Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Movie Review: 'My Sister's Keeper'

By: Marina DelVecchio

Title: My Sister's Keeper
Genre: Drama
Run Time:109 min
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: Nick Cassavetes
Writer: Jodi Picoult
Cast: Cameron Diaz, Alec Baldwin, Abigail Breslin, Sophia Vassilievo
Recommended: Yes

Synopsis: Based on Jodi Picoult's 2004 novel, 'My Sister's Keeper' begins with Anna, an eleven-year-old girl seeking the aid of a high-powered lawyer to medically emancipate her from the physical and painful demands of being engineered to save her sister's life. While most babies are conceived out of love or by accident, Anna was conceived for the purpose of providing white cells, blood, bone marrow, kidney, and other organs to her older sister dying of leukemia. This story ventures beyond the issue of medical ethics and the ramifications of designer babies and engineering children as hosts of lifesaving mechanisms and medical breakthroughs; it stresses the complex and intricate web of problems such a decision has on everyone involved.

Review: Told from fragmented strings of points of view from every member of the Fitzgerald family, we see a family united in an effort to save one child, but are also exposed to the emotional strains and debilitating effects the saving of one child has on the rest of the family. Seemingly a united family front, this is a protrait of a disjointed unit individuals sruggling not only with life and death issues, but also with identity and loss of individuality. Sara, the mother, has given up her career as lawyer and has assumed the over-domineering role of the matriarch of the family, controlling everything and everyone with the blinded pursuit Oedipus, trying to find a cure for daughter's life at the cost of everything else, including the needs of her other children. Anna, the designer baby, stands up for self-possession of her body and her rights, sues her mother because she no longer desires to serve as her sister's life-saving mechanism and be prodded by needles and cut into by scalpels for the sake of someone else's life - even if that someone else is her sister. Kate, dying of leukemia, is a vibrant and mature young woman who devises a scheme to end her mother's forceful fight for her life. In constant pain from the drugs and operations, she conspires against her mother for her own right to possess her own body, her own illness, and die without any more intervention.

More sad than Kate dying of leukemia is the portrait of Jesse, the middle child and the only boy. No one notices him. He comes home to an empty house, takes a bus into the city, inhaling the noise and vibrancy of life that is obviously missing in his own world, and when he returns home way past his curfew, no one has taken notice that he was out all night. His parents missed that he was dyslexic, and once it was discovered by his teachers, his parents sent the tearful child to a special school for an entire year so that others could teach him to see things right. Throughout Jesse is invisible, quiet, solemn, facing life and death and his own development into a young man on his own, without any guidance, or affection. Same goes for the father, played by Jason Patric, who only stands up to his wife when their dying daughter wants to go to the beach for a day. The major drama features the struggles of the three females in the family, the mother and the two daughters, while the father and son are dealing with chaos and conflict with quiet strength, but this does not make them appear strong. In fact they seem weakened, powerless, and on the margins of this female triad that excludes their existence as well as their voices.

This story brings to light the notion that in order to save thousnads one must die, because it was only after Kate passed away that the family was able to go on, to live again. Her death brought them back to life, to find meaning in something other than her illness and her dying. In trying to save her, the entire Fitzgerald family was drowning, and it was only in her death that they were able to begin living for their individual selves.
Friday, June 25, 2010

Movie Review: Gasland

By Alyssa Ast

Title: Gasland
Genre: Documentary
Run Time: 107 Minutes
MPAA Rating: N/A
Director: Josh Fox
Writer: Josh Fox
Cast: N/A
Recommended: Yes!
Synopsis: A documentary covering the effects of onshore natural gas rigs. An eye opening coverage of the toxic water resulting from natural gas rigs.

My Review: I was absolutely astonished by this HBO documentary. My attention was captured through every second of this film. The film starts out discussing rumors about toxic water that has resulted from natural gas drilling. It covers the chemicals and methods used to capture the natural gas. The toxic water and chemicals used started having dire effects on the health of residents living near these gas fields. The water was so highly toxic it was actually flammable.

People suffered devastating complications and when the problems were brought to the companies attention, they were simply brushed aside. But was most upsetting was the fact the companies were actually permitted to do this. The natural gas companies were granted permission to neglect the stringent laws set forth for others to follow simply because they could. There appeared to be no regulations on what the natural gas companies are doing and the only people harmed by it were the people calling the gas fields their home.

