King Praising King

Posted in music on December 1st, 2011 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Our new addition, Luke James, is almost 2 months old (already!), and he loves music.  While I sit cuddling, feeding, and playing with him, I’ve been perusing youtube.com looking for music for us to enjoy together.  Being the time of year that it is, we’ve really been appreciating Christmas tunes, especially Martina McBride and Celine Dion’s versions of O Holy Night.  How I love to sit with my little Luke and think about what the lyrics of these songs REALLY mean!  I’ve also been especially appreciative of Elvis’ gospel songs and praise music lately.  My favorites are “How Great Thou Art” and “Put Your Hand in the Hand”.  Today it came to my attention that my friend’s dad composed a praise song for Elvis and sang backup for the track with his music group, The Imperials!  How cool is that!  Thanks to Amanda who shared her dad’s talent on this song, “If the Lord Wasn’t Walking by My Side”:

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Backyard Thrill Rides (Don’t Try These At Home – Watch Youtube Instead!)

Posted in Fun Videos on July 30th, 2010 and tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

In the newspaper the other day, there was an article that caught my interest about a couple of college engineering students who built a homemade roller coaster in their back yard (with mom’s reluctant approval).  I figured there would be  video of their creation on youtube.com, but I was unable to find the exact coaster from the article.  I did, however, find many videos featuring brave and creative souls fashioning their own various types of thrill rides and testing them out – some so amusing I had to put them together.  You can probably tell by the picture on the video if it’s going to be one you’ll want to watch in action.  And by the way, more than a few of these trials reminded me of that article I read and wrote about a while back about reasons for common ER visits called: Don’t Laugh, It Could Happen To  You…

This guy rides his backyard roller coaster in a little chair, and it even has an inversion:

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This guy uses a little mining type cart, and he seems to achieve some pretty good speed:

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This one looks more like it’s on train tracks, but it’s a long ride, and he also looks like he hits some pretty decent speeds:

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This one’s not a roller coaster, but sort of homemade gravitron:

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Are you going to be as surprised as I was about the speeds this ATV uses to wind up this poor lady’s sling shot?  This is one heck of a human sling shot!!

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And finally, this video begins with saying this kid’s parents were out of town…  uh, oh.  This guy builds a slip n’ slide off the 2nd story of his house.  Does anyone else find it funnily ironic that the test subject gets congratulated after his run by a guy with his arm in a sling?  The first tester, perhaps?

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VIP Squared

Posted in Travel on July 24th, 2010 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Every year, my husband and I are very lucky to get a week-long break from being busy parents of 4 kids when Grandma takes the kids to her house for a week.  For the past two years during this vacation, we traveled downstate to King’s Island, an amusement park near Cincinnati.  King’s Island offers a VIP Tour, which means that for 9 hours, you get your own personal park employee to lead you around the park and to the front of all the park rides of your choosing, even holding your stuff if you really want him to!  In case you’re interested, a VIP Tour at King’s Island also includes an all-you-can-eat lunch buffet, unlimited fountain drinks all day, a ride photo, an ice cream cone, a behind-the-scenes tour of The Beast, and $25 in park souvenir money – which can be spent on carnival style games, buying more food (if you need it after the buffet!), or in the park’s gift shops.  While it may seem expensive up front, if you do the math, the VIP Tour ends up being a great deal all things considered, and we highly recommend it; especially if you’re a coaster enthusiast!

Being able to walk to the front of any ride line of one’s choosing is really cool – it’s hard to imagine, until  you ride coaster after coaster without pause!

We began our day on The Beast (only because the Diamondback was not functioning, but luckily our fears of it being broken for the entire day were dispelled and they were able to fix it before long).  The Beast is an almost 5-minute long journey into the desolate forests of southern Ohio on a wooden roller coaster!  As we learned from our behind the scenes tour (included with the VIP Tour as I said), prior to its unveiling in 1979, The Beast was built on-site and follows closely the terrain upon which it is built.  It was not pre-ordered and shipped to the park in segments like many modern roller coasters.

