Garden Maven

I'VE developed into quite a virtual gardener; of course, it helps that it takes about 10-15 minutes to tend it and the crops replant themselves. :-) I am now regularly selling produce back to the W Shop.

Last week I bought another yard and have planted more crops, so I'm not breaking even yet. As the saying goes, you must spend money to make money.

I know this is Shockwave Flash, but I don't know exactly what program is used to make all this move, grow, etc. I think it's fascinating, however, that they can do it, and we can see "plants" in stages of "growth," like this.


In close up like this, the weeds are even identifiable as dandelions, a nice touch!

In this screen cap you can see the different stages of the tomato from seedling to flowering plant to juvenile fruits and thence to the ripe ones; they look just like the tomatoes that used to grow in our backyard and especially in my Papá's back yard.


People are chatting about other crops they could come out with, like potatoes and other berries; folks have suggested fruit trees as well, like apple, orange, and pear. I'd love to have an orchard to go along with my garden!

Move It, Move It, Move It

GANZ just announced a Pet of the Month Club (story featured in Webkinz Insider), which will start in October. Every month, a different Webkinz will be featured. If you buy and register or just register the Pet of the Month during its particular month, you will get extra gifts—exclusive items not offered anywhere else. If the pet you are attempting to register is about to become a Pet of the Month, a message will pop up asking you if you want to register the animal at that time.

I can see the traders rubbing their hands with glee right now!

I wonder if Ganz is doing this to move some of their slower-moving pets. The new ones always get snapped up right away.

The October pet has already been announced: it's the frog (not the tree frog, the bullfrog, or the spotted frog). If it's a marketing ploy, I can see why they'd start with the frog; they're rather top-heavy with them!

Shoot! (Shoot Again! And Again...)

ONE of the games that shows up on the daily events every two or three days is something called Quizzy's Blast. It's a dart board. You toss a virtual dart and it lands on a spot on the board that is assigned a certain value, high or low depending on what the power meter is on at that second.

The trick is that the values constantly change every second, from +5 to -5 and the different blocks also change color as well. Each color is a different subject. If you land in that block and then answer the trivia question correctly, you get that number of points. If you answer incorrectly, you get no points. However, you can still answer correctly and get no points. The correct answer itself is worth 5 points, but if you land in it when it is at -5, you get nada. On the other hand, if you land on it at +5, you get ten points.

Quizzy's Blast, like Balloon Darts, suffers from hiccups. Sometimes instead of five darts you only get one. Or you get no points or something locks up and then you can't go back in.

Tonight was the opposite problem: you went in and it said 0 darts. Nuts, malfunctioning again! You try to get out and it says, "Wait, if you get out you can't use the rest of your darts! Do you still want to leave?"

If you answered no, suddenly you had five darts and took your turns.

Except after you tossed a dart it still said five darts. It still said five darts after tossing five darts.

I tossed darts for 40 minutes and earned W1406, and all the time it said I had five darts left. And even though the play hour was up, it would have let me keep going. Weird. It finally got boring and was moving like cold syrup because there were so many flash darts on the screen.

Birthday Boy

Neville's birthday bashWEBKINZ World automatically assigns your new adopted critter a birthday when you sign it on. They send you a slice of cake on the pet's birthday.

Since you can't place food on a table, I did the next best thing: assembled a few of the critters around the dining room table, popped a party hat on Neville and stuck a welcome balloon next to him, and then did a screen cap and a bit of cut-and-paste so it looks like Molly, Emily, Minnie, Candyfloss and Neewa have arrived to help him celebrate. After arranging this "snapshot" I know why I just run one animal daily. Extracting them all from their respective rooms and then sending them back to bed is a pain in the neck. I'd rather be playing mini-golf. LOL.

Treat Without Trick

SOME Webkinz are seasonal.

This started last year with something called a Love Puppy. Later at Easter there was the Sherbet Bunny. Not only did they sell out before you could say "Jack Robinson," but they became collectible immediately. Love Puppies are selling on e-Bay for the mind-boggling sums of $150 up.

