What’s in store: Holiday gifts for kids

Published: Monday, November 19, 2012 @ 11:34 AM
Updated: Monday, November 19, 2012 @ 11:34 AM

For our complete holiday gift guide, visit www.accessatlanta.com/s/atlanta-holiday-guide/.

Like many American businesses, the toy industry isn’t all fun and games right now.

U.S. toy sales were down 2 percent last year, and have dropped in four of the past five years, according to the Toy Industry Association. The decline has been attributed to everything from a dearth of new hits, free mobile games such as Angry Birds taking a bite out of the market and the rise of smartphones and tablets that have cut into video-game sales.

But don’t cry, little Baby Alive doll: Even while in a slump, toys still rang up $21.2 billion in U.S. sales last year.

Here is a quick roundup of some of the choices that caught our eyes (at major toy retailers and Amazon.com, unless otherwise noted):

1. “The Avengers” conquered not only a galaxy of bad guys but North American box offices this year, holding down first place to the tune of $623 million. “The Amazing Spider-Man” flung a tenacious web in multiplexes, its $262 million in ticket sales raising it to fourth place. You might say then that Build-A-Bear Workshop has 885 million reasons to think that there will be strong demand for its furry friends decked out as a trio of “Avengers” — Captain America, Iron Man and the Incredible Hulk — and Spidey. (Ages 3-plus; costumes, $15; the bears as pictured, $15-18; www.buildabear.com)

2. Kids get into music at earlier and earlier ages. And parents concerned that young ones will have shredded eardrums before they even hit their teens can rest a little easier if the small-fry are listening through Griffin Technology’s Crayola MyPhones earbuds or headphones. Both styles limit volume and keep sound pressure to levels recommended as safe for young ears (peaking at 85 decibels). The earbuds come in a carrying case shaped like Crayola crayon, with three sizes of soft ear cushions, available in Purple Pizazz, Cotton Candy, Caribbean Green and Blue Berry. (Ages 6-plus; earbuds, $14.95; headphones, $24.95)

3. There’s no concern about National Hockey League lockouts when the A League of Its Own Air Hockey Table from Land of Nod is in the house. The 40-inch-by-20-inch game can fit on a table top or, if you like, 28-inch-tall legs are available. For parents facing off against clutter, it can, at 8 inches high without the legs, easily slide under most beds for storage. (Ages 8-plus; game, $89; legs, $19.95; www.landofnod.com)

4. Mr. Potato Head has gone over to the Dark Side, becoming Darth Tater, a tubular cousin to “Star Wars” movie villain Darth Vader. This Darth dons the trademark black helmet, mask and cloth cape and wields a red light saber. Classic accessories including the googly eyes and red nose are included, of course. If you want to pit some good vs. the Darth evil, Playskool has spud versions of Chewbacca and Yoda available, as well. In any guise, Mr. Potato Head encourages the development of fine motor skills. (Ages 3-plus; $9.99)

5. Most kids hate it when they’re playing ball outside and it starts to get dark. With the Nerf Firevision Sports Football, that’s when the fun is just beginning. Sporty kids can see it in the dark with the two pairs of included Firevision glasses, which make the graphics and ball surface reflective in the dark. Thanks to something called Microprism Technology, the soft ball generates a glow, even in the light. One pair of glasses reads the light as red, the other as green. The range is 100 feet, which should get happy young’uns glowing with sweat. (Ages 6-plus; $19.99)

6. For budding mechanical minds, Worx Toys vehicles provide insight into how things work. The Apex Police Helicopter gives children a clear look inside the toy and identifies each of some 20 parts with lights and sounds activated with a touch-pad code. A corresponding hard-bound storybook explains what each part does while taking the reader on an adventure in the vehicle. Also included is a transmitter that remotely activates the different parts — including rotors, engine, landing gear and instrument panel. (Ages 6-12; $34.99)

7. We don’t know if Po, the littlest Zoo Atlanta panda, has an iPod or iPhone. But if he does, we can guess which of this Electric Friends quartet of animal-themed portable docking stations from Noetic that he’d choose. In addition to presumed favorite Sing Sing the Panda, you can select among Chew Chew the Dog, Ki Ki the Cat and Kwack Kwack the Duck. While cute as heck, they feature two five-watt speakers that produce plentiful sound. The eyes hide the speakers; the ears serve as volume controls. (Ages 5-15; $59.99 at Toys R Us stores, staples.com, bestbuy.com)

8. We wouldn’t be the first to note the irony of Zynga’s popular mobile word app Words With Friends, which was based on Scrabble, morphing into a board game itself. But we doubt you’ll hear many “Wordies,” who can now challenge family and friends to a face-to-face showdown, complaining. Younger players in particular can’t help but build vocabulary. The Hasbro game includes full-size board, four curved tile racks, 104 tiles and a storage bag. (Ages 13-plus; $19.99)

