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Solo Velocity Everyday Max Backpack Duffel

Specifications:
Body size: 21"x13"x8"
Weight: 2.40 lbs
Fully padded 17.3" laptop compartment
Internal tablet pocket
Separate shoe compartment
Large size zippered pockets
Padded carry handles
Padded back and backpack straps

Strong Points: Unique, well thought out design; looks very nice; lots of pockets, with a very large main duffel area; laptop pouch is extra large, and well padded
Weak Points: Small number of larger pouches; no location for pens or notepads (pens do fit in pockets though); no shoulder strap reinforcements

Thank you Solo for sending us this backpack to review!

I have always cared deeply about what kind of backpack I have used. I went through several cheaper ones before I finally settled upon one that has lasted – a Swiss Gear. The build quality was a huge step above the several cheap ones I used before that; despite the ~+50% price increase, it has been worth every penny, because it has lasted well on the order of ten years. Sometimes it's worth it to pay more, because it may last more than twice as long. But despite this, my excellent Swiss Gear is finally starting to show its age – flaking ends, the logo was lost years ago, and more signs that it needs to be retired soon. So, when I had the chance to review a new backpack, I jumped on it.

Now, it needs to be said that I am nowhere near as rough on backpacks as I used to be. I no longer regularly take the train to work, nor am I a college student any longer (thankfully). So, a bag that looks good, meets my basic needs, and holds my stuff is more than enough.

Having only really owned a school or work oriented backpack, I was more than a little shocked when I saw not only a well padded laptop compartment, but a place to put my shoes! While probably not important for many students, I was surprised how useful this could be.

solo duffel

In order to really put this backpack through its paces, I decided to bring it to work as fully packed as I could. I just so happened to have a scheduled ping pong tournament game at work, so I had a good excuse to bring my gym shoes along; I then filled up the shoe compartment with my size 12 shoes. I packed both my massive gaming laptop, along with the requisite power brick (large enough to be confused with a masonry brick), and my work MacBook Pro and power supply. I also included my fancy headphones and amp, as well as filled up the pockets with an umbrella, Wi-Fi hotspot (perk for being an on-call IT person), and various cables and adapters like I usually do.

The total weight was 20.5 pounds. I have to carry my backpack through a parking garage, up the stairs, up an elevator to the ninth floor, and over to my desk. Thankfully, the backpack not only held up well, but was comfortable to carry. It looks sharp, and believe it or not, it got complimented, as a few coworkers noticed me no longer carrying the company issued laptop bag that I have been using the last few years. I have used it since, and I am pleased with the performance since then.

The main color is a dark grayish blue, with a gray bottom. There are also black zippers along with yellow handles and other accents. I like the look. The front seems oddly flat at first, but the front zipper actually pops open to a central access door, as well as access to all of the uniquely located pockets lined along the opening on each side. It's an unusual design, but it works well. You can hold fairly large things in that main pouch, even if you decide to pack shoes also. If I had an overnight trip away from home, this would be the perfect thing to bring – you could easily pack shoes, a change of clothes, toiletries, and of course a computer, and be ready to rock. It even has a water bottle or umbrella holder on each side, and they are large enough to actually hold said things (unlike some other backpacks I've used with token worthless pockets on the side).

solo duffel

While there is indeed a lot to like about this backpack, and indeed I do like it, I have some nits to pick. First of all, there really isn't a good single larger pouch available for cables, adapters, or other miscellaneous things like most backpacks I have used. There isn't really a good place for a notepad either, as the laptop pouch doesn't have any dividers outside of the tablet pouch (which may be able to fit a notepad if you like). Thankfully, it's tall enough where I can sneak my power brick below the laptop without issue.

Without that large pouch, this one forces you to be organized, and take advantage of the many smaller pouches available. I have adjusted for the most part, but until I remember where everything is, it takes me a bit longer to find my things. Also, the tablet pouch is a bit thin, so if your case is a larger one with a keyboard, it may not be large enough for you. Finally, the shoulder straps are not reinforced like the toughest backpacks I have used. In cheaper packs, it's always the place where the shoulder strap joins with the body that breaks first. It's too early to tell if that will happen here, though they do seem firmly attached. The many handles on the top, sides, and even bottom are well made and very strong.

In the week or so that I have had this backpack, I have used it every day and really enjoy it so far. While I have had to adapt to its quirks, it can hold a lot, it's very comfortable, and it protects my things well. It looks nice, which is also important. If you are looking for a backpack that can double as a duffel bag, with a single, cavernous compartment, then I highly recommend checking out Solo's Everyday Max Backpack.

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Iserlohn Non Stick Silicone Baking Mat Set

For the reasonable price of $12.99 you can get 2 FDA approved and BPA/BPP free mats that measure 16.5” long , 11.6” wide, and 0.03” thick. These are the perfect size for half-sheet baking pans. The corners are trimmed so they’re easy to lift up as well. Because these mats can withstand temperatures up to 500 °F, you can use them instead of wax paper or aluminum foil to protect your baking pans. Alternatively, you can freeze them as long as your freezer doesn’t go below -40 °F. The mats can be cleaned up with soapy water or ran through the dishwasher. They’re pretty flexible (pun intended) when it comes to storage as well. You can store them flat, folded, or rolled up to save space.

The two mats have different designs and I used the one with the inches and centimeters on it for rolling out some pie dough. I’d much rather sprinkle flour on and roll on top of a baking mat than my kitchen counter top. Pizza dough will be another great use for these mats. Having both of them will come in handy for really big pizza crusts! Here’s the recipe I use for making deep dish pizza.

With Mother’s day around the corner this set would make a great gift for mothers out there that enjoy baking. As an added bonus, a bright red silicone spatula is included. I can never have enough spatulas and the red one will be much easier to find in my silverware drawer too. My family and I look forward to many more meals and desserts made with the help of these baking mats. They seem pretty durable and I’m sure we’ll be enjoying them for many years to come. This set is priced lower than competing models and comes with a bonus spatula. How can you beat that?


