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Friday, October 28, 2011

Say Anything-Family Edition Review

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Some of you may remember last year when I was fortunate enough to get to review a game called Wits and Wagers Family Edition by NorthStar Games.  My family loved Wits and Wagers then, and we still love it now.  It's one of those games that gets played very frequently in my house.  Given how much we loved Wits and Wagers, it was natural for me to jump at the opportunity to review another NorthStar Game- Say Anything Family Edition.


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Say Anything Family Edition is designed for 3-6 players, although you could probably play it with teams if you wanted to to include more people.  Although it's a "family" edition, the target age range is 8 and up since reading, writing, and sometimes understanding of current events is required.  The game starts with one player being the "judge".  The judge draws a card and reads a question from the card for everyone else to answer.  For example, "What would be the coolest thing to collect?"  The catch is, you are trying to write the answer you think the judge would pick!  You write your answer on a small dry-erase tablet, and place it face up in front of you.  After everyone has an answer, the judge uses the "Select-o-Matic 6000" to pick the winning answer in their opinion, and then, much like Wits and Wagers, all the players get to wager on whose answer the judge chose.  You have two tokens with which to wager, and points are awarded for choosing the "right" answer according to what the judge chose on the "Select-o-Matic 6000".  After that round is finished, points are recorded, and play continues as the next person becomes the judge. 

The pros:  We LOVE this game-every bit as much as Wits and Wagers.  Even my 6 year old plays, although she usually has to draw a picture of her answer and then explain it to everyone.  My kids play this literally every day.  It has never made it onto out "game shelf" in the 6 weeks we've had it!  It's fun, it's fast (you only play to 12 points, and you can earn up to 3 points each round, so games go quickly), and it's really easy to play.

The cons:  There are some questions that I think even an 8 year old wouldn't necessarily be able to weigh in on in the same way a teen or adult would, like "What's the most romantic movie?" (although my kids chose that question and all picked their favorite Disney prince/princess match up movie).  There are other questions that just are, in my opinion, inappropriate for the family version, like "Who's the best looking actress?".  But honestly, since each card has 6 question to chose from, you can just skip anything that is objectionable to you and still have plenty of playing fun, which is what we did.

The bottom line:  We love this game.  I can't say that enough.  It's fun and easy to learn and play, so you can take it to gatherings of family and friends and NOT have to worry about getting bogged down in explaining the rules for half an hour before you ever get to play.  With Say Anything, everything you need is in the box, you explain the simple rules, and the game begins.  I would totally recommend this game to anyone looking for a chance to gather round the table and have some family fun!  Say Anything Family Edition retails for $19.99, and can be found at places like Amazon.com and maybe even your local Target store or other retailers.  Say Anything is also available in a non-family version as well.

To read what other members of the TOS Crew had to say about Say Anything, go HERE.  Some people also received Wits and Wagers, and you can read about their thoughts HERE.

Legal Disclaimer:  As a member of the TOS Crew, I received a free version of Say Anything Family Edition for the purpose of giving my honest review.  That game is the only compensation I received.
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Friday, October 21, 2011

The Mighty Macs- A Movie Preview

Recently, I got the amazing opportunity to review to check out The Mighty Macs- a movie that is coming out in theaters on Friday the 21st. 



Just in case you haven't seen the previews, here's what the movie is about:
It's 1971. Cathy Rush is a woman ahead of her time ... and she's about to embark on an adventure for the ages. A new era is dawning in the country and in collegiate athletics, where a national champion will be crowned for the first time in women's basketball.


In the lead up to this historical season, major universities are preparing their game plans to win that first title. Meanwhile a tiny all-women's Catholic college in Philadelphia has a more modest goal: find a coach before the season begins. Providentially, Cathy Rush is about to find Immaculata College.

Recently married, Cathy is dealing with the aftermath of a truncated playing career. While cultural norms would have her staying at home, she's willing to do the hard work necessary to help her new team reach their goals—or perhaps she's just trying to achieve her unfulfilled dreams through them.

From the beginning, her challenges are as imposing as the big-school teams Immaculata will face on the court. Cathy learns there is no gymnasium on campus, she receives little support from the school's Mother Superior, and the school is in dire financial straits. To top it off, she may not even have enough players to field a team!

While it appears the Macs don't have a prayer, all hope is not lost. With the help of Sister Sunday—a spunky assistant coach—and the support of a booster club of elderly nuns, Coach Rush creates a new game plan that just might bring the team—and the school—together.

