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Zhu Zhu Pets – Zhu Zhu Hamsters and Funhouse

Zhu Zhu Pets Num Nums From AmazonGet ready for this year's Tickle-Me-Elmo or Cabbage Patch Kid - Zhu Zhu Pets! They're already selling out in stores like Walmart, and the word is they already got their allotments and won't be getting any more until after Christmas. So you better act quickly, or you'll be out of luck. And believe me, the kids want them!

So what are Zhu Zhu Pets? They're little battery operated hamsters that run around the house (or their funhouse) on tiny wheels. They have different modes that cause them to do different things, as illustrated below.

There are 4 different hamsters, each of them having it's own personality and each making different sounds.

In addition, you'll want to check out the funhouse, and the many other accessories available for these little cuties. You can get them skateboards, blankets, beds, hamster wheels, a ball, and even a garage complete with car that attaches to the funhouse. Click here to check out all the Zhu Zhu hamsters and accessories available at Amazon. Remember, you're going to have trouble finding them at your local stores, so buy early.

Zhu Zhu Instructions

Here's a video showing the funhouse and some of the other accessories - they're really quite cute and the kids love them!

Don't be left out in the cold this year! Buy your Zhu Zhu Pet early, and make sure that special kid has the perfect Christmas present. Two good places to look for Zhu Zhu pets are on Amazon and - this is where you'll find them for sure even if they're sold out everywhere else.

Don't wait - you'll be sorry!

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Bakugan Starter Packs – Modern Day Game of Marbles

Bakugan Mania is here and my kids are already buzzing.

Bakugan Starter Park

So what is Bakugan?

Well mix an anime cartoon, action figures and cards, add a games of marbles twist — and that is Bakugan. The animated cartoon series started the first of 2008, however the tiny Bakugan brawlers are already popular in Japan and Canada.

There are 100 Bakugan action figure warriors tucked into plastic balls that pop open when they're rolled onto a magnetic game card, where they gather points. "Boys want to throw things, collect things, trade things, battle  and, of course, win," Matt Wexler, executive producer of the television show and head of global licensing, said in an e-mail.

My kids are telling me that Bakugan Starter Packs are apparently the game all our 4-12 yr old kiddos want. Strategy is key in this game as the players have to place their metal Gate Cards with intent as each card affects the battle differently. Plus it is cool how my kids must learn marble shooting skills to roll their Bakugan into battle.

The good news is the relative inexpensiveness of the game. The sets get you going and then most of the required pieces, such as the action cards, are under $10, and the Bakugan Battle Arena runs about $30. These things and the Bakugan Launcher do not come with the sets. However, you can use the tried and true launcher, your thumb!

Bakugan brawlers are selected at random when shipped. The Bakugan Starter Pack includes: 3 - Bakugan Morphing Marbles 3 - Metal Cards. You can upgrade if you want a fuller set to the Bakugan Battle pack which comes with 6 Bakugan Brawlers and 8 Metal cards. This seems to be a good deal.

I have read in Time Magazine and Newsday that this is one of the hottest must-have Christmas toys. Still, with a hundred different spheres and dozens of different cards up for grabs, as well as some of the items already being tagged as "rare," I think  buying early can save us a nagging holiday headache.

This just in! These items are extremely hard to get! However, you can find them at right now! There are lots of them you just have to bid!

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Oprah’s Favorite Things Show

One of the holiday traditions we have started in our house is watching Oprah’s favorite things show. Every year, right before Thanksgiving, she does a show that showcases a wonderful variety of good Christmas ideas.

In years past, her ideas cover a great range in prices as well as interests. I have found things for my mother and for my UPS man (I am an online shopper for sure!) recommended in the show.

It is so cool because the research on the product is done for you, just sit back with a great cup of tea and your favorite treat and take notes. It is a timesaver too as to find all these good Christmas ideas online would take a lot longer than the hour the show is.

This year, Oprah went all out and showcased great ideas for 2 days! We've compiled a list of these items at Oprah's Favorite Things - go there and check them out!

