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I really like the five legs on the unicorn.
I really like the five legs on the unicorn.

How quickly they learn

When my sons were no longer toddlers, I was excited about their abilities to draw cute stick figures of the family and other Crayola masterpieces that I would cherish for life.

My first son is more of an abstract artist, so even though every one of his pictures is colorful and has a lengthy story to go with it, he’s not much for realism. My other son, however, is more of a perfectionist, and just recently he developed enough dexterity to draw what he calls "things that look like things."

I’ve often referred to him as "my little Napoleon Dynamite" and he continues to earn this nickname with his subject choices for his artwork. He draws a lot of fantasy-genre pictures of rainbows, dragons and unicorns -- which he still insists on calling "unihorns." (No ligers yet.)

At one point I told him how much I loved unihorns when I was a little girl and that I still like them today (in a kitschy, nostalgic way, but I didn’t get into that). Immediately, he sat down and started drawing a unihorn / rainbow picture for me that was his best to date. He then wrote a "1" and a "2" in the upper right corner of the paper.

"This is for you, Mom, but it’s not for free," he said.

I asked him how much it cost and he pointed to the numbers in the corner of the page. "It’s either $1 or $2," he said.

"Hmmm," I said. "Well, in that case, I pick $1."

"Good choice, Mom," he said.

Since then, all of his artwork includes a price tag. Sometimes it’s "$1 or $2" but other creations, like the smiling wizard standing in a field of broccoli, is a whopping "two hundred thousand million."

"Maybe you can save up at the bank for it," he said.

Who says creatives don’t make good business people?

Hmmm ... new Dora is a little on the "Carrie Bradshaw" side.
Hmmm ... new Dora is a little on the "Carrie Bradshaw" side.

Is new Dora too sexy?

Last week, Mattel and Nickelodeon finally released a picture of the new, older Dora the Explorer. Prior to the unveiling of the pic, the companies released a black silhouette of the tweenaged Dora.

Mattel says they updated Dora’s look because the young girls who grew up and admired the adventurous tom boy in the bowl cut are now tweens and they need a hipper Dora to relate to.

Lots of parents, however, find the new Dora too sexy. Apparently, Mattel’s marketing department says Dora is wearing a tunic top -- not a mini-dress -- and that she is not wearing make-up. (Although her lips do appear pinker.)

Personally, I would have prefered a new character all together, perhaps another cousin for Dora and Diego, who was older and more appealing to tweens. My only hope for the older Dora is that she increased her Spanish vocabulary beyond "rojo" and "¡vámonos!"

Mmmmm ... flapjacks.
Mmmmm ... flapjacks.

Where do you go for pancakes?

Eating out -- particularly for breakfast -- is a rare treat these days, mostly because I often find it easier and more affordable to feed my wee ones at home. But this weekend I'm feeling brave, and thinking about journeying out for brunch.

I am a lover of the pancake and make a pretty damn good stack at home. However, I am wondering which local eateries specialize in the syrupy cakes?

I usually eat pancakes when dining out for brunch / breakfast because they are filling and, if ordered without butter, are relatively low in fat. I admit that I'm tempted by other menu items, like omelettes the size of my kid, but I usually pick  pancakes. You know, trying to avoid the stereotyped "mom" figure.

Punch that card, then punch it again!
Punch that card, then punch it again!

Kudos to coffee punch cards

Yesterday,'s Bobby Tanzilo, Jeff Sherman and I coincidentally cashed in our full coffee punch cards. Personally, this was only the second time I held onto a punch card long enough to fill it up, but I'm a die-hard believer in them now because a free fancy coffee is a great way to start a day.

Needless to say, in the current economy, even an occasional free cup of joe makes a difference.

Some people like to carry their punch card around until they are short on funds, and then it feels particularly satisfying to splurge on a coffee drink. Remember, the beauty of the punch card free drink is that you can order whatever you want, so go for the extra shot of espresso.

If you're going to be a dedicated coffee card puncher, it's important to know which days are "double punch" days. Starbucks doesn't issue punch cards, but here are a few local joints that do:

Alterra (all locations): Get your  double punch for cups or bags of coffee on Tuesdays. Twelve punches earns a free drink.
Fuel Café (818 E. Center St.): Mondays are double punch card days at Fuel, and 10 punches get you a free cup.
Stone Creek (all locations): Stone Creek doesn't have a set double-punch weekday, but they do give "double punches" every day in February.