Wireless sound with TRACKS AIR headphones from SOL REPUBLIC

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By Tyler, editor and reviewer

Who doesn’t like a good, quality surround sound that makes music and movies come alive? Someone whose movie room shares a wall with a baby’s room, that’s who.

This is the problem with our entertainment room, designed for movies and thumping sound, but that just so happens to be located right next to our son’s bedroom. These days, the only thing playing at Rave Central theater is children’s movie matinees in between nap and bedtime. It’s a sad fate for a room with such promise.

So, what’s a movie loving guy like myself to do? Make a plan to revive our indie movie house with the arrival of these new TRACKS AIR headphones from SOL REPUBLIC.

SOL headphones

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The VHS to DVD Converter from Hammacher Schlemmer

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I’m all about keeping it old school, and I have a huge collection of film cameras to prove it. But, some things are better left in the past, a good example of which is VHS tapes. I had forgotten how much I despised VHS until I was “gifted” our collection of VHS tapes that our family used for recording TV and home movies throughout the 80s and most of the 90s.

But, let me tell you, VHS is awful. The quality of the tape degrades as it ages, it’s a pain to fast forward and rewind, doesn’t have menus to help you navigate, and back in the day it wasn’t easy to edit down into the good stuff. This means I was “gifted” with hundreds of hours of pure awfulness and about 30 minutes of perfection {which more than made up for the awfulness I was subjected to while going through the old tapes}. 

However {and this is a big however}, each of those moments of perfection were spread out over 30+ tapes and took up a huge space in our office where no one could ever enjoy them. The solution? The VHS to DVD Converter from Hammacher Schlemmer that allows you to take all those precious home movies on VHS into custom DVDs that can be easily played, edited, and enjoyed.

VHS to DVD converter
In addition to easily transferring VHS recordings to DVDs, this little console does double duty as it’s also a video player for those who have a library of both DVD and VHS home videos. For DVDs it has 1080p upscaling through an HDMI output, but it also has a front DV input that allows you to connect a camcorder directly to the device to transfer content directly to a DVD {includes a coaxial input as well as component and composite inputs}. 

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VTech Premium Kid Connect lets you connect with your kids anywhere {InnoTab 3S}

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My kids love to text and call their dad throughout the day while he’s at work, but I hate to leave them unattended with my cell phone. This means I’m constantly guarding my phone and making sure it’s locked down, and the kids try their best to convince me to take their pictures and send it to daddy all day long.  

The solution? The awesome Premium Kid Connect available on the VTech InnoTab 3S that helps parents stay connected to their kids when apart. You may remember how much I adore the InnoTab learning tablet for kids and how it saved our Chicago-to-Seattle train trip, got us ready for school, and now offers supplemental learning we can do at home, but it’s way more than that when you connect it to VTech Premium Kid Connect and any Wi-Fi connection.

VTech Kid Connect
With the Premium Kid Connect on the InnoTab 3S, your kids can send voice, text, and picture messages right to loved ones' phones in real time. All by themselves.

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How to host your own upcycling party {Singer VIVO Repair & Create machine}

Upcycling party with Singer
You know those times when everything in your closet just seems so boring? Whether you haven’t been shopping since you were in high school or your body has changed and you’re still wearing your old clothing, chances are you have a stack of clothes in your closet taking up space that you really don’t want to be wearing anymore. 

I know I did, as did my friends, so we decided to get together to make a negative into a very big positive. Instead of going shopping together and blowing a few hundred dollars between us while we updated our wardrobes, we did something a whole lot more fun and cost effective – we upcycled our clothing. 

For those not familiar with the term “upcycle”, the basic idea is that you use what you already have and are not using to create something new and fabulous that you would have otherwise had to buy. Think of it as the greener way to recycle.   

So, to start my party off, I had all of the guests create two bags full of stuff beforehand – stuff they like but want to make amazing in one bag and stuff they really don’t want any more but can still be used for parts in the second.

Welcome to Upcycling partyImmediately upon walking into the party, they were greeted with two felt bins – one to dump their discards into for everyone to use as material, and one for the clothing they would like to upcycle. Once everyone had arrived, we went through the contents of the first bin together so everyone could see what materials they had to work with.

The saying “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” comes to mind as digging through the discard bin quickly turned into a clothing swap where everyone grabbed a few new-to-them items. Hey, it's green and resourceful. 

But, our purpose wasn't just to swap clothing, we were here to make our clothing awesome, which is why we had this little baby by our side:

Singer Vivo

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Introducing the new VTech InnoTab 3S Wi-Fi Learning Tablet

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With the start of school a few weeks ago, my daughter has been thirsting for knowledge. She’s always been a curious kid and very interested in how things work, but this newfound love of learning is unlike anything I ever imagined.

