Monday, April 30, 2007

Tomorrow: Playskool Baby Care

Tomorrow, I'll have my review of the new, exclusive Playskool Baby Care line available only at CVS pharmacies! Here's the products I'll be telling you about: the new cottony wipes, insulated drinking cup, serving dish and spoon (spoon tip changes color when the food is too hot), and the gel-filled cooling teething ring (stays pliable in the freezer).

I enjoyed testing these products, and I will have the pics, reviews and prices for each one, as well as my opinion of the Playskool Baby Care line and how well it meets the needs of busy Moms like you!

The Rhino Writes! The Dragon's Claw, Part III (the conclusion)

Here it is, the last installment of the Rhino's prize-winning story, The Dragon's Claw!


Six knights in shining black armor, with large shields, stood at the edge of the cave.

“Move out of the way, human, or we’ll have to take you, too,” said one of the knights.

The dragon growled, and the knights backed up a couple of steps.

James didn’t know what he should do, join the knights and kill the dragon, or die trying to help it.

He decided he liked the second option better, and he began to get in the way.

“You are on ITS side?” said the knights, astonished, closing in.

“Prepare,” said the dragon through gritted teeth.

Just then, one knight jumped and aimed for the dragon. The dragon lunged his long neck out and smacked the knight.

“Urgh,” grunted the knight, who flew backward.

One knight aimed for James, and took a swipe with his sword.

James ducked, rolled to his left, and then lifted his sword. The knight followed him, and slashed down. James deflected it, barely. James slashed at the knight. He deflected.

‘These knights are a lot tougher than goblins,’ thought James, dodging an upper-cut from the knight.

James took a swing for the knight’s stomach and once again he dodged.

Meanwhile, the dragon had taken out one knight, and injured another. Still, three came at him, swords held high. The dragon used all his force and blew a huge gust of flame from his mouth, burning a knight. The other two knights held their shields up and blocked the flame. The dragon swiped his tail and hit one in the stomach, hitting him into a rock with a thud.

All the while, James kept deflecting the knight’s shots, but he knew the knight had the upper hand. James had an idea….

The goblins’ weapons stood in the middle of the entrance, untouched. James dove toward them, picking up the biggest goblin sword in his left hand.

“Hah!” James said, and smirked.

Meanwhile, the dragon attacked, lunge after lunge of attacks, unable to lower the one knight’s attack. The dragon blew a small gust of flame at him, but he deflected it with his shield.

James threw attack after attack with his swords. One hit the knight’s hand.

“Ahhhgg!” screamed the knight, dropping his shield. James was quick to react, and threw another attack, disarming his opponent. The knight surrendered, stunned. James ran back to the sack of goblin weapons.

The dragon was getting worried. The knight was closing in, sword held high. Then, he saw James near the goblins’ weapons.

“Dragons are a disgrace to this land!” yelled the knight.

“Say that again to my face,” said the dragon, in his loud voice. The knight repeated himself and held up his shield. “Whatcha gonna do about it?” he asked, sword held ready to attack.

“Nothing. I was just distracting you so he could get behind you,”
said the dragon, smiling. James hit the knight with the butt of his sword, knocking him out.

The next morning, the surviving knights ran out into the snow.

James decided he would stay with the dragon for a while. The two of them made a good team!

Friday, April 27, 2007

Welcome, Blog Hoppers!

Cool Moms Rule wants to welcome all those readers who are coming over from the latest Blog Carnival and might have read my review of the game Faeries! You can find other reviews for games from a Mom's point of view here and here.

Tomorrow is the Rhino's birthday, so you will be seeing my next post Sunday or Monday morning. Remember that on Monday, you can also expect the next installment of the Rhino's story, The Dragon's Claw. It's getting close to the end! How do you like it so far? Send me a comment or two here at Cool Moms Rule and let me know--it will make him so happy to hear your feedback! If this is your first time visiting my site (where have you been all this time?!), you can read the first two installments of The Dragon's Claw from the previous two Monday's posts, which are located here and here!

