August 2013

Isn’t it funny how each kid has his or her own unique interests and obsessions? Since Tristan had such an obsessive adoration of Bob the Builder and Thomas the Tank Engine, I assumed all three boys would have the same fascination for them. Then came Simon, who cared not one whit for Thomas, Percy, James or Gordon, but was instead a card-carrying fan boy for Murray, Jeff, Anthony and Greg Wiggles. And while Lucas was mildly interested in the Wiggles and does enjoy the friends from Sodor, he has lately shown a real fascination for something I thought all little boys loved: dinosaurs!

We’ve been feeding into his fascination this summer. We brought him to the Museum of Nature where he walked in awestruck excitement from one massive set of dino bones to another, and oh boy did he love the dino gallery!

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Then, when we went to Canada’s Wonderland, Beloved convinced the lot of us to fork out the extra exhibit fee to visit the Dinosaurs Alive section of the park. I was not overly jazzed by it, I have to admit, but the other kids enjoyed it and Lucas adored it. Totally worth the extra $5 per person, or whatever nominal amount we paid.

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So when I saw that the Imaginext Mega Apatosaurus was one of the toys up for review from my friends at Fisher-Price this month, that was a hands-down choice. Lucas was so excited to get it out of the box that I barely had time to take a picture before we took it out of the box.

dino Lucas

Not only does it roar, but to Bella’s utter bewilderment, it walks! Check it out:

Get ready for a MEGA adventure with the Imaginext® Mega Apatosaurus. With motorized action, it walks and roars like a real dinosaur! Plus, this one comes with cool transforming tech armor and cannons that fire at the press of a button! Kids will love placing the figure in the cockpit of the dino’s armor and pretending they’re in a cool futuristic world where dinos and humans live together. And when it’s time for classic dino play, just remove the armor (and the figure) and this cool dino is ready for any prehistoric adventure with its rotating head, moveable jaw and tail, and motorized action. Includes Mega Apatosaurus with motorized action, pop-up armor, two projectiles, and Imaginext® figure with armor.

And, heh, if you’ve got a mom home for a week of summer vacation with a little too much time on her hands, you can have a lot of fun. Like this!!

Imaginext dinos in Manotick!

(Seriously, that photo was so much fun to put together, but masking the finicky bits around the trees was WAY harder than I expected!!)

Also in our review pack this month was the awesome Imaginext SuperFriends Batcave. Like all the Imaginext toys and playsets, this toy is specially designed to encourage a range of creative play. It also facilitates fine motor development, and helps build confidence and self-expression through role playing and mastery of the various features. The Batcave has a Batcomputer (heh, maybe it’s a Samsung Chromebook? *wink*), an elevator, a jail for the bad guys, and secret passageways. I have to admit, I was a little perplexed about the functionality of some of the pieces, but Lucas happily adapted them all into his play. I’m not sure of the original intent of the removable Batwing, but according to Lucas they help Batman fly up and disable the Penguin’s umbrellas. Okay then!

I may have mention (ahem) a few times how much we love our Imaginext superhero toys, and we are getting quite the collection! I continue to love the Imaginext toys because of the creative play they inspire. One day this week we had Robin riding the Mega Apatosaurus to rescue the knight being held captive by Batman’s evil twin in the Eagle Talon castle, which still ranks as our favourite Imaginext toy of all time. There may have even been a pre-teen boy or two drawn in to play as well. Shhhh, don’t tell anyone!

I’m delighted that our toy review opportunity coincided so neatly this month with Lucas’s growing obsession with dinosaurs. Now all we need is a Fisher-Price rock tumbler, to feed their other obsession with rocks and gems. 🙂

Disclosure: I receive special perks as a part of my affiliation with the Fisher-Price Play Ambassador program with Mom Central Canada. The opinions in this blog are my own.


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The voice cried out in resigned dismay. “Daa-ad! The computer crashed again!”

