Tuesday, April 27, 2010

All The Water Slide Fun, None Of The Sand in Your Suit

I love swimming. I love water slides. I love spending an afternoon drifting on an inner tube. Naturally you'd think I spend my summers at the pool and save all my pennies for winter trips to Florida, right?

Wrong. Why?

Because I hate sand. I hate greasy sunblock. And I hate the sun, or rather, it hates me.

And honestly, why would I need to travel south when we have a better option right here in Ohio that lets me swim year round free of sand and sunburns? If I feel a need to escape for a waterpark weekend, I only need to drive south to Cincinnati to spend a weekend at Great Wolf Lodge - King's Island.

I've been to Great Wolf before - Aaron and I went there for our anniversary two years ago. I remember how a warm indoor waterpark looked pretty good when we were trapped there by the great blizzard of '08:

We didn't take advantage of the outdoor balcony in '08, obviously.

Still, if you're going to be snowed in, what better place than an indoor waterpark resort, right?

Last month my family was invited to spend a night at Great Wolf Lodge for the grand opening of their new waterslide, The Triple Twist. (Along with a few other bloggers, including two of my favorite locals, Moosh in Indy and Momo Fali.) To celebrate, the Lodge left the Triple Twist waterslide open all night long for the great Slide-a-thon, attempting to break the world record for longest distance traveled on waterslides over a 24-hr period. OK, I'll admit I wasn't a 3am slider, but I had to deal with kids who woke up at 6am, so I feel justified in my decision.

This was our first time taking the girls, so I wasn't sure how they'd react. We were staying in a "Wolf Den" room - it had a queen bed for Aaron and I, and then a little brightly-painted enclosed room inside the room, which housed a set of bunk beds and a TV. The girls immediately ran for their little room. "Look, we have our own TV!" Cordy cheered. "I want the top bunk!" They still talk about their little den and how they miss it.

 This is what our room looked like - the bunk beds are inside the little room.

But the room is minor compared to all of the other exciting things to do at Great Wolf Lodge. First, there's the obvious gigantic indoor waterpark, complete with several waterslides, water activity areas for the kids, a wave pool and a lazy river. Cordy and Mira enjoyed the wave pool, and Cordy liked going down the kiddie waterslides. I got the chance to break away from the family pack to enjoy some of the bigger waterslides, and really felt like a kid again as I grabbed my inner tube and ran up the stairs to go down again and again.

Each night, the Lodge offers up a story time for the kids. We got the girls into pajamas and took them up to the story time. They enjoyed listening to the story with the other kids, and then Cordy asked to have a photo of her with the bear in the lobby.

The Lodge also has a kids club area where kids can do camp crafts (with adult supervision), and next to that is a gigantic arcade. There are also plenty of food options, from sit-down dining to a quick snack of yummy homemade fudge. If you have some time away from the kids, take advantage of the on-site spa - or bring your daughters along for their own kiddi mani/pedi. Older kids (and adults) will love the Magi Quest game the runs throughout the Lodge - watch out for small wizards waving wands!

With the current economy, vacations to Florida or the Bahamas are simply out of the question. We'd rather get more vacation for our money by staying close to home, and Great Wolf Lodge is an excellent option to get away from it all without going that far. The rooms are comfortable and fun, the waterpark is simply amazing, and even one night at the Lodge can leave you feeling recharged, with great family memories to cherish. (And a lot of begging from the children of "When can we go back?")

If you're looking for a local family getaway on those rainy spring days (or any kind of bad Ohio weather days), I highly recommend Great Wolf Lodge - King's Island. With or without kids, you won't be disappointed.

Full disclosure: I was provided with a one-night complementary stay at Great Wolf Lodge for the opening of their new Triple Twist waterslide. A positive review was neither promised nor expected for this stay, but after our experience, I couldn't find a bad thing to say!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Blindside

** Please welcome Aaron as he provides a guest post for me on this great movie!

By now, if you haven’t heard of The Blindside, then you’ve probably been living in a cave for the past three months. Based on the real-life story of Leigh Anne Tuohy and Michael Oher, The Blindside has won significant acclaim – both for the film itself, and for star Sandra Bullock.

