Entertainment

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My family loves video games, and while my husband and I will keep the adult games in our room, we always like to get our hands on a few that we can play as a family. So when I first learned about Disney Infinity a few months back during a trip to Walmart headquarters, I was understandably excited. In the months since, my daughter has been seeing commercials for the game on the Disney Channel, and she’s been begging to get it. So when we picked up the Disney Infinity starter pack for $74.99, I knew that she’d want to play it right away.

It is available for Wii, Wii U, XBOX 360, Playstation 3, and even Nintendo 3DS. We opted to get the XBOX version since it is the console we tend to use most often for family gaming.

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Infinity is an appropriate name for a game with tons of play possibilities. You can play with characters from a variety of Disney movies, and the starter kit includes Sulley from Monsters University, Captain Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean, and Mr. Incredible from The Incredibles. The kit also includes the Disney Infinity base, which is absolutely essential for game play, a play set piece, which opens up the worlds for the included characters and a power disc, which gives the characters some additional powers.

It’s a great trio of personalities to start out with, because the characters and their respective play sets (the worlds in which the  characters can play) are immediately recognizable. Plus, we all just think they’re really cool looking.

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In order to play the game, you place your chosen character on one of the circles on the game base. You can add a second character for two-player gaming, and a power disc or play set piece to expand the gaming possibilities.

My only caveat is that there is no cross-compatibility between play sets. For example, Sulley can play in the Monsters U world, but Jack Sparrow and Mr. Incredible cannot. This is true for all the character-specific areas, with the exception of small mini-games where any character can play. It was a bit of an unfortunate discovery, since my daughter and I wanted to play together. However, additional characters are available for each play set, so you can, for example, purchase Captain Barbosa or Davey Jones from Pirates for collaborative play in that environment.

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But even if you have characters from different stories, two-player gaming is still possible. The game starts off in an open world where all the characters can interact with one another. Also, the “Toy Box” feature allows players to build their own worlds. We haven’t spent a whole lot of time doing this yet, but I know that my daughter will love creating her own features and obstacles once she gets started.

The other great feature of the game is that game progress saves to each individual game figure, so my daughter could take her game pieces to a friend’s house to continue playing from where she left off. And the pieces are also compatible with all consoles on which the game is available, so our XBOX figures would still work on a Wii or PS3. I think that’s a great strategy that will make the game more widely played and accepted.

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We’ve had the game for about a week now, and my daughter has asked to play it almost every day. My husband and I like to get in on the fun too, and I’d say that makes it a winner. We’re definitely going to expand our game play options by adding some new characters and power discs, and I think they’ll make great stocking stuffers come Christmas time. Especially once Disney adds to the character roster. It appears that characters from Phineas & Ferb and Toy Story are coming soon!

If you’d like to see for yourself just how the game environment looks and works, check out the Disney Infinity website before you go pick it up at Walmart.

DISCLOSURE: As a participant in the Walmart Moms Program, I’ve received product samples and compensation for my time and efforts in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Confession No. 1: I loved the Smurfs when I was a kid. Not the “watch it every time it was on and remember each episode by heart” kind of love, but the “amused by these little blue creatures who sang a cute song” love.

Confession No. 2: I did not like the first Smurfs movie. I just wasn’t amused by some of the characters and it was a lot cheesier than I remembered.

So when I visited Walmart headquarters in Bentonville earlier this summer and had the opportunity to preview a few scenes from Smurfs 2, I honestly didn’t have high hopes. But the few short clips that we got to see told me I might want to rethink this one. I’m really glad that I did.

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This past weekend, my family and I got to attend the blue carpet premiere of Smurfs 2. Honestly, it was a fun movie with a much better story line than the first.

Briefly, the second Smurfs movie focuses on Smurfette and her background. I can remember always wondering why she was the only girl in Smurf village, and this movie helps to answer that question. It also gives us more insight into why Gargamel is always in such hot pursuit of Smurfs.

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This time, he’s figured out a way to create Smurf-like creatures — who he calls the “Naughties.” There’s just one problem. They’re not blue, and therefore, he can’t exact any of the Smurfs’ magical blue essence from them. He comes up with a predictably diabolical plan to steal the secret formula to turn them blue and use their essence to rule the world.

Oh, and did I mention that Gargamel is a celebrity this time around? Yeah. There’s that.

Far fetched and ridiculous? Of course, but it was a really good time. I found myself laughing out loud throughout the movie, and my daughter has already asked if we can get it on DVD when it comes out.

It’s definitely most appropriate for younger kids and nostalgic parents like my husband and I, but tweens and teens might still enjoy it.

