Archives for December 2015

Holiday Gift Suggestion! Pooch Selfie

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Do you have a difficult time taking selfies with your pup? This gift idea is a real help!

Pooch Selfie
Dog lovers just can’t resist taking pictures of their pooches, but it’s kind of difficult to get your pet to sit still long enough for a picture, let alone catch them looking into the camera.  The Pooch Selfie is a smartphone attachment which helps dog owners take that perfect picture or selfie with their dog. Pooch Selfie takes advantage of a dog’s natural draw and focus to a squeaker tennis ball and uses this focus to hold their gaze as you snap away that perfect portrait picture. Turn the attention to your smartphone’s front facing camera and use Pooch Selfie to capture the best selfies you’ll ever take with your pup!  Need some extra incentive? Simply remove the Pooch Selfie ball for a few squeaks and regain your dog’s focus and then place back into the attachment for some awesome pics!  Each Pooch Selfie comes with a squeaking Pooch Selfie ball and custom cell phone attachment. Pooch Selfie is specifically designed to be used with iPhones and Galaxy’s, however, works universally with most smartphones an tablets.  Pooch selfie can also be used with most third party cases. http://poochselfie.com/

And it really does work! I tried it out with our pup and it really does help!

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Self Disclosure: I received a free sample to facilitate this holiday post. Photo Credit: Pooch Selfie.

Thomas Edison’s Secret Lab: Secret Lab Meeting – Stealth Learning at Its Best

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Thomas Edison’s Secret Lab is an all new animated comedy series from Genius International starring the greatest inventor of all time and a madcap cast of characters that allows kids to experience how fun science can be. Unknown to the world, Thomas Edison had a secret lab where he invented a virtual version of himself and a nearly completed robot to guide and inspire future generation of young scientists. The secret lab, Edison’s virtual alter ego, and his prototype robot remained hidden until a 12-year-old prodigy cracked the secret coded message that Edison left behind. This young genius named Angie and her science club friends move into the lab and the fun begins. Each episode covers fun scientific topics from dinosaur fossils to minerals to gravity and so much more! KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Benjamin P. comments, “Thomas Edison’s Secret Lab: Secret Lab Meeting is a fun, educational adventure that had me humming songs about science for days. I like this show because it makes science a lot more fun. It’s a series about four kids who solve problems using all kinds of science.” Abigail Zoe L. adds, “I just love this animated series. I found myself smiling, giggling and bouncing in my seat. I actually never left the couch because science is my favorite school subject and I didn’t want to miss a thing!” See their full reviews below.

Thomas Edison’s Secret Lab: Secret Lab Meeting
By Benjamin P., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 10

Thomas Edison’s Secret Lab: Secret Lab Meeting is a fun, educational adventure that had me humming songs about science for days. I like this show because it makes science a lot more fun. It’s a series about four kids who solve problems using all kinds of science. One of my favorite parts of the show is the relationship between the characters. I like that they would nearly do anything to keep each other safe throughout the show.

Secret Lab Meeting is a collection of different episodes from the television series that teaches children cool stuff. The main characters are the kids in the lab, Kent, Angie, JD, and Nicky. With the help of their hologram of Thomas Edison and their robot Von Bolt they can solve nearly anything, from a zombie virus to a slime monster and even stinky teenagers.

My favorite character is Thomas Edison because he is very smart and he is always willing to help the kids. He’s wise and stays calm during a crisis. My favorite episode is If The Fossil Fits because it’s about dinosaurs and dinosaurs are really cool and studying them can teach you a lot about archeology.

My least favorite episode is Dunkin Zombies. It’s the first episode in the collection but there is no introduction to the characters and I had trouble figuring out the characters and the story line for a while. I like the second episode No Volts For Von Bolt because of how they explain the elements by introducing a fake police department that specializes in cases involving elements from the periodic table. It’s a great genre flip from the modern-day setting to the feeling of an old school detective show.

In the third episode, we see the crew from the lab use the virtual reality room to travel back in time and meet someone who contributed to science. A cartoon Louis Pasteur makes a cameo appearance to teach the kids how to melt slime to destroy a monster. I like the balance between the history and the action scenes.

The history in this show is really cool and educational. The people the kids meet when they travel back in time have accomplished very interesting feats to help science and its progress. One example is Jonas Salk who created the vaccine for polio.

Each episode has a different topic from chemistry to agriculture and even cloning. At the end of each episode, there is a fun little song recapping all the major vocabulary from the episode. I recommend this series for ages 7 to 11. Younger kids might not understand the more complicated science lessons. I give Thomas Edison’s Secret Lab 3 out of 5 stars.