This year Ganz announced a black cat for Hallowe'en, a reindeer for Christmas, and a "love frog" for Valentines Day (Ganz apparently has frogs on the brain; there are four different ones already in release and now the love frog coming out.) The moment the black cats were released in Canada everyone began watching the posts to see when they would creep over the border. At first they were in New York State and Maine. Next one was spotted in Ohio.

When they started mentioning North Carolina, I wondered when Georgia would enter the picture.

I hadn't planned on buying a black cat. The photos didn't look all that good. But when I walked into Hobbytown this morning, there were a dozen black cats staring me in the face. Talk about something that looks better in person than in print.

HarrySo here's Harry. I figured: well, he has black hair and green eyes, right? :-)

I toyed with several names, actually, including Snoop, after the Bobbsey twins' cat, and Zipper after my friend Sherrye's black Angora cat when we were in high school. (Zipper was quite a character; as a kitten she used to like to grab the end of the toilet paper roll and then run through the house. When she turned six months old, she went into heat before they could get her to the vet. To everyone's amusement, she fell in love with my Hush Puppies. I'd come to pick Sherrye up for school and Zipper would rub her head against my shoes and trill like a tribble.)

Harry's presently sitting with the other usual suspects, wearing the big white plastic Harry Potter glasses they gave us at Borders the night of the seventh book release. It makes him look a little like Poindexter in the Felix the Cat cartoons (hey, there's another black cat name...).

The Family Expands

THERE was this Dalmatian at Planet Me last week.

You can tell Webkinz are factory-made on an assembly line. There is no consistency to them. People have complained of animals with short or twisted legs, uneven eyes, even escaped stitching that has pulled to reveal holes. In some cases the animals don't really look as cute as they do in the posed catalogs. The Dalmatians all seemed Roman-nosed to me till I saw the one I picked out, and it had more spots than the rest.

PeppercornI skipped all the traditional Dalmatian names, although this one is really close to the name of one of the puppies in Disney's 101 Dalmatians, Pepper. I toyed with naming her "Cadpig," after the runt puppy in the book (Disney made Lucky the runt), but chickened out. Interestingly enough, they used Cadpig in the live-action film and the television series.

NeewaI picked up the bear in American Greetings. I flashed back on a Disney film—anyone remember Nikki, Wild Dog of the North? It's from the early 1960s, about a trapper and his young husky who adopt an orphan bear cub. Later the dog and the bear are on their own and survive together. I did a bit of searching for the film and found out it was adapted from the 1918 novel by James Oliver Curwood, Nomads of the North. And it's even readable online.

Good For a Giggle

IF you hit Wacky just the right way, he trumpets "Zingoman!" as he flies through the air.


Evidently I'm In Collector Mode

CandyflossI saw a Pegasus after it was announced as retired and brought it home. She's bunking in with my unicorn at the edge of an "magic forest" where I have put the charms tree and fountain and also a flowering cherry tree.

I wish they hadn't made a pink Pegasus...ah, well, she looks like cotton candy, so has been given that name, since I was in the middle of reading Seven Sunflower Seeds—the horse that the Callendars were taking care of, ostensibly a hunter being groomed for a point-to-point but actually a Grand National winner named Camoscio, is named "Candyfloss."

I warn you—I have two more critters in the dock; not sure when I will "run" them.

Not to mention the collie on order and I do want the reindeer. Not sure about the black cat. The promo photos looked rather cute and I've always been partial to black cats. Someone posted a photo of the ones they'd purchased in Webkinz Insider, though, and I didn't like the look of it as well.

A New Contest

Scavenger hunt text

Calling Dr. Quack!

Frye is sick

Poor Frye! A bottle of medicine and a couple of puzzles brought him back again.

Who Is That Mysterious Black Horse?

THIS is made funnier by the fact that there is no Lil Kinz black horse:

Who's that black horse?


