TV Review: Amazon Prime Instant Video’s Creative Galaxy

Look, I want to level with you here. We all know about screen time and kids and TV and blah blah blah, but the truth of the matter is that TV is indispensable to working moms. Maybe some kids will quietly play imaginary games in their rooms on their own, but mine will draw on paintings with marker (true story, happened today), if they’re not properly distracted. I would like my children to have something to do so that I can do something besides entertain them – something like, oh, clean marker off of my paintings (windex, worked like a charm), or take a shower, or write this blog.

But just because I am OK with my kids watching TV, that doesn’t mean that I’m OK with my kids watching any old TV. While in theory, I have nothing against someone who lives in a Pineapple Under the Sea, ideally I’d like my kids to be watching something that makes them think, and inspires them to do something besides watch TV. Because eventually I’m going to succumb to my mommy guilt and turn off the TV, and I don’t want to hear the whining.

When Clever Girls and Amazon Prime Instant Video asked me to review Amazon’s new show, Creative Galaxy, I signed right up. (As an aside – I honestly do not know how any buy person exists without Amazon Prime – it’s a lifesaver for me. And the free Instant Video library is a great aspect of it. And this is 100% my opinion, and does not reflect any sponsorship of this post.) Creative Galaxy is produced by Out of the Blue Enterprises with Angela Santomero (Blue’s Clues and Super Why!) serving as Creator and Executive Producer. Without knowing that connection, I could have seen it- what Super Why is to reading, this show is to art. It deals with the animated characters Arty (a cute little green alien) and his alien, um, pet? Epiphany (a flying creature which reminded me very strongly of Glomer from the old Punky Brewster cartoons) who solve problems with art. Each episode deals with a different theme and type of art – one dealt with the idea if you like your creation, you didn’t make a mistake, even if it’s not 100% accurate, which brought in references to Picasso and Cubism, and another talked about making recycled art from used household items. Each episode ends with a live action sequence of kids doing a craft related to the ones in the show. There’s an overarching thing that art is everywhere and creativity is encouraged – the shows end with the invocation, “Go out and be amazing!”

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As a parent watching the show, I personally found it less engaging than say, Game of Thrones, but I think we’re waiting to introduce that for the kids. In all seriousness, I would call this good kids’ entertainment, rather than family entertainment, though I appreciate that it provides lots of ideas for art projects to do with your kids, which is not something that comes naturally for me. It would be especially great if Amazon could provide with the listing for each show a list of the crafts demonstrated and the materials required, so parents are not beset with “Mom, we need to make a treasure box right NOW.” when there are no popsicle sticks in the house. But I write recipes here, and I like ingredient lists.

I was asked to watch it with my 2 year old, so I sat down with him and the iPad and turned it on. He was engaged for about 10 minutes, and then asked to watch another show (to be fair, the only TV show he will watch straight through is Barney, and the rest of us are tearing out our hair at having to listen to that darn purple dinosaur). I think the animations were at his level, but the themes and crafts escaped him – he’s still at the scribble on a piece of paper (or paint the wall using mommy’s best mascara) stage.

 

Creative Galaxy

I called in the Nuni, who is newly 7, as a pinch hitter. She’s probably a little older than the target audience, but we tend to watch shows for younger viewers around here, so she dove right in. The show’s animation and production values makes it seem like its appealing to younger viewers, but the crafts are fairly sophisticated, and the kids doing the crafts are definitely grade schoolers. I’d personally say that 4 through 6 year olds are the sweet spot. The Nuni really loved the show – watched 4 episodes straight through, and then asked for more. I asked her for her reactions to the show, and I think you all are best served by me copying them here verbatim:

It’s so good -I think it would really appeal to kids
My favorite craft was when they made a picture frame but did everything crazy like the face and one eye was normal but the other one was on top of the normal one.
I think every person could enjoy that show. A lot of people would like it.
I think that it is good because it teaches you how to do different types of art, like when you recycle stuff that you already used and use it for art.
I think that something could be better by the pictures looking more realistic.
If I were in charge of the show, I would make things more realistic. It wasn’t really that bad – the pictures really weren’t that bad. I just think they could have been better. (I did push her to offer criticism, like all good reviewers must).

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And there you have it. It could be more realistic, but otherwise, it was pretty great, and every person COULD enjoy the show.

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Halloween Costume Ideas – #TBT

Halloween Costume Ideas

 

Halloween is in just two short weeks, which means you may be looking for Halloween costume ideas.  Or you may have children like mine, who start planning next year’s Halloween costume on November 1.

I have many failures as a mother.  I am not very tidy.  I don’t volunteer in my kids’ classrooms.  I refuse to iron anything.  I don’t check my 7 year old’s homework (not that I could do anything with it – it’s all in Spanish). My kids eat fish sticks for dinner not-infrequently (don’t tell the home cooking police).  But I have two points of pride:  Homemade birthday cakes, and homemade Halloween costumes.

