Automagic photo sharing (+giveaway)

A couple of weeks ago I posted about the Locket app and how I’ve been using it to collect memories and photos of the boys. I filled up the fall months and already have some tree-decorating pictures in there for December.

The other piece to this is a frame that will display those photos to a family member or friend who’s far away (or near by, I suppose – I don’t know about you but I don’t do a very good job of visiting people in the next community over…).

I sent this frame to my sister and her husband, who live in another city and don’t get to see the boys all that often. The photos I’ve added to the app appear (automagically, as Connor would say) on their frame and lets them stay up to date on what we’ve been doing.

Locket frame by NixPlay

Ethan bowling

It’s pretty cool, actually. Once my sister turned it on and connected to WiFi, that was it. I just add photos and they get all the new ones on their frame. She also set it up so that it comes on automatically when it detects motion and goes off if it detects no movement for 5 minutes.

Locket frame by NixPlay

Connor with his new cousin

We haven’t done this yet, but you can sync up to 10 users on one account, so my sister could get photos of my nephews and new niece as well if my other sister and brother used the Locket app (available on iTunes). Photo sharing made super easy – I love it.

Want to give it a go? The Locket app is free (and it develops an e-timeline and a photo book as you go – visit www.lifelocket.net for more information), and I’m giving away a Locket frame, which is designed by NixPlay. The Locket Frame is available in three different sizes: 8”, 12” and 15” and if you want to get straight to it (Christmas present, perhaps?) you can find those through the shop section of the Locket app.

 

Disclosure: I am part of the Timewyse Locket blogger program with Mom Central and I receive special perks as part of my affiliation with this group. The opinions on this blog are my own.

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Ten Thousand Villages (+ Giveaway!)

I got a little gift in the mail this week and I want to share it with you (both literally and figuratively). Ten Thousand Villages asked me to tell you about their personal accessories (earrings, necklaces, bracelets, scarves etc.), which I’m happy to do.

Ten Thousand Villages is a fair trade retailer (the oldest and largest in North America) that sells personal accessories, home decor and gift items made by artisans from around the world. Here’s their mission:

Ten Thousand Villages creates opportunities for artisans in developing countries to earn income by bringing their products and stories to our markets through long-term, fair trading relationships.

I’ve been a Ten Thousand Villages customer for a long time (as have many members of my family) and I have several pieces of their jewellery. Here are some of my favourite accessories from their current collection, including their 2014 holiday guide.

Summer rain necklace 

summer-rain-necklace

Twisted silver cufftwisted-silver-cuff

Stony garden bracelet

stony-garden-bracelet

Starlight splendour ring

starlight-splendour-ring

Silver moon scarfsilver-moon-scarf

River rocks scarf

river-rocks-scarf

Planet cluster necklace

planet-cluster-necklace

Hoopy loopy necklace

hoopy-loopy-necklace

Forest floor earrings

forest-floor-earrings

Falling leaves earrings

falling-leaves-earrings

Crimson scarfcrimson-scarf

Want a piece of Ten Thousand Villages jewellery for your own? I’m going to give away one of these gentle forest bangles, which features hand-hammered embossed leaves on silver-plated metal.

gentle-forest-bangle

To enter this Ten Thousand Villages giveaway and maybe score yourself a little early Christmas present, complete the Rafflecopter form below.

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Locket Full of Sunshine

Every day for the first year of Connor’s life, I jotted a little note in a calendar we had made with pictures of him as a newborn. (Well, not EVERY day – I started when he was a few weeks old and we had the calendar done, but you get the idea.) I noted what we had done that day, his firsts, what he had started eating – all the usual new-mom stuff. We took lots of pictures too, and at that point my husband was still using our real camera. Of course when Ethan was born things were different.

Ethan, as loved as he is, has suffered the second-child baby-book fate. I think I actually got a baby book for him, but I couldn’t tell you where it is and I’m pretty sure there’s not much in it. Like his brother though, he does have a special keepsake box where I put things I want to save – pictures he draws, his boarding pass from his first flight, a snip of hair from his first haircut.

I love those boxes and will continue pulling them down from the top shelves of the boys’ closets to add to their contents (even if, in the end, I’m the only one who will appreciate the memories they bring back). But I haven’t been very good at doing anything with pictures and the day-to-day memories (which, thanks to iPhones, we have a lot of). Until now.

I’ve been using the Locket app, which I really like. I wasn’t sure if I would, since so many memory-capturing solutions seem to be great in theory but not so easy to use in practice. Locket lets you collect photo, audio, video and written memories and then presents them as an e-timeline or a photo book.

Here’s part of Ethan’s photo book. In this timeframe alone, he’s gone from his second birthday to having a Star Wars movie night with the big kids.

Locket photobook page5

Locket photobook page4

Some of those are just pictures I’ve taken and added to Locket later, and some of them are based on prompts in cards in the system.

Locket sample card

They’re based on yours kids’ ages, so the ones for Ethan are appropriate for toddlers, while the ones that pop up for Connor have more options. Here are a few pages from Connor’s photo book.

Locket photobook page3

We played with the questions one day and he loved answering them and seeing the book about him come together.

Locket photobook page2

Locket photobook page1

Locket photobook page6

I appreciate an app with personality, and Locket includes little messages along the bottom or while saving new content that make me smile (“Did you take time for yourself today? Just curious.” or “1000 figurative words being saved.”) as well as tips for taking photos and videos.

If you’re trying to figure out how to collect memories for your kids and electronically save all those masterpieces they bring home from school, Locket is definitely one to check out. And it’s free!

