Parents’ Guide To Buying Skylanders for your Kids

SKYLANDERS GIANTS LOGO

What is Skylanders?

Skylanders is a video game with a twist. The game requires you to place collectible figures on a “Portal of Power” in order to use those characters in the game. The starter pack gives you a few characters to start with, but you need to buy the rest. This is either an evil gimmick or marketing genius, depending on your point-of-view. Regardless, the game is a lot of fun. You can play one or two player and the game is fine for little kids. I play with my three year old. He actually likes playing with the figures more than playing the video game.

Are the Skylanders games popular?

Yes! It was the number one console game during the period of January-September 2012, based on revenues earned from the game and figures. It’s currently one of the hottest kids franchises in the world.

What systems can the Skylanders games be played on?

You can buy versions of the games for Wii, Wii U, PS3, Xbox 360, and the 3DS. Make sure you buy the right version! Note that the 3DS versions are very different than the others.

Which game should I buy?

There are two Skylanders games. Skylanders Spyro’s Adventure came out in October 2011 and Skylanders: Giants was released in October 2012. You can start with either game, but the new figures from Skylanders: Giants won’t work in Skylanders Spyro’s Adventure (with the exception of reposed (series 2) versions of the original characters). However, all figures, including the series 1 figures, will work in Skylanders: Giants.

We already own Skylanders Spyro’s Adventure. Which version of the Skylanders: Giants game should I buy?Skylanders Giants Wii StarterPack

While the Starter Pack is more expensive, there are two benefits to spending the extra money. First, you get two extra figures. And second, you get an extra portal, in case one breaks. But even better is that the new portal connects to your game system with a wire instead of using batteries that need to be replaced frequently. (The original Xbox portal was already wired, so this is no big deal if you play the Xbox version.)

Which characters should I buy?

You don’t NEED to buy more figures, but if your kids like the game, they’re going to want more characters to play with. If you’re going to buy a bunch of figures, consider that the game has special areas restricted to certain character types. So buying one of each type could make sense. The eight types are: Magic, Water, Tech, Fire, Earth, Life, Air and Undead. (Remember that the starter pack comes with three figures, so you won’t need to buy eight more to have all eight types.)

Will the Series 1 figures from Skylanders Spyro’s Adventure work in Skylanders: Giants?

Yes, they’ll work and they’ll get the boost in the level cap from 10 to 15. However, they won’t have the new “Wow Pow” upgrade power and won’t be abe to choose more than one upgrade path.

How many different figures are there?

Skylanders Spyro’s Adventure featured 32 different figures (33 if you count Dark Spyro, which comes with the 3DS version). Skylanders: Giants adds 49 more figures: 8 Giants, 8 brand new regular-sized Skylanders, 8 LightCore Skylanders (which light up while on the portal), 24 reposed versions of characters from Spyro’s Adventure, plus Punch Pop Fizz, a red version of Pop Fizz exclusive to the 3DS version.

Wait, what about the Legendary figures and the color variations?

Yes, it’s true. There are even more figures than those mentioned above. The “Legendary” versions of characters are exclusive to Toys R Us and are painted differently and have slightly better stats in the game. There are also color variations of many characters such as red, blue, clear, glow-in-the-dark, etc. (Although the characters don’t have these colors in the game itself.) Unless you’re a serious collector with a lot of money, you don’t have to worry about the color variations.

How much do the figures cost?

Regular-sized Skylanders cost about $10 (some older figures can be found for as low as $5), Giants are about $15, and the LightCore Skylanders are about $12.

 

Win a Skylander Castle Case and a Rare Wham-Shell Figure (Ends 11/30)

To help promote our spiffy new Skylanders voting category, we’re running a giveaway where you can win a Skylanders Giants Castle storage case and the hard-to-find Skylanders figure Wham-Shell!

You really have to love the Skylanders’ names. Some of them are pretty straight-forward, like ol’ Wham-Shell here. He’s got a big armored shell on his body, and he carries a huge mace to WHAM you with. We’d totally love the job of coming up with names for Skylander characters. Whadda ya think of Face-Punch, Loose-Pants, or ReallyNeeds-A-Shave?

