Monday, December 16, 2013

Aladdin And His Winter Wish: Teen Dream plus Ben Vereen!*

Last Wednesday we attended the opening night performance and festivities for ALADDIN AND HIS WINTER WISH at the Pasadena Playhouse. I just have to start off this review with this photo, because there was a live camel in the courtyard, which you don't see everyday. Or maybe you do see this every day, in which case just skip over this fantastic image:

(Completely unrelated, Ron Jeremy walked right by me after I snapped this. There is absolutely no punchline to that – just one of those things that happens in life. While you're snapping a photo of a live camel in a courtyard.)

(Although I should add that what followed was a slightly awkward conversation with my teen girls when they asked, "Who's Ron Jeremy?")

A press release describes the play like this:
An updated version of the classic Arabian Nights tale, in the style of a traditional British family Panto, ALADDIN AND HIS WINTER WISH is a singing, swinging and soaring adventure that features family-friendly magic, with a comedic twist, dancing (with “So You Think You Can Dance” alumni), a live pony and contemporary music. A Panto is known for its interactive style and humor that appeals to everyone from ages 2 – 102! 
I took my two teens with me, mainly because they're huge musical theater fans and also because they wanted to check out Jordan Fisher (Aladdin) from Disney's popular Teen Beach Movie. Let me just say they were very impressed, both with his singing and acting abilities as well as his ability to look attractive in his sleeveless shirts and harem pants.

He definitely has great stage presence, as does his costar Ashley Argota (from Nickelodeon's True Jackson VP.) The two provide a lot for the tween/teen audience to relate to with their youthful performances and energetic renditions of pop tunes from One Direction, Bruno Mars and Carly Rae Jepsen. (As did the adults - how can you not want to dance to 'Call Me Maybe'?)

Bruce Vilanch as 'Widow Twankey' was the show's centerpiece with his huge presence and over-the-top humor. His costumes alone are worth the ticket price. My daughters immediately said his performance reminded them of Edna Turnblad in Hairspray and that's no surprise – Vilanch played the part on Broadway.

But I was most excited to see Ben Vereen in his role as the Genie (even though my girls had no idea who he was.) I haven't seen him appear in anything for awhile, and it was great to see him singing and dancing (yes he still has the moves!) on stage at the Pasadena Playhouse – it made me want to run out and rent All That Jazz to see more of him and to show my daughters his early work. (Hopefully they won't ask to see the same of Ron Jeremy.)

If you want to take your family to a unique, family friendly, all ages show this holiday, definitely check out ALADDIN AND HIS WINTER WISH at the Pasadena Playhouse. Performances run through December 29 and you can click here to purchase tickets. There are also a couple of special experiences your kids can take part in, like Golden Tickets (a special on-stage sing-a-long experience during the show) and Character Breakfasts.

*My sincere apologies for the ridiculous rhyming title.
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Thursday, August 15, 2013

Villa Metro: You're Invited To Experience Awesome

You're invited to experience awesome! The awesome of Villa Metro, that is, a new development of 315 contemporary Mediterranean-inspired homes in Valencia. I'm not sure just how awesome, as I haven't been there yet, but today I'll be getting a preview and tour of the new community and it sounds great. Awesome, even.

A few of the things that I'm looking forward to checking out are the trails, recreation center, community vegetable garden and especially the easy access to Metrolink. It sounds pretty amazing – I should probably leave my checkbook at home.

I'll be posting some pictures and a review of the development in the next few days, but in the meantime if you'd like to check it out for yourself, they are having a Grand Opening that is open to the public on Saturday and Sunday, August 17 and 18 from 10am – 4pm. On Saturday there'll be a Mediterranean street festival with live music, food and prizes, and on Sunday they'll have refreshments, giveaways and music. Head on down! Be awesome!

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Saturday, March 9, 2013

Cavalia Odysseo: From Horses to Hot Guys, Something For The Entire Family

Last week we were lucky enough to be invited to opening night of Cavalia Odysseo, taking place in that huge big-top white tent you've seen in Burbank. You've probably heard it referred to as "that horse show" but it's really much more – an uplifting, energetic, beautiful blend of theatrics, live music, acrobatics, dance – and yes, horses.

