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{Giveaway} Four-pack of Tickets to BrickFair ’13 for LEGO Fans

Last year's BrickFair exhibits included a working train.

Last year’s BrickFair exhibits included a working train.

Chances are you have one or more LEGO fans in your household. They may be kids or  AFOLs (adult fans of LEGO) or both. Imagine the looks on their faces as they check out 100,000 square feet of LEGO models, displays and winding trains at the Dulles Expo Center at BrickFair ’13 in Chantilly, VA! Even better, you can enter my giveaway to win a four-pack of tickets (see rules at the end of this post)!

Skyscrapers, mega-contraptions and other large displays demonstrated the level of creativity of LEGO fans of all at last year's BrickFair.

Skyscrapers, mega-contraptions and other large displays demonstrated the level of creativity of LEGO fans of all at last year’s BrickFair.

The fan festival expects to have more than a thousand exhibitors with LEGO creations of all sizes as well as vendors with items such as minifigures, custom-molded weapons, and unique models. If your kids are like mine, all this LEGO-stimulation will leave them eager to get their hands on a few blocks of their own, so fortunately there’s a Stay ‘N Play area filled with bricks where they can unleash their creativity! The first 3,000 people through the doors on each day will each receive a free BrickForge custom molded minifig utensil.

BrickFair ’13

August 3 -4, 2012
11 am – 4 pm
Dulles Expo Center
4230 Chantilly Center
Chantilly, VA 20153
Admission: 3 and under – FREE. Everyone else $12 at door or skip the long line and buy online (which I highly recommend!)
No strollers please

You pay $12 at the door, buy online (limited quantities available), but why not try for a four-pack of tickets right here?

Caffeineandaprayer.com’s BrickFair ’13 Ticket Giveaway Rules:

  • These tickets are good for one day only, at BrickFair ’13 in Chantilly, VA August 3 or 4 from 11 am to 4 pm. In fairness to others, please enter only if you actually plan on using the tickets. They have a total value of $48.
  • US entrants only, please.
  • Entrants must be 18 years or older.
  • Tickets will be physically mailed or delivered to you, so if you are the winner, you will need to be willing to provide me a mailing address (no P.O. Boxes) within 24 hours of being announced as the winner.
  • To enter: Please comment on THIS blog post with a comment that includes the phrase “BrickFair.” For example, you can say, “My kids have 6 billion LEGOS and we would LOVE to go to the BrickFair!” or “I am married to an AFOL and would love to surprise my spouse with BrickFair tix” or “Wow, JavaMom, you are the coolest blogger in the world for bringing us this opportunity for BrickFair tickets…” (no, really, complimenting me has no bearing on who wins, I promise!) If you do not have the phrase “BrickFair” in your comment, you are immediately disqualified!
  • You can earn EXTRA entries by tweeting about this giveaway as long as you meet the following conditions:
    1. Include a link to this post (Shortlink: http://caffeineandaprayer.com/?p=3869)
    2. Either include @brickfair or #brickfair
    3. Include @caffandaprayer
    4. Comment here with a link to your tweet and include “BrickFair” (i.e. “I tweeted about BrickFair and here is my link: _____)
  • In all your entries, you must include a valid email address so I may contact you if you are the winner.
  • I must be able to reach you via that email address within 24 hours of the end of the giveaway so I can notify you that you are the winner and get your snail mail address (no P.O. Boxes) and mail  or deliver your tickets. If I am not able to reach you, I will move on to the next person. I am not responsible for emails that land in your spam or junk mail or are otherwise blocked by your system.
  • Winners will be selected at random from all qualified entrants.
  • Giveaway ends midnight, Eastern time, Wednesday, July 31, 2013.
  • Have fun and good luck!

Hooray! We have a winner! She has been contacted and has responded! Congratulations STIMEY! Thank  you to ALL who participated.

Tired of stepping on lots of little LEGO pieces at home? You might enjoy my previous blog post about LEGO organization.

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Disclosure: BrickFair provided four tickets for the giveaway and a set of complimentary tickets for my family. All photos are provided by the BrickFair convention. LEGO is a trademark of the LEGO Group.

{Review} The Lone Ranger: Quirky, Inconsistent, but Fun

Image courtesy of Disney Jerry Bruckheimer Films

Image courtesy of Disney Jerry Bruckheimer Films

The Lone Ranger (Rated PG-13) opens today, but I was invited to a complimentary sneak preview last week for review purposes. My kids, having seen the commercials, wisely opted out, thinking it would be too scary (they were right), so it became a date night for JavaDad and I.

The Disney/Jerry Bruckheimer Films’ version of The Lone Ranger is produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and directed by Gore Verbinski, the same team behind the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, which will give you some hints as to the flavor of this movie, especially with Johnny Depp playing Tonto.

