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    A Close Encounter with the Hello Kitty Food Truck…Part Two

    If you follow The Mommy Gamers, you may know that in April 2016 I sought out the Hello Kitty food truck in vain hopes of scoring cute snacks. Unfortunately, the truck was woefully equipped to deal with Chicagoland enthusiasm for adorable Japanese nonsense, and I failed. I get did a mug and a T-shirt (it should’ve said “I visited the Hello Kitty Cafe and all I got was…”).

    This year, the Hello Kitty Cafe came closer to me – specifically, to a mall about 10 minutes from my house. Now, I know this mall. My kid did Gymboree in this mall every week from age 1-3. I do about 90 percent of my retail therapy here. I buy all my books at the Barnes & Noble. I get my Nespresso refills here. Until recently when it closed, I got my regular chocolate Godiva reward here (a free truffle every month!). I occasionally get together with my girlfriends and my book club here.

    Yes, there is a young girl sitting behind the menu. I hope she got some good treats!

    Just last week I made my houseguest from Kansas go visit so she could bring me some Nando’s Peri-Peri. Oh, I also get my hair cut here. And when I have giant stress knots in my shoulder from livin’ the glamorous freelance writer lifestyle, I go to the Mario Tricoci in this mall so someone can (attempt to) knead them out.

    This is a definite advantage when scoping out Hello Kitty food trucks. When I heard it was going to be by the L.L. Bean, I knew exactly where to park when everyone else was complaining about no parking. So I arrived right at 10:30 and got into line immediately. I know this place so well I could tell without even looking that my wait would be shorter than last year.

    This year I was somewhat more prepared, although I still didn’t bring any sunblock (it’s October in the Chicago area, who knew – and it looked cloudy when I went to Zumba that morning). I also forgot a snack. I had a giant book. The fourth in the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan, to be exact, which I’m re-reading for an online book club. I had a water bottle because my kid was in Orlando riding Space Mountain without me, so he could not make a tea run. I had my workout bag, with a wrap inside in case it got cold.

    The people behind me clearly didn’t know what they were getting into. They’d just come from a dance class, following a slumber party that was making their two little girls very grumpy because they’d stayed up so late. After I told them about my four hours in line last year, they decided their kids wouldn’t be able to stay a half hour, let alone four, and left.

    The people ahead of me were a bit more knowledgeable, and had done this the previous year as well. Nevertheless, they disappeared somewhere between my arrival and the front of the line, and I ended up talking to a nice group of three people – one of whom had the exact same name as me.

    We all took lots of pictures and selfies. The point where you get to the menu sign is A Big Deal. Kids are running around, people are refreshing their pals in line with Starbucks coffees (there’s one right near where the truck was parked) and snacks (ironic, right?), and we’re getting to know our neighbors.

    Actually, come to think of it, when I stood in line to see Hillary Clinton this past Monday at a local bookstore, it was basically the same thing except that Peet’s Coffee came by every so often to offer free samples of cookies and brownies. Now that would have been a good marketing ploy for someone at the mall.

    Apparently I like standing in lines in order to spend money on stuff. Capitalism loves me.

    Anyway, it really didn’t feel that long before I got to the front, where all of us took pictures of the Hello Kitty truck’s tires – well, they were decorated with images of bows! It felt like a triumph, especially when the only thing they’d run out of were the small thermal water bottles (18 ounces). Everyone takes longer than they should at the front because they’re deciding, once they actually see the product in the window. Today, they were selling handmade bow headbands that were not listed on the menu.

    Sadly, I was assuming the t-shirts and mugs would be like last years, and they weren’t. So of course I had to buy one of everything. Although I never wore my t-shirt from last year, so I was able to resist that.

    Here’s a picture of my haul:

    A Quick Review

    So, I finally got to try the food. Actually, it’s pretty good. I don’t eat macarons that often so I’m not sure how they compare to the regular stuff, but they were pretty, tasty, and sweet, and you could even tell what the flavors were supposed to be. The mini-cakes were denser than I expected, rich and flavorful. The cookies – whoa, I forgot about the cookies! I know what I’m having for lunch…

    I bought a freaking $36 thermal mug! But it’s totally cute and I’m just going to put it somewhere prominent in my house and stare at it with adoration from time to time. And the regular mug, with the bow handle, is going to hold lots of chai tea this winter.