Next week I will also be posting my new review of a line of Playskool Baby Care products being introduced exclusively through CVS Pharmacies nationwide! This line consists of everything from soft new wipes made with real cotton to baby feeding spoons that change color if baby's food is too hot(!). I'm really excited about fully testing some sample products from this line over the weekend to see how they hold up, and hope to have a detailed account of my experiences with them for all of you early in the week (I am aiming for Tuesday). My thanks go out to Sarah Fraser, from Child's Play Communications, who provided the samples with no guarantees other than a fair review from Cool Moms Rule on their performance when tested.

Thanks again for stopping by Cool Moms Rule. We love our readers and appreciate your patronage!


Monday, April 23, 2007

Out of the Mouths of...

So, today I was shopping in my local mega-store, which shall go nameless (rhymes with "fallmart"), when I heard a woman yelling, "Stop him! He took my purse!"

And then from all around, people (me included, because I have a big mouth), started yelling, "Stop that guy! He has her purse!"

And all these people started running--this makes me feel great, because you hear all the time how people aren't willing to help these days--after this guy. Not just employees, but a bunch of people, like six or seven guys in addition to security. If I had been closer to the entrance, I would have bolted after him myself.

But I was near the back of the store, so I am standing there, now holding my own purse tightly, a little shocked. And another woman comes up with, I'm guessing, her Mom, who is a sweet, elderly lady. She reminds me of my own grandmother: tiny, slightly stooped, neatly dressed, grey hair styled, everything in place, a slightly bemused look in her eyes.

And the woman asks me, "What happened?"

So I say, "Oh my goodness, that man just took that lady's purse!"

And before I could say anything else, the sweet little old lady mutters, "I hope they beat the crap out of him!"

I love my life.

They got the woman's purse back. The man dropped it in the parking lot when the crowd started after him. They didn't catch him, which was annoying, because I'd hoped there would be at least one sprinter in the crowd that might reach him, but the lady's purse had everything in it, so I'm sure she was really relieved.

The Rhino Writes! The Dragon's Claw, Part II

This is the second in a series of posts from a story entitled "The Dragon's Claw" that my son, the Rhino, who is 11, wrote. It won third place in a district competition. The next post in the series will be on Monday, April 30th. For the first post, click here.


James had never met a dragon before and he didn’t exactly seem too friendly. “Why do you linger into my cave?” asked the dragon in a booming voice. “Have you come, like so many others, to slay me?” Opening his mouth to shine his murderous teeth, he demanded, “Well, have you?!”

James knew this wasn’t going to end well.

“Umm…umm…no! I was just …umm…chasing a thief to get the kin--”

“AHHa! The King! You work for that villain!” yelled the dragon.

“What did the King ever do to you?” asked James, confused.

“Have you ever heard of the bounty on one dragon’s head? I am one of the last dragons in this land!” countered the dragon angrily.

“Ah,” said James, quietly.

“I’ll make a deal with you, little one. I will let you stay in this warm cave as long as you help me keep any enemy of mine off my back. Deal?”

“I guess. Deal,” said James, “Better to die in this cave fighting than in a blizzard outside on the mountain.” Tiredly, James sat down on a rock and waited for something to happen.


James had never met the King, even though he was a royal guard. But from what he had heard, the King sounded like an awful person.

James had been living with the dragon for a month now…and nothing had happened. He had to get his own food, but hunting was easy on the mountain because animals were everywhere. He camped out by the entrance, to help protect it. He knew the dragon would throw him out if something dangerous came in, so if anything he was being over-protective.

On this day, James went outside and gathered up some firewood, to cook some meat, and then went out hunting as usual. When he came back, he had already killed two deer, and was carrying them over his shoulder. When he dropped them by the entrance to the cave, he thought he heard something outside.

“Hmm,” said James, drawing his sword. The bushes outside rustled. “Umm…dragon?”

Yeeeee!” Screamed a 4 ft. tall creature, leaping out of the bushes.

