Posts filed under ‘Reviews’

Rock Star on the RoadL Rand McNally’s Car Karaoke

I love being out of the city.  The flowers, the sea, the incessant barking of the dog of the people renting the house next door.  Sunshine, fresh air.  Picking the herbs I need to cook instead of spending $1.50 a bunch for them, using only a few tablespoons worth, and waiting until the rest gets moldy or dried out before tossing it out.

What I don’t like, is all the driving.

Aside from the fact that all the time I spend in the car is one of the primary reasons I end each summer flabbier and fatter than I began it, is the endless tedium of sitting in the car. How many times do I need to hear that the Black Eyed Peas think “tonights gonna be a good night”?  Or that Cobie Caillat is so in love that it’s wrinkling her nose?  I’m wrinkling mine, too, honey, in disgust at the amount of gas I’m using and time I’m spending SITTING SITTING SITTING. (Does pushing the gas pedal burn calories?  I hope so.)

Notice I haven’t mentioned the kids?  Generally speaking, the bickering begins just as we reach the end of the driveway.  Lovely.

Imagine, then, how happy I was to get a distraction in the mail: Rand McNally’s Car Karaoke, part of their Boredom Breakers ™ series of car games for families. (Full disclosure:  they sent it to me for free.  Asked me to review it, but IN NOW WAY direct what I am going to say)

The Boredom Breakers Game Series

Rand McNally, the 100 + year old travel company mostly known for maps, just introduced a whole series of  games and activities to keep kids entertained and families connected in the car.  Since we don’t have a DVD players in the car (I know, I’m the last holdout) and my kids get sick when they read in the car or even play their DS, The Boredom Breakers™ games are perfect.  According to Rand McNally “The products are designed to bring families together, encouraging conversation, laughter and fun making the miles fly by for moms and kids on the go.”

They sent me Car Karaoke.  Here’s how they describe it: “Mom can sing lead and kids are back-up vocals.  Just pop in the CD with 12 classic rock, pop, and kid favorite songs.  Includes everything needed to be a rockstar: an inflatable microphone, rating cards, and three lyric books.  Choose from favorites like “Build Me Up Buttercup” or “Twist and Shout,” to see who’s got the pipes in the family.  Earplugs not included!”

Here’s how I describe it: hysterical.  My kids LOVE the blow up microphone.  So much better than a hairbrush.  Quite honestly, they don’t know a lot o f the songs on the CD, and don’t really want to sing the kid songs they do, but they use the mike for songs on other CD’s or on the radio (there’s a lot of wrinkling noses in the car) – and are surprisingly kind with the rating cards!  The only suggestion I would make it to include two mikes in the kit — one for each kid.
The quality of the singing on the CD is pretty varied — from quite good to bordering on torture — but you can choose to sing without the singers (like real Karaoke) and in any case, they sound better than you or your kids. (or at least me or mine!)
Truly, they could have just sent the inflatable microphone and the ratings card and it would have been just as good.

Still, it has helped to end the tedium enormously.  And from what they tell me, their other games help spark conversation.  Which, since they are trapped in the car with me, is perhaps the best time to get their attention and get them to talk.
Bottom Line: If you are heading out for a long drive this Labor Day Weekend.  Give these games a shot.  They’re not expensive (under $15,.00 for the Karaoke (why not Car-aoke?? I don’t know!), and they really might make being trapped on the road a lot more fun.
Rand McNally’s Boredom Breakers series of car games are on sale at Amazon.com and RandMcNally.com

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September 4, 2009 at 8:39 am Leave a comment

My New Favorite Swimsuit Company

I’ve written quite a bit about Karla Colletto – the fabulously expensive and fabulously flattering swimsuit that actually managed to make me feel less than disgusting on the beach last summer.   But notice that first “fabulously?”  The expense of a KC bathing suit is a bit daunting — upwards of $200 dollars to start.

So here I am with a new recommendation:  Shape FX. It is QUITE unlike me to buy a bathing suit online — I need to try on, try on, try on.  Check out the strategic qualities of it’s camoflage abilities:  does my stomach look enormous?  Does the skin above the leg line bulge?  Is my back fat under control?  But after reading about Shape FX in Rachel Ray’s magazine (my guilty pleasure – hey, if I can’t eat fish cooked with a pound of butter and a cup of cream at least I can read about it) I decided to take a chance.

See Shape FX is all about strategic dressing.  You take a little questionnaire online about your body, then they recommend clothing just for you.  I took the quiz, bought the bathing suit and all I can say is:

OMG.

