Tuesday, December 30, 2008

My Review of Edu Science ProLab 1200X Microscope

Seriously I'm sure that I'm not the only person who coveted the science/microscope sets in the Sears catalog while growing up. I'm pretty sure I never asked for one only because I knew my parents would never go for the shocking cost for just one present. My strategy had to be to ask my parents (or 'santa') for multiple presents that were not too expensive...I learned young that my parents went for quantity of presents over quality. Ask for one expensive present without specifying any cheaper ones and you would end up with a bunch of cheap things that your parents liked but you didn't.

Well perhaps all parents are doomed to some point to buy for their children what they would have wanted as a child but never received? I promised myself that when I had children I would buy them cool science kits....and I swear that my eldest pointed to a microscope kit in some catalog at least one time (or is this a false memory I invented to justify my gift choice?) So yesterday we opened her microscope and tried to use it. It seemed to work and I was even able to figure out how to blow the piece of dust off the inside lense that was causing a problem...but we couldn't get the slides to focus. I simple see the white circle - there does seems to be "cells" that we can focus in on but this doesn't seem to be part of the specimen itself...more hidden residue or glue or something on the slide. I have not idea if I am doing something wrong because shockingly enough there is no manual or help included! I guess I just remembered all the microscope kits I looked at as a child included helpful instructions or manuals. This one completely leaves you all on your own! There is no support, website, or troubleshooting. I swear that my child's barbie pool came with more detailed instructions and helpful information than this microscope did! Perhaps mattel should consider a Barbie microscope kit? (Although mattel has a history itself of putting less features on barbie technology products than on their boy's technology products...that pink paint must be real expensive!)

In Summary: My review on the product is below. Overall I think it's a real shame because the microscope itself seems to be fairly sturdy but what good is it if nobody can figure out how to use it? Most parents are not biology teachers or medical researchers. A product like this and at this cost needs a whole lot more support and nice thick, detailed instruction/lab manual included!

Originally submitted at Toys R Us

1200x Total Magnification; 4/10/40x Objective Lens Magnification; 3x Barlow Lens (Triples Objective Power); Laboratory Grade Glass Optical Lens; Die-Cast Body; Dual Power Operation; Includes AC Adaptor

Really only 400x - has no manual!

By from NY on 12/30/2008


1out of 5

Pros: Had all pieces, Durable, Light turns on

Cons: Had dirt speck in lense, 3x lenses doesn't connect, No support, Won't focus on slides, No Detailed Instructions, Poor case design, Poor Design, Very Expensive, No lab book

Describe Yourself: Working Parent, Parent Of Two Or More Children

We're not sure if this toy works yet or not because it comes with no lab manual or instructions on how to use the microscope!(Only has a simple diagram with the briefest info on the product.)It seems to be magnifiying but yet we can not bring into focus any of the included slides no matter how careful we are. Oh and don't be fooled by the 1200x claim - it really only goes up to 400x! It includes some other 3x lense but this other lens does not connect to the microscope at all - what are you supposed to do with the 3x lense? For $70 I expected a whole lot more than what I received! There is no website or support for this product at all.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The 2008 Sears Wishbook vs. the 1979 Sears Wishbook

Has anyone taken a look on the Sears website at their 2008 wishbook? (You can view the whole thing online.) I ordered one but it hasn't come in the mail yet. Am I the only one that has noticed Sears has lost the catalog focus that made it so wonderful? They really don't seem to remember who their core customer base is that made them a successful company for so many decades.

What's my biggest Christmas gift-giving problem? From looking at the 2008 Sears Wishbook, Sears seems to think my biggest holiday gift problem is deciding what to put in my new home movie theatre/game room! I don't know about you but I don't happen to have a home movie theatre/game room. Now to be fair there are some in America who bought new homes and do have massive, empty spare rooms however by watching the latest news I'm sadly guessing that many of those families were only able to buy huge homes by getting in over their head mortgage-wise. Right now they are probably more concerned about trying to pay their mortgage and avoid foreclosure as opposed to buying pool tables and full size popcorn machines.

My biggest holiday gift dilemma and also shared by almost all Americans is: Buying presents on a budget for old ladies who own everything and various relatives that won't appreciate what you get them anyway! The old Sears wishbooks were chock full of reasonable gift giving solutions for the impossible to buy for....but the new wishbooks seem to only focus on buying things for your own immediate 'nuclear' and rich family. I mean its fun to look at those big ticket items but priorities are priorities....all of us have to buy something for a grumpy Aunt Edna or some other relative that we have absolutely nothing in common with but have to see once a year! Please Sears...give me a gift idea for the relative who always buys me a notepad & pen writing set each year?

