Ready for a Chia PREDATOR? While we don't know if that will be a thing, a surprising announcement arrived just before the start of New York Toy Fair this weekend - National Entertainment Collectibles Association (NECA) has acquired the company behind Chia Pet and The Clapper. NECA has taken control of both Joseph Enterprises, Inc. (JEI) and Joseph Pedott Advertising and Marketing, Inc. (JPAM), which join the NECA family of specialty entertainment companies. NECA promises that these are  "poised for cross-company collaboration."

As I type these words, we're in the middle of the biggest snow of the season here in Northern Illinois - another 6" having fallen overnight. Prior to the proper winter season, the last thing we finished outside was the construction of a massive new deck here at Rock Father HQ... but we finished in November, no time to enjoy it last season. Now, looking ahead to warmer temperatures for 2018, it's window-shopping season, and the folks at Char-Broil have just launched a new collection that's caught my eye - a new outdoor modular kitchen, available at Lowes. Outdoor kitchens have been a growing trend these past few years, but they've also been cost-prohibitive for a lot of families. Now, Char-Broil has brought the concept into reach for a much wider audience. Available now, the Modular Outdoor Kitchen includes the 5-Burner TRU-Infrared™ Gas Grill, the Outdoor Stove Top, Refrigerator, and more. Check out a preview...

It's cold here in Northern Illinois, and as a fresh couple inches of snow covers the ground today following a near-60° warm-up just days ago, cabin fever is setting in as I think about spending some time outdoors when spring rolls around. I'm a big fan of lighting (my wife can vouch for my years of trial-and-error), and lately my eyes have been on the "Neo-Vintage" LED movement - modern tech that looks like the Edison bulbs of old. As that corner of the industry continues to evolve, it's interesting to see just how close we've come to LED bulbs that have the appearance of their incandescent ancestors, but the path hasn't been without some hiccups. One such glitch is the flicker - a hyper-strobe effect that usually can't be seen with the naked eye. This is something the LEDs have been known for, and something that's bugged me for years - particularly with seasonal lighting. If you've ever shot video of certain LEDs (Christmas lights are a prime example), you've seen the dramatic effect. Now comes The Burton Bulb, and they're aiming to fix all of that with flickerless Neo-Vintage LED tech.

We've been fans of Playmonster's My Fairy Garden collection since we first discovered them a year or so ago. Having placed a fairy garden outside as part of our landscape every year, The Rock Daughters™ always have a habit of playing with the statues out there, and they're not really made for that since they're not toys. My Fairy Garden solves that problem by providing a real garden environment that kids can play with inside. Each kit comes with everything you need to build and grown the perfect spot for your fairy figures, and there's always room to expand, with a wide array of accessories and additional fairies available. Our original garden, the Magical Cottage, is still going strong, and this fall we added a new one to the mix - the Bean Blossom.

Wednesday, September 20 2017 23:59

Buyer's Remorse: Samsung Activewash Washer & Dryer

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Writing about consumer products is a large part of what I do here at THE ROCK FATHER™ Magazine. My opinions are always 100% honest and straightforward, and when something isn't right - I let people know about it. Whether I receive free product for review or pay for it myself, the standards are the same because bad products hurt consumers. I don't like seeing people being taken advantage of, and I'm certainly not going to put up with that myself. American families work hard for their money, and my wife and I are a prime example of that. What's very concerning is how short a lifespan many of our high-dollar purchases have, and frankly, I'm tired of being fleeced. Today I'm going to tell you about the worst purchase I've made in the last year or so - a heavily-advertised (remember those commercials with Dax Shepard and Kristen Bell?) Samsung Activewash Washer and Dryer Pair from Best Buy. Our "new" washer and dryer are essentially junk - products whose performance has defeated the reason they were purchased in the first place. It started with that infamous Samsung recall...

When we bought our home seven years ago, the property came with a shed. It was cumbersome, improperly installed and just plain yucky. Eventually, it became clear that it was in such bad shape, I feared that it might fall on the kids, and because of that I went all INCREDIBLE HULK and knocked the thing down myself. In place of the shed, we put some of our kids' outdoor toys in that spot, but approaching this year we knew it was time for a new shed. Backyard Discovery has long-been known for their excellent sheds, swingsets and playhouses, and thanks to their recent merger with The Step2 Company (long-time friends of mine), I had a chance to go hands-on with one of their new Ready Sheds - sent to Rock Father HQ™ for review. While I think I'm pretty solid when it comes to gardening and landscaping, construction and carpentry are pretty foreign to me. With the Ready Shed, Backyard Discovery has created a do-it-yourself shed kit that they say can be completed with one hammer, one drill, one person and in one day. Check out the video below to see ours... 

