Thursday, September 15, 2016

2009 Masters Golf Tournament Hype Built Up by Tiger

The 2009 Masters Golf Tournament can be mistaken for being the Tiger Woods Invitational sometimes. However, Tiger Woods hasn’t won the Masters in a few years. What’s more, if a big name wins the 2009 Masters tournament, it will be the first time that happened in a few years. No names have tended to win the Masters lately, which has gotten in the way of Tiger worship. But next week, the 2009 Masters will begin, and so will the “drive for five” for Tiger.

The 2009 Masters didn’t really get into the full swing of anticipation until Woods officially came back from his injury. Today, with Woods officially back in power after his comeback win at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, the hype for Tiger winning a fifth green jacket is on full force.

Betting odds are already in Woods’ favor for the Masters, of course. has Woods as a +200 favorite, with the next closest favorite, Phil Mickelson, as a +1000 favorite. This was always going to be the natural order, but it looks more solidified after Woods won his first tournament since coming back.

Woods performed another one of his comebacks against Sean O’Hair to win yesterday. However, Woods has never needed to come back from behind at a major, as he has won all his majors when in the lead, or tied for it, heading into Sunday. His four Masters championships have been no different.

Golf needs Woods to be back in form, and after disappointing performances in his first few events back, Woods showed that he might have done just that. Luckily, it came in his last event before the 2009 Masters.

The Masters, in particular, needs Tiger Woods to do something. The Masters is still the most prestigious event in golf, but without Woods to win it lately, there has been a lack of star power on Sundays.

In 2007, Zach Johnson was introduced for the first time when he won the Masters. Little known Trevor Immelman did the same last year. In this decade along, the Masters winner has either been Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, or little known golfers like Johnson, Immelman, and Mike Weir.

The 2009 Masters golf tournament brings Woods back to reclaim his throne against pretenders no one has heard about – and those that we have – starting on April 9.


Backspin- “Let the Masters hype commence”

Sports Odds- “Tiger Woods 2009 Masters Betting Odds Favorite” “The Masters – Past Champions”

Tags:2009 Masters Golf Tournament Hype Built Up by Tiger

2009 Kentucky Sport Fishing Restoration Grants

The Sport Fish Restoration Program, which is one of the programs funded and authorized by the Dingell-Johnson/Wallop Breaux Act established in 1950, awards grants that improve recreational boating and fishing opportunities throughout the nation. The funding for these grants comes from a 3% tax on electric motors, a 10% tax on fishing equipment, import duties on fishing tackle as well as pleasure yachts and boats, motorboat and small engine fuel tax and interest earned on the Sport Fish Restoration Trust Fund.

The United States Fish and Wildlife Service is responsible for administering the Sport Fish Restoration Program grants that are awarded to state agencies throughout the nation, such as the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife. In 2009, the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife was awarded 6 grants. These 6 grants were the Statewide Fisheries Coordination, Statewide Fisheries Investigation Project, Access Site Construction and Maintenance, Statewide Environmental Grant, Kentucky Aquatic Resource Education and Fish and Wildlife Information System.

The Statewide Fisheries Coordination Program is funded by a $174,000 grant and continues from October 1, 2008 to September 30, 2009. This grant provides funding for administering eligibility for participation in Federal Aid programs by completing projects effectively and efficiently. The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife must also maintain adequate systems, both financial as well as property management while complying with all Federal Laws as they relate to these programs.

The Statewide Fisheries Investigation Project is funded by a $356,250 grant and continues from April 1, 2009 to March 31, 2010. This grant provides funding for research and management projects with the main intent being enhancement of the sport fish population throughout the State of Kentucky. These funds are also available for urban fishing programs.

The Access Site Construction and Maintenance Project is funded by a $1,299,089 grant and continues from October 1, 2008 through September 30, 2009. This grant provides funding for construction of facilities to be used for both fishing and boating access on the lakes, rivers and streams of Kentucky. This grant funds the maintenance of these facilities as well.

The Statewide Environmental Grant is funded by a $100,500 grant and extends from October 1, 2008 through September 30, 2009. This grant provides funding for investigation and documentation of fish kills and fish diseases throughout the state as well as funding for technical guidance concerning proposed actions that may impact the fish and wildlife populations of Kentucky.

The Kentucky Aquatic Resource Education is funded by a $195,000 and extends from October 1, 2008 through September 30, 2009. This grant provides funding for formal education, camps and community-based fishing.

The Fish and Wildlife Information System is funded by a $39,000 and runs from October 1, 2008 through September 30, 2009. This grant provides funding for the technical upgrades to equipment used by the State of Kentucky for accessing and recording data as well as updating the database with the most recent information.

The Sport Fish Restoration Program, which funds many grants, provides a cycle that begins and ends with the user of the facility where the grant has been awarded. The funds that are spent getting to the water and while on the water often help fund the grant that is awarded to make improvements as deemed necessary. Improvements such as the ones for which these grants have been awarded in the State of Kentucky create a safer and more accessible way for boaters and anglers to enjoy the vast bodies of water throughout Kentucky. The fund established by the Dingell-Johnson/Wallop Breaux Act enables boaters and anglers to invest in the recreational pastime that they choose each and every time they venture out on the water. Grants awarded by The Sport Fish Restoration Program are calculated using a formula that includes land area, the number of paid license holders as well as minimums and maximum. These grants are disbursed on a reimbursement basis of up to 75% of the cost of the project and up to 100% of the cost of projects for United States territories.

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2009 Los Angeles Auto Show

The exciting news in Los Angeles is that there will be a car show at the Los Angeles Convention Center starting on Friday, December 4th and ending on Sunday, December the 13th.