To add to your ideas, in 2008 Oprah highlighted some additional items - all under $100 - in her "O" Magazine. We've posted some of our favorites at our Favorite Things Store, and reviewed them at our Oprah's Favorite Things website. Enjoy, shop, and don't go broke doing it!

Here are a few examples that Oprah chose:

Treasure boxes

Treasure Box

Treasure Box

Oprah had a gal named Connie on the show that bought inexpensive treasure chests and finished them herself. Then, she put memorabilia of her children’s that she had been saving for years in them and gave them to her kids. It might have been report cards, an Eagle Scout badge, or a piece of carpet from their first room - anything special and memorable for the child.

Connie wanted it to be a piece of furniture that they could put on the shelf and keep forever, which is why she chose the treasure boxes. She suggested that once you have your keepsakes collected together, that you organize them by year using folders and plastic sleeves from an office supply store.

We’ve done some research and found a box that looks like it would work very well for this project – but if you look for coupons in the newspaper or online, you may be able to find boxes on sale at a craft store like Connie did! When you do find the box, if it’s unfinished all you need to do is go to Home Depot or Lowes and pick up some wood stain and a can of spray on or brush on polyurethane finish. Put a coat of the stain on with a rag, then apply 2 or more coats of the polyurethane finish. You can choose either flat, satin, or high-gloss finish. Personally, I like a satin, or semi-gloss finish. Then, if you want, you can buy a little decorative lock, and your treasure box is ready to give and get huge smiles on Christmas morning!

What a special gift for those most special members of the family!

Holiday Hits 2008

Another great gift is the gift of music - and this year Oprah has picked out eight new Christmas CD's by some of her favorite artists. From artists like Aretha Franklin, Harry Connick, Jr., Josh Groban, and Tony Bennett, you just can't go wrong buying one of these CD's as a gift. Oprah has also included offerings from Faith Hill, Il Divo, Brian McKnight, and Amy Grant.

What a stellar array of artists with their takes on all your Christmas favorites. Here's your chance to make someone's Christmas special - and maybe even pick up one or two for yourself!

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle

One of the gifts that Oprah loves to give and receive the most is a great book. She says "And if it's a book you loved reading, then you'll be sharing something special."

This year, Oprah has fallen in love with The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski. "It's an epic tale about the magical bond that this mute boy shares with his dog," Oprah says. "But it's so much more than a dog story."

The gift of a book - a great idea for anyone on your list, but especially for that person that has everything.

Last Year's Show

Here are a couple of things that were presented last year, but they hold up just as good this year:

Melamine Bowls, Measuring Cups and Spoons from Williams-Sonoma. The Melamine Bowls, Measuring Cups and Spoons come in a rainbow of colors to brighten up your kitchen. They feature built-in, no-spill spouts for easy pouring and can be stacked to save space. Plus, no-slip rubber rings at the base keep your bowls in place.

Amazon Kindle

One more thing - Oprah was recently raving about the Amazon Kindle portable ebook reader on her show. In fact, she said it was her "new favorite thing". We've checked out the Kindle and written a review and also an article about how to use your Kindle. If you've got someone to shop for that has everything, this just might be the ticket for them!

More of Oprah's Favorite Christmas Gifts

Don't forget to check out Oprah's additional picks from her "O" Magazine. We've picked out some of our favorites and put them on our Favorite Things Store. Plus, you can read our reviews at Oprah's Favorite Things. Great ideas that don't break the bank!

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Don’t Go Berserk on Christmas Morning!

Amazon.com offers Frustration-Free packaging

I’ve always been a pretty mellow guy, but if there is one thing that absolutely makes me go nuts it’s the little plastic-coated wire twist-ties that the toy and electronic manufacturers use to secure their products in their pretty packages. I’m not kidding – I’m never closer to making a fool of myself than I am on Christmas morning, in front of my kids, on what’s supposed to be the happiest day of the year!

