Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Mad Men Maker

Did you love the season opener of Mad Men last weekend? Can't wait for more Mad Men goodness? Then  "Mad Men Yourself" over at the official website!

Are you a Joan, a Betty, or a Peggy? Find out now.

Or just try on the fashions of the time, complete with accessories. Put yourself in the clothes, hairstyles and settings of the popular AMC show.

And yes, your Mad Man can give himself a makeover as well.

Check out my new Mad Men character to the left.

I like to think she just hangs out by the pool, drinking tropical confections while wearing her pearls and gloves.

Maybe I could take over Betty's role. She's my least favorite character on the show--gorgeous, but boring (okay, well, part of that is that January Jones is better at looking pretty than actual acting).  I'd like to see them find a creative way to get rid of her character.

After all, Don's never really settled down to a monogamous lifestyle anyway. ; )

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Camping Trip Photos Lead to Allegations of Child Endangerment

Salon features a disturbing story of a photographer and his friends, accused of endangering their children after pictures from their camping trip are turned in to the police as possible "child pornography".  

Pictures included a 3 yr-old girl skinny-dipping in the lake, an 8 yr-old swimming in his underwear, and another boy drying his wet underclothes over the campfire  after the trip to the lake. There was also a pic of the naked campers urinating on the ashes of their fire as they covered up all traces of their camping trip, and one photo of a child where the subject's head was cut off (probably taken by one of the kids).

Yes, that's as "bad" as the pictures went, but the families in question went through months of suspicion, home visits by Child Services, and their children questioned by strangers, one by one, about "good touch" and "bad touch".

At one point, the family is told that they might be charged for child endangerment for allowing kids near the campfire.

I found it really frightening how far this case went, and what the families in question went through as the result of a disposable camera and one overzealous Eckerd's photo employee.

None of the questionable pictures are actually featured in the article.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Review: Vacation Isle Beach Party for the Wii

 I've been working out using the Wii for a while now. I love the idea of exercising and having fun at the same time, especially since I'm the type that usually has to force herself to get moving.

So I'm all in favor of games for kids that get them up off the couch, too. Which is why I was happy to agree to review Vacation Isle Beach Party for the Wii for the site.

Developed by FarSight Studios, creator of the highly successful Game Party series, Vacation Isle: Beach Party keeps the party going by letting families and friends compete in exciting land or sea-based activities. Along the way, players collect hundreds of Sand Dollars that can be used to purchase a wide variety of sports accessories and beach gear from the Surf Shack to uniquely personalize their Vacation Isle avatar.

The concept is simple. Up to four players can compete in eight vacation-style games, ranging from wakeboarding to surfing and even fire dancing(!).  Kids can use the Wii Remote™ and Nunchuck, or the (optional) Wii Balance Board accessory for a more engaging experience.

We don't have the Wii Balance Board, so for this review, we tried used the Remote and Nunchuk combination.  This led me to have some problems right away.  I chose to try out Hula and Fire Dancing, and had to have a little remedial instruction in just what was meant by the Z button on the remotes! I never use that one in my workouts.  I did find the dancing "fun and engaging," especially for kids who already play games like Dance, Dance Revolution or Guitar Hero. The controls are similar, and they should catch on (much faster than I did!) and keep up with the on-screen prompts easily.

Stand-Up Paddling was also a breeze after my workouts; no problem there.

Slalom Skiing thwarted me, though. Even on the EASY level, I could only get through two of the three levels.

When I also had trouble with the Ski Jump, I called on my seventeen year-old son to try it out.  He is what the other kids call a "G" (kinda shorthand for godly)--pretty much masters the controls and the strategy for every video game the first time he plays it.

Though he naturally did much better than I did, he found the controls for this activity awkward as well. I think this one would be quite difficult for the younger kids, and I could see pre-teens really getting frustrated and giving up on it.

Needless to say, Stunt Park, which incorporates several of the activities, was beyond my ability as well. I think with practice, though, an adult could master all of the activities.


Families can play the game together. 

Uses just the Wii Remote™ and Nunchuck, or you can (optionally) add in the Wii Balance Board to get your entire body in motion.

Customizable Avatars:  With a variety of  character profiles, you can select and accessorize a character that fits your style.

Awards and Sand Dollars (used to purchase beach gear and equipment) make challenges more enticing. I was able to outfit my (fit and pretty) female avatar with board shorts, matching tankini top and shoes by the time I was done trying out the game.

Accessible Fun:  Adjustable difficulty settings help balance the fun for players of all skill levels.  Although I disagrre with the assumption that "Even the tiniest beachgoers can join in the fun with the game’s easy pick up and play features," as advertised, I do think the adjustable difficulty settings mean older and younger siblings can play along with Mom and Dad.

