Lakeshore News, News Around the World

Toys and games going old-school amid COVID close-downs, says toy expert

With parents home with their school-aged kids during the social distancing age of COVID-19, it’s no secret they’re all looking for something to do, and according to toy sales, they’re going old-school.

“Board game sales are surging. We’ve never seen board games sell like this before — whether it be Monopoly, Uno, or any other board game,” Jim Silver, toy industry expert and founder of the toy testing website TTPM tells ABC Audio. “Parents… want their kids off screens. They want them thinking.”

Silver adds, “Another category that is doing very well in toys is the puzzle category. Now, this is not just kids. This is adults also. But puzzles sales are up about 300% over the last month.”

Hands-on activities are also doing well because of the quarantine, according to sales figures from the country’s three biggest retailers, Amazon, Target, and Wal-Mart, Silver says. “Activity toys and arts and crafts, whether it be any compound, you have Play-Doh, you have slime, you have kinetic sand — all flying. These toy categories are having some of the best times they’ve ever seen.”

In spite of the news, Silver says, “[I]f you’re going to keep under quarantine, it’s nice to have a little fun, especially a family.”

Lakeshore News, News Around the World

Comic convention going virtual

Like other public events, pop culture conventions have been cancelled in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic — after all, what could be worse for the situation than large crowds, sweaty cosplays, and celebrities shaking hands with total strangers?

However, one exhibitor knows the geeks out there are feeling the loss, so EXLEVELENT has announced plans for the first-ever Virtual Fan Expo, on May 2-3.

According to the company, the event, which is co-sponsored by the pop-culture website Collider and the fan-funded entertainment company Legion M, promises to bring the con experience to you — at a safe distance — from the comfort of your own home.

“VFE 2020 will replicate the Con experience down to an exhibitor floor via Auxxit, an innovative virtual marketplace, where attendees will have unparalleled ability to communicate with exhibitors and each other,” the website claims.

“The virtual convention floor will feature more than one hundred exhibitors and vendors offering the hottest merchandise typically found at well-known Cons and featuring VFE-exclusive items.”

The virtual experience will also feature classic convention attractions like celebrity Q&As — so far, True Blood’s Joe Manganiello has signed on — as well as costume contests and even a virtual cosplay ball.

As a side-note, one thing a virtual convention won’t have — which won’t be missed by die-hard convention-goers — is the infamously familiar “con funk” that stems from fans sweating in stuffy costumes all day.

That is, unless you’ve been the guilty party wafting around all along.

Lakeshore News, News Around the World

New app guides you through calming hypnotherapy session while you’re on the toilet

For many, particularly those stuck at home with their kids and endlessly “touching base” with work remotely, answering the call of nature is their only respite. Such was the case for Kim Palmer, the founder of the therapy app Clementine.

As with many good ideas throughout history, she cooked up the idea for a five-minute, 18-second hypnotherapy session while in the bathroom, and thus Clementine’s new Loo-Break Breather was born.

“Juggling a busy work life, on top of trying to teach the kids, as well as lots of check-ins with loved ones through FaceTime, can be exhausting,” Kim noted. “I noticed the only break I was getting to myself was when ‘nature called.'”

The specially-designed session is meant to “guide the listener into a meditative place, similar to daydreaming,” when the brain becomes “receptive to new ideas by tapping into the subconscious mind.” That can help you de-stress, which in turn could help you tackle that thorny issue that may have just come up on a conference call.

Palmer says, “Trying to find extra time to relax during the lockdown can be a stress in itself. Getting motivated to do a 6am yoga session in the lounge or a midday step-class in the hallway is great, but I wanted to take advantage of a time that doesn’t involve adding even more to our busy schedules.”

She adds of her app, “Clementine is an app that helps you just kick back for a moment before life starts up again and you need to be all things to all people.”

Unfortunately for you Android users, the app for now is iPhone only.

Lakeshore News, News Around the World

AAA Weekly Fuel Gauge

The national gas price average has steadily declined for seven weeks, pushing the average cheaper by 61-cents to $1.86 today. During this timeframe (since late February), U.S. demand for gasoline has decreased 44% to 5 million b/d as gasoline inventories build across the country.