This is good news for those who are looking for a practical type of car. This means a car that is affordable, small, and not necessarily flashy. This is the type of car that meets the necessity in one’s everyday life. This show will not only show the smaller cars, but for those who are looking for minivans, there will be plenty of them to view.

During this week, visitors will see a redesigned Toyota mini-van. Also on display will be economy cars such as the Ford Fiesta, the Chevrolet Cruze, and the Sienna minivan.

Dave Thomas, senior editor at auto website, proudly stated, “A Toyota Sienna minivan? That’s not the type of thing you would normally debut in the L.A. Auto Show. It’s certainly not a sexy car, but it’s a big deal for Toyota.”

The Los Angeles show will also feature the North American Cruze and the Fiesta compacts. These are two small fuel economy cars. Both of these cars will be priced at approximately $15,000. The American auto makers are hoping that these fuel economy cars will be popular here and people will resort to buying these cars rather than the popular Asian manufacturers.

It is expected by these auto makers that this auto show will be such a success, that those who prefer the lager cars will also be “gawking” at these newer type cars.

Nissan and its luxury brand, Infiniti, will not be shown at this auto show this year. These cars, instead, will be shown at the Beverly Hills Hotel which is on Sunset Boulevard in Beverly Hills. This was a surprise for some people because it is in the price range of the cars that will be shown at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

It is stated in the Los Angeles Times that this auto show will take up about 500,000 square feet of exhibit space at the convention center. This is down about 10% from last year’s exhibit.

How lucky can my family and I be? Because we live so close to the show, we plan on being there. A $15,000 dollar car is good news. I can perhaps sell my 1971 Dodge for a Fiasta Compact.

For those who may want to travel to Los Angeles for this event, the following information will be important to know:

The Los Angeles Show will take place on Friday, December 4 through Sunday,December the 13th. It will be at the Los Angeles Convention Center located at 1201 S. Figueroa St. The hours will be weekdays from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Saturdays; 9 a.m. to 10 to 10 p.m.; Sundays; 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Admission for adults is $12. There will be no admission charge for children 12 years of age and under. Senior citizens will be charged $8 on weekdays.

If anyone is interested in getting a discount, go to show’s website at

Source: Los Angeles Times

Tags:2009 Los Angeles Auto Show

2009 Major League Baseball All-Star Game in St. Louis: It Really Does Count

Major League Baseball celebrates its its All-Star Game, the 80th Midsummer Classic, Tuesday in St. Louis’ Busch Stadium. The American League comes into this year’s All-Star Game trailing the National League by only three games in overall wins, but are on a 13-year win streak. Can they make it 14 in a row? Does anybody really care who wins the All-Star Game?

Some, like Danny Knobler and Larry Dubrow of CBS Sports, contend that baseball’s All-Star Game has lost its pull, its tradition, its luster. They contend that this exists with both fans and players alike. They cite various reasons — free agency, lack of longevity for a given team, inter-league play, a lessening of League loyalty. Some of those reasons interrelate and are codependent.

And they’re right, for the most part. Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game has become less about league loyalty and pride and more about personal statistics and team statistics. It seems to be less intense with the passing decades.

But that does not mean it doesn’t really count. Especially to baseball fans.

Things began to blur for players and fans when free agency became a common option of ballplayers. They could simply go mercenary. Loyalty to a given team meant nothing if a much more lucrative contract could be signed elsewhere. Then came inter-league play, which blurred the lines of League delineation. Teams, although they belonged to the American League or National League for pennant race purposes, played teams in both leagues, making the distinction less meaningful. Before inter-league play, teams played in the National Leauge against National League teams, and likewise in the American League. Players at one time primarily remained in the league they started out in, even after being traded, many times beginning and finishing their career with the same time.

Fans are more likely now to support a variety of players on a variety of teams, supporting their favorite team overall. Games like the MLB All-Star Game simply became a way for their favorite baseball players got to shine along with the best in each league.

Less interest (because it “didn’t count”) led the League to give the All-Star Game a little more meaning. It was decided that the league which won the All-Star Game also won for their league’s team home field advantage in the upcoming World Series. Major League Baseball even came up with a catchy slogan: “This One Counts.”

But many find the imposition of the winner-takes-the-home-field-advantage in the World Series unfair to the team with the best winning record that makes it into the World Series (if their team happened to lose the All-Star game), the team that had traditionally won home field advantage.

But this writer, who has followed the game since he was 6 years old, simply enjoys the game. Sure, it seems to have lost that traditional pull-for-this or that league enthusiasm, but the pageantry is still there. And some of the ballplayers may not play the game with the intensity of players loyal to a team they’ve played for their entire career or to a league they’ve been involved in for all or most of their career. But they are competitors by their very nature. Apathy about winning is not in their nature. And they are the best of the best (most of the time — democratic voting sometimes pulls in the more popular over the player with the better statistics).

So let us just enjoy Major League Baseball’s 80th All-Star Game and not worry too much about the loss of league loyalty and the nearly complete loss of team loyalty. Because the All-Star Game was originated in 1933 as a spectacle, a one-off deal that caught on. It was meant as a crowd pleaser and, if one does not indulge in too much game analysis and pre-game hype (or lament the lost loyalty), it remains the same today.

And that is what counts the most.



Tags:2009 Major League Baseball All-Star Game in St. Louis: It Really Does Count

2009 IRS Standard Mileage Reimbursement Rates Released

On November 25, the IRS released the standard mileage reimbursement rates for 2009. Beginning January 1, 2009, the standard mileage reimbursement rate for business travelers will drop from 58.5 cents per mile down to 55 cents per mile. As I reported last summer, the IRS raised the standard mileage reimbursement rate 8 cents to help offset the high cost of gas. The 3.5 cent drop still would leave the rate higher than originally set for 2008.

