Tuesday, October 25, 2011

TOS Review - NorthStar Games - Wits & Wagers Family

Description:  (from Target's website):

Challenge your kids to a game of Wits & Wagers in this family-friendly edition featuring 300 new questions. Simplified rules and scoring work to combine laughter and learning as you move your Meeple character to select what is hopefully the correct answer.
  • Wits & Wagers Family Edition has 300 new family-friendly questions and simplified rules and scoring
  • Every player writes down a guess to a fun question, and then everyone tries to score points by choosing which guess is closest to the right answer
  • Combines laughter and learning in a game that all ages can enjoy together
  • Also includes Meeples (fun, cute, human-shaped wooden pieces) that the players use to select which answers they think are correct
  • Meeples have been a hallmark in European-style strategy games for years, but this is the first time they have made an appearance in a party game
How to play:
Each player chooses a color (you get two Meeples of same color and a small dry erase answer board and pen), a scorekeeper is chosen and the youngest player goes first.  Meeples are colorful, painted wood game markers shaped like humans.  Once a Question Card is read, players write their answer on their board (all answers are numbers) and the boards are sorted from smallest to largest.  Players then place one or both of their Meeples on the answer they feel is correct. The winning guess is the number answer closest to the real number without going over.  Points are scored based on correct answer written, guessed, size of Meeple used, etc.  First player to reach 15 points wins.  Easy peasy!  Here is an example question for you, "How many different colors of Froot Loops are there?"  Our answers ranged from 5 to 1000 (I'll give you three chances to guess who said 1000. Ha!) The correct answer is 6.  Each answer is also either given with an explanation (it listed the 6 colors used) or another fact related to the question.  How about this one: "How many times does a honey bee flap it's wings in one second?" Our answers ranged from 1 to 60.  None of us were right.  So, what is the answer? Leave me a comment with what you think. And no cheating! :-)

My musings:
Wits & Wagers Family is a neat game. The 150 Question Cards (two levels of questions on each card, so 300 questions total) are an interesting, wide range of topics and are interesting and the Meeples are just fun to play with. Much cooler than the regular plastic markers in other games. Apparently they are a pretty popular game mascot in Europe, but this is the first time that they have made their way across the Atlantic. It's an easy game to get the hang of and one that I can see playing repeatedly...when Julianna is older.  The game is listed for age 8+ and I think that is definitely an accurate age range (she is only 6).  While it gave her good math practice in writing and identifying numbers, sorting them in order and adding of points, she just didn't get the concept of estimation.  She got frustrated if she didn't get the "right" answer even if her answer was the closest without going over...which wasn't very often with answers usually written in the thousands. Most of the Question Cards we went through (obviously we didn't get through all 150 of them) were interesting, though a few dealt with pop culture tween TV shows that we knew nothing about.  I just skipped those.  All in all, if you are a game playing family, I would recommend giving it a try.

Details:  Wit & Wagers Family
Publisher:  NorthStar Games
Players: 3-10 players, ages 8+
Buy:  Amazon, or at Target, Barnes and Noble, Kohls

**Disclaimer:  As a member of TOS Homeschool Crew, I was given a free copy of Wits & Wagers Family in exchange for my honest review.  No other compensation was received.**

    Saturday, October 15, 2011

    TOS Review - E-mealz

    Meal planning is one of my weakest areas of running my household...that and completing laundry...or decluttering...okay, and housecleaning in general, but why dwell on the negative? If you also have trouble figuring out how to feed your family without blowing your grocery budget envelope (I'm still trying, Uncle Dave Ramsey) for just a few meals, then the cavalry may be coming to your rescue.  Enter E-mealz.
     E-mealz is an online service that, for a minimal monthly fee, allows you to choose a grocery store (five specific stores listed (Kroger, Publix, Ralphs, Aldi, and Walmart) and an "any store" option) and then they provide a weekly meal plan and organized grocery list.  On a diet?  No problem.  They have low fat, low carb and portion control plans available.  Have special diet restrictions?  Got it covered.  Gluten free and vegetarian plans are also offered.  Don't need to feed an army?  Problem solved.  There are also plans for feeding 1-2 people in all the categories previously listed.  Easy peasy!

    My musings:
    E-mealz is a great program that I would recommend anyone giving a try.  It's affordable and takes all the guess work out of the dreaded duty of meal planning.  It really tries to cover all the bases by offering a wide variety of plans. What is not to like?  Nothing, but for some reason it just doesn't work for me.  :-(  I don't know why.  The recipe ideas were great.  Meals were tasty.  I think one reason is it doesn't have the grocery stores I typically visit as an option (my subscription is for the "any store" plan, so I need to check out another one to see if it works better. You can switch plans, as a courtesy, one time during a three month subscription period).  I think the other main reason is I have a hard time planning by the week because I may not "feel" like eating what is planned.  Silly reasons.  Maybe I have deep seeded control issues.  Lol  Like I said, I think it's a great program with lots of variety that I would recommend using - I just can't justify spending the monthly fee for MY FAMILY.  Give it a try.  It might just be what you've been looking for.  