9. The princess with whom you share a less ornate castle undoubtedly will be drawn to this Princess Fantasy Castle from Playmobil, with turrets, gilded entrance gate, grand staircase and many rooms to display the things of life. (The set includes two figures, throne, chairs, chaise, chandelier, jewelry box, tea set, goblets and flower bushes.) Windows and doors can open, and the dance floor revolves. There’s even room to store the royal jewels in the tower’s secret hiding place. Full-size tiara, bracelet and ring for real lifeprincesses are included. (Ages 4-10; $149.99)

10. If you prefer wood to plastic and hand-crafted to factory-produced, another option is by Once Upon a TreeHouse, which produces handmade dollhouses, furniture and dolls, including 4-inch-tall Buttercup the Ballerina, sewn of cotton and wool with wooden feet. (Ages 3-plus; dolls $12-40, dollhouses $120-$325; www.onceuponatreehouse.com)

11. Kids need bling, too! The Blingles Bling Studio from Moose Toys provides more than 320 gems and tools that allow crafty children to make their own designs or to decorate the 10 pre-set patterns. The resulting bejeweled stickers can proudly bling up bedazzle smooth surfaces including cell phones, stationery and art projects. (Ages 6-plus; $19.99)

When is Beggars Night in your city?

Published: Friday, October 14, 2016 @ 11:20 AM
Updated: Thursday, October 12, 2017 @ 8:44 AM

No Tricks, Just Treats: How to Have a Safe Halloween

It's almost time to gets the kids out for this year’s Beggars Nights (aka trick-or-treating).

It's time to plan your perfect costume, grab a bucket for all of those treats and be adorable. 

>> RELATED: Halloween Guide 2017

We've compiled Beggars Night dates and times in communities across the region.

When is Beggars Night in your community?

>>> FOR KIDS: Halloween fun for the kids all month long

>>> FOR ADULTS: More than 10 of the best Halloween events (for adults)

Doctor takes to Facebook in search for new kidney

Published: Monday, October 23, 2017 @ 12:47 PM

Dr. Stuart Himmelstein is searching for a new kidney. Himmelstein has spent five years on dialysis. He is talking to the press and on his Facebook page, "New Kidney for Stu." "I am hopeful my walking angel is out there," he said.

Dr. Stuart Himmelstein has spent every night of the past five years on dialysis. Since learning he had a rare form of kidney disease, the primary care physician with a private practice in Delray Beach has been on the deceased donor transplant list with no success. So he decided to create a Facebook page titled "New Kidney for Stu." 

Himmelstein, who started the page in June 2016, has been getting a surge in likes on his page after a local news station recently ran a segment on his plight. "Since the segment aired, 19 people have reached out to contact me about my quest for a kidney," he said. "I was diagnosed in 2012 with tuberous sclerosis, which is a congenital abnormality. The sooner I get a kidney, the better. My energy levels are definitely down and if I'm healthier, I can continue to help others."

Having to explain to his 90-year-old mother that he needs a kidney is heart-wrenching for Himmelstein, who has been practicing medicine for 30 years and is affiliated with Delray Medical Center. "I have had the sweetest people including an 85-year-old man try to help me find a kidney," he said. "I have to help my own mother understand why she can't give her baby a kidney." 

His sister works in Manhattan, and he said friends and relatives in New York have been trying to share his Facebook page. "Anyone who potentially wants to be a donor has to undergo a screening process," Himmelstein, 58, said. "I've gotten close a few times where a donor was going to give me a kidney but then they had to back out for personal or medical reasons." 

His friend Mary Milchikier is also trying to help him spread the word. Milchikier, an employee at Delray Medical Center, donated a kidney to her brother-in-law. Milchikier said she wishes she was born with three kidneys so she could give one to Himmelstein. 

"My husband had to have a liver transplant so I am very familiar with the donor and recipient process and I learned everything I could about transplants," Milchikier said. "My husband received his liver transplant through a woman who was in a tragic car accident, but my brother-in-law needed a kidney and couldn't find a donor, so I volunteered to give him mine." While a healthy person can live a normal life with just one kidney, she must now make sure she drinks at least of two liters of water a day and monitors her sugar and protein intake. "I have a special place in my heart for those in need of organ transplants and I really hope Stu gets a kidney," Milchikier said. "I wanted to pay it forward after everything I watched my husband go through." Himmelstein said most of the organ transplant donors he's met have a positive outlook on it, as Milchikier does. "Mary is so positive about her donation and has this eternal positivity," he said. "I am hopeful my walking angel is out there."

Embracing Life On Cancer’s Journey

Published: Monday, October 23, 2017 @ 11:50 AM

            Brenda Frey, a breast cancer survivor from Houston in Shelby County. CONTRIBUTED
Brenda Frey, a breast cancer survivor from Houston in Shelby County. CONTRIBUTED

Brenda Frey said her breast cancer journey has been energized by the power of prayer and a positive outlook.

It’s also been enhanced by those with whom she has interacted at Upper Valley Medical Center’s Cancer Care Center, where she received chemotherapy and radiation in 2014.

While discussing her diagnosis and treatment, the resident of the Houston area in Shelby County sported a T-shirt reflecting part of her philosophy. It read: “Life isn’t easy. Life isn’t perfect. Life is good.”