I called Ganz' long distance hotline this morning just before noon. I had a response from them and my fountain back just after one o'clock.

Never Trust a Smiling Cat!

smiling cat

OR that's the saying, anyway.

Perhaps Minnie is smiling because strawberries, corn, carrots, and two pumpkins were harvested this morning. A post-harvest "snapshot."

minnie and the farm

The plants in the foreground at the end of the long rows are just decorative. I found that my old eyes were having trouble telling which plant was which if they weren't in harvest mode. So the fake plants simulate row markers. Minerva is next to the strawberries and the watermelons are around the scarecrow.


INSTEAD of one "pixie pod," got a key. (I had gotten one earlier, but with less of a bonus.) The key unlocked five:

Key opened five pods

Received two charms candy and then three W100 coins.

[insert wicked laugh here]

OOOPS! Look what turned up on a Charms Forest search this morning!

bad fairy

Complete with wicked laugh. Better luck next time!

[Update: 8/15. There she is again!]


WE found more charms yesterday and I had enough to get a special gift, a fountain.

When I went to put it into my room, a message popped up saying that Webkinz World had to go down for maintenance, and when I clicked okay it kicked me out. However, I could get back into the application immediately.

But my fountain is nowhere to be seen.

Apparently then I had to e-mail Ganz to get it replaced. I hear they are not responding to these requests like they used to and are brusquely telling people not to share their passwords. But this didn't disappear while I was logged off; it vanished while I was online manipulating it.

They haven't responded and it looks like I will have to call them. Joy.

How Charming!

I was in the throes of a nap this afternoon when my cell rang. I had slept very badly last night and was using a free hour between laundry and floor washing to catch a few more winks, so I didn't answer it.

When I did finally check my message, it was from Love Street. They said they would call me if the Webkinz charms came in. The proprietor was apologetic. About an hour after she called me, a woman had come in, seen the charms and bought three of every one she had. There were very few left. I asked her to save me three and tossed on some clothes and zipped over there.

These are quite attractive little charms considering they are being mass-produced for a website. Trifari sold charms off and on over the years and they were equally solid (not to mention more expensive and this was almost thirty years ago!). The Webkinz ones are of a silver polished pot-metal on the back and are enameled on the front. Instead of just a link to fasten it on a bracelet, they come with a little clip so they can be used on zipper pulls and other items of that sort.

I purchased a golden retriever, a white terrier, and the chihuahua, which I'd asked her to save for me, and also the monkey. I left the panda and a Wacky Zingoz behind. There were only about four left. I suspect the woman who made the big haul is going to sell the extras on e-Bay. They are selling for phenomenal amounts there.

The charms come with codes and gain you access to something called the Charms Forest. Once in the forest you can pick one of four paths and hunt for virtual charms and gifts, which you get by clicking on a fairy who either gives you a fairy pod or a key. The gifts can be as small as charms candy, which you can feed to your pet, to sap, which apparently is the booby prize, and as big as little pieces of furniture and even a charms tree. The deeper you can go into the forest, the more you can collect, and the better prizes you get.

My first charms prize was a charm candy. At least Pablito liked it.

Today's Blooper

IT looks like Gibson is walking in his sleep:


The Webkinz in the Dell

LIKE some other Webkinz property owners, I have started a farm. I harvested "farm-fresh" tomatoes, strawberries and carrots this morning and thought it would be good to invest in a new yard and move my existing vegetables there. They are in essense "replanted" and will not bear fruit again for a while now.

In a couple of days I will buy a few more plants of various varieties and then in a few more days a few more, and so on until the rows are full, so that I will have plants harvesting at different times.

Some folks talk about garden plots large enough that they are selling their produce back to the W Shop. [waves at Jerry] Right now I'm just providing for my brood. :-)

My former vegetable plot is now a little grove of trees next to an expanded picnic area.


TWO spins on the Wheel of WOW today. Two! And "Orange Blech" each time!