Sigh. The laptop the boys use as “their” computer is more than four years old, and has been played with by first me and then them on a near-daily basis. It has lived a good life, and we knew we’d have to replace it soon. Beloved looked at me and shrugged. “Maybe we can hold off until Christmas, and get a replacement as a family Christmas gift?”

And then, in the funny way the universe works, the very next day an e-mail arrived offering me the opportunity to review (for keepsies!) a new Samsung Chromebook from Staples.ca. I didn’t know what a Chromebook was – I had to look it up to figure out it was a computer. It’s actually, I am learning, more of a laptop-tablet hybrid. And I said, “Sure!” (Actually, I danced a little happy dance around the kitchen. I love my life.)

So I admit that just by the serendipitous nature of its arrival, I was predisposed to like the Chromebook. But you know what? This is a great little laptop!

As I said, it has some features in common with a laptop. It folds up like one, and has an attached keyboard. It looks like a laptop. A very thin, light laptop! But it behaves more like a tablet. It doesn’t have a huge hard-drive (16GB, comparable to a base-level iPad), as most people are now keeping most of their data “in the cloud” online anyway. Here’s the official specs from the Staples.ca website:

1.17 GHz Samsung Exynos 5250 (1MB L2 Cache
2GB DDR3 system memory
16GB e.MMC iNAND™ Embedded Flash Drive
Google Chrome
11.6″ HD LED screen size
ARM Mali T604
Stereo Speakers (1.5 W x 2 )
Dimensions: 0.69″ H. x 11.40″ W. x 8.21″ D.
Product Weight: 2.43 lb.
1-year manufacturer’s limited warranty (details with product)

Sorry, did your eyes glaze over there? Mine did. I’m not great with technical specs. I’d like to give you a thorough technical review of the Chromebook, but that’s outside of my comfort level. Here’s what I noticed: it’s the perfect size to slip in your purse or backpack, as it’s just under 12″ long folded up and weighs just over a kilo. It’s literally the size of a notebook. It boots up super-quick, faster even than waking up my old Windows PC from sleep mode. It has great battery life, over six hours on a full charge. The keys on the keyboard are a delight for this dedicated touch-typer. It picks up our home wifi signal from the treehouse. *wink*

photo of a boy using a laptop in a treehouse

I have to admit that until I actually got my hands on it, I didn’t make the connection between the name of the device (Chromebook) and Google’s Chrome browser. (You’d never guess my life is all about technology, would you?) So this is a laptop that uses Chrome OS (operating system). This is not a huge deal, except to say that it took me half a year to finally adapt to Mac OS after being a Windows user, and so my only big problem so far with the Chromebook has been taking the time to figure out where everything is. Coming from an Apple-infused life, I find the apps are less app-like and more like website delivery systems. Actually, that’s exactly what Beloved called the Chromebook: the perfect website delivery system for the occasional surfer.

The kids took to it like ducks to water. Or should I say, in this case like penguins to a club. :/

photo of a boy smiling at a laptop

I like that you can simply set up user-accounts based on your existing Google accounts. We already have separate Gmail accounts for me, for the big boys, and for the family (set up initially for iTunes accounts) and the Chromebook makes it easy to sign switch between user accounts, so we can all have our own settings, e-mail accounts and favourites. If you’re already a user of Google +, YouTube, Gmail, Google Docs or any of Google’s other products, you’ll find it easy to bring everything together here.

My only complaints are that I found the trackpad occasionally sticky when I try to scroll, and since it scrolls in the opposite direction from my MacBook (you slide down to push text up) I’m always moving the screen the wrong way. I did, however, like that you can just tap the trackpad to click instead of having to actually press down on it. Also, for me, it’s not powerful enough for my personal day-to-day computer use. I need Photoshop and Lightroom, for example, which would not run on the Chromebook, and the kids can’t play Minecraft on it (but after after a summer of Minecraft every waking hour, I’m seeing that as more pro than con). It’s a bit of a pain to port all Word documents into Google Docs before you can edit them, but that’s also a minor thing.