The movie is a retelling of the classic tale of how the Lone Ranger came to be, as seen through Tonto’s eyes. One might even go so far as to call it a reinterpretation. Audience members who have knowledge of the original TV show or comic books will be in on some of the jokes, but after that, it is best to leave any preconceived notions about the story and the characters behind and just enjoy the ride.

Johnny Depp does what Johnny Depp does in terms of character development. He is pure over the top. His makeup can be distracting, but as we learn later in the movie, it is symbolic, and in the credits, I learned it was inspired by the Kirby Sattler painting “I Am Crow.”  You will either love or hate Depp. I usually am not a Depp fan, but I decided to just “go with it” and actually enjoyed him in this role.

Armie Hammer has a long distance to go from the dedicated lawman John Reid to the Lone Ranger. He overcomes an awkward script and remains a likeable hero throughout.

As long as you set aside memories of previous Lone Ranger shows, this movie can be quite enjoyable. It is quirky and humorous. However, it is long and yet suffers from continuity issues that are either due to script issues, editing, or both. There are sudden leaps that have the audience wondering, “Wait, did I miss something?” Yet some scenes seem unnecessarily long in order to hit us on the head with some symbolism or milk all the jokes possible.

Is this a movie for kids? Not for MY kids, that is for sure. Take that PG-13 rating seriously. In addition to the expected fight scenes, there are several gory references to cannibalism, there is a scene in a whorehouse (I would not want to have to explain what “professional ladies” means to my kids), and there are many discussions about wiping out tribes of Indians. The cinematography is beautiful in every scene, which makes everything incredibly vivid and therefore could be that much more frightening to children. There are a lot of action scenes that include guns, arrows and hand-to-hand combat, as well as some train accidents and explosions.

A quick mention to collectors of antique glass like myself — keep an eye open for scenes inside the dining cars — you are in for a treat!

Overall I would say that The Lone Ranger suffers from some issues, but if you are game for a quirky movie that will make you laugh, it is worth seeing.

I’m including some trailers to help you decide for yourself.

 

Review: Monsters University 3D Delivers Depth and Entertainment

MU_FBProfile_180x180_12 MU_FBProfile_180x180_2Disney’s Monsters University has certainly been going through the hype machine. Could a movie possibly live up to so much build-up? Wednesday night my daughter (7) and I attended a complimentary sneak preview of Monsters University 3D (rated G) in Tysons Corner and found that indeed, it could.

Let me start with the 3D aspect of the movie. I often avoid 3D movies because I hate wearing the glasses and usually find the 3D to be gimmicky. The glasses were lightweight and easily fit over my own prescription glasses and I quickly forgot I was wearing them. The use of 3D was seamlessly integrated throughout the movie (yes, of course there were times when it was used to make something jump out at us), so it felt organic rather than gratuitous.

I’m not an expert movie reviewer, but having worked for a 3D graphics chip manufacturer, I  know some of the things to look for in 3D animation, and I’ll point out that water, lighting, and making anything round are some of the toughest things to do. One scene I found particularly striking is when you see a lake in the background when Mike and Sully are talking. The water on the lake looks as realistic as if it had been shot on film. There are several times throughout the movie when the geek in me was stunned by just how amazing the animation was — look for things like how well the light reflects off Mike’s round head and the individual hairs of Sully’s fur as he moves. Beware, however, that it is for this very reason that some of the scarier moments in the movie may be more intense for your children than similar scenes were in the original Monsters Inc. JavaGirl has watched the original movie several times, but had to cover her eyes during the “scaring” scenes and later told me it’s because the kids looked “so real” that she was worried for them.

As for the story, this movie is a prequel. It tells the story of Mike and Sully before they became scarers. Who knew one had to get a degree in scaring? We get further insight into what drew these two into their career choice to begin with and how they became a team. Hint: They didn’t start out that way. We finally find out why Randall is so nasty to the duo. The story covers many themes including overcoming adversity, being kind, why cheating doesn’t pay, working hard to reach one’s goals, and teamwork. The plot flows well and introduces new characters, some loveable, some quite fearsome. Central to the story is the Scare Games, which pits members of different fraternities and sororities against each other in various scenarios they may face as future scarers.

As long as you are sensitive to your child’s fear-level, I would recommend this as a family movie. JavaGirl was able to close her eyes for the parts she didn’t like and still enjoy the movie. (You can preview trailers and see images of characters at this site.) As an adult, I felt entertained, not impatiently tapping my foot until it ended like I have in other movies for kids. If you have the choice between regular and 3D, I would opt for 3D. After watching the movie, your family may enjoy visiting Disney’s Monsters University web site.