The Beast follows its native land's terrain and disappears into a tunnel at the bottom of its first drop

After riding The Beast twice in a row (almost 10 minutes worth of roller coasters right there!!), we moved on to the Vortex, an old-school steel roller coaster with more than a few high speed inversions.  I had printed out my blog post I had written about the VIP Tour a year before, and it served as a helpful guide for this year.  And I have to say, everything was much more enjoyable this year – last year I had written in my blog that I didn’t like the Vortex much and that the Backlot Stunt Coaster was lame, but this year both rides were much more fun than I had remembered – perhaps because I knew what to expect from the park, and so the element of surprise was minimized.  I’m a person who likes to know what to expect rather than to be completely taken by surprise – I have 4 little kids, so I have enough surprises throughout my average day, thank you 😉

But whatever the case, whichever the reason, this year’s VIP Tour was even more fun than last year’s!  All of the rides we rode were better than I had remembered they were, and the Whitewater Canyon water ride was even more fun when riding with friends!  Of course, I think it helped that this year’s temperature was almost 90º instead of the unseasonal 70º we had during last year’s tour – getting soaked last year left us near frozen!  And I learned a little bit from last year’s tour – no blisters from walking around in wet shoes for me!  I brought a little bag and put a change of shoes in it.  As much as it may have annoyed my co-VIPs (but then again, I was the only gal in a group of men), I changed into my flip-flops every time we got on a water ride.  Not only did I save my feet from blistering, but I got to order our guide to carry my shoes around the park!  Ok, so I actually felt pretty badly making the poor guy carry my shoes around, but it was kind of like being a queen for a day, and –  carrying our stuff was his job after all…

The Diamondback Roller Coaster

Being led around the park by a guide all day, slipping in front of the ‘regular guests’ to get to the front of the lines (and picking whatever spot you choose on all the rides!  Note to self for next year:  front car on The Beast rocks, back row on the Diamondback is sweet, and the back is ideal and technically the front for Firehawk…) gave us plenty of time for ‘extras’ in the park: things we don’t normally do in theme parks, usually for lack of time like souvenir shopping, playing games and seeing shows.  The show we chose to see this year – and it’s strange, I know, that I keep promising myself a theater break but still I continue to find myself in a theater audience – was called ‘Too Much TV’, and it was actually pretty fun!  It began with a ‘host’ who went around the audience asking for them to ‘name that tune’ as different tv show theme songs were played.  I thought I would be good at this kind of thing, but apparently my brain had been scrambled upon one (ok, a dozen) too many roller coasters earlier in the day because I couldn’t get any of the answers correct.  But it’s ok, I didn’t raise my hand too high- unlike a fellow VIP who was called upon, but he answered correctly and won himself a Too Much TV button – way to  go!  Despite a fleeting regret in the beginning of the show (am I really watching yet another stage show?!?), I did enjoy myself.  I recognized 100% of the show titles and about 80% of the lyrics since I used to be a huge tv fan and had watched many of the shows when I was a kid (many in reruns; I’m not THAT old!)  The show included 6 dancer-singers, and it began with TV shows from the 50’s – 60’s (a few of these I watched like Patty Duke and Mary Tyler Moore – um, in reruns of course 😉 while the rest I just knew the themes since they were very famous like the Andy Griffith Show) and continued to shows from the 70s (3’s Company, Brady Bunch, Partridge Family, etc), 80’s-90’s (Full House, Perfect Strangers,  Growing Pains, Friends, etc).  LOTS of fun, especially for a former TV junkie like myself.  The singers / dancers were pretty good, and I have to say that one of the highlights of the show  was that during the Brady Bunch theme, they showed clips from the episode where the Brady’s actually visit King’s Island!!  I had totally forgotten that episode (I used to be a huge Brady Bunch fan; I watched it every day in syndication after school, and I had the book / episode guide written by Mr. Greg Brady (Barry Williams) himself – I used to check off the episodes I had seen – ahem, NERD!!), but anyway, I will have to dig it up on youtube.com or somewhere and watch it again now!!

Miraculously, the rain held off until minutes after our guide was dismissed for the day –  we had been watching the storms move in all day the day before our tour, hoping it wouldn’t affect our trip.  We had promised our guide an email depicting our thoughts on what riding The Beast was like in the dark, but as I said, it began to rain, and we were forced to take a break.  That’s when we realized just how tired we really were – too tired to wait for the rain to stop and the rides to re-open, so we’ll have to experience The Beast at night next year.  And I could not be looking forward to it more!!