Lots of horses. Sixty-seven of them to be exact. Which is why I was a little alarmed when minutes before the show my 14-year-old says, "I hate horses," in that blasé, matter-of-fact way she usually says, "I need three dollars for donuts." We contemplated selling her ticket and leaving her with the popcorn vendor but there were people watching, so off to our seats we went.

It only took a few minutes to change her mind. It's easy to underestimate the effect live animals have on a couple of city girls, whose only animal contact is with our neurotic house cat. From the moment the horses appeared on stage, my girls were captivated. The interaction between the horses and the performers (while always gentle) is exciting and mesmerizing. It had equal parts of theatrics (the acrobats seemed to defy gravity) and an almost zen calm about it. For once my girls' eyes were filled with wonder instead of the reflection of their iPhones.

By intermission "I hate horses" had turned into "I want to work in a horse show." I'm not making this up – she would have signed up right there if they'd had any need for a 14-year-old rider who'd never ridden a horse before.

I should add here that part of the appeal for my 14 and 16-year-old daughters was their fascination with the majestic, muscular creatures performing before them. Yes, I'm talking about the numerous shirtless male riders who make up the cast of the show. While my husband and I were in awe of their riding skills and dexterity as they jumped, flipped and somersaulted off the horses racing across the stage, our girls were Tweeting things like "Hot guys on horses. #heaven." Either way, we were all extremely impressed with their talents.

In addition to the animal and acrobatic performances, the set itself is breathtaking. The 15,000 square-foot stage resembles a hilly landscape and a video backdrop (the size of three IMAX screens) changes to create various seasons and locations, from the African desert to the American Southwest. One of our favorite parts was the finale, where a lake suddenly appears – 80,000-gallons of water flood the stage in less than three minutes.

Another aspect of the show that we were so impressed with – and is often overlooked – was the live music. If you looked closely up and to the sides of the stage, you could see the musicians performing amongst the "trees" – an intriguing sight for my musical husband and kids.

My entire family whole-heartedly recommends this show for all ages. No love of horses is required, just an appreciation for a beautifully done and artistically produced spectacle that turned a 14-year-old horse hater into an enthusiastic equine admirer. Note to Cavalia producers: She'll be ready to work soon – she's already practicing some training moves on our cat.

Cavalia Odysseo is playing through March 24 
777 N. Front St., Burbank

Tuesday-Saturday at 8 p.m. Saturday at 3 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Call 1-866-999-8111 for tickets or  
order online here.

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Disclosure: I was not compensated for this post, but I did receive four press tickets for my family to see Cavalia Odysseo. All opinions expressed are my own, except those of my 14-year-old daughter since, you know, we have no control over what teenagers think.

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Thursday, January 10, 2013

It Was A Good Day: SPUD Showed Up At My Door

I'm not a fan of going to the grocery store; the crowded parking lot, the long lines, the unflattering lighting. And it's even worse during the holidays, although I have to admit I did get an adrenaline rush out of wrestling that woman over that last Christmas ham. (Sorry, mom – hope your shoulder heals.)

So I was thrilled when I was asked to check out, a company that delivers locally grown organic produce and groceries right to your door. All the great stuff that I usually seek out at the grocery store, magically appearing in my kitchen with just a click of a mouse. Too bad the lighting in my office doesn't flatter my chin any better.

Here's a little bit about, from their website:
In 1997, SPUD.COM was founded based on the idea that there was a better, more sustainable way to buy groceries. Not only was there an opportunity to directly connect communities with local farmers and food producers, ordering food online and using a just-in-time home delivery system meant a better product and convenience for customers.

