Category: Reviews

A Beginner’s Guide To Disney Doorables

Disclaimer: My good friends at Imports Dragon recently sent me a complimentary package of Disney Doorables, to review. All thoughts expressed are my own.

 

The holiday season is fast approaching! So, today, I’m going to tell you about some hot new toys that I think are going to be on many a wish list, Disney Doorables. Let’s go, FAQ-style!

You just made me spit out my pumpkin spice latte! It’s too early to be talking about Christmas. What’s wrong with you?

Uh, that wasn’t exactly the kind of question that I had in mind for this.

I don’t even know what Disney Doorables are. How can I frequently ask questions about something that I’ve never heard of?

I think that you’re missing the point here.

Fine. What the heck are Disney Doorables?

Basically, they are Disney’s entree into the mini collectibles and blind bag game.  Think Shopkins, but on a Disney tip, with a door theme.

A door theme?

Yeah. The motto is “behind every door, a surprise is in store!”  Basically, the packaging that they come in is a blind box, with an opening that looks like a door. Cracking them open reveals which character (or characters) you got.  The element of surprise is what makes it fun!

So what does Disney have to do with them?

Each character is from a Disney property of some sort, which so far includes: Mickey and Friends, Tangled, Lilo and Stitch, Moana, Beauty And The Beast, Zootopia, Peter Pan, Frozen, Monsters, Inc, Alice in Wonderland, Pinocchio and Winnie The Pooh.

Go on.

Uhh.  So we’re talking lots of iconic and memorable characters. Ya dig?  Besides being tiny, what sets them apart from other mini collectibles are their sparkling, glittery eyes. For real, they’re pretty cute. Adoorable even. Haha. You won’t be able to handle them. Hoho. Your kids won’t be board playing with them. Hehe.

 

If you keep making terrible door puns, I’m going to pun-ch you.

Whoa sorry. I’l knock it off. Let’s move on.

That’s better. So how many Disney Doorables are there?

As of this writing, about 80. Like all things collectible, they vary in availability. According to the check list, they are categorized as common, rare, ultra rare, special edition, and limited edition.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Did you say limited edition? That sounds valuable. You’re hoarding a fortune’s worth, aren’t you? Pass ’em over, Mikey boy!

In the shipment that I got from Imports Dragon, I didn’t get any limited edition figures.  I’m not sure how valuable they are yet, either.

What ages are these things for? Can I leave them with my baby in their crib and walk away?

Nope. Despite being cute and shiny-eyed, they are really small. Like an inch high, that small.  Manufacturer recommended for children 5+.

That’s good, because I don’t have a baby?

Then why did you ask –

Are there just the figurines available? Or is there more stuff?

  Actually, there is more stuff. Each group of Disney properties also has an appropriately themed mini playset, available seperately. An island for Moana, the Beast’s chateau from Beauty And The Beast, a closet from the factory scare floor in Monsters, Inc, etc. The playsets come with Doorables and little accessories, too. The cool thing is that they are connectible and stackable, so you can mix them to make your own little Disney universe.

 

Can my kids connect them with other toys? Like Thomas The Train tracks, or a Breaking Bad lab playset?

Um, no to both, especially the second one. Stick to connecting the Disney Doorables sets only.

Got it. Disney. Hey, isn’t The View owned by Disney? When will we see a Whoopi Goldberg Doorable?

I’m guessing….never?

Well, if they do, shut up and take my money! I’ll buy them all. Speaking of which, where can I buy Disney Doorables?

Keep an eye out for them in the coming months at a retailer near you. Maybe they are already there. Otherwise, the usual suspects online, like Walmart, Amazon, Toys R Us (Canada), and Target all seem to be carrying them, presently.

Thanks for the information, but I kinda don’t trust you or your opinion.

For what it’s worth, my daughter, who really likes Shopkins, really likes these. Does that help?

I guess so. Anything else?

Nah, that’s all that I got. Happy Holiday shopping!

I hate you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dad’s Night Out – Toronto’s Festival Of Beer

(Disclaimer: I received complimentary media passes, to come and check out the event. All opinions expressed are my own).

