Monthly Archives: October 2013

Palisades State Park, South Dakota

This past Saturday my family went on a weekend adventure to Palisades State Park in southeastern South Dakota. The weather was perfect and Fall was displayed in all her glory.


Located on the Coteau des Prairies, Palisades State Park includes Split Rock Creek, which has eroded and cut down the Sioux Quartzite for the past 1.2 billion years.


Lewis and Clark?


This formation is one of the few places that contains catlinite, also called “pipestone”, which the local Native Americans have used to fashion “peace” pipes out of for centuries.


I’m pretty sure that I hate the word “selfie”, but here I am, hiking through the woods.



Here Thing1 re-enacts Jesse James’ infamous leap from Devil’s Gulch Peak to Palisades State Park, minus the horse, obviously.


This steel truss bridge, built in 1908, is on the Register of National Historic Structures.


There is a little playground set near the parking lot for the park.


As my son would say, Palisades State Park is 157 acres of AWESOME. You can camp, rock climb, canoe, picnic, fishing, and much more to do here. We only hiked for the afternoon, but there are four trails to choose from, each winding through some incredible rock formations.

Day passes start at either $4 per person, or $6 per carload. Camping prices can be found here. Prices vary depending on what you want to do – tent it, stay in a cabin, or sleep in the Lodge.

Highly recommended!

Emily, Doer of Stuff



Trasformers Construct-Bots: A Review


I recently received a FREE Transformers Construct-Bots kit via BzzAgent (a great place to go to sign up to test all kinds of items from home goods to toys and cereal) to test out with my boys. I’ve been a BzzAgent for a couple of years now and I have enjoyed receiving products to test in my home. But to be able to test a toy with kids is really a fantastic experience, let me tell you.


The boys were wonderfully excited when I pulled the double kit out of the box – both Megatron and Optimus Prime are included, perfect to test out on two boys – no one had to get jealous or feel left out. Thing1, my seven year old, grabbed the Optimus Prime kit and Thing2, my four year old, went for Megatron. Keep in mind that the kit says that this toy is recommended for those who are 7+, so the fact that my 4 year old had trouble isn’t really relevant in a lot of ways.


My initial reaction to opening this kit was, “I loved Transformers when I was a kid, and now I get to introduce them to my own kids!” Perfect, right? Well, mostly. These aren’t the robots as us Children of the 80s might remember. While some of the original Transformer robots were tricky to transform, the Construct-Bots robots are just about impossible to transform. The idea is that the Construct-Bots are both a robot and a vehicle, in addition to being anything else that a kid wants to make from the parts. Every part is individual – nothing is pre-assembled. This is more of a model than a toy, at least initially.

I say that these guys are hard to transform for two reasons. First, once I got the Megatron robot assembled (yes, me – not my children) from the instructions provided in the kit, I had about had it with trying to figure out the instructions! They are all in picture format, numbered, with no text explanation. There were moments when I couldn’t figure them out without turning the robot in different ways than the instructions seemed to indicate. [I’d like to point out that I am 38 years old and have a few science-related degrees under my belt!] The instructions to transform the robot into its vehicle form were even less clear.

My second reason for having a difficult time transforming is that I had to pull some parts from where I had assembled them and snap them into different positions despite the fact that the box clearly stated that I wouldn’t have to unsnap anything in order to transform the robot. Also, when the Megatron robot was in a vehicle form [which he never was as an 80s toy – he was a gun as I recall], it was very “loose” and wouldn’t hold its shape well when it was being played with by my kids.

Thing1 didn’t even really try the directions. I think they were too hard for him on one level.

So far, I realize I have pointed out only negative things about Transformers Construct-Bots. The flipside is that my boys really loved all of the unique and colorful parts that came with the Construct-Bots kits. They spent most of their time making their own creations with the parts. Incidentally, all of the parts from each kit are useable with the parts from other kits. The possibilities are endless with so many parts to choose from in each kit.

This sample product certainly didn’t let us down in “potential playability”, which is something I look for in a toy. I want my kids to enjoy their toys over and over again, and not get tired of them. Thing1 was so excited about the Construct-Bots that he got himself up and dressed early each morning for about a week so he could play with the parts in the mornings before school. This was AWESOME. Thing2 played with his kit in the afternoons following preschool, too. They were both perfectly happy with these kits even though they never made the robot or the vehicle forms that were intended. They don’t have the same attachment to Transformers that I have, so it wasn’t very important to them to replicate the picture on the box.


As a parent, I was really happy with the fact that each kit comes with its own storage container that can be stacked and put away when all those little parts COULD be spread all over my house instead. We keep the kits with our collection of board games on a shelf in the family room so the guys can get them out and play with them anytime they want.

My overall recommendation is as follows: These are great toys in general, but I think that the instructions need to be made more user-friendly, with the 7+ year olds in mind, since this is the age group that the product is being marketed to. Would I buy another kit? Probably. Thing1 currently has the “Bumblebee” kit on his Christmas wish list. He loves all of the cool parts, and yellow is his favorite color. I would not buy this kit for a 4 year old, though. Way too hard. I think that diehard 80s Transformers people would both enjoy sharing this toy with their own kids, but also be a little dismayed with the level of difficulty their kid will experience. If an 80s parent really wants to introduce their kiddoes to Transformers, AND help them fall in love with them, this is probably NOT the toy to start with.

Highly recommended for 80s parents to play with themselves in the evenings after the kidlets go to bed. 🙂

Emily, Doer of Stuff

BzzAgent #GotItFree