Thomas Edison’s Secret Lab: Secret Lab Meeting
By Abigail Zoe L., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 8

I just love this animated series. I found myself smiling, giggling and bouncing in my seat. I actually never left the couch because science is my favorite school subject and I didn’t want to miss a thing! I really like all eight fun-filled episodes that are about solving interesting scientific problems. I like the different animated characters, story line and upbeat music that make science come to life! I also absolutely love that we meet many very important scientists like Thomas Edison, Louis Pasteur and others that help the world be a better place.
Guided by a virtual Thomas Edison, each episode is packed with fascinating scientific information and vocabulary that entertain and inspire the young scientist in each of us! The Lab Team Angie, JD, Kent and Nicky jump into virtual worlds in each episode through a machine called, ALVA where they seek the advice of many important and famous scientists to solve scientific problems. The robot Von Bolt is a nice addition to the team and funny as he tries to attract a girl robot in one of the episodes. At the end of each episode a robot group, the Von Bytes, perform happy, upbeat, catchy, fun songs with pop up scientific vocabulary words used in that episode.
Elements, enzymes, fossils, fertilizers, cloning, animal behavior and even body odor are just some of the fun scientific topics we learn about in this animated series.

While there are many super fun episodes, my favorite is Dunkin’ Zombies because the character JD turns into a funny green donut craving zombie after he gets infected by a virus. There are several hilarious scenes in this episode alone like zombies not liking gluten-free donuts and craving donuts instead of brains. By the end of this episode we learn how viruses spread and also how they can be cured by a vaccine. Through challenge and perseverance the lab friends with the help of Thomas Edison and Louis Pasteur defeat the virus.

The only downside to this series are first, some viewers may find the animation kind of square and simple when compared to other more sophisticated animated shows. The other downside is that it would be better for the kid voice-over roles to be actual kids so that young viewers can better connect to the kid characters. At the same time, the kid characters are quirky and you can’t help but love them.

This film teaches viewers that science is not only important but fun. All the different episodes spark the imagination and, if you are not someone who likes science, you may just be by the end of this series, or at least you will have a better understanding of the world of science. Thomas Edison’s Secret Lab: Secret Lab Meeting is a great educational series and an entertaining way to introduce kids to many different scientific topics. I give this film 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 5 to 10.

Credit: KIDS FIRST!

 

Cara, Christmas Day Pet of the Week

Cara, Christmas Day Pet of the Week

Can’t you just see Cara as one of 12 smiling doggies pulling Santa’s sleigh? And afterward, curled up, preferably with you, before a cozy fireplace or wrapped up in a blankie? Cara is 2 years old; she wound up at the shelter after being neglected by her family. Like a good family, she loves being out with human playmates but gets sad when it’s time to return to the kennel. If you can make her Christmas and the rest of her years bright, meet her at Animal Care Services on the shelter side of the P.D. Pitchford Animal Village, 7700 E. Spring St., Long Beach, (562) 570-PETS. Ask for ID#A560583.

 

(The usual suspects contributed to this rescue)

Credit: Courtesy of Animal Care Services on the shelter side of the P.D. Pitchford Animal Village.

Award Winning Language Learning/ Rhythm / Music Game Launch

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Music/rhythm language learning game Lyriko has just launched! The game has been in development for a couple years now and has already received great reviews and awards too!

Lyriko Learning Philosophy
Learning a new language is one of the most important challenges many of us face. Lots of countries have immigrants who are trying to learn the local language and fit in. Progress through traditional educational challenges can open up with improved language skills. Business is becoming increasingly global, and knowing another language can unlock new opportunities. And studying another language and culture is one of the best ways the break down prejudice and build appreciation in its place.

I always loved music and games, so I thought if I could make a game out of it, I’d enjoy practicing, want to spend more time studying, and progress faster. Similarly, when I found a new favorite song, I would listen to it often until I knew all the words and could sing along. Also, if I learned a language through songs, all the words would be in context. Song lyrics are a memorable way to connect a word with the way it sounds, what it means, and the feelings it can evoke.

With those ideas in mind, I designed Lyriko. It has four modes, to help people with a range of learning preferences practice the foundational skills. If you’re already studying in a course or with another program, think of Lyriko as an extra tutor that can help you meet your goals even faster!

Game Modes
Picture It
Learning new words with both text and pictures creates multiple connections in the mind, making remembering easier. The mind has ways of thinking that are comfortable and familiar for it, like paths through the woods. Each time it thinks in the same way, that path gets stronger. Remembering a word is like finding a clearing in the woods – the more paths there are to that clearing, and the stronger each path is, the easier it is to find it. This is especially helpful for people who prefer visual learning.