IRS standard mileage reimbursement rate for 2009 for medical and moving expenses also lower

Business travelers are not the only ones affected by the drop in the IRS standard mileage reimbursement rate schedule released. According to the IRS site, the mileage reimbursement rate for Americans who seek reimbursement for medical and/or moving related expenses will drop 3 cents from 27 cents for the remainder of 2008 to just 24 cents for 2009. This information is useful for those who are eligible to enroll in a flexible spending account (FSA) as money is deducted pre-tax and set aside for future medical expenses, including mileage for some plans. Knowing this rate allows FSA participants to better determine how much money they should plan to set aside in the coming year. For many companies and the federal government, it is “open season” where employees must select a health insurance and/or dental insurance plan for the coming year. The release of the IRS’ standard mileage reimbursement rate for medical expenses is a helpful planning tool for deciding how much to have set aside in a FSA for 2009.

Charitable workers still left behind; the 2009 standard mileage reimbursement rate changes do not affect them

Those Americans who seek reimbursement for mileage related to charitable works are not affected by the new 2009 IRS standard mileage reimbursement rate schedule. Unfortunately, Congress is responsible for determining the rate of reimbursement for this group. The current mileage reimbursement rate for charity related travel is just 14 cents per mile, far below the reimbursement rate for business travelers.


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2009 Land Rover Range Rover Sport; On Road and Off Road Greatness

This classic British made athletic all-wheel drive SUV brings off road excellence to the overall on road experience. I found this sleeker, leaner model to be a luxurious breed of comfort, class, and heritage and if you love foreign cars, it is worth considering. I was impressed by the way, in which it handled like a sporty SUV.

Though originally an off road vehicle, the 2009 land Rover Range Rover Sport is built for the road, it has the capability to handle the rocky tough mountains of Kilimanjaro and the smooth roads of suburbia, a great feature, and coupled with the technology that can adjust the traction for different terrains it becomes a great buy. I particularly enjoyed the sporty feel on a traditional image of a land rover.

The Land Rover is available in the HSE model, which has 300hp, 4.4-liter v8 engine, and the super charged models at 390 hp, boasting a V8, 4.4-liter engine. Standard features include, leather trim, heated seats, power sunroof and bi xenon lights, tire pressure monitoring and great safety features


I love the fact that this car handles well on the road, it feels sporty and athletic
You will find the powerful supercharged v8 motor to be impressive
Talk about the best of both worlds, I was impressed driving down the interstate and being able to go off road without any adjustment in comfort


A poor fuel economy, a damper especially with high gas prices
The car is generally heavy in body weight.
I would give it a 4 ½ out of five.

Tags:2009 Land Rover Range Rover Sport; On Road and Off Road Greatness

2009 Macy's Flower Show in Herald Square, New York City

There are many reasons that female visitors to New York City are carried away with the romance of the experience; breakfast outside Tiffany’s, horse-drawn carriage rides through the park, romantic evenings at the top of the Empire State building; however perhaps nothing is more universal among the lovers of true beauty than flowers. Macy’s are no dummies and they have been able to capitalize on this for decades. Macy’s in Herald Square are presenting their 35th annual Flower Show this April 2009. From Sunday, April 5 through Sunday, April 19, 2009 the Macy’s flower show invites their guests to come and view their beautiful flowers, say goodbye to the haunts of winter, and “dream in color.”

The Macy’s Flower Show couples the ethereal beauty of fantasies brought to life; knights on white horses, feudal romance, a walk through the park with your sweetheart; with the literal beauty of flowers. There are so many flowers to be found at the Macy’s Flower Show that to describe it with words would not even begin to do the Macy’s Flower Show justice.

The Macy’s Flower Show takes place among the hallways and legendary storefront windows of Macy’s Herald Square. There will be colorful flowers and trees and dramatic garden settings all over the place at Macy’s on 34th St. Visitors are each invited to stand back and appreciate the natural beauty of the flowers on display at the Macy’s Flower Show.

Macy’s also sponsors a “unique bouquet of the day” with a number of America’s top floral designers coming in to offer their best arrangements. Touted as the “ultimate way to welcome back to spring” the Macy’s Flower Show is ongoing through the month of April and should not be missed. If you happen to be in the scourge of the Port Authority/Herald Square area of Manhattan, take a beat and appreciate the beauty of the Macy’s Flower Show.

If you’d like to find out more information about the Macy’s Flower Show and you happen to be in Herald Square you can go check out the visitor center on the 34th St. balcony of Macy’s Herald Square to learn more specific information about the Macy’s Flower Show. At the Macy’s Flower Show they are also holding seminars and having special events on a variety of subjects so that’s even more reason to come and check Macy’s out.

If you’re not going to be in New York City until closer to April and you want to find out more information, visit them online at their website While the flower show does run over this period of time, Macy’s will be closed on Easter Sunday, April 12.

Tags:2009 Macy’s Flower Show in Herald Square, New York City

2009 Memorial Day Ceremonies in Huntington Beach, California

Celebrate Memorial Day in Surf City USA during the two days of ceremonies to remember those who have given their lives for our nation. Become a part of Huntington Beach history and celebrate this national holiday with your local community during the Huntington Beach memorial ceremonial dedication. Show your support for the soldiers that served our country with pride and vigilance throughout the years and gave their lives for our freedom.