When you purchase local food, you are involved in an important movement that contributes to your local economy, improves food security, reduces your environmental impact and provides more nutrient rich foods.
  • Over 50% of our products are locally sourced, which creates jobs and reduces transportation emissions.
  • Our goal is to buy from as many local farms and suppliers as possible. By buying locally, you get fresher, tastier food and help support your local community.
  • We sell a growing list of Fair Trade products guaranteeing better wages and conditions for farmers and food producers
  • 100% of our produce is either certified organic or local and sustainably produced, while over 50% of our grocery items are organic with the remainder being naturally produced with no chemicals or preservatives. We sell a variety of eco-friendly products like recycled toilet paper and phosphate-free detergents.
  • Our delivery service reduces pollution and congestion. When a van leaves our warehouse with 100 orders, it decreases the number of vehicles on the road.
I was impressed with the selection of products on – several varieties of baguette, for instance (including a dark chocolate one that I resisted in a favor of a plain one) and lots of cheeses (including our choice, a Dubliner white cheddar.) Plenty of locally-grown, organic produce – from the everyday (apples and bananas) to my favorite Japanese squash (Kabocha.) And a big selection of staples like canned beans, tomatoes, rices, pastas and grains to keep your pantry stocked. The only thing missing: the current issue of People magazine I always pick up at the check-out line.

And best of all – on most products I found the prices comparable with my local grocery store; $2.89 for that aforementioned Artisan baguette, $4.89 for the cheese. A bag of broccoli florets was $4.99, the same price of its non-organic counterpart at the grocery store. Add to all this the $4.99 I saved from not buying that People and I think I definitely came out ahead, although woefully uninformed about Kim Kardashian's recent OB visit.

(One unique feature – has some special product categories you can shop by, including Fair Trade, 100 Mile Diet,  Local and Picks For Kids.)

I placed my order right before Christmas, and it was scheduled to arrive just as we were leaving on a short vacation during the week before New Year's. This was perfect, as we were set to stay at a cabin in Yosemite, one without phone service or internet. I knew I was going to need a lot of food to keep my mind off of all my friends' Facebook posts of cute cats I was missing.

The food arrived just on schedule, in sturdy plastic crates. All the food was packaged for maximum freshness – cold foods were packed in silver insulated pouches with ice packs and frozen food with dry ice. Part of my order included frozen chicken breasts and they were frozen solid when they arrived. (Added bonus: Those silver pouches make awesome evening bags – finally I can take a sandwich to the opera!)

While shopping for groceries on will probably not eliminate my trips to my local grocery store entirely, I do intend to use it as a way to get more organic and locally grown produce into my kitchen. And I can't wait to try it out for my next big holiday get-together – although I will miss fighting over those last few Easter hams.

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Disclosure: I was not compensated for this post, but I did receive product for review from Sustainable Produce Urban Delivery, a company that sources local and fresh produce for delivery to your doorstep, as part of a campaign with All opinions are my own. 

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Friday, December 7, 2012

Toyota at the L.A. Auto Show: My Car Hunt Begins

I was invited by Toyota to check out the debut of the 2013 Toyota RAV4 at the L.A. Auto Show last week. It was eerie timing, as the previous weekend I'd just started my search for a new car to replace my (non-Toyota) mini-van. Was it coincidence or are the people over at Toyota freaky mind readers? I don't want to get too cosmic, but what did they gift me with, just as I walked up to meet them and was thinking about how I'd forgotten to bring a pen and a pad of paper? That's right:

I'll bet Toyota knows how I like my coffee, too.
Our day started off with the keynote speech by Jim Lentz, Toyota Motor Sales President and CEO. One of the things that stood out for me were his remarks about highway safety, especially when it comes to teen drivers. Because we have a 16-year-old who will soon be taking to the roads, his words sort of made me want to put off this whole driving thing until she turns 30. This was the most alarming statistic he mentioned:

"Teens are 26 times more likely to text while driving than parents think."

This really freaked me out, even though I know that when it comes to teens "text while driving" could easily be replaced with other things like "lie", "wipe their hands on the curtains," and "trade their sandwich for a bag of Cheetos." But I made a mental note to move that driving age back to 35.