Quite possibly, the most flattering bathing suit EVER.  And way way less expensive than Karla.

So there you have it.  My new (budget friendly) alternative to my first love, Karla Colletto.  I plan to try their push up, control pants too.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

August 23, 2009 at 11:05 am Leave a comment

What Happened to the Girl I (Was When I Got) Married?

I’ve just had one of those days.  You know — when you drop your kids off at camp (or school or whatever) and suddenly, it’s 3:00, and you haven’t had lunch, and you never made it to the market, and you didn’t deal with your serious dark root s situation AGAIN – but it’s already time to pick up the kids?  One of those days.

It made me think about a book I’m been reading: “What Happened to the Girl I Married” by Michael Miller.  Which is good, because I’m reading it as part of the Silicon Valley Moms Group book club. (I write for NYC Moms blog, which is part of the SV Group.  Confused yet?)

Anyway, the book is about a guy (Miller) who spends a year “in his wife’s shoes at home.” (wonder if she wears Blahniks!), as a way to discover what happened to the girl…well, you get the drift.

I know what happened to her.  She lost herself on the way to the dry cleaners and the pediatricians, and the exterminator, and the optometrist, and and and and and.

How does that happen?  How does the day get away from you so fast?  Miller thought his wife was just inefficient. Ha! He learned the hard way what a hard way of living being a full time stay at home Mom can be.

Miller really does give it his all — He tackles the laundry, the cooking, the cleaning. But for all of his realizations — some of which, I admit, are validating and worthwhile to read (I especially liked his idea of SAHMs living life in fragments)– the book is really about him.  His journey.  His conquering it all.  His realization and transformation from corporate egomaniac or domesticated, sympathetic uber-husband and father.

All I could think of while I was reading it was — where is the girl he marred in all of this?  What was she doing while he took over her life to learn how to respect what she does?  Why don’t we hear from her?

I know why.  It’s a man’s world.  Even in a book written to help men understand what their wives go through each day.Even in a book that advises men to acknowledge and praise their wives.(And Michael, I do acknowledge and praise you for doing this.)  Because, what he doesn’t say is: encourage your wife to be herself.  Encourage your wife to follow her own dreams while you hold down the fort.

In the end – he’s just making life more palatable for women (not to mention himself — there’s a lot about getting enough sex)…as long as they’re still at home waiting for him when he gets back from wherever he’s been all day. I don’t mean to say that he hasn’t genuinely changed the way he perceives, appreciates, and communicates with his wife.  He has.  But it’s still a book about men.  About husbands appeasing wives, understanding wives — as if “wife” were some state of being universal to women.

On days like today, I’d love for my husband to read this book – lacking though I found it. Because at least this guy made the attempt.  I’d rather he universalized, instead of personalized the whole thing. I wish he didn’t repeat himself quite so much. (yes, I know.  Your father was a produce man)  but still — he tried.  Which is more than I can say for a lot of husbands I know. (not mine.  of course.  never mine.)

But honsetly, what I really need is a book about how to clean the house, make the beds, do the shopping, wipe the tears, arrange the flowers, prepare the meal, do the dishes, fold the laundry, “do” the husband, and still have time to hang out and be myself.  That book, I’d love. I But until it comes out, I’ll still be searching.

July 15, 2009 at 10:08 pm 1 comment

Pixorial: Home Movies Finally Find a Home

pixorial logoI don’t pretend to be an expert on what services are out there to help you turn your poorly shot, shaky, dark, over-long or “I forgot to turn the camera off while I walk around”  home videos into DVD’s you might want to watch, but I do know that the people at Pixorial have a service that’s doing the trick for me.

Here’s what they do: you send them  your old movies(via upload if they’re already in digital format,  or through the mail – in a box they provide), they convert them to an editable format, download them to their site (for your eyes only, of course) and then provide an easy, albeit basic, editing system to turn those movies into sharable, sendable, watchable “Shows.”

The service is free for 10 Gigabytes (like I know what that means!)of uploads and low-res little thumbnails, or about $25 a year for the high-res, limitless uploads, endless storage Pro membership. (and here it’s time for full disclosure: the kind folks at Pixorial set me up with a credit towards the service, and a free pro-membership.)

First of all – these people are nice.  Helpful.  Enthusiastic.  I like that in a company.  You can actually contact a HUMAN BEING at this place. Hallalujah.  And while Pixorial’s editing system is pretty basic: fades, dissolves, titles – you know the drill, it’s about enough for your average home movie-taker.  And the truth is, if you don’t use Pixorial – or something like it – my bet is, you won’t watch your videos at all.  Or if you do, and you’re anything like me, you’ll get a headache from all the shaky bits. (and no, for this one post, I am NOT referring to my thighs.)