“Goblins!” James yelled. Goblins never traveled alone.

The little creatures were everywhere. They drew knives, swords—some even had shields. There were at least ten of them, all coming into the cave together.

'Where’s Dragon?' thought James desperately, sweeping his sword from side to side.

The goblins were closing in, laughing and jumping. Just then, one goblin jumped in the air, slashing its small knife right at James’ face. James deflected it, and quickly turned in time to see one lone goblin swing a short sword at him from behind. He barely deflected that blow, his sword colliding with the goblin’s stomach.

Arrggghhh!” The goblin collapsed to the ground.

But another goblin used this as an opportunity for a counter-attack, and swiped his own sword across James’s stomach.

“Ahh!” cried James in pain, leaning down on his knee. But still, James was quick with his own attack, and when the goblin tried to finish him, he rose up and struck the goblin in the throat! The goblin tumbled down, holding onto his neck. The other goblins backed up, intimidated.

James saw his chance and took a strike at the goblin to his left. The goblin ducked and rolled past him. James followed him, turning towards the goblin and landing a blow on the top of his helmet.

Blahgh!” cried the goblin, slowly falling to the ground, dazed.

Kill him, already!” Yelled a goblin who seemed to be the leader.

James remembered something the Commander of the guards used to say: “Cut off the head of the snake, and the body will follow.”

‘Kill the leader!’ James thought.

James, for once on the attacking side, charged toward the lead goblin. When he was in range, he jumped in the air, and came down with all his force on top of the goblin.

The goblin dodged to the side, but only barely. James knew now he had the upper hand—or did he? A second later, James felt a stab of pain in his back!

“AHHH!” James screamed, falling down on his knees. Berserking, stabbing all around him, surprisingly, James hit a goblin in the stomach. His vision started to blur. Then a bright light appeared in the sky, and he blacked out completely.

Chapter Four: Awakening

James woke up in a dark cave. His back hurt badly, and his head hurt like his horse had stepped on it.

“Uhhh,” he grunted, and stood up. Or tried to. He felt a sharp pain in his back and fell down on his knees again.

“Ahhh!” James yelled in pain.

“You’re finally up,” said a loud, booming voice. “You’ve been asleep for two days now, from a minor injury.”

“You call being stabbed in the back a minor injury?!”

“Well, you’re talking and you don’t seem to be so injured now,” said the dragon, curiously. “I don’t know because whenever I see a knight, I usually eat them. Or burn them.”

“Oh,” said James quietly, a little frightened. He stood up carefully. He felt pain in his back, but this time he was able to ignore it. He walked over to his small camp near the entrance. His sword was there, along with many smaller ones and knives. The goblins must have dropped their weapons and run. He gathered them into a pile and decided he would need some food to eat.

But then the dragon came, dropping a deer on the ground in front of him, and said, “You must be hungry. I brought you food.”

“Thank you,” said James, surprised. He went over to his stored wood to start a fire.

“I got it,” said the dragon, and then blew fire at the pile. The logs quickly started burning. James was starting to like this dragon. He had given James a place to stay and saved him from the goblins. ‘Maybe I should stay here,’ James thought.

“In the name of the King, we have come to slay the dragon!”

‘Oh, no! Dragonslayers!’

Saturday, April 21, 2007

What's Up Next at Cool Moms Rule?

We are so glad you asked!

Cool Moms Rule
is proud to participate in the Southern Fried Blog Carnival this month. Check us out at the Carnival home blog, Cassie Knits.

Monday--the next two chapters of the Rhino's story, "The Dragon's Claw"!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Sayonara, Sanjaya

If you (or your kids or your grandkids or your sister or your Mom or...well, you get the idea) have been watching American Idol at all this season, you know who Sanjaya is. A sweet, good-natured kid with a charming, self-deprecating manner and a mop of black curly hair that drives tween girls wild, Sanjaya really only has one fault.

He can't sing.