This movie is highly educational and very eye opening. It really makes you think twice about what is going on in the world. I recommended it to anyone!
Thursday, June 24, 2010

Music Review: Michael Buble's Crazy Love

By Stacey Celaya

Title: Crazy Love (2009)
Artist: Michael Buble
Label: 143/Reprise Records
Recommended? Yes

My Review:

Michael Buble's fourth studio album "Crazy Love" is his latest musical effort. Recorded with the studio doors open so that his listeners would "feel" the music as it was recorded provides a different feel to this album compared to his others, wanting to go back to the way his idols created music.

Crazy Love contains two original songs "Haven't Met You Yet" and "Hold On" written by Buble along with eleven covers including Dean Martin's "You're Nobody 'til Somebody Loves You" and The Eagles' "Heartache Tonight".

Michael Buble set out to create an album from the heart and stated that he "dug deep when recording this album, singing the truth and making each song autobiographical".

For those of you that have never heard the musical stylings of Michael Buble he sounds like a modern day Frank Sinatra. His music is clean sounding, make your heart sing, everything is gonna be okay kind of music.

He is one of those artists that is able to cross the generational divide and attract the attention of those not only in my generation but the older generation and amazingly enough the younger generation as well. I have repeatedly caught my teenagers crooning along to not only Michael Buble's latest album but to every song of his that comes blaring out of my stereo speakers.

Crazy Love is a feelin' good, sing at the top of your lungs album with songs that are crisp in sound and timeless in feel.

Michael Buble gets another thumbs up from me and so does Crazy Love.
Monday, June 21, 2010

Pet Product Review: Fresh Catnip

Do you want to make your kitty's day? Try giving him or her a little fresh or dried catnip!

Catnip (Nepeta cataria) contains a volatile oil called “nepetalactone” which is stored in the little bulbs on the leaves and stems of the catnip.

When this netetalactone gets in your cat’s nose, it stimulates neurons and sends signals to the kitty’s brain. In some cats, it makes them play wildly, chewing, licking, rolling..... and in others it puts them right to sleep. Very young cats (under 3 months of age) and most elderly cats are not affected by 'nip. Some cats are altogether unaffected by catnip at any age. Although scientists aren’t sure what causes some cats to get a little crazy when they are around catnip, the popular theory is that the netetalactone in catnip mimics a cat pheromone stimulating an extreme pleasure response.

Catnip is easy to grow, in fact will take over your garden if you aren't careful to pull unwanted plants immediately. Keep weed killers and fertilizers away from your plants if you plan on using the catnip for your kitty.....go organic for safety!

Easy to make toy: Stitch together a small pouch of durable fabric and fill with dried catnip leaves. It is helpful to powder the dried herbs in a grinder first. This prevents kitty from being poked by stems and lets the herb seep out better through the fabric. Cats will get hours of enjoyment from these treats. Many people make mouse shapes, but balls are nice because they roll well and give a euphoric cat something to chase!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Child Product Review: Pillow Pets

By Kerrie McLoughlin
Product: Pillow Pets
Cost: Around $20 plus shipping and handling if you buy online (in which case your 2nd through 6th Pets are only $15.95)
Where to buy: Online, Target, various other stores
Recommended: YES

As the jingle goes that I just can’t get out of my head: “It’s a pillow! It’s a pet! It’s a Pillow Pet!” Will the kid in your life love it? Definitely.

My kids have the Panda, Penguin, Dolphin and Unicorn Pillow Pets and take them everywhere they go. It was great recently to go on vacation and not have to worry about them taking a bulky pillow plus a bulky stuffed animal. With their Pillow Pet in tow, each kid can have their stuffed animal to cuddle up to while also making it a pillow.

It’s also nice how they snap in the middle, saving a bit of space. This is yet another one of those ideas I wish I had come up with because it is so brilliant!
Thursday, June 17, 2010

Product Review: Deluxe Seat Solution

by Taqiyyah Shakirah Dawud

Product Name: Deluxe Seat Solution
Manufacturer Name: Deluxe Seat Solution
Retail Price: $14.98
Where to Get It: Harriet Carter, Bed Bath and Beyond, other carriers of therapeutic-type lumbar equipment.
Sizes/Specifications: 16-3/4" W x 14" L x 3" D, black fabric and poly/foam
Product Description: Orthopedic seat cushion
Recommended? Definitely

I ordered the Deluxe Seat Solution from Harriet Carter online for only $14.98. I got it for my father, who was diagnosed with a broken tailbone sustained in a car accident (not his fault). He’d been complaining of a sharp ache in the lower lumbar region whenever he sat down or whenever he was in the process of standing upright, and we had no chairs that could relieve his pain.

