Category: miscellaneous

Happy Holidays!!
(“…brought to you by ___”)

By , December 3, 2008 8:03 pm

This is a post I should have written about two months ago. Two months ago when all the cheap plastic decorations first made their way into the supermarkets, Walmarts, Kmarts and Any-Other-Marts in the United States. Here in the U.S., shoppers have been regaled with muzak versions of The Little Drummer Boy and Silent Night since well before Halloween (October 31st) this year.

Now that we have finally gotten that pesky little Thanksgiving holiday over with, the commercial Christmas onslaught can begin in earnest.

On my Thanksgiving cross-country trip, I realized what I have been missing without TV for all these years. Ads. Hundreds and thousands of ads promising me the best Christmas ever (what is that anyway?) if only I purchase a new Best Buy flat screen TV, or Macy’s cashmere sweater, or Zales diamond necklace, or _______ (insert advertised product in blank) for my loved one.

I had forgotten what it was like. Although I had a fabulous trip, I was quite relieved when I was finally home and able to retreat to the refuge of my quiet house to end the commercial attack on my psyche.

And here comes the part that I should have written about three months ago when I first detected the initial stirrings of faux holiday jolliness in the stores:

Since many readers are probably new to Unplug Your Kids, I should let you all know that last year while suffering a holiday existential crisis, I wrote a series of posts entitled Christmas/Holidays Unplugged in which I explored alternatives to the traditional American commercial holiday experience.

I know it is a bit late now that December is already here, but if anyone is in need of a bit of inspiration, or encouragement, or alternative holiday ideas, then hopefully you might enjoy some of these posts.

I have listed them all here and linked to them so you can click on what sounds interesting to you. I hope that someone will find this helpful! 

(Also:  If you find a topic interesting, be sure to read the comments too since readers often left their own wonderful insights and suggestions.)

1) Merry Christmas

2) Unplug The Christmas Machine (a book review – very inspirational book if you are disillusioned with Christmas/Hanukkah)

3) Making a List and Checking it Twice (what does your holiday really mean to you?)

4) Holiday Prep – Part 1 (Introduction)

5) Holiday Prep – Part 2: Help! Holiday Prep Makes Me Miserable!!

6) Holiday Prep – Part 3: Help! I Love Doing it All, But How Can I Find Time to Do it?

7) Celebrating Advent

8) Commercialism in Your Mailbox?

9) A Holiday Linky Assortment

10) The Great Christmas Tree Dilemma (Real? Fake? Living? What else?)

11) Buy Handmade

12) Donate this Year Instead of Gifts

13) Santa Lists and Sponge Bob (dealing with kids’ gift requests)

14) Combating Commercials (fighting the effects of toy ads)

15) Help!  Too Much Stuff!! (ideas for cutting down on the amount of “stuff”)

16) A Post as Small as a Stocking Stuffer (“nice toy” stocking stuffer ideas)

(Thanks to Everystockphoto and phtographer”tandemracer” for this photo. View license terms here.)

Cows, Kids, Men – Interesting Radio Science

By , September 6, 2008 11:31 pm

Here’s proof that you don’t necessarily need the Discovery Channel to learn new and interesting things! Here are a few interesting science stories I have heard recently on NPR, my favorite radio station.


Boyfriends that fear commitment? Distant husbands?

Marriage Woes? Husband’s Genes May Be At Fault


Is your child’s favorite word “Mine!!” ? Rest assured that they will probably outgrow this unsociable selfishness between ages 3 and 8:

As Kids Grow Older, Egalitarianism Honed


And finally, for some reason I found this REALLY fascinating and now I check out cows every time I drive by some:

Moo North: Cows Sense Earth’s Magnetism

Thanks to photographer MacTabbie and for the (North-South facing??) cow photo.

Literary Eye Candy (Beautiful Fairy Tales!)

By , June 18, 2008 7:00 am

Anyone who has paid any attention at all to my children’s book recommendations might have noticed that illustrations are very important to me. In fact, I have an illustration prejudice. Most of the books I review are classified in the “exceptional illustrations” category because that is what I like. I confess that if a children’s book is well written but I find the illustrations unattractive, I usually think less of the book.

Because of this, we have some really lovely books that literally take my breath away every time I open them up. Just like a gorgeous man with a substandard IQ – who cares about literary quality when the pictures are that incredible to look at! (Just kidding of course…)

If you share my prejudice, then read on!

  • Lovely illustration tip number one: Any fairy tale illustrated by K.Y. Craft or Paul O. Zelinsky will be spectacular in an ornate, Renaissance painting type of way (my personal weakness).
  • Lovely illustration tip number two: Find a book you like the look of on Amazon, and then follow the “customers who bought this also bought” and “what do customers ultimately buy after viewing this item” links, or even the Listmanias in the sidebar, to discover other gorgeous books. How does Amazon “know?”
  • Lovely illustration tip number three: Did I mention K.Y. Craft?

In my mind, fairy tales (classic and not so classic) MUST be sumptuously illustrated. If they are not, or worse – if they are “Disneyfied” (another prejudice on my part), then forget it.

Here are some that we have and enjoy. Be advised that I consider these books to be for older children (ages 5 and up?) because they are very “wordy.” However, you could share them with younger children if you paraphrase the text and just focus on the pictures.

Also, I don’t want to spend a lot of time analyzing the literary value, so not a lot of talk about the text this time. The point here is that the stories are fine, but the illustrations are superb:

Sleeping Beauty by K.Y. Craft is a rich feast for the eyes. The story is pretty much as I remember it from my childhood. The illustrations make it spectacular. To see more of the illustrations, please look at K.Y. Craft’s Sleeping Beauty page on his website.