(Amazon Affiliate Link)

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The Most Thrilling And Mind Blowing Video Games Of 2017

The Most Thrilling And Mind Blowing Video Games Of 2017

What was just considered as a hobby a few years back that some freaks used to play sitting in their living room or any other place is now an art that every human being in the world enjoys participating. Whether it’s your friend next door or your elder brother who is working in a firm, everyone is now playing the astounding video games.

So, with reference to the sneak peaks and the interesting early gameplay footage, 2017 launched many breathtaking video games and is proved to be one of the best gaming years of the era. Moreover, the well-known technology stores around the world also made it sure that you can grab the latest games at any point of time as soon as those are launched in the market. So, you can find these stores always updated with their stocks.

But with so many games around you, it might be too perplexing for you to choose the one that stands out. Thus, without further hassle, here are the top and mind blowing video games which you’ll be much excited to know about.

  • Platform PS4

It is one of the most surprising and striking video games of the year which is a sequel to the very famous Vita adventure. It leads you to battle evil in a captivating imaginative world with an ability to turn the world upside down. The Gravity Rush 2 walks through with a creative streak which runs across the two heartfelt heroines of the game i.e., Kat and Raven. And moreover, the fascinating land of Heskeville will be a wonderful place to explore.

Running short of time to hop into a store for buying this amazing game? Then you can order it online from various leading stores of the UK like Argos. And on doing so, you can purchase and get it delivered to you both in a frugal way through various deals, discount offers, Argos free delivery discount code etc. 

  • Dandy Dungeon

 It is a brilliant mobile game where you’ll be brave Yamada, an upcoming games developer and a defeated lothario who is trying to impress his beautiful neighbor with his skills in coding. In this puzzle game, you must find the right path for the hero to the exit while avoiding all the traps and beasts on his way. It’s a funny yet an extremely interesting game. 

  • She remembered Caterpillars

It is an eccentric and adventurous puzzle game where you’ve to build bridges and make paths through the nominal insects. The logic puzzle in the game is appealingly wicked and enthralling with various unique elements added in a smart way. Thus, this game will certainly lead you to end up unwinding yourself into a whole new world.

  • Nioh

It is a fantasy RPG which lets you to explore the vast battle-field, hunting Yokai. It might be hundreds of hours that you’ve played but new excitements and discoveries will always keep on coming towards you. You’ll be continuously finding fresh an rewarding things to do. It is an absolutely fantastic game which includes a strong sense of charm.

So, if you’re a yet another teenager or someone in his or her 20’s, 30’s 40’s or of whatever age who is one of the biggest fans of video games and still now haven’t tried your hands on these phenomenal new-ones in the market, then you should explore those soon. And moreover, browsing through Dealslands you can even save your huge bucks as you can grab the lucrative deals from the UK’s high-end technology and games selling stores in this money-saving voucher site. 

*This post has been provided by Dealslands*

 

 

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Should You Still Play Fallout 4?

When you work for any games publication, you're gonna play a lot of games. Shocker right? As games have evolved over the years, one of the biggest game changers is story. Long gone are the days where you simply had to pretend the pixilated dots on screens are airplanes and missiles. Sure we have great indie games that can draw you in with even the most minuscule or goofy plots on a meaningful level, yet how much of it is the gameplay and not the story? Likewise, can a game be ruined by a mediocre story, or can the gameplay carry the experience? I thought I'd do a few look overs of older games and see if they are worth playing purely on gameplay vs story. The first game I will look at is Fallout 4. This title has already been reviewed by our big boss lady Cheryl Gress, you can look at said review here. Today is just a journey to see if this game is good as a game despite supposed controversies of the story.

So let's start with the game's story. Long story short? It wasn't fun. In previous Fallout titles, whether the early top down RPG games, or Fallout 3 and Fallout New Vegas, you can easily pretend your character is whoever you wanted it to be. Yet Fallout 4 decided to do a fully voiced protagonist with a large backstory. It doesn't pan out well. The more you give a character a face, the more you have to put effort into emotional investment. Allowing me at least 10 minutes to enjoy my apparent married status and child before the nukes are dropped doesn't help me get invested in my fake family. Sure I am a married man in real life, so I tried to pretend that I was playing as myself and it did nothing to help the investment. Trying a different character file did nothing to help immersion either. Whether I was male or female, I was a lone parent hunting for my child that might not even be alive.

Some people may say, "wait were the previous stories in Fallout games really that good?" If they were stand alone books or movies, no, they would be rather mediocre. Yet by giving the player choice on how to approach a game you manage to bring that much more interest in the investment of the story. Previous Fallout games made you the story; Fallout 4 does not. Wide focus doesn't work for a book or a movie, yet we have many famous games that tell rather fun or compelling stories when it allows you to choose how much you want to care.

The reason character builds in previous titles helped define the character was due to that use of imagination. When I made the person with one strength but 10 agility in Fallout: New Vegas, it was not about playing optimally or providing a challenging. It's because I was playing as the skinniest, weakest gunslinger in the post-war west. No matter what gender, shape, or build I had in Fallout 4, I was a concerned parent that had to get by while dealing with other people's problems. It doesn't help that unlike the other games, you'll have to deal with most of these problems from other people whether you like it or not. If the game is still a ”RPG” then at the very least let me find my son first.

Now let me do another long story short. As a game Fallout 4 is still a top notch experience. I find the settlement management side of the game rather relaxing for when I don't feel like exploring. The loot system is fun, crafting is a joy and the game combat is enjoyable. Exploring the world just to loot and survive is still just as fun as in previous Fallout games. This is a case where I can say the weak story did nothing to prevent me from enjoying a game  as a game. Maybe one time I'll run through Fallout 4 on mute with my own music and I will just make up my own dialogue for the characters.

Modding communities should not make or break a game's review score, yet that doesn't mean modding isn't valuable. Fallout 4 has thousands of mods to extend the life of the game; this includes new quests and dialogues for characters. Even at the age the game is now, you'll get your money's worth from the game and its DLC.

The story is not good, yet the game is better than people may give it credit for. It can have some interesting thinking points in the game as well. Fallout 4 is still a great game to pick up to this day despite its problematic story.

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Learn to Program With Small Basic

basic

Thank you No Starch Press for sending us this book to review!