Will this pioneer buck cultural norms and spur her rag-tag team to unexpected heights? Or will her hard-driving ways create a wedge between the coach and everyone around her? One thing's for certain: there's never been anyone like Cathy Rush at Immaculata!

The pros:  My whole family liked this movie.  I'm not even a big sports person, but the story is so well written, and the coach's inspiration is so amazing, that it was really a great story to watch.  It's wonderful to watch what happens when the coach dreams big, and the players learn to believe that it's possible.  And the fact that it's based on a true story was the icing on the cake for my kids.

The cons:  The movie is rated "G", but apparently "G" allows for things I wouldn't think it did.  I'm fairly certain at one point the coach mentions "a cold day in h*ll", but she says the real word.  And as a Christian, I know h*ll is a real place, but not a word I expect to hear in a "G" movie.  It also had some scenes and innuendo that made me cringe with my kids in the room, like when the coach and Sister Sunday stop off in a bar, and a man buys them drinks.  Since the Sister is not in her habit, he hits on her (well, really he hits on them both), and she says she is in a relationship.  He asks what her significant other does, and she says he's a carpenter.  The guy then makes a comment about her significant other "being good with his hands then".  Ummm, I know I'm prudish, but that's God we're talking about!  And I don't appreciate the "good with his hands" reference in a G rated movie my kids are watching.

The bottom line:  Despite what I said above, the movie is really very good.  It has a very strong Christian message, as well as always emphasizing a focus on the "team" not the individual.  It reminds us that where we come from and what we have (or don't have) is NOT what defines us.  Nor are we limited by what other people believe us capable of.  And it shows how the Lord really works in mysterious ways.  I would definitely recommend it, but I'd keep in mind that it might not be suitable for some children (although I have to say the things I mentioned went right over my kids' heads- I was just disappointed they were even included in the movie).

For more information about The Mighty Macs, you can visit their website, or their Facebook page, or twitter, or watch this preview from YouTube:

Legal Disclaimer: As a reviewer for Propeller, I received the ability to screen The Mighty Macs at home for the purpose of writing this review.  That viewing was the only compensation I received.
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Thursday, October 20, 2011

E-Mealz Review

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I'm in love.  Completely, head-over-heels in love.  With an internet meal plan service.  That's the strange part, but it's completely true!

E-Mealz offers you a mealtime makeover.  They put together the shopping list, tailored to specific stores around the country or "any store" if you don't want to be penned in.  Then they also give you a meal plan for a week's worth of dinner meals.  As a bonus, the plan takes advantage of whatever specials the store you are signed up for is offering, so your weekly shopping trip feeds a family of 4-6 dinner for a week for about $75.  Oh, and specialty menus are available for gluten free, low fat, low carb, portion control and vegetarian.  Plus, if your family size is smaller, there is an option for 1-2 people to accommodate you.  And it really is as easy as the steps below:
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You can't really read it well, but this is a good example of that the meal print out looks like.  The shopping list is the one behind the meal plan.
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The pros:  This is an answer to a prayer I never knew to say!  Every week, I get a menu tailored to the specials at Publix, my store of choice.  The food has been great.  My kids have loved every single meal.  And we have been eating more complete, well balanced meals.  As a family of 6, I have to say I wondered if the meals would really be enough, but they are plentiful- in fact we usually have left-overs.  In fact, between left-overs and a busy schedule, we never need all 7 meals, which has allowed me to skip over the meals I was not sure would go over as well in favor of the meals I knew we would enjoy and still have my entire week or meals planned out for me. 

The cons:  Okay, so shopping does take me a little longer since I find myself looking for things I don't buy regularly.  Luckily, the folks at Publix are happy to help.  And there is almost always one meal that I know we wouldn't enjoy-mostly because there are almost always meatless meals, and I'm not big on veggies.  And I have found that I've made some substitutions.  For example, I may not eat veggies, but I'd rather feed my family frozen green beans than canned green beans any day.  And I've skipped out on the Cajun seasoning in two recipes in favor of something less spicy.

The bottom line:  Dave Ramsey endorses this program, but more than that, my husband is so enamored with me having a dinner plan for every evening, he's willing to pay for E-Mealz forever.  As a homeschooling mom, it takes a HUGE burden off me to have a dinner plan and homeschool 4 kids and attend to all our comings and goings.  It's worth $1.25 a week to save at least that in eliminating the need for fast food on evenings when school ran long and post-dinner activities leave us without enough time for me to come up with a last minute plan.  E-Mealz is $15 for 3 months.  To learn more, you can go HERE.  As for me, I'm going shopping off my newest E-Mealz menu!