Blame Canada. At least in this instance, the title of the Oscar-winning 1999 song from the South Park motion picture might ring true, if only for those individuals that happen to have been a part of the angry social mob that just attacked Spokane-based RESCUE! Pest Control over the past couple of days. This angry, misguided gang of idiots also decided it was worth attacking yours truly based upon a 2014 review that I'd written about the TrapStik Non-Toxic Wasp Trap, followed by some social posts over the past few years - most recently, this past May. Part of my mission is to guide families toward products that work, and when it comes to controlling the Wasp population, there is nothing that I've found that works as well as the TrapStik - and it does so without pesticides of any kind. Now, they're being voluntarily pulled from the market pending a redesign, and that's a decision I don't agree with. The reason for the fiasco? The occasional unintended creature (bird or bug) may get stuck on the TrapStik. Personally, that's a risk I'm willing to take.

Last year at Blogger Bash in New York City, I got an early look at Sentiments' first Disney Pets Collection - a series of dog beds and bowls based around the iconic look of Mickey Mouse. Now comes word that the line was a success, and with that they're expanding line - and with Spider-Man: Homecoming hitting theaters this month, it's appropriate that their first foray into the Marvel realm is a collection aimed solely at canine fans of a certain NYC-based web-slinger. Can your dog (or cat) be a Disney or Marvel fan? I don't see why not...

When you think of Step2, chances are you immediately think of play kitchens, outdoor play houses, swing sets and that type of stuff. What many don't realize is that they've also made home & garden products for many years (we have a Step2 mailbox), but that's never really been front and center. That might be on the cusp of changing, though, as Step2 has been working on some pretty innovative new products for the lifestyle space, one of which was recently sent to us for review - the StoneFront Patio Collection Cooler & Storage unit. Being so big into outdoor living, I was really excited to see this become a reality, as it was something hinted at when I last visited The Step2 Company's headquarters in Ohio back when I was working with them as a brand ambassador a couple years back. This is something that adds some real flair and function to any outdoor space.

I tend to be notoriously hesitant when it comes to crowdfunding efforts*, but once in awhile something hits my radar that I'll share here on the site. Tertill: The Solar-Powered Weeding Robot for Home Gardens is just such a project, and it's one that sorta breaks two of my barriers - crowdfunding and home robotics. I have no interest in owning a Roomba to vacuum for me, and when it comes to lawn-mowing robots, that's just terrifying (they look like Battlebots, so I figure they'll attack children) and of no interest since I love mowing my lawn. One thing I don't like? Weeding our gardens. In our raised beds here at Rock Father HQ, we have a major weed problem, and the girls and I can't keep it under control. It's a huge pain, and that's where a little guy like Tertill can come in. Check this out, and watch the pitch video below.

Monday, May 22 2017 10:43

Getting DIYZ: Replacing Rotten Deck Boards

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The Rock Father™ has collaborated with the DIYZ® app and Life of Dad for this Home Improvement feature. All tools and materials have been chosen by The Rock Father. Opinions are that of James Zahn. #GetWise

As I am writing this, my wife and I have now owned our house for seven years. In fact, after twelve moves in my life, the home that has become known as “Rock Father HQ” will soon become the one that I’ve lived in the longest. With homeownership comes some challenges, and while we’ve tackled many with the #RockFatherRemodel project (the goal is that the house will get nicer as it gets older), others have been more daunting. Often they’re projects that don’t need to be.

This feature is presented in collaboration between The Rock Father™, Cub Cadet and Life of Dad.

Over the past week or so, I’ve largely neglected my normal work. With April having been such an unusually rainy month (“April showers bring May flowers”) here in Northern Illinois this year, the sunny, albeit cool days of early May have been pretty inviting in terms of getting outside to explore one of my real passions: working the yard. I’m usually eyeing the outdoor tasks by February, when I start taking a good look at the depressingly drab and battered landscape that the winter has left behind, with plans of creating a lush, green suburban oasis when the weather breaks. I’ve already been trimming, fertilizing, weeding and caring for the landscape - I do mean the entire picture. A proper yard is more than just a “lawn,” but the total package of everything surrounding it. I do have #LawnGoals, though - and this year the girls and I are working not to meet them, but to exceed them in every possible way. Here’s the rundown on what’s been done so far…

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