Impostor 
When learning a new language, you’re overloaded with unfamiliar text and sounds. The brain responds to overload by ignoring information it thinks is not as important, like small differences in spelling or pronunciation, especially at the end of a word. Many words have multiple endings (learn/learns/learned/learning), and these differences can be hard to notice. Impostor changes the spelling of a word in each line of the song, and challenges you to listen and read carefully to find that mistake. This trains the brain about what kinds of information are important, so it doesn’t ignore it. Over time, these small mistakes become more obvious, helping learners find them in their own writing or speech, too.

Interlude
The first time you hear a new language, it’s hard to separate words from each other; all the sounds seem to run together! Even if you know the meaning and spelling of a word, you may not hear it when it’s used in a conversation. Interlude strengthens this text-sound connection, challenging you to match what you see and hear by removing one word in each line. Seeing and hearing a word at the same time also connects the spelling and pronunciation in your mind so you can read out loud without fear!

Reference
Sometimes, you just want to know what the song is about without the extra challenge of the game modes. In Reference mode, there’s no score, so you can calmly listen to the song and read translations. There are whole-line translations to help you understand the idea of the song quickly, and there are also translations of each word and phrase – touch anything to find out what it means in this context and see a picture. When you’re comfortable with the song, challenge yourself in one of the game modes!

Achievement
Learning a language takes time, and sometimes you might feel like you’re not progressing. Our achievements will help you measure your progress and stay motivated. Even better, as you complete achievements, you’ll get credits to unlock new songs for yourself or…

Friends
Another good way to stay motivated is to share the journey with friends! Connect with friends inside Lyriko to see each other’s progress. Also, you’ll earn credits from achievements that you can give as gifts to your friends to encourage them and help everyone stay motivated!

Lyriko comes with four free songs, and you can unlock a bunch more for free by completing the achievements and sharing free gifts with friends. If you want to get even more songs, check out the store inside the app.

 

Here’s the links
iOShttps://itunes.apple.com/app/lyriko-learn-languages-music/id997426505
Androidhttps://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=air.com.skylightgames.lyriko

Check it out!

Credit: Lyriko. No compensation was received.

 

Star Wars Returns! For The First Time In Over 20 Years!

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The wait is over! Star Wars: The Force Awakens opens this weekend and, the word is that you will NOT be disappointed! KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Gerry O. comments, “People have been waiting for a good Star Wars story ever since Episode VI came out 32 years ago. Fellow Star Wars fans, I am pleased to tell you, it has come.” The secrecy surrounding this release has been extraordinary. Even our KIDS FIRST! Film Critics who were scheduled to attend press screenings had to pledge to secrecy the time and location and weren’t allowed to even tell anyone they were going to it. You should know that the pace of this film is very fast and the action, quite intense. The original film’s iconic characters played by Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill  and Carrie Fisher, are back, older and even more incredible than ever. But, the new team, played by Daisy Ridley and John Boyega, definitely strike out on their own and command attention. The film is long at 135 minutes but then, so were the first ones – Episode IV (121 minutes); Episode VI (131 min.); Episode I (136 min.). Nathaniel B. (KIDS FIRST! Film Critic) adds, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a wonderful film that many people will love. Today’s technology really makes the fantasy of Star Wars seem like reality.” See our youth reporters’ full reviews below.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens
By Gerry O, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 13

It is surprising that only 10 to 12 hours of films created the giant franchise we know as Star Wars. People have been waiting for a good Star Wars story ever since Episode 6 came out 32 years ago. Fellow Star Wars fans, I am pleased to tell you, it has come.

Everyone knows Star Wars is a sci-fi, action franchise, but this film is very unique for the fact that it goes much deeper. With Evil getting more and more powerful, there is drama and fighting between the characters, but that doesn’t stop romance from sneaking in with a little bit of comedy. Granted, I was worried it would turn into a kid’s comedy, but quite a few times I found my self thinking that not only are the jokes perfect, they are also not over used!

Alright, let’s get to the part everyone wants to read, the plot of the most hyped, but hidden film of the decade. The events start out 20 years after what took place in Episode 6, (spoiler alert for people who didn’t see episode 6). The Empire has fallen, yes, but a new Evil has risen, known as The First Order. The rebellion needs new Jedi now more than ever, but Luke (Mark Hamill) is missing and they need to find (wait for it) a new hope!

