Thursday, April 30, 2015

Avengers 2 Movie Review by Hubby

Go see Avengers: Age of Ultron. That's what a savvy, cynical product review reader would expect to see here. Without sacrificing any journalistic integrity though, I can say that a great product doesn't rely on word of mouth. You don't need me to tell you to go see Avengers: Age of Ultron. If you're reading this, you've probably already bought your tickets. Good for you. A movie this big doesn't need me or you and yet it feels like it was made for all of us because it is. Just. That. Big. This isn't your usual plot-driven movie review because Avengers: Age of Ultron isn't your usual plot-driven costumed caper. Also, I'm going to make this shorter than my last movie review.

They say that a hero is only as interesting as the villain they must face. Speaking of faces, any villain without a prominent nose reminds me of Voldemort from the Harry Potter franchise. Ultron, the titular villain in this Avengers movie sequel, doesn’t have a nose. He’s a robot so he doesn’t really need one. His creator, Iron Man, doesn’t have a nose either and this brings us back to the symbiotic link between heroes and villains. Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man was already an interesting character, with or without a nose, and long before any sequels came along. What Ultron provides is an “ultra” version of Iron Man, a funhouse mirror of only his best and worst traits. It makes you wonder if “ultra” versions of Captain America, Thor, or even Harry Potter could make those less nuanced characters more interesting.

Is Ultron a better villain than Voldemort, or Loki from the first Avengers movie? I’m almost tempted to say yes, but I admit that his rage is far less meaningful. He essentially boils down to fear (which I consider to be a truer opposite of love than hate). He has no love for anything, not even himself, as he tries to “evolve” the mirror image of his creator. What he does have over Voldemort or Loki is direct contact with more and newer characters, and that’s what sequels are really about (Wakanda!). The Quicksilver character in Age of Ultron may not provide the laughs that the Quicksilver in last year’s X-Men: Days of Future Past did, but he (SPOILER ALERT) personally saves way more people. I'm just glad that Disney bought Marvel so that Ultron could sing Pinocchio's song from Stromboli's puppet show because every villain deserves good theme music.

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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Mama Sparkles Holiday Gift Guide - Disney Fantasia: Music Evolved

Welcome to Mama Sparkles' Holiday Gift Guide! This week, I'll be sharing a few of my favorite gift ideas for everyone on your list. Be sure to check back often as I add more items.

If you're a Disney fan who likes rhythm/motion games, you need to play this:

This new innovative game for the Xbox One, allows players to enter the magical realm of Fantasia. The concept is loosely based on the original Fantasia short starring Mickey Mouse. The goal of the game is to match the on screen patterns with your hands and arms. It's brilliant. One or two players can play, and the game requires Kinect. Last weekend we went to Disneyland, and Bean couldn't wait to get to Innoventions so he could play the game. I think it's fast becoming one of his favorites:

He even had a few cast members commenting on what an awesome player he was! The eclectic song list includes a great mix of classical pieces as well as modern ones. The graphics are also gorgeous and add some great dimension to the game. It's so easy to just pick this one up and start playing immediately. Disney Fantasia: Music Evolved is available on Amazon. Is this on your wish list this year?

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Monday, December 15, 2014

A Disney Christmas (plus New Ways To See Disneyland)

I don't need to convince anyone how amazing Disneyland Resort is during the holidays. Here's what we did on our recent trip last weekend for Family Media Day:


Jingle Jangle Jamboree is bursting with holiday spirit! This is the place to go to see plenty of Disney characters, shows, crafts, a petting zoo, plus you can meet Santa and Mrs. Claus! The decorations are top notch, as usual.

A Christmas Fantasy Parade had our kids smiling the entire time. It really is spectacular to see so many Disney characters all at once. Santa is the highlight at the end, but this was delightful from start to finish.

Certain rides take on a holiday spin, with Haunted Mansion Holiday, Jingle Cruise and It's A Small World Holiday. Try and ride Small World Holiday at night because really, is there anything more beautiful than this?

YOU MIGHT MISS (If you're not looking)

And now, here a few things you might miss if you're not looking carefully. We're always looking for new things at Disneyland, and this time we tried to look at things from a different perspective.

We've all walked by Monstro, but have you ever noticed how cool the water reflection looks?

Get a good look at who's making your popcorn...by the way, Disneyland's popcorn is the best I've ever had. No joke.

While our son was busy playing video games at Innoventions, we noticed this eloquent quote on the wall.