One additional note, there was a 3D animated short before the movie called The Blue Umbrella that was absolutely delightful, and again, a wonderful use of 3D animation. Be sure to make it on time to see it!

Monsters University opens in U.S. theaters June 21, 2013 and will be shown in Disney Digital 3D (TM) in select theaters.

Images of Sully and Mike provided by Disney’s Monsters University web site.

Back Online and DoMorefor24 Giving Campaign

DoMore24After cleaning up from the hack attack and really ensuring things were scrubbed down, I took a bit of a digital break from everything — blogging, Facebook, etc. But nothing is more wonderful to come back online for like a community-giving campaign, so I’m pleased to jump online to be a part of the United Way of the Nation Capital Area’s DoMorefor24 community giving campaign.

Here’s the idea, as a community, we can pitch in and “Give Where We Live.” One 24-hour blitz of community giving to organizations who make a difference right here. I love it! When I was asked if I’d like to help by hosting a donation site, that part was a no-brainer.

The United Way of the Nation’s Capital Area  has offered to match dollar-for-dollar the first $500 we raise together through this special Caffeine and a Prayer link between now and the end of June 6. There are hundreds of non-profits involved, including at least three that I personally volunteer for, and I was starting to feel a bit torn — was I diluting efforts by not throwing my promotional efforts behind just one? The United Way graciously is allowing funds donated via this site to go to the 501(c)3 non-profit women’s volunteer organization of the Junior League of Northern Virginia (JLNV), of which I am a member and past president. This means the proceeds will be used toward their mission, and since JLNV members volunteer with Shelter House and the Children’s Science Center, two other organizations participating in the campaign, I felt like this was the best way for me to stretch contribution dollars — as it is a way to give “hands and dollar.” I love the JLNV because they train women to be skilled volunteers and leaders in our community, help other non-profits, and have more than 50 years of proven experience in Northern Virginia of pinpointing the needs of our citizens and then finding the resources and solutions to address those needs.

How can you participate in the campaign?

 

 

 

 

Nintendo Wii U Extends Social Experience, Family Fun #WiiU

Nintendo Wii U GamePad and Wii Motion remotes

Despite JavaDad’s protests, I began lobbying for a family gaming system four years ago when JavaBoy entered Kindergarten. I could see that video games would eventually be one of the factors in our kids’ social lives as to who wanted to play at whose house. By having a gaming system in place, I wanted us to become familiar enough with the games to know what our kids would be playing elsewhere, and of course I hoped we would become what used to be called “the Kool-Aid house,” a place where the neighborhood kids wanted to come play.

After much thought and consideration, we bought a Nintendo Wii console.. It seemed the most family-friendly of the choices, had what was then considered an innovative interactive form of controller, and it was a system I truly saw us playing with together. And I was right — my husband’s 40th birthday was a Wii Party!

Back then, I had no affiliation with Nintendo. Today,  I am a Nintendo Social Media Ambassador, which simply means their PR company sends me products from time to time to try out and while they hope I’ll talk about it, I’m not required to. If you are a long-time reader, you know my opinions are always my own.

Which is how I happened to have about 30 friends* and two very nice (and yes, I’ll say it, quite adorable) representatives from Nintendo’s PR team in my house last week, trying out the Wii U. It sounded fun. It was also great motivation for getting the whole family to pitch in and straighten up the house. Win-win, right?

Why would I worry, right? (Yes, this is the “give me your tiger/crazy face” shot.)

Shortly before the party, I became slightly panicky at the thought of 30 people in my house playing a game with five remotes. Especially since about half of those people were under the age of 10.  So in addition to the Wii U set-up that Nintendo provided, I managed to bring in another one and set up a “kids room” in one room and an “adults room” in the other.  Just wanted to bring that up so you didn’t get the crazy idea I normally keep a Wii U in my formal living room. Or a large gaggle of children.

This is merely half-a-gaggle of children.

In a nutshell, everything I liked about my original Wii — family-friendly, interactive, promotes movement rather than being a couch potato while playing — still exists in the Wii U.  However, enhanced features such as TVii, streaming video and Wii U Chat, both reduces the remote control clutter and extends the entertainment functionality of our family room.

What’s Different

Playing with the Wii U GamePad in Nintendo Land's Mario Chase.

My friend S. is very focused on the Wii U GamePad during a round of Nintendo Land’s Mario Chase!