Monday, May 25th 2009:

Memorial Day Ceremony at Pier Plaza in Huntington Beach, CA

Location: 415 Pacific Coast Highway (Pacific Coast Highway at Main Street) Huntington Beach

Contact: Dennis Bauer 714-536-3855
The one hour long ceremony begins at 11 a.m. on Monday, May 25th 2009.

The tribute will be in honor of those from Huntington Beach who have lost their lives, the prisoner’s of war, and those whom are missing in action. The ceremony will include a main speaker, guest speakers, elected officials, a bagpipe performance, a rifle salute and performances by the Huntington Beach High School Band. Come out to Pier Plaza and take a seat on the cement and stone seating that over looks the beautiful Pacific Ocean and enjoy the one hour event that you won’t soon forget. There will be a great musical interlude and ceremony will be followed by a closing prayer.

There is no cost for the ceremony, so please come out be a part of the crowd and remember our fallen soldiers all while enjoying the beautiful sites of downtown Huntington Beach and Huntington Beach pier.

Tuesday, May 26th 2009:

Memorial Day Ceremony hosted by the American Legion, VFW and the Jewish War Veterans at Pier Plaza in Huntington Beach, CA

Location: 405 Pacific Coast Highway at Main Street in Huntington Beach, CA

Contact: 714-563-3855

Ceremony begins at 11 a.m. on May 26th 2009.

This special Tuesday ceremony features a 21 gun salute, flag raising and playing of taps. Local dignitaries will be in attendance and it is hosted by the local American Legion, VFW and the Jewish War Veterans. There is no fee for attendance of this ceremony so please come and bring the family along too.

Come out and support our troops and show your respect for the lives that have been lost. Be a part of the Pier Plaza Memorial Day Celebrations in Huntington Beach. Honor, remember and love those who have served our country willingly and faithfully throughout the years!


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2009 Kids Hottest Toy & Gift Guide

Leap Text ‘n Learn
Easily my first choice this year, the Text ‘n Learn has been nicknamed the “baby Blackberry.” This toddler tech toy provides an alternative to handing over your $400 smart phone to entertain a restless child. After one week of occasional use, our two-year-old tester learned to recognize five letters, and in two months of occasional use, he has learned all but two letters of the alphabet. But this is, after all, a child’s toy, so his favorite application is making the mascot puppy “Scout” dance around! Text ‘n Learn has three learning modes and six activities, including letters, games, and pretend browser mode. “Following Directions” is a game that teaches directions while helping Scout to find his way home. “Pretend Play” lets your child explore Scout’s calendar and play music in the browser. “The Alphabet” helps identify the names, sounds, and lower and uppercase forms of the ABC’s. Recommended for ages 3 and up, the Leap Text ‘n Learn is a steal at Target, Walmart and similar stores for under $20. Jam-packed with learning and fun for your little one, this is truly the value of the season!

Play ‘N Go Table
Mega Bloks has created another favorite with this convenient block table. The set includes decorative stickers and 22 blocks for hundreds of combinations. Unfold legs to set up for play. The four building base plates unlock for removal to access storage or to use for stacking and building. The plates also feature a track for using the included car. After hours of fun, the table easily folds up to go with your little one or stores nearly flat. For ages 1 and up, the Play ‘N Go Table from Mega Brands sells for about $40 at and Target.

Lifestyle Gourmet Cafe Kitchen
Step 2 offers a wide variety of kitchens for ages 2 and up. We assemble and test the LifeStyle Gourmet Cafe Kitchen, with a French Country decor and stainless steel-look appliances. Requiring two AA and two AAA batteries, not included, the one-person set-up takes a little time but is not overly complicated for the average parent. A few screws create a sturdy construction. We love the finished look of the window area with hooks for hanging cups and utensils. We suggest setting the unit perpendicular to the wall, so children can use this pass-through serving window as intended. The sill prevents the unit from sitting flush with the wall, but placing it nearly against the wall does not take up a lot of extra space. We enjoy the copper and brick-look stickers and the neutral tones that look great in both boy and girl rooms. The play kitchen features an extra deep sink and a swivel faucet. A prep sink and coffee pot warmer are nice touches. The burners work with the pans to create the sounds of a bubbling pot and a sizzling skillet. Coordinating blue silverware and dishes create a nice two-person place setting. A cordless phone, play food, and spice jars round out the feel of a “real” kitchen. At over 3 feet tall and almost 3 feet long, the kitchen has almost everything a little one would want, except maybe a microwave, the only complaint we have from tests. A great value when compared to other play kitchens, the LifeStyle Gourmet Cafe Kitchen rings up just under $100 at or BJ’s Wholesale.

Barbie 3-Story Dream Town House
At over 3 feet tall, this “cool pink house” takes about an hour for assembly by one of our preteen testers. The 55-piece set has a lighted hot tub, a working elevator, and a four-post bed. The toilet flushes with a “whoosh,” and the fireplace lights up for a cozy atmosphere. A ringing doorbell alerts Barbie that Skipper and Ken have arrived for her party, and the kitchen timer dings to remind her to take her included birthday cake from the oven. The flat-screen TV pops out of the fireplace, and the kitchen cabinets open to store the included play food and accessories. Mattel has even included a footbath to soak Barbie’s feet after a long day in those oh-so-high plastic heels! This mega-mansion has it all, except for a third chandelier. Our testers love this giant pink dream home and all its amenities but are quick to point out that the second included chandelier may be moveable between the second and third floors, but they would just prefer an extra fixture. Is a pampered princess never satisfied? Barbie’s Dream Townhouse is on the market for just under $150 at Walmart, Target, and

Design A Heavenly Equestrian Wardrobe
Design A Heavenly Equestrian Wardrobe kits from Fashion Angels allow girls to create over 100 flashy fashions for their two paper dolls and two paper horses. The kit includes fabric, paints, sequins, stickers, buttons, ribbons, beads and more to design Western and English riding gear. Girls from 8 and up who love horses can create hats, boots, saddles, and blankets for their riders and animals. An even better reason to purchase is that a portion of the proceeds from the sale of these design kits goes to the Wild Horse and Burro Program of the U. S. Department of the Interior. Just under $20 at Amazon, Growing Tree Toys, and other online sites, these kits pack a bunch of fun into every little box!