Learn to Program With Small Basic: An Introduction to Programming With Games, Art, Science and Math is 317 pages long and written by Majed Marji and Ed Price. This book teaches you how to program with Small Basic, a programming language created by Vijaye Raji designed to teach children how to program.

Learn to Program With Small Basic teaches you the different features of Small Basic and how to use them. It has 19 chapters, each one covering a different feature of Small Basic. The first chapter introduces you to the language while the rest have you coding in it. It teaches you how to use features like if/else statements, subroutines, events, etc. To enforce these topics, code examples are given and there are named programs they want you to save. At the beginning of a program, you can tell if you need to save it if it says the name of the program as a comment. In the later chapters, you top most of them off with a game that uses the feature taught in that chapter. One of my favorite programs I made is the image viewer that lets you view pictures from Flickr.

Sometimes the book will show you a possible output of a program you wrote. There are also (optional) program ideas labeled in boxes that say “Try It Out.” After you write a program, there are sections explaining how the program works. For some of the larger games you would program, the book breaks the program up into steps, then explains what each step does. Sometimes the steps are small, and other times the steps are larger. Occasionally there will be a picture shown to help you understand the concept better.

As I went through the book, I found it fun at first, but then I lost interest about half-way through it. (That seems to happen with all of the programming books I tried.) Despite that, I’d say the book is pretty good. It’s very thorough on making sure the point gets across. The paperback version sells for $25.49 USD on Amazon. Surprisingly, the physical copy is cheaper than the Kindle version!


(Amazon Affiliate Link)

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Whelek Self-Inflating Camp Pad

Thank you Whalek for sending us a review sample!

Family camp-outs are fun and our kids aren’t too picky when it comes to just using a sleeping bag to separate themselves from the tent and gravel/dirt terrain underneath them.  My husband and I appreciated the foam padding we brought along, but sadly, foam often breaks apart over time.

The Whalek sleeping/camp pad is pretty durable and has many nice features with my favorite being the self-inflation.  The valve is easy to use, though if there was an instruction manual included, I would have gladly read it.  The construction is solid and looks like it can take a bit of a beating.  The carrying bag on the other hand isn’t as forgiving as I can already see some loosened stitches.  This can be problematic as we all know that putting things back in their original containers is never as easy as removing them!

 

My 5’7” body fit nicely on this sleeping mat, but my 6’2” husband had his feet dangling off the end a bit.  In conjunction with a sleeping bag using this camp pad is more comfortable than without. However, if I had a choice between a sleeping mat or an inflatable air mattress I would choose the latter without a second thought!  A couch still trumps an air mattress if there isn’t a bed available.  

The asking price of $60 is a bit more expensive than the others available on Amazon or Ebay.  The sleeping mask is a nice add-on though and I enjoyed using that more than the mat.   I do plan on bring this along on our next camping trip and I enjoy the compact size after a couple of attempts of folding and squeezing it back into its carrying bag.  The Whelek Self-Inflating Camp Pad is great for camping trips and I recommend picking one up if you love sleeping outdoors.

 

 
(Amazon Affiliate Link)

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The Marijuana Project: A Story Of Medicine And Morality

Thank you to Ascot Media for sending us this book to review!

Sam Burnett is a self-employed security consultant, highly respected in his field. Sam came from humble beginnings and built a successful consulting firm through hard work and determination. Sam’s services range from security risk assessments to designing physical and electronic security systems for private companies.

One day Sam receives a phone call from MedLeaf, a medical marijuana manufacturing facility seeking a license in the state of New Jersey. Sam’s reputation in the security industry results in MedLeaf reaching out to Sam for help in designing and implementing a multifaceted security system to protect manufacture of the controversial drug. Sam, however, is married with two children and a conservative. He wrestles with his morals, faith, and the legality of marijuana. His world is turned upside down in a compelling story that weaves not only comprehensive information on security systems but serves as a great introduction to the marijuana debate that continues to polarize our country today. 

The Marijuana Project is a fictional novel written by Brian Laslow (pseudonym). It chronicles Sam’s uneasy decision to work with MedLeaf over a two-year period that becomes increasingly demanding. At first, Sam battles with his conservative values whether or not to work with MedLeaf because he is against all types of marijuana, legal or otherwise. He seeks advice from his wife, friends, and business associates. Sam concludes that since marijuana is a highly priced commodity, it still needs protection regardless of his personal views. MedLeaf is eventually granted a license to produce marijuana, allowing Sam to begin developing the complex security system that will protect the manufacturing facility. 

Admittedly, I did not know much about marijuana other than it’s a drug that can produce a “high” due to its THC content and that it kills brain cells. Regarding medical marijuana, I knew that it is beneficial for people dealing with pain and is helpful for cancer patients. Laslow provides a wealth of information about marijuana that ranges from its addictive qualities, to whether it’s a gateway drug and laws regarding the legalized sale of marijuana to the public. Besides the information about marijuana, the author clearly demonstrates his knowledge of security systems with comprehensive attention to detail. This includes the physical protection of the manufacturing facility, the product, the transfer, and its employees in addition to policies, procedures, and protocols. 

In the story, Sam also researches medical marijuana and its effectiveness in treating patients with medical issues. Once more, Laslow provides a bulk of information regarding the different types of strains used in treating patients with a variety of health-related complications.

There were two issues I had with the book. Sam is portrayed as a conservative Catholic. Sam’s use of profanity occurs a few times in the story. I originally dismissed it as stress from the situations Sam was experiencing. A story from the Bible, however, is taken out of context to justify Sam’s choices. In another example, Sam reminisces about an experience he had while serving on a Catholic school board. I was dismayed at his use of language and approach to dealing with a diocese. Although Sam has a strong will and determination, I viewed him as someone driven by pride who wasn’t afraid to show it more than a man led by God.

The second issue I had with the story was the ending. Maybe it’s because I’ve watched too many action movies or read too many of those types of books, but it was disappointing because I expected something more extravagant. Although the ending made sense, it did not seem plausible, as the buildup to the climax was intriguing and kept me hooked. Nevertheless, I applaud the author’s style of writing. It was clear and concise and left no holes. Further, Laslow remained objective throughout and only provided facts ultimately leaving it up to the reader to decide whether marijuana has merit in the medical industry today. 