That hadn't stopped him from getting into the top eight finalists in American Idol, however. Despite the constant reminder of the "judges" that this is supposed to be a singing contest, Sanjaya sailed by week after week, rarely even falling into the dreaded bottom three when "America voted" each week.

The truth is, the fact that Sanjaya was by far the worst singer in the bunch (and I say this as someone who genuinely likes the guy) might just have earned him more votes than his smile and his constantly changing hairstyles.

There is a vocal underground on the internet that are disgruntled with the way American Idol in general works, and with Simon Cowell in particular. First of all, like most of us that have ever tuned into the show, they disagree with the way previous seasons have gone. Though the singer with the most votes is supposed to win, over-loaded servers and transposed phone numbers have caused problems in the past, most notably in the first season when Tamyra was voted off and in the second season when Clay Aiken, despite the support of thousands of "Claymates", came in second after Reuben. ( I have to admit that whenever Reuben sang I found myself constantly distracted by the worry that he would keel over with a heart attack. He was always sweating as if the simple exertion of singing was taking a lot out of him, and with all that extra weight it just seemed like a matter of time before he collapsed.)

Added to the chaos underlying the entire voting process lies the deep enmity many voters feel for Simon Cowell. Never mind that Paula Abdul's entire "critique" of each singer sounds something like this: "You look wonderful tonight. I love the way you really know who you are and your spirit shines through," at least when she isn't crying. Never mind that Randy starts with, "I don't know, Dog, it sounded sorta pitchy to me...." Never mind that Simon is the only one who really does have the guts to tell the truly awful singers how "perfectly dreadful" they are.

No, it's the way he does it that bothers so many people. Simply prefacing comments like "you have to be the worst singer in the entire world," with "I don't mean to be rude..." does NOT make those comments any less rude, or any easier for deluded dreamers to hear after they have just finished belting their hearts out to the whole country, on camera, after bragging about how great they are to Ryan "I am not gay, I'm just a snazzy dresser" Seacrest.

So, during the season before last, these disgruntled viewers started taking matters in their hands, by voting specifically for whichever candidate Simon appeared to hate the most, out of simple spite. Their votes helped muck up the works a bit, but then Carrie Underwood, who actually can sing, won, and you would have thought that would be the end of the whole controversy.

If you really did think that, though, you are an idiot, because this season the anti-Simon voters really got their act together and focussed on Sanjaya. And that was pure genius in action. Because not only did Sanjaya have their votes, but lots of Moms and nurturing types voted for him out of sympathy because they couldn't stand to see such a sweet guy lose. And lots of tween girls voted for him because, apparently, they loved his hair.

And that was enough to keep him sailing through until Tuesday night, when Sanjaya came out and sang Bonnie Rait's "Let's Give Them Something to Talk About," wearing, oh my god, an ugly red banana that pushed that adorable mop of curly black hair up behind his head in a riotous spiking mess.

And he was, finally, voted off the show.

The moral of the story?

Don't wear an ugly bandana, apparently. At least, that's all I got out of it.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Reflections on a National Tragedy

The moment you hear the news, you feel pressure in your chest, like a lead weight pressing against your heart. Oh no, your mind registers numbly, it's happened again.

A wave of grief runs through you for the innocent victims caught up in something bigger and uglier than anyone could have anticipated, young lives cut tragically short by yet another gun-toting psychopath, families torn apart in a single afternoon.

And then--guiltily--you fervently give thanks that these weren't your children, that your family is intact.

In the wake of the Virginia Tech shootings, we will hear over and over again the same information: the methodical killer, shooting over and over again with a deadly calm as he stalks the campus, the shocked survivors somehow having the sense to "play possum" and go unnoticed in the midst of chaos, students barricading doors and tying make-shift tourniquets around bloody gun-shot wounds to save themselves.

Questions will be raised: did the police and campus security act quickly enough? Should there be sirens, alarms, an early warning system on college campuses? What about gun control? And the most disturbing query of all: What else could the professors who saw in this disturbed individual something frightening, some undefinable and yet somehow threatening quality, have done to keep all this from happening?