To see what other members of the TOS Crew had to say, go HERE.  Some of them reviewed other stores or specialty menus that might be of interest to you!

Legal Disclaimer:  As a member of the TOS Crew, I received a FREE 3 month trial of E-Mealz.  That trial is the only compensation I have received for this review.
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Monday, October 17, 2011

Always Ice Cream Review

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What's not to love about ice cream?  Especially when it comes in the "form" of a girls only internet based educational site called Always Icecream?

Always Icecream is a website designed for learning and play for girls ages 7-12.  Girls create an avatar, their "mini-me", which they can customize.  This mini-me is their public "face" on the site.  Parents have complete control over the level of actual "chat" interaction their children can have, with the highest level being reserved for "real world friends" (RWF).  Your daughter gets a special code she can give to any RWFs that might also be site members.  Both girls must enter each other's codes to enable them to have the greatest freedom in chatting.  But the folks at Always Icecream take your child's security seriously, and virtually all communication is moderated before it is posted as is all media that is available on the site.  Once you daughter gets started, she is encouraged to go through some basic game that make her familiar with the features of the site and allow her to begin accruing "$coops" which are the in-game currency.  These "games" are almost all educational in nature, and include the option of Christian content as well.  As you daughter plays the games, she learns, and she wants to play the games because it gives her $coops to buy stuff that she uses in "Mini-World" where she has a house complete with furniture and accessories that she can decorate and even sell to other players.  Oh, and there is also a virtual pet component with pets that require upkeep like feeding, playtime, and love.
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Above, you can see the "Find the States" game, and below is a screen from the typing game.
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Here is an example of what the Pet World looks like.  Each pet can be named by your daughter, and it's needs attended to via $coops OR by asking another player to "babysit" your pet.

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The pros:  I love sooooo much about this site.  It is the safest online site I have ever encountered.  It's educational.  Very educational.  But the Mini-World area also allows for your daughter's creative side to shine.  Aki, your in-game guide, is very helpful with prompts to get your daughter exploring the site and fully using all the options available to her.  Beyond the games, there is a video area with videos that run the gamut from math quizzes to how to draw a cartoon cat, to Michelle Kwan winning in 2003, and everything in between.  Parents get e-mail updates of their daughter's progress, and can view all the work she has done.  You can also reward your daughter for real world performance by giving her some virtual $coops.  But my favorite feature?  The music for the site can be easily muted!  I know, that seems petty to some of you, but I'm not big on noise, and I love that with one click the music is gone!

The cons:  Well, it's not really a con, but when they say 7-12...they really mean it.  My 6 year old tried a free membership, but most of the games, which is how you earn in-game spending money, were WAY beyond her.  She's disappointed, but I'm glad to see a site that knows the target age and serves it well, even if my youngest daughter might have to wait a while for her chance to play.

The bottom line:  You can check Always Icecream out for free yourself!  Just click HERE.  After your trial, Always Icecream is $4.99 a month, or $29.99 for a year....or buy a lifetime membership for $99.99.  There is a whole section of info for parents HERE that can answer many of your questions and give you the chance to play some of the games for yourself.  I appreciate that the site is designed by parents of girls who understand parents of girls, and I think you will too.  My son is chomping at the bit for a BOY version of Always Icecream! 

To see what other members of the TOS Crew had to say, go HERE.

Legal Disclaimer:  As a member of the TOS Crew, I received one lifetime membership for my daughter.  She is just turning 12, but she'll be playing this for some time to come I know!  That is the only compensation I received for this review.
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Sunday, October 16, 2011

Visual Latin Review

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I have to confess, I never took Latin in school.  And I never wanted to take Latin in school.  But I did learn an awful lot of root words, and I also studied French for 5 years, so I would say I had a fair exposure to some of the Latin basics.  But mention things like declensions, and that was all it took for me to run the other way...until now.

Visual Latin is the brain child of two homeschool dads-one a Latin teacher and the other a producer.  So what you get is a professionally presented program totally designed for homeschoolers by homeschooling parents, and taught by a guy who really knows his stuff, which is way more than I can say for any attempt I would make at teaching Latin to my kids.
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Visual Latin is available as a download or on DVD.  Each lesson is broken into short video segments with corresponding worksheets.  They begin with a grammar segment (which definitely helps reinforce English grammar too), then sentences, and then reading actual Latin.  The program is Christian, and the worksheets support that.  In fact many of the stories are taken from the Vulgate Bible, so they are familiar to the students, just presented in a different language.  Visual Latin is comprised of 2 parts-Latin 1 and Latin 2, each intended to take one year to study.  IT is geared for everyone ages 9 and up, and to count as a full year of high school credit, Visual Latin should be supplemented, and those recommendations can be found HERE.  You can also go HERE to see the scope and sequence for Latin 1.