With the wealth of information from the book, I researched many of the marijuana facts on the Internet and discovered they were correct. It also led me to read about security for the protection of marijuana manufacturing facilities and the types of crimes that can occur here. I can clearly see Laslow did a great job in providing an authentic fact-based fictional story about security systems and medical marijuana. I learned a lot and I highly recommend The Marijuana Project for readers looking for a thrilling ride as well as those interested in learning about marijuana in a fictional setting.

 


(Amazon Affiliate Link)

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stephenrowan
I come here after quite a while since 2016 and entire this term i have miss the chance to get information from a bonafide source y... Read More
Friday, 21 April 2017 00:44
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Power Rangers 2017 Movie Review

Go Go see a different movie. That's all I can say about the 2017 Power Rangers movie. It was truly an odd experience for the ages. I want to make a few things clear before I write why it was so awful to me. Power Rangers has always been a guilty pleasure of mine, so I guess you could consider me a fan of the series. This includes what Power Rangers is based off of: the Super Sentai series in Japan. I would also like to make it clear that I am working with a slight bias: while things like the Power Rangers should be meant for a younger audience first, this doesn't mean I can't enjoy things not targeted towards me. So let's rush to the command center; this is a Power Rangers movie.

Power Rangers starts with Zordon, leader of the first team of Rangers on Earth 65 million years ago. His Green Ranger, Rita Repulsa, has betrayed her team and she is ready to rip out the source of Earth's life, the Zeo Crystal. After Zordon hides the power coins, he calls on Alpha 5 to send a meteor crashing down to Earth. We then fast forward to years later when our first protagonist, Jason, is caught stealing the football mascot of a rival school. As punishment, he loses all opportunities given to him and is forced to attend detention every day as a troubled student. Along the way he meets the four other future Rangers. The characters Billy, Kimberly, Trini, and Zack end up in the same spot the coins are hidden. When they try to escape gold mine security, they end up getting hit by a train. Though it seems this is the moment they die, they wake up at home faster, stronger, and better. Eventually they meet Zordon and Alpha 5, who warn them Rita Repulsa will return. If they can't learn to morph and work together within eleven days, the world shall end.

So first let me give thoughts on the two elephants in the room. Billy is made to be an autistic kid, and they let you know very earlier on how different he is. Speaking as an autistic man, it seemed more like they were playing autism like it was down syndrome. He would constantly remind the movie audience that he was autistic. He would also have a lot of strange quirks that replaced character. Not only was he token, he was a poorly developed character. Trini, the lesbian character was a much bigger token. I'll hate myself later for putting it this way, but she was a “millennials'” version of coming out. In the scene where she admits to her team she's gay, she says, “My family is just so normal, all they care about is labels.” This story arc doesn't go anywhere and it seems to be just thrown in for brownie points. While it seems people on different sides got worked up over these characters, the controversy wasn't worth it. They used these things to replace actual character. The theme song could have been "Go Go Token Rangers anyway". Jason was token jock, Zack was token smooth talking loner and Kimberly was token cheerleader brat. 

The Rangers might as well have been a super hero retelling of the Breakfast Club without any real character development. Despite a scene around a bonfire sharing their deep dark secrets, none of them really have any reason to work together and the audience doesn't really know them. Like I said early, they go through the movie as character traits, not characters themselves. By trying to make these Rangers more “realistic and relatable” they come off as more fake and unrelatable. They hate their town right until they face Rita Repulsa. Most of their time as Rangers are spent training in montages. When they can finally work together, they spend about 5 to 8 minutes of time fighting in the suit while the rest of the climax is a long zord battle. The only two characters that at least tried to be a little fun was Zordon and Rita. I actually found it quite interesting that they tried to set Zordon up as a previous Yed Ranger. While Rita was slow in the beginning, she became a corny, over the top and insane villain, and that's what a Power Rangers villain should be. Yet Zordon's potential was thrown out when you realize they set up this idea of him being revived only for him to sacrifice himself so he could revive Billy when Rita drowns him. Rita’s monster, Goldar, did not look threatening at all; living molten gold doesn't look good no matter what you do. 

The cinematography didn't do anything for the movie. If it wasn't just shaky cam, they had a lot of close up shots to the face during emphasized dialogue. Someone must really hate lighting in this movie as well. The colors of the movie seemed to have had to fight to really stick out from all the grays and dark lighting of the movie. It seems modernizing a story means trying to force it to be dark and edgy without reason. Not every superhero has to have a miserable background before becoming a hero. Inspiration can come from the top.

Morality wise, aside from the implied homosexuality of the Yellow Ranger, this movie has low brow humor and a lot of rage and hatred that border between teen angst and blind rage. You're constantly reminded until the very end of the movie how much they hate their town and their own situation. This idea of being a bad kid, an outcast in detention is slightly glorified as well.  They push that whole 'it's cool to be different from the crowd' ideology in the wrong way. It's sad this is being pushed so hard towards kids. I say the movie earned its PG-13 rating at least.

This movie definitely has the crowds divided. Critics hate it and most audiences adore it. Its opening weekend scored the movie a strong $ 40.5 million. All I ask is for readers to remember that high sales does not equal quality. Some of that old Power Rangers camp might have actually made this movie better. For this writer, I give it a 3/10. Effects are cool the first time you see it but the rest of the movie is a shallow cash grab banking on nostalgia and ”relatable teen” story tropes. Go Go far away from this movie.

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Iserlohn Bronze Wind Chime

Thank you Iserlohn for sending us this bronze wind chime!

When my oldest daughter was a toddler we did a nine-hour road trip to Missouri to visit my mom and step dad.  It was a nice trip, but when we were half-way home on the way back, the unimaginable happened.  My daughter puked in the car when we still had another 4.5 hours to go!  We stopped at the closest gas station and used up a lot of paper towels to clean up what we could.   The gas station attendants knew what was going on and took pity on us and gave her some lemon lime pop to soothe her stomach a bit.  While we were at the counter my daughter took notice of the wind chimes and as many toddlers would do, grabbed one and broke it.  Since the gas station refused to let me pay for the broken wind chime, we bought a different one that used to be a lot fuller and purpler than it is today.  