Despite how the saying goes, you can have too much a good thing. Take, for example, Toronto’s Festival Of Beer (TFOB).

Now, in theory, a festival dedicated to all things brewed sounds pretty freakin’ glorious. And make no mistake about, the TFOB is pretty sweet, especially as an option for a dad/mom night out sans kids.  Taking place at Bandshell Park at Exhibition Place, this sprawling festival featured over 90 breweries setting up shop and offering over 400 beers. Not surprisingly, it also featured thousands of people looking to party.

Upon arrival, you’re given a mug, which is the most important piece of equipment that you’ll need for the duration of your stay, because the breweries will only serve you beer in it. You need to buy tokens, too (I went with 20 tokens for $20).  Depending on the brewery, one token usually got you half a pour; two tokens got you a full mug.  Some places required more tokens, though. And this is where the problem of having too much of a good thing starts. With so many options, ranging from the big names, to less popular craft brews, to even non malt-based drinks, coming up with a game plan if you want to sample as much as possible isn’t easy. Shoot, even if you assume just sticking to the two-token half pours is a good idea, since a premium priced product should be superior, this isn’t even true. One of those that I tried was decidedly mediocre, and left me wondering what the fuss was about. To each their own though, especially when it comes to hops.

Complicating things is that TFOB isn’t just about drinking. There was also a nice selection of food choices, to satisfy many appetites. Not only that, but the music was banging, as well. On the night that I attended, the headliner on the OLG Bandshell Stage was Ludacris! I kind of forgot how many hits that guy has, but this didn’t seem lost on the 11000 or so other people in attendance that night, who showed Luda a lot of love and created a dope atmosphere.

 

In addition, there was even non alcohol/food/music stuff to enjoy. I ended up lining up at an OLG truck for a while, to get my picture taken, and to receive a free prize (lottery tickets), for example. Fireside Cannabis also had a big area set up, where you could toast smores over a fire pit. So, of course I hung out there for a bit, toasting smores over a fire pit.

Basically, between the myriad of options of things to do, eat and drink, plus the fact that I staked out a spot in the middle of the crowd to watch Ludacris (negating my ability to go back and forth to grab drinks), I can honestly say that I left TFOB disappointed. Disappointed in a good way, though. It was a ton of fun, and I only wish that I indulged and took advantage more.  And really, for kid-free night out, what more could you possibly you want?

See you at next year’s fest!

 

 

 

Wings And Things – A Minor League Baseball Story

(Disclaimer: I received complimentary tickets from the Buffalo Bisons in exchange for writing a post about the game. Opinions expressed are all mine, as usual).

Recently, I found myself doing something that I never would have dreamed of – cheering on a team of chicken wings.

Let’s set the scene.  The date in question was Father’s Day.  I had decided to celebrate by doing two of my favorite things – hanging out with the fam, and taking in a baseball game.  As a Toronto area guy, the obvious option would have been to go see the Toronto Blue Jays. In all honesty, though, that option was a pretty big meh for me. I love the Jays, but it costs a pretty penny to go a game. Which I get, don’t get it twisted. Big league product with the best players means you pay a premium to enjoy it. However, when you’re talking about an outing with a family of five, it ain’t a cheap afternoon. As well, the Jays just haven’t been all that good this year. I  really wasn’t feeling it, so I came up with a different idea – we’d go to Buffalo instead!

Buffalo is home to the Bisons, an AAA minor league team, who is a Blue Jays’ affiliate. While not major league quality, it’s not that far off, plus there are a bunch of recognizable names on the roster.  They were playing that day against the Rochester Red Wings.  I’ve probably mentioned this before, but I really do like the experience of attending a minor league game. For one, it’s more affordable. Not just the tickets, but also the concessions, too. As well, the teams usually do more for the fans, to make things more enjoyable, For example, the Father’s Day game also happened to be ‘Logo Baseball Giveaway Day’, and you were allowed to play catch on the field afterwards. Between innings also had lots of freebies and giveways, too. The manager of the Red Wings even took the time to walk over and throw B a ball! Little stuff like that really does go a long way.