Anyways, to enter our Skylanders Giveaway you just need to be logged into Facebook and have the JoeVote Facebook app installed. Then just go to the Skylanders Giveaway page and click the ENTER button to get started. It’s that simple.

Once you’ve entered, you’ll be shown a number of options for additional entries including voting on your favorite Skylander characters, sharing on Facebook and Twitter and more.

Giveaway ends 11/30/2012 11:59pm ET

Enter Skylanders Giveaway

Fall Shoe Trend: Studs and Spikes

This fall, studs and spikes are appearing on just about every piece of women’s fashion – jackets,  denim, handbags, jewelry, and of course, shoes! From comfy flats to leather moto boots, the adornments are showing up on every style of shoe. In shades of silver, gold, and brass, the embellishments are certainly making a statement, adding an edgy element to your fall footwear.

We picked out 7 of our favorite shoes that show off this hot fall trend. Which one would you rock? Take a look, then cast your vote in the poll below!

 

Sam Edelman Jolie Studded Flats ($150, Piperlime)

Zara Studded Court Pumps ($79.90, Zara)

Steve Madden KStudd Flats ($49.95, Zappos)

Jeffrey Campbell Spike Lace-Up Bootie ($194.95, Nordstrom)

Ash Nevada Studded Bootie ($295, ShopBop)

ALDO Sheron High Tops ($70, Aldo Shoes)

Steve Madden Monicaa Boot ($169.95, Steve Madden)

 

Which stud and spike embellished shoe is your favorite?

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Feed a Homeless Pet This Holiday Season with Just One Click!

Now you can help a homeless pet this holiday season for free with just a quick click of your mouse button. This month, Iams launched their annual Home 4 the Holidays program and this year, they’ve made it super easy for just about anyone with an internet connection to pitch in. When you ”Like” or “Share” the Rescue Pet of the Day on their Iam’s Facebook fan page, Iam’s will donate a meal to an animal in need. You can also lend a helping hand by registering for their free Iams Lifelong Rewards program. For each registration, they’ll make a food donation to your  local shelter (they’ll also send you some coupons that you can use on Iams products, too!)

In total, the program aims to donate 5 million meals to hundreds of homeless pets living in animal shelters nationwide now through the end of the holiday season, January 2. Partnered with the no-kill animal shelter Helen Woodword Animal Center, they also hope to find loving, long-lasting homes for millions of homeless pets. So far, the program has helped more than 7 million pets get adopted since its launch 14 years ago.

To learn more about the program and to find more ways to participate, please visit the Iam’s Home 4 the Holidays website.

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Cat and Dog Breeds Suitable for Allergy Sufferers

If you or someone in your family suffers from allergies, adopting a pet is not out of the question! Even if some types of animals have typically sent you running for a Kleenex, you’ll be happy to know that they are a few “hypoallergenic” dog and cat breeds that might just work for you! Because the allergic reaction some people experience is triggered by the proteins found in the saliva or skin glands on pets, certain dog and cat breeds shed much less of the allergy-causing dander, making them a suitable choice for those with sensitivities. Here’s a look at a few dog and cat breeds that are not only allergy-friendly, but make great pets, too.

Bichon Frise – Known for their happy disposition, the Bichon Frise is a great choice for allergy sufferers because the breed does not shed. Their small size (which typically ranges from 10-20 lbs and 9″-12″ in height) and their playful, sociable personality, also makes the Bichon Frise a great choice in pets.

Oriental Shorthair – If you decide to adopt an Oriental Shorthair, be prepared to have a friend for life! They’re extremely loving and devoted to their owners, and they’re not afraid to show it, expressing themselves often with plenty of meows, purrs, and cuddles. Thankfully, the coats on these sweet cats, which vary in hundreds of different colors and patterns, are hypoallergenic.