Locket home screen

The usual disclosure: I am part of the Timewyse Locket blogger program with Mom Central and I receive special perks as part of my affiliation with this group. The opinions on this blog are my own.

Science for Kids: Groovy Lab in a Box

Review of Groovy Lab in a Box
Last year Connor’s kindergarten class had library day every Wednesday; they could choose two books to take home for the week and the following week could either bring those back and exchange them for two new ones or keep the books for another week. I think 98% of the books he brought home were science books, and that’s not even an exaggeration. I think we saw a handful of story books or books with TV characters (and for a kid who loves TV that’s remarkable). Everything else was science.

He had books on the planets and books on bugs; dinosaurs made frequent appearances as did books about animals. He just really, really likes science and, I’ve got to admit, I was surprised.

I took biology through grade 11, I think. I know I took Physics 11 and barely passed. Like, barely. I think my teacher may have passed me out of pity, in fact (either that or because she didn’t want to have to deal with me again the next year). The experiment we did with the wave tank still brings back that old feeling of absolute confusion. And I never did understand chemistry.

I think it’s safe to say Connor didn’t get his science gene from me (or his art gene or his LEGO gene or, oh god, I hope he can at least write so there’s some evidence beyond his eyes that I’m his mother).

Despite my lack of knack for science and my perfectly understandable dislike of bugs, I have tried to nurture his interest in science. (Did you know there are 10,000,000,000,000,000 ants in the world? According to his National Geographic bug book, anyway.) When we got a chance to try out Groovy Lab in a Box, I said yes, figuring Connor would love it.

One thing about their approach to science for kids – this is more than just kitschy science experiments. They use a STEM approach (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and with the subscription service kids get a new box every month with a fun, hands-on projects and an engineering design challenge, all focused on that month’s STEM topic. This line from their material really stuck out for me:

Our core belief is that we want to bring this generation back to the NASA Apollo era when children wanted to be scientists and engineers and science was at the forefront of the media.

When we got our box, it came with supplies for several different experiments, an observation notebook, and instructions (thank god). We started with the sun print paper experiment, which was the perfect level of complication to start with (i.e. not very). This one involves using light-sensitive paper to make pictures and designs using only sunlight and water.

We placed the black cardstock on the bottom and the sun paper on top, and both went into a plastic bag (also supplied). Connor chose a simple shape to start with because he wanted to see how it turned into a picture, so we placed that on top of the bag and put it all in the sun.

LEGO picture

After a few minutes, the blue paper turned really light, so we took it inside and rinsed it.

rinsing-picture

It worked!

result-sun-picture-experiment

So then he got really serious and tried a few more times with different shapes and designs.

setting-up-sun-picture-experiment

That one was a hit, but when Connor saw there was an experiment that involved a battery he almost lost his mind. (Okay, that part might have been a slight exaggeration, but he was very excited.) conductivity-experiement-with-battery
This one involved putting together a conductivity sensor to determine the electrical conductivity of salt water. To start, we hooked up the battery to a buzzer and put it in a cup of water. Nothing happened. (For the record, that result matched my hypothesis.) Then we added a salt packet and tried again.

conductivity-sensor-experiment

At this point we weren’t really sure whether anything happened or if we had even done it correctly. The next step was to add more salt, so we did that and got a clear buzz.

My response was, “Yay!” And then my husband piped up from the kitchen. “Did it conduct electricity when there was no salt in the water? What about when you added salt? What did you notice?”

Damn husband. Fine, be all science-teacher-y. At least one of us was watching to see if the child electrocuted himself. (I don’t actually know if that’s a possibility, but that’s totally not the point.)observation-notebook

Despite my lack of science knowledge (I think I’m going to contact my grade 8 chemistry teacher and ask for my parents’ money back) we had fun playing scientist, and we still have a few more experiments to do (which is good, because little brothers like this too).

mini-scientist

I’d definitely recommend this for kids who are interested in science. I’d just suggest a cheat sheet for parents who might need a little help correctly identifying the results.

Want to win a Groovy Lab in a Box of your own to try? Enter using the Rafflecopter widget below.

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Playing with Tobo Tracks (Giveaway)

I’m not a huge fan of playing with cars, but I do love me some tracks. We played with Brio all the time as kids, and when Connor started getting into it my siblings and I were in there just as much as he was.

Connor, of course, has gravitated to Lego, though the Brio still occasionally makes an appearance, especially now that Ethan has discovered it. I think he might be my train buddy.

We’ve got another set of tracks he likes as well – a Tobo Track.

tobo-track3

I won this set on my friend Samantha’s blog just before Christmas and there are so many things about it I think are really cool:

  • Made from wood; designed in Canada and made in the US.
  • Comes with a small wooden car but designed to be used with Matchbox cars, Brio trains, and so on.
  • Any edge connects to any other edge, but you can use the numbers to practice matching, addition, or any other educational game you can think of.
  • Tracks can be put together in all kinds of configurations.

Give me some tracks to build and play on and I can play cars quite happily. Especially if I get to play with my little buddy while he makes a “vroom, vroom” sound.

tobo-track2

The other thing I really like about this toy is that the makers actively solicit feedback. I got an email from Tomas, Tobo Toys founder and designer, to let me know when to expect it, and then he followed up after I received it to ask what my kids think. He honestly cares what people think and wants to know how to make this toy even better. I like the toy, but ultimately it was his approach to customers that made me want to share this with you.

tobo-track1

So who wants to give it a go? I’ve got one Tobo Track set to give away. (And if you want to buy a Tobo Track, they’re on sale until March 31.)

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Update: If you want a Tobo Track of your own, Tobo Toys is offering a 15% discount for readers of this blog using the code FARR15TOBO.