Next we got to witness the unveiling of the brand new 2013 RAV4. I don't want to get too dramatic, but I have to say it was pretty exciting to be the first ones to lay eyes on this beauty as it rolled onto the stage, not unlike seeing your child being born. Okay, that's going too far – maybe just like seeing your friend's child being born.

A car is born.
I'm pretty excited about the RAV4. It seems to be a logical step away from the bulkiness and road hog-ness of my van, but still has the features that make it a great family car (RAV stands for Recreational Activity Vehicle, btw.) I'm looking forward to test driving it and seeing how the back seat rates with my super-tall teens. One other thing to check out: How many charging outlets and cup holders does it have?

How many iPhones can you charge and how many Frappuccinos can you hold?
I did feel like I was cheating on the RAV4, though, when I sauntered over and was immediately seduced by the Highlander. Its third-row seating is a huge plus for me and ideal for hauling hoards of teenagers – something I always seem to be doing these days. It definitely has a slightly more luxurious and spacious feel than the RAV4, but at the same time I'm thinking its size may make it just as difficult to park as my minivan. Someday I'll tell you about the thirty minutes and seven-hundred calories I lost while trying to maneuver the minivan out of a tight spot at Target.

Another cool thing to see while you're checking out sexy new Toyotas: a replica of the Toyota Tundra that towed the Space Shuttle Endeavour across interstate 405 during its epic journey to the California Science Center. You may never have to tow a 145-ton object across an L.A. freeway, but it's nice to know you can if it ever comes up.

I'll keep you posted on my journey to find a new car. In the meantime, you still have time to check out the L.A. Auto Show at the L.A. Convention Center - it runs through December 9.

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Friday, November 30, 2012

Pop-Up Pantry: So good no one will think you cooked it yourself

True story: When I was in my 20's, a friend and I were put in charge of dinner plans for a group of us celebrating a friend's birthday. We did what all normal twentysomethings would do: We concocted an elaborate hoax and a web of lies intended to fool those close to us.

Instead of cooking, we bought a ton of really good Chinese food and told everyone we'd made it ourselves. (Because who has time to cook when it's the 80's and you're busy trying to score Duran Duran tickets or searching for the perfect shoulder pads?) Behind closed doors, we emptied take-out cartons into skillets and woks, making sure they sizzled extra loud for added effect. We forbid anyone from entering the kitchen lest they lay eyes on us reheating wonton soup or catch a glimpse of the stack of empty containers outside the back door.

Years later when we came clean to our friends they pretended that they'd known all along that we hadn't cooked, because "That meal was way too good for you guys to pull off." We instantly regretted not having stirred the duck sauce with our feet.

But flash forward to now, and it's no longer a dirty secret to serve pre-prepared food to your guests. We're still busy, and realize it's perfectly fine to have a little help if we need to work or would rather hit the town. (Although how many times do you really need to see Duran Duran?)

Get in mah belly, you crazy mushroom crostini and bastilla.
A couple of weeks ago i was introduced to a great new company called Pop-Up Pantry that offers three-course gourmet dinners created by top chefs, delivered to your door for the price of takeout and with minimal preparation. (Although Pop-Up Pantry is a subscription service, sign-up is free and you are never obligated to purchase.)

At the company's loft in L.A. we got to sample some of their fare: Delicious dishes including Lamb Korma with Biriyani Rice, Hoisin Ginger Braised Shortrib and Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble from chefs like David Yeo (Le Cirque, Tavern On The Green), Rod Aglibot (Koi, BLT) and Beekman 1802 (Josh Kilmer-Purcell and Dr. Brent Ridge from The Fabulous Beekman Boys.) 
Pop-Up Pantry headquarters: We came, we saw, we stuffed ourselves
Pop-Up Pantry founders David Hauslaib and Tom Balamaci created the company because of their love of food and the lack of access to fine dining for foodies living outside of major metro areas. (And for people like me, who live within five minutes of some really good restaurants but don't always feel like going out to dinner.) The food is prepared, then frozen, vacuum-sealed, placed in an insulated box after preparation and delivered via UPS or FedEx – and are designed to go from package to table in 30 minutes or less. Man, that's way quicker than ordering and then waiting for sixteen cartons of Chinese food to show up.