On the way home, we found a White Castle (don’t have them way up here in the bufu northwestern corner of Ohio), or at least that’s what the sign said.  But the White Castle location was connected to a gas station, and the sliders did not taste quite the same…  I thought they were just old until I brought some home and re-heated them, and they STILL were a bit off…  hmmm….  Normally these things reheat really well, and I’m sorry to tell the White Castle newbie in our group that he still hasn’t really tried an authentic slider.  They hit the spot at the time and had we taken the time to stop anywhere else, we would have gotten home even later than the 1 am-ish that we did and would have been even more exhausted.  My bodily soreness from being beat up by various coasters all day was less than last year, but it also lasted a day or two longer than I remember.  Oh well, more to tweak for next year!  Maybe I will bring TWO pairs of shoes for Mr. Guide to carry around for me, haha!

And one final note…  We have a running joke with a member of our group – we went to Disney World with him almost two years ago, and it seemed that every ride which he rode stalled; including rides that didn’t usually stall.  At King’s Island, only one ride stalled while we were on it, but we got stuck in what I am sure is the most precarious position in which a person can get stuck at that park – flat on our backs, under the great blue sky on the Firehawk.  Here is a picture of how we were stuck; note that these people are in the station, which would have been better since there were people around to help.  We were stuck flat on our backs outside of the station for about 10-15 minutes, and I couldn’t help but notice how sympathetic the ride operator seemed during her announcements directing us to stay calm.

Also noticeable were the extremely red faces and disoriented nature of our fellow riders who were finally returned to an upright position and allowed to leave the ride with us.  For the record, our park guide happened to be on the Firehawk with us (on the VIP Tour, you can also make your guide go on rides!) and said that he had never seen it stuck like that before.  So yeah, while we were only stuck on a ride once during our day, what a place to be stuck!!!

And surely I don’t want to leave you with a bad impression of the Firehawk, nor of King’s Island, so here are some fun youtube videos from other riders:

Firehawk (you lie on your back and then are flipped after the lift onto your stomach.  Like Superman, you fly thru a series of loops, inversions, and open track):

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Next, not one of my favorite rides at King’s Island, though still fun, the joy in Invertigo is watching the person’s face who is sitting across from you.  Ride with a friend sitting across from you, and experience the g-forces backwards first.  Then watch your friend’s face as they experience the same thing backwards you just did – It’s priceless!!

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And now for my favorites, The Beast (start watching at a minute and ten seconds into the video for the real action):

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And the Diamondback:

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All this watching the POV cams on the coasters makes me want to do it all over again…   But unfortunately I have to wait…
So until next year…

Talking To The Animals

Posted in animals on May 17th, 2010 and tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

Do a search on youtube.com for talking animals, and you’ll see birds, dogs, and cats that say human words.  Not all of them know what they’re saying, but some of them do.  I came across an article on cnn.com about 4 animals that could REALLY talk –  these include a seal, a cat, a parrot, and a chimpanzee.

In 1971, George and Alice Swallow found a baby seal just off the coast of Maine. The little guy appeared to be orphaned, so they took him home and kept him in their bathtub.

For the first few days, they tried to feed him ground mackerel, but he refused to eat. Once he trusted his new parents, though, he began eating so voraciously they compared him to a Hoover vacuum cleaner and the name stuck.

When he got too big for the tub, Hoover was moved to a small pond behind the Swallows’ house. After only a few months, Hoover was eating more fish than his human caretakers were able to provide, so they contacted the New England Aquarium in Boston, hoping the facility had room for him.

When introducing the seal to the aquarium, George mentioned that Hoover could talk. Of course no one believed him at the time. A few years later, though, researchers at the aquarium noticed that Hoover’s guttural sounds really did seem to be forming words and phrases. He was often telling people to “Get outta here!” or asking, “How are ya?” He could say his name and a few other phrases, all with a thick Bostonian accent.

Once the word got out that the Aquarium had a talking seal, he became a media sensation, making appearances in Reader’s Digest, The New Yorker, National Public Radio, and even on Good Morning America.

