No More Weekend Reviews.

So, I am going to hold off on Weekend reviews until I have some new things for the boys or I to talk about. I think I am going to change up the format too to make it a little more entertaining on my limited knowledge and budget.

I am also going to take the time I would normally take to write the weekend reviews and put it toward writing better content for the site. So if any of you have ideas or things you want to know, just leave a comment. I love to read them (the few that I get).

So look for more posts, more often on the site.

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Weekend Review August 25, 2014

Utility Belt

 

Perplexus is Perplexing

Amazon.com

Amazon.com

A has wanted this puzzle game for some time. Every time we are in the toy department he plays with it for at least a little bit. His grandmother was nice enough to buy it for him this past weekend and he has rarely put it down.

Description

Perplexus reminds me of the wooden labyrinth games from when I was younger. If you don’t know what these are kids, look them up on Youtube they were really challenging. The difference between labyrinth games from when I was a kid and this is that it is in a sphere so the maze is in 3 dimensions. You have to twist and turn the sphere as a ball travels along an increasingly difficult course of 100 obstacles.

I have tried it, A has been addicted to it, even N has tried it. This is great for the younger ones too because it does work on hand-eye coordination and motor skills which is crucial at his age.

Also, this isn’t the only Perplexus game that PlaySmart makes. There is Rookie for beginners, which I will probably get for N to try his hand on. Also there is Epic, and Twist for even more challenges.

Amazon.com

Amazon.com

Verdict

Great little toy for hours of fun. The boys love it. It is also great for travel because it is something to do besides play on electronic devices. Give it a try. Your family will love it.

Weekend Review September 8, 2014

Weapons Training

Listen up maggots, it’s time to put on your big boy pants and start shooting some guns! How else are you going to survive the zombie apocalypse when it happens? So, put on your vest, grab your gun and start shooting.

Laserquest.com

Laserquest.com

Laser Quest

We recently went to play Laser Tag at Laser Quest on a hot but rainy Labor Day. Can I just say…It was a blast!

Description

If you don’t know what laser tag is watch the video.

You done watching the video? Good. Pretty self explanatory, huh? Well, that does a better job of explaining and showing what Laser Quest is then me. But, to add to it, they have video games, foosball, air hockey and other games in the area you wait before being let into the briefing room where you learn about the rules of the game. They also have a few big party rooms for birthdays or other events.

Basically, they brief you, you get your vest and gun, activate it, go in and try to kill everyone. And by kill I mean try to get the best score out of all the people playing by shooting their sensors and not letting them shoot yours. The games are 15 minutes long which actually seems pretty long once you are running around this big maze which is lit only by black lights.

 Verdict

You definitely have to try it if there is one near you. So Click Here to find out if there is one in your neck of the woods. Every one enjoyed it. The only thing I can say is I wish they had some smaller vests, because while younger kids can play, the vest doesn’t fit on a smaller child like my 4 year old “N”. His mother and I had to take turns wearing the vest while he had the gun (which is attached to the vest by the way). So we had to follow this little terror around as he ran stalked after girls totally annihilating them. It is pretty difficult to do, but also a lot of fun. Also, leave your pride at the door to the briefing room because once you get in there you will quickly realize that you are going to be beat again and again by a 4 foot tall laser shooting maniac.

 

Weekend Review August 25, 2014

Utility BeltI am going to change up the weekend review a little bit and talk about products, experiences, vacations that I want for either me, as a dad, or for my kids and family as well as products. I am doing this because, lets face it, as a one income family, income is limited and we don’t buy a lot of new things for the kids. We also seem to buy even less for ourselves.

TABLETOPICS

Amazon.com

Amazon.com

This week I am going to talk about something I think would be great for the family. I feel that meal time is very important for all families. This is especially true as children get older and activities and life move people in all directions. Mom goes to work, Dad stays home, kids have school, activities, sports, friends. No one seems to have time to see each other anymore. That is why we love having dinner together. It gets us together and lets us reconnect as a family. We can talk about our days, enjoy a good meal instead of something quick on the go, and just unwind from a hectic day.

That is why I think that TABLETOPICS is a great product. Ever feel like you don’t know

Amazon.com

Amazon.com

what to talk about? Ever feel you can’t connect with your kids? I know I do, and I spend a majority of the day with them. TABLETOPICS is the ideal conversation starter. Kids love to participate and talk about their ideas and opinions so why not engage them, teach some great social skills (without them even knowing) and learn a little something about them. Each box comes with 135 questions such as “what’s your favorite ride at an amusement park” and “who is one of your heroes and why do they inspire you”. They fuel conversations and you never know where the conversation will lead.