Mickey’s Magic Choo Choo
This season’s release of this magical train coincides with the premiere of the special episode Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Choo Choo Express. The “Choo Choo” song and Mickey’s voice is heard as you push the Mickey ears to get this bright locomotive to spring into action. Just as it does in the show, Mickey’s train travels around a track in “classic” mode or converts to the “magic” mode of running on just two pieces of track. In this alternative mode, the engine rolls over one piece, spits out another, then picks up the one in back again for an endless ride of fun. This train engine includes Mickey, one train car, two signs, and ten colorful pieces of track. Four AA batteries are required but not included. At $40, we see this toy to be an instant classic for ages 3 and up. To get on board, chug on over to stores like Kohl’s, Disney Store, and Toys R Us.

Smart Fit Park
The Smart Fit Park from Fisher Price is the preschool-sized answer to the Wii Fit. This simple plug and play device is so easy to set up on your TV with standard A/V plugs. Perfect for a cold or rainy day, this game gets your child running, jumping and learning on the special mat to interact in obstacle courses and other fun games while learning shapes, colors, and numbers with his personalized on-screen character. The spelling game seems to go beyond the suggested range of ages 3 to 6 but still appeals to our testers and excites parents with all of the benefits it offers. This energizing mat gets kids off the couch and exercising without even realizing it! The four required AA batteries are not included but are easily installed, and the cost of the system is under $50, a small price to pay to get your child moving along with this healthy and educational game.

The LIKEaBIKE is the perfect first bike for small children. Designed for ages 2 to 5, this wooden wonder has no pedals. The concept focuses on teaching balance and confidence in young riders. The LIKEaBIKE weighs less than 8 pounds, has a mostly wood construction, has no sharp edges, and features a felt in-fill between the frame and fork to prevent pinched fingers or the sharp, unpredictable turn of the handlebars that traditional bikes sometimes make. Assembly is fast as lightning. The handle bar attaches with two screws using the included Allen wrench. Voila! You are done! The seat is adjustable if needed, and the cotton seat cover may be removed for washing. Our littlest tester, age two, rides the LIKEaBIKE with ease and is not afraid of falling because there is no need to lift his feet off the ground unless he wishes to coast for a moment of carefree fun. We are amazed how fast he has learned to ride! As with all bikes, we recommend wearing a helmet and following other safe riding procedures, though you may use the LIKEaBIKE indoors for added safety and comfort. Go to to order your Mini from $265 to $329.

SpongeBob SquarePants Memory
This version of the old classic preschool matching game features the irrepressible personality of Nickelodeon’s SpongeBob SquarePants and his friends. Recommended for ages 3 and up, this easy to play game proves to be perfect for short attentions spans and sharpens memory and recognition skills. SpongeBob SquarePants Memory is available from Milton Bradley and Hasbro wherever board games are sold for under $9.

American Girl Bitty Twins and PJ’s
American Girl has always encouraged girls to find a friend just like them. The Bitty Baby and Bitty Twins versions are no different, available in skin, hair and eye colors to mirror your child’s image. Just like the full-size dolls, these pint-sized versions are supported by a line of matching clothing and accessories for girl and doll. This season offers new holiday pajamas like the Snowflake Tunic and Snowflake Tee PJ’s shown here. Each set also includes the “Bedtime Rhyme” book for reading to your Bitty Baby. Girls love these adorable outfits and enjoy dressing just like their little ones. Each set of pajamas and book costs just $24.

Iron Fairies Figurines and Books
Artist and author Ashley Sutton, a former iron miner in Australia, created the fairy tale behind the Iron Fairy figurines and the 3-volume Iron Fairy Diaries. The books contain hidden codes to use on for adventures to set free a captured fairy. Each Iron Fairy figurine is made of iron, of course, and comes in 25 varieties, including good and naughty fairies and four different miners. Each comes with a dash of fairy dust and a poem. The books are $20 per volume, and the fairies and miners are $35 each on the website and in bookstores.

Handy Manny Construction & Mickey MouseKadoer Laptops
From VTech, these preschooler laptops look quite similar in format at first glance. We quickly see when we put them into the hands of our little users that there is a big difference in preference indeed. Both have a cute “mouse,” one with a Mickey shoe and one with Manny’s tape measure named “Stretch.” Each mouse moves directionally and has a click button. Both also include an integrated carry handle. Both laptops offer a “repeat” button if a child misses hearing the question the first time. (Mickey’s even offers a “correct answer” button.) The similarities seem to work well for both laptops, but the differences work in Manny’s favor time and again.

The Mickey MouseKadoer Laptop features the voice of Mickey Mouse, familiar mouse ears and overall clubhouse theme. The laptop opens downward and has a slide latch at the top, which proved to be troublesome for the younger testers. High and low volume settings are available but both are still quite loud for small ears. The MouseKadoer offers 12 activities including music, letter, number, and other games. Mickey’s laptop offers auto shut-off to save power but usually does not give children time to answer a question before deciding to say “so long.” Users have fun playing with the Mickey computer but do not seem ready for some of the activity levels.