Sadly, Hoover died of natural causes in July 1985 at the ripe old age of 14. He was so admired that he received his own obituary in the Boston Globe. He left behind several offspring, but none possessed his unique gift for gab.

I did a google search for Hoover the Seal, and I did find one piece of audio, but my husband says the words are not Hoover’s.  I’m not sure what to think – my husband has a point:  if there was a talking seal, and he died in 1985, why aren’t there more video clips of him out there?  I can be kind of gullible, but then again, thousands of people claim to have seen this seal  talk, so I don’t know.  Here is the youtube video I found which is audio only.  What do you think?  If anyone has visited Hoover and seen him talk, I’d love to hear from you!

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Then there was Blackie, the talking cat.

When Carl Miles of Augusta, Georgia, trained his cat Blackie to say, “I love you” and “I want my mama,” they took their act on the road. Throughout the early 1980s, Blackie made paid appearances on local TV and radio programs, and even hit the big time with a spot on the network TV show That’s Incredible.

However, as the novelty wore off, Carl and Blackie ended up performing on street corners, asking for donations from passersby. After some complaints from locals, police informed Carl that he would need to get a business license in order to keep up Blackie’s street show. Carl paid the $50 fee for a license, but something about it rubbed him the wrong way.

So Carl sued the city of Augusta, under the pretense that the city’s business license code mentions many types of occupations that require a license, but a talking cat show was not one of them. But that wasn’t the only issue Carl had –he also claimed the city was infringing on Blackie’s First Amendment Right to Free Speech.

Carl lost his case, but he appealed the ruling until it came before a federal court. The argument was finally closed when three presiding judges declared that the business license ordinance allowed for other, unspecified types of businesses to require a license, which would encompass a talking cat performer.

As for the First Amendment violation, the courts said the law did not apply because Blackie was not human, and therefore not protected under the Bill of Rights. Furthermore, there seemed no good cause for Carl Miles to be the one to bring the suit in the first place. If Blackie felt his rights were being violated, as a talking cat, he should have been the one to say something.

Next comes Alex the African Grey parrot.  I’ve always wanted an African Grey parrot (ever since as a kid I enjoyed the book Harry’s Mad by Dick King-Smith), and so I took special notice of Alex when he would make media appearances.  He died suddenly and unexpectedly in 2007, most likely from some sort of heart problem, but not before his accomplishments amazed millions.

According to Dr. Pepperberg’s research, this avian Einstein could identify 50 different objects, knew seven colors and shapes, and many different kinds of materials like wool, paper, and wood. For example, hold up a blue block of wood and Alex could tell you the shape, the color, and even what it was made of.

However, he also grasped more complex concepts that required a higher level of thought and understanding. Put a handful of red and yellow blocks on a tray and ask him how many were yellow, he could tell you the correct answer. If you then asked him how many of those same blocks were green, he would say “none.”

Furthermore, hold up two blocks of different colors and different sizes and he could tell you which was bigger.

And finally, Lucy, the chimpanzee who was raised like a child by humans:

When she was only two days old, Lucy, a chimpanzee, was purchased by the University of Oklahoma and sent to live with Dr. Maurice Temerlin, a noted psychologist, who, along with his wife, raised the little chimp as if she were their own human child.

Lucy was taught how to eat normal meals at the table using silverware. She could dress herself, often choosing to wear skirts just like her “mother” did. She could even make tea for her “parents” and the team of researchers who trained and cared for her.

Dr. Robert Fouts, one of the groundbreaking psychologists who taught American Sign Language (ASL) to Washoe the chimp in 1967, helped Lucy learn to communicate using around 250 ASL signs. Lucy could not only give the signs for objects like airplane, ball, and food, but she could also express her emotions with her hands, often “saying” when she was hungry, happy, or sad.

Lucy had become so close to human in most every way that she only found human men, not male chimpanzees, sexually attractive. It was pretty clear that, in her mind anyway, she was the same as her parents.

It’s a sad fact that once a captive chimp has reached about four or five years old, their immense strength can become a danger to their human caretakers. Often they need to be placed in a zoo, a lab, or some other facility better equipped to handle primates. In this case, the Temerlins raised Lucy as their daughter until 1977, when she was almost 12 years old, before they finally felt like they had to find her a new home.