We need to ask all these questions. Not because we have a macabre curiousity about the minds of deranged killers, or because we are all sick voyeurs who need to experience vicariously the grief of the survivors and their families.

No, we ask these things to re-assure ourselves that we are immune, that we can't be touched by the same senseless tragedy. "It couldn't happen to me," we insist. "My family will never be threatened in this way. My children are safe."

But deep down inside we know the truth: it could happen to any of us.

We do the dead and injured, the suffering and the survivors a disservice when we suggest that had they simply done this or that, or if the police had just come sooner, or the teachers had just thrown this young man out of college, everything would have been all right.

The reality of the situation, no matter how hard it is to accept, is that we are dealing with a kind of madness here that none of us, not one of us, we who value life and love our families and treasure their lives and happiness above all else, can ever understand. There is no "why" that will explain it all to anyone's satisfaction, no reason that could possibly make sense in this senseless crime, no way to turn back the clock and make empty lives whole once more.

All we can really do is suffer along with those families, sending out to them our compassion and our fervent prayers that they will somehow make it through all this, all the while thanking god that we don't know, and hope we never find out, what it really is they are going through right now.

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Monday, April 16, 2007

The Rhino Wins 3rd Place!

If you have been following my blog recently, you'll know that my youngest son, the Rhino, had his story, "The Dragon's Claw" submitted at the district level for DQL (Discovering Quality Literature). Well, his fantasy story won third prize! My poll voters overwhelmingly opted to see the story here at Cool Moms Rule, so here are the first chapters to get you started!

James had never met a dragon before and he didn't exactly seem too friendly.

"Why do you linger into my cave?" asked the dragon in a booming voice. "Have you come, like so many others, to slay me?" Opening his mouth to shine his murderous teeth, he demanded, "Well, have you?!"

James knew this wasn't going to end well.




James is a royal guard, who has just been promoted by the King. He was on his way to his sector when a man burst out of the palace and started running toward the castle gate. James turned away, and then quickly turned back again. He had seen the King's shield on the man's back!

"Close the gate!" James shouted, but too late. The man had already run through the gate and out into the meadow. James quickly followed, grabbing his horse and jumping on its back, narrowly missing the gate as it closed over his head.

Chapter One: Chase

James quickly sprinted out the gate on his horse. The villain was heading north, across the field--toward the Mountains of Dawn. James, being a knight in the King's army, was restricted and could not go there. He never knew why....

The thief had mounted his horse, though, and was riding at a fast pace. He must have planned this, thought James.

James grabbed his spear from his saddle, taking aim. But the thief disappeared up the mountain's slope. James followed. The mountain was freezing. Snow covered even the lowest peaks. James kept up his speed, following the crook. The thief got off his horse and started climbing up a rocky slope, the shield on his back.

James dismounted, following him up the ledge. The thief had reached the top by now, and was making a run for it up the mountain. James finally got to the top and drew his sword. Seeing he was about to be attacked, the thief took out a sword, preparing to fight.

This surprised James. A thief, trying to fight a royal guard?

"Surrender now, or I'll have to take that shield off yoru body once you're dead!" yelled James, holidng his sword up high.

"You can try," said the thief in a calm voice.

Suddenly, the thief jumped toward James, swinging his sword in the air and swiping in the same motion. James rolled to the left, barely evading the attack, and stabbed his sword at the thief in a quick counter-strike. The thief swept James's sowrd away with his own and swung a high hit for James's head. James ducked, swiping for the thief's feet.

"ArrgggHHH!" The thief cried, falling to the ground and holding his leg. The snow under his body began to turn red.

"Here!" The thief yelled, throwing the shield at James, "Take that rubbish!" The thief clawed over to a white tree and sat against it, breathing heavily.

James picked up the shield without a word and turned to leave. Wait--where am I? James remembered that he had climbed a slope after riding to the mountain, but now he was surrounded by cliffs and slopes. I'll just go down, thought James.