I bought it because I wanted something less expensive than a therapeutic seat or cushion, and it seemed to be just the thing: the description on the website read, “Orthopedic wedge-shaped design tilts lower back forward to restore natural spinal curve, while cutaway section relieves pressure on tailbone and spine.”

And it was labeled, “As Seen on TV.” What can I say? Its celebrity was irresistible. It was in my online shopping cart and paid for within just a few moments, along with some night driving glasses (also seen on TV).

After about a week I received it, and presented it and the glasses to him. He put it on the sturdy folding chair he uses at the kitchen table and sat—without wincing. That alone was gratifying. But then he gave a blissful smile and a sigh and said he hadn’t felt so good sitting in a long time. No pressure at all on his tailbone. I could see how the wedge with the cutaway in the back would let his spine just float naturally, and I was as happy as if it were my own tailbone getting some relief.

My father is a pretty substantial man, though, and I was afraid the foam cushion wouldn’t last. That was 5 months ago. He uses it just about every day when he sits at the kitchen table, or in the computer room chair. He even brought it along on a long airplane flight. It hasn’t flattened.

Granted, it may not match your décor, being all black with faux leather on one side and cloth on the other, but in terms of comfort, it’s much more than I’d expect from a seat cushion. So my thoughts? It’s perfect for sedentary office jobs, lower back pain, or just sitting for a while without back strain.
Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Sport Product Review: Nike + SportBand

By Stacey Celaya

Product Name: Nike + Sportband
Retail Price: $59.00
Where to Get It: sporting good stores
Sizes/Specifications: one size fits all
Product Description: running/walking accessory
Recommended? Yes
My Review:

Nike + Sportband allows you to track your running efforts in terms of distance, pace, calories burned and time. The sportband comes with a small sensor that fits inside of your Nike+ equipped running shoe. The sportband links up with the sensor and through the magic of technology that hurts my brain to think about tracks your running stats.

The information is stored in a removable piece of the bracelet that plugs into the USB port of your computer. This uploads your information onto the Nike+ website allowing you to see your progress. The Nike+ website allows you to also sign up to participate in challenges, network with other runners, following training plans and set goals.

The sport band comes in charcoal grey on the outside and pink, yellow, red or blue on the inside. For those of you that prefer a running shoe made by other companies besides Nike - there are specialized pouches that hold the sensor and can be attached to those shoes. In addition, if your not into the sportband look you can also use the Nike + software on the newer versions of your iPod, iTouch and the 3GS iPhone.

I love to run - and I run at least 3 or 4 times a week - granted I am not a natural and I have to work hard at running...but the high that I get from it can compare to no other. Last year for my 38th Birthday I bought the Nike+ Sportband for myself. Happy Birthday to me...

It has been, hands down, the best workout accessory I have ever bought after my running shoes of course - and the most important in terms of motivation. I am a visual person and I need to SEE my progress in black and white. The Nike+ software allows me to do just that. I cannot imagine running without it. And on the days that I would rather walk? Well it has the ability to detect that change and adjust for that as well.

Would I recommend it? I do everyday - to anyone that asks - and even to some that don't.
Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Service Review: Sirius/XM Satellite Radio

by Pam Houghton

Product Name: Sirius/XM Satellite Radio
Retail Price: There are different packages, but a subscription to 'Sirius Everything' is $12.95 a month
Where to Get It: See website for info on packages and equipment.
Where to use it: Vehicles with satellite equipped radios, homes or offices with Internet connection, and Smart phones.
Product Description:
Commercial-free radio with wide variety of listening options in music, talk radio, news, and sports.
Recommended: Yes!

For years, I listened to FM radio in my car on my way to and from work. In the morning, I'd bounce around the dial listening to a variety of morning radio shows; on my way home, I'd flip through the same stations, trying to find just the right songs for the long commute home.

After we purchased a Ford Escape last year, we were provided with six months of Sirius Satellite Radio for free. I figured I'd listen for the allotted six months, then let the subscription expire. After all, I'd lived for years with FM stations; I'd continue to listen once the Sirius subscription lapsed.