“We are seeing fast and furious gasoline demand destruction. The latest data reveals demand levels not seen since spring of 1968,” said Nick Jarmusz, Director of Public Affairs. “Every U.S. region is seeing builds in gasoline inventories and crude storage, which is just driving pump prices even cheaper.”

On Sunday, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries plus (OPEC+), led by Saudi Arabia, announced historic global crude productions cuts – nearly 10 million b/d in May and June.

“While the production cut is historic, it’s likely to not have an immediate impact on pump prices given the ongoing impact the COVID-19 pandemic continues to have on crude oil prices and gasoline demand,” added Jarmusz.

At $1.86, today’s national average is 6-cents less than last week, 44-cents cheaper than a month ago and nearly $1 less than a year ago.

Wisconsin is not only experiencing one of the largest weekly decreases (-13 cents), but a monthly difference (-85 cents) and a yearly difference (-$1.50). It is also one of the least expensive markets ($1.30).

  Monday Sunday Week Ago Month Ago One Year Ago
National $1.862 $1.866 $1.929 $2.303 $2.823
Wisconsin $1.308 $1323 $1.436 $2.156 $2.801
Appleton $1.058 $1.075 $1.179 $2.050 $2.713
Eau Claire $1.299 $1.314 $1.417 $2.069 $2.895
Green Bay $1.137 $1.158 $1.264 $2.211 $2.755
Janesville-Beloit $1.200 $1.202 $1.259 $2.048 $2.714
La Crosse $1.118 $1.167 $1.345 $1.986 $2.837
Madison $1.295 $1.304 $1.424 $2.124 $2.752
Milwaukee $1.296 $1.312 $1.450 $2.079 $2.848
Wausau $1.528 $1.536 $1.664 $2.257 $2.764

Click here to view current gasoline price averages

Lakeshore News, News Around the World

New dream job alert: get paid to sit on your couch and watch Disney+

With COVID-19 grinding social activity to a complete halt, most people have turned to streaming services to cure the mounting boredom that comes with sheltering at home. Now, some streaming services want to pay people for using their service.

Enter Reviews.org, who has created a literal dream job for Disney fans — tasking those who want “some extra money and something entertaining to watch to help you get through the day-to-day difficulties of COVID-19.”

Yes, they will pay 10 lucky people $200 to sit on their couch and enjoy Disney+. Oh, they will also pay for a full year subscription, too.

“Literally, nobody doesn’t like free TV and free money, so you should probably enter,” Reviews.org brags. “Honestly, the main requirement is that you’re an actual person who would enjoy streaming Disney+ and $200 cash. (Well . . . Visa Gift Card, actually, but still!)”

Better yet, you’re not required to watch certain content. But, the website does have some strong recommendations like the smash hit Star Wars spinoff series The Mandalorian so you can see what all those Baby Yoda memes are about.

If people being dramatic in space isn’t your cup of tea, Reviews.org curated a separate list of recommendations.

So, how do you enter? Just send an email to giveaways@reviews.org and use “Dream Job” in the email subject line. Then, just tell them your name and favorite Disney movie. If you want to write something extra, that’s cool, too.

Those itching to apply must be a U.S. resident over 18-years-old.

Also, it should be obvious, but you can only enter once. Don’t spam.

So, get cracking and submit your entry by 11:59 p.m. MST April 10, 2020. Winners will be randomly selected.

Disney is the parent company of ABC News.

Lakeshore News, News Around the World

Well that’s depressing: chocolatiers now selling Easter bunnies with face masks

With the world staying home to avoid catching or transmitting COVID-19, candy makers are finding ways to capitalize on or, at least, make light of the current pandemic. You know, for the kids.

Most recently, chocolatiers have started to put surgical face masks on their chocolate Easter bunnies. You know, because they can totally catch COVID-19 and are all about that social distancing.

KGNS tells the story of a Greek chocolatier named Marios Papadopoulos in the northern Grecian town of Thessaloniki who started crafting the masks on his chocolate bunnies because he wanted to bring some joy to his customers. He added that he wanted to find a way to honor those working the front lines at hospitals and clinics.

He’s even crafted some bunnies wearing scrubs while others represent doctors with a vaccine for COVID-19.

