my teenage daughters, 13 and 15, still get as excited about as when they were 3 and 5. What is it about this place that makes them squeal like a couple of toddlers in an all-you-can-eat ice cream store? And here's the true test: A trip to Disneyland still works as an effective bribe, even on a couple of jaded teens. Just one mention of, "Clean up the living room or we're not going to Disneyland" and I practically had to hold them back from shining the hardwood floors with their tongues.

But on our visit this time, my husband and I decided to try something new. With him completely wiped out from grueling couple of weeks at work and me nursing a sprained foot, we decided to let the teens loose on their own, and we would meet up with them periodically to eat and ride a few rides together.

(I realize "let the teens loose" sounds like we were releasing a couple of animals into the wild, but don't worry – we put bells on them so they wouldn't startle the old people.)

And trust me - they certainly didn't mind being on their own as evidenced by how quickly they took off once we said our goodbyes. I was barely finished with my "Don't talk to weirdos" speech before i was looking at their backs running off down Main Street. Plus they were able to get on twice as many rides as they would've if we were with them, holding them back with our slow walk and our refusal to stand in any line that isn't completely in the shade.
They couldn't get away fast enough
And then there's the food. Did you know that teenagers can last an entire day on a churro and a Coke? And who knew they actually don't like sitting down and eating a meal and listening to their parents discuss the wine list while the screams and laughter of the Matterhorn called to them in the background.

But my husband and I had to eat, and we had a relaxing, leisurely lunch at the Uva Bar in Downtown Disney while the girls hit Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Indiana Jones and Buzz Lightyear, all before I had even taken the first bite of my chicken wing. We rode my favorite ride of all time, Soarin' Over California, and then sat on the patio of La Brea Bakery sipping espresso before meeting up with the girls.
We deserve it, after waiting in line for Dumbo all those years
Although we were there to see Disneyland in all its Halloween glory – the scary Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy, the awesome Haunted Mansion Holiday (beautifully inspired by Tim Burton and still one of my girls' favorites), the Tower Of Terror (populated with phantom patrons in honor of Halloween) – my girls would still be just as mad-crazy over the place without all the extra ghoulish and spooky touches. In fact, they could be given a math quiz before every ride and that wouldn't dampen their enthusiasm. (Note to Disney: Don't try it, though.)

The rest of the day we spent together - the girls insisted I ride Ariel's Undersea Adventure with them for our first time (my husband opted out of that one)(Newsflash: Men aren't as nostalgic about The Little Mermaid as women are). We were disappointed that California Screamin' was closed for the day, though - that is traditionally a ride that my husband and daughters ride together, while I get to park myself on a bench on the Boardwalk and fantasize about getting a tattoo.

I admit it - I teared up a little hearing my teenagers singing along.
All in all, the unleashing of the teenagers was a huge success, an idea that we've enthusiastically shared with many of friends who have older kids. While we are absolutely not suggesting you let your younger kids run free in the park (can you imagine HOW many churros a 5-year-old would eat if left to their own devices) I think it's possible to have a uniquely adult experience while giving your older kids some (safe) independent time.

At the end of the night my husband and I made a last minute decision to check out the revamped Star Tours ride right before it closed, and we got a text message while we were in line, one that made us laugh  – it was from our girls, telling us to hurry because they were tired and waiting for us by the front gate.

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HalloweenTime is at Disneyland and California Adventure until October 31. (But since when did you need an excuse to go to Disneyland?)

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Monday, October 17, 2011

'Sing Your Song': HBO Documentary on Harry Belafonte Will Make Your Day-O

Recently I was invited to a screening of 'Sing Your Song,' the HBO documentary about Harry Belafonte that is airing tonight. Like me, you're probably most familiar with him because of the song 'Day-O.' You can listen to it here. Trust me, you'll be singing, "Daylight come and me wanna go home," for the rest of the day. You're welcome.

But what I didn't know about Belafonte was what a passionate activist and dedicated humanitarian he is. He's been a hands-on participant in political and social movements since the Civil Rights Movement and was a close friend and confidant of Martin Luther King Jr., as well as being one of the earliest figures to rally the support of celebrities to support causes he fought for, such as fighting apartheid in South Africa and the fight against AIDS in Africa. He also coordinated Nelson Mandela’s first visit to the United States after his release from prison.

One of the most moving moments in the evening came before the screening started and filmmaker Susanne Rostock relayed a conversation she had with Belafonte. He said to her, with tears in his eyes, "I'm so worried that I'm not going to be passing the baton." It gave such a vivid portrait of the actor and his dedication to his fight for equality and social justice not just for himself and his peers, but for generations to come.

The documentary contains moving footage of Belafonte with King and John F. Kennedy among others, and also interviews with friends including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Tony Bennett, Sidney Poitier and Quincey Jones. But the documentary also touches on the actor's shortcomings as a husband and a father, and he talks openly about his two failed marriages and he voices his regret at being an absentee father.

I loved getting this glimpse of the active and dedicated, yet modest life of Harry Belafonte and I have such admiration for his dedication to fighting for social causes that continues to this day - he recently lent his support to the Occupy Wall Street movement.

And, as my friend and I remarked to each other at the screening - we forget that Belafonte was – and is – so suave and such a stunner. Check out this video of him singing the title song from his 1957 movie 'Island In The Sun.' Take a lesson in class, all you 20-year-old hipsters on MTV:

Watch 'Sing Your Song' on HBO tonight (Monday, October 17) at 10pm.

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Monday, October 10, 2011

Real Deal! Real Steel Giveaway

Have you seen Dreamworks' Real Steel yet, the new movie starring the beautiful Hugh Jackman and an equally stunning robot? I have to admit, I'm a little partial because my husband worked on the ad campaign and had been raving about it for awhile. So I knew it was going to be good and apparently everyone else agrees – it just opened and is already number one, taking in $27.3 million this past weekend. Man, that's a lot of change in Hugh's wallet – I wonder how much the robot made? Here, check out a clip from the movie:

And in case you're waiting to see it until you have something awesome to wear, you've come to the right place. I'm giving away this fly t-shirt, along with a prize pack that includes some other Real Steel merch like stickers, a bottle opener and temporary tattoos. Just leave me a comment here by midnight on Monday, October 17 and I'll use to pick a winner. Or maybe I'll get my robot to do it.

(One comment per person, and make sure you leave me a valid email address. Sorry, only US and Canada, please.)

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