Set on a fictional island, makes for a lovely virtual environment for the game.


Confusing controls. Even with the tutorials included in the game, some of the activities are, in my opinion, just too challenging for the younger kids, especially when you consider that the cute avatars and awards seem geared to this demographic.

I would have liked to have seen more than eight activities (Slalom Skiing, Wake Boarding, Surfing, Stand Up Paddling, Ski Jump, Stunt Park and Hula and Fire Dancing). Stunt Park is just an extension of the other seven, and Hula and Fire Dancing are basically the same thing with different accessories. I can think of lots more activities that would be a good fit for this game right of the top of my head: beach volleyball, jet-skiing, snorkelling or scuba diving are just a few that come to mind.  I feel they missed the ball by just throwing a few together for the game.

PUBLISHER: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
: FarSight Studios
Party Game

Viv's overall take: Vacation Isle Beach Party for the Wii offers activities the whole family can play together, in a great setting with fun, customizable avatars and rewards to keep the game interesting. You don't need to have a Wii Balance Board to play, but if you do, you can use your whole body and really get some exercise while playing. However, some of the activities and controls are just going to be too frustrating for younger players, and with only eight activities, the game's replay value is really limited.

I received a free copy of Vacation Isle Beach Party for the Wii to facilitate this review.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Cower Like A Chicken

This Friday, from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., your local Chick-fil-a will celebrate Cow Appreciation Day!

What does that mean for you?

Dress like a cow July 9th and you'll receive a FREE Chick-fil-a Meal!

And just in case you left your cow costume at the cleaners, you can download a free Cow Appreciation Starter Kit to make another for each member of your family (Warning: slow loading times on this site).

If you do the Facebook thing, you can also R.S.V.P for the event.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Summer Reads: Book Reviews for you (and the kids!)

We're back! After spending the last couple weeks in California with my husband celebrating our 21st anniversary, I'm back with new reviews for you and your family.

First off, I was FINALLY able to catch up on some reading, so here's my pics and pans for Summer:

Girls will love
The Secret Lives of Princesses (Sterling Publishers).
Don't look for insipid, pink and pretty damsels in distress just sitting around and waiting for a prince to ride up and rescue them here! This outrageous collection of lesser-known princesses will captivate any girl who dances to the beat of a different drummer. My personal favorite? Princess Paige, who would rather spend her time in the library writing her autobiography than dancing in the ballroom. There's a website full of games, and trading cards which contain a secret code, to go along with the book, which is chock-full of beautiful illustrations. Order The Secret Lives of Princesses from Amazon

Teens will fall for these
The fourth installment of Alyson Noël’s IMMORTALS series, Dark Flame (The Immortals) (St Martin's Press) follows Ever as she attempts to help her friend Haven transition into life as an immortal and once again faces off with Roman, forcing her to delve deeper into magick.

If your teen is at all like me, Ever is going to really get to them in this one. WHEN will she learn to trust her friends instead of going it on her own? Publisher's Weekly agrees that the ending will blow you away!

Incidentally, DARK FLAME is also available from the incomparable Macmillan Press folks in audiobook form on several CDs, highly recommended for those long roadtrips.

Burned is the 7th book in the hugely popular House of Night series, in which, unbelievably, protagonist Zoey Redbird’s soul has shattered. Can Stark save her? The Vampyre High Council says that, to do so, he must die himself. and what of Stevie Ray and Aphrodite? Can they help? With only 7 days left to save her, all that remains of Zoey is fading fast.

SPOILER: look, the series is going strong. Do you really think Zoey is gone forever? I doubt your teens will, either. So don't look for much suspense in this one. However, the character development of Stevie Ray and Aphrodite makes for a welcome change from Zoey's usual perspective and breathes new life into the series. Quick read, good for the beach. Order Burned (House of Night Novels) from Amazon.

You Will Enjoy
The Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent. Written by the actual descendant of a woman accused in the Salem Witch Trials, this period novel is painstakingly researched. Kent accurately portrays the hard living conditions, near constant fear and religious fervor that characterized the Puritan colony of Andover, Massacusetts, sister city to Salem. Highly recommended for the historical accuracy alone, the prose sometimes lags but the stark descriptions are fitting for this dire time in our nation's history. "Life is not what you have or what you can keep, but what you can bear to lose." Order The Heretic's Daughter: A Novel from Amazon

I received review copies of The Secret Lives of Princesses, Burned, and Dark Flame from the publishers of the books (the last two also in audiobook version from Macmillan audio).
I receive many review copies as a blogger; I felt these books were worth your time.
The Heretic's Daughter was a personal purchase I enjoyed.

Cool Moms Rule! is in full compliance of the new FTC rules concerning Bloggers. I disclose on all posts where a product was received for free and/or if there was any kind of financial compensation involved.