The Bisons play their games in Coca Coca Field. If you’ve never been to Buffalo, the downtown area is fairly nondescript, but smack dab in the heart of it is this beautiful stadium.  And really, it was night and day watching a game there, versus the Rogers Centre, where the Jays play. The atmosphere is just so much better in a ‘real’ ballpark, for lack of a better term.

Ok, now let’s talk about the wings. The Bisons and Red Wings decided to re-name themselves the Buffalo Wings and the Rochester Plates, respectively, for that weekend, both named after popular local food fares. Their logos and uniforms were rebranded, too, accordingly.  I gots love for Rochester, but Buffalo has more of a soft spot for me, from the Jays connection. And so, for one day only, I found myself sitting at a ball diamond, cheering on a team of chicken wings.

I even got to take a picture with a giant celery!

All in all, it was a pretty unique Father’s Day, and an awesome time at the park.

 

Casual Views From The Honda Indy Toronto

 

I’ll freely admit to not being much of a race car fan. Sure I appreciate the drivers’ abilities, and the engineering and speed of the vehicles. However, it’s just not something that I’ve ever gotten into. So, every year, when the Hondy Indy takes place in Toronto, since the race runs on streets near the lake shore, I’ve been one of those people who would complain about traffic sucking that weekend, and stayed away from  the city. And I don’t even live in Toronto!

This year was different, though. I discovered that the Indy puts on a Fan Friday event. Instead of paying admission, a voluntary donation to Make-A-Wish Canada gets you onto the grounds, to experience all kinds cool stuff, both on and off track. Stuff like watching the drivers’ practice on the course, autograph sessions, and tons of other festival attractions, games and activities. Figuring this was a great way to find out what all the fuss about the Indy was about, I secured a media pass, and checked out Fan Friday with B.  Here are some thoughts and views, random style!

  • To avoid the traffic, we took Go Transit. It stopped at the Exhibition GO Station, which was right where the gates for the Indy were. Even better, kids under 12 ride free, if an adult has a ticket to the Indy!
  • The cars are loud! It was just practice sessions that day, but the roars of them speeding by was pretty deafening. Ear protection was a must, especially for B.

  • The grandstands were open to everyone. B and I hung out for a little bit there, to scope out the action, but many fans were there for long periods.
  • B and I spent a lot of time in the Honda Speed Zone. This area had the most kid-friendly games and activities. It also had free popcorn, cotton candy and snow cones.
  • The various sponsors’ booths and displays had quite a bit of free swag available, actually. There was also a decent selection of food trucks there, too {not free), and numerous beer gardens (also not free).
  • We were really looking forward to doing the Junior Red Riders. Kids would put on the proper safety gear, and ride dirt bikes in a controlled evironment. However, I didn’t realize that you had to come early, to register for this, and registration filled up quick. While waiting in line to play a game at about 11:00AM, I overheard another dad saying that the earliest time to participate in the Junior Red Riders was 4:30PM. Then, when we went over afterwards, registration was full for the day. Pretty disappointing, especially since I don’t think the early registration was made clear anywhere.

  • Many people were also rocking gear of their favorite drivers. Canadian James Hinchcliffe, in particular, was a big favorite.

  • Man, I suck at remote controlled car driving. B and I raced a couple of them, and I got smoked by him. Don’t worry, he made sure to ask if I felt embarrased about the L.
  • Wandering around the paddock area was eye-opening.  Each team basically had an area set up, some more spacious than others. The cars are handled with such care and delicateness, too. It really was impressive, in terms of the amount of effort and manpower that was needed, to get those things in peak condition.

  • Again, B and I are Indy car novices. While in the paddock area, our main discussion was who had the coolest name (conclusion: Will Power).
  • You didn’t have to go through the paddock area to get up and close personal to cars. Sick rides were all over the grounds.

All in all, B and I enjoyed our time there. I do have a newfound respect for the Honda Indy.  The crowd wasn’t overwhelming at Fan Friday, too, so it was a good way for novice fans and young fans to ‘get their feet wet, in terms of attending an Indy. For the price you pay, you really can’t go wrong.

Ok, let’s wave the checkered flag on this post. Until the next time, peace!