After much deliberation, they decided upon a nature preserve in Gambia on the west coast of Africa. They, along with research assistant Janis Carter, flew with Lucy to her new home to help ease the chimp into the wild. However, it was not going to be as simple as they’d hoped.

At the preserve, Lucy was put in a cage at night to protect her from predators. She had only ever slept in a bed inside a nice, quiet, suburban home, so the jungle was a completely new and frightening environment for her.

She was also scared of the other chimps, strange creatures she had only encountered a few times before in her life, preferring to stay close to her parents and Janis whenever she could.

She wasn’t eating because her food had always been delivered to her on a plate; she didn’t even understand the concept of foraging.

When her parents suddenly became distant and weren’t providing her with the life she had always known, Lucy became confused and sad. She would often use the sign for “hurt.” And she lost much of her hair due to the stress of her new situation.

Realizing that Lucy would never move on if they stayed, her parents left her behind after three weeks. Janis agreed to stay for a few weeks longer, but it was soon clear that Lucy couldn’t change who she was. And so, Janis never left.

Janis helped found a chimpanzee sanctuary on an abandoned island in the middle of the Gambia River. She took Lucy and other chimps that had been raised in captivity and lived with them on the island, teaching them skills they would need in the wild, like finding food and climbing trees.

For most, the new lifestyle quickly became second nature. But for nearly eight years, Lucy refused to give up her human ways. She wanted human food, human interaction, and to be loved by, what she considered, one of her own kind. It wasn’t until Janis stopped living on the island that Lucy was finally able to accept her new life and joined a troupe of chimps.

Whenever Janis visited the island, Lucy was still affectionate, still used sign language, but thankfully, she always went back with the chimps into the forest.

Sadly, Lucy’s decomposed body was discovered in 1987. Her exact cause of death is unknown, though some believe she was killed by poachers. Others say it was probably something less spectacular, like an attack by a dominant male or an illness.

There’s one thing that no one who knew her wonders about, though, and that’s the fact that Lucy never really believed she was anything less than human.

Ok, so the part about Lucy being sexually attracted to male humans is a bit disturbing and TMI.  Nonetheless, the article provided a fascinating look at animals who act closer to humans than we can imagine.  Just a friendly reminder that all animals can be dangerous, however, so as they say, don’t try this at home!

And I’m somewhat surprised that Koko the gorilla who uses sign language was kept off the list – Lucy the chimp could use sign language, so what about Koko?

To read the article in its entirety, click here.

Bohemian Rhapsody By The Muppets

Posted in Fun Videos, Pop Culture on December 14th, 2009 and tagged , , , , ,

Came across this funny rendition of the Queen song Bohemian Rhapsody the other day.  I don’t know about you, but the Muppets always make me smile!

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Finally, The Wedding!

Posted in Fun Videos, TV Shows on October 11th, 2009 and tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

I’m talking about the nuptials of Jim Halpert and Pam Beesly, of course!  If you’re not a fan of The Office, you can stop reading now.  But for everyone else, how about that special 1-hour episode the other night?  Hubby and I thought it to be amazing – I laughed, I cried, I laughed until I cried…  Thursday’s episode was heartwarming,  hilarious, and humongous with its 1-hour run time!

Now I will be the first to admit that some of the plot lines contained within this episode were so outrageous that they were almost silly.  But given this show’s talented cast and production staff, things that would normally be ridiculous on other shows instead made for some great tv in this case.  I won’t waste your  time with a recap; you can get that here from the quick-witted tvguide.com writers.  But I absolutely loved this episode, so after much deliberation, here are my top 3 moments from The Office episode “Niagara”:

3.  Pam’s 80-year-old “Nema” saying, “I had to sit there while it happened to me.” – Pam’s grandmother is referring to the previous night in her hotel room when she couldn’t figure out how to get the tv channel switched from the movie “Bruno”.  Having been exposed to the same trash, her line echoed my sentiments exactly!

2.  This exchange was the one that had me crying laughing:
Pam Beesly:      Hey hey! Where are you? Can you take Andy to the hospital?
Jim Halpert:     What?
Pam Beesly:     He tore his scrotum dancing.
Jim Halpert:     What?
Pam Beesly:     He is in my room icing his balls.
Jim Halpert:     What?
Oh, my – TOO funny, enough said!