    Was it worth the money and effort? Well, I guess it depends on your point of view. I had been in Chinatown just the day before, and if all I’d wanted was cute Hello Kitty stuff I could have gotten it there at a fraction of the price. The best part of doing the Hello Kitty Cafe, I’ve learned, is the experience. Being there with other geeky people who are willing to stand in line for the privilege of buying overpriced merch is most of the fun.

    No, I don’t regret it. Yes, I’ll probably do it again. Yes, I’m probably a bit crazy. But if you’re not willing to do it, too – or at least laugh with me about my doing it and bring me lattes while I wait – you’re really not my people anyway.

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    Food & Drink
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    The Mommy Gamers Podcast Episode 156

    The Mommy Gamers Podcats Episode 156 Harvest Moon 64, Pokemon Go, Nintendo Switch, Lego Batman

    In Episode 156 of The Mommy Gamers Podcast, Carrie has some sort of plague on top of being pregnant so Marcia and Desirai are joined by one of their favorite friends and fellow podcasters, Terrence Wilson from the Stays Krunchy in Milk Podcast. You can check out his show where they talk about video games, odd flavored oreos, and other relevant pop culture topics over at stayskrunchyinmilk.com .

    This weeks gaming talk covers Harvest Moon 64 from 1999 coming to the WiiU Virtual Console and the latest PokemonGO update. With the Nintendo Switch coming soon, everyone talks excitedly about features they are looking forward to and the launch titles lineup.

    Desirai and Marcia are curious about a product that combines science with hair dye, resulting in colors that change based on the temperature. Terrence and Marcia both watched the LEGO Batman movie with their kids and chat about that.  They also discus The Art of Hanky Panky by Olivia Savage, a fun giveaway on our website and so much more.

    Do you love our podcast? Would you like to support the show and help us continue to keep getting bigger and better? Want to get a shoutout on the next show?  Earn exclusive rewards, such as being the FIRST to listen to each new podcast episode, by becoming a patron at Patreon.com/TheMommyGamers.  We even take selfies before every episode and Desirai crafts those into a special adorable image just for our supporters.

    Also, you don’t have to come back here every week to get the latest podcast. You can subscribe to The Mommy Gamers podcast for FREE on Google Play MusiciTunes and Stitcher or you can access The Mommy Gamers app through Podcast Box on iTunes or in the Amazon app store for Android. Don’t forget to follow them on Twitter, and Facebook too!

     

     

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    Podcasts
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    The Mommy Gamers Podcast Episode 151 – Nintendo Switch, Dragon Quest 8, Rise And Shine, The OA

    Nintendo Switch, Dragon Quest 8, Rise And Shine, The OA - The Mommy Gamers 151In Episode 151 of The Mommy Gamers podcast the ladies celebrate Carrie’s birthday! Happy Birthday Carrie!! They talk about Rise and Shine, a punishingly difficult 2D puzzle-platformer from Adult Swim Games. They also discuss Dragon Quest VIII, details about the new Nintendo Switch console, the movie Bridget Jones’s Baby, The OA, why Taco Bell is trying to trick them into believing it’s “health food” and so much more.

    You can check out Marcia’s Rise and Shine YouTube video here.

    Interested in supporting The Mommy Gamers? Earn exclusive rewards, such as being the FIRST to listen to each new podcast episode, by becoming a patron on Patreon. Remember, you can subscribe to The Mommy Gamers podcast for FREE on Google Play MusiciTunes and Stitcher or you can access The Mommy Gamers app through Podcast Box on iTunes or in the Amazon app store for Android. Don’t forget to follow them on Twitter, and Facebook too!

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    Podcasts
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    Rise and Shine

    Rise and Shine Game ~ First Part ~ The Mommy Gamers

     

    In Rise and Shine from Adult Swim games, a young boy named Rise is enjoying a seemingly normal day at Candy Mall when chaos ensues. Rise quickly discovers his home planet, Gamearth, is under attack by gruns from Nexgen planet. Surrounded by dead bodies and complete destruction a hero named Blink uses his last dying breath to hand over Shine, a magical gun with an oddly sarcastic sense of humor. Honestly, I could type out the rest of the story…but I kind of already made a YouTube video about it. Enjoy the video, and my very poor gaming skills.