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The pros:  Someone else does the teaching of a language I don't know-do I need to say more?  Plus, by the middle of the second lesson, my daughter was SPEAKING Latin.  For real.  And she wants to keep doing it.  Plus, it has made her notice Latin words all around us.  I love that each lesson is divided into shorter segments, and there are simple but effective worksheets that go with each one.  And can I say again, I LOVE that someone else is teaching because I never took a minute of Latin in my life.  And where I would be stressed out and questioning everything I was saying, he is witty and honest, and knows his stuff.  And he makes mistakes and then corrects himself-he's a regular guy, not intimidating at all.  Oh, and Visual Latin is portable-you can even do it on your "i" device!

The cons:  My boys definitely didn't love it as much as their sister, although once she started walking around speaking Latin, my eldest took that as a challenge and began his lessons anew.  He's the one who always wanted to study Latin, and I think he's going to stick with it now that his sister has made it a bit of a competition.  My younger son has decided to sit Latin out for right now, but that's okay, because when he gets a little older, he can give it a try again.

The bottom line:  You can check out the first 4 intro lessons and the first 2 full lessons for FREE yourself by going HERE.  How can you not love that?  But beyond that, I have to say this is the best Latin program we've ever looked at.  At least, it's the one that has worked best for us, so that makes it the best because my daughter actually ASKS to do it-daily!  The cost is $80 for the DVDs or $75 for the downloads- which are available to you forever.  You can also buy Visual Latin to use in a small class setting.  Click HERE for more pricing info.  At this point, we plan to stick with Visual Latin for our family, and that's probably the best endorsement I can give!

To see what other members of the TOS Crew had to say, go HERE.

Legal Disclaimer:  As a member of the TOS Crew, I received the first 10 lessons as a download for FREE.  Those lessons were the only compensation I received for this review.
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Monday, October 3, 2011

FIRST Wildcard Review- Weddings and Wasabi

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:

WinePress Publishing (June 7, 2011)
***Special thanks to Camy Tang for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Camy Tang grew up in Hawaii and now lives in San Jose, California, with her engineer husband and rambunctious mutt, Snickers. She graduated from Stanford University and was a biologist researcher for 9 years, but now she writes full-time. She is a staff worker for her church youth group and leads one of the Sunday worship teams. On her blog, she ponders knitting, spinning wool, dogs, running, the Never Ending Diet, and other frivolous things. Visit her website at http://www.camytang.com/ to read short stories and subscribe to her quarterly newsletter.

Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:


After finally graduating with a culinary degree, Jennifer Lim is pressured by her family to work for her control-freak aunty’s restaurant. But after a family blowout, Jenn is determined to no longer be a doormat and instead starts her own catering company. Her search for a wine merchant brings John into her life—a tall, dark, handsome biker, in form-fitting black leather, and Hispanic to boot. It would be wonderfully wild to snag a man like that!

Shy engineer Edward tentatively tries out his birthday present from his winery-owner uncle—a Harley Davidson complete with the trimmings. Jennifer seems attracted to the rough, aggressive image, but it isn’t his real self. Is she latching onto him just to spite her horrified family? And if this spark between them is real, will showing her the true guy underneath put it out?

And what’s with the goat in the backyard?

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 124 pages
Publisher: WinePress Publishing (June 7, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1414120591
ISBN-13: 978-1414120591

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

The goat in the backyard had just eaten tonight’s dinner.

Jennifer Lim stood on her mother’s minuscule back porch and glared at the small brown and white creature polishing off her basil. She would have run shouting at it to leave off her herb garden, except it had already decimated the oregano, mint, rosemary, thyme, cilantro, and her precious basil, which had been slated for tonight’s pesto.

Besides, if it bit her, she was peeved enough to bite back.

“Mom!” She stomped back into the house. Thank goodness the pots of her special Malaysian basil were sectioned off in the large garden on the side of the house, protected by a wooden-framed wire gate. Jenn was growing it so that she could make her cousin Trish’s favorite chicken dish for her wedding, which Jenn was catering for her. But everything in her backyard garden was gone. The animal was welcome to the only thing left, the ragged juniper bushes. Were juniper bushes poison? If so, the animal was welcome to them.

