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Archive for July, 2009

HARRY POTTER: Wizard Wrock

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Draco and the Malfoys, The Remus Lupins, 142 Staircases… These aren’t just references to Harry Potter, they’re wizard wrock bands. That’s right, wrock. JK Rowling’s famous Hogwarts tales may have come to an end two years ago, but the fan universe just continues to expand. “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” hits the silver screen this Wednesday, and legions of fans will congregate in San Francisco for Azkatraz, the first Bay Area Harry Potter convention, in just a few days. Meanwhile, more than 590 wizard wrock bands, ages 5 to 30-something, continue to rock out on a daily basis, composing lyrics about Severus Snape, ballads to Hermione Granger and odes to dementors.

Intrigued? Read more about the wizard wrock movement here. Then, because prose can’t really capture the sound of wizard wrock, listen to these guys perform. Hear The Remus Lupins sing “I Was a Teenage Werewolf” and “Loosen Your Tie” on MySpace. Or – personal favorites – Draco and the Malfoys’ snarky “My Dad is Rich”, and The Ginny Potter Revelation singing “Neville’s Song.”

Posted on Thursday, July 9th, 2009
Under: Movies | No Comments »

BYE-Bye New Bugaboo, Hello Secondhand Stroller

Stroller (photo-illus by Noah Musser, MCT) The $343 million baby luxury market soon may be a thing of the past, a relic of the early 21st century’s spend-spend-spend mentality. Industry watchers are noticing a marked uptick in the numbers of families who’ve stopped buying luxury baby gear – new strollers with iPod docks for baby *and* mom, anyone? Instead, they’re parking their Lexuses (Lexi?) at the curb of second hand baby stores, cruising CraigsList and embracing hand-me-downs.

“The recession, it seems, has catalyzed a moment of reflection among the formerly free-spending new-parent set,” New York Times reporter Sarah Wildman writes, “Used is good; free is best.”

The result? The “play and discover” market – industryspeak for “stuff for kids ages 0-1″ – that soared 75 percent between 2003 and 2007, is tanking now. Sales plunged by more than a third in 2008 alone. Wildman’s fascinating piece in yesterday’s New York Times – “For Firstborns, Secondhand Fits the Bill” – notes that the new frugality is not limited to those who can’t afford the latest $900 Bugaboo or swanky $1,000 changing table. Affluent families are questioning their spending too. And they started doing it before the economy really hit its stomach-churning slide. So what do you think? Is this part of the too-much-stuff eco-consciousness of today? Or are we finally waking up from our Madison Avenue-induced trance?

Posted on Thursday, July 9th, 2009
Under: Babies & Tots | 1 Comment »

RECALL: 1 Million Playpens Recalled

Recalled play yard Wow. It’s official. Cribs, playpens and play yards are hexed. The Consumer Product Safety Commission and Kolcraft just recalled 1 million play yards sold under the names Kolcraft, Carter’s, Sesame Street, Jeep, Contours, Care Bear and Eric Carle Play Yards. The side rail doesn’t latch properly so when a child pushes, it can unlatch, sending the tot tumbling. Kolcraft has heard from 347 families in which this happened. In 21 of those cases, children got bruises, scrapes and in one case, a concussion. The photo here is just one of the models. There are several kajillion others, so follow the link to see if yours is on the list. Although frankly, they’ve now recalled so many of these, we’re starting to wonder if any of them are safe.

Posted on Wednesday, July 8th, 2009
Under: Health & Safety | No Comments »

HARRY Potter Premiere Pics

Daniel Radcliffe at Harry Potter Premiere (AP Photo/Joel Ryan)
Those lucky, lucky Brits. “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” had its London premiere at a Leicester Square theater last night, and the fans were out in force, despite rain, hail and general sogginess. We suspect Voldemort meddled with the weather. In any case, Daniel Radcliffe (above), Emma Watson (below) and a newly recovered Rupert Grint walked the red carpet under big, translucent umbrellas. We’re told fans hooted, hollered and hefted big signs reading. “Harry, I’ll be Your Chosen One.”
Emma Watson Arrives at Harry Potter Premiere (AP Photo/Joel Ryan)

Posted on Wednesday, July 8th, 2009
Under: Movies | 1 Comment »

SNEAK PEEK: Early Harry Potter Reviews

MovieWeb – Movie Photos, Videos & More

The Times’ Randy Myers reports that early “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” reviews are coming in strong, with raves from Variety – which called it “dazzlingly well made” – and the Hollywood Reporter… but a big ho-hum from an 11-year-old who wrote a review for London’s Telegraph. Hey, us Muggles don’t care! We are so going to be there – at 12:01 a.m. July 15. How about you?