Cinderella by K.Y. Craft. Of course there are many versions of Cinderella around the world, but this is the one I remember from my childhood here in the US. By the way, I WANT Cinderella’s dress. Wouldn’t it look lovely on me as I browse the produce section at Safeway? K.Y. Craft’s Cinderella page.


King Midas and the Golden Touch as told by by Charlotte Craft and illustrated by (you guessed it!), K.Y. Craft. Again, very traditional story which I like, and sumptuous illustrations. In this book I covet Aurelia’s (the daughter’s) hair. Glossy chestnut ringlets of course. Actually, I want all the hair from all of these K.Y. Craft fairy tales. How come no one has straight hair? I guess that’s why they call them “fairy tales” right? If they were real, they’d all have straight hair and bad skin. More King Midas illustrations.


The Twelve Dancing Princesses as told by Marianna Mayer and illustrated by K.Y. Craft. This is a classic fairy tale that was unknown to me before discovering this book. Apart from the dresses and the ringlets, I like the messages of strong women and overcoming class barriers. Be sure to look at the illustrations on K.Y. Craft’s Twelve Dancing Princesses page. I think this is perhaps the best illustrated of all that I have mentioned so far.


Rumpelstiltskin by Paul O. Zelinsky (adapted from The Brothers Grimm). Very true to what I remember, and illustrations “worth their weight in gold!” Visit Paul O. Zelinsky’s Rumpelstiltskin page to see more. A Caldecott Honor Book.


Rapunzel by Paul O. Zelinsky. Lovely, Renaissance-like oil paintings. The classic Rapunzel tale. Boy, do I want HER hair! One potential word of warning for parents here though: there might be an awkward moment if you have to explain why Rapunzel’s dress grows “tight” around the waist after she marries the visiting prince in a secret ceremony in the tower. My kids didn’t notice a thing, but if you fear this is more detail than you want to get into, then be sure to borrow the book from the library first and read it yourself. Visit Paul O. Zelinsky’s Rapunzel page to see more art. A Caldecott Medal Winner.


The Magic Nesting Doll by Jacqueline K. Ogburn and illustrated by Laurel Long. If I had to choose one of these books as my favorite for the illustrations it would have to be this one. There is a level of fine detail and delicateness to these illustrations beyond even what I see in the other books (and those are quite amazing). In an interesting feminist turn around of the normal fairy tale universe, the beautiful girl actually saves the handsome prince! Another plus: The characters have straight hair. No bad skin though. Unfortunately there is no website that I can find for further illustrations, but trust me, they are gorgeous.

I am a Blog Capitalist

By , May 29, 2008 10:20 pm

My first real foray in to the world of blog capitalism is open for business. No, I am not plastering Unplug Your Kids with ads for cheap narcotics, online casinos, and get rich quick schemes. It’s just my store!

All my life I have secretly wanted to own a toy store and a bookstore and fill my stores with all the toys and books that I like! (“Mines, mines, MINES!!!” as my 2 year-old would say). As a child, my toys were very meaningful to me. I am a packrat who kept many of them. I guess I just haven’t grown up yet.

Since owning a real “brick and mortar” toy or book store isn’t very practical in this day and age (especially in my small town), and there are plenty of wonderful online stores already, I decided to try setting up my own store through Amazon, just for fun. Besides, the toys and books that I like probably aren’t mainstream enough to ever be profitable anyway.

I have been fooling around with my store for over a year now, so it is finally time to try it out. I am quite proud that I managed to figure out how to fit the iframe reasonably well into my page. I feel like quite a techie!

As with all my Amazon links, I’ll earn a small percentage of any sale, even if someone enters Amazon via my store (or any Amazon link on my blog for that matter) and buys something else.

I don’t expect to become the next Donald Trump from this. My goal is very humble: to fund the purchase of a new book every month to review on my blog. I figure that in this way, I would be passing some of the goodness back to others. Of course I will feel that I have really hit the big time if I can cover the monthly cost of my web site hosting too!

This blog originally started out, long, long ago as a “shopping blog,” inspired by my friend Wishy who liked the gifts I bought her daughter. I guess my store is also a way to preserve that aspect of it, while I delve into other topics on the blog itself, as I have been doing for over a year now.

This leads to my last point…and if you have made it this far in reading my post, I am grateful! In addition to the more monetarily-oriented goals that I have mentioned above, I really hope that my store can help people cut through some of the toy and book junk out there. Having only a Walmart and Kmart to shop at for toys has made me an expert online shopper. I would like to pass along the good finds to others. Most of what I recommend, we have and love. The rest is stuff I would like to have and love!

So, I hope you enjoy the Unplug Your Kids store. If you like it, then check back from time to time because I will add new things as I find them. I also have a seasonal section that I plan on changing every so often. Knowing me, I will be tinkering with the store for quite some time.

The link is the “Shop Unplug Your Kids” tab in the upper right sidebar.


(Photo thanks to photographer Kevin Rosseel and

Sorry for the Silence

By , February 5, 2008 12:53 pm

Just a quick post to explain my absence. I haven’t visited anyone’s projects yet since I spent all of yesterday sick in bed with some sort of nasty gastrointestinal bug (today I have made it as far as the sofa). The baby has it now too, so I am not sure if I’ll get to everyone tonight, or if it will be another day or two. Thank you all for joining in. I look forward to seeing your projects!

Panorama Theme by Themocracy