Iron Balloons

SUPPOSEDLY they're trying Balloon Darts again tomorrow. The last time they had it, after the upgrade, the top row of balloons did not pop at all. The dart would "stop" at the skin of the balloon and nothing else happened. It was quite funny if rather frustrating. It only took me three failures before I tried the middle and bottom rows! Persistent I be.

[Note: 08/07/2007; apparently the first row of Balloon Darts are as impervious as last time. I just aimed at the bottom row. :-)]

Creative Minds, Part 2

HERE'S another slideshow of creative room designs. There's even a Starbuck's and a Mexican restaurant!

That Pesky Date

IF you are having trouble, like I was, with the date on the site reversing one hour when you log in, some super person on the Webkinz Insider forum ("googles") posted this trick that works:

Proceed as if you were adopting a new Webkinz. When Mrs. Birdy finishes talking and the clipboard pops up, use the X in the upper right hand corner to get out of the adoption center. Your room will load and the time will be correct!

[Update 8/11: The site was down a couple of mornings ago and now the date seems to be working properly.

There are also numbers on the markers and flags in Wacky Zingoz again. Oh, yeah, and food is successfully being distributed again.]

A Little Behind the Curve, Aren't They?

SINCE Webkinz have been in release since late 2005 and this isn't coming out for another six months! The Complete Idiot's Guide to Webkinz (Complete Idiot's Guide to)

Alarms and Exhortations

GANZ has been warning users for several weeks that a new layout would be premiering on August 2. It requires that people set their monitors to 1024x768 to use the site properly. A followup message stated that the Webkinz site would be down from 5 a.m. to 1 p.m. on that day to implement the change. Great excitement was then heard in the land of the forums.

Naturally I didn't expect it up by the prescribed time and I was correct; it actually staggered from its server almost an hour later. And when it finally did it was buggy as all get out: the time on the clock would change, some things didn't have captions, some games didn't work, peoples' rooms didn't load, etc., all to be expected when launching a new website. Some people were redirected to a completely different site that had nothing to do with Ganz.

Since the majority of the users are young people, there were bound to be some complaints about things not working right.

"Complaints" didn't cover it. "Complaints" still doesn't cover it. There are still torrents of messages wailing about how the new format is "confusing" (it's not; it's actually arranged much better), that this is the worst thing that is happened to them in their lives and that the new format is so ugly that they will never use it again, etc. I suppose if I was their age using it I probably would feel the same way—I remember wailing and railing over canceled television programs and unpublished books and favorite store closings throughout my youth—but viewing it from an adult's perspective it's been hard not to smile a little. Oh, if this is the worst disappointment they will ever have in their lives!

They are right about one thing: Ganz sure didn't beta test this thing enough before premiering it! Some people are simply having trouble getting the new screen to work or appear full screen at all. When you get in, the Kinztime changes abruptly when the newspaper loads it jumped back an hour every time I loaded it in Firefox (it worked okay in IE), so that daily events were not coming up properly. Today when you clicked on a free food it never appeared in your dock. Some of the games are strange, too. Polar Plunge is funky; it doesn't "feel" the way it did before and goes too quickly in some places and too slowly in the other. When you play Wacky Zingoz the distance measurements do not show up on the placards and pennants. You only know how far you've gone after your score is posted. Sometimes when you play the Chef Challenge or Supermodelz Challenge, the judges' word balloons are empty.

However, for the most part I like the full page layout. I've had problems playing a couple of games, Go-Go Googles in particular and sometimes Candy Bash 2, where my mouse went off the partial screen being used and valuable game time was wasted while I switched back. The different choices of things to do are arranged in categories. You can always see the Logout button no matter what you are doing, and you can always access your pets without having to go to the menu.