And the best moment of the episode was…  (drum roll please)…
1.  The wedding dance!  The attendants and attendees of Pam and Jim’s wedding danced down the aisle, imitating a popular youtube video.  I struggled deciding which version to post on my blog, the real one or The Office’s version, and I  went with the original.  Not only is it entertaining to  watch this happen at a real wedding (can’t believe they allowed this in a church, but if you look, the officiant is standing on the altar, grooving along!), but I decided not to post the clip from The Office because I think much of its entertainment value comes from being a fan of the show.  If you are a fan of the show, then you’ve already seen the musical montage in this episode set to Chris Brown’s Forever (shows what I know – after his arrest, I just assumed that Brown was another trouble-plagued hip-hop star, but this song actually has me tapping my toes.  Am I a Chris Brown fan?).  Non-Office fans wouldn’t appreciate all of the significance of the events that take place during this scene of the show, so I figured, why show it?  I LOVED this part; it’s the part that made me cry, albeit with happy tears, of course.  Every moment between  Pam and Jim for the past 5 seasons has been leading up to this moment, and despite all of the anticipation by fans and viewers, it did not disappoint!  I won’t say much more – don’t want to spoil it for fans who haven’t yet watched, but let’s just say (assume Comic Book Guy’s voice from the Simpsons):  “Best. Episode. EVER.”  One I will be watching over and over, laughing and crying each time.

The original version of the Forever wedding dance (this couple also made a parody of their own wedding video with them doing the Forever dance in court during their (fake) divorce proceedings if you want to check it out):

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Blast From The Past

Posted in Pop Culture on October 3rd, 2009 and tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

Being a child of the ’80’s, I definitely remember the California Raisins – they were 3D-ish Claymation figures of singing and dancing raisins, mostly famous for their rendition of “I Heard It Through The Grapevine”.  Thinking about this as an adult has me wondering if this was a successful ad campaign.  I guess successful is not quite the word I’m looking for…  I mean, of course it was ultra-successful in a sense; everyone in the ’80’s knew about the California Raisins, but did they really make kids want to eat more raisins?  Later they began to do commercials for Post’s Raisin Bran (Post only chooses the plumpest, juiciest raisins!), so maybe they helped to sell more boxes of cereal.

In the ’80’s, the California Raisins were celebrities and they had their own line of products that ran the marketing gamut: lunch boxes, stuffed toys, tv specials, t-shirts, Happy Meal toys, you name it.  This is precisely the reason why I came across a California Raisin figure the other day at the thrift store.  I had stopped in to get myself a few more little Halloween figurines for my front hall shelves (had an empty shelf after finally packing away the figurines of the bears playing baseball after the Chicago Cubs were eliminated from MLB’s post-season – that is ALL I’m going to say about THAT!), and at this particular thrift store, you get a free Happy Meal-type toy with every $2 spent.  My husband and I did just spend 5 hours gutting out the girls’ room and donating most of their toys last week, but I couldn’t resist picking out a toy for my favorite little shopping companion – my 3-year-old daughter Disney.  So anyway, we were pressed for time, and I found the California Raisin, so I grabbed him and gave him to Disney, promising her we would watch a movie of her raisin dancing and singing on the computer when we got home.  True to my word, I loaded up youtube and found some great clips of California Raisins, which went over really well with Disney.  She giggled and covered her mouth, and then she put her raisin on the computer to “watch” the other dancing raisins.  He’s been a presence in our household since last week, and of course her little brother likes him too.  He is small enough so that I can put him in our “emergency” car box (full of toys, snacks, band-aids, etc) when the kids tire of him in the house (the raisin, not the little brother!).  He even makes a great bathtub toy!  So anyway, while resurrecting the California Raisins last week, I came across this cute little  commercial that I hadn’t thought about in the 20 years since it was made.  Enjoy this blast from the past!