 

“Your Kids Shouldn’t Be Walking Around Here!” A.K.A. A CFL Game Experience With The Family

Disclaimer: My friends at The Hamilton Tiger Cats of the Canadian Football League provided my family with complimentary tickets for their first game of the season.  Here are my random musings and thoughts about the experience that night, at Tim Hortons Field:

  • There’s a palpable buzz towards the team lately. Johnny Manziel, the Heisman Trophy winning, former NFL quarterback, has taken his talents north of the border, and is making his “comeback szn” with the Ticats this year!
  • There were a lot of Manziel fans in attendance. Based on the conversations I overheard, there were also people who weren’t even football fans, but came to see what all the fuss was about.
  • Admittedly, I’m a very casual fan myself. J and little K accompanied me that evening , but neither are fans. J’s six years old, so she was happy checking out the stadium and stuffing her face with food. KJ is one and a half. He was happy being anywhere.
  • We spent some time in Stripes’ Jungle, which is a really cool kids area in the stadium. I believe it was introduced last season, but this was new to us. It had a playground, and a face painting spot, while various mascots/team ambassadors were there, too. For little ones who get squirmy or restless during the game, this is a great place to go blow off some steam.

  • The Ticats’ gameday experience has really evolved over the years. It’s not about just buying a ticket to watch the game anymore. It’s also about hanging out, socializing and partying. Check out the stadium map, for example:

As you can see, almost everywhere you turn in the stadium, you’ll encounter a patio or lounge area of some sort.  I’m sure this has helped them attract more of the demographic who are into this type of vibe.

  • Back in the day, when I was a young boy,  I used to go to the odd game. The messed up thing is,  while I don’t remember anything specific about the games, or anything kid-friendly that occurred, I vividly remember incidents in the crowd. Drunk people yelling crude and vulgar things. Drunk people fist-fighting. Drunk people making asses of themselves and being dragged out by police. I honestly don’t know if this was a Hamilton thing, or a CFL football thing, or what the deal was. It wasn’t this extreme at say,  a Toronto Blue Jays game, for example. Regardless, when I had kids, the memories of boorishness and non-family friendliness made the idea of taking them to see the ‘Cats unappealing. Eventually, I did bring B out years ago, and it wasn’t that bad. There was the odd belligerent person, and profanity spewed, but it was better than I expected.
  • My most recent game was fine, too, in that regard, in the seats.  Some people were cussing out the starting QB, because they wanted Manziel to come in. OK, whatever, not a huge deal. However, venturing out of our seats, to say, get food, or go the bathroom, was eye-opening. The concourses had a sports bar-atmosphere to them. Very rowdy, very alcohol-fueled. While fun, if you’re holding hands with two small kids, trying to navigate through it, it’s a bit treacherous. One large,stumbling dude almost trampled KJ, apologized, then yelled at me about it. “Your kids shouldn’t be walking around here!” He said, “There’s a lot of drunk people here!”
  • So, by that logic, if the concourses are boozefests, and almost every corner of the stadium has some lounge or patio, which potentially could also be full of inebriated individuals, the only “safe” place for small kids, then, is the Family Zone?
  • Yo, I’m not saying keep your kids away from Tim Hortons Field. J and KJ both had a great time, and there were lots of other little happy faces in attendance, too. Shoot, one of B’s all-time best memories was when he entered the Ticats’ Halloween costume contest two years ago, as Drake. People that night at the game were going nuts about him, treating him like he was the real Drake. He got to go down to field, be on the big screen, and win a gift card!
  • I’m saying that, in my experiences attending live sports, I’ve encountered some of the most drunken, disorderly fans at Ticats games. I’m sure lots of people go and don’t have any issues.  You get thousands of people together in one setting, looking to have their own version of a good time, well, it’s basically buyer beware, for sure. I’m not complaining; I made the choice to go, right? This is just my observation as a parent, to other parents. Take it for what it’s worth.
  • Moving along,  the Ticats’ all female cheerleaders have been replaced this year with a co-ed “performance” team.  When they weren’t entertaining the crowd with routines on the field, they entertained the crowd throughout the stadium. Their engagement level with the fans was more than the cheerleaders used to be, I think. I saw some of them in Stripes’ Jungle for example,  interacting with everyone there.
  • We didn’t stay for the whole game, as KJ and J both started to get sleepy after halftime. From what I saw, Manziel looked OK playing, for what it’s worth.