Papadopoulos isn’t alone, other bakeries around the world have had the same idea and have flooded social media with photos of their own creations, with some bakeries even going as far as creating fancy almond-flavored face masks for their chocolate bunnies.

So, that said, imagine telling this to yourself from a year ago about socially distancing chocolate Easter bunnies, would you believe you?

Lakeshore News, News Around the World

Wanna get tanked with your cat while in quarantine? You’re in luck!

Apparently, National Drink Wine With Your Cat Week is coming up. For those wanting to pop bottles with your felines, Pet Wine Shop has got you covered.

Through April 10, the online store that sells non-alcoholic wine for cats (and dogs!) has a pretty cool deal going on right now called #QuarantineAndChillWithYourCat. Meaning, you can nab free bottles of wine for your fur baby.

Not only that, you can sink your claws into some extra swag for your kitty, such as catnip bubbles and dental sticks.

“Stay home and drink wine with your Cat or Dog. Shop FREE items daily and get FREE shipping on all orders $10 and up,” the website advertises. “We know convenience is key and you’re going through a difficult time, so let us bring joy to your doorstep.”

Also, for those wanting to know if their precious pooch can get some dranks, no worries. All dog wine is currently on sale and features adorable vintages such as Chardognay and Zinfantail.

So, now you know what to do if you’re stuck at home and want to throw a refined wine tasting paw-ty for you and your closest furry companions. Cheers!

Lakeshore News, News Around the World

Academic expert Neha Gupta on how COVID-19 is affecting college-bound students

Finding the right college is stressful enough, but how will those looking to start the next stage in their life do so in the days of COVID-19? With no in-person visits possible, how will prospective students make informed decisions about which school to attend? How is the stress of quarantine affecting them?

We checked in with Neha Gupta, best-selling author and the founder of Elite Private Tutors and the website College Shortcuts, for some strategies college freshman-to-be can use to make the right choice.

“My advice right now is to breathe,” Gupta tells ABC Audio. “I think there’s a lot of changes happening. We just heard that the [University of California] system is going to go S.A.T. and A.C.T. test-optional.”

“From my perspective, doing this for over fifteen years at College Shortcuts…it’s become more competitive than ever to get into college,” she adds. “The upcoming school year, especially for this next round of admissions.”

However, she notes, “They’re going to be weighing the essays and extracurricular activities way above the scores and GPA than ever, before due to COVID-19.”

That’s why Gupta advises you to brush up on your grammar.

“Now, more than ever, students need to be able to write well and be able to present themselves well and package themselves well — explain what their passions are, what their interests are, and so forth,” she explains.

“We’ve studied over two thousand students over the last five years…and we saw that 86% of students have had a decline in their writing ability in the last five years,” she warns. “We attribute that to the fact that they’re on social media, there’s no way that people spend the time writing and writing. So students are going to find it quite challenging.”

Lakeshore News, News Around the World

The Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy have been deemed “essential workers”

If your kids are worried that the COVID-19 pandemic means that they won’t get their annual visit from the Easter Bunny, tell them not to fret. Because the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy work hard to bring cheer to children all over the globe — they’ve been deemed “essential workers!”

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern made the proclamation on Monday, allowing both to carry on their highly respected duties uninterrupted by coronavirus protocols.

Said Ahern during a Monday press conference, “You will be pleased to know that we do consider both the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny to be essential workers.”

However, she did warn that due to the extreme circumstances affecting the globe — both these newly deemed essential workers might be “quite busy at home with their family.”

Continues Ahern, “So I say to the children of New Zealand, if the Easter Bunny doesn’t make it to your household we have to understand that it’s a bit difficult at the moment for the bunny to perhaps be everywhere.”

That said, while the Easter Bunny will work super hard to reach every household on the globe this Easter, there is an entirely new set of difficult obstacles to get around. Also, the bunny will have to wash their paws for at least 20 seconds after visiting each household to keep that pesky coronavirus from spreading.

So, you might want to leave out some purell or Clorox wipes on top of some tasty carrots this year.

That said, be kind to the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy, especially around this time because they’re doing their best practicing social distancing and keeping children all over the globe heathy and safe.