The GamePad is the most obvious change between the original Wii and the Wii U, but more than just a fancy new remote, it radically alters the way games are played. In addition to allowing you to have a fifth player in many games, it is a touch screen with a camera, and allows you to participate in the game in a different way from the other 1-4 players holding regular remotes. For example, you may be the only one who can see the entire layout of a course — in Mario Chase (Nintendo Land), the player with the GamePad is Mario and runs a maze to escape the Toads. Only Mario can see the entire maze and everyone’s position. The perspectives of the Toads are divided onto the TV screen. There is an option that allows the Toads to watch live video of the face of the person holding the GamePad either for fun or to see if that gives away any clues as to Mario’s location (i.e. shifting eyes).

On the TV screen you can see the perspective of the remote-holders in Mario Chase.

Outside of gameplay, the GamePad can become an interactive TV remote with Nintendo TVii;  provide access to video on demand services such as Amazon Instant video, Hulu Plus and Netflix (service subscription required); and bring YouTube and the rest of the Internet to your TV.

Wii U Chat allows you to video chat via the camera and microphone on the GamePad with another Wii U user. My kids enjoyed interacting with their cousins this way (the video can appear on both the GamePad and the TV) not only because of the video chat, but the added feature of being able to “scribble” on each other with the stylus. You must be approved “friends” in order to chat, and like most Nintendo products, there are ways to lock this down, so I feel pretty confident about giving my own kids access to this. They can’t add a friend without my intervention.

We haven’t explored everything in the Miiverse, but again, we have been able to keep the parental controls pretty tight, so we are comfortable with this interactive/social portion of the Wii U.

The Wii U console typically does not come with remotes other than the GamePad. If you had a previous Wii, although your old remotes will work, if you hadn’t already upgraded to the Wii Motion or Motion Plus remotes, I highly recommend doing so as some of the new games take advantage of the vibrations and other features of the Motion remotes.

Your regular Wii games will still work on this console, but the Wii U games will take advantage of the added dimension of the GamePad. It is difficult (for me, at least) to explain how much this allows the game developers to enhance the creativity and interactivity of a game — you really need to play it to grasp it.

The Games We Played

Nintendo Land appeals to me because it has a variety of games that use different types of skills. At the opening you walk into a virtual theme park with attractions based on different Nintendo worlds. My favorite is Luigi’s Ghost Mansion where the person holding the GamePad is the Ghost and can see all the other players in a haunted house and tries to scare them to death. Meanwhile, they have flashlights and try to shine it on the ghost. They work as a team, knowing the ghost is nearby if their (Wii Motion) remote vibrates, and try to zero in on its location. There are so many games on this disc, we haven’t played every level of every game — but it is a quick way to entertain any group of people (no matter what age or skill level).

Luigi’s Haunted Mansion in Nintendo Land is my favorite game. I am partial to playing the role of the ghost!

In Super Mario Bros. U, the whole gang is here, including your Mii characters! With new worlds and new power-ups, the changes aren’t merely in the scenery the GamePad player can help by adding bricks to block the bad guys or help the team get a lift.

I love how K. goes from "game face"...

I love how K. goes from “game face”…

... to laughter in a split second!

… to laughter in a split second!

SiNG Party was clearly the hit of the evening with the adults, but the kids loved it too. Unlike traditional karaoke where all eyes are on the singer, this party game has prompts for the dancers (that’s the rest of the crowd!) so everyone can get in on the fun. One or two special Wii U microphones can be plugged into the console.

The Results

Pure hilarity!

Can you guess which song we we were singing and dancing to here?

My friend J. wowed the crowd by crooning a classic Monkees song.

Oh sure, the kids are dancing, but notice who is REALLY into it. Yep… the adults!

I didn’t personally get much time to play during the party as I was running around taking photos and cheering like a maniac and making sure, for example, that children didn’t get chocolate cake on the white sofas. I had no worries that the kids would enjoy themselves — they figured things out quickly, mobbed the screen and yelled out instructions to each other. But the adults! Oh my! I loved watching them transform from cautious, polite parents (“Oh no, it’s okay, you can take the GamePad first…”) to singing and dancing rock stars. The laughter as they teamed up for games reminded me we are all kids at heart. Which is why I’m going to make a point to invite families over (not just kids) to play more often.

Resources

The Wii U game console is available in different configurations and bundles ranging from about $299 – $350 from a variety of big box stores/retailers/e-tailers. For more information and/or purchase, you may be interested in the official Nintendo Wii U site at http://www.nintendo.com/wiiu. If you are having trouble finding it locally, you may be interested in using my Amazon Associates affiliate link, which will allow you to support Caffeine and a Prayer at no additional cost to you.

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Wii U is a trademark of Nintendo. KOOL-AID is a trademark of Kraft Foods Groups LLC.

*If we know each other IRL and you weren’t invited, it doesn’t mean you aren’t my friend. It’s because I don’t have a house large enough to invite everyone I wanted to. Ping me if you want to come play!