The great thing though is that the box makes it easy to take with you, so it isn’t something that you need to keep at the dinner table. You can take them with you on a long trip in the car, at restaurants to keep the easily distracted munchkins entertained and not bugging the people sitting at the table behind them.

There are also many different additions so you don’t need to get it just for family time. They have additions for couples, dinner parties, family gatherings among others.

I know I want it for our family, and will probably be picking up my first box soon. If so, I will let you know how it goes.

Weekend Review August 25, 2014

Utility Belt

 

Muppets Most Wanted

Amazon.com

Amazon.com

We rented Muppets Most Wanted last night from rebox for the boys to watch after a long day of outside play, water guns, water balloons, and getting soaked with the hose. It was a good cap to a fun day and a busy 4 days.

Description

I grew up on the Muppets Show. I was glad when Disney decided to do a new movie and was excited to see the sequel too. I love the fact that the movie doesn’t take itself too seriously and that they are not afraid to poke fun at themselves.

Muppets Most Wanted literally picks up right where The Muppets ended in 2011. As soon as the movie ends, this one begins. They are approached by Dominic Badguy (Ricky Gervais) to go on a world tour to capitalize on their recent success. What they don’t know is that Badguy is working with Constantine, the worlds number one criminal (also Kermit’s doppelganger) who just broke out of prison. Constantine ends up pretending he is Kermit as the Muppets travel Europe on their world tour. At each stop of the tour Constantine and Badguy break into museums.

It isn’t until Walter, Fozzie, and Animal (who knew from the very beginning) figure out that Kermit isn’t himself that the Muppets are able to stop Constantine in his evil plot to steal the Crown Jewels in London.

 Verdict

While I love the Muppets and this was a funny movie, it does bother me (as an adult) that none of the Muppets could tell that something was amiss with Kermit. But then I remembered that this was a kids movie and my kids were laughing at the story and the fact that the Muppets couldn’t tell that it wasn’t Kermit while they knew. To them it was hilarious. Isn’t that what it is about? Making kids laugh. Right? I love the Muppets, and I liked this movie enough to say you should at least rent it, even if you don’t add it to your Disney collection.

Weekend Review July 28, 2014

Utility Belt

Lego®

The Lego Movie

The Lego Movie

This week I am just going to talk to you about Lego®. I grew up on Lego®, and my kids are growing up on Lego®. I do not feel that parents should force their love of things on their children and I have never pushed anything onto them. I am glad I never had to with Lego®. I have always loved building with the blocks and it is relaxing and can take quite a bit of time to build a complicated set. The great thing about this versatile little brick is that it makes for great imaginative play. While putting together the sets is a lot of fun. The great part that I see with my boys is everything else they make out of them and how long it holds their imagination.

Description

Lego® began making the “interlocking brick” in 1949 and has grown (through some ups and downs) into a huge company with more then just the brick. They now have many video games, clothing, movies, and even theme parks. But what it all really comes down to is the tiny little brick that can make imaginations run wild.

FallingwaterThe great thing about Lego® is that anyone of any age can find enjoyment in them. I received them as gifts up until my 21st birthday when I was sadly told I was too old to get them anymore. But I have gotten one of the Architecture series sets. While it did sit in the box for quite some time, “A” and I put together the replica of one of my favorite buildings in the world, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater®. It now sits on my desk with Benny (if you watched The Lego® Movie you know who I am talking about) standing on the bridge holding my phone charger.

The TableThat is another great thing about Lego®. “A” uses all my old bricks to build and add to his collection. He has a table full of all these old sets that he uses to make his new buildings. Some of these bricks are 30+ years old and he still is able to use them and they look the exact same as the new bricks he has today. It gives me great enjoyment and satisfaction to know he is playing with them and enjoys them as much as I do.

Pros (+)

+ Easy to build
+ Great for imaginative play
+ Many different sets.

Cons (-)

– Pricey.

Verdict

Who doesn’t want Lego®? I love them, my kids love them, everyone loves them. Great fun, hours upon hours of imaginative play. What other toy can say that?

Weekend Review August 11, 2014

Utility Belt

Episode 4

2014-04-12 18.17.07

So here we are with the final installment of our Outdoor Theatre. This is probably the most important part of the setup because without the screen you would have to project your movie onto your house or a sheet or your Uncle Ned’s backside.