     

    For more gaming videos, podcasts and other awesome content please subscribe (it’s free!) to our YouTube channel! www.youtube.com/TheMommyGamers

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    Games, Video Games
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    The Mommy Gamers Podcast Episode 150 – Thumper, Overwatch, Jackbox Party Pack 3, War and Order

    Thumper, Overwatch, Jackbox Party Pack 3, War and Order - The Mommy Gamers 150

    For Episode 150 of The Mommy Gamers Podcast Carrie, Desirai and Marcia kick off 2017 right with their first podcast of the year and plenty of awesome topics to keep you laughing.  This week the ladies talk about Thumper, a cool new rhythm violence video game available on Steam, Marcia’s recent purchase of the Jackbox Party Pack 3 games, War and Order, Overwatch (yes still Overwatch), Kissenger, World of Van Helsing, the family-friendly animated movie Storks, why they love the hit TV show Project Dad and more.

    Interested in supporting The Mommy Gamers? Earn exclusive rewards, such as being the FIRST to listen to each new podcast episode, by becoming a patron on Patreon. Remember, you can subscribe to The Mommy Gamers podcast for FREE on Google Play MusiciTunes and Stitcher or you can access The Mommy Gamers app through Podcast Box on iTunes or in the Amazon app store for Android. Don’t forget to follow them on Twitter, and Facebook too!

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    Podcasts
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    What Is It with This Pokemon Go Thing Anyway?

    Everything Non-Gamers Need to Know…

    pokeGOlogoYou’ve been hearing about it ad nauseum, and you’re shaking your head at the bands of kids trespassing on your property in search of the Pokemon that’s apparently hiding in your backyard. You put up this meme:

    pokemongo

    Nevertheless, at least half the people walking down the street with their phones are clearly not 10, either. Some of us even have jobs. So what is the deal with Pokemon Go? Why do you hate it so much? Why does it feel so invasive? Why is everyone playing it in inappropriate places? Well, before you out yourself as the grumpy old person yelling at kids to get off your lawn, here’s what you need to know:

    

The Basics

    pokemonteams

    The teams are Valor (red – discipline), Instinct (yellow – intuition, and Mystic (blue – intellect). Players can choose a team at Level 5.

    Pokemon Go is a free app available for smartphones, an “augmented reality” game from The Pokemon Company and Niantic, Inc. This basically means that it puts virtual gameplay onto a map of the real world, and players interact with both. Pokemon Go is designed to get people out and about, to make them happier and healthier. It does this by generating virtual “pocket monsters” (that’s what Pokemon stands for), well known from previous Pokemon games and thus already favorites with fans, that appear on the phone screen.

    Players catch Pokemon with a flick of the wrist – throwing a virtual Pokeball toward the target. 

In addition to roaming Pokemon, the game also includes PokeStops and Pokemon Gyms. PokeStops are basically stationary rings that you can spin to get free items such as Pokeballs, which are used to catch Pokemon, along with eggs, which hold Pokemon inside and can be hatched if you do a certain amount of walking, and other enhancements. Gyms are places where players can battle each other. If you win a battle, you can take over the gym.

    Playing Pokemon Go is easy. Open the app, and the GPS finds your location. Your screen shows you which Pokemon are close, and where nearby PokeStops and Gyms are located. Start walking. You’ll find Pokemon along the way. At level 5, you can join one of three teams – Instinct (yellow), Mystic (blue), or Valor (red). Think of it as being sorted into a house at Hogwarts – your identification becomes tied in with these groups.

    

The Good

    artinst

    The Art Institute of Chicago posted a controversial Facebook post this week encouraging visitors to come find Pokemon inside – in this case, in front of its iconic Chagall windows.

    Pokemon Go is a game of discovery. It makes people get out and explore their neighborhoods, and it encourages socializing. My son has actually been getting off the couch this summer and going outside. Last night I took him to Ravinia Festival for an outdoor musical concert, and he talked to at least ten people about the game. We went to the zoo, where I’ve been volunteering every other week 20 years, and I didn’t recognize half the PokeStops because they were at statues and landmarks I’ve ignored in all my visits there. I had no idea they existed. In my hometown, I discovered a war memorial I must have passed 100 times, and never noticed before.

    Anecdotes already abound about how Pokemon is helping people’s mental health. And it’s giving local businesses a boost. Because Pokemon Go is so popular, entrepreneurs are trying to figure out how to utilize it for their own purposes and small businesses are seeing an uptick in sales from people coming in the door to find Pokemon. Pet shelters and museums and retailers are advertising the presence of Pokemon to get people in the door. (If you are looking for ways to leverage the popularity of the game, I recommend making an in-app purchase; spend $1 – 100 PokeCoins- and set off a lure, which will attract Pokemon and customers for 30 minutes after you activate it.) Also, T-Mobile just announced that data used to play Pokemon Go will not count towards its users’ data allowance.