Then, as if the mountain had heard him, the climbable ledge below him collapsed. CRASH! The whole slope caved away, leaving only a very steep ledge in its place.

"Oh, GREAT," James said aloud. Now he had to find a new way off the mountain which he wasn't even supposed to be on!

James sighed and began walking towards the nearest landmark, a cave. He was freezing.

"That looks like a nice warm play to stay," muttered James. He decided to have a look inside.

Inside, the cave was gigantic! It seemed to lead all the way through the mountains. The wind sounded like a wolf howling, loud and sharp, cutting into the dark cave.

James saw movement oout of the corner of his eye. Quickly, he drew his sword once more.

"Who's there?" James yelled. If the thing inside didn't know he was there before, it did now! What could it be? James wondered, looking around. A goblin, a drake or a--Just then, an enormous creature emerged, stretching its long neck around a stalagmite--a Dragon!

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Southern Hospitality

So, I was speaking with a young lady the other day about a transaction--okay, I was in the drive-thru at Burger King getting an iced tea and chatting with the headset-wearing teen--and I realized that somewhere along the way I had "put my Southern on."

That's what the Engineer calls it when I start saying things like, "whole 'nuther," and "ya'll," and my words take on a noticeable drawl, like some Brett Butler stand-up routine.

It's totally inadvertant, and it seems to happen whenever I am speaking with someone from the South who is just a little more Southern than I am. And I don't mean that geographically, because I'm in Florida. Some states just seem to fit that Southern stereotype better when it comes to speaking. You'll definitely pick up on a Southern accent, for instance, when you're talking to someone from, say, Tennessee or Georgia or Alabama. But unless I'm in conversation with someone from one of those places and "putting my Southern on", I don't think you would assume I'm from the Deep South just from the way I talk.

Native Floridians (like me) are a strange breed. We're actually in a minority in our own state, where retirees swoop down like vultures to take over our restaurants (all the way bemoaning the fact that we don't have delis down here that can compare with New York) at four in the afternoon from April to September or so, the "Snowbird" season. You would be surprised, I think, to know that most of the native Floridians I know are liberal, open-minded people, rather than the ultra-conservative Bible-belt fundamentalists we are portrayed as in the media.

I mean, honestly, I swear I don't know a single native named, "Jim Bob"! I had neighbors with the whole double-name thing (you know, like Tommy Lee or Ellie May) when I was growing up, but they were from Indiana, for crying out loud. And our sheriffs, thank you very much, are not obscenely over-weight, dumb as a stump and all named "Bubba".

I will admit that I have, yes, seen the odd (and I mean that in every sense of the word) redneck driving around in a big pickup truck with a rifle rack and a "Southern Cross" flag in the back, but that's by no means the norm here. You're more likely to see a mini-van with a soccer sticker on the back in my neighborhood.

And, as for the most obvious stereotype: nope, I'm not a racist, and I wouldn't care to associate with anyone who was. Prejudice and intolerance rub me entirely the wrong way.

I am, though, happy to embrace for myself the whole "GRITS" (Girls Raised In The South) vision of a sweet, friendly, unpretentious, great-kissin', fine-cookin' Southern girl, sporting cut-off sexy shorts and a cute Southern drawl.

I don't really know where I'm going with this post, ya'll. I think I need to start a whole 'nuther thread.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Free Sample of Hamburger Helper!

Betty Crocker and Dinner Made Easy are providing free samples to a limited number of Moms! Just click on the link in this post to get yours (until supplies run out)!

Free Hamburger Helper Sample

You can also save over $7 with these coupons for popular Betty Crocker items!

Don't forget to vote on the Rhino's story, "The Dragon's Claw", on the sidebar!>>>

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Happy Easter!

It's been such a busy weekend here, I didn't post my favorite Easter recipe! Still, just in case there are other procrastinating Moms out there (like me!), I'll give it to you now. It's really so easy, you can make it any time, not just for special occasions, and it comes out perfect every time as long as you slow cook it long enough!