Irish Water Spaniel – If you’re an allergy sufferer with an active lifestyle, the Irish Water Spaniel would be an ideal choice for you. The playful dog breed loves to run, play, and even swim, and sheds very little.

Siberian Cat – The Siberian cat breed (especially in females) produces very low levels of Fel d1, the primary culprit for the allergic reaction it causes to humans. Affectionate and loyal, these fluffy furred cats enjoy companionship with humans and typically get along great with other pets in the household.

Portuguese Water Dog – The same breed as President Obama’s dog “Bo” (who was chosen in response to daughter Malia’s pet allergies), the hypoallergenic Portuguese Water Dog is outgoing, energetic, and obedient, making them an excellent choice for a family pet.

There are many other wonderful breeds that are also considered to be hypoallergenic. Making the list for dogs is the Bedlington Terrier, Chinese Crested, Kerry Blue Terrier, Maltese, Poodle, Schnauzers, Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier, and the Mexican Hairless. For cats, the Balinese, Cornish Rex, Devon Rex, Javanese, or Sphinx. Frequent grooming of your pet’s coat will also help minimize any potentional allergens, allowing you to comfortably enjoy their company sneeze-free!

 

Image Credits: Wylio and Photoree

10 Ways to Add Some Kick to Your Kids’ Room

You don’t have to be an interior designer or buy expensive furniture to update your child’s room. Liven up their bedroom with stylish decorations you can easily create yourself. These 10 simple do-it-yourself projects will help you add some fun, unique touches to their walls and play spaces. And because many of these decorations are made using objects that you can find around the house, they’re budget-friendly, too.

Image Credit: NicandKate09

Alphabet Board – Kids can learn and play on a magnetic board an oil pan made from an oil pan or cookie sheet. You can also give the metal sheet a coat of spray paint for added “oomph.”

Image Credit: Makely Home

Beaded Chandelier – Cover an old chandelier with a kaleidoscope of color using inexpensive metallic beaded necklaces for a bright and fun light fixture.

Image Credit: InfarrantlyCreative.net

Board Game Wall Art – Toy storage and wall decor in one, their board games become a work of art by adding a simple-to-make frame.

Image Credit: Penny Carnival

Book Sling – Keep their favorite storybooks bedside with this adorable book sling, which is made using fabric and a curtain rod.

Image Credit: Homemade By Jill

Cozy Car Caddy - Using some fabric, old denim, and velcro, this car caddy is a cute way to store their Matchbox and Hot Wheels.

Image Credit: Apartment Therapy

Indoor Swing – Bring a little piece of their outdoor toys in with an indoor swing you can hang within their bedroom.

Image Credit: Meet The Dubiens

Lego Table – Why pay $90+ for go table when you can make on yourself by gluing a Lego plate onto an inexpensive table. This version will also show you how to add a little road to turn your table into a town.

Image Credit: Honey & Fitz

Nail & String Wall Art – Inexpensive and easy, put your child’s name or inspirational phrase on their wall by weaving embroidery string around an assembly of nails.

Image Credit: SASInteriors

Skateboard Shelves – For decor that pops, get on board with these mini skateboard shelves.

Image Credit: Oh Happy Day

Cupcake Flower Lights – Attach cupcake papers to a string of light to make garden of flower lights that will brighten up their space.

 

 

10 Fun Winter Wardrobe Essentials for Babies & Kids

Are your kids already griping about the cold chill in the air? Shake off their cold weather blues in stylish clothes and accessories your kids won’t mind bundling up in. Covered in cheerful colors, whimsical prints, and cute details, these 10 winter wardrobe essentials will make braving the cold a little more fun and a lot more tolerable.