In the collage above, you can see the Nuni’s creations over the years.  I am not a great sewer, but I’m good enough for Halloween.  From the top, Tinkerbell (I made the tutu!), a Ladybug (made the jumper, with black tights and black wings and homemade antennae headband), the cutest lopsided Cinderella ever, Bernadette (this was me last year, from this book – easiest Halloween costume ever), Merida and baby brother (my mom sewed the Merida dress, and the baby was in a bear hat and black pajamas), and last year’s Eloise and Max).

Halloween Costume Idea

 

Max  (from Where the Wild Things Are) breaks my homemade rule – this is a PBK costume that I love so much I bought it when Bootsy was tiny (on clearance, after Halloween) and he’s wearing it again this year.

Eloise is my favorite genius costume idea.

If you’re not familiar with Kay Thompson’s Eloise (with drawings by Hilary Knight) you should go out and read it right this second.  I’ll wait.

OK, back?  I leaned hard on the Nuni to be Eloise last year when she was six, because Eloise after all is six, and it remains and will remain my all time favorite kid’s Halloween costume.

Kay Thompson's Eloise

 

The great thing about this costume is that it was very easy to put together  black pleated skirt, black suspenders, white blouse, knee socks, black mary janes and pink bow – but you can wear all of it again!  The Nuni wore the skirt and blouse to school as part of her uniform for the rest of the year, and the knee socks and shoes went into the regular rotation, too.  We even got a little stuffed weenie dog to hold.

We’ve got great things planned for this Halloween too, and I’ve got to log some sewing time this weekend.  The Nuni is requiring me to dress up this year, too.  What about you?  What are your Halloween plans?

Sunday Night Apple Cake with Brown Butter and Bourbon

Easy Apple Cake

 

We went apple picking this weekend, which means I have about 20 pounds of apples in my kitchen, which means this easy apple cake recipe is going to be made again soon.

Apple picking is one of those things I used to miss most about living in the northeast.  From the first autumn Ken and I were dating (16 years ago now!)  we used to climb into a car (first a tiny blue Ford Festiva, later a zipcar), drive out into the country, and see some beautiful color and pick apples.  When we moved to Southern California, we thought our New England apple-picking days were done.  But, as I described three years ago, we were mistaken.

It took us three years to go back (a delay I attribute squarely to a curly-headed imp we call Typhoon Bootsy) but we’re glad we did.  As we were driving through the Inland Empire (such a glamorous name for a less than glamorous place), listening to the incessant chatter and music of our delightful children (Bootsy is perfecting his Ozzy Osborne version of Kumbaya), we realized that the apple orchards are just as close to us in Los Angeles as they once were in New York.  We pulled up to Stone Pantry Orchards (trees laden with apples!  Close enough to the ground that even the littlest one could pick!)  and proceeded to fill a bag.

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Protein Pancakes, or the Importance of Listening to Your Mother.

Grain Free Paleo Pancakes

When it comes to mothers, mine is (almost) always right.  But when it comes to these paleo pancakes, I can pull out a little mom wisdom myself.

When I was a little girl, I, being a child of the 80’s, wanted nothing more than crap for breakfast.  I watched the beguiling commercials – Super Golden Crisp!  Pop Tarts! Leggo my Eggo!  – and I asked, nay, begged my mother to give me this super-sugary stuff of my dreams for breakfast.  My mother, having come of age in the crunchy late 60’s and 70’s in California, wisely turned me down.  I had to eat healthy breakfasts, which always included protein.  Cream cheese, peanut butter, whole grain breads – on test days I always had eggs.  Protein in the morning was her mantra.  I, sulking, vowed that when I had children, I would buy Cocoa Krispies for breakfast!

Of course, my mother was right.  One day she gave in to my pleading  and let me have pancakes for breakfast (though it’s possible my father had a hand in this disaster).  2 hours later the school nurse called her – I felt awful – headache, stomachache, you name it.   My mother crisply told the nurse to feed me some cheese and lo and behold!  I felt better!  Low blood sugar.  (I wish I could say that from this day forward, I happily ate my eggs and turned my nose up at Lucky Charms, but, sadly, it took many years of collegiate hangovers and maturity before I submitted to her wisdom.)

Now I am a mother, and Karma is an ahole, because I have the same battles with my kids.  Every morning (or every weekend mornings, because weekdays I have learned enough not to ask), the girl says “Please!  Can we have pancakes?  You never make pancakes!” and the boy, who worships his sister, pipes in with his little voice, shouting “Pancake!  I wan’ Pancake!” and then adds, hopefully, “Frosting?” (Because cakes have frosting.  I am clearly more relaxed about sugar than my mother was.  Pancakes do not, however.  I’m not THAT relaxed.) And I repeat back to them my mother’s mantra, and try to wangle some sausages into them and the whole thing, is frankly, exhausting.

Continue reading Protein Pancakes, or the Importance of Listening to Your Mother.