Little did I know I'd get hooked on the diversity of listening options satellite radio offers. Unlike an FM market where only one or two country stations might be available, Sirius has six. Ranging from Bluegrass Junction and The Roadhouse to Outlaw Country and Willie's Place (as in Willie Nelson), they're different enough to appeal to specific niche markets within the same musical genre.

Other styles include pop, rock, dance & electronic, hip-hop/R&B, Christian, jazz/blues, standards, classical, and Latin & World, each of which has its own set of satellite channels.

In all, Sirius/XM Satellite Radio offers over 130 channels of music, talk radio (i.e. Howard Stern, Oprah Radio), news (i.e. CNN, BBC World News) and sports (ie. PGA Tour, Sports Talk and News).

My favorites are:

  • The Spectrum - adult album rock
  • 1st Wave - classic alternative
  • Little Steven's Underground Garage - garage rock (fast, 3-chord rock a la the Ramones)

These channels keep me entertained while I'm in my car, although I do venture into bluegrass, alternative music, and the occasional pop or rap station when my kids are with me.

If your ears enjoy a wide variety of sounds and compelling talk radio shows, Sirius/XM Satellite Radio is an interesting investment of time and money.
Monday, June 14, 2010

Book Reveiw: Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris

By Stacey Celaya

Title: Dead Until Dark
Author: Charlaine Harris
Publisher: ACE Books
Recommended? Definitely

My Review:

Sookie Stackhouse is an above average looking barmaid at a bar in Bon Temps, Louisiana -- except for her unique ability to read the minds of other humans. Sookie's life plan to stay under the radar and avoid scrutiny by others who think she is just weird is ruined when she meets and falls in love with handsome Bill the Vampire. Sookie's life is perfect now - she discovers that she is unable to read the minds of the undead and realizes that she is not only in love for the first time but that she can experience total silence in her own head when she is around Bill.

So begins many adventures for Sookie as she is thrust into the never boring world of the Supernaturals. A host of strange and interesting characters fill the world of Sookie Stackhouse.This is the first book in a series of ten revolving around Sookie Stackhouse and the many supernatural inhabitants of Bon Temps and the inspiration for HBO's Original Series True Blood.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. It's a light hearted and fun read. I not only fell in love with Sookie but also with all the leading men in her life. I can't put it down and can't wait to read the next one - not to mention my desire to tune into the series now too!

If your looking for a mysterious adventure and a secret world of vampires, werewolves and shape-shifters mixed with a little romance then you have to check out this series of books. Ms. Harris spins a great yarn!
Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Movie Review: 'Robin Hood'

By Marina DelVecchio

Title: Robin Hood

Genre: Action/Drama

Run Time: 140 minutes

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Ridley Scott

Cast: Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett

Recommended? Yes

Synopsis: This new version of 'Robin Hood' introduces the beginnings of the hero we have come to know as the legendary Prince of Thieves. Born as Robin Longstride, he does not begin as a hero; he is a strong and loyal archer for King Richard "The Lion," in the latter's pursuit of the holy wars. When the King turns against him for his "honesty," our hero embarks on a journey of stolen identity, love, the discovery of his own familial roots, and his role as a leader for the common man and a fighter for justice.

Review: I found this to be the most beautiful and the best representation of the infamous Robin Hood. Russell Crowe's ability to take on any role from a schleppy detective in 'Tenderness' to an awkward and brilliant schizophrenic in 'A Beautiful Mind' to an impassioned and betrayed Roman General in 'Gladiator' is unparalleled. As Robin Longstride, he assumes the air of a nobleman despite the fact that he grew up as an orphan, ignorant of his familial roots. A mere archer, he flees the army as soon as King Richard is killed in battle, and as chance would have it, comes across the real and dying Robin Hood, a nobleman that has been at war alongside King Richard for the past ten years. Before he dies, he makes Robin Longstride vow to return his dagger and word of his death to his blind father and his wife (Cate Blanchett). To avoid detection, he borrows the armor and the name of Robin Hood, returns the crown of King Richard and word of his death to the Queen, and sets out to find the father and wife of a man he did not know and whose identity he stole. And in this journey, he falls in love with the Marion of Loxley, a woman of courage herself, and discovers the true identity of his lineage: he is the son of a nobleman and philosopher who was killed for his audacity to free the common folk from the King's greed and disregard.