The Handy Manny Construction Laptop features the voice of Manny and a tool theme, including a screwdriver and a hammer, Philippe and Pat, recognizable from the TV show. These tools have their own storage area and are useable on the play screws and nails built into the laptop for the “fix-it” activity mode. The laptop is in a familiar red toolbox shape and opens upward, requiring no latch for carrying and therefore gave our testers no trouble when opening. The volume controls offer five levels and a mute setting to keep little ears from overexposure to loud noise. The Construction laptop offers at least ten games, including letter, number, matching, repair, and safety. The safety “do and don’t” game gets a thumbs-up from us! The addition of pictures on the keys also gets a gold star from parents of smaller kids. Manny’s laptop also automatically shuts off, but the wait time is long enough that it allows plenty of time to respond to a question before shutting down on its own. Manny also offers a Spanish/English basic word and phrase button and gives more attention to teaching hand/eye coordination using the tools.

Both of these claim durability, and we find basic construction to hold up well under regular preschooler use, though the painted characters on the outsides of both units wears off rather quickly, starting during removal from the box. The LCD screens on both units are a similar size and quite small, giving a bit of trouble for some kids to interpret what is happening in the picture for some games. Overall, we are greatly pleased with the Handy Manny Construction Laptop and recommend it much more highly than the MouseKadoer. For about $30 to $35 each, these are available at retailers such as Kmart, Target and Toys R Us.

Scrabble Slam
Our kid testers rate this card game to be much faster, simpler, and “way more fun” to play than the traditional tile game. Cleanup is quicker and storage is a non-issue with this simple deck of cards. The bold, easy to read deck of cards makes for full-speed-ahead fun. Scrabble Slam has already earned several kids’ and toy awards. Rated for ages 8 and up, this new twist on a classic is only $5 and available wherever Hasbro and Milton Bradley games are sold. The kid testers have the last word on this one: “awesome!”

Harumika fashion Design Kits
Made popular by Project Runway and America’s Next Top Model, fashion and design is hotter than ever. Harumika from Bandai presents a new way for girls to design clothing, using a fashion doll-sized dress form and exclusive fabric swatches. A special “Style Lock System” holds fashions in place without the need for cutting or sewing, allowing the materials to be used again and again. Available at Toys R Us and Target, Harumika design kits run from $6 to $40.

Project Runway Silk Screen Fashion Design Set
Fashion Angels has produced a Project Runway Silk Screen Fashion Design Set for silk-screening clothing and accessories. The easy-to-use set includes silk screen machine, 50 patterns, 10 silk screens, six fabric paints, over 25 stencils, and more. Kids add their own custom art to shirts, purses, scarves, and more to personalize their wardrobe, just like a real fashion designer. Designs are as endless as a child’s imagination, and refill kits are available to accomodate them. Recommended for ages 8 and up, Project Runway Silk Screen Fashion Design Sets are available at Target, Toys R Us, and similar stores for about $30.

Sing Scene Pop Singing Video Game
In the format of a microphone with simple plug and play A/V cables, this video game combines the enjoyment of performing karaoke with the privacy of your own home. Just plug it in; no other installation is required. Lyrics roll across the screen, and a vocal meter shows if you are off-pitch. One or two people can play. Requiring four AAA batteries, not included, this game seems to be aimed mostly at preteen girls and is recommended for ages 8 and up. The lyrics of the 20 included songs are rated “E for Everyone.” From Jakks Pacific, Sing Scene Pop runs about $30 at Target and Walmart and includes current hits from Fergie, Rihanna, Fall Out Boy and more.

Star Wars Motion Flight Game
This plug and play is another “out of the box” install, using only A/V cables and four AA batteries. Geared more toward boys this time, this Jakks Pacific video game has graphics that are much better than many plug and plays we have seen though still comparable to the Sega Genesis. This flight and battle simulator senses motion of the controller and offers an 8-foot range of cord. Somewhat sluggish in responding to controls, this Motion Flight Game still offers quite a value for an all-in-one system. Most video games require an expensive console plus the cost of individual game cartridges. For $30, we get the excitement of participating in five flight campaigns and multiple missions per level. Built-in training shows how to play and use the controls. Overall, testers were impressed with what you get for the money. Recommended for ages 5 and up, the Star Wars Motion Flight Game content is rated “E for Everyone ages 10 and up.”

UCreate Games & Artimation
UCreate brings your toys and imagination to life with a simple USB connection and your computer. Draw or trace objects on the drawing table to transfer them into the computer world. Add photos with the built-in camera and animate them with the UCreate system. Design your own games and personalize with the included sounds effects and templates. Visit the special website to get even more ideas and add-ons. Designing your own game and bringing it to life is one of the biggest hits of the season in our age 8 and up testing category. The unit comes with an installation CD, instructions, dry erase markers, interactive booklet. UCreate Games & Artimation is from Radica and Mattel and is available at Target under $70 and at Walmart under $60.

EA SimAnimals Africa
The new SimAnimals Africa from EA Games is available for Wii and Nintendo DS platforms. Users build a habitat with animals, plants, trees, and more. Storing away extra food in your backpack, you can feed a hungry lion to keep him away from your baby giraffe. Discover new animals and encourage them to breed. Shake a tree to release seeds for feeding the wildlife on the savannah or in the jungle areas. Plant new grass and trees, and water them by stirring up a raincloud. Just like other Sims games, SimsAnimals Africa can be personalized but must be maintained to protect your wild kingdom. Using the birds’ eye view or the animal ground view, petting and playing with the animals is important to winning the game. Collecting bugs and other rare items and feeding them to animals unlocks some special surprises. The DS game features more species than the Wii game and allows players to talk to the animals. SimAnimals Africa is rated E for Everyone and is available from Walmart, Sears, Best Buy, and more for $40 for the Wii game and at a better price for a more developed level of play, just $30 for the DS game.