Viv's Favorite Pot Roast Recipe

2-3 lb top round roast (for a family of 4, I use a 2.5lb cut)
Lipton's Onion Soup dry package (the "recipe secrets" one)
2 cans Campbell's Golden Mushroom soup

Put roast in the fridge overnight if it has been frozen.

Plunk roast in a large crockpot with a cover that will fit in your oven.
Sprinkle one packet of the dry onion soup mix around and on top of roast.
Spoon out two cans of golden mushroom soup around roast (do not add water! The roast makes it's own gravy with the soup and the juices from the roast).
Cook on low heat (325ยบ) for about 4 hours, turning the roast over halfway through cooking time.

The Roast is done when it pulls apart easily with a serving fork.

This recipe is practically foolproof, and the gravy it makes is delicious. I usually serve it with some mashed potatoes on the side to take advantage of the tasty gravy!

Saturday, April 7, 2007

We Made It!

Hey, cool! (no pun intended!)

Cool Moms Rule has been nominated by the Blogger's Choice Awards in two categories:

Best Parenting Blog
Hottest Mommy Blogger

Yay! Please vote for us! (shameless plug)

We are also nominated for "best blog ever", but since we've only been around a few months, I think that's pushing it, don't you? LOL

Thanks for reading, every single one of you.

(And please get on over there and vote!)

Friday, April 6, 2007

Maui, Greetingflix style!


As you all know, I recently went to Maui, and I have promised you pics of my trip. At around the same time I returned this week, I received a letter from Wendy over at Greetingflix. She asked if I would review what they have to offer and give you my unbiased assessment.

And that's exactly what it was: Wow!

This is a fantastic idea! Greetingflix is like making a video scrapbook, complete with music and personal messages and your own pictures. It's a mini-movie starring you, and it looks like a professional did it.

I can hear some of you right now saying, "That sounds nice and all, but is it complicated? Do I have to know all kinds of computer stuff? Isn't it a lot of work?"

And that's what makes Greetingflix so great--No, it isn't hard at all! In fact, it's so easy it only took me a few minutes to set up my own greetingflix! And I think (patting myself on the back here) that I did a great job.

I have the finished creation for you so you can judge for yourself, but first let me tell you a little about the process so you can see how easy it all is.

Once you have signed in to Greetingflix, you can choose from the "FREE" option or the "PRO" option. Now, the free option is fine, but Wendy very nicely set me up with the PRO option so that I could review all of its features here, and I highly recommend the upgrade. Here's why: it offers you up to 1 gig of storage space for your uploaded pictures (and if you're like me, your digital camera's pictures take up a LOT of memory). In addition, the PRO option lets you choose from additional PRO templates.

What are templates? I'm glad you asked! Templates are like little movie backdrops and themes that you customize with your own pics to end up with your finished greetingflix. Once you have signed in and your account is verified, you can choose the "create now" icon to really get going. You will view a neat little video movie that illustrates a sample greetingflix, and then you can make your own.

That's when you choose your template.

Now, the templates vary, and you can pick one for, say, a sporting event or a special occasion or just to send some pictures to your friends. Depending on which template you pick, you will then need to upload anywhere from 1 to 6 pictures into your scrapbook. You just select what pics you want off of your hard drive, choose "upload" and Greetingflix does the rest.

This is where the PRO option really comes in handy, because each of my pics was a whopping 2.7 Mbytes. But with the PRO option, even though I chose a template that worked with 6 pics, I was still only using up 1.7 % of my storage space! Isn't that great?! I have room to make more greetingflix if I want. And I think I am going to want to, because it really is kind of fun.

Greetingflix gives you the option of editing your pictures in a number of ways once you have uploaded them, before slipping them into the template you have picked. For example, you can crop the pics for a closer view, rotate them, or change the order so they make chronological sense or better fit the theme of your template.

Now that you have all of your pics uploaded and edited, you can even personalize your greetingflix further by adding an additional message to your recipients. You can view the final version of your greetingflix just as your recipients will see it, full-size, before deciding whether to approve it or continue to make changes. You can then choose to send your greetingflix to any three emails, along with a heads-up note from you (or you can use Greetingflix's standard notice).