The Smurfs 2 will be released nationwide tomorrow, July 31, if you’d like to make a family outing of it. Plus, if you head to Walmart, you can pick up the Smurfs movie value pack, which includes The Smurfs DVD, a movie ticket to see The Smurfs 2, a pre-order of The Smurfs 2 on Blu-ray + DVD combo pack AND a chance to win a West Coast Customs Smurfs Dash Electric Vehicle.

DISCLOSURE: As a participant in the Walmart Moms Program, I’ve received compensation for my time and efforts in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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Occasionally, I find stories that touch me so much, I just want to share them. Take for example the “Landfill Harmonic” orchestra, made up of kids in Cateura, Paraguay, who play orchestral instruments (think violins, cellos and the like) made of trash recovered from the landfill that essentially serves as the foundation of their town.

See for yourself:

I love this idea, and I’m feeling truly inspired. I hope you are too. Like Landfill Harmonic on Facebook, and have a great weekend!

Every so often, there is a movie that everyone needs to watch. I believe that “42”, the story of how Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball, is one of those movies.

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You may recall that I had the privilege of attending the movie premiere in Hollywood and interviewing the producer and members of the cast along with fellow Walmart Mom Erika, of Chic Shopper Chick. But I also took my own family to see the movie a few weeks later, because it was that powerful.

Though my husband and I definitely had to explain some of the more difficult scenes and why the N-word was used throughout the movie to our 7-year-old daughter, it was completely worth those conversations. She had learned about Jackie Robinson in school, but seeing his story played out in front of her made an impact I don’t think she will soon forget. We recently went to our first Atlanta Braves game, and she was the first to notice Robinson’s retired jersey and number hanging in Turner field.

Chadwick Boseman as Jackie Robinson. Photo from 42movie.warnerbros.com

Chadwick Boseman as Jackie Robinson. Photo from 42movie.warnerbros.com

Given the current racial climate in this country (more on that another time), I think that all of us — black, white, Hispanic, Asian, whatever — could all stand a reminder of the good that can happen when we are willing to stand up for what is right, even when it is difficult.

If you didn’t get to see 42 in theaters, the DVD comes out July 16, and it is more than worth watching. You can pre-order the 42 DVD for $14.96 or the Blu-ray for $24.96 at Walmart.com now or get in store tomorrow. We’ll definitely be grabbing a copy, because this is one we’ll want to refer to over the years.

And if you’d like to hear directly from those involved in the movie about why it is an important story for all of us, check out this video:

DISCLOSURE: As a participant in the Walmart Moms Program, I’ve received compensation for my time and effort in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

I am in a family of music fanatics. My husband is a songwriter and musician, I am an avid music lover and closet singer, and my daughter seems to be following in both our footsteps. Which means that at any given moment, music can be heard blasting from at least one room of our home. This also means that there are headphones in almost every room, because we don’t always want to listen to the same things, along with a variety of docks and auxiliary speakers, because we sometimes want to share our music. I never considered the idea that one device could do both of those things.

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Needless to say, when Walmart offered me the opportunity to try the new Flips Audio headphones, I jumped at the chance. They’re designed to work as headphones for personal listening, but speakers when the earpieces are flipped over. Allow me (or rather, my husband) to demonstrate:

These are PERFECT for him as a songwriter. He is often in his own world, listening to a track on his (other) headphones as he writes a new song. But inevitably, throughout the songwriting process, he unplugs the headphones so he can run his ideas by my daughter and I. And we all know that the iPhone speaker isn’t all that great at projecting on its own. He also spends a lot of time letting other people listen to music via his phone. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve seen 2-4 people huddling around him so they can all hear the weak speakers as they listen to a new track, I’d be a rich woman.

All of this means the Flips headphones are really ideal for us. First, my husband said they’re comfortable to wear and really comparable to studio-quality headphones, and that they do a good job of canceling other noise. Second, the clarity of the speakers is great, and they’re a lot more powerful than any of us expected. I also love the fact that there’s no button or switch to activate in order to make the transition. You literally just flip the headphones over.

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The one caveat is that these headphones do have to be charged before you can use the speaker functionality, since speakers do require battery power. However, like almost every other device these days, it charges with a USB cable, which means it’s not difficult to find a place to charge it. We have a double USB charging adapter in the car, and I actually used my iPhone adapter to charge it for the first time.

Overall, we love these, so much that I’m putting them on my Christmas list for a couple of music loving friends and family members. They were initially available at only at Walmart, but are now available from other retailers as well. At $119.88, they’re an investment, but I honestly think they’re worth the price for what you’re getting. Did I mention the headphones can fold up and come in a fancy protective case you can use to store them? Plus, they’re still a whole heck of a lot less expensive that those Beats by Dre headphones everyone wants. And they’re a lot cooler and more functional, in my opinion.