What we find in this version of the movie that has never been captured in any other version of Robin Hood is not only who he was and how he came to be the infamous Prince of Thieves, stealing from the rich to give to the poor, but we also learn that he is pure-hearted, gentle, and warm. These qualities, especially when he looks upon the face of his Marion, juxtaposed with the virile masculinity, his loyalty, his skillful archery and swordsmanship, mark his character with a duality of power and vulnerability that only Russell Crowe is able to achieve in the roles he acquires.

And feminist that I am, I have to applaud the new face of Marion of Loxley as portrayed by Ridley Scott and played by Cate Blanchett. In all the versions of 'Robin Hood' Marion is depicted as a strong and fiery noblewoman, but in this movie, I was awed by her strength and resilience. She was only married for a few months when her husband (the real Robin Hood) goes off to war with King Richard. For ten years, she has lived without a husband and the protection that husbands offered women in those days. She took care of her blind father-in-law, chased after young thieves that stole into her barn in the middle of the night, and chased them away with her own adept skills in archery, the tips of her arrows laced with fire. She got down on her knees to clean mud of her horses' shoes, got mud on her face, her dress, her boots, and farmed alongside common farmers that were supposed to till her land. She spoke her mind no matter who her audience was, including a nasty and vile sheriff, stabbed a potential rapist in the throat instead of screaming, and joined the man she fell in love with, Robin Hood (Longstride), along the shores of the beach with her own army of young thieves in pursuit, greeting the French army's wrath straddling her horse like a man, suited up in a man's armor, and racing head on towards a battle of men, by men, with her sword aimed and ready to slay the enemy. And even though she fell almost to her death and Robin had to save her, she showed the valor, the taste for vengeance, and the courage of a lion in the face of adversity, never hiding behind her dress and the soft curves of her femininity.

If only there were more Marions today...we would all live in a better place...

Monday, June 7, 2010

Product Review: Aerobed Raised Comfort Guest Bed

by Taqiyyah Shakirah Dawud

Product Name: Aerobed Raised Comfort Guest Bed
Manufacturer Name: Aerobed
Retail Price: $114 ( $299 retail
Where to Get It: Listed on Bed Bath &Beyond, Sears,, Cabelo’s, Costco, Dick’s, Kohl’s, QVC, REI, Meijer, Sports Authority, Target. Also any wholesaler or retailer that sells bed and bath items.
Sizes/Specifications: Twin, Full, Queen
Product Description: Inflatable mattress
Recommended? Yes, but...

Review: Yep, it’s another “Yes, but…” review. I just purchased two full-sized mattresses online from Smartbargains for $139 each. I received them last Friday and immediately opened one and tested it. I’m mattress shopping at the moment, and thought this would be a great and comfortable alternative in the meantime.

The mattress is a raised, double-chambered bubble of sturdy blue PVC, with a fuzzy top I chose to cover with sheets. The valve/pump is at the head—or foot, depending on which way you choose to sleep on it. The valve slides to “Inflate” or “Deflate” depending on which mode you’re about to use the pump for. An electric plug approximately 4 feet long carries the “On” button, on a little switchpad thing. Press and hold until it’s inflated or deflated to your liking, and that’s it. It did both gratifyingly quickly, although I did roll it up after it was pretty much flattened and pressed the “On” button again just to get the full vacuum effect, so that the folded up mattress wouldn’t take up too much space in the carrying bag. Oh, yeah: it comes with carrying bag that feels like nylon, with a drawstring closure for storage.

So, I inflated it, deflated it and put it away for the night, then inflated it again. Halfway through the pump started to sputter. I stoically kept my finger pressed on the “On” button until it was fully inflated—or so I thought. I think the pump gave out after it was mostly inflated, because when I thought it was firm enough, I lay down and my hips sank 3 inches, forcing my spine into a slight bend that wasn’t totally comfortable on my side, stomach, or back. So not firm enough, but when I tried to get it to inflate further, it just sputtered and wouldn’t. My first night was somewhat floaty, but I endured. It deflated fine the next morning, though, so I figured the pump was okay.

The next night it wouldn’t inflate at all! The only good thing about this—okay, two good things—turned out to be the 1-year warranty that came with purchase and the fact that I’d bought two. I had no choice but to open the other—nowhere else to sleep but the carpet, otherwise. So I did. This time the mattress inflated completely and very firmly, with no sputtering. I slept great, and hoped it would inflate again the next night. It did, and tonight it did, too. I’m gonna cautiously hope the first mattress was defective and call Aerobed, warranty in hand, to see how they deal with it. I’ll update you with what happens.