That’s all I got. With the Tiger Cats feeling optimistic, and Johnny Football in tow, this definitely has the makings for an interesting season in the Hammer.  Oskee-Wee-Wee!

 

 

 

 

Olympic Nightmares And Velveteen Dreams – WWE NXT Live!

Disclaimer: The good folks at World Wrestling Entertainment graciously hooked me up with tickets to their WWE NXT Live show recently, in St. Catharines, Ontario. This is my review of the event!

 

“WE. ARE. NXT!” 

When Johnny Gargano yelled those words, to conclude a fun night of wrestling matches, the audience burst into cheers, including my kids B and J. What started out as curiosity ended with two converted fans!

For the uninitiated, NXT is basically like the WWE’s minor league wrestling system. It is a roster of talented performers who aren’t quite ready for the big stage. Some of the wrestlers are brand new, some are experienced but still perfecting the intricacies needed to be called up one day, while others are big name “independent” workers  with built in fan bases who are adjusting to the WWE style. Whereas WWE promotes itself as “sports entertainment”, NXT has a more pro wrestling vibe to it. Less talking, more in-ring action.  NXT has its own weekly TV show and regular pay-per-views, as well as their own merchandise. It’s really not a reach to say that some of the stars in NXT are just as popular as WWE ones.

In our house, I do find myself watching wrestling more lately. It’s one of the few shows that I can put on and follow while doing other dad duty stuff, without having to pay attention too closely. Yo, with three kids, to paraphrase Batista, it’s like distractions are not only welcomed, but encouraged.

B will watch with me sometimes, but he’s not that familiar with the NXT brand. J, conversely, only knows John Cena. However, both are pretty open-minded when it comes to outings, so I knew they’d be down for some live wrestling action. Plus, J had told me recently that she wanted to be a princess when she grew up. Now, I know some princesses are pretty empowering. However, I also know that some are just side pieces for their Prince Charmings. I figured it would be a good opportunity to expose J to some other strong female characters.

In terms of the show, the Meridian Centre was about two thirds full. From what I could tell, the crowd was mainly families (with more small girls there around J’s age than I expected), and 20ish/30ish year old looking “smart fans”; that is, the more hardcore wrestling fans who know the behind the scenes stuff. Trust me, this made a difference.

To work on their money skills, I had a little contest going, where before each match, B and J would make a prediction as to who they thought would win. If they were right, I would give them 25 cents. Since they are little kids, their automatic pick would be to pick the good guy or girl, so they could boo the baddies. I’ve been to WWE shows before, and since those crowds tend to have more casual fans in them, they will play along, and cheer/jeer appropriately. With the NXT crowd, though, the smart fans just cheered their own personal favorites! For example, one wrestler named Velveteen Dream is a heel (bad guy). However, he’s such a cool, great performer, that, as soon as his music hit, the place went nuts. B and J both asked me if he was good or bad. All I could say was that he was in the middle. They then both picked him to win. Unfortunately, he lost to another crowd favorite, Aleister Black, in an awesome match.

Velveteen Dream, soaking in the adulation.

The crowd also popped huge when Richochet’s name appeared on the jumbo screen, and he showed up. This was one of his first matches in NXT, as he hadn’t been on the TV shows yet. So to me, it was unexpected that he got such a big reaction.  However, he is a star outside of WWE. Dude’s an incredible athlete, and did some stuff that I had never seen before, in his match with Buddy Murphy.

Not every thing was bizarro world, though. By far, the wrestler who got the most heat was a Marcell Barthel, an arrogant German. Earlier that day, Germany had stunned Canada at the Olympics in hockey, crushing our gold medal dreams. Barthel made sure to mention this to us, which got him booed out of the building, unsurprisingly.

