Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Pingu Skates Into Our Hearts

Maybe I was the last one out there to have heard of Pingu? Apparently this little claymation penguin was taking the preschool world by storm on PBS Sprout while I was watching Noggin.

But when Parent Bloggers asked me to review the first DVD, Pingu: On Thin Ice, I jumped at the chance without even knowing the story. It was about penguins, and Cordy likes penguins, so that was enough motivation for me.

Pingu is a little penguin who gets into all kinds of trouble, but finds a way out every time. All of the characters talk in a made-up language that kind of sounds like English if you had a mouthful of rocks while talking. It took me a little getting used to, but Cordy picked up on it right away. The gestures and tone of voice of each character make it easy to follow along. Cordy would look at me and say, "What'd they say, mommy?" but then quickly follow up with her own (accurate) translation of what was going on. Apparently she was just testing me to see if I could follow along.

Pingu faces many situations that your average kid does. He has a little sister that annoys him at times, but at other times he annoys her, too. He tries to hide his stinky fish soup when his mom won't let him leave the table until he eats it. He is sent to get milk for his little sister and naturally takes the long way home, resulting in him nearly losing the milk in a snow cave. He gets into snowball fights with his friends.

She. loves. this. DVD. Cordy is now obsessed with Pingu. There are eight short episodes on this DVD, and at the end of the first one, she looked at me and said "Again? Play it again mommy?" I told her another episode was coming up, and at the end of that one, she asked me the same question again. Actually, she asked that after every single episode, and demanded I replay the DVD again and again. The first day we watched Pingu, we didn't watch anything else all afternoon. Since then, she's calmed down a little, but still asks for it daily. Mira also likes watching it, since there is always a lot of action.

I really like that Pingu isn't a scrubbed clean, everyone-behaves-perfectly show for kids. Pingu has his faults, as do others around him. In one episode, he and his sister are camping in the yard, and he makes spooky faces to scare her. He makes fun of her sometimes, too. In another episode, he jumps into the bath with his baby sister, who then starts "making bubbles" in the tub, grossing him out quickly. His friends laugh at him when he falls down on his snowboard. The characters are well-rounded compared to other shows designed for this age group, and I think it's good to see them behave badly sometimes.

We give Pingu: On Thin Ice two big thumbs up. Cordy loves the characters, and I find the animation to be really cute and the stories are short and funny. I don't know how we missed out on this before now, but I have a feeling we'll be watching this DVD for a long time to come. (And check out the website - it has some fun games, too!)

Friday, January 18, 2008

Take A Ride On The Bus

When I received The Wheels on the Bus: Mango's Big Dog Parade DVD for review, courtesy of the Parent Bloggers Network, I wasn't sure what to expect. Seeing that one of the characters was voiced by Roger Daltrey intrigued me, but seeing a mix of computer animation, puppets and real people made me wonder if this would be too chaotic.

I couldn't be more wrong, however. This DVD was surprisingly entertaining, while also providing a lot of educational value. The Wheels on the Bus series is designed to teach kids basic socialization skills through music and song. In this particular DVD, concepts such as taking turns and getting along with others are covered. More than one pair have trouble sharing toys, requiring a discussion about how to take turns so both can enjoy the toy.

Beyond socialization skills, the video explores nature, counting, dance, and even a little Spanish. Cordy loved the Jungle Bug Adventure, thrilled with seeing several types of insects up close. As they named each bug, she repeated the name and studied the image carefully. She also loved counting the chicks on the bus, too.

The music is catchy and upbeat. Of course, The Wheels on the Bus is repeated over and over, but it's not the only song. I particularly liked the song about how procrastination makes you late, making sure Cordy was listening at that point. Oh how we could use that lesson!

I don't know if the social skills education sunk in for Cordy, even after several viewings, but she loved the music and the kids. By the second viewing she could already sing The Wheels on the Bus, and wanted to dance along with the kids.

What surprised me the most was that Mira was entranced by this DVD. My seven month old, who has yet to show any serious interest in TV, did not fuss once during the entire 33 minutes. She smiled at the puppets, bounced up and down to the music, and enjoyed seeing the other kids.

This? This is cool.

All in all, I'd recommend The Wheels on the Bus: Mango's Big Dog Parade. It doesn't have the ultra-high production values of many TV shows, but in many ways I'm glad it doesn't. Instead, it is charming in it's simple yet colorful sets, choreographed dance sequences performed by children who aren't perfect dancers, and real families enjoying their time together while singing and teaching others.

Win a copy! You can win your own copy of this DVD by leaving a comment on the post at Parent Bloggers. You have until 1/21/08 to enter!

PS - Congrats to Sunnyday - according to, you were the winner of The Ultimate Tea Diet book!

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Tea Time For My Diet

While I may have started drinking coffee to survive nursing school, I've always been a tea girl. My childhood memories are filled with tall glasses of iced tea on hot afternoons. I drank tea more than anything else as a child since my mother always kept a pitcher of it in the fridge.

In college, I met friends who had tea stashes that I had never dreamed of - I was strictly a Lipton girl, but was then introduced to the wide variety of teas out there. Now I have my own tea stash, filled with all sorts of black, green and herbal teas, to be picked through and savored based on my mood.

The Parent Bloggers Network asked me about a month ago to review a new book: The Ultimate Tea Diet by Mark "Dr. Tea" Ukra. My first thought was "What? A tea diet? Is this some fad like the grapefruit diet?" However, I don't need an excuse to drink tea, so I gladly agreed to review it.

I'll start with this: the book does not advocate drinking only tea to lose weight. Instead, it advocates a sensible diet with the simple addition of drinking tea. Mark Ukra gives a brief history of tea, then discusses the chemical compounds present in tea that can aid in burning more calories and suppressing your appetite each day. He also covers how to choose the right teas for you, and how to prepare it to produce the best taste.

The diet is simple and straightforward. Drink all the tea you can drink each day, and eat a sensible diet. The more tea you consume, the more it will help you, and so Dr. Tea includes several healthy, tasty recipes that include tea in the ingredients.

I tried a few of the recipes. The tea-infused oatmeal was good - it tasted pretty much like my regular oatmeal, with a slight hint of tea. The best recipes, for me, were the Frosteas - imagine a fruity tea slushy - yummmm.

I haven't followed the diet, but decided to kick my coffee and soda habits in favor of only tea for over a week now. I've noticed my evening food cravings aren't as strong when I'm drinking lots of tea. If I'm craving something sweet, a nice cup of chai is a good substitute. And some of the different tea recipes suggested can help with any craving you might have. (Just try Dr. Tea's Candy Bar Black Tea.) Worried about caffeine? Decaf still delivers a lot of the healthy benefits, too.

The Ultimate Tea Diet is worth a read if you're trying to lose weight or have found yourself stuck in your efforts to lose weight. While tea isn't going to magically make you thinner, it may serve as a helper to any dieting efforts you undertake. And we'll take every advantage we can get, right?

Win a copy! I received a preview copy of the book as well as the final product, so I'd like to share my extra copy with one of my readers. If you'd like to win this book, leave a comment on this post, and I'll choose a winner one week from today. (January 16)