So, comfortable, speedy, and easy to use? Yes, very. Reliable? Well, I bought two, but if I'd been travelling, I would have only carried one—easily the one that crashed. So, no. But I can't seem to discount the 225 positive reviews on that resulted in a 4.5- out of 5-star rating for this mattress. I'm counting on Aerobed's customer service to put the shine in all those stars.

Movie Review: 'Alice in Wonderland'

By Christina Newman

Title: Alice in Wonderland
Genre: Adventure, Family, Fantasy
Run Time: 1hr 49min
MPAA Rating: PG
Director: Tim Burton
Writer: Linda Woolverton (Screenplay)
           Lewis Carroll (Books)
Cast: Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway
Recommended? Maybe


In the film, Alice is now nineteen years old and accidentally returns to Underland (misheard by Alice and believed to be called Wonderland), a place she visited thirteen years previously. She does not remember her previous venture into the mystical place and finds herself retracing her steps. She is confronted by many of the creatures that live in Underland who are upset that she does not seem to be "their Alice." Confused, frustrated and maintaining that the whole thing is a dream Alice continues through this strange world. She soon discovers that it is up to her to slay the Jabberwocky, a dragon-like creature controlled by the Red Queen. In order to help the creatures of Underland, return the thrown to the White Queen and find her "muchness." Alice must slay the beast.

My Review:

Though I might get booed for admitting this, I do not like the Disney version of Alice in Wonderland. I know, I know how could I feel that way? It is after all a childhood classic to love for generations to come. Well folks, I just really never enjoyed it. It seemed scattered with no real story behind it.

So after being dragged to the theater with promises of 3D effects and an amazing story I find, I am not the only person who felt this way. Time Burton too, did not care for the cartoon version of Alice in Wonderland and so he set out to deliver a story. His vision of Alice in Wonderland is sublime. I would buy a ticket into the head of Tim Burton after watching this film. The colors alone send you into a trance that is so hard to break free from and really, why would you want to? I found myself lost in the rich textures of the clothes and scenery. The special features were astounding and did not disappoint. Everything looked so incredibly real you could have touched it.

Fabulous! Wait a second, step away from the affects and...

flat line ________^.________^______

They almost had me!

The story, while having the potential to be great, fell short in almost every area. I found it hard to connect to Alice and empathize with the hardships she was facing both in Underland and London. Here she is being told that she must face this death defying creature to save this whole world and then return to London to marry a man who was not right for her and there was no expression, no sorrow or pain. There was no muchness indeed!

Anne Hathaway's character, the White Queen, jumped on ever nerve I had and made me secretly hope she lost. Helena Bonham Carter, the Red Queen, was the best next to Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter. Johnny Depp truly encompasses everything that is the Mad Hatter and with it steals the show. He is the only reason I will view this movie again in the future. He was mesmerizing and I found myself wishing he were in every scene.

My bottom line - this movie relies to heavily on visual aide. They were so focused on what the movie was going to look like they forgot about the acting. If I could rate this movie any way I wanted I would say it is a maybe - with a side of maybe not!
Friday, June 4, 2010

Snow Globe Maker Beach 1.2 Giveaway: Your Chance to Win!!

By Alyssa Ast

You might have seen Stacey's review of the Snow Globe Maker Spring app on The WM Parenting Connection last month. But today,The WM Review Connection is proud to announce the Snow Globe Maker giveaway! In conjunction with the new release of the Snow Globe Maker Beach 1.2 iPhone app, the company has given us the opportunity to giveaway 3 PREMIUM iPhone apps! The new release features new functionality, including the ability to incorporate your own photos in your snow globes and more!

From today until Monday, anyone who comments on this post has the opportunity to win a free Snow Globe Maker Beach 1.2 app for use with iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch!

So what can you do with the Snow Globe Maker app? Here are some great ideas to get your summertime creativity flowing!

Snow Globe Maker is FUN!

Summer is almost here and the beach beckons. Here are five ways to teach your iPhone to show some beach love.

1. Use that camera!

You’re bringing the iPhone along anyway, so keep it handy and capture all those gorgeous beach moments. Single best tip for taking iPhone photos—position your finger on the shutter button before you aim the camera. The picture actually snaps when you release the button (not when you press it down) so get your finger in position first to minimize blur.

