Cartoon of the Month – Dexter’s Laboratory

A bespectacled boy genius-cum-inventor-cum-bully to his sibling Dee Dee (“Stay out of my laboratory!”), who has a secret elaborate laboratory down in the basement of his very own house, Dexter’s Laboratory is a cartoon which has always been way ahead of its time – concealed buttons and switches such as the one which can be activated by pulling out a specific book from a bookshelf, passwords which need to be spoken out loud in order to gain entry into a particular room in the lab and so on.  Right from the time the cartoon caught my fancy, I’ve been thrilled at the way his secret laboratory was unknown to his parents too; I mean, here I was trying (unfortunately) to have a secret drawer to myself, and this young superhero had a whole, extensive laboratory. Not fair.

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Image courtesy: YouTube

  • The popular cartoon series holds the distinction of being the first original animated series in the history of Cartoon Network.
  • It may sound absurd, but the idea for Dexter started off with a drawing of a ballerina; definitely the stark opposite of what our cartoon hero is. However, it is precisely this play of opposites which came to the mind of creator Tartakovsky – ‘a short little brother with a love of science’.
  • Apparently, it was three different women (and not men) who voiced our little genius – Christine Cavanaugh, Candi Milo and later Tara Strong (credited with voicing cute little Bubbles from Powerpuff Girls).

Such is the popularity of Dexter’s Laboratory that speculation about the cartoon series refuses to die down. For instance, some people claim Dee Dee is not actually his elder sister but his ‘time-traveling daughter’, sent back in time to prevent poor old Dexter from working on an invention that had ultimately blown the world to smithereens in the past. Sounds possible, now that one comes to think of it. Wotsay?

Cartoon of the Month – Scooby Doo

While our cartoon of the previous month was all about the sonorous ‘Yabba Dabba Doo!’, this month I’m taking up another favorite of mine, which has the ‘Doo’ part common – the perpetually 7-year-old (49 years old in dog years),  lovable, talking, brown Great Dane – Scooby Doo.

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Image courtesy: CinemaBlend

I loved mysteries and anything to do with solving them as a kid, and hence two things regarding the same which were an inevitable part of my childhood years were, one, Enid Blyton mysteries and two, the Scooby Doo cartoon series which was also about mysteries, albeit of a relatively comical, supernatural kind solved by the four teenagers – Fred Jones, Daphne Blake, Velma Dinkley and Shaggy Rogers.

  • This children’s all-time favorite holds the distinction of a Guinness World Record for the maximum number of episodes of a cartoon comedy series.
  • The show was initially supposed to be called ‘Mystery Five’, then ‘Mysteries Five’, followed by ‘Who’s Scared’ (which was then believed to be a tad too scary for the targeted kids’ audience) and finally the ‘Scooby Doo’ that we know of.
  • Scooby Doo is not just about cartoons – it has major motion pictures, board games, computer games, video games, comic books and even novels.

Be it the creepy background sounds at the beginning of each episode or the wonderfully relatable characters – the stylish Daphne, the popular and sought-after Fred, the intelligent bookworm Velma and the true-to-his-name Shaggy – Scooby Doo will always make for a fascinating watch, at least for me.

“Zoinks!” as Shaggy would put it!

Cartoon of the Month – The Flintstones

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Image courtesy: Zazzle

The very first animated series to be shown on prime time American television in the 1960s was, surprisingly, set in the Stone Age, somewhere dating back to around 10,000 BC. That was that – and then before we knew it, the two cheerful cavemen families went on to become the second greatest TV cartoon of all time, and one of my favorite shows ever.

A couple of fun facts about Hanna Barbera’s The Flintstones – Fred and Wilma Flintstone, Barney and Betty Rubble, not to forget Pebbles Flintstone and Bamm-Bamm Rubble too:

  • In the age of The Flintstones, there was no electricity, but there were dishwashers; no shoes, but cars ran swiftly on bare feet. Contemporary situations set in prehistoric times were what we call the USP of the show.
  • The Flintstones was known by several different names before it became The Flintstones. Initially it was ‘The Flagstones’, then it turned into ‘The Gladstones’ and finally came the flint as we know it.
  • Did you notice that almost every episode had new, changed furniture in The Flintstones’ residence? And that their pet dinosaur, which barked like a puppy, also changed colors from its basic purple throughout the show?

I vividly remember how melodious The Flintstones opening and closing credits were and Fred Flintstone’s heartful, full-throated ‘Yabba Dabba Doo!’

3 Simple Cleaning Hacks for Parents

Cleaning house while children are growing is like shoveling the sidewalk while it’s still snowing.