Also unsurprisingly was J’s favorite contest – the women’s three way match between Nikki Cross (dat gurl be cray cray), Aliyah (who bragged about reppin’ Toronto, and hated on St. Catharines, so she got booed hard) and the NXT Women’s Champion, Ember Moon. J really liked Moon. I tried to say she was a butt-kicking warrior princess, but J took that to mean she was the Queen. Eh, close enough.

All in all, it was a fun night out, with a lively crowd. If you had no idea who the performers were going in, they all did such a good job in getting their characters over, and the audience was so into them, that it was easy to be invested in the outcomes of the matches. B and J went in blind, and a week later, they still randomly talk about Johnny Wrestling (Johnny Gargano), Mrs. Wrestling (Candice LeRae, Gargano’s wife), the Queen, or Velveteen Dream. I’ll add that even though my tickets were free, NXT Live is reasonably priced, as well. For our event, cheap seats weren’t that much more than taking the family to a 3D movie, for example. I also appreciated that, at least from our vantage point, the audience respected the kids in attendance, so the chanting and yelling was not vulgar or profane.

Thanks again, WWE. If NXT Live comes to your town, as Billy Red Lyons use to say, don’t cha dare miss it!

 

Hot Holiday Gifts From Jakks Pacific!

Note: While I was compensated for this post, the thoughts expressed are 100% mine.

Wassup! By now, you’re probably basking in your Black Friday/Cyber Monday deals afterglow. I hope your shopping was a success! If you’re like me, though, you probably still have some work to do, presents-wise. Luckily, when it comes to kids, my good friends at Jakks Pacific have got it covered, for boys and girls of all ages. Here are some of their hottest toys for the holiday season!

Real Workin’ Buddies: Mr. Dusty

If your kids are like my kids (slobs), then this truck is right up your alley. Recently named as a Walmart Top Rated By Kids toy for 2017,  Mr. Dusty is a garbage truck/street sweeper/dump truck which makes cleaning up fun. Eat, sweep, dump, repeat. It has a motorized mouth, which can pick up small toys (ie. Legos), on both hardwood and carpeted floors. Even if your kids are tidy, they can still have fun with Mr. Dusty by putting random stuff on the floor and seeing if he can eat it up!

Pull My Finger

If you or your child is not a fan of potty humour or flatulence, then skip this one. If you are, then this game is the shiznit! The objective basically is to pull a monkey’s finger, and not make it fart. What’s not to like?

 

BIG-FIGS 20″ Figures – Justice League

And Star Wars: The Last Jedi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Big, blockbuster movies deserve big, blockbuster toys. Typical action figures are, what? 4″ or 5″ tall? BIG-FIGS come in at around 18″-20″.  The detailing is really impressive, and some of the characters come with soft fabric capes and/or removable accessories.

 

Power Rippers

 

Power Rippers 2 in 1 Competition Set

Power Rippers are “a fusion of Vehicles, Battle Tops and Action Figures.” Basically, they’re collectable balls (each with their own names and skills) that open up, into vehicles. Using the rip cord, you can race, battle and do all kinds of cool stunts with them (no batteries required).  I personally am easily amused, so I was entertained just pulling the cord, and watching them spin round and round.

For those not so easily amused,  The Power Rippers 2 In 1 Competition Set will do the trick. It’s a track set and battle arena, and includes two loops, which can be configured in one long strip, or side by side, for racing. One neat thing is that it comes in a carrying case, which doubles as the arena and a base for the racing track, so cleaning up is easy. No Mr. Dusty required.

Happy shopping!

 

Stocking Stuffer Ideas For Kids!

Note: While I was compensated for this post by Imports Dragon, the opinions expressed are mine, as always.

Every year in our household, Santa Claus covers off the main presents, no problem, but he slacks off on the stockings. In fact, typically, he scrambles last minute to fill them, and pretty much just hopes that the kids won’t go ‘WTF’ when they empty them. This year will be different, though. My, err I mean, Santa’s good friends at Imports Dragon got it covered. As a distributor and manufacturer of numerous brands of toys, they offer a wide variety of products to satisfy kids of all ages. Available online, or in stores nationwide, here are some that I think make great stocking stuffers for my kids (and hopefully the children in your lives, too!):

 

Shopkins Cutie Cars, Single Packs or 3 Packs

I’ve mentioned before that Shopkins are big in our house. Cutie Cars are a natural extention of those. Cute little collectible cars that you can put mini Shopkins in, and take for a cruise!