 

It’s definitely time for a replacement.  Upon opening up the new wind chime, I noticed that some of the chimes were tangled, but thankfully they were easy to separate again.  There are also two extra hangers included with the wind chime.   The build quality is good and it looks pretty sturdy with the exception of the plastic ring on top.  While it won’t rust like the previous one did, I still wonder how much of a beating it will take with the 50MPH+ winds we can get here in Illinois.  

 

I like the bronze color, though this wind chime is available in silver as well.  Both models are reasonably priced at $19.99.  The design is sleek and the chimes sound great when there is a mild breeze outside.  Thankfully, I haven’t heard it in a violent wind storm (yet).


(Amazon Affiliate Link)

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Iserlohn Office Chair Caster Wheels

Thank you Iserlohn for sending us these office wheels to review!

I used to roller-blade quite often before having kids.  I still put on my Rollerblades every so often, but not as much as I used to.  I’m familiar with doing standard maintenance including rotating the wheels and greasing/replacing the bearings in them. There are many different kinds of wheels available and in varying degrees of firmness.  The softer wheels will give you a smoother ride, but will wear down faster.    Apparently, softer wheels are great on office chairs if you have wood, or another smooth floor surface.  I wish I had known about these before our wood floors got scratched up by the anti-scratch mats we bought for them. If we would have started off with these wheels, our ruined wood floor could have been avoided entirely!

Included in this $19.99 bundle are five orange or teal wheels with ABEC 7 bearings in them.  These are some pretty fast bearings! They make me want to roll down my driveway, or a big hill, or a long corridor if I worked in a stuffy office building.  If I did give into that temptation, I would no doubt lodge some gravel or sand into my wheels and ruin my wood floor some more!  

Installation was a breeze.  It took me less than a minute to pull off my old wheels and install the new ones.  The orange wheels are much brighter and are definitely more noticeable.  Black or gray would be more professional, but are not available from this vendor.  When going in a single direction the movement on these wheels is buttery smooth.  However, changing directions takes a little more effort with these wheels than the standard wide ones.  Vertically challenged people will be happy to know that these wheels will raise your chair an extra inch or so.

Despite the more effort needed to change directions, I’m still pleased with these wheels.  When we get our floors fixed and remove the throw rug covering the scuffs, we’ll be buying a couple more sets!


(Amazon Affiliate Link)

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Atown
How well do they roll on throw rugs or carpet tile?
Thursday, 30 March 2017 15:35
Cheryl Gress
They work good on the throw rugs in our office, like butter on the wood floors ... Read More
Thursday, 30 March 2017 17:28
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Battle Princess Madelyn First Impressions

The way of the knight is a path of honor, duty, and cute graphics. At least that's what it is according to Battle Princess Madelyn. This knight in training and her kingdom fall under siege to the forces of a cruel wizard. With her ghost dog Fritzy, fight, jump and bite your way to saving your kingdom.

The first thing this game says is that it is heavily inspired by the Ghosts and Goblins franchise, and this is true in every step down to the way Madelyn runs. While she tosses spears, she can either have her dog shoot balls of energy to stop her foes or she can channel his power to charge at enemies to devour them whole. 

The first impressions are great so far. The story isn't trying to be some deep and complicated trek into Madelyn's world and yet I was invested into the introduction of the game. The combat was simple, but it felt satisfying and fun. My spear wasn't too weak and the trusty ghost dog didn't make the enemies in my way super easy. The artstyle is visually pleasing; people may say doing retro graphics is a lazy indie trope, yet the team behind Madelyn worked hard to make sure the world pulls you in. 

The most important aspect of these sorts of games is the challenge. Despite my own experiences with Ghosts and Goblins, I had a hard yet fair adventure with Madelyn. The enemies were paced well, I didn't get to a point where I felt I could just rush through the game. The enemies were varied and unique. This game doesn't suffer from “enemy recolor number 1000” syndrome. I started my journey with Madelyn in a unkempt graveyard. I had to climb through an Underground Mausoleum and it ended with a boss battle with a giant skeletal knight. When a game is challenging, the satisfaction of beating a level or a boss is all the sweeter. 

I can't completely critique a game that is far from finished so I’ll talk about what should be improved or what I hope stays strong. The music for the first few stages was not what I’d call memorable. While the artstyle pulled me in despite being based on retro graphics, the old school music just didn't do the same thing for me. I hope that the rest of the tracks are more immersive as the game progresses. While the enemies were varied in my playthrough of Madelyn, I hope this stays true throughout the game's development. Recolored enemies can make or break a game; that's why I hope enemy design remains unique throughout the levels. 

Morality wise, you'll see themes of necromancy, and evil magic being used against this girl. Some people may also be bothered by the idea of her loyal friend coming back from the dead with the same evil magic. Though it could also be seen as a pure dog willing to help the hero. From the preview build, Madelyn didn't use any magic herself, this may or may not change. Though as it is now, I have a feeling that this game will be for most people.

I have confidence in Madelyn's development team; I have a feeling it will join Ghost and Goblins in my yearly halloween knight charity run. Best of luck to Casual Bit Games.

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Miracles We Have Seen

Thank you HCI Books for sending us this book to review!

Miracles We Have Seen is a collection of short stories from doctors around the world retelling their most memorable experiences throughout their medical careers.  Since there are many authors, divvying up the royalties would be a pain and it’s nice to know that 100% of the profits are going to various charities nominated by the contributing physicians.  Not only are you guaranteed to read some touching stories, you’ll be helping various non-profits as well!

There are many inspiring stories as well as tragic tales told throughout this book. In each of the eighty plus short essays you’ll see the date(s) they occurred and they range from World War II to this decade.  It’s sad to read about the deaths of those who suffered from now curable ailments.  For example, one of the stories is about JFK’s prematurely born son, Patrick, who only lived a couple of days because of his underdeveloped lungs.  Thanks to modern medicine, premature babies have a much higher survival rate. There are several stories involving AIDS, detailing the historic lack of and modern progress towards drugs that keep HIV patients alive longer than a couple of years.

