Dan Dunn: Speed painter – now puzzle maker

Artist Dan Dunn

This week it’s all about speed..skating, skiing.  So I was interested when I got a press release about speed painter, Dan Dunn.  He’ll be doing puzzles for Serendipity this year. It will be interested to see how his work translates to puzzles. In the meantime, you can watch him paint (FAST) at a recent Super Bowl event.

Snow Day!

Snowed in? Cranky?

Declare the day  a beach day. Have kids prepare a picnic–and picnic like food. Take out the beach towels.  While throwing on bathing suits can be fun, it’s even more fun over your pjs. Sometimes doing something really silly–can change the tone in your house.  Truth be told–often the parents need a reset button.

A transforming Barbie Mermaid

Barbie in Mermaid Tale brings back some oldie but goodie technology…water temperature induced changes. 

When you dip her, things change color and appear.  The aspects changed by water: her hair, her toe nails and, wait for it…her belly body art.

Here, Barbie begins just as your ordinary Barbie around the pool–in her little hoodie cover up. Ever so short and Barbie-esque.  But here, as if on a makeover segment on the Today Show, we see that the hoodie is so much more than a hoodie. It transforms Barbie into a mermaid. No joke.

Take a look:

Sushi-Inspired Play!

The boxes of spring toys and books have started to arrive in  full force.  At the end of a very long day, I opened the last big box and had a wonderful laugh. Inside was a HUGE piece of sushi. This stuffed piece of sushi is really an ottoman. It also came with a doll and a side of salmon roe.

I’ve been reviewing toys for a long time- I’m rarely surprised anymore–but I have to say a toy that includes a salmon roe accessory, got me.

You have to wonder what was the a-ha moment here for Atlanta-based stylist, Mimi Tin, founder of sushistyle.com.   A graphic designer clearly not afraid to push the envelope, Ms. Tin has created this collection that is  inspired by the Pop Art Movement.

While at first, I was just shocked really–I have to say that the ottomans are very well-made. The dolls will most likely appeal to the tween/teen market. And the addition of the roe is just so fun, it’s perfect.

Does anyone need a HUGE piece of sushi furniture…probably not, but they are extremely witty.  The dolls retail for $29.95, the ottomans (Cucumber Pouf with Salmon Roe) or the Cali Pouf retail for $79.95 each at sushistyle.com.

Sushistyle.com's Mimi Tin

Monopoly: Old School

I grew up playing Monopoly with my brothers. Truth be told my involvement in any given round was pretty brief.  They were both older, I would trade away all the good properties…and I would be out of the game in what always seemed like minutes. To make matters worse, they had a rule that the loser always had to put the game away–so when they were done, I was left to put the pieces away.  When I got older and could play with my friends, my math anxiety would usually kick in and I would never want to be the banker…but still there was some math to be done. I was a big fan of collection the railroads.  When I first met my husband, I tried playing Monopoly with him. I quickly discovered he learned Monopoly from the same school as my brothers!

So when I had my kids, I determined to create  a kinder and gentler Monopoly environment.  We would be thoughtful and supportive….ok, so that lasted for about ten minutes. I quickly found that my kids loved the wheeling and dealing that their father and uncles enjoyed.  The games were always loud…often ending in some tears (and a family meeting about feelings and good sportsmanship).  I always wonder if other people play Monopoly quietly–or if that’s just our family. We’re pretty noisy in general.

If I look back on my Monopoly experiences, it’s a wonder really why I feel fondly about the game – but I do.

So when they roll out new versions, I’m always game.  Unfortunately, I haven’t really loved many of the “improvements”.  The last few years have brought an electronic scorer–taking away the wonderful math experience of paying for properties. Whether you could always do the calculations in your head (like my friend Lisa)…or needed a little paper…this was part of the game.

This year we got Championship Edition Monopoly…it comes with a trophy –and a nameplate that can be changed as the names change.  Now I don’t know about you–but in any of the houses I grew up in, this is just asking for a dispute. Even if your kids can share the title, I also really don’t like the score pad where you tally up the value of your properties. I much prefer looking at what you have and adding it up…the score pad complicates the whole experience.

For 2010, Hasbro is rolling out two new versions. One is Monopoly Revolution Edition ($34.99, available for fall 2010) – You’ll see that the game board is now round and looks ever so Apple-like. The round electronic game unit keeps track of where you are on the board and promises to have song clips including “Celebration” by Kool & the Gang and “Drive My Car” by The Beatles.  Ok, this may be fun–but it’s not really Monopoly.  Keeping an open mind though. 

Then there’s Monopoly U-Build ($19.99, available for fall 2010)…here you’ll notice you are building your own board.  This version inspired by the original looked like it could be fun.  The big selling point to parents is that the size of the board that you build will determine the length of your game play – so if you only have 30 minutes to play, you can customize the board accordingly…that’s a fun concept.

Toy Fair Previews: Easy Bake…with no oven

A couple of years ago we tried the latest version of the Easy Bake Oven. I tried it with two 9 year olds (a boy and a girl).  After thirty minutes of making mac and cheese that didn’t taste very good, one of them said “we could have done this in the microwave in about two minutes and it would have tasted better!” That was pretty much when I was over Easy Bake Ovens.  I do have disclaim that I LOVED my Easy Bake Oven…it was so empowering to be able to make something all on my own.  I   looked forward to using my Easy Bake Oven or my friend Jeannie Parker–it was on our list of things to do in between playing super heroes (where we would often end up fighting over who would be Wonder Woman).

So I wasn’t surprised that the new rollout for Easy Bake are things you can make in the microwave.  (They still have the oven.) Picking up on the current craze for decorating food (there were at least eight different kits last year from various toy companies)…these new kits are meant to focus the activity on the decorating rather than creating the actual cake.

Sign of the times.

My Little Pony Goes UNDERWATER!

I don’t know why this made me laugh–but some how I thought My Little Pony was silly enough (yes, yes, enjoyed by millions, but still there’s something about the never-ending pink rococo plastic fantasy settings that always gets me thinking about archeological digs centuries from now..and what they’ll think about such design and the civilization that played with them.)  Click here to watch our video.

My Little Pony has now become a merpony…no kidding. So now the merponies have there own new underwater castle. From the press release, you’ll see why this was the next obvious evolution for My Little Pony:

Located in the heart of the sea, this magical castle is an underwater dream come true for the MERMAID PONIES.  Each pony will love to explore this nautical treasure with lights and sounds .  Discover PINKIE PIE’S secret shell bedroom that really opens and closes or take a pony for a ride on the “magical” seashells that allow her to “swim” around the castle. The MERMAID ponies will love to “splish and splash” on the waterslide or hang ten on the “real” waves with the tubular surf boards.

The Castle will retail for $39.99 and be available next Fall.

Is that Barbie or Debbie Mazar?

I got boxes of Barbies today–celebrating Barbie’s occupations throughout the years–as well as her  new jobs (more on that later).  When I got to 1965′s Student Teacher Barbie I was struck how much she looked like Debbie Mazar (Entourage).

Seriously, take a closer look.