If you would like to know about the other parts of the setup please check out Episode One for my review on the Sony 3D Blu-ray Player, Episode Two for my review of the Arion Legacy speaker System and Episode Three for the ViewSonic Projector.

When we were looking for a screen there were a ton of options to choose from. We thought about going with a blow-up screen for easy set-up but we ultimately decided against it because we didn’t want our sound system to compete with the blower for us to hear it for the whole movie. Like all the other components of our set-up the driving factor is portability and ease of setting it up and taking it down as we would not be leaving it up after a movie. This brings us to the one that we ended up buying.

Visual Apex ProjectoScreen120HD Projector Accessory

Amazon.com

Amazon.com

Description

Amazon.com

Amazon.com

I went with the Visual Apex because the reviews were good and it looked like it would be easy to set it up and take it down. It was big without being huge at 120″ diagonally. The screen and all the components come in a nice heavy duty carrying case which everything folds up nicely to fit back in the case. It comes with the frame, legs, screen, rope, stakes, and eye hooks. Everything can be set up by one person, but I recommend two people do it to make it go quicker and a little bit easier for some portions.

The frame for the screen unfolds easily and locks into place with minimal effort. I attached the eye hooks to the top and left them there to take one step out of set up each time. They do not get in the way when packing it back in the carry case. The eye hooks have two uses. You can use them for hanging the screen if you want to go that route or for running the rope through for stability when you use the legs.

 Now they recommend that you put the screen on while it is laying flat on the ground but I do it differently as the screen can be hard to attach on the ground. So now I attach the legs fold them open and stand up the frame. It is light so you can do this by yourself. The frame now stands at over 9 feet so you will need a step stool to attach the screen to the top portion of the frame.

Amazon.com

Amazon.com

The screen is a heavy duty .32mm PVC elastic bright white material surrounded by a boarder of black with a black backing which they say helps prevent light loss. The screen is washable so if you get it dirty you can clean it with mild soap and water. On the frame there are snaps and on the screen there are the other side of the snaps so it is supposed to go on easily. This, however, is why I stand up the screen and have a second person (my wife) help with set-up. I do not think they recommend my main method for attaching the screen but have found it useful. If you have time leave the screen in its protective case and lay it in the sun for a while so that it can heat up and expand. The screen is supposed to stretch so that it is a tight fit so there will be no lines and wrinkles from when it is folded for storage. However, if you just try to attach it to the frame it is really hard to stretch to fit by yourself. This is why you leave it out in the sun so that it can warm up and be easier to stretch so that you can snap the buttons into place. We usually don’t do that though as one we never have enough light in our yard and we usually set it up just before movie time. So we have come up with another way. I will start at one of the top corners and attach the screen. My wife will go along the back with a hair dryer and heat up the material slightly so that it stretches easier. We are careful not to stay in one place too long so that it doesn’t melt as this is plastic after all. It really makes attaching the screen a lot easier and we have mastered this pretty quickly. After the screen is attached we attach the guide ropes and the stakes so it doesn’t fall over, because a small gust of wind will catch it and send it over very easily. Overall, when we first set it up it would take us about 25 minutes. Now we do it in about 10-15 minutes.

Take down, is even easier. Just pull the screen off, take the stakes out and fold everything up and put it in the bag. It takes about 10 minutes to take down. Now do be careful though. As you are folding up the screen, make sure you are not in range of the frame as your wife is pulling the stakes out, because the screen will topple over and it will hit you in the head and you will bleed and curse.

Pros (+)

+ Easy set-up in about 15 minutes
+ Easy take down in about 10 minutes
+ Light weight
+ Good price at $220.00
+ Can stand it up on legs or hang it for multiple set ups and applications.

Cons (-)

– It does take some ingenuity to get the screen attached to the frame.
– It really does hurt to get hit in the head with it.

Verdict

Add it to your utility belt. Set-up is quick and easy. Take-down is even easier. The screen is bright white and this makes for a great picture from your projector. We love this screen and its ease of use. Would love to have the 144″ screen when we upgrade our system.

Our Living-Room Set-up

Our Living-Room Set-up

Weekend Review August 4, 2014

Utility Belt

Episode 3

2014-04-12 18.17.07

Part 3 of our 4 Part series on our at-home drive-in theatre is coming at you. If you want to see Part 1 on the Blu-ray Player Click Here or Part 2 on the Speaker System Click Here .  Today, the projector is what I will be talking to you about, because lets admit it, without the projector, you don’t really have an outdoor theater do you?