Traditional vs. Frustration-Free Packaging

When one of my guys gets a toy, and they bring it over to me to help them open it, most of the time I pretend I don’t see them – which is kind of hard when they’re right in front of me! Either that or I act like I’m totally engrossed in the instruction book (written in 14 different languages) for the new watch I just got, and I ignore him. Of course, this doesn’t work for long, and soon I have to face the music.

Wrap Rage Tools

So out to the garage I go to get a selection of implements of destruction to try to get that Lego ship out of the package, and I get to work. 2 hours later – success! Plus, I hardly broke anything! I tell you, I earned that Christmas afternoon nap!

Well, Amazon.com has teamed up with several manufacturers to come up with what they call Frustration-Free packaging. Items come packed in a brown box, with none of the twist-ties or clam-shells, and much less packaging.

Speaking of clam-shells – don’t you hate those things? You look at it and think “Aha! This is one of those deals that you just have to pry apart until the two little pegs come free and out will fall the item!” Then, you realize that it’s actually sealed by some devious machine, and you have to figure out a way to cut it open without ruining the product and/or the instructions.

Fisher-Price Imaginext Pirate Ship

Amazon.com to the rescue! Click here to view the items you can get that have frustration-free packaging. One of the first to launch was the Fisher-Price Imaginext Adventures Pirate Ship. This looks like a pretty cool gift for a kid, and best of all it will eliminate “Wrap Rage”, and help you and your family to have the most enjoyable, peaceful Christmas in years.

If you're ready for a couple of laughs (and maybe a few tears) check out The Gallery of Wrap Rage. Come on - let's unite against the forces of the world that subject us to twist-ties and clam-shells!

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Amazon Kindle – Portable Ebook Reader Review

Amazon Kindle

I have heard about a state of the art portable ebook reader made by Amazon. Three years ago, they set out to design and build an entirely new class of device—a convenient, portable ebook reader device with the ability to wirelessly download books, blogs, magazines, and newspapers. What they came up with is the Amazon Kindle.

What I like is that Kindle is completely mobile and simple to use for everyone, because it wireless. No PC and no syncing needed. It uses the same 3G network as advanced cell phones to deliver your content using their wireless delivery system, Amazon Whispernet. What is amazing is that it is unlike WiFi in that you don't have to find a hotspot. Amazon pays for Kindle's wireless connectivity so you will never see a monthly wireless bill for shopping the Kindle Store! There is no wireless setup—you are ready to shop, purchase and read right out of the box.

So basically, you can be anywhere, think of a book, and get it in one minute. You not only get books, you can get e-articles, and newspaper and magazines. Wherever you are, your newspaper subscriptions are delivered wirelessly each morning. Most magazines arrive before they hit newsstands. Can’t find the book for tomorrow night’s book club? Get it in a minute. My favorite is when you’ve finished your book in the airport (or almost finished), you can download the sequel while you board the plane. No more lugging armfuls of books everywhere with this portable ebook reader.  Great in this day of extra luggage fees.

And it so cool how Kindle lets you download and read the beginning of books for free. This way, you can try it out—if you like it, simply buy and download with 1-Click, right from your Kindle, and continue reading. Want to try a newspaper as well? All newspaper subscriptions start with a risk-free two-week trial. Very simple.

Kindle’s paperback size and expandable memory let you travel light with your own personal library. With the freedom to download what you want, when you want, you’ll never again find yourself stuck without something great to read. This is the best ebook reader out on the market now.

What's included in the box?

Kindle Electronic Reader
Book cover
Power adapter
USB 2.0 cable

Having trouble finding it at Amazon? You can always get one at , sometimes at an even better price!

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How To Use Your Amazon Kindle Portable Ebook Reader

Now that you have the best ebook reader, how do you use it? You will be pleased with how simple it is and that you are on the cutting edge by having a portable ebook reader.

Shop the Kindle Store Right from Your Device

The Kindle Store currently carries more than 190,000 books. It also has newspapers, magazines, and blogs. Convenient for you on this portable ebook reader, you can shop the Kindle Store directly on Kindle or on your PC via Amazon.com. Both ways, all titles are wirelessly delivered right to your Kindle for free. And what I like is that Amazon pays for the wireless delivery charges so you don’t have to. You can shop the Kindle Store wirelessly right from your device, allowing you to click, buy, and start reading your purchases within a minute. I recommend this ebook reader also because of the use of Amazon where you get the great customer service experience you're used to, including customer reviews, personalized recommendations, and low prices.