Honestly although I know I'll never, ever get anything from my relatives that I could use or enjoy this holiday season...I do get this perverse joy in trying to rise above that knowledge and buy them something they might actually like or find useful. Am I the only poor soul with this affliction to try to do nicer unto others than they would do unto you? I know I don't always succeed but I do keep other people's interests in mind and I do try. It's nice when you get the gift spot on and see that look of surprise and non-fake appreciation...but most of my relatives don't even bother to try. They say I'm so hard to buy for (do you ever hear that?) but what I've really learned is to translate that into: "I know you don't like the things that I like and I think it's just horrible of you to not have the same taste as me. I really don't value our relationship enough to find out what you really like or to go out of my way to shop at one of the stores that carry things you like so I'll just give you this generic body lotion set that I found at Walmart instead." Now I'm sorry if that sounds unappreciative but seriously I do appreciate gifts that might be way off mark but I know the person put even some tiny bit of thought into it and at least tried. I suppose this holiday season I should be grateful that I do have at least a few relatives and friends in my life who care enough to at least try....so at least I have that going for me!

Take a look at the new and an old wishbooks and let me know what you think! Do you have people in your lives that you wish you could order out of the 1979 catalog for their Christmas gift this year?:

Link to the 2008 Sears Wishbook Catalog

Link to the 1979 Sears Wishbook Catalog on Flickr

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Holiday Barbies 2008

Admit it even the most mature, serious woman can't help but glance over at the Barbie display if she happens to find herself in that aisle...sure she was looking for toothpaste and it's in the same aisle it was in last week but hey, the holiday Barbies are out!

The first and most well known holiday barbie is the one that used to be called the Christmas Barbie. Why did they change the name? To make it easier for parents to give for Hannukkah or Diwali? Admit it she's still the Christmas Collector Barbie! Although I have to say that this year's Christmas Barbie is less than inspiring. Oh it's pretty. It has an 80s Bob Mackie sorta look to it...great if you like that but somehow it doesn't seem original enough or worth of an official 2008 collector Barbie in my humble opinion.

Holiday Kelly. These dolls are targeted as stocking stuffers. Actually they do well for that. They are small enough for most stockings. The outfits look like holiday dresses and they come with cute cups of hot cocoa. I also thought these were cute two years ago and also sometime year before that too. (Think last year the Kelly dolls wore Christmas-related costumes like Toy soldier and Reindeer.) These are still great for little girls stocking stuffers but adult collectors of the Kelly dolls will likely be disappointed that these dolls don't seem to be much different than the ones a few years ago.

Stocking Barbie comes in a old fashioned looking plastic(?) stocking. I'm suspecting that this one with the modern-yet-old-fashioned look to it is meant to have it appeal to grandparents, aunts, and those looking for a Toys for Tots doll to donate to the charity. Too bad this photo doesn't show the stocking but if you go to one of the local stores (Target in my case) then you'll be sure to see it right now. It has all the hallmarks of a great value and something that a little girl would be excited about when she opens it on Christmas morning (unless she doesn't like Barbie dolls...most girls do but can't force it on the few who don't.)

The best for last! Although I suspect that this might not be the first Christmas PJ Barbie doll...I don't hold that against Mattel. This doll's price is around $10 and very cute! It might not have the flashy bargain appeal of the stocking Barbie doll but this doll would be a great present for a little girl to open on Christmas Eve! (If you happen to follow the tradition of allowing one Christmas eve present.) She has a cute stuffed animal toy (Reindeer) and a little box with something as a gift for the child (not sure what the gift is as to me in the photo it looks more like an unpleasant item of medical equipment....but no matter.) This doll has the added benefit of being modest enough to give to the child of a relative or friend who might object to the other more skimpy Barbie dolls. If they do object then just tell them that it was between that or a Bratz doll...and you could take it back to exchange for the Bratz doll if they would like! That'll cause them to gasp in horror! That's right aunties and uncles...Barbies no longer generate as much moral outrage or concern now that Bratz have arrived on the toy store scene! It's like... Lonnie Anderson vs Paris Hilton.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Atari 2600 Memories

I was talking to someone about this game the other day. We had this one when I was a kid and I remember playing it probably more than the other games because the rules were simple. I'd say this game was stressful and affected me years later. Because I crashed and burned so often in the night driving, it made me very nervous of driving in general....probably adding to my nervousness with my driver's ed. "If I can't avoid crashing with a video game...what type of driver am I going to be in real life?!"