EyeClops Mini Projector
One of the most exciting products of the season, this little wonder offers the ability to project movies onto the side of the house or play video games on the ceiling. We love the excitement of finding new ways to jumbo-size our fun, and this does the trick, up to 60 inches, launching a big-screen showing of whatever we choose! We can hook this to our MP3 players, DVD players, and digital cameras. Possibilities keep coming to us and we love every one. Routing our multimedia through this little projector truly supersizes the fun for our teen testers, though this device is highly recommended by us for anyone on your list who wants major excitement! The projector runs for about 5 hours on 4 D batteries, or the included AC adapter may be used. Roughly the size of a digital camera, the EyeClops Mini fits right in your hand or mounts onto its stand. The EyeClops Mini Projector from Jakks Pacific is just under $100 at Walmart, Target, and

Streetz City Pursuit
Streetz City Pursuit from Mega Brands contains 221 pieces to build a customized city to maneuver while performing 10 different stunts using the two included street rods. A helicopter with an LED search light and an ambulance are also a part of the set, for those “dangerous” high-speed chases. For ages 6 and up, this action building set requires two AA and one AAA battery. Find this and other Mega Brand toys at Toys R Us and Walmart. Streetz City Pursuit costs about $40.

American Girl Activity Books
A variety of craft and activity books are available from the American Girl team. Find our favorites, described below, at and in bookstores.

Our favorites include Spa Fun, which has tons of tips to help unwind, sections for skin, hair, nails, and yoga, right down to setting the mood and sensitivity skin testing. Party and sleepover ideas are included. For under $9, this is a wonderful choice for girls age 8 and up.

Funky Felt Crafts and Button Crafts are two titles worth checking out for those who like creating handmade items and are both available for under $10. Funky Felt Crafts has dozens of craft and gift ideas. Forms and patterns are included. Button Crafts shares new ways to dress up clothing and accessories, create jewelry, decorate a room, and personalize gifts, all by using buttons.

A Smart Girl’s Guide to the Internet is a great way to let your child know how to navigate cyberspace without lecturing or nagging. Some of the topics covered are privacy, safety, a parent’s role in computer use, emoticons, net lingo, how to handle instant messaging and chat rooms, cyber bullies, social networking, blogs, and sharing media. Using the net to keep in touch with family, help with homework, and help others is also addressed. A site log is included to keep track of favorite websites. For ages 10 and up, this book is priced under $10.

Our favorite title from American Girl is Earth Smart Crafts, recommended for ages 8 and up for under $10. All of the projects make good use of items that would otherwise be thrown away. Suggestions include making beads from paper, pouches from melted plastic shopping bags, and hair accessories, totes, and book covers from other rescued items. Patterns and instructions are included. Fun and educational, this book teaches social responsibility with a new perspective.

Klutz Activity Books
Chicken Socks’ Super Simple Sewing and Clothespin Cars are the best activity books we have seen for kids ages 4 and up. Sewing offers instructions for four projects, including a purse and a bracelet, and everything needed is packaged with the book. No scissors are necessary, and a safety needle is provided. All supplies and instructions to make three cars, including decals and a paper city, come with Clothespin, as well. These titles are perfect for preschoolers and are priced at $12.95 each.

Boom, Splat, Kablooey – Explosive Science That’s a Real Blast is full of messy, loud, and crazy hands-on experiments that actually teach lessons in science and dozens of cool facts. The experiments have full instructions and use common items or the parts provided in the package. For ages 8 and up, this educational and entertaining book is under $20.

Paper Fashions Fantasy is not a truly practical or educational book. But really, who cares? It is all about fashion! Even the adults love this one. Filled with inspiring quotes from famous people, this book includes stencils, patterns, colored paper, embellishments, and tiny hangers for creating a fabulous paper wardrobe. The book suggests styles and designs ranging from fairies, witches, and mermaids and contains all you need to be the greatest paper doll fashion designer ever for just about $20!

Find our favorites we have featured here and other Klutz titles at retailers such as Kmart, Target, Amazon, and

Stocking Stuffers

Kooky Klicker Pens
In a variety of popular licensed characters such as Mickey Mouse, Tinkerbell, Star Wars, and SpongeBob SquarePants, as well as MLB and NHL team logos, these Kooky Klicker clip-on pens are as practical as they are whimsical. Collectors can get sets with stands, or individual pens may be purchased for $3.49 in stores everywhere.

Skelanimals Stuffed Toys and Collectible Figures
Usually dead animals would not be the most appealing item to put on a gift list, but as the subtitle of the book Skelanimals by Mitchell Bernal reads, “Dead animals need love, too.” In the case of these cute little critters, we will oblige. Described as “cute, dark, and cuddly,” the characters feature silly skeleton and heart designs on both the plush and vinyl figurines. Usually relegated to the Halloween season or found in alternative stores such as Hot Topic, the “Adorable Dead” go mainstream this season. Packed two in a tube, the vinyl creatures are perfect for stuffing a stocking, and the $8 price tag is perfect for not emptying your wallet. Recommended for ages 5 and up, Skelanimal characters range from Dax the Dog and ChungKee the Panda to Marcy the Monkey and Kit the Cat. The small collectible plush toys cost about $6 each and include a fifth option, Jack the Rabbit. Look for these toys and the book on and in mass retailers.

Hello Kitty Designer Collectible Figurines
Available in 2-packs, these adorable and trendy renderings of the cute and classic kitty run about $8. Packaged in mini tubes, these Hello Kitty Designer Collectibles fit right into a stocking and slide right out to surprise and delight those on your “nice” list. About four assortments are currently available. Find them at stores everywhere.