NHL Figures, Various Sizes

Speaking of collectibles, these high quality, licensed NHL figures, available in various sizes, are a sure shot to please any hockey fan’s stocking.

Pikmi Pops Single Packs

Pikmi Pops are toy lollipops with an element of fun surprise inside. If your kid loves making videos of them unboxing stuff, they’ll especially love these.

Ooshies

Another cool collectible. Ooshies are tiny, squishy figurines of licensed characters, like DC, Marvel and Disney Princesses. They also double as pencil toppers, ensuring your child will have the most lit writing utensil in the whole school, fam.

Peg + Cat Plush Toys. Peg + Cat Memory Card Game

Peg + Cat is a popular children’s TV show, so fans of that show will really appreciate the plush toy, and the themed memory card game!

Twozies

 

More surprise toys! Except instead of just one mystery inside a pack, there’s two – a cute little baby and a pet. The fun is in collecting them, and mismatching the duos.

Happy Places Shopkins Packs

Here’s another one from the Shopkins universe. Happy Places are collectible, miniature decor toys.

Drawmaster Drawing Kit

Drawmaster is exactly what it says it is. A drawing kit that helps you draw the perfect piece every time. Sweet!

Review – Etch A Sketch!

Disclaimer: While I received compensation for this post, the opinions expressed were, as always, 100% mine.

I don’t know about you, but with the holiday season now upon us, I’m realizing that I need to step up my toy game. There’s just so many options out there.  Shoot, even some stuff that I used to play with when I was a young boy is still around, but modernized!

Take the Etch A Sketch, for example. Ahh, the good old, venerable Etch A Sketch. Many an hour was spent back in the day by me, painstakingly twisting the knobs to move the black lines and create da Vinci-esque masterpieces……only for my little sister to come along later, give the toy a shake and erase my work.

Oh this? Yeah, this is just a lil something something that I doodled. Portrait of KJ and I. What? Well I was there when it happened anyway. Is that good enough?

Anyway, scarred childhood memories aside, the Etch a Sketch is definitely iconic, and a surefire Toy Hall OF Famer. So colour me surprised when I found out that they got the Puff Daddy treatment, and were remixed! Or, more specifically, Spin Master acquired the brand last year and introduced a couple of cool new innovations on it.

First up is the Etch a Sketch Joystick. Basically, the two dials have been replaced with a joystick that swivels 360 degrees, which is perfect for younger kids. It’s way easier to make circles and loops and whatnot. You still just shake it to erase it when you’re done, no mess.  Not gonna lie, though, the whole joystick thing was a bit of a shock for an old school cat like yours truly. I may have busted out a “when I was your age, our Etch A Sketches just had knobs” story, to B and J. I may have also then went outside, grabbed my hose, and told the neighbourhood whippersnappers to get off of my lawn.

Here’s an artists’ rendition of a whippersnapper.

Next up is the Etch A Sketch Freestyle. This bad boy is even more modernized. On this drawing pad, you can use a stylus to doodle. It also has a black magic screen this time, and the lines you draw are multi-colored. As well, it comes with double sided stamps, so you can add in hearts, clouds, stars and circles. J’s the little artist in the house, so she really enjoys playing around on this one.

Like its fellow Etch A Sketches, you still just shake it, to erase it (B and J admittedly had trouble with this, initially. It’s a bit trickier than the traditional ones, but they did get the hang of it eventually). I did find the design of it to be cool. It’s very light, and slick-looking.

Finally (and this was new to me, anyway) is the Travel Etch A Sketch. It’s a smaller version of the classic edition, same magic screen and all. However, I just toss it in the back of my car, and it’s something for the kids to entertain themseleves with, when I’m driving them around. So basically, while they doodle, it gives me a few minutes off before they remember to ask “are we there yet?”. But hey, when you’re parent, you take what you can get, right?

As far as gifts for kids goes, you really can’t go wrong with any of these Etch A Sketches. Hopefully, you’re feelin’ sketchy this holiday season!