    **Disclaimer:  As a member of TOS Homeschool Crew, I was given a free membership to E-mealz in exchange for my honest review.  No other compensation was received.**

    Wednesday, October 12, 2011

    TOS Review - Always IceCream

    My girl loves to play games online, so what could be better than a site with safe, educational games created JUST FOR GIRLS?  Not much. (Well, not much to a little girl.  For this big girl, a fresh cup of coffee first thing in the morning beats it by a mile, which is probably why it's not targeted for the 40 something crowd.) I digress.

    Always IceCream  is a pretty (all fluffy and pastel-y ice cream colored), fun site chock full of a variety of girly games. Their tag line is "A Scoop of Laughter. A Scoop of Learning."  The target age for the majority of the games is 7-12 years. They have a large selection of educational games (that progress in difficulty) in the following academic areas:  Language Arts, Math, Science, Geography and History, Music and Arts, Religious Education (Christian), Computer Skills and Foreign Language.  They are very proactive with their safety measures, offering, among other features, moderated communication between friends (there is a social connection side where your daughter can link to other friends online), and tons of parental reporting and control.  A couple other features are MiniWorld (when they first sign on, they create a MiniMe avatar.  MiniWorld is where they set up a house, art studio, etc.) and Pet World (hatch and raise a pet). 

    My musings:  Julianna and I have both really enjoy this site.  She is younger than the recommended age, so many (okay, most) of the games we need to play together. (I won't say how woefully pitiful one of us is at identifying the states west of the Mississippi...barring Texas and California.  The ones in the middle all run together. :-)  ) There are some games (dress up, cake decorating, etc.) that can be done independently, but she is still an early reader and needs help for everything else.  That's okay.  I like having something available that she can grow into.  My favorite thing?  NO ADS!  Ugh, ads on kid's sites drive me bananas. There is a very popular preschool site that used to really annoy me with their ads. I'm sorry, but my preschool daughter does not need to know about adult hair coloring products! Nuff' said. I also love the extra measures implemented for safety and parental controls.  I expect us to get loads of use out of our membership over the upcoming years. 

    Nitty gritty details: Always IceCream
    Target audience:  girls, 7-12 years
    Membership:  4.99 per month (first month .99)
                           29.99 annual
                           99.99 lifetime
    (Always IceCream offers a money back guarantee if you aren't satisfied.)

    **Disclaimer:  As a member of TOS Homeschool Crew, I was given a free membership to Always IceCream in exchange for my honest review.  No other compensation was received.**

    Tuesday, October 11, 2011

    I'm quirky

    I was thinking the other day that I have some quirky ways about me.  (Quirky - neuroses...it's a fine line. Don't judge.)  I know some of you all are quirky, too.  Embrace your quirkiness!

    Quirk 1:  I am a germaphobe.  
    ("Hello, my name is Kelly and I'm a germaphobe.  Hello, Kelly."  Not sure exactly why, but I am. (This is where the neuroses line gets blurred)  People poke fun, but I am the first person that others will come to when they need antibacterial wipes.  I buy them from a janitorial supply site online by the 1000 packet box. What? Is that strange?)

    Quirk 2:  I will not buy the first magazine on the newsstand.
    (You know that everyone looks at the first magazine on the rack while waiting in line and sticks it back when it's time to unload the cart.  I choose carefully from the remaining issues behind.  See Quirk 1. Don't you all now stick the magazines that you have flipped through with your grubby hands into the back to throw off my routine. Hmm, I did just take a stack of free Country Living magazines at a yard sale.  Does something being free supersede my germaphobia?  I will have to ponder that thought.)

    Quirk 3:  I read cookbooks like others read novels.
    (I read novels too, but I do love to read cookbooks, cooking magazines, cooking blogs, etc. You get the picture.)

    Quirk 4:  I love print catalogs.
    (I do look at a lot of stuff online, but I love the feel of the beautiful, slick pages in my hands. I blame my cousin.  She used to get all of these really cool catalogs in the mail and she'd pass them on to me. I have taken up the cause on my own, now. I think I talked about this before.  Feels like deja vu.)

    Quirk 5:  I eat some strange food combinations.
    (Macaroni and cheese and ketchup.  Potato chips and A1 steak sauce.  Don't crinkle your noses.  I know you all eat some weird food concoctions, too.  Right?  Right???)

    Quirk 6:  I can think of a song to go with most situations.
    (We celebrated our 15th Anniversary last week by going to see Les Miserables at the Kennedy Center.  This was my third time seeing it and it was still just as powerful as the first.  If you have never seen it, GO!  (Just don't take the kids.  Les Mis NOT a kids show.  French Revolution was a rough time.  Jus' sayin'.) Anyway, it's been a week now and I still sing songs from the show in my head (and sometimes out loud) whenever the occasion arises.  For example, someone will say rain is in the forecast and I will break out in "A Little Fall of Rain" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fNHRiCUrQyw&feature=related  "And you will keep me safe, and you will keep me close, and rain will make the flowers grow." (It is the first scene of the second act that the tears start flowing.  It's when Eponine dies.  *sob*)  Say something about things happening tomorrow and "One Day More" pops out http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ToWBb3XD9z8&feature=related.  "Tomorrow we'll discover what God in Heaven has in store.  One more dawn.  One more day.  One daaaay mooooooore." You get the picture.  I'm sure this will subside some...though it never fully goes away.

    So, what are your quirks?  I know you gotcha some.