Is the film worth the wait? Ever since almost a year ago, people have been talking about new Star Wars episode, and it is SO worth it. Famous directors have taken on some great challenges before, including Spielberg finishing Kubrick’s AI. But J.J. Abrams took on something completely out of the ball field trying to continue Star Wars. The cinematography is spectacular, the ending shot (no spoiler) is one of the greatest endings I have ever seen in a film, and the whole story itself is unexpected and very enjoyable. Although there are many aspects that are not in the original Star Wars films, I think it is actually very nice to see Star Wars not get ruined, but go through its own evolving evolution.

As for the acting, of course, the original A-Team – Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and more – are phenomenal and I think it was the perfect idea to bring these characters back for the pure enjoyment of long standing fans. However, it is really Daisy Ridley who steals the show. Her character, Rey, is so fresh and unique, full of emotion, and this character (still no spoilers, sorry) goes through so much drama in the film. It must have been a very hard role to play. Daisy gives it 110%. I predict she will be win an Oscar nomination for this role.

The special effects obviously got better since the last Star Wars film in the early 2000s, and I still want to mention how breathtaking they are. Even for 2015, with all the CGI aliens, ships and spectacular space scenes, it is quite literally “eye candy.” My only criticism of the film is that it is a bit too long. However, not one single scene is out of place or feels unneeded.

One of my favorite scenes is when we are reunited with Hollywood’s favorite space ship. Rey and Finn (John Boyega) are trying to escape The First Order. They have two options for space flight, a “piece of junk” or another space ship. Well, the space ship gets blown up and it turns out the “piece of junk” is the millennium falcon! Of course, everyone cheers, claps and whistles in the audience once the camera shows the breathtaking ship. It is not only enjoyable, and a bit funny, but the camera technique is perfect. If you want to know the rest of the story, go get your tickets and watch the film!

This film is actually pretty mature. It isn’t as kind as episodes 1, 2 and 3. It has its violence, so I recommend it for ages ten to eighteen. And, adults who saw previous Star Wars films and appreciate them will enjoy this film as well. I give it five out of five stars, because, even if it is a little bit boring in the middle, (it is 2 hours and 10 minutes long) J.J. Abrams, the cast and crew achieved the impossible and created a new masterpiece that can be proudly added to the Star Wars franchise. I am also glad to say that, for the first time in over 20 years, Star Wars returns! You can see Star Wars: The Force Awakens in theaters starting December 18th!

Star Wars: The Force Awakens
By Nathanial B., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 9

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a wonderful film that many people will love. Today’s technology really makes the fantasy of Star Wars seem like reality. The scenery is great from the beginning to the end. The forests are vast and really fit the movie wonderfully. The beautiful stars, planets and, even the spaceships, are amazingly real looking.

The storyline It tells what happens after peace was established in the galaxy at the end of Episode 6, but now it’s more than 30 years later and there is no longer peace.

The actors lured me into believing everything is really happening. Daisy Ridley as Rey shows emotion and strength. John Boyega portrays Finn as a man who starts out being afraid but must overcome his fears. And Adam Driver is excellent playing Kylo Ren, the new bad guy who tries to live up to the evil of Darth Vader and does many foolish things in the process. Each characters enliven the new story. Also, Star Wars fans of all ages will love reconnecting with characters from the original films.

The costumes are great and fit the characters in many ways. Rey’s costume, a rugged suit for the desert planet Jakku, shows that she is resourceful and can take care of herself. The unusual and cool costumes fit in well with the previous films in the series.

Many strange creatures add the element of being on other worlds. I really enjoyed seeing all the extra characters in each scene like pirates, gangs and a variety of aliens. A fun new sidekick is BB-8, a feisty round astromech droid that belongs to the rebellion.

The buildings look real and at the same time like they belong in Star Wars. The props, such as blasters and space ships, are also realistic. They are grungy and look like they have seen some use. The only things I didn’t like were the Stormtrooper’s blasters and armor which looked plastic and fake.

The special effects are wonderful from lightsabers to explosions and lasers from the guns. They are a huge part in the film and bring the movie to life.

I do love this film but some parts of it are not quite the way I expected. There are not many breaks from battles and there’s so much action that it feels intense and rushed.

This film is best for ages 7 to 18 because of the intensity of the action. I give this movie 4 1/2 out of 5 stars. It will definitely awaken the Star Wars fan in everyone. Reviewed by Nathaniel B. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 9.

Credit: KIDS FIRST!

ALEX’s Single, PLEASE COME HOME FOR CHRISTMAS, featured on A Classic Holiday…Presented by MBK/Sony Entertainment

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Other Featured Artists Include: ALICIA KEYS, TYRESE, BRANDY, ELLE VARNER, COKO, JUSTIN SKYE, GABI WILSON, AND MANY OTHERS!!!