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Supressing My Whim For Another Parrot…

Posted in animals, Pets on September 6th, 2009 and tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Believe me, I am definitely not expressing that parrots are pets to get on a whim, not that any pets should be obtained on a whim.  But I wouldn’t really even recommend parrots, the loud and moody (however beautiful and insanely smart) creatures as pets, except to the perfect parrot owner – which might just be as rare as the gorgeous birds themselves.  Due to a set of circumstances that transcribed long ago, we’ve found ourselves adapting to a be a parrot family.  Years ago we adopted Squawky, as a needy unwanted baby, a Scarlet Macaw, who is now somewhere just older than 8 years old.  He is finally starting to calm down just a tad, but he still makes me think of putting him in a more unused room of the house on an almost daily basis.  That being said, it’s time to share with you the video of a bird who re-kindled my childhood desire (not that I ever really lost it, but 4 kids and little sleep will certainly give one pause about adding any new pet to the  family) to raise an African Grey Parrot – the type of parrot known more for their uncanny impressions and ability to reason than for their beautiful feathers.  As a kid, I read a book that made me want the parrot in the first place.  It is called Harry’s Mad by Dick King-Smith (this author also wrote the story that the movie The Water Horse‘s screenplay (good movie!!) is based upon), and it’s a great read for young adults (and maybe regular adults too?  Might be basic, but fun – haven’t tried it as an adult).  And as for the video that made me again want an African Grey, despite the daily blows to my eardrums from the Scarlet Macaw?  See for yourself; her name is Sylvia, and I especially love her Rhett Butler and Desi Arnaz impressions!

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I Can’t Get Enough Of The Cute Animals

Posted in Fun Forwards on August 9th, 2009 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I received a few more of the email forwards with  pictures of cute animals, so I thought I’d combine them into one post.  So here are some cute animals – enough said.

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That little parakeet is preening his smiling kitten buddy – something birds only do to the ones they love!  And these pandas were displaced when an earthquake shook their forest home, but they’re getting good care now.  What I wouldn’t give to sit right in the middle of that pen!

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And, for the finale, check out this cat who loves boxing!

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VIPs For A Day (part three of…. well, I’ll try to make this the last part)

Posted in Travel on July 16th, 2009 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

If you’ve read my first two blog posts about our trip to King’s Island, then you know that I’ve rambled and chronicled, and now I’m blue in the face and ready to move on.  I would like to rate most of their rides though for those who are curious and/or contemplating a visit to the theme park.  Somewhere there is a Discovery Channel show about the 10 Most Extreme Roller Coasters I’d like to see – I hear King’s Island has 3 or more on the list!  Going to hope that it’s on youtube…  If you haven’t read my previous post, here is my ride experience scale: 1♦ = not so good, while 5 ♦ = awesome!

The Racer – 3♦.  A wooden racing roller coaster that doesn’t really race.  According to our guide, people on the different racing trains would trash-talk each other so much that they built a wall to separate the two train colors.  When we rode, the first time the blue train was not operating, and the second time, the trains did not go at the same time.  Still a fun wooden coaster though!

Flight Deck – 1♦.  Formerly called Top Gun, but whatever you call it, we did not like it.  It’s a roller coaster whose car is suspended from the track above the car, which basically amounted to a lot of swinging.  Ok for me, not my favorite, but it made my husband sick.

Vortex – ¼♦ – This one only gets a quarter star to put it on the map –  my map key didn’t exactly contain a zero, so let’s give it a quarter star just because it’s a coaster.  But otherwise, yuck.  Jerky, but without any real thrills.  Reminds me of the Shockwave they used to have at Six Flags Great America in Gurnee Illinois.  Funny how I used to ride that over and over, especially near park closing when it would empty out.  We would just stay on Shockwave until they kicked us off!  But as an adult, the ride type doesn’t work for me.

Invertigo –  3♦.  I need to go back on this one when it isn’t lunch time!  I think the Flight Deck/Invertigo/haven’t had lunch yet combo did me in as I  felt a bit queasy after this one.  Basically, you go up and through a loop, and do the same thing backwards.  The cool thing about this one is that you face other riders, which I actually don’t know if that’s a cool thing or not – our guide recommended we try sitting on either the front or back of this one so we didn’t have to face strangers on the coaster.  I did enjoy how this one whizzed through the station though, and like I said, I will have to try it again on a full stomach.