“Mom!” Her voice had reached banshee range. “There is a goat—”

“You don’t need to yell.” Mom entered the kitchen, her lipstick bright red from a fresh application and her leather handbag over her arm, obviously ready to leave the house on some errand.

“Since when do we own a goat?”

“Since your cousin Larry brought him over.” She fished through her leather purse. “His name is Pookie.”

Jenn choked on her demand for an explanation, momentarily distracted. “He has a name?”

“He’s a living being. Of course he has a name.” Her mother fluttered eyelashes overloaded with mascara.

“Don’t give me that. You used to love to gross me out with stories of Great-Uncle Hao Chin eating goats back in China.”

Mom sniffed and found the refrigerator fascinating. “That’s your father’s side.”

Jenn swayed as the floor tilted. You are now entering … the Twilight Zone. Her parent had evoked that feeling quite often in the past few weeks. “Where did Larry get a goat and why do we have it now?”

“They were desperate.”

Actually, Jenn could have answered her own question. That goat was in their backyard right now because everyone knew that her mom couldn’t say no to a termite who knocked on the door and asked if it could spend the night.

And outside of physically dropping the goat off at someone’s house—and she didn’t have an animal trailer, so that was out of the question—Jenn wouldn’t be able to get anyone else in the family to agree to take the animal, now that it was here. That meant leaving a goat in a niece’s backyard because no one else wanted to go through the hassle of doing anything about it.

Mom said, “You wouldn’t have me turn away family, would you?”

“Uncle Percy knows, too?”

“No, not Percy.”

“Aunty Glenda?” No way. Even if Larry were thirty-one instead of twenty-one, Aunty would still dictate to her son the color underwear he wore that day—how much more his choice of pet?

“No.” Mom blinked as rapidly as she could with mascara making her short, stiff lashes stick together, almost gluing her eyes shut.

The tiger in Jenn’s ribcage growled. “Mother.” Her fist smacked onto her hip.

“Oh, all right.” Mom rolled her eyes as if she were still a teenager. “It belongs to Larry’s dormmate’s older brother, but really, he’s the nicest young man.” Burgundy lips pulled into what wanted to be a smile, but instead looked hideously desperate.

Jenn tried to count to ten but only got to two. “I know Larry’s a nice young man. If an abundance of immaturity counts as ‘nice’ points.”

“Jenn, really, you’re so intolerant. Just because you’re smart and went to Stanford for grad school …”

The name of her school—and the one dominant memory it brought up—made her neck jerk in a spasm. It had only been for two years, but that was enough. Desperately lonely after spending her undergrad years living with her cousins, Jenn had only formed a few friendships among the other grad students, none of them close. There was only one she’d never forget, although she vowed she would every morning when she got up and saw the scar in the mirror.

“Why. Do we have. A goat.”

“It’s only for a few days—”

“We don’t know a thing about how to take care of—”

“They’re easy—”

“Besides which, this is Cupertino. I’m sure there are city laws—”

“It’ll be gone before anyone notices—”

“Oh, ho, you’re right about that.” Jenn strode toward the phone on the wall. “I’m calling the Humane Society. They’ll take it.” Although they wouldn’t provide a trailer to transport it. How was she going to take the goat anywhere, much less to an animal shelter?

Mom plopped onto a stool and sighed. “That boy was so cute. His name was Brad.”

There went her neck spasming again. But Brad was a common name. She grabbed the phone.

“Such a nice Chinese boy. Related to the Yip family—you know, the ones in Mountain View?”

The phone slipped from her hand and bungee-jumped toward the floor, saved only by the curly cord. She bent to snatch it up, but dizziness shrouded her vision and she had to take a few breaths before straightening up.

“Oh, and he went to Stanford. You two have something in common.” Mom beamed.

No. He wouldn’t.

Yes, he would.

“Brad Yip?”

Mom’s eyes lighted up. “Do you know him?”

Sure, she knew him. Knew the next time he came for his goat she’d ram her chef’s knife, Michael Meyers style, right between his eyes.

OBM says:  After the first chapter, the story starts to find it's groove, and offer a funny and interesting look into the world of Japanese food, and families, and honor, and Aunties and of a girl who delves within herself to find some "pluck" to stand up against tradition and pursue her own course.  At 99 pages, it's enough of a story to draw you in for an afternoon without being a major time committment.  I have enjoyed it!

Legal disclaimer:  I received an e-version of this book in return for my honest review and posting with the FIRST blog tour.
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