DISCLOSURE: As a participant in the Walmart Moms Program, I’ve received product samples and compensation for my time and efforts in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Some days, no matter how badly you’d like to go outside and enjoy the sunshine, the weather won’t cooperate. We’ve had that kind of weather in Atlanta for the past week: Rain, thunderstorms — even a few flash flood warnings. We’ve been inside for the better part of the last few days, and we were all developing a bit of cabin fever. I was thankful to Walmart for challenging me to come up with a family activity inspired by the new survival show, Get Out Alive, hosted by Bear Grylls of Man vs. Wild fame.

To survive a rainy day, we grabbed a few supplies: A survival-themed movie (we chose “I am Legend” for just $7.97 on Blu Ray at Walmart), marshmallows, bamboo skewers for roasting the marshmallows, popcorn and blackout curtains. OK. So we didn’t get the blackout curtains specifically for this, but they definitely came in handy. When the weather outside made the whole house feel dark and gloomy, we just closed them to make the living room as dark as possible — movie theater style.

My husband roasted the marshmallows:

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My daughter popped the popcorn:

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And then pulled out her tent so she’d have a “safe place” to watch hide from the scarier parts of the movie.

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Our chosen activity was definitely tamer than the tamest of Bear Grylls’ adventures, but it definitely helped us survive a rainy day without going at each other’s throats.

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“Get Out Alive”, sponsored by Walmart, premieres July 8 at 9 p.m./8 p.m. central on NBC. In this new show, 10 teams will face off in an adventure competition set in New Zealand. They have to survive the wild as a group, but avoid being eliminated as a team, as Bear will send home one pair each week. The last team standing — the one he believes has shown the most heart, courage, initiative and resolve — will win a grand prize of $500,000. Check out this preview of the show:

I don’t know about you, but I’ll be watching. We watched Man vs. Wild all the time, and I really like survival shows — mostly because I don’t think I’d ever have the guts to attempt most of these things and I’m fascinated by people’s ingenuity and strength when they find themselves in a difficult situation. I really can’t wait to see how these teams will handle the pressure, and it’s awesome to see some women who look like me among them.

If you really want to play along, check out the Bear Grylls camping and survival gear at Walmart. I’ve got my eye on a couple of things myself. You know. For the next time I decide to try surviving the wilderness for a month. Or for the next power outage 🙂 (aff)

DISCLOSURE: As a participant in the Walmart Moms Program, I’ve received product samples and compensation for my time and efforts in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

This week, I went to Los Angeles for the first time ever, and I have to say, it would be difficult to beat this first impression. Why? Because I went there to attend the premiere of the new Jackie Robinson movie, 42, as a red carpet correspondent for Walmart!

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Walmart is a platinum sponsor of the movie, which means that their involvement went far beyond just the premiere. There’s also the Walmart “42” field refurbishment program, a partnership between Walmart, Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures, Scotts, the Ball Park brand and the Jerry Clark Foundation. Walmart selected ballparks in need of refurbishment in Orlando, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Bentonville, Ark., each designated to receive a long overdue makeover designed to encourage young players. At each event, kids from the respective communities had the opportunity to participate in a baseball clinic, interact with local MLB players, and community leaders. As a result of Walmart’s sponsorship, we were invited to the press line with all the major news organizations to interview the stars as they walked in. Quite literally a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me.

To put this into perspective, a year ago, I never would’ve accepted the offer. I would’ve allowed my fear of being in front of the camera and messing everything up get the best of me, and I would’ve declined. But boy, am I glad I said yes!

Joining me on the red carpet was Erika Brown of Chic Shopper Chic, and I am so thankful to her for sharing her own red carpet experience and making me feel at ease.

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We were tasked with interviewing the cast, including Chadwick Boseman (Jackie Robinson), Harrison Ford (Branch Rickey), Nicole Beharie (Rachel Robinson), and many others. We spent the days and hours before the event preparing questions for the cast and (gasp) actually trying to remember what to ask each person. And then there’s the little fact that you’re talking to celebrities right next to journalists who do it for a living. Talk about intimidating!

Erika studying her questions while waited to be let onto the press line.

Erika studying her questions while waited to be let onto the press line.

The red carpet environment is a bit nuts, with press lined up alongside trying to get everyone’s attention. This means that we missed some of the stars we wanted to get, but Erika did manage to snag Harrison Ford:

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And I got to speak to the movie’s producer, Thomas Tull.