And...voila! That's all there is to it! The entire process is a breeze, the result is professional and your friends will be impressed (and touched. Some of these video templates are quite moving).

"But wait!" I hear you all saying. "What if I want to send my greetingflix to more than three people?!"

See, I knew you would like it! :) And that's no problem. Your greetingflx is saved, and you can keep sending it out, three e-mail addresses at a time, until you run out of people you know. You can even send it to strangers if you want. ; )

So, obviously, I really recommend But here's the final test for you, so you can see if you agree--as promised, my greetingflix to you:

viv's Maui trip

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The Rhino Writes!

We're back from Maui! I thought that my first post back from vacation would be some beautiful pics from the island (and they are coming soon!), but we returned to find something special has happened with the Rhino, so as a proud Mom, I am posting about that first!

The Rhino shares my love of reading and writing, and before we left for Maui, his class was assigned a writing assignment. It was very open: basically, the kids in the class just had to write and write as much as they could, wherever their imagination took them. I love that kind of assignment, that really lets the kids express themselves!

The Rhino chose to write about a knight and a dragon, and his story totalled 14 pages by the time the teacher announced it was time to stop writing.

The stories were read aloud to classmates at the school, and voted upon, and three stories were chosen to go on to the district level in a program called, "DQL." The acronym stands for, "Discovering Quality Literature."

And the Rhino's story was one of the three chosen!

So now we are rushing to get his story typed up and bound and given back to his wonderfully hardworking teachers over the weekend, so it can be sent off.

In our county, books that the kids submit through the DQL project, if chosen to go on, are shared at the district level and then become part of the school's library for other kids to read, to help motivate them to write as well!

So, we are very excited!

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Reviews: Mac Games, Part I

Wondering what happened to this? Somehow, Part I of the reviews for Mac games never made it through the ether on first try. So, here it is!

By popular demand, I am reviewing some Mac-compatible games for those of you with the OS-X-dot-something-or-other operating system. I'm a Mac user myself, so I can relate.

We have a policy that we like to personally try out everything we review, so there will be more reviews once I have tested more games out personally. Through the magic of the ethernet, you'll see this review while I'm on vacation this week. (I'll tell you all about my vacation when I get back from--get ready to sigh with envy--beautiful Maui).

Okay, so back to the game reviews!

Bubble Bobble Nostalgie--If, like me, you are old enough to remember games like "Dig Dug", "Mr. Do", "PacMan" and "Donkey Kong," this game will charm you. It's suitable both for kids who like arcade games and for Moms who don't game a lot and prefer cheerful, happy music to the sound of gunshots and bombs dropping.

In this game, you are a cute (and it really is adorable, I love it) dragon who blows bubbles (Of course!). You blow bubbles because some not very nice blue creatures (you can tell they aren't nice because they have little frowns on them, while your dragon smiles all the time) are after you. All you have to do is blow a bubble at them, and they will be caught in the bubble. Then your little dragon can either jump on them or run into them to make them pop and disappear. It's a simple game to learn, and you only need the arrow keys and the spacebar to play. You can even play two player, with two cute dragons, along with your child!

The game reminds me of Mr. Do because letters randomly show up in bubbles, and if you pop them, you can spell out "extend" to get an extra man. It's like Donkey Kong because you have little platforms to jump over and across while you are catching the bad guys in your bubbles (what's nice is you can't lose a man just from falling off a platform).

And it is like PacMan because cute food shows up for your dragon to eat! I've seen hot dogs, fudgesicles, lots of bananas, oranges and apples, ice cream sundaes, and, for some strange reason, a butterfly(?!). Plus, there are bonuses, like sneakers that make your dragon go faster.

Bubble Bobble Nostalgie is suitable for kids who like arcade games (Moms, too). The full version, which has 200 levels(!) costs only $14.95. It's available to try or buy through this link:
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