Uggs Australia Bailey Bow Boots ($119.95, Nordstrom)

Infants’ Hi-Loft Fleece Coverall ($49.95 at LLBean)

Girls’ Polka Dot Cashmere Sweater ($168, J.Crew)

Boys Dinosaur Slippers ($18.95, Gap)

Hatley Toddler’s & Little Girl’s Cupcakes Raincoat ($54, Saks)

K-Way Reversible Mittens ($28, J.Crew)

3-Pack Knee Socks, ($24, Boden)

Monster Fur Earflap Hat ($19.20, Shop Justice)

Hand-Knit Animal Hat ($35, Lands End)

Volcom Vacation Mask Hoodie ($69.50, Nordstrom)

 

 

Image courtesy of Tina Phillips/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Coordinating Halloween Costumes for You and Your Canine

If you and the kids will be trick or treating with your pet this year, why not try coordinating your costumes together? Using otherwise ordinary costumes, we came up with a few fun combinations that will make you and your pet really stand out from the crowd this Halloween.

Mad Scientist and Frankenstein – It’s alive! Dressed as Dr. Frankenstein ($39.99, Spirit Halloween) and your dog as monster “Barkenstein” ($33-$37 at Dog Halloween Costumes Shop), the two of you will play the parts from the classic horror story.

Ghostbuster and Ghost – Who ya gonna call? Dial into this Ghostbuster Costume with neat inflatable proton pack ($39.99, Target) and Ghost Dog Costume ($40, Baxter Boo) for two ghoulishly good get-ups.

Bacon and Egg – Scramble bacon and eggs together for a well-balanced costume duo. Take a crack at this sunny side up Fried Egg Costume ($34.99, Fright Catalog) while your dog hams it up as Bacon ($16.99, Toys R Us).

Swedish Chef and Chicken – Fans of “The Muppet Show” will recognize this pair from popular sketches seen on the show. With your dog dressed as a chicken (we found this rooster cap to be close – just add red felt for a wattle! $10, Baxter Boo), don this Swedish Chef costume ($49.99, Party City) and bork, bork, bork the night away!

Bee and Flower – Everyone will be buzzing about your choice in costumes when you come dressed as a Bumble Bee ($36.99, BuyCostumes) and your pup dressed as a Blooming Flower ($12.99, BuyCostumes). Bonus: The flower costume makes for a stealthy disguise if in the event your dog decides to trample through your neighbor’s garden again!

Ernie and Rubber Duckie – Rubber Duckie may have made bath time lots of fun, but “Rubber Doggie” will make trick-or-treat night a blast! Ernie ($49.99, Spirit Halloween) and Yellow Chicken ($31.50-$35, Baxter Boo)

Princess and Frog – Kiss your ordinary costume goodbye. As an Enchanted Princess ($54, Costume Craze), step from the pages of the Brothers Grimm folk story with the Frog Prince by your side.

The Man with the Yellow Hat and Curious George – Monkey around on Halloween night with your pup dressed like the inquisitive little monkey from the popular children’s book series ($15.99, PetCo) and his best pal, the Man with the Yellow Hat ($39.99, Party City).

Little Miss Muffet and Spider – Eat your curds and whey (or candy corn and mini Tootsie Rolls) as you retell the classic nursery rhyme with this Little Miss Muffet ensemble ($19.95, PureCostumes) and not-so-frightening Spider dog costume ($15.99-$17, PetSmart).

 

What will you and your pet be dressed as this Halloween? Let us know in the comments below!

 

Image Credit: Wylio

Black Cats: Don’t Judge a Cat by Its Coat

Cropping up in store aisles and front yards lately, you’ve likely seen loads of spooky Halloween decorations covered in howling ghosts, creepy spiders, cackling witches, and scary black cats. While it may be easy to see why ghosts and spiders give people the creeps, why black cats?

For hundreds of years, black cats have gotten a bad reputation for bringing bad luck to those around them. From pirates to baseball fans, people have long since believed that black cats are sign of evil or impending misfortune. Although some countries, like Ireland and Japan, view the black cat as a sign of good luck, many other cultures still believe in the superstition to this day. Unfortunately, it’s negatively affecting the adoption rate of all-black cats nationwide, as black cats are statistically less likely to be adopted than cats of other colors.