ALEX’s soulful and invigorating rendition of Please Come Home for Christmas brings in the holidays with a body rocking, toe tapping, head bopping excitement! ALEX says, “Please Come Home for Christmas, is one of my favorite holiday tunes. This holiday, I am dedicating this song to the women and men who often leave their homes and families to serve our wonderful country. It is one of my ways of saying thank you!”

RADIO SUCCESSES:

  • #1 Hit “Love Line”   – America Blues Network Charts
  • #1 Hit “Love Line”   – Boogie Report Charts
  • #1 Hit  “Hope for Us”- America Blues Network Charts
  • # 20 “Don’t Walk Away” – Billboard Charts

NOTABLES:

  • Performance for President Barack Obama’s 2nd Presidential Inaugural Red Carpet Ball at Sphinx Club, Washington, D.C.
  • Performance for President George W. Busch’s 2nd Presidential Inaugural Ball at Regan Memorial, Washington, D.C.
  • Performance for Prime Minister of Ireland
  • Performance for Premier of Bermuda
Self Disclosure: No compensation was received to post. Information was provided to SoCal City Kids to post.

Model Molecular – Durable Organic Chemistry Student Set for Easy Visual Learning A Great Homeschool tool too!

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I was pretty thrilled to receive this product to review and am impressed with it really sows what molecules look like. It is durable and a great homeschool tool. My son seemed interested in this and I do recommend. It contains 54 atoms and is a great visual manipulative. I like that this is great for beginning and advanced learners.

More info:

  • Instructions are included on the inside cover to easily identify all of the atoms and connectors included in the set
  • Box contains four compartments for simple storage and organization
  • Molecular tool included to quickly disassemble molecules and atom connectors

You can purchase on Amazon.com.

Self Disclosure: I received a free product in exchange for an unbiased review and this product exceeded my expectations.

Holiday gift ideas from Whole Foods Market for $5 or less Still available for the holidays!

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Need some last minute hostess gifts, treats for the office holiday party or your next seasonal soiree? Look no further. This weekend, Friday, December 18 – Sunday, December 20, Whole Foods Market stores in the Southern Pacific region (Southern CA, Southern Nevada and Arizona) offer sweet deals on favorite holiday treats.  The deals have been extended a few days so don’t miss out!!

Whole Foods Market™ Organic Truffles (8.8 ounces, $4.99*) — Chocolate imported from France, rich, creamy chocolate truffles are a decadent mélange of simple organic ingredients. Flavors include organic chocolate, cappuccino, caramel and hazelnut.

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Whole Foods Market™ Chocolate Little Bites, Milk or Dark chocolate(4.4 ounces, 2 for $6*) – Imported from Belgium, these individually wrapped, irresistibly velvety bites are elegant and satisfying. Made with premium cocoa butter and pure vanilla, they have a sweet consistency sure to please any milk chocolate lover.

 

365 Everyday Value® Holiday Popcorn – Every batch of popcorn is produced in small kettles for freshness, flavor and satisfying texture. Available in Chocolatey Drizzle Kettle Corn (6 ounces, 2/$4*) and Dark Chocolate Popcorn Crunch (10 ounces, 2/$7*).

 

365 Everyday Value® Candy Cane Pretzels Dark Chocolate Peppermint or Yogurt (4 ounces, 2/$5*)

Break out the hot cocoa! Everyone will want to dunk these candy-cane-crusted pretzels.

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Bonus: Easy DIY gift idea! Pour into popcorn or pretzels into cute decorative boxes or jars, add some dried cranberries for color and tie with a pretty ribbon for a thoughtful handmade gift.

 

Whole Foods Market™  Caramel Fleur De Sel (5.3 ounces, 2 for $6*) – Made with natural creamery butter and blended with a sprinkle of Fleur de Sel, an exquisite sea salt that hand-harvested in Guerande, France and adds a hint of mellow saltiness to the dense sweetness of the caramel. A real treat with after-dinner coffee.

 

 Whole Foods Market™ Traditional Panettone – Serve this traditional Italian sweetbread with coffee, use it in a recipe like Baked Panettone French Toast with Apples and Cranberries or bring it to a holiday dinner as a hostess gift. Available in original and Limoncello.

  • Panettone Limoncello 16 oz., $5.99*, Panettone Original 16 oz., 2/$10*, Panettone Original 3.5 oz., 2/$6*

 

Like all products in Whole Foods Market stores, the items featured here are free of artificial preservatives, colors, flavors, sweeteners, and hydrogenated fats.

Check out your local Whole Foods Market store for the holidays!

Self Disclosure: I received an egift card to facilitate this holiday post.