Overall, I think this is a perfect “extra” computer. It’s light and thin but sturdy and plenty powerful enough for web-surfing, movie-watching and social networking, as well as simple document management through Google Docs. And it comes with 100GB of free storage on Google Drive! I think it would be awesome to stick in your purse when you want to take advantage of the free wifi and relative peace to do some blogging at your local coffee shop. I will be bringing this to school council meetings to take notes, on family vacations when I feel like staying connected but not lugging around the big laptop, and out on the porch when I feel like doing a little bit of mindless Facebooking. It’s a perfect starter computer for a kid who needs a straightforward net-book style computer of his own for school, at a price where you won’t be too worried if he accidentally rolls his backpack containing the laptop down the stairs. You know, the sort of thing that would never happen at our house. 😉

Thanks to Staples.ca for offering this fun little device up for my review!

Disclosure: Staples provided me with this Samsung Chromebook to review. All thoughts and opinions expressed are my own. To see their full line of laptops and tablets, visit Staples.ca.


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I have been waffling over switching to Rogers “Home Phone” service for more than a year now. Under the current offer, we stand to save about $45 per month for the first two years, and about $20 per month thereafter, which would be pretty sweet. But what I am really coveting is the bonus offer of $10 extra per month for (be still my heart) unlimited Internet bandwidth.

(We upped our Internet plan once already this summer and we’re still hitting our limit a couple of days before the end of the month. Between my day job, my various part time jobs, and the kids’ recent discovery of Minecraft tutorials on YouTube, we need ALL THE INTERNET. Sigh.)

Anyway, it’s a good deal, no doubt. Except here’s the thing. I may be an early adopter in many areas of technology and an outright evangelist in others, but I’m a little old lady when it comes to this. I am very, very nervous about giving up our landline Bell service. Old skool, right? Even though we have not one but two cell numbers in addition to our landline (heck, three if you count my work blackberry), I just can’t imagine cutting that cord.

I have two disaster scenarios that play out in my head every time I even start considering this issue. The first is some sort of epic disaster along the lines of the ice storm of 1998 or even the mass blackout of 2003. With my luck, something like that would happen when I’m already at 10% battery power on my iPhone, and we’d be cut off entirely.

The second is more pedestrian but more annoying. I suspect that our Internet access here is sporadic, and having sporadic telephone access makes me uneasy. Opinions vary as to whether this would actually affect the phone portion of the service, and the interruptions are usually on the order of minutes rather than hours of inconvenience, but still. We’ve only been completely without Internet a few times since we moved here, but still.

And, there may be a latch-key child in our not-so-distant future. Now, he’ll probably have yet another cell phone of his own, but… well, sigh. Maybe I’m just making things up to worry about?

So here’s my question: do you have Internet-based home phone and do you love it or hate it? Have you had access problems? Am I inventing problems to obsess over? I like the cash savings, I really do, but the unlimited Internet access practically makes me drool with covetousness. Any other alternatives you can think of? (First person to say “spend less time on the Internet” gets a raspberry!)

Also, could someone please send me a list of the scheduled upcoming apocalypses so I can appropriately plan for them?


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No five year olds were harmed in the staging of this photograph. Honest!

This is totally why I had kids.

(Reposting to enter this as a submission for BlogHer 2014’s Voices of the Year.)


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Another couple of weeks in pictures

by DaniGirl on August 24, 2013 · 1 comment

in Photo of the Day

This summer is clearly too jam-packed full of fun for me to be able to keep up with my weekly photo posts! Here’s another couple of weeks in photos.

These two weeks have had a definite farm flavour to them. I was invited to join an extended family on their farm near Metcalfe one afternoon and I have to say that it was one of my most favourite photo sessions ever. More on that soon, but how could you go wrong with a family this adorable against a backdrop like this??

photo of a happy family outside on a farm

And then there was my visit to Kricklewood Farm. More on that soon, too!