One of the reasons for the expansion was to put in "ads." They are really only ads for Webkinz World itself—thank heavens, we're not seeing commercials for Oreos or Boniva here!—but they have some people smoking mad. I notice some of them are Webkinz versions of PSAs; they say things like "Fresh air is good for you. Go outside and play for awhile," "Brush your teeth," "An apple a day keeps the doctor away," etc. Obviously Ganz wants to show parents that they care about their children's well-being.

Monkey See, Monkey Do

WEBKINZ aren't the only interactive toys out there.

It happens in books and on television particularly: one success in a certain genre is followed by others in imitation. The Waltons begat almost a dozen family-oriented shows in the early 1970s, only one (Little House on the Prairie) of which succeeded. When Animal House was a big hit, all three networks created series about fraternity houses. And on.

There are of course online worlds that don't come with a stuffed animal, Club Penguin being one. You choose a penguin, give it a name, and then confirm that your child can play there by answering an e-mail. Once inside, you can decorate your penguin's igloo and play games. You can sign up for free, but if you want to continue the account, you must pay a monthly or yearly membership.

Shining Stars, made by Russ, are a type of interactive pet that comes with a stuffed animal like Webkinz. When you buy a Shining Stars stuffed pet, it also comes with a code that allows access to a website. The gimmick with Shining Stars is that when you join you get a star named after you, although of course these star-naming" businesses don't really officially name stars after anyone. On the Shining Stars site you earn "Glow Points" and presumably can play similar games as to Webkinz.

I saw the Shining Stars today while I was out at lunch. They're pretty cute—you can see that they have several animals that resemble their Webkinz versions, like the unicorn and the cow. They also have a dragon, which is kinda cool. They strike me as a little more "cartoony" than Webkinz.

Even the "Bratz" line of dolls are about to start a virtual world called "Be-Bratz."

Last week there was a bit of a flurry on the Webkinz Outsider forum about yet another iteration: Kookeys. According to the promo now on the web, Kookeys live in KooLand and earn KooCash made up of KooCoins. They can live in several different theme neighborhoods, in dwellings ranging from a log cabin to a dollhouse to a mansion, shop and play games on Main Street, hang out at the lake, or even go to KooKollege.

The reception on the Forum was pretty much in the negative, most seeing it as a rip-off of Webkinz. No, it's just a fact of life in marketing land.

I thought the graphics looked interesting if a bit cartoony myself. However, although the promo site exists, not a hint of what the actual stuffed animals might look like exists in virtual space. If the animated critters who are on the promo site are any indication, it looks as if the stuffed Kookeys will be a bit cartoony as well, but no way to know until they're unveiled.

But that name...Kookeys. Sheesh. I wouldn't have found it at all appealing when I was a kid.

Have Katie Roo and Kenny Roo (and Mayor Moose) introduce you to Kookeys.

Charming Webkinz

THE new animals, toiletries, costumes, and bookmarks aren't enough for Ganz. They will also be releasing a set of charms soon. One of the reasons for Ganz to be doing a major update of the Webkinz site tomorrow is to add something called the Charms Forest.

The charms you buy are just what they sound like: charm bracelet figurines that cost about $3.00 each. You can also buy a bracelet for them and a necklace; the necklace tops out in expense at $7.95. I have heard some complaints about the cost, but as someone who used to work in a jewelry factory, I can tell you that $3 for an enameled charm and $4 for a chain necklace is pretty inexpensive. Anyway, each of the charms comes with a code. You need only one charm and one code to access the Charms Forest, featuring more of what looks like the good and bad fairies from the Tulip Trouble game. Every six hours you can search one patch of the Charms Forest to find virtual charms or even prizes. The more charms you purchase, the further you can go into the Forest, but one will get you in.

That Face, Those Eyes...

ALL the animal avatars have their "cute factor," and some, like the husky, are downright handsome.

But I think for cute factor that the Clydesdale has them all beat. Emily does "cute" better than anyone:

Emily rightEmily left

On the other hand, she's not always a sweet little girl. This is what happened when I threw the ball incorrectly while bowling:

Emily angry

At least I didn't make her really mad:

Emily really angry