Though this book isn’t meant to be spiritual, there are a few stories that are nothing short of miraculous and the doctors are convinced that something out of this world happened to some the patients they have seen.  There’s a story about a boy who most likely caught a glimpse of heaven by the sheer look of awe on his face before peacefully passing away while holding onto his mother’s hand.  Another event was about a resuscitated toddler who was pulled out of the pool by a child not much older than he was. When asked why she went in the pool to get him despite not being able to swim, she responded by saying that a man in white told her to.    

Since many of the stories are only a couple of pages long, this is a great book to pick up and read throughout the day.  My oldest daughter starting reading this book before me and it didn’t take me long to surpass her.  The stories shared are definitely worth the price of admission at $9.99 digitally and only a couple of dollars more in paperback format.


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Iserlohn Garden Hose

Thank you Iserlohn for sending us this 50-foot expandable hose to review!

Last summer we had the pleasure of reviewing VicTsing’s garden hose nozzle and my kids helped in the reviewing process by washing our cars with it and getting sprayed down when it was hot outside.  While I didn’t have any issues with the nozzle in that review, my hose was definitely aging and leaking by the faucet, causing a reduction in water pressure.  A new hose was in order and now we got one to test out.  

hose

Since it’s not even spring and barely in the 50’s temperature wise, our testing options are limited.  I hooked up this flexible hose next to our deck and proceeded to spray liquid and solid forms of dog waste off of our deck.  The water leaking issue by the faucet was gone and the water pressure was strong enough to remove some of the stain from our deck that was painted only last year.  For what it’s worth it was chipping last year too and we plan on using a different brand next time.

I like the braided fabric that’s available in multiple colors including black, blue, green, and red.  No matter what color you choose, the handy carrying bag is blue.  I also like that they include twelve extra washers for when the current ones get worn out and cracked.  While not part of the Amazon package, I also received another VicTsing garden hose nozzle which sadly disintegrated upon use.  Fortunately, last year’s model is still working perfectly.

broken nozzle

The brass connectors seem sturdy, though the rubber sleeves underneath them slide out of place.  The shut off valve is nice and works as expected.  Before using the hose, it managed to get tangled a bit but untangling it wasn’t that bad.  I like how this hose doesn’t kink-up and stop the water flow like my old one did.

Overall, this is a nice $26 hose that I would recommend considering if you’re in the market for one.  I have reservations about recommending the VicTsing garden hose nozzle now though.  


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New Life

Thank you MPRM Communications for sending us this DVD to review!

New Life is a touching movie that begins with a seven-year-old Benjamin as he moves to the U.S. and meets Ava, the girl next door.  Their childhood friendship develops into an adolescent romance and things get rocky in the college years as they attempt a semi-distant relationship.   While they’re only a couple of hours apart, they barely get to see each other with Benjamin juggling two jobs.   

Ava begins her teaching career and gets a sweet marriage proposal from Ben and accepts it.  It doesn’t take long for Ben to get lost in his work again and this puts a strain on their marriage.  Things also get more difficult for this couple, but I don’t want to spoil it.  All that I will say is that this is an inspiring movie about love, family, faith, and perseverance.  Even though life gives us challenges, God provides family and friends to help us cope through our struggles.  

Although this movie isn’t overtly Christian, there are some references to prayer.  Also, while pregnancy is a topic, this film leaves the conception part to your imagination.   There isn’t any language, but before showing this to younger children, be warned that there are scenes involving sickness and death.

Story wise this film is good and the acting is well done.  I was nearly brought to tears in some scenes.  If  you’re looking for a cheerful movie, then you may want to look elsewhere.  However, if you want to see love story that brings hope in the midst of despair, thenn I recommend watching this film.   You can own the DVD for less than $13.  Unfortunately, I don’t see a Blu-ray version available.   Even in the inferior DVD format, it’s worth picking up!


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Days? Or Ages? The Genesis Question: A Layman Looks at Creation's Calendar

Thank you Bohlsen Group for sending us this book to review!

The author Jerry Harmon is not a bible scholar; in fact, he worked in construction until his retirement.  This book is the result of weekly meetings between the author and a couple of his closest friends as they embarked on an in-depth study of the first couple of chapters in Genesis.  Their goal was to determine if Hebrew text could shed some light on the seven literal days or several spans of time/ages debate of the Earth’s creation.  

Surely, God is all powerful and has the ability to age things like wine instantly in John 2:1-11, create life on the spot in John 21:5-11,  or to cause trees to wither on command in Mark 11:12-21.  However, science had disproved statements in the Bible that were taken too literally like the Earth being flat due to verses like Isaiah 11:12 and that the universe was  geocentric as possibly referenced from Genesis 1:16 with the moon being the lesser of two light sources.  Could it be possible that the days of creation are not literal?

All of the common viewpoints are addressed in the second chapter including sudden creation, the gap theory, the day-age theory, the intermittent-day theory, progressive creationism, the literary framework theory, and theistic evolution.  I like how each viewpoint is explained and a list of subscribers to those theories are listed as well.  The rest of the book isn’t as easy to follow, especially when it comes down to breaking down the Hebrew language.  Be sure you are alert and awake when reading this book, or much of it will go over your head.  Some of it still went over my head regardless, but I do recall some good arguments for a possibility of delayed creation.

It is argued that the sun, moon, and planets were created on the first day, but assigned their purpose on the fourth.  The passages in Isaiah 11:6-9  could be referring to Adam being formed as a child rather than an adult.  This theory would make a bit more sense because he would have to have a short attention span to be bored and lonely so fast on his first day of existence.  Also the ability to get to know and name each of the animals is quite a feat as well.

Not surprisingly, the verse Psalms 90:4 is brought up to suggest that each one of God’s days could be like one thousand to us.  In the end, Days or Ages supports the latter.  As to why, I’ll  leave that for you to read and find out in this 203 page book that sells for less than $14 on Amazon.


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Scratch Coding Cards

Thank you No Starch Press for sending us a review sample!

Ever since my son completed the book Scratch Programming Playground, he’s been hooked on Scratch and has been coming up with various challenges and games to create.  The collection of 75 Scratch Coding Cards are perfect for anyone who already has a basic understanding of Scratch and Is looking for some programming ideas.