All you do is search for the title or author you're interested in, or browse the store to discover titles. So the next time you hear about a great book, just click, buy, and read.

In addition, a copy of every book you purchase is backed up online in Your Media Library in case you need to download it again. So now you haveroom for new titles on your device, knowing that Amazon is storing your personal library, which can always be re-downloaded wirelessly. If you happen to be out of wireless coverage, such as traveling overseas, you can download books to your computer from Your Media Library and transfer via USB to your Kindle.

Paper-like Screen

Utilizing a new high-resolution display technology called electronic paper, Kindle provides a crisp black-and-white screen that resembles the appearance and readability of printed paper. It reflects light like ordinary paper and uses no backlighting, eliminating the glare associated with other portable ebook readers. The screen never gets hot so you can comfortably read as long as you like.

See what others are saying about the Kindle screen:

Michael Lewis, author of Moneyball, "I'm telling you, after five minutes I've ceased to think I'm looking at a screen. It's not like reading a computer screen. It's more like reading a piece of paper. I think it's actually clearer, easier on the eye than the printed word."


Being a somewhat technologically impaired, I like Kindle's QWERTY keyboard. Simply type in a title, author, or keyword to find the book, newspaper, or magazine you are looking for. From there, click to buy, and begin reading your selection in under a minute.

Bookmarks and Annotation

Also using the keyboard, you can write notes just like you might write in the margins of a book. And because it is digital, you can edit, delete, and export your notes, highlight and clip key passages, and bookmark pages for future use. You'll never need to bookmark your last place in the book, because Kindle remembers for you and always opens to the last page you read. I can even write notes like “share this passage with Kat”.

Long Battery Life

Since I forget to plug things in, I like that I can leave wireless on and recharge approximately every other day. Turn wireless off and read for a week or more before recharging. Kindle fully recharges in two hours.

I hope this review on how to use the Amazon Kindle will help you to realize that with the invention of Kindle, portable ebook readers have forever changed. And are the way of all future readers!

Sold out at Amazon? You can always find it at , sometimes at an even better price!

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Fun Family Games – Mexican Train Dominoes and others

When I was growing up, one of my most favorite things was family game night. We would all sit down around our kitchen table, fill up our ice cream float cups and play a mean game of Hearts.

Those were good times because of the way it pulled us all back in as a family. My husband also had a similar experiences in his family so we both were in agreement that we wanted to continue this tradition with our family.

As is common with childhood memories, you don't see the problems involved in making such activities happen. We quickly realized that the age difference between our oldest and youngest (7 years) posed a problem in finding a game that both could play and enjoy.

Some Great Answers

You knew I was going to have some answers, right? First off, a game we were introduced to this summer on our family vacation was a fun family game called Mexican Train Dominos. It was fun, several people could play at one time (which is good in a family of 7) and the dominos rules were easy to learn and follow. One note - the rules that came with our game were different than how we learned how to play. Here are our rules.

Along with our Mexican Train Dominoes game, we found Apples to Apples. This game too can be played by all of us at the same time and we liked that it came in a junior version that was still fun for the older kids.

Blokus is a great colored tile game that is easy for everyone to play. The cool thing about this game is that no matter your age it really works to exercise your critical thinking skills. It is fun to watch how smart your kiddos really are!

These are great Christmas gift ideas and birthday present ideas because they are inexpensive and they don't involve technology. Which means more time to talk and laugh together! What good Christmas gifts!

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How To Play Dominos – Mexican Train Domino Rules

We have learned a new game called Mexican Train Dominoes. But we learned it differently than what the rules that came with the game say.

These are the Mexican Train Dominos rules we learned to play that seems to best suit our younger kiddos.