Sponge Bob 3D Ride – 4½♦.  I really liked this one!  A lot of fun, and much more movement than its counterpart at Universal  Studios, the Jimmy Neutron ride.  It’s a 3D Sponge Bob movie where the seats move as you move about Sponge Bob’s world.  The scenery is great, and not only is it 3D, but the rider actually gets to move along with the movie.  As a bonus, the movie is very funny, and I loved the story!

Whitewater Canyon – 4½♦.  You know the type – a large round boat makes it way down a “river”, complete with rapids, drops, and waterfalls.  I always love this type of ride and much of the fun is riding it with your friends or even  strangers trying to see who is going to get the most wet!  The day we went, it was an unseasonal 70°, and getting wet wasn’t quite as enjoyable as usual.  This is actually one of the smaller versions of this type of ride that I’ve been on, and the boat seated 6 people instead of the usual 8, 10, or 12 as I’ve seen before.  But this version has an added element of fun – friends, family, and people who have ridden the ride can take revenge on riders by putting in a quarter for a chance to launch a water cannon at passing boats.  This part is lots of fun, although they need to get the change machine working so more people can squirt!  We went on with some kids who didn’t get wet enough in their opinion, so they rode again while we kept watch at the water cannons and succeeded in getting them SOAKED!

Backlot Stunt Coaster – 2♦.  Lameness.  But remember, I’m used to Universal Studios since we try to trek to Orlando yearly.  This has nothing on Universal.  But I suppose for younger kids, it could instill a feeling of bravery as they race past exploding police cars.  It goes kind of fast up a winding track, which is kind of different, but other than that, the excitement kind of fizzled, and the ride isn’t all that long.  The brightly colored cars you ride in are super-cute, but does that really matter?

Adventure Express – 1¾♦.  This is also kind of lame, which is alright, not every coaster has to be top thrill.  But this one is like Big Thunder Mountain Railroad at Disney, but that is bigger and faster.  Adventure Express was going alright until the rider finds himself in a climatic tunnel, climbing a lift past moving robots and everything.  Then when you reach the top – nothing.  Nada.  Literally – the ride ends here.  What the ?

Scooby Doo and the Haunted Castle – 4½♦.  You ride through scenes of Scooby Doo trying to shoot the bad guys with a laser gun attached to your car – cool!  Even better, I actually beat my husband on this one!  This ride is a lot like Buzz Lightyear at Disney, and I can never even get close to Hubby’s score on that one.  He must have had an off-ride though, cuz the second time we rode he beat me silly again.  Oh well, this ride is awesomely themed.  They remembered quite a few of the bad guys from the old Scooby Doo tv show, and there were sound bites galore.  The castle looks awesome from the outside,  and we even drove a Mystery Machine:

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Other fun rides at this park that deserve at least an honorable mention are the railroad (just a standard train ride, but oh-so-relaxing after a huge day of coaster riding!), the Wild Thornberry’s River Adventure (kind of a lame log-flume type ride, but still lots of fun), the Eiffel tower (we didn’t ride it, but it was gorgeous to look at), and Dodgem (plain ole bumper cars, but when is the last time hubby and I got to ride ‘n bump kid-free?  I don’t even remember!).  Because we splurged and got the guided tour, we even had time to catch some shows – an ice show and an 80’s review.  The ice skaters were pretty good; especially one guy who even did a triple axle!  The 80’s show was fun, even though many of the performers were incapable of both singing and dancing at the same time.  There was a special  Michael Jackson tribute, even though he had passed away only a week before our visit.  But there were afros, mullets, big bangs, leg warmers, bright colors, even giant Rubik’s cubes, and it was fun to sing along to the rockin’ 80’s tunes.  One did get the feeling however, that not one member of the show had any idea of what the ’80’s was actually like…

So there you have it.  I’ve reviewed and rated the rides I rode and found worth a mention.  If you are thinking of visiting, you should know that King’s Island also has a huge kids area, and many more rides I didn’t mention.  We tried to stay away from any rides with a lot of spinning or anything that looked too crazy (especially this one called Delirium):

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It looked a little too crazy/dizzy for me; maybe if you go to King’s Island, you can try it and let me know what it’s like in the comments!