Love letters to a sunflower farm

We’ve made great use of the new treehouse this summer. In addition to using it as a movie screen, we use it to exercise the dog. Bella has decided that the swinging rope is a dog toy. It’s pretty funny to watch her grab hold and yank, often swinging right off her feet!

photo of a dog outside pulling on a rope

Another reason there was no photo post last week was because I was having too much fun with my visiting brother and his kids. Having five kids in the house elevates the chaos level *almost* as much as it elevates the cute level. I do adore them so!

portrait of smiling happy brothers, sisters and cousins

And there were still pretty flowers just waiting to be admired and slathered with texture. I may love coneflowers almost as much as I love sunflowers.

Coneflowers again!

There’s just something about a shabby chic fence with flowers, isn’t there?

Happy Fence -- Sunday?

But then eek! This happened. I’m NOT READY!!!!!!

Too soon!!

And last but not least, the other night after a day of rain, there were lovely rainbows arcing across Manotick.

photo of a rainbow over a house with a big porch

It’s a good sign when you follow the rainbow and find it ends on your house, right?

It's good luck when the end of the rainbow is over your bedroom, right?

I’ll let you know if we find any leprechauns lurking in the treehouse. 😉


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After a couple of years of working with and talking about Fisher-Price toys, it’s clear that while they have a diverse lineup of products and toys the one that most resonates with people is the Little People line. We had them as kids, and I’m sure you did, too! It’s funny to watch peoples’ faces as they wax nostalgic about their Sesame Street Little People set, or the original garage with the bell that dinged, or the McDonalds Little People set.

155:365 Road trip!!!!

It was timely that my friend Kerry shared last week this blog post about the history and evolution of Little People because Fisher-Price has just announced a new set of five Little People characters.

Today’s Little People are infused with character traits. Sofie is a curious daydreamer who likes to paint while Eddie is an energetic lover of sports. Koby is the jester, Mia is more shy and quiet, and Tessa is a dancer who loves to twirl. You’ll be able to introduce all the new characters to your little ones through a new series this fall on Treehouse TV, and you can “meet” all the Little People friends here. Or, if you’re lucky, you can meet them on a beach in Mexico! 😉

Fisher-Price Canada team in Mexico

(Sigh, already a year ago….)

So here’s what I’m wondering. Do you like the fact that Fisher-Price has put so much effort into creating personalities and a diverse line of Little People that are more like action figures? Do you think this helps kids learn about and become more appreciative of differences and that they’ll identify with the character most like themselves? Or do you prefer the blank canvas of the round-headed, non-descript original Little People?

Disclosure: I receive special perks as a part of my affiliation with the Fisher-Price Play Ambassador program with Mom Central Canada. The opinions in this blog are my own.


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Wordless Wednesday: Portraits of sunflowers

21 August 2013 Mothership Photography

There’s a fun project behind this series of sunflower photos, which I can’t wait to share as soon as details are finalized. In the interim, though, look how much fun one girl with two cameras, a step ladder, an iPhone and an appalling lack of bug spray can have when the fine folks at Kricklewood […]

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And you thought the time she enrolled the boys in dance camp was bad…

19 August 2013 Ah, me boys

I was pleased with our choices around summer camp this year. When I was too slow to catch spots in the local city-organized camp in Manotick, I was forced to look for a camp outside the neighbourhood and came across some arts camps I thought would be of interest. Simon chose drama camp and Tristan […]

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Family movie night under the stars

17 August 2013 Ottawa Family Fun

The very same week we were having our new treehouse built, the fine folks at Epson sent an e-mail out of the blue wondering if I’d like to test drive a neat new home theatre projector. I immediately imagined a big white bedsheet tacked to the treehouse, friends and neighbours gathered ’round on lawnchairs on […]

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A new Ottawa toy store and a giveaway!

11 August 2013 Reviews, promotions and giveaways

Way back in the spring, I was invited to the grand opening of Ottawa’s newest toy store, Mastermind Toys. Do you know them? I found out that one of my all-time favourite toy stores in my home town of London is a part of their chain, as is the gift shop at the Ontario Science […]

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