The Mexican Train Dominos start at double 12's. You can also purchase these dominos with actual numbers on them to replace the dots. This might work better if you have a young counter as you will see later on, they will need to be able to count the dots in their remaining tiles. To start - each person takes a set number of tiles (determined by the number of players) and the person who has the highest set of doubles starting with 12 begins. The next round starts with the next lower doubles. The play goes clockwise with each person starting their leg - looks like a spider - with the same number as the double or picking one tile which they can play if it is a playable. From there you play on your leg each turn with a couple of exceptions.

1st - Another playing option is when someone is unable to play on their leg even after they pick, you can play on it. They indicate that it is open for all players by placing one of the little trains that come in the game on their leg. We like to use M&M's because once you can play on your leg again, you can remove the train (or eat the M&M!) and other players cannot play on it.

2nd - If you have a tile that has the same number as the double that was used at the beginning of the game, you can start a Mexican Train. This is a leg started apart from the other legs and any person can play on it. Just one Mexican train per round.

A couple of side notes - playing a doubles tile requires a "proof" meaning you must also play another tile on it in that turn. You don't have to pick if you can't play but the next person to play must either play on the double or pick to try to. No one can resume play until the double has been proven. This requirement can thwart your prelaid plans. And don't get discouraged if you get stuck drawing tiles well into the game to get started. Because you have the potential to play up to 12 rounds (your choice), it seems most people will get the same chance.

To win the round, be the first to play all your tiles. Everyone adds up the total number or dots on their remaining tiles. The total is their score on that round. The winner of the game is the person who has the lowest total after all rounds are completed.

Mexican Train Dominos. Easy dominos rules and a fun family game! Great for family Christmas gifts!

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Unique Christmas Gift Idea – The Green Book

The Green Book: Help Save the Planet One Step at a Time

Environmental matters get the star treatment in The Green Book. The authors, Elizabeth Rogers and Thomas M. Kostigen, address the fact that Americans endanger the balance of the ecosystem by the amount of waste we produce, the amount of water we use, and the amount of energy we consume in small practical bites.

Celebrities, including Robert Redford, Ellen DeGeneres, Jennifer Aniston, Faith Hill, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. contribute suggestions for living green. Rogers and Kostigen establish 12 aspects of our habitat, like home, work, and school, and suggest better lifestyle choices for each. Small adjustments are the focus of the book that add up to significant and positive environmental effects by using descriptive rather than numerical analyses.

The Green Book offers hope and practical suggestions, such as:

With a 3 ½ star rating, the reviewers all like the authors sensibilities in offering small, easy to implement suggestions. One downside however, is that the actual numbers should be corroborated before quoted. Some calculations, when researched, were off.

With wit and authority, the authors provide hundreds of solutions for all areas of your life, pinpointing the smallest changes that have the biggest impact on the health of our precious planet.

The Green Book is the perfect unique Christmas gift idea for someone who loves the environment and wants to make a difference in this world.

Looking for something a little different? Check out our Gifts For Someone Who Has Everything page.

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Gifts For Someone Who Has Everything

Finding a unique Christmas gift idea is tough - especially if you're looking for a gift for someone who has everything. Sometimes the best answer for this person isn't even something for them - sometimes it's something from them. Here's an idea for the person who has a heart for the poor and undernourished around the world.

The FEED Bag - The Gift that Gives Back

Are you stuck for what to give to the person who has seemingly everything? How about a gift that will give them the sense of satisfaction of helping others?

The FEED bag is a product of the United Nations World Food Programme, and was designed to raise awareness and funds for hungry children. Hunger and malnutrition are the No. 1 risk to global health, killing more people than AIDS, malaria, and TB combined. In fact, every five seconds, a child dies because he or she is hungry.

Each FEED bag sold will provide a school year of meals for one child in need and give them the hope of an education and a regular meal.

Whether they tote their FEED bag to school, work, play, or shopping, your loved one will remember that their bag helped to feed and educate a child. It will also be their way of sharing this charitable opportunity with everyone they meet when using this bag.

What a great gift for someone who has everything - the gift of life!

Looking for something a little different? Check out our Gifts For Someone Who Has Everything page.

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