 

5 Car Tips For The Unlucky Parent

Disclaimer: This post was sponsored by Cars.com, but the opinions expressed were, as always, 100% mine.

I’ve always considered myself a good driver.  As a parent of three small kids, who’s frequently driving them around, I’m very safety conscious when I’m on the road.

However…….

I have the worst luck with cars!  I got stories for days about my cars, people.  It’s to the point now that I expect some sort of Final Destination-style random incident to occur, to any vehicle of mine. With that in mind, if you’re also unlucky on car front, here are some tips, based on my unfortunate experiences.

 

TAKE YOUR RIDE IN FOR A TUNE UP, BEFORE GOING ON A HOT DATE

Years ago, when K and I were still just dating, I took her out to meet my friends for the first time. Big milestone, but the night went well. Earlier in the week, my car had started to drive a bit funny, but I didn’t bother taking it in to a mechanic. So of course, while coming home on the highway that night, the engine died. A tow truck driver had to give us a lift home, which is basically the equivalent of your parents driving you and your date to the prom  #embarrassing.

 

IF YOUR KIDS ARE ACTING LIKE  RAGING LUNATICS AS YOU PULL INTO A TIGHT PARKING SPOT, AND IT SOUNDS LIKE ONE OF THEM IS OPENING THE DOOR WHILE THE CAR IS IN MOTION, STOP YOUR VEHICLE COMPLETELY BEFORE YOU TURN AROUND TO LOOK AT THEM.

Pretty self explanatory, but I learned the hard, colliding way what happens if you don’t stop.

Dramatic re-enactment. This isn’t a picture of my car totaling another car.

 

IF YOUR CAR IS GOING TO SPONTANEOUSLY BURST INTO FLAMES ON A HIGHWAY, TRY TO MAKE SURE THAT IT DOESN’T HAPPEN DURING RUSH HOUR, SO THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE AREN’T INCONVENIENCED WHEN A SECTION OF THE HIGHWAY IS CLOSED OFF, TO CLEAR UP YOUR FIERY MESS.

Again, this is pretty self explanatory.

Not a dramatic re-enactment. This is all me.

 

DON’T GET IN AN ACCIDENT IN A DRIVE-THRU.

I’ve gotten rear ended pulling into a gas station. I was the front car in a multi-car collision, while stopped at a red light.  An old neighbour badly damaged my car when it was parked on the street, as they backed out of their driveway like they were Vin Diesel in the Fast and the Furious.  However, the worst accident by far was when I was rear-ended in a drive-thru of a Burger King. Some teen’s brakes malfunctioned, so he smashed into me as I was waiting for my Whopper.  While obviously annoying, the main reason why you don’t want this to happen is that, by the time you work things out with the other party…..your food is cold! Gross!

 IN AN ACCIDENT? REMEMBER YOUR CAR SEAT.

If you are in an accident, depending on the severity of it, you probably will need to get your car seat replaced. This is regardless of if your child was in it or not, at the time of the accident.  Crash forces ain’t no joke, so it’s definitely better to err on the side of caution, especially when considering your child’s safety. The good thing is, depending on your policy, your insurance company will reimburse you for the cost of a new car seat. I’m such a frequent customer with my insurer that they know me by name, and take my claims like a coffee order. (“Hey it’s me.” “Oh, hey Mike. Are you having your usual settlement today?” “You know it. And one car seat to go, please.”).

Just kidding.

Sorta.

KNOWLEDGE IS POWER

After my latest Final Destination moment sent me in the market for a new whip, I did a lot of research before making a purchase. It’s a huge investment, so you gotta try to be as informed as possible.  As such, I found myself on Cars.com quite a bit. There’s tons of information there, to help make the buying process easier. I was particularly interested in car seat safety checks, for different makes and models.  Cars.com had the information that I was looking for, more so than any other site I looked at.

After taking things like practicality, roominess for kids in the back, and driveability during harsh Canadian winters into consideration, here is what I decided to buy:

Psych!  I actually ended up with a Hyundai Sonata.

Stay save on the roads, y’all. Happy travels!

 

 

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