ViewSonic PJD5134 SVGA DLP Projector, 3000 Lumens,3D Blu-Ray w/HDMI, 120Hz

Amazon.com

Amazon.com

We went with the ViewSonic because after doing a little research (as I know nothing about projectors) I found that to get a decent picture you want over 2800 Lumens. Lumens are basically how bright the picture is going to be. So in other words the lower the lumens the, darker the room (or outdoors) needs to be to be able to see a decent picture. Also, to go with the 3D Sony Blu-ray player from Part 1 we wanted it to be able to project 3D images if we ever decide to go that route. It also has a plethora of different ways to plug into the back so you can plug in everything from your HDMI blu-ray player to a PC. It really is the workhorse of the setup.

Amazon.com

Amazon.com

Description

The ViewSonic Projector is the workhorse of our setup and it really is a great little unit. It is big, but lightweight and easy to move around which is key for us as we pack it up and put it in the closet after every use. The ViewSonic projector is very bright with 3000 Lumens and a 15,000:1 contrast ratio (according  to Amazon). You want Lumens over 2800 so that you can watch when it isn’t completely dark. This means we don’t have to wait until 10:00pm to watch a movie during the summer. We usually start just when it is getting to be dusk and you can see the movie pretty good as long as it isn’t too dark of a movie. It doesn’t have a filter like most higher-end projectors so it doesn’t need any real maintenance. The light bulb should last about 10,000 hours, which is good because those things are pricey at about $120 a piece. It has a built in speaker, but to be honest with you, it sucks. You are going to need an external speaker to get the sound you need.

It does have a couple of cool features that come in handy for us. It has automatic source detection so you don’t have to flip through sources to figure out which source your equipment is plugged into. It does it all for you automatically. It also has something they call Vertical Keynote Correction. It is a fancy way to say that you can adjust the image so that it is skinnier at the top or bottom. This is good for us as our lawn is anything but flat and the projector is not always level with the screen. Normally it would make a trapezoid on the screen. But you push the button on the projector or the remote and it makes small adjustments so you can make it a rectangle again.

Amazon.com

Amazon.com

 

Although it isn’t important to us, it may be to you and many projectors just allow you to projector your image one way. This one however, you can do it on a table (like us) or hang it from a ceiling and project straight on. However, if you have a way (and a screen that allows) you can also project from behind the screen with either a table or ceiling setup that way too. Pretty cool if you ask me.

Amazon.com

Amazon.com

One thing I really don’t like, is that the remote is pretty much useless when you are watching a movie. You have to be in front of the projector to use it, and with our set up, we are not in front of the projector so it is pretty much useless as I have to get up and in front of it to do any adjustments.

Also, like I said, it is 3D blu-ray player ready, so when we are ready to get the glasses and a 3D movie we will be able to watch it on this setup. I can’t wait for that and will update you on the experience once I do.

Pros (+)

+ Easy set-up
+ Decent Price at $350 for a 3000 Lumens Projector
+ Good Picture at 120 Inches.

Cons (-)

– Horrible Sound. Need external Speakers
– Remote doesn’t work behind projector, Need to be in front for it to work.

Verdict

Great Projector. Add it to your Utility Belt as you will want anything else. It has everything you need from being bright enough for use outdoors before dark to having HDMI and 3D capability. It is light and easy to move around so setup is a snap.

Weekend Review July 28, 2014

Utility Belt

Episode 2

2014-04-12 18.17.07

So this is Part 2 of our 4 Part series on our at-home drive-in theatre. If you want to see Part 1 on the Blu-ray Player Click Here . Today I am going to be concentrating on the sound. Which means the speaker system that we bought to improve the sound quality, because, honestly, the sound coming from the projector is seriously lacking. I wanted something that would be easy to move and be easy to connect since I would be moving it to and from our backyard for our movie nights. That brought me to our next review.

Arion Legacy AR506-BK 2.1 Speaker System with Dual Subwoofers

amazon.com

amazon.com

I went with a gaming PC speaker system because it was compact, easy to move, and quick to set up as all you have to do is plug the speakers into the subwoofer, plug the subwoofer into the back of the projector with the RCA to 3.5mm wire, and plug the subwoofer into a power outlet. Easy set-up, easy take-down. That is the key to an outdoor movie theatre.