Chef David Yeo making magic aka Onion Soup With Cheese Toasts
Besides the dishes mentioned above we were lucky enough to taste Onion Soup with Cheese Toasts, Bastilla (my favorite, and created by chef David Burtka who you will know as Neil Patrick Harris' partner) and Stuffed Peppers – it was all amazing and definitely fare that I would expect from a first-rate restaurant.

Founders of Pop-Up Pantry aka David Hauslaib and Tom Balamaci aka Really Nice Guys
David and Tom are really nice, accessible guys who are not only passionate about their food, but about their customers as well. They seem really concerned with finding out who their consumers are, what types of dining experiences they're looking for and striving to meet those expectations. Has your local restaurant ever invited you over and asked what types of food your teenagers like to eat? I didn't think so.

I didn't tell them my Chinese food story, but David and Tom if you're reading this – know that I will definitely be ordering from Pop-Up Pantry soon but would never try and take credit for the wonderful dishes you've created. Although there is that friend's birthday I've promised to cook for...

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Go to to find out more about their services, pricing and menus. 

And wait - it gets better: Pop-Up Pantry recently announced that in support of those affected by Sandy, they will be donating $1 from every online ordered placed to City Harvest, the world's first food rescue organization dedicated to feeding the hungry men, women, and children of New York. In conjunction, they are also offering customers $5 off every meal when they use the code “SANDY” at checkout

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Friday, November 16, 2012

ParaNorman: Zombie-Proof and Teen-Approved

It's not surprising that since my kids have morphed into teens, it's getting more and more difficult to find movies that we can all see together as a family. While I'm trying to talk them into seeing the latest PG offering, they're begging me to buy them tickets to (and then sit five rows behind them) for Magic Mike.

By the way, their attempts to fool me into thinking that Channing Tatum plays a ballroom dancer in Magic Mike didn't work. Do they think I was born yesterday? Everyone knows it's about a magician.

But last weekend we were invited to a screening of a movie we all actually wanted to see – ParaNorman. My 14-year-old saw it during its initial release and had been bugging her older sister and my husband and I to see it. She kept saying things like, "It's not just your average kid's movie," and "No one takes their shirt off I swear!"

(The invite came from Focus Features and I have to admit that I was initially most excited at the fact that the screening was going to take place at the Linwood Dunn Theater inside the Pickford Center For Motion Picture Study in Hollywood. I've driven by this building millions of times and always wanted to walk its hallowed halls – and it's beautiful!)

The screening started off with a few words by Chris Butler, the screenwriter and co-director. Although some of the younger kids (and some adults) probably couldn't wait for this part to end, getting to hear him speak about the movie and his process was one of the highlights for my girls. They've become huge fans of these types of events – we saw a screening recently of Perks Of Being A Wallflower that was followed by a Q&A with writer and director Stephen Chbosky and my daughter was glued to every word. He's the Justin Bieber of film!

But getting back to the movie - we all loved it. The animation is beautiful and the story – about a misunderstood and unappreciated young boy with special 'powers' who rises above his tormenters (and zombies) to save his town – will resonate with everyone. I was actually surprised at how dark and subversive it was (that's a good thing) and thought the dialogue and jokes played to the adults as well as the kids. I think there were a lot of scenes, though, that could possibly be pretty frightening for younger audiences, so beware if you're taking your little ones. 

But there are some valuable lessons running throughout the movie for kids (and again, adults) about bullying, reaching out to people and learning to embrace the unique qualities of not only others but of yourself.

The only thing that would have made my teens like it more? An appearance by Channing Tatum. Fully clothed and performing some magic tricks, of course.

ParaNorman is still in select theaters and will be released on DVD Nov. 27.