2. Turn your photos into souvenirs.

Everyone loves a souvenir snow globe, and now you can make your own with the Snow Globe Maker Beach on iTunes iPhone app for iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad, available now on the iTunes App Store for only $.99. Snow Globe Maker souvenirs are entertaining to create and easy to share with friends and family. You can customize the snow globe with your own beach photos and the professional art included with the app: the background, base, five inserts, label, and snow style are fully customizable. Your photo can fill the globe or appear in a rectangle, and the globe can be zoomed in and out.

3. Make invites and thank you’s special.

Turn your lovely beach snow globe into a personalized invitation or thank you greeting. Just change the globe label, or create a whole new globe featuring a picture of your guest or host with objects that would appeal to them. Combine a picture of Aunt Marge with the beach chair and umbrella drink; snap the kids jumping waves and add the beach ball with pail and shovel; or leave the photo out and set the mood with the sunset background, tiki hut, torch and surfboard. Use the integrated sharing menu to email your snow globe greeting, or save and print it on card stock.

4. Add some fun to your scrapbook.

Your souvenir globes are easy to create and save, so you can make a custom beach snow globe for any page of your scrapbook. Just copy the saved snow globe to a document, resize as desired, and print on card stock. Leave the globe with its background or cut around the edge of the globe to create a fun shape. You might as well print a few extras to use as gift tags or place cards.

5. Relax and remember

Take time to recharge your iPhone and yourself. Snow Globe Maker Beach includes a Calypso theme song, or you can start your own iPod music, turn the snow globe music off, and set the globe to Auto Snow. Your Snow Globe Maker Beach souvenir can set the mood even after your vacation ends.

Sample snow globes and more are at

About is created by Hawk Ridge Consulting, which develops family-friendly iPhone and iPod touch apps that encourage creativity and fun, and offers custom iPhone app services. Company founder, Julie McCool, has over 20 years experience leading products at major software companies including AOL, Symantec, and Lotus.

Find Snow Globe Maker on Facebook and Twitter!

Here's YOUR chance to win a FREE Snow Globe Maker Beach 1.2 app!!

You can be one of the lucky three to win this new app by simply leaving a comment below about why you want to win! We will choose three random winners from the comments section below on Monday, June 7. Tell your friends!

TV Show Review: 9 by Design on Bravo

By Kerrie McLoughlin

TV Show: 9 by Design
Price: How much does your cable provider charge for you to have Bravo?
Where to buy: Your local cable provider or have your mom tape the show for you like mine does.
Recommended? YES
Of course I love TV shows that feature large families. I like to see other people going crazy on a daily basis much like I am doing. And while I enjoy the Duggars, they are so darn sweet and patient that it doesn’t much resemble my own household. Then my mom, much like a TV/crack dealer, introduced me to “9 By Design,” a show with 2 parents and 7 kids (much like the families at my church and probably where I myself am headed!).

The parents design amazing, multi-million dollar houses in New York City and then end up selling them simply because rich people see them and MUST have them. The parents have moved many times with a bunch of kids in tow (2 sets of twins! A pregnancy! A new baby!), and it seems like each house they design is better than the last. One had a basketball court on the roof with a chain-link fence-type dome built over the top so the ball wouldn’t fall off the building.

This show is my new addiction. After I watch it (on tape, of course, in bits and pieces), I want to clear out clutter in my house in case I get to move anytime soon. I want to strip wallpaper and paint. I want to hang artwork, even though I have ZERO taste. Watching Bob and Courtney (the parents) deal with contractors, each other and the kids is a learning experience. I just bought a slipcover for our nasty couch, a cool frame that says “family” and holds 10 black and white photos of my family and can be heard throwing around phrases like, “Let’s blow out this wall and make it a floating staircase.”