Description

amazon.com

amazon.com

The dual subwoofer is small, light and easy to move. The speakers plug directly into the subwoofer via RCA wires. The Subwoofer has a wired remote with volume control and a mute button. While I do not know about speaker systems I know what sounds good. And this sounds decent and gets loud enough for our needs (most of the time). It has good bass, good high ends and it does not distort. According to Amazons website where I bought it from, it has 100 watts of total peak power, the frequency response goes from 20 Hz to 20K Hz. It has dual 5″ subwoofers, 2 midrange speakers and a tweeter on each speaker. While I am sure that the wired remote is convenient for desktop use as you will be sitting right next to the thing, it is not convenient for movie watching, so usually I just turn it up all the way and let it go. At a price of $52 bucks you can’t beat it. Do I wish I got something more powerful? Yes. Do I regret the purchase? No. Definitely a good start for our little theatre, but I will be upgrading eventually.

Pros (+)

+ Easy set-up
+ Good price at $52.00
+ Decent sound quality.

Cons (-)

– Wired Remote not convenient for outdoor theatre.
– Could be louder.

Verdict

A good start for your utility belt but it isn’t the tool you want to keep. Eventually you would want to upgrade. A good tool for starting out but if you have a noisy area you may want something that can get a little louder. It is probably perfect for a computer set-up though.

amazon.com

amazon.com

Weekend Review July 21, 2014

Utility Belt

Episode 1

2014-04-12 18.17.07

It has been a while since I have done a review so it is good to get back on the saddle again and add some products to our Super-Dad Utility Belt.

This is going to be part 1 of a 4 part series. We noticed that our kids remember the activities, adventures, and the things we do more then the things we buy for them. So we figured we would start trying to do things more for special occasions instead of buying them more stuff that will soon be forgotten. Since the boys birthdays are 14 days apart and we celebrate their birthdays together (for now), we thought what can we do to make it memorable. We decided that since our family loves movies so much but hates going to the theatre because it costs a fortune and our kids cannot sit through a movie to save their lives we would create our own drive in theatre in our backyard. This review is going to be about the first part of the setup, The Blu-ray player. Part 2 will be about the sound, Part 3 will focus on the projector and Part 4 will be all about the most important part, the screen. So without further ado, on with the show.

Sony – Smart 3D Wi-Fi Built-In Blu-ray Player

bestbuy.com

bestbuy.com

I really like our first Sony Blu-ray player so I decided to upgrade for our new one and get the 3D version with built-in Wi-Fi. Now, we don’t own any 3D movies or glasses yet, but I thought that I would go the 3D route incase we did want some.

Description

Now if you have used Sony products before, not much has changed as the set up and information screens are very similar to what we have on our Blu-ray player which is about 6 years old, so using it, and the remote was simple. Set-up is a snap and the only issue I had was getting it to connect to the Wi-Fi. It works almost perfectly now. Although, it does freeze up on occasion and I have to unplug it from the power strip and plug it back in to get it to respond. This is something our older Sony Blu-ray player has never done.

As for the Smart aspect, it does have all the normally players. Netflix, Hulu+, Pandora, YouTube among numerous others are included. Since we do not have cable (post coming up on cord-cutting in the future) having all of these services is important to us.

It also has 3D playback if you have a compatible television or projector. It is a good feature to have as price isn’t too much more then blu-ray players without it. It also has 3D conversion which means you can watch 2D disks in 3D if you want. Pretty cool feature although I have yet to test it out.

It does have an Ethernet port so you can use this to stream your content instead of using the Wi-Fi if you need to, which we had to do for a while when the Wi-Fi wasn’t working properly.

bestbuy.com

bestbuy.com

A couple of cool features that my older model doesn’t have is Miracast which is a fancy way of saying that you can mirror the content you have on your smartphone onto your big screen. Good for sharing the funny videos you found online so everyone doesn’t have to crowd around your 4 inch screen. Sorry Apple fanboys, it only works with Android operating systems. The other cool feature is the TV Sideview app which you can download onto your android device and control the blu-ray player with your smartphone. I have done that before when I couldn’t find the remote after moving the blu-ray player from outside to inside the house. It also has voice recognition so you can easily search for content along with a viewing guide so you can see what shows are on now in your area. I don’t use that, because we don’t have any regular television.

Pros (+)

+ Easy set-up
+ Similar remote and configuration of other Sony products
+ Good price for a 3D blu-ray player

Cons (-)

– Freezes occasionally and cannot do anything to fix, something my older model has never done in 6+ years.
-Wi-Fi does not have great range and could not get it to connect at first.

Verdict

A definite add to your utility belt. It starts up quick, easy to use, great content through multiple apps, and good price for a 3D blu-ray player. Even if you don’t know if you are going to use it for 3D movies or not, I suggest this one over the model without because it isn’t a huge price increase and prices for the glasses keep dropping as well.