Each of the glossy cards are broken down into three sections.  The first part is the setup and guides you though selecting the correct sprite.  The second part shows you the code pieces to drop into place.  The last section features a helpful tip to incorporate when running your newly created program. 

While the cards can be done individually, many of them are grouped together to make a bigger program.  Some of the games you will make in this set include a Pong game, a racing game, and an interactive pet.  These were some of my son’s favorites, but there were some duds and even a couple of repeats that he didn’t bother doing a second time.  

Some of the simpler programs just have a sprite make a sound or rotate when they are clicked on.  There’s a whole group of musical cards that will have programs play a rhythm, a chord, a surprise song or even allow you to record your own sounds.  Young girls may like the dress up program that lets you change the appearance of boy and girl characters.  Not only can they change their outfits, they’ll be able to customize their colors too!

There’s plenty to do in the Scratch Coding Cards set and the retail price is $24.95.  The sell for a little over $15 on Amazon and for that price I recommend checking them out for aspiring Scratch coders.  Many of the examples are freely available on Scratch’s website so be sure to check that out first.


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Nintendo Switch Event impressions

For being a loyal My Nintendo member, I was offered two tickets to attend the Chicago Nintendo Switch demo event.  My husband and I planned on going without our kids since tickets were limited.  Thankfully, 360 PR was able to let us bring our three kids along and they had a blast testing out the upcoming console and launch titles with us.  The turnout was good, and I’d guess that there were three hundred or so people there.  The staff members were easy to identify with their red Switch shirts and warm smiles.  They were also very knowledgeable about the game demos and were happy to teach and assist if you got stuck in a game. 

Out of all of the launch games, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was the most in demand and you had to grab game session tickets to schedule your twenty-minute play session.  Headphones were provided to help drown out the loud electronic dance music that the DJ was playing, as well as the substantial crowd noise throughout the event.  I really enjoyed my time with the game, though like many open world games, twenty minutes was barely enough time to get a good feel for it.  I was very impressed with the art style, the beauty of the world, and how much there is to do.  The clearly less than 1080p pixels on TV was rather annoying, but you do get used to it.  It looks gorgeous on the small Switch screen.  Combat was also fun, and there is a lot of variety as well.  You constantly pick up new weapons either found outside, or as dropped loot.  Items, including weapons, wear down and break, which is a bit of an adjustment from previous games.  Arrows also seemed hard to come by, but I can understand that given how powerful they are.  I definitely look forward to playing this game more once we get it, since we pre-ordered it along with our Switch.  

Some classic games like Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers and Sonic Mania added retro feels, but didn’t show off what the new console system was capable of doing visually.  ARMS was fun and looked good on the flat screen TV/monitors we played it on.  I thought it was one of the highlights of the show, but it's hard to say if it is worth full price, since it's somewhat of a one trick pony.  Some games like Splatoon 2 were playable on TV/monitors as well as the Switch itself.  In all honestly I was disappointed with the pixelated visuals of this title on the TVs there and while there are new weapons, I don’t think it’s different enough to warrant buying it at full price.  On a positive note, this did spark some interest in our kids playing the Wii U version we already own.

Super Bomberman R is a challenging co-op game that allows up to eight players.  The CPU players are pretty formidable and they won more matches than the humans did.  I wouldn’t mind owning this game, but I’ll be waiting for a sale on it.  

Another game I enjoyed was Fast RMX which is a fun racing game that adds a color matching element to change the color of your car’s exhaust to take advantage of speed boosts.  If your car is the wrong color, it will slow you down instead!  The graphics were decent in it but didn’t blow me away.  The local four player multiplayer is fun, and if you’re online, you can race against eight players.   

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe looked well polished, though I only got to play it on a hand-held screen.  I do look forward to checking it out on a big screen.  This game is still a blast to play and the included DLC and added levels and characters make this title worth picking up, especially if you missed it on Wii U.

My son enjoyed playing Skylanders Imaginators and like the Wii U, the controller base has an IR reader for importing your favorite Skylander characters into the game.  One of the games that did not resonate with me was Has Been Heroes.  I enjoyed the row-based combat from Grand Kingdom, but the way this game implemented it didn’t seem to click with me.  

Skylanders 

One of my favorite games I played with my oldest daughter was Snipperclips – Cut it out, together!  It’s been a while since I got a good laugh from playing a game with someone.  In this puzzle game you must cut the paper based characters to rotate and fit into specified shapes.  This game requires good team work, communication, and accuracy when cutting.  Just when I was getting close to getting my daughter into the proper shape she’d snip me and I would have to start over to do my part.  This title will be available for $19.99 and I’ll be picking that up as soon as our Switch arrives.

The whole family got to play 1-2 Switch and thought that it was okay.  It had a guessing game where you and your partner had to guess how many balls were inside of a box.  Whoever was closer to the correct amount would win or in our case resulted in a draw since both parties were off by one.  The cow milking simulator was fun to watch as a bystander and the winner is determined by who can get the most cups of milk from the udders.  My husband and I faced off in a Western style shooting match and I shot my hubby down first.  No blood is shown, just the shadow of the loser kneeling before the winner.  I like how the speed in milliseconds is shown at the end.  While this game is alright, I’ll wait for it to hit the bargain bin before purchasing it.  (I still think this would have been a perfect pack-in title.)

We got to check out some games that we anticipate getting review codes for since we’re on good terms with Ubisoft, NIS America, and SEGA/Atlus.  I’m happy to report that I earned a score of 5 stars in Just Dance 2017 to Joan Jett’s 'I Love Rock N Roll'.  Puyo Puyo Tetris is a fast paced and fun mashup of those two games and it switches between them every ten seconds.  Sadly, the CPU whooped me.  I had fun though, and that’s what counts.  Disgaea 5 Complete looks sharp with modern visuals, along with fairly revealing outfits when it comes to female attire or lack thereof.  While the gameplay is fun, I really am spoiled by the accuracy of a mouse from playing PC ports of the first two games.

Puyo Puyo Tetris 

Stay tuned for more in-depth reviews from us as we get to spend more time with these games after they are released.  I’m looking forward to the arrival of our Switch!