But the truth is, black cats not only bring their owners a lot of luck, but plenty of love, too! Thankfully, a few organizations agree and are doing what they can to help the black cat cause this season. The Black Cat Rescue, a no-kill cat rescue organization in Boston, Massachusetts specializing in the rescue of homeless black-coated cats, is one of them. The shelter has been working hard to find permanent homes for their cats by promoting cat adoption drives and waiving adoption fees this month. Other shelters,  such as the Barrington Animal Control in East Bay, Rhode Island and Public Animal Welfare Society in Cleveland, Ohio, has also been recently waiving adoption fees for black cats in an effort to help place the often overlooked animals.

If you are interested in making a black cat a new member of your family and would like to find a similar event in your area, contact your local animal shelter. You can also search for adoptable cats via PetFinder or AdoptaPet.

In the meantime, if you adore these cats as much as we do (or if you just need a little convincing) here’s a look at a few black beauties in all their glory!

 

Do you own a black cat? Tell us about them in the comments below!

Image Credit: Wylio

9 Helpful Apps Pet Owners Should Keep Handy

Being a great pet owner sometimes takes a lot of work, but that doesn’t mean it has to take a lot of time. These 9 handy apps will help simplify taking care of your pet, all from the convenience of your phone or tablet. From finding dog-friendly establishments to refilling your pet’s prescription, you’ll be on your way to having a happier, healthier pet in just a few clicks!

Dog Park Finder Plus – Whether you’re planning a vacation with your pup, or frequently find yourselves on the go, this app is for you. With it, you’ll be able to locate and map thousands of dog-friendly parks, beaches, rest stops, restaurants and more anywhere across the U.S. The app also displays pertinent information about each destination (such as hours of operation or any extra fees), along with reviews and photos left behind by previous visitors. The cost to download the app is $1.99 on iTunes, but similar apps like Fido Factor or Petcentric are great, free alternatives.

Dog Whistler – Lost your dog in the park? Try the Dog Whistler. With over a dozen sound patterns to choose from, this no-cost app will help you catch your canine’s attention, whether you’re trying to call him from a distance or trying to train him.

iKibble -Before you feed your dog table scraps, you’ll definitely want to reference the iKibble app. The program will help you identify which foods are safe & healthy for your dog to consume via the searchable database containing dozens of various food types.

Pet Care Services – Need to find someone to watch your pet? Encounter an emergency while away from home? Pet Care Services will help you find nearby pet care services in a snap. The free app will help you find everything from doggy daycares, walkers, trainers, groomers, emergency pet clinics and hospitals, pet food stores, and more!

Pet First Aid - Did Buddy get another bruise or bump? Come to his rescue with this Pet First Aid app. With important information, photos, and video, the app will help guide you through tending to your pet in the event of an injury, illness, or other medical emergency. The app will also allow you to keep track of your pet’s weight, allergies, medications, and more so it can be quickly referenced if you should need to visit the vet. Another similar application choice, PetTech PetSaver, is another great choice that offers many of the same wonderful benefits as listed above.

Pet Master Pro – Keep all of your pet’s vital information organized with Pet Master Pro. The app will keep track of each of your pet’s medical information, appointments, important contacts, insurance records, and microchip data.

Petometer – Get your pet in tip top shape with the Petometer. This free app from Purina will help you track each dog walk, including the path, distance, pace, and time traveled, plus suggest other exercises that will be beneficial to your pet.

Pet Poison Help – You may not know it, but that bouquet of flowers on the table or plants in your garden may be poisonous to your pet. Find out which products and plants in your home are safe or toxic with this Pet Poison Help app. Using the app, you’ll also has the ability to quickly connect to a 24/7 animal poison control helpline in the event you need extra assistance or advice.

PetWise – This free app will allow you to easily sync up with your pet’s veterinarian’s office. From the app, you can schedule an appointment, refill your pet’s prescription, access their medical records, and more all from your handheld device!

 

Do you have a favorite pet app that you find helpful? Let us know in the comments below!