How's this for natural beauty? Anybody know what kind of fruit that is?

A sea of Baymax balloons - not hard to spot, but too beautiful not to share.

Who knew that the beautiful Grand Californian Hotel also had a Santa in the lobby? Pinga was overjoyed to see him.

Happy Holidays, everyone!

Special thanks to Disneyland Resort for giving us a magical day at the parks!

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Mama Sparkles Holiday Gift Guide - Disney Princess Hairstyle Books

Welcome to Mama Sparkles' Holiday Gift Guide! This week, I'll be sharing a few of my favorite gift ideas for everyone on your list. Be sure to check back often as I add more items.

It's so much fun having a little girl...but I have no idea what to do with her hair! Most of time it's just hanging in her face. I don't think this makes her very happy.

Let's try something different, shall we? I received these two books to review and to help me with my dilemma:

Disney Princess Hairstyles: 40 Amazing Princess Hairstyles with Step by Step Images and Disney Frozen Hairstyles: Inspired by Anna and Elsa are beautifully put together and offer clear, concise directions for creating gorgeous hairstyles. Classics like Cindrella's bun, Elsa's Frozen braid plus other favorites from Rapunzel, Snow White, Tiana, Belle, Pocohontas, Merida, Belle, Ariel, and Aurora are all represented here. There's also a helpful braiding tutorial at the beginning of each book:

All hairstyles are shown with a colorful, attractive backdrop on a real model so you can see what it's actually supposed to look like:

Okay, here's my attempt at doing hair for my princess. We went with Belle, since that's her favorite.

Not bad for a first attempt at doing hair, right?! There was quite a bit of squirming involved, but even so, I think she looks beautiful and definitely a lot happier. Both books are available on Amazon and make wonderful holiday gifts!

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Monday, November 24, 2014

Our #Disneykids Preschool Party!

I feel like we just recovered from Halloween and am going crazy thinking about Thanksgiving, Christmas, and other various projects that need to get done. So of course we decided to add a party into the mix, Disney style! Disney sent us an awesome box of goodies for us to throw a preschool playdate, which got Pinga extremely excited.

To ensure we didn't go completely bonkers, we opted to keep things simple and just let the kids let loose and have tons of fun.

Pinga dressed up as Princess Belle and anxiously awaited the arrival of her little friends.

We served pizza because it's delicious and kids love it. Plus, it was awesome not having to cook!

Thanks to the amazing toys and activities we were sent, the kids were pretty much occupied for the rest of the evening. They colored, made Disney fortune tellers, and played with puzzles, an awesome Mega Bloks car and a Barbie house that Pinga had been begging to put together all week. After some root beer floats for dessert, they played a bit more before calling it a night. Our guests got some fun goodies to take home and Disney memories were made!

Thank you to Disney for providing such a fun box of supplies to host a fun party!

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Monday, November 17, 2014

Home Cookin' Chicken 'n Waffles with Chick-Fil-A

It's no secret that we are huge eaters of all things Chick-fil-A. Our kids seem to think that where there's cows, there's chicken to be had which, in our case is actually pretty accurate.

*Insert obligatory cute pictures here:

There's also this cool thing called the Chick-fil-A Mom's Club which I'm a part of. Aside from getting to offer valuable input and feedback, I also occasionally get treated to yummy goodies. The #DressUpYourNuggets promotion is my opportunity to share with you my best semi-homemade idea to dress up those addictively delicious chicken nuggets. I came up with two different ways to serve CHICKEN 'N WAFFLES because really...is there anything more satisfying?

We'll start with the easy way:

Step 1: Get a box of mini Eggo waffles. Sure, you could make your own waffles, but why on earth would you want to do that? Plus, these are way cuter. And don't forget the Chick-fil-A chicken nuggets!

Step 2: Toast the waffles. You can do that, right? Put them on a plate. You can even make pretty patterns, if you like.

Step 3: Stick some butter in the middle of the waffles, drizzle with your favorite syrup, and eat it all up!

Okay, now for my gourmet version.

This is what you would serve at a party, or if you wanted to make it seem like you have some mad cooking skills. The thing is, it's still totally easy, which is key. Get a load of this:

Seriously? How cute is that?! Okay, the trick here is the adorable mini plate. In this case, I used one from my daughter's play kitchen. Spread the waffle with a bit of butter - honey butter if you wanna be extra fancy, delicately place a chicken nugget on top, and drizzle lightly with syrup.

Enjoy - I know I did.

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