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June 9, 2008

Discovery Channel Store - Hydro Greenhouse

AAAS----Hydro-green-house1.jpg When the lovely ladies at The Parent Bloggers Network asked me to check out another great toy from the Discovery Store, I jumped at it. My kids loved the Spark Talking Microscope we tested - and being big science nerds, we all were eager to investigate the Hydro Greenhouse.

The box arrived and I put it in my office, ready to unveil it on the weekend. And then I forgot about it for a couple of weeks. With 6 weeks, left until my review date - I suddenly remembered (woke up from a dead sleep in a panic, in fact) and tore it from its packaging.

We did the basic set up in less than five minutes - the instructions were clear and easily followed. I appreciate that, especially now that my kids are old enough to want to do it all themselves. After spending a good 10 minutes happily raking the growing medium into zen garden-like patterns with the miniature green rake and then patting it smooth with the miniature green shovel, we headed out to the local garden center to buy seeds for the kit.

I urged my kids to select some herbs seeds, and I wandered around selecting some other goodies for the yard. When we got home, the kids planted their seeds, and we placed the greenhouse on the counter.

Flash forward one week - we've got a few little seedlings popping up, and we followed the instructions and changed out the water.

Week two - lots of little seedlings now - we switch the water again.

Week three - the seedlings are thick now, and we weed a bunch of them out. The little sprouts are starting to reach toward the window now. We switch out the water.

Week four - wow - the plants are really starting to take off. We've got lots of leafy goodness going on.

Week five - what. the. heck. happened? The plastic greenhouse top has been knocked asunder and the sides and swiped a bunch of the little plants out of the growing medium. We replant them as best as we can, and move the greenhouse up higher. My five-year-old disavows any knowledge of the plant mayhem.

Week six - miraculously, some of the plants have survived. The morning my review is due, I grab the camera, and wander out into the kitchen to snap a photo of our little victory garden.

Catastrophe. Literally. Our little garden lay on its side, with my cat crouching over it, looking drunk. It seems that we planted catnip, instead of the oregano seeds I had help the kids select.

Um, whoops!

I opted to clean up the growing medium and throw the cat outside, rather than take a photo of the mess.

The Hydro Greenhouse was a fun, easy project for the kids - as an all-around black-thumbed gardener, I appreciated the easy set-up, and the continuously fed watering system. The growing medium was really pretty cool, and the seedlings seemed to thrive in their little plastic house.

We're going to give the Hydro Greenhouse another shot - and this time? We're sticking with oregano.

To read what my fellow Parent Blogger reviewers had to say - check out the roundup

June 7, 2008

NintendoDS Go Pets: Vacation Island

gopets.jpgMom Central came through with another fantastic review opportunity, when they asked my family to try out the new game for the NintendoDS called Go Pets: Vacation Island.

This fun adventure starts off when you select your pet - you can either choose to be a cat or a dog - or if you're not sure, the game will help match you with your perfect pet with a fun questionnaire. Right after I helped my five-year-old start up the game, she mastered the simple navigation, and grabbed her older sister for a two-heads-are-better-than-one play session. They were having a blast navigating the island and "buying" toys and outfits for their new pet, and I enjoyed the relative peace and quiet.

Later in the week, I took a spin around Vacation Island, although I did it on a different DS (we have several) and the date was off by a day or two for some reason. I was scolded by a rock in the game for reasons unclear to me - seriously, a rock. I made it sad. I am so not even close to understanding all of THAT.

So, while Go Pets: Vacation Island wasn't as engaging for me, my kids all loved it. With my assistance, they learned how to connect to the wifi and went global - briefly. They really enjoyed all the mini games that are part of the play, and enjoyed learning how to befriend other pets.

This is a really fun addition to our little arsenal of DS games, and unlike other titles, the kids are really still enjoying it. Thanks MomCentral!

June 2, 2008

GE Caulk Singles

The decade that brought you wonders like (the original) Charlie's Angels and Captain and Tennille also brought you the stunning architectural design I've got going on in my bathroom. Fake dark-wood cabinets topped by a Formica slab in a really odd yellow, with a white sink.

GE.Caulk.Singles.Project 005.JPG

When we bought our home in 2000, the plan was to update everything as we had the time and budget.

And then we didn't. Whoops!

So we've got this, um, vintage situation going on. It's sort of grody, actually.

GE.Caulk.Singles.Project 006.JPG

Mom, avert your eyes. No matter what I try, that mildewy nastiness just keeps coming back... and any sealant from years past is long gone. It has been time to recaulk this sink for 10 years. And we totally were gonna, I swear. TOTALLY. And I do so clean my sink. It just keeps coming back. It's not my fault!

You can't argue with the excellence that is this jewel-like faucet. Ba-da-bling!

GE.Caulk.Singles.Project 007.JPG

Now, that is high class. They don't make 'em like that any more. Or, um, if they do? They probably should knock it off.

So! Onward. I grabbed the little package and despite the super-reflective packaging, managed to get a shot. Behold!

GE.Caulk.Singles.Project 010.JPG

I peeled the directions off the back of the package, to find that pages one and two were comically sealed to each other, allowing me to view only pages three and four. After a few moments of panic, I finally managed to unstick the other two pages:

Clean the surface. (I TOTALLY DID, MOM!)
Remove any old caulk.

Oh, um... wait. How do you do that?

GE.Caulk.Singles.Project 015.JPGHere's my technique:

Razor blade...rusted. (Wail that like Cindy Wilson in "Love Shack")

Scrape scrape scrape....

This obviously could have ended badly. I was prepared (heeeey random shout out to Johnson and Johnson) for the mishap that didn't happen. Prepared to be cute, even!

GE.Caulk.Singles.Project 016.JPG

Once I got the stuff scraped off and sucked up with the shop vac, I was presumably ready to go with step three - applying a smooth bead of caulk.

True confessions time - I was feeling kind of cocky (caulky?) about this project, because I'm a pretty good cake decorator. I'm able to make flowers and stuff with icing, so, like, I should be able to make a straight, even line with this thing, right?

GE.Caulk.Singles.Project 024.JPG

Yeah, not so much. I had a cup of real coffee AKA jitter-juice which may have contributed to my bravado about this whole project, but my hand was shaking really bad. Despite the neat, easy to open, smooth squeezing packaging, I smeared a line of the stuff on the edge, and then, using my wet finger, tried to make it do that thing it is supposed to do.

GE.Caulk.Singles.Project 026.JPG

And then I used a bunch of paper towels and smeared it around. And then I got mad and wiped it all off, and started over. The GE Caulk Singles have more than enough for three around the sink applications of the world's fattest, most messy bead. Ask me how I know! Go on!

In the end, though? I got it mostly right. And look:

GE.Caulk.Singles.Project 029.JPG

It's like a brand new sink! Now, if I can just do something about the faux-wood cabinetry and chipped mirror...

This is my entry for the Spruce Up Your Space contest from GE Caulk Singles and BlogHer - for a $1000 Visa Gift card.

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