This show is like a cross between “Flipping Out” and a mini version of “19 Kids and Counting” and can be found on Tuesday nights at 10/9 Central on Bravo.
Thursday, June 3, 2010

Movie Review: 'Sex and the City 2'

By Christina Newman

Title: Sex and the City 2
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance
Run Time: 2hr 27min
MPAA Rating: R
Director: Michael Patrick King
Writer: Michael Patrick King
Cast: Sarah Jessica Parker, Kristin Davis, Cynthia Nixon, Kim Cattrall
Recommended? Yes, for fans only


Carrie Bradshaw has been married to long time flame John James Preston (Mr. Big) for two years now. After ten years of a roller coaster Mr. Big is ready to hang out at home, watch old movies, eat take-in and just be with his wife. Carrie is having a hard to letting go of the glamorous life they once had. While Carrie is dealing with her relationship issues, Charlotte is trying to figure out a way to handle the "terrible twos" and the anxiety that comes with it. Miranda finds herself trying to please the new senior partner of her law firm who is intimidated by intelligent successful women. Samantha while trying to cope with the onset of menopause has managed to land the girls and all expense paid trip to Abu Dhabi.

My Review:

Sex and the City, what a novel concept. I have read the book, watched every episode of the show and own the first movie. I think it is safe to say that I have been a die hard Sex and the City fan for some time now.

With such a wonderful ending to the first movie it was hard to wrap my head around what they were going to do with a second. In what way could they make this better? Carrie got her man! The girls were healthy, happy and where they wanted to be. All in all it was the cherry on top, it was fabulous!

As a fan, I enjoyed this movie a great deal. It encompassed all of my favorite things about the show. It has the drama, romance and comedy that was always there. I found the dialogue to be genuine and real. I loved the irony in the events that unfolded with Carrie's former fiance Mr. Aiden Shaw.

The movie itself was beautiful. It has fashion beyond compare and as always the ladies bring a brilliance and sexiness to the screen. The locations that were selected were just amazing and truly breath taking at times. Sex and the City has never had a problem combining glamour with the rustics of every day life. They just make it work.

Capturing a slight grasp on the life of a Middle Eastern woman without giving the movie a dark serious undertone was unique and I quite enjoyed it. It was done brilliantly and gave wonderful examples of compare and contrast for American woman. It touched on behavior, relationships and of course fashion.

That being said, I recommend this movie to fans of the show. The reason being, the movie plays more like the show than an actual movie, which as a fan I love but would hate otherwise! It was slow in places and felt rushed in others. The end was a bit anti-climactic, almost as if it were the end of a season not the end of this amazing love story.

Sex and the City is about the complication of love in many different kids of relationships. The movie itself is a dynamic display of the trials of friendship and marriage but it does not feel finished and that is truly disappointing.

photo credit
Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Product Review: Caribou's Tea Latte Fusions

By Pam Houghton

Product Name: Tea Latte Fusions
Retail Price: $2.69, $3.29, $3.69 (prices may vary depending on location)
Where to Get It: Caribou coffee shops
Sizes/Specifications: Small, medium and large
Recommended? Yes.

I used to run to the nearest Starbucks for a Skinny Vanilla Latte when I wanted to get my gourmet brew on. But in a recent attempt to expand my coffee shop horizons, I popped into a Caribou to taste-test one of their café confections.

The barista must have sensed I was confused by the menu (since I rarely went there) and suggested I try one of their new Tea Latte Fusions. Crazy risk-taker that I am, I followed her advice. They came in four flavors, but I wasn’t sure which one to try.

Given that I love caramel anything, I ended up with the hot Caramel Earl Grey Tea Latte (they come hot or cold). Oh, it was flavorful, and hit just the right spot for a quickie shopping spree at Target.

I didn’t think there was any other coffee shop drink that would replace my addiction to Starbucks lattes – but boy, was I wrong. I have since tried the other flavors: they all had a smooth and unique sweetness not apparent in the coffee lattes I was used to. I also liked that they weren’t as strong as your typical coffee shop drink. Now, every time I need a beverage to accompany an afternoon of errands, I go to Caribou for a hot tea latte.

The lattes come in four flavors: their names alone are rather entertaining. Also, if you want to reduce the number of calories, you can order your latte with non-fat milk. (I guess that's the norm, eh?)

Here they are, with calories. Only the caramel latte has more calories than the others. Darn-it.

  • Pomegranate Vanilla Oolong Tea Latte – 200 calories with 2% milk, 140 with skim, size small
  • Cinnamon Rooibos Tea Latte (the only decaf in the bunch) – 200 calories with 2% milk, 140 with skim, size small
  • Black Thai Tea Latte – 200 calories with 2% milk, 140 with skim, size small
  • Caramel Earl Grey Tea Latte – 250 calories with 2% milk, 210 with skim, size small


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