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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

HalloweenTime at Disneyland Beats Homecoming at the High School Anyday

If you're wondering how much my teens love Disneyland – they blew off their homecoming dance to attend a media day at the park. They were going to the dance with groups of friends so there were no dates to disappoint, but something tells me they would have chosen the Magic Kingdom over a boy anyway. Unless those boys happened to be Darren Criss and Ryan Gosling, in which case my girls would have just used their babysitting money to buy extra park-hoppers for their dates.

HalloweenTime and the holidays in general are our favorite times at the park. Besides the changing-over of the rides to their special scarier themes – Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy, Haunted Mansion Holiday (inspired by Tim Burton), the Tower Of Terror (populated with phantom patrons in honor of Halloween) – we're just a sucker for the decorations. Don't ask how many photos I have on my hard drive of this very same pumpkin and street decoration:

And because the kids aren't the only ones who enjoy Disneyland, indulge me for a moment while I post a pic of the meal us adults had while the teens ran straight from the tram to get in line for Space Mountain (because you know kids never eat when they're at Disneyland. No problem - more for us.)

This was from our favorite place, Uva Bar in Downtown Disney, where we always make it a point to stop and have a cocktail before taking on the park. Add that to the list of things I don't remember from my trips to Disneyland as a child.

We were also super-excited to check out CARS LAND for the very first time! But there's so much to see there I'm going to save it for its own post. Unfortunately we didn't have time to ride any of the rides because the lines were so long, but I had fun just checking out the design and architecture. Next time I plan to bring my good camera, and just hang out here for hours taking pictures and eating. Don't judge.

Another must-see when we got back that we missed this time around: There is an 'Art Of Frankenweenie' exhibit based on the Tim Burton/Disney film over at California Adventure that I heard is amazing. If I'm not stopped, I plan to take pictures and eat over there, too.

HalloweenTime at Disneyland officially ends tomorrow (hurry!) but that just means the themed decorations and rides come down (except for the Haunted Mansion Holiday.) Cars Land is there forever, and the Frankenweenie exhibit runs until November 5.

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Thursday, October 18, 2012

HBO's 'ETHEL': Lessons Learned

This past summer I was invited to attend a preview screening of HBO's Ethel (Tonight, 1/18 at 9pm on HBO), a feature-length documentary about Ethel Kennedy that was produced and directed by her daughter, Rory Kennedy. I'm already a fan of Rory's (her Ghosts Of Abu Ghraib was so outstanding) so I knew I would enjoy Ethel - but who knew I'd get such an education at the same time?

(Also, I was thrilled to be able to meet Rory Kennedy in person at the post-screening reception. I tried not to go too fangirl on her, but I knew it was the closest I'll ever come to a Kennedy.)

The film covers Ethel's Kennedy's life, touching on her childhood, her early years with Robert F. Kennedy, raising their eleven children (!), RFK's campaigns and Ethel's world after his assassination. Ethel's life was often eclipsed by her more visible and glamorous sister-in-law Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, but it's been a remarkable story nonetheless.

But it's not just a story about Mrs. Kennedy - it's a much more personal, insightful glimpse into historical events that we all know about, but whose intricacies I'd never fully understood. The Cuban Missile Crisis, the standoff with then-governor George Wallace at the University of Alabama, RFK's friendship with Martin Luther King, Jr., his clashing with J. Edgar Hoover – Rory Kennedy does a great job of showing a timeline and insight into these events through interviews with Ethel, her other children and with family friends and associates.

Definitely recommend watching this, and if you have older kids – have them watch it with you. Such an important glimpse into our country's history told so lovingly by the Kennedy family.

Ethel premieres tonight, October 18 at 9pm on HBO.

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It's Official: Nintendo, Wii (Heart) U

A few weeks ago we were invited to Siren Studios in Hollywood to try out the new Wii U system. What a great event – besides turning a soundstage into a futuristic gaming nirvana with individual gaming stations, fancy couches and separate rooms for some of the games – they had Nintendo cookies, too. I say an event is reflected in the cookies they serve, and these were fantastic, classy and my teenagers loved them. And much like the event, they were making some people drool.