This game was probably the most complex game we had for the Atari 2600. It was hard! This was back before the time of the internet so not easy for a kid to find the hints for it. I liked the strategy of the game and the way it allowed wandering around in different rooms to try to find what you needed to move up to the next level. I did get beyond the first level and on the one hand I don't seem to remember ever winning the game but actually I think I must have watched someone solve it at one point. When I think of playing this game my impressions from my youth are:
1. Frustrating.
2. A hint at the future for video games beyond the war & sports video games that were the most common games at the time.

Too busy this week but I think I'll find an online version of this game this weekend and give it a try. I haven't tried any of the games yet and there might be other sites that offer these games also but here is a link from Console Classix to play some of the Atari 2600 games online.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Craftzine Blog and Modern Crochet

I've recently made some modest attempts at crochet (some scarves, ponchos, and even a crochet cat) however as I am still very much a beginner it is fun to search the internet to see what I might be able to aspire to some day. The blog at Craft magazine is one source of much inspiration. They also have a flickr pool that readers can upload pictures of their crafts to. I love Craft magazine because it's targeted at a younger, more creative generation as compared to most craft magazines today. (Don't most of those magazines seem to be full of baby sweaters, table clothes, and strange holiday decorations?) Just from a search of crochet on Craft's flickr pool you can tell it's different:

Some of the most adorable and unexpected crochet I've found on the web includes food:

TV Dinner anyone?:

The cutest toast ever and more!:

Remember the Sears Wishbook Dollhouse?

If you were a child during the late 70's to mid 80's, you probably remember this dollhouse from the Sears catalog. Men might even remember it as they were probably fighting their sisters for the ownership of the yearly Sears Wishbook due to this item. (Pictures thanks to the wonderful Flickr community)

It's funny to look at the furniture sets and see how dated they are now. The height of modern living back then is such a time capsule of the past now. But boy would I still love to own one of those old dollhouses - dated or not! The Sears dollhouse was actually produced today by Lundby, a Swedish company (although I don't ever remember that name being mentioned in the catalogs?)
The 2008 version of that traditional Lundby dollhouse:

and even cuter than that is the almost impossible to buy in the USA, Lundby 2008 Garden House/Cottage:

Lundby dollhouses are great with realistic details...but am I the only one to wonder why they still haven't been able in 2008 to make the dollhouse families look any cuter or more realistic? Like so many other dollhouse people I see from other companies, there is an odd, uncomfortable, not very realistic look about the dolls. Seems like all the engineering talent is spent on the houses and furniture... with little thought left over for the doll families and their clothes.

The Best Gluten Free Foods so Far

It's been a long time since I've posted (I have this habit of forgetting my blog passwords so that doesn't help.) Hopefully it's time to make up for my long blogging break.

I run into people at the supermarket all the time who are looking at gluten-free foods and not sure what brands to get. Here is my personal take after 5 years on some of the best gluten-free food products I and my family have tried:

Best GF Bagels: Against the Grain Plain Bagels - Great taste, more flaky than a "normal" bagel. Reminds me almost of a cross between a bagel and a croissant but the best of both.

Best GF Sandwich Bread: Kinnikinnick Italian White Tapioca Rice Bread - Like all gluten free breads, it needs to be toasted for best flavor. However once toasted this is by far the best white gluten free bread I've ever had (which says a lot as I've tried even fresh bakery GF bread!)

Best GF Rolls: Chebe Cheese Bread Mix - Some stores have the frozen, ready to bake ones which are good but the best taste is probably from the mix. It's simple to make and the resulting light, fluffy, cheesy rolls are a hit even with the non-GF family members & friends!

Best GF Donuts: Celiac Specialties Cinnamon Sugar Donuts - These donuts taste like real donuts. This company got the recipe just right - cake like batter but not too heavy. No aftertaste. Yum!

Best GF Pasta: Tinkyada Rice Spaghetti Noodles & Schar Spaghetti Noodles - Oddly for as hard as it is to find good gluten free bread, it's absolutely easy to find great pasta! I really haven't tried a bad GF pasta that I can remember but Tinkyada and Schar are probably the best brands that taste just like "normal" pasta.

Well I'm sure I'll have to add to this list later.