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Taco Bell's Naked Chicken Chalupa

Nutritional Info:
Calories: 440
Fat: 30g
Cholesterol: 70mg
Sodium: 1090mg
Carbohydrates: 22g
Protein: 20g

When I first saw the Naked Chicken Chalupa, I was equally intrigued as I was excited. As a prolific connoisseur of fast food oddities, I was immediately reminded of KFC's Double Down.  The Double Down replaced the buns with chicken patties and left the cheese, bacon, and sauce in the middle. The Naked Chicken Chalupa replaces the tortilla with a curved chicken pattie and leaves the cheese, tomatoes, and lettuce in the middle. I thought the Double Down was delicious so I was stoked for this new beyond-the-bun creation. 

When I took the chalupa out of my bag and unwrapped it, my first impression is that it seemed really thick for a chalupa. As advertised there's a cardboard holder covering about 2/3 of the chalupa. I took it out of its holder but it felt awkward to hold, I guess I don't regularly touch fried chicken patties. I put it back in its holder and took a bite. I was hit with a surprising amount of flavor. The chicken was moist and well seasoned and the avocado ranch sauce really compliments it. The breading on the chicken was nice, and didn't fall off chicken or stick to my fingers while I was eating it. I usually douse everything from Taco Bell with a packet or two of their fire sauce, but that was not necessary for this.  

 

The filling in the Naked Chicken Chalupa is its main downside. The stock Taco Bell lettuce, tomatoes, and cheese come off as incredibly bland when paired with the chicken shell and the sauce. Those items are just filler to round out the fact that it's a chalupa. Also while I really enjoyed eating the Naked Chicken Chalupa it wasn't as filling as a normal chalupa due to the lack of traditional chalupa shell. Its $2.99 price tag is only $0.10 more than a Chalupa Supreme which is great for a new/novelty item but you may not feel as satisfied after eating it compared to a regular chalupa. Fortunately there's a $5 box with the Naked Chicken Chalupa, crunchy taco, Doritos Locos taco, and a medium drink for a nice, "well rounded" meal. 

I really enjoyed the new Naked Chicken Chalupa from Taco Bell and hope it sticks around. The chicken shell is well made and flavorful and pairs exceptionally well with the avocado ranch sauce they use. I did end up putting some fire sauce on the my chalupa after the first few bites but it really does not need it. It's perfectly enjoyable on its own. The lackluster fillings are par-for-the-course from Taco Bell and don't detract enough to prevent me from ordering this again.

 

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God’s Silver Soldiers Comic Issue #1

Thank you Art Greenshaw for sending us an autographed issue to review!

The goal of Truthmonger Comics is to bring the much-needed messages of morality and spirituality into today’s youth through the medium of comic books.  Besides God, they are also inspired by the comic book legend, Stan Lee.  Some of the characters are dedicated to public figures who are living by their Christian values.  For example, the Silver Soldier Cecilia is named after the first lady of Texas, Cecilia Abbott.

God has appointed the Silver Soldiers to battle against the superhuman forces of evil in our world.  The soldiers have different backgrounds and are all united for this purpose.  The black Silver Soldier is an American Indian musician whose songs will now uplift instead of tear people down.  The green Silver Soldier is a surgeon with a drug problem.  A prestigious chef is given a second chance at life by becoming the blue Silver Soldier.  The yellow Silver Soldier is a college girl who has chosen to keep her child instead of aborting it.  A greedy financial programmer is picked to be the red Silver Soldier.  Last but not least, is the pink Silver Soldier who is a lying gossiper who has since repented of her sins.  Once assembled, the Silver Soldiers report to Angelica, an angel sent by God to cleanse to world of the evil that is invading it.

Individually the Silver Soldiers have enhanced strength and speed. They are also bestowed with a unique ability to control various elements or animals.  When the Silver Soldiers are together, their strength is increased one hundred fold.  Satan’s demons had better watch out!

This forty-three page comic is broken into two parts with each ending at a cliff-hanger.  The last few pages go back in time and offer a new perspective on Jesus’ childhood.  There are some mature themes including drugs and teen pregnancy.   The spiritual warfare elements need to be taken into consideration as well. The Silver Soldiers must descend to Hell to rescue someone and they have to leave their bodies behind in a safe place.  Also, one of Lucifer’s human servants wears a pentagram belt buckle.  There are several Bible verses used throughout the story as well which is nice to see.  

While this series is both engaging and God honoring, I recommend parents give it a good read before their children do.  My oldest daughter read and enjoyed this first issue and we’re both looking forward to many, many more.  The suggested retail price is $4.99 unless you’d rather get the jumbo collector’s edition for $24.99.


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The Gruffalo

Thank you JG PR for sending us this DVD to review!

The children’s book The Gruffalo written by Julia Donaldson came out in 1999.  Since its release, it has received numerous awards including Smarties Prize and the Blue Peter Award for the Best Book to Read Aloud.   Given the awards and the 5-star rating on Amazon, it’s safe to say that it’s a good book and deserves the DVD treatment.

The 30-minute DVD has a suggested retail price of $9.99, but is available to stream for free for Prime members.   Digitally renting this movie is possible for $3.99, but you may as well buy a physical copy for an extra dollar.  

The story begins with a squirrel mother gathering nuts for her young children.  Instead of food, they’d rather hear a story about a mouse or a monster.  The mother squirrel compromises and tells them a story about both.

A hungry brown mouse is trying to make his way to a nut tree for dinner.  It’s quite a ways away and throughout his journey he gets stopped by a fox, an owl, and a snake.  They each invite the mouse over for a meal, with him being the main course!  The wily mouse outsmarts all of them by telling them that he’s on his way to a meal with a gruffalo and describes its fearsome traits to them.  When each of the animals hears about the gruffalo’s hideous features and discovers that they are its favorite meal, they promptly release the mouse.

The mouse’s tall tale gets more complex with each retelling of it.  Imagine his surprise when he comes face to face with an actual gruffalo who matches his description to a tee!  The mouse’s next feat is to convince the gruffalo to not eat him!  Will he succeed?  I won’t spoil the ending, but I will say that my daughter and I both enjoyed this movie and its sequel, The Gruffalo’s Child.


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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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