Look, I spent nearly 20 years as a television producer, which means that when it comes to editing I’m kinda like Captain Kirk: I know what I want, I know how to tell other people to do it, but I don’t actually know how to do anything myself.  With Pixorial, I don’t have to know much.  It works similarly to most word processing software — drag ‘n drop, my friends, drag  ‘n drop. (more…)

July 9, 2009 at 10:00 am Leave a comment

Seduced by the Nintendo DSi

It’s been a long courtship.  I didn’t want to give in.  I have my principles.  I have my standards.  I know what’s right and wrong.  I admit, I’ve been weak.  I’ve let myself been taken in by the Wii and Wii Fit. I’ve gotten involved with Wii Music. But until now, I haven’t gone all the way.   I’ve left that Nintendo DS Lite you sent me on the shelf.  Because I do have principles.  And letting my kids sit, immobile, but for their thumbs, staring at a little tiny screen — well, that just violates my very sense of proper mothering.  I’ve been the responsible grown up. I have not yet let my kids play with a handheld gaming device.

But Friday, I finally gave in to the persistent, gift laden seduction of Nintendo.  Because yesterday, I got the new Nintendo DSi.dsi-box

I feel a little bit dirty – like I’m taking a bite out of the forbidden fruit.  But I have to say: I like it.

Because the new Nintendo DSi, due out today(yes, I am that important: I already got mine – EARLY!) really is different. Nintendo has made the handheld interactive.(I’m assuming that’s what the ” i”  in DSi is for)  The DSi still plays all the same DS games as the older version,  (and some new ones, too) but it also takes pictures, plays music, and connects to the internet.

I have to admit, mostly I’m not interested in handheld games because I suck at them.  It makes me feel old.  Like I’m not young enough to get my head around what my kids seem to understand instinctively.  Kind of like my Mom and programming a VCR.  But this stuff?  This is fun. Because the DSi doesn’t just take pictures, it lets you play around with them.  I can add a funny nose and mustache.  I can stick my head on someone else’s body. (And you know how I wish I had someone else’s — anyone else’s — body.) This is fun.  And I can’t really suck at it. No performance anxiety.  I like that in a handheld.

Music is another new part of the DSi. In addition to playing music, this thing lets me record my own voice, and add it to the music.  Or change the music by adding cymbals, or drums.  I can  change the pitch or what I record.  Speed it up, slow it down.  It’s kind of like Wii music — only smaller.

Playing with pictures.  Messing around with music.  That, I get.  And since it’s so brand-spanking new, and I already have one (thank you Nintendo) I feel like I’m on the cutting edge.  Nintendo, you’ve made me feel young and hip!!! Who knew an electronics company would be the fountain of youth!

So I’ve given in.  I’ve gone all the way  — into handheld electronic territory. How could I resist?  The thing even has multiple screens? (well, two. But at forty +, two counts as multiple to me!) dsi-two-screen

As for the kids?  Well, they’ll have to wait awhile.  I want to enjoy my new vice all alone for awhile.  After all, once the kids get a hold of it, they’ll figure out way more about it, and way faster than I could — and that’ll, like, totally kill my buzz.  So I’ll enjoy awhile in secret.  Just my DSi and I – alone, at night, after the kids are gone.  Sounds good to me.  And then after a while,  the kids can have it….maybe.

April 5, 2009 at 8:54 am Leave a comment

Why I Love Skype!

I am LOVING Skype.  Read why, here. On my latest NYC Moms Blog post.

March 30, 2009 at 1:08 pm Leave a comment

Longboat Key: The Secret to Staying (relatively) Young

The kids love the calm water

The kids love the calm water

If you’re from the Northeast -and maybe even if you’re not – going to Florida means one of two things: going to the ultra-hip, cool, and trendy South Beach, or going to see your Grandparents.

Of course Grandparents-in-Florida means a lot of things:

  • – polyester pants –
  • canasta by the pool –
  • early bird specials –
  • really really bad driving
  • women sneaking rolls into their purses at the diner
  • constant discussions over the price of a can of Tuna Fish
  • constant monitoring of every single piece of food you put in your mouth because your grandmother is obsessed with being thin and you’re not. Thin, that is.

Oh, wait. Was that last one just me? (more…)

March 14, 2009 at 7:39 am Leave a comment

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