Smart Animals Eco-Systems
These miniature wild animal habitats from Discovery Kids are collectible and connectible. Each one contains an animal such as a lion or shark, info on the species, and appropriate accessories. For ages 3 and up, these tiny habitats cost about $5 each.

You might want to reconsider…

SuperWhy Touch and Learn Super Duper Computer
At first glance, this little laptop is as attractive as the bold colored characters in the PBS series SuperWhy. The box promises many educational activities, and with this much learning potential hidden inside, we want to love it. Unfortunately, the testers have trouble getting the attached pen to communicate with the touchscreen and understanding the games and activities. The games are cute and educational but seem to work better with our school-age child testers. The unit is easy to open and to power up but just doesn’t appeal on an interactive level to the lower range of the recommended age group of 3 and up, even on the easiest setting. Super Duper Computer is selling at and Toys R Us for nearly $40, so make sure your little one is up to the challenge before investing, or we recommend holding off until they reach Kindergarten.

WowWee Alive Husky Pup
Activated by squeezing his ear or petting his back, he blinks, howls, whimpers, growls, and barks. This little pup is cuddly yet fierce. The age recommendation is 3 and up, due to the small batteries. Otherwise, this guy is appropriate for any age. WowWee Alive also offers three other species: Koala Joey, Seal Pup, and Leopard Cub. While we appreciate the realistic sounds, we are a bit disappointed that the only movements are facial. We also find that there is little interaction between “pet” and owner, so the $60 price tag is a little steep for us. If this pup still looks too cute to resist, find him at retailers everywhere, including Walmart and Toys R Us.

Daisy Greenway Interactive Camper
Learning Curve and Caring Corners present the new Daisy Greenway Interactive Camper as a way to teach children about living green and being a responsible part of the community. We love the presence of an onboard recycling bin and the songs and sounds of nature, but we think the construction is a bit flimsy for toddler use. The younger testers have trouble closing the camper without pinching little fingers or popping the door off the hinges. They struggle to open some of the cabinets and doors without help. Folding out the side of the bus results in a play surface that tips easily, interrupting playtime and requiring more set-up. The camper is certainly not on our list for the younger end of the ages 3 and up group that the manufacturer recommends but seems okay for school-age children who can be a bit more careful. For the suggested $35 retail price, we would expect a toy that teaches about the environment to be sturdier and not seemingly disposable!

Tags:2009 Kids Hottest Toy & Gift Guide

2009 Lowell Summer Music Series at Boarding House Park

2009 is the 20th season of the Lowell Concert Series. Beginning June 27, 2009 there are concerts every weekend except July 24 to July 26 (the weekend of the Lowell Folk Festival) through September 18. All concerts, except the Banjo and Fiddle Contest on September 12, begin at 7:30.

Performances are held at Boarding House Park, 40 French Street, Lowell, Massachusetts. Boarding House Park is an outdoor venue with wide terraced steps. Bring a blanket or lawn chair to sit on. Insect repellent is strongly recommended. Consider coming early and having a picnic supper.

In case of rain shows will be relocated to the Cyrus Irish Auditorium at Lowell High School or to the Lowell Memorial Auditorium at 50 East Merrimack Street.

These shows are provided at a reasonable price considering they feature A-list performers. Individual donors and local sponsors contribute to the series

Tickets bought in advance range from $16 to $35 (from $20 to $40 on the day of the show). More than half of the concerts this year are less than $20. Children under 12 are admitted free. You can purchase tickets in advance (with no ticket fees) at the Visitor Center, 246 Market St., Lowell, (9 am to 5 pm) and at the Boott Cotton Mills Museum, 115 John St., Lowell (9:30 am to 5 pm).

Performances reflect a variety of musical genres. Types of music represented include folk, rock, Latin, Irish and country music.

Lowell Summer Music Series at Boarding House Park

All shows, except where noted, begin at 7:30 p.m.
Children 12 are admitted free

Saturday, June 27
Los Lobos $21 in advance $25 day of show

Friday, July 10
Los Lonely Boys $26 in advance $30 day of show

Saturday, July 11
Ani DiFranco $27 in advance $35 day of show

Friday, July 17
Michael Franti & Spearhead $35 in advance $40 day of show

Saturday, July 18
Aimee Mann $29 in advance $35 day of show

Thursday, July 30
Joan Baez $35 in advance $40 day of show

Friday, July 31
Blues Traveler $26 in advance $30 day of show

Saturday, August 1
Melissa Ferrick & Catie Curtis $16 in advance $20 day of show

Friday, August 7
Dar Williams $18 in advance $25 day of show

Saturday, August 8
Derek Trucks Band $27 in advance $35 day of show

Friday, August 14
The Wallflowers $26 in advance $30 day of show

Saturday, August 15
Entrain $16 in advance $20 day of show

Friday, August 21
Eileen Ivers & Immigrant Soul $16 in advance $20 day of show

Saturday, August 22
Livingston Taylor $16 in advance $20 day of show

Friday, August 28
Terrance Simien & the Zydeco Experience $16 in advance $20 day of show

Saturday, August 29
Ronnie Earl & the Broadcasters $16 in advance $20 day of show

Saturday, Sept. 5
Tom Rush $16 in advance $20 day of show

Saturday, Sept 12
30th Annual Banjo &Fiddle Contest 6:00 pm, Free Admission

Friday, Sept. 18
Gaelic Storm $16 in advance $20 day of show

For more information call 978-970-5200 or visit

Tags:2009 Lowell Summer Music Series at Boarding House Park

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