I couldn’t have put it better. Agreed – in the present so-called modern era kids are supposedly more into online games on the computer and cartoon shows on the television rather than actually creating a physical mess like we did in the yesteryears. But even then, our home is a complete mess at the end of the day. This only means that kids today are more adept at multi-tasking and manage to do anything and everything that they can get their hands on! Well, for a majority of us parents out there who have kids that create a mess, here are three simple cleaning hacks which can make life easier.

Sweep It Clean

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Lego” by blickpixel is licensed under CC by 2.0

So your kids never give you a hand with cleaning up around the house? Well, you’re definitely not alone; neither do mine. My son absolutely adores creating a mess – be it on the kitchen table with bread crumbs and marmalade, with crayons and paints on the wall (yes, wall) in his room, or on the carpet in the living room. Some of these messes, I’ve realized, are beyond my control to control. However, I do try and distribute the basic cleaning chores around the house by making it up like a game. For instance, both my kids have miniature, colorful brooms of their own. They have a doormat marked right outside the door of their rooms on the floor with colored chalk. They have got the hang of what to do by now – broom their room and get all the grime from the corners of their room into the square outside their doors. It takes each one of them barely five minutes to do their rooms and only then do we sit down for a leisurely breakfast. No questions asked.

Paint Your Dreams

Every child is an artist, albeit a messy one. We have all kinds of artistic work pinned up at various prominent positions on the walls of our home – most of them are unfathomable riots of color and hence, my husband likes to call them ‘modern works of art’. I remember a couple of years ago, when my daughter started dabbling in colors – both literally and figuratively, as in she loved immersing her hands and feet in paints and then walked around – first I tried using newspapers to lessen the mess involved. She didn’t enjoy crayons too much, so (messy) paints it was. Usually, the water colors she used soaked right into the paper she painted on and the entire ‘artwork’ was ruined, accompanied by sobs. Then I tried something new – discarded egg cartons and cleaned up empty pizza boxes. Newspapers spread out on the grass in the backyard, opened up pizza boxes acting like a huge canvas and water paints did the trick. The paints did not soak into the thick cardboard, there was no dearth of space with regard to the size of paper available for painting and the mess was as minimal as could be in the situation.

Squishy Soft Toys

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Stuffed Animals” by ErikaWittlieb is licensed under CC by 2.0

Well, now that I come to think of it, one never outgrows soft toys. There’s proof – have a look at this article which explains the science behind the love of stuffed animals. After all, I still have the cute brown bear with flappy arms sitting on my favorite armchair in a corner of my bedroom, after all these years. And especially where there are kids, there will be soft toys. Loads of them. Our home is no exception. You’re very likely to step on at least half a dozen monkeys and rabbits and puppy dogs as you step into our main door and walk to, say, the dining table. Soft toys are cuddly, huggable and best of all, squishy. So when I chanced across this idea online which talked about making a neat, squishy bean bag out of them to keep them out of the way, I was eternally thankful. Strewn all over the place, they lend color and cheer to the room. Zipped up in a thick cloth bean bag, they are not messy and make for an extremely comfortable, squishy seat. A storage bag-cum-bean-bag of sorts.

Wish to add any other parenting hacks you use to this list?

Cartoon of the Month – Tom and Jerry

The year before last we did a series in which we talked about a different mathematician great every month of the year. This 2017 let’s do something a little less dreary than dry old math… Hence, it’s cartoons raining this year, with a favorite of mine lined up for every month of the year. Let’s begin!

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Image courtesy: Wallpapers Pictures Photos

An intensely lovable pair that has been fighting like cats and dogs (read: cats and mice) from as far back as we can remember; 1940, to be precise. Brought to life by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, this series of comic fights including the mayhem and destruction that follows have found themselves a special place in every heart, kids and adults alike.

Some fun facts about this indomitable cartoon pair which apparently once won an Oscar:

  • In the initial stages, Tom was called Jasper and Jerry was called Jinx (Jasper and Jinx? Doesn’t sound as good as Tom and Jerry!)
  • In spite of their immense popularity, this duo hardly ever speaks in their cartoons; it is music which lends the major emotions to their scenes. (However, soot-blackened Tom’s haunting ‘Don’t you believe it!’ line after being involved in a nuclear explosion struck a chord with many.)
  • Ever heard of the ‘Spike & Tyke’ cartoon? This bulldog father and son series was a spin-off of Tom & Jerry, but didn’t work out eventually. Ditto for the cartoon that went by the name of ‘Herman & Katnip’.