Here are some of the down and dirty specs of the new Wii U, and then I'll let my teens give you their reviews of the game. Stay tuned for hilarity.

The biggest difference in the Wii U is the addition of the Wii U GamePad™ controller, a gaming pad that features a 6" window that expands your gaming experience (not all games will require the second screen.) The GamePad also includes motion control, a front-facing camera, a microphone, stereo speakers, rumble features, a sensor bar, and a stylus. (Your old Wii controllers and nunchuks will work just fine with the new system – in fact, hang onto them because only the new GamePad will be included with the Wii U.) Here's a little intro:

Along with the Wii U will be a new movie system, Nintendo TVii. The GamePad will function with your DVR and TiVo and can also be used to search for programming from sources like Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant, cable and satellite channels and video-on-demand services. I CANNOT WAIT to check this out:

There will be two versions of the Wii U:
- The Deluxe set that features a black Wii U unit and has 32GB of internal storage. This will retail for $349.99
- The Basic set that features a white Wii U unit and has 8GB of internal storage. This will retail for $299.99

Because I'm old and boring, the first thing I inquired about was if the Wii U would still be compatible with my Wii Fit balance board. It is! But there will also be some new games as well in the form of Wii Fit U so that I can change it up from my old Yoga/Skiing/Segway Circuit routine. (See 'old and boring' above.)

My teenagers were much more adventurous. Their faves of the day were Batman: Arkham City, Pikmin 3, Just Dance 4 and Sing Party. I didn't play all of these, but I did sit in on the demos when the girls were playing – I had no desire to hold up the lines of people waiting for their turn while I tried to find the 'start' button. Have you ever pissed off a bunch of eager gamers? Oh, they get mean.

But don't take my word for it - here are reviews of a few of the games, straight from my 14 & 16-year-old daughters' brains:

BATMAN: Arkham City
"The batman game was super cool and really let you experience Batman first person with full use of all his fancy rich people gadgets. It's a bit difficult to get used to when you first play, but when you finally get the hang of all the controls it makes you feel pretty awesome. The ability to kick-butt as batman is pretty sweet if you haven't heard already."

"Batman had awesome graphics, and you also have the option to be Catwoman, which is super cool because I LOVE Catwoman."

"Pikmin 3 was also an awesome surprise because it's been FOREVER since the last one was out. It'll be a big hit for people not familiar with the previous ones, and of course even more exciting for those who are already fans. (The game in itself is pretty much the same as the others with added characters and new levels and actions with the GamePad.) It's both similar and different enough to live up to the old version's expectations as well as introduce some new things to do with the GamePad.(and omg there's cute lil' rock Pikmin??)"

"Just Dance was great as ever; still my favorite way to exercise without like, actually exercising. Probably the funnest game to play at sleepovers or just hanging out. The mix of wonderfully horrendous '80s songs and modern pop is enough to provide entertainment for happy(but wheezing) teenagers. Plus you can play with 5 people using the game pad so your poor friend doesn't have to sit down while you dance (for added usefulness the GamePad option doesn't require dancing, just in case you have a friend that hates dancing or is injured etc etc - or your mom wants to play and - don't lie - we all don't want to see your mom dougie.)"
"Just Dance was crazy but fun.  The new 'puppet master' feature exhausted me.  It's a great game to play with friends at parties and stuff, I even came back to play it twice!"

"Sing Party can only be described as a beautiful smoothie of Just Dance and Sing it. Although the Carly Rae Jepsen and LMFAO soundtrack will get a little headache inducing when your daughter plays Call Me Maybe for the 30th time in a row at 1 in the morning, even you can't resist the booty-poppin fun of dancing really badly while your friend takes lead rapper."
"Just Dance 4 was crazy but fun. The new 'puppet master' feature exhausted me. It's a great game to play with friends at parties and stuff, I even came back to play it twice!"

And there you have it – our preview of the new Wii U. We loved what we saw, and are totally looking forward to checking it out further. You can pre-order yours over here. Sorry, cookies not included.

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