She literally bounds out of bed each day excited to learn, she has trouble falling asleep at night because she’s so excited about what she will learn the next day, and she is constantly looking for things to challenge her new skills. All of this is awesome – really awesome – but it’s also exhausting. Sometimes I want to just “do”, not “teach” as I do, but I hate to discourage someone who is clearly craving lessons.

For this reason, I love that I can give her 30 minutes of tech time with her new VTech InnoTab 3S that arrived last week and it gives me a half hour of alone time to get things done. Instead of interrupting me every few seconds with “how do you spell ___?” or “what sound does ____ make?”, I love that when her VTech time is done she comes running back telling me something new she learned – all on her own.

Playing with the innotab 3s

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VTech Switch & Go Dinos

My son is crazy about dinosaurs and about vehicles of all kinds, so I knew he would think that the Switch & Go Dinos were basically the coolest thing ever.  Whenever he sees the brightly colored dino covered boxes when we’re out shopping, he can’t help but hug them all. Of course I couldn't say no when offered a set of Switch & Go Dinos to review right before his birthday. 
Switch and Go Dinos
If you haven’t seen them in stores yet, Switch & Go Dinos are robotic dinosaurs that transform into various vehicles with just a few motions. When in dino mode, they roar like prehistoric animals, and when in car/truck/flying object mode, their engines rev and they make vrooming noises. Pretty much the best toy ever, in a little boy’s eyes.

I already knew that my son would think it was pretty awesome if a few Switch & Go Dinos came to live with us, so I was sure they would be the perfect birthday present for him this September. My daughter recognized this as well and decided that of all the other toys on the market, she really wanted to buy him one of these dinos for his birthday. 

Switch and Go Dinos packages

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Music anywhere with the HMDX Jam Bluetooth wireless speaker

Summer fun with music
In my family we love music. Music while we craft, music while we cook, and even music while we clean. But, while we have wired our house for sound, the fun unfortunately ends at our doorstep. We’ve been known to turn the music up and keep all the doors and windows open so we can still hear it outside while we garden, bounce on the trampoline, or play in the yard, but that unfortunately doesn’t work for when we’re at the park or beach.

And, really, what’s a beach party, cookout or camping trip without good music? Recently, we got to review the HMDX Jam Bluetooth Wireless Speaker courtesy of AT&T and it's now our go-to music source for whenever we're not indoors {and even sometimes when we are}.

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VTech InnoTab 3S available for presale now

Remember our review of the InnoTab 2S? My kids are crazy into their MePad {Daddy has an iPad, so my two year old decided the VTech InnoTab 2S was a “MePad”} and it was a lifesaver on our recent two day train trip home from Chicago as well as our Idaho vacation. So, of course … Read more

Got a math tip for young kids? You could win big with Zorbit’s Math Adventure! {contest}

Disclosure Zorbits
Teaching my kids to spell and read might just be my downfall as a mom, but both kids picked up basic math from me at a very young age.  Ironically, math wasn’t my strong subject in school, so I thought English and reading were going to be where I excelled at teaching, but I guess it goes to show you that you never really know how you are going to be as a mom until you actually have kids. 

For me, it was easy to infuse early math with simple games we would play from even the toddler stage.  It started with counting to three before we ran, playing counting games with numbers, and adding small objects like toys and foods to make math fun and easy to learn.

With summer here, the last thing we want to do is spend our days indoors with flash cards and workbooks, so I love that I can even take the lessons outdoors. With simple games like hopscotch that teach ones and twos to chalk problems on the trampoline where the kids jump to the right answer, we’ve found all sorts of math games to do outdoors that are so fun that the kids don’t even realize they are learning. 

Making math fun is the goal of Zorbit’s Math Adventure, a new iOS app from Best Boy Entertainment for kids ages 3-5 that will be launching in mid-August.  Early childhood learning is so important for school success, and giving your child a fun and exciting way to learn the basics is the perfect way to help your child.  

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Need a new phone? Try the Best Buy Mobile Specialty Stores trade-in program

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Best Buy mobile specialty stores
In this day of electronic upgrades every other week, tech gadgets are dating themselves faster than ever before. This means that most of us have piles of old electronics filling our junk drawers and offices. I will admit that hubby and I have a sizable collection of old cell phones, PDAs, and more that are really just taking up space in our house.

Some of these gadgets are now glorified paperweights with 1997 technology and no ability to charge and I’ve needed to get rid of them for quite a while now. If you read my Best Buy post about their awesome recycling program, you know how much I love that they help you recycle old electronics responsibly for free, and I’ve been meaning to take them to the recycling station for quite some time.

But, what you may not know is that they have a great trade-in and buy-back program that you can utilize if you have old electronics that might be worth a little money. Best Buy Mobile Specialty Stores are popping up all over {typically at malls or shopping centers} and I happen to have one near me at the Northgate Mall, so I stopped in last weekend to see what they could do with my 15lbs of excess technology.

Trading in old phones

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