The plot of the film (and the book it was based on, and the real life-story) isn’t the most complicated. Michael is an outcast and an orphan, who is taken in by the Tuohy’s, and given a home. His great size and strength makes him a prize candidate for football, and the Tuohy’s encourage him to pursue this, even helping him raise his grades high enough that he can play. Then there is a moment of drama when it seems like they have been using him to get him to play for their alma matter, which ultimately is resolved with the message that family (which doesn’t necessarily mean the people you are blood related to) trumps all. And as most sports-drama films do, it ends with Oher being drafted in the NFL.

I’m not a huge sports fan, so I was mostly unfamiliar with the real-life story, but I have seen enough sports films to know how they typically end. A team, or a player, has a disadvantage (in this case, Oher’s impoverished upbringing and lack of education and family life), starts to overcome it – usually due to an inspiring coach or family member – has a brief relapse, and finally triumphs. So, there was little to surprise me while watching The Blindside.

I say that there was little to surprise me, and that’s true. But that’s not to say there were no surprises. And the biggest of these is the quality of the acting. By the time the video arrived, Bullock had already swept most of the major awards, so I expected her to be great – and she truly was. But what I didn’t expect were the quality performances from the rest of the cast. Quinton Aaron is superb playing Oher, and Tim McGraw does great work as Sean Tuohy, Leigh Anne’s husband. Also of note is Kathy Bates, who plays Oher’s tutor.


This disc is fairly light on the bonus features, with only a few deleted scenes. The Blu-Ray presentation includes several featurettes, including an interview with the real-life Oher, a head-to-head discussion between Sandra Bullock and Leigh Anne Tuohy, a discussion between director John Lee Hancock and author Michael Lewis, and a biography of Quinton Aaron. If you’re interested in these features, check out the Blu-Ray presentation instead. I wish that the studios were still in the habit of providing an extended or collector’s-edition DVD with the bonus features, but it seems like those of us without an HD player are going to slowly find our access to bonus features diminished.


While there is nothing amazing about the DVD presentation of The Blindside, the simple truth is that this is an amazing film, and one that is well worth seeing. It was obvious going in to Awards season that there was no way for the film to compete with the likes of Avatar and The Hurt Locker, but Bullock easily deserves every nomination and award she received, and the film more than deserved its’ nominations. If you have a Blu-ray player, skip the DVD for the Blu-Ray, but you owe it to yourself to – at the minimum – rent this movie. It’s a powerful and potent reminder of what family can mean and achieve.

Full Disclosure: A copy of this DVD was provided for review. No further compensation was received, and a positive review was neither promised nor expected.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Ruining My Diet (Happily) With Dove Milk Chocolate and Peanut Butter

I love chocolate. That being said, something I love nearly as much as chocolate is chocolate with peanut butter. I remember buying bags of chocolate peanut butter cups as a kid and slowly devouring an entire bag, portioning out tasty rewards for myself for any accomplishment.

So I never miss a chance to try anything with chocolate and peanut butter in it. So when Mom Central asked if I wanted to try the new Dove Milk Chocolate with Peanut Butter Promises and Singles, I practically drooled on my computer as I typed "yes! yes! please!"

I already love Dove chocolate. It's smooth, it's not too sweet, and it's amazingly rich. Adding peanut butter to it seems like a brilliant idea, right?

The Promises are just like the solid milk chocolate Promises, only filled with a creamy peanut butter center. The peanut butter is far smoother than other chocolate/peanut butter combos - some have almost a gritty feel in the mouth, but this doesn't. I also like that it isn't overly sweet. Don't get me wrong - there's still plenty of sweetness here, but not so much that you feel the need to reach for your toothbrush immediately afterward.

I also like the size of the Dove Promises. They're the perfect size for a quick, small treat in the afternoon without being a calorie overload - only 44 calories a piece. And the taste is rich enough that one or two are often all I need to feel satisfied. The Dove Singles milk chocolate and peanut butter bars are just as good, although often they're a little too much for me for one sitting. Still, it didn't stop them from disappearing quickly in this house.

Official one-word review of Dove's new entry in the chocolate/peanut butter market: YUM!

If you believe chocolate and peanut butter are the perfect pair, you'll love the new Dove Milk Chocolate with Peanut Butter Promises and Singles. Slip a few of the Promises in your purse and have a chocolate/peanut butter mini-vacation whenever the craving hits.

Full disclosure: I wrote this review while participating in a blog tour campaign by Mom Central on behalf of DOVE and received samples DOVE Milk Chocolate with Peanut Butter products and a gift certificate to facilitate my review.