“It is hard. Life is hard,” Frey said. “You have to work at it, just like you have to work at a marriage. You just can’t sit back and let others do everything for you.”

Frey was in recovery from a 2012 stroke, learning how to walk and talk again, when her cancer was diagnosed in late 2013.

“I knew it was breast cancer before I went in. This had been growing in my chest,” she recalled. “I was standing in front of the mirror. I told my husband, ‘I think I had better go in. It is getting worse.’”

After her diagnosis and surgery at St. Rita’s Medical Center in Lima, Frey told her doctor it was too far to drive to Lima for treatments. At the recommendation of a relative, she asked for referral to Upper Valley and oncologist Mohan Nuthakki, M.D.

Among Frey’s first stops was a cancer class in which a nurse addressed four cancer patients as a group and then their specific form of cancer as well as what to expect during treatment. Frey was no stranger to cancer; it had killed her mother and maternal grandparents. Still, she had many questions.

She, like other cancer patients, became a regular at the Cancer Care Center, first receiving chemotherapy and then radiation treatments.

“The longer you go, the more you get to know people,” Frey said. She and husband, Tom, came to know the staff well along with other patents. “I enjoyed watching people and meeting people. Some people loved talking to you. I love to listen,” she said.

Tom, who she called her “biggest cheerleader,” befriended Cancer Care Center janitors, she said.

Frey said her faith gave her strength during treatment, and beyond, along with a positive attitude.

She took advantage of the hospital’s amenities for cancer patients, including the Cancer Care Center’s massage therapy services.

“My body is a thing of pain, but I deal with it. If you tell me what is wrong, I can deal with it,” she said. “People need to know their body. When something’s not right, doesn’t seem right, bring it up to the doctor.”

Self-advocacy also is important, Frey said. “You have to be your own advocate. You have to make sure that your questions, your concerns are addressed,” she said. “A question is not dumb. It is dumb if you don’t ask it. Write the questions down.”

A comfort level with the doctor is key. “At Upper Valley Medical Center, you are more than just a number. You are a person. To me, that makes a difference. They have great oncology, radiology departments,” Frey said.

People also need to be aware of local treatment options and consider them, if they can meet the individual patient’s needs, she said.

Frey would like to see more survivors. “But to see more, people need to have their mammograms, their colonoscopies, their prostate checks,” she said.

Dr. Nuthakki said Frey did well overall with her Stage 2 breast cancer treatment coupled with other health problems. She progressed through treatment, now is on oral medication and has a strong support system through her husband, he said.

“She is doing well. When you see her, your heart thinks, ‘Why do they have so many problems?’ Yet, she is upbeat. She is very positive,” he said. “Sometimes when I get down looking at all the problems, she lifts your spirits up. She is that kind of person.”

Carrie Fisher’s beloved dog wishes her a happy birthday: ‘I sure do miss you’

Published: Sunday, October 22, 2017 @ 2:28 PM
Updated: Sunday, October 22, 2017 @ 8:18 AM

Two weeks after watching his mom in The Last Jedi trailer, Gary Fisher returned to Instagram on Saturday with a sweet message for the late Carrie Fisher.

“Happy birthday mom, I sure do miss you and the cozy days #garyloveshismom #garymisseshismom #garyfisher #garyloveshisfans #happybirthdaymom,” the pup “posted” next to a snuggly shot of the pair. The shot had 14,000 likes and counting, with endless comments about the actress and her pooch.

» Carrie Fisher once sent producer a cow tongue after friend was allegedly assaulted

Fisher’s 25-year-old daughter, Billie Lourd, shared her own throwback photo earlier in the day, captioning it simply, “Happy Birthday Mom.”

The late actress’ longtime companion was adopted from Lourd as a service pet to help Fisher handle her bipolar disorder.

Fisher, who was open about her diagnosis and mental health, said the French bulldog provided vital emotional support and stability in her life.

“Gary is mental also. My mother says Gary is a hooligan. Gary is like my heart,” Fisher told  The Herald Tribune  in 2015. “Gary is very devoted to me and that calms me down. He’s anxious when he’s away from me.”

» New 'Star Wars' trailer released for 'The Last Jedi'

While Fisher had a long, established career in Hollywood, Gary (and his signature protruding tongue) became something of a celebrity himself during the actress’ press tours for Star Wars: The Force Awakens and her recent book,  The Princess Diarist

The brindle-colored canine was a frequent red-carpet guest of Fisher’s, too, and became a hit on social media (his Instagram account boasts more than 156,000 followers).

» Billie Lourd opens up about life after mom Carrie Fisher's death

The dog was by Fisher’s side when she went into cardiac arrest aboard a flight from London to Los Angeles on Dec. 23. He remained with the actress at the hospital, where she died four days later at the age of 60.

These days, the French bulldog is reported to be living with the late actress’ assistant, Corby McCoin. McCoin is said to have a strong connection with the pooch, according to TMZ, which first reported the news.

This article originally appeared on People.com