Posted on Wednesday, July 8th, 2009
Under: Movies | 1 Comment »


Volunteers (Gary Meader Illustration) In this morning’s paper, we talked about ways to unplug your kids this summer and the importance of balancing their activities, getting them outdoors and immersed in all the creative pursuits that languish during the hectic school year. Need ideas? We’ve been talking about ways to make your own backyard fun for weeks now. So here’s a round-up of fun backyard activities, plus links to the how-tos we’ve already talked about. Cardboard pirate ship, anyone?

• Read outside, under a tree
Build a fort
• Go on a picnic
• Paint outside, Jackson Pollack-style and splattery
• Learn some new backyard games – Sharks, Statues and Diminishing Points
• Make ice cream sandwiches or homemade popsicles
Make your own sidewalk chalk
Plant a bean pole tepee or sunflower hideout
• Take your teddy bears on an adventure
• Play Marco Polo or Ping Pong Scramble at the pool
• Plant flowers
• Blow gigantic homemade bubbles
• Go on a nature scavenger hunt
• Finesse your whiffleball skills
• Wash the family car, bikes and trikes
• Go geocaching
• Go to Shakespeare camp or Berkeley Rep theater camp
• Take an art class or learn ceramics, welding and other fire arts at The Crucible
• Read “Little House on the Prairie,” churn your own butter or enjoy some old-fashioned fun at John Muir Mountain Day Camp in Martinez
• Go to “Grandma Camp
• Explore the city, ride BART or pick up a Teen Passport to Summer Adventure at the Oakland Library

Got ideas to share? Click comments!

Posted on Wednesday, July 8th, 2009
Under: Backyard fun | No Comments »

FAB FIVE for the Weekend

Alameda County Fair (Photo by Pauline Lubens/San Jose Mercury News)1. Join the fun at the Alameda County Fair. Check out the Great American Petting Zoo, the kids’ tractor pull, carnival rides and more, now through July 19 at the Pleasanton Fair Grounds. ($6-$10, plus parking, ride tickets and food.)

2. Pitch a tent in the Teddy Bear Picnic meadow, and slumber in fairytale splendor this weekend at Oakland’s Children’s Fairyland. The summer sleepover fun starts at 5:45 p.m. on July 11 and includes dinner, rides, entertainment and breakfast the next morning. Reservations required. ($20-$40)
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, July 8th, 2009
Under: Family Entertainment | No Comments »


Rupert Grint, Emma Watson and Daniel Radcliff (Photo by EXPRESS SYNDICATION) Quick, page Madame Pomfrey! Ron Weasley has swine flu! Fortunately, Rupert Grint (who plays Harry Potter’s best friend in the blockbuster movie series) seems to be recovering nicely from what was only a mild case. His agent said Grint spent a few days at home, recovering, but plans to attend tomorrow night’s London premiere of “Half-Blood Prince” and will be back on the set of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.” We’re glad to hear his Muggle doctors were able to take good care of him. St. Mungo’s can be a little dicey.

Posted on Monday, July 6th, 2009
Under: Movies | No Comments »

PETIT APPETITE Cookbook Giveaway

Petit Appetit Got some pint sized chefs at home? Or just some pint sized diners? Lisa Barnes’ “Petit Appetit: Eat Drink & Be Merry” is just the ticket. This family cookbook features recipes for more than 150 organic, kid-friendly snacks, drinks and party fare, from cheesecake-like pumpkin tarts to sparkling limeade, confetti slaw and more. Yum. We’re giving away a copy this week and all you have to do is tell us, what did you serve at your kid(s) last birthday party? We’ll draw a winner’s name next Monday.

(Congrats, by the way, to Judy who won last week’s wonderful “Super Granny” book!)

Posted on Monday, July 6th, 2009
Under: Contest, Cuisine | 12 Comments »


Simplicity Crib Recall (Courtesy CPSC) We’ve ranted and railed about Simplicity cribs so much, it’s a wonder we’ve got any voice – or typing fingers – left. After umpteen gazillion crib recalls, guess what? Here’s another one: the Consumer Product Safety folks have recalled yet another 400,000 Simplicity drop-side cribs whose plastic parts are deformed or subject to breakage. The parts failure means the sides drop spontaneously (see illustrative photo) and have killed one 8-month-old, trapped or nearly trapped 25 others, and endangered still more. CPSC has also posted a handy list with details on the previous Simplicity recalls too. For those of you keeping score, we’re up to 2.369 million recalled cribs and bassinets from this now defunct company. You can follow those links to see the model numbers but frankly, if it says Simplicity anywhere on the thing, we wouldn’t want it in our house.

Posted on Monday, July 6th, 2009
Under: Babies & Tots, Health & Safety | 2 Comments »