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Tull is most famous for his superhero movies and the Hangover franchise, so I was curious about what made him decide to make a period movie. When I asked why he thought it was important to tell Jackie Robinson’s story now, he said that he had spoken to a group of kids who played baseball, and very few of them had any idea who Robinson was. Let that sink in. The idea that children of any color — but particularly black children — could be playing baseball and have no knowledge of the man who made it possible for everyone to have major league dreams is insane! Tull wanted to tell Robinson’s story on the big screen so we never forget his legacy.

Oh. And did I mention I also spoke to Laila Ali? And she told me I was pretty? And when I tweeted about it with a photo, she responded? Yeah. That happened.

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Check out this video of our red carpet experience, all of which was filmed:

I’m so proud of myself!

And as an inside bonus that probably only mattered to me, everything I wore to the premiere was thrifted — including my necklace and shoes (my trusty BCBG ankle-strap flats).

But that was just the beginning. Next, we got to actually watch the premiere. Honestly, the movie is a must-see. As a black woman who knew Jackie Robinson’s story, it was incredibly powerful to see it come to life on the screen.

Jackie is a hero by every stretch of the imagination, and the amount of resolve it took to break the color line in baseball without losing his temper is a strength that most of us likely do not possess. So it’s easy to understand why the number 42 is the ONLY number in all of baseball that has been universally retired. As in no one, on any team, can ever wear the number 42. Except for each April, when every player on every team wears 42 in homage to Jackie Robinson.

Chadwick Boseman as Jackie Robinson. Photo from 42movie.warnerbros.com

Chadwick Boseman as Jackie Robinson. Photo from 42movie.warnerbros.com

I will be taking my family to see the film, which will be in theaters tomorrow, and recommending that my extended family and friends see it too. It is a slice of American history that all of us — especially kids who have less experience with blatant racism — can stand to remember.

At times, the movie made me cringe (Caution: The N word is used throughout, and though it makes complete sense in this context, it may require some explaining to children), it made me laugh, it made me cheer, it made me teary-eyed. But more than anything else, it made me thankful that change is possible, no matter how unlikely or difficult it may seem. No matter how many naysayers you have to ignore in the process and how many times you have to swallow your pride.

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And after you see the film, if you’re as inspired as I am, you can celebrate by heading to Walmart for a t-shirt to commemorate the event in one of these great graphic prints.

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This is the type of movie I’ll definitely buy on DVD so we can watch it as a family, talk about the issues it tackles, and use it as a teaching tool for my daughter. I am so thankful that I got to experience a real Hollywood premiere and find out from the producer and cast why this is an important story for everyone.

For more photos of the event, check out the Green & Gorgeous Facebook page.

DISCLOSURE: As a participant in the Walmart Moms Program, I’ve received travel and accommodations, as well as compensation for my time and efforts for the trip and for in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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My family and I like to watch movies and shows based on the Bible. In part, we use it as an educational tool for our daughter, who seems to remember lessons when they are presented as entertainment. But we also like to see how the filmmakers and writers interpret the stories we know and love so well, both visually and in terms of message.

So you can imagine that we’ve been watching “The Bible” on the History Channel for the last few weeks with great interest.

If you haven’t been watching, “The Bible” is a 10-episode series produced by Mark Burnett of “Survivor” fame, along with his wife, actress Roma Downey. It began Sunday, March 3, on the history channel, and the third episode in the series will air tomorrow night at 8 p.m.

Thus far, we have been captivated by the stories. We’ve seen Noah and the ark, Exodus, Samson and Delilah, David & Goliath and more. The stories have been brief in order to get through several of them in a single episode, but they’ve been well told and, as far as I can tell, relatively accurate.

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As people of color, we’re also always interested to see how Biblical figures are represented in terms of race and culture. Suffice it to say that we usually don’t see faces that look like us, nor like the people native to the regions where the true Biblical stories actually happened, on the big or small screens. While there is definitely some room for improvement, we were pleased to see that some major characters, including Samson and his mother, were people of color, along with several of God’s angels and others throughout the stories.

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We’re intrigued enough to sit in front of the TV each Sunday night until the conclusion of the series, and we will absolutely use it as a teaching tool and a reminder of why Biblical study is important to believers.

If you’ve already missed the first couple of episodes, don’t miss the rest. You can also pre-order the series from Walmart and get a digital HD copy, which will be available only to Walmart pre-sell customers, along with exclusive VUDU content: a “First Look” at all 10 episodes.

DISCLOSURE: As a participant in the Walmart Moms Program, I’ve received compensation for my time and efforts in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.