I absolutely loved Tom and Jerry as a kid, my kids adore them now and I’m pretty certain my grandkids will go gaga over the duo too!

Like they say, ‘Some relationships are like Tom and Jerry… They tease each other, knock down each other, irritate each other, but can’t live without each other!’

New Year Resolutions for Families

A New Year means a fresh start. Come January and everything seems new somehow, at least that’s how I look at it. Talking about resolutions, they are something I try to make (and keep) every year without fail, notwithstanding the fact that it’s barely February and I realize that yet again, I have failed miserably at it. The longest I’ve ever managed to stick to a resolution is just over four months; two years ago, I decided to turn vegan and vehemently stuck to the resolution till after April. I consider that an achievement of sorts. :P

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New Year’s Day” by Snufkin is licensed under CC by 2.0

So this year around, we tried something different. Instead of keeping individual resolutions, we decided to zero in on three resolutions that we would keep together as a family. This way, if one or more of us begins to lose our way, the others will be there to hopefully help them back on to the right path. After much brainstorming on New Year Eve, here are the three resolutions on all our cards this 2017.

Unplugging – The new luxury

Post-dinner, it’s gadget-free time for the entire family (including the better half and me). It has always been an unsaid rule at our place that mealtimes are to be tech-free times – no mobile phones, no tablets, no television too. We’ve decided to take this a step further and do all our gadget/electronic work/play pre dinner time. Be it my writing on the computer, the daughter’s favorite virtual games, the son’s doodling on paint or their daddy’s never-ending e-mails and work meetings, all need to be over and done with once dinner is on the table. We might end up playing a board game, or reading an actual, physical book or even just narrating stories to one another. It will definitely be time well spent.

Kitchen – The heart of the home

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Food” by painteddreamsdesigns is licensed under CC by 2.0

Long ago, I once came across a quote that has somehow stayed with me till date; it said – ‘A kitchen is a place where memories are homemade and seasoned with love.’ Back in my childhood, I remember helping my mum bake cookies during holidays, but that’s about it. We never really whipped up an entire meal together as a family. However, better late than never; we’ve decided to change that. Every weekend, all four of us will decide on the menu for the day together, and prepare an entire meal from scratch. With everyone pitching in (read: the kids), it’s bound to be a messy affair. But, that’s (hopefully) the fun of it!

Gardening – Happily digging in the dirt

We have a small pocket square kitchen garden at the back of our house. This New Year we’ve driven in small signposts in each corner, with one corner designated to one member of the family. I love nasturtiums so obviously they are the first on my check-list of things to grow, while the little ones have their heart set on sunflowers since those flowers are ‘the brightest and the best’  (in my son’s words). Daddy dearest doesn’t remotely have any idea what plant or vegetable or flower will occupy pride of place in his corner, so he’s decided to set up a bird feeder as a beginning. Well, as long as we’re all happily occupied in making our corner the most beautiful, it’s going to be a resolution well kept! Also, here are a couple of interesting kids’ gardening project ideas for a start.

What do you think of our new initiative? Here’s hoping we stick to our unique New Year resolutions for a long, long time!

The ‘Little Women’ in Us

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Image courtesy: QuotesGram

The oldest and most conventional March sister, Meg, who is always on the lookout to please the people around her with her good behavior. The headstrong and independent Jo, rebellious at heart and the most outspoken member of her family. Next comes Beth, the bashful and quiet girl, who unfortunately loses her life along the way. Then there’s Amy, the youngest sister who is akin to a perfect lady of sorts and has a mind of her own. And, of course, Mrs. March, without whom the whole family is incomplete.

Today, November 29, happens to be the American novelist Louisa May Alcott’s 184th birthday, the author who penned down the one novel which I have held close to my heart all these years – Little Women. This masterpiece took the author a mere ten weeks to write, and the words in it ring true till date. While Louisa herself was quite like the character Jo in the book, the other three sisters were characterized on her own real sisters. A great number of Broadway plays, ballets, operas, musicals, TV series and seven different movies – these are some of the ways Louisa’s outstanding work took wings in later years.

Why do I love the story so much? Because these lines from the book continue to stay with me even now:

“I’ve got the key to my castle in the air, but whether I can unlock the door remains to be seen.”

“The power of finding beauty in the humblest things makes home happy and life lovely.”

“Watch and pray, dear, never get tired of trying, and never think it is impossible to conquer your fault.”

And last but not the least, this one:

“Let us be elegant or die!”

Here’s hoping that the Little Women in us continue to live on for eons to come!