    Ultimately, the addictive appeal for Pokemon can be a good thing. The goal of hatching eggs is already making more inroads than my Fitbit Alta in getting me to walk places, and I’ve never seen my son so excited to go places that might have Pokemon. The zoo! The botanic garden! The hardware store down the street, which has a gym! And there will be more ways for small businesses to leverage the game’s popularity, too, such as sponsorships that will turn them into portals.

    The Bad

    Screenshot_2016-07-14-23-02-49

    Here’s a screenshot of my phone, with a promotion that showed up on my feed from Binny’s Beverage Depot.

    As with any other engrossing app, Pokemon Go has people looking down at their phones instead of ahead. This can cause problems, because people not paying attention can cause accidents and such (although that traffic accident supposedly caused by someone playing the game is totally false, bad things are happening to players who are careless or who are putting themselves in danger). In addition, Pokemon tend to spawn everywhere, even places that aren’t necessarily friendly to the public, and Gyms and PokeStops can be located in unexpected locations.

    This is because, by the way, Niantic put out a previous game called Ingress, in which users submitted “portals” to be included on the virtual map that’s now basically being used for Pokemon Go. There are rules for these submissions, so PokeStops and Gyms do not interfere with private property, emergency services, or schools. Not all of these locations are completely current because things change so often in the real world, which is why players may end up in locations that don’t truly exist anymore (Please note: you can now submit requests to create portals in the game).

    There are other issues (for example, click here for the word on the game’s overly broad permissions ask). Different Pokemon are found in different locations, and at different times of day. So it can very well be dangerous for some people to play. I know a white man who feels uncomfortable loitering around parks where women and children are clustered. I’ve heard stories of black men who feel the game is too dangerous for them to enjoy, given the present climate. I’ve heard tales from physically disabled people who literally cannot access places where where Pokemon are found. It is not a perfect situation.

    

The Ugly

    Screenshot_2016-07-15-09-04-32

    A game screen, with map. The blue rings at the bottom are a PokeStop; click on it, and a photo of the landmark appears. You spin it to  get items. The darker blue landmark in the distance is a Gym, and it’s blue because right now it’s controlled by Team Mystic. On the bottom right of the screen, the white box tells you which Pokemon are near. If you click on a Pokemon as it appears, the screen changes to a camera image of what’s in front of you, with Pokemon superimposed and a PokeBall ready to “throw.” I caught a Rattata on my bed this morning…

    In the nine or so days that the game has been available, there’s been been a lot of buzz on the Internet, and much of it is bad. Any obsession, enjoyed without rules and not in moderation, can of course be dangerous, and there is etiquette to be learned and followed. The game is new, and people haven’t thought about the consequences of their actions yet (most of them have never heard of Ingress, so they don’t have experience with a game of this type). On the other hand, Pokemon Go gamers have been called many bad names by people who don’t understand the game’s appeal. The Internet is judgey, as usual. The comments sections should not be read.

    If Pokemon Go players are encroaching on your space, you have every right to say something. If they are breaking rules by sneaking in someplace that requires paid admission, that’s wrong. It’s true that there are currently PokeStops in some places that might be viewed as inappropriate – those places were put on the map by previous Ingress players and are only now being deemed offensive because of the number of people playing Pokemon Go. No one even noticed them before. In the past, however, Niantic (once a part of Google) has been responsive about removing them. The people who placed portals in these places most likely had good intentions – bringing people in, for example. It doesn’t mean players are being forced to use those stops, though. As more people play, and as everyone understands the problems of having Pokestops in these locations, things will change.

    But in my experience, it is both possible to stay out of the way of people while I’m playing Pokemon Go, and also be tolerant of people who are, after all, simply enjoying a fun little game that is getting them out and about. Just give players a little time to adjust. I’ll also remind the naysayers that the novelty will wear off – and although there will be updates and changes (an announcement about trading and other improvements has already been made), Pokemon Go – which is, after all, a fun game but not a really great one – will be much less appealing in the winter. At least, here in Chicago. If you live in Florida, you may be out of luck.

    If some kids do cross your lawn in search of Pokemon, feel free to channel the spirit of the game. Instead of yelling at them, why not ask them about it and make some new friends?

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    Apps, Games, News
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