Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Smart Gloves For Your Smart Phone

I never thought I was going to become an iPhone junkie, but now that I've had it for over a year, I often wonder how I lived without it. That phone is my lifeline when I'm out of the house - anyone I could ever need to reach, in just about any method, is available to me at the touch of a finger.

Of course, winter in Ohio can make my love for my smart phone a little difficult. Anyone in cold weather has likely faced the dilemma of using their phone versus risking cold fingers. More than once last winter I was seen furiously trying to answer my phone with my gloves on, only to remember that the gloves block the ability for the phone to sense touch and so I had to quickly tear off my glove to answer the phone.

And don't get me started on those fingerless gloves for smart phone users. Of all parts of my hand, my fingers are precisely the parts most prone to cold and therefore what I want to keep warm the most!

I was recently made aware of a new product called Agloves, however, and it's like my blue-fingernail prayers have been answered.

Agloves make it possible to keep your gloves on and use a touch screen phone at the same time. These stretchy, knit gloves are made with silver-coated nylon thread throughout (hence the name - Ag is the elemental symbol for silver) to provide the connectivity needed to operate any touch screen.

I always thought that touch-sensitive screens were based on body heat, but actually they're made to react with the bioelectricity in your skin. Put a barrier between your skin and the phone, and those little ions can't flow the way they're supposed to. Agloves, however, allow those ions to flow freely thanks to the highly conductive silver thread.

Now, I know what you might be thinking: metal coated thread? Sounds uncomfortable, right? I can tell you that when I received a pair of these for review, the first thing I noticed was how soft they are. They feel just as soft as any knit gloves, and they are just as warm, too.

I'm really impressed with these gloves. I can use my iPhone without taking my gloves off, and the phone responds to my gloved finger just as well as it does when it's skin to glass. The gloves can get wet, are also washable, and the silver will not wash off or wear off. They're available in three sizes, with a sizing chart to help you pick the right fit.

Unlike other tech gloves on the market, these keep all of your fingers covered and warm while still providing full, 10-finger conductivity with your smart phone. (Some only provide conductivity with your index finger and thumb.) The black is stylish and looks great with winter sports wear as well as a formal wool coat. Cost-wise, these are extremely well-priced gloves, at $17.99 a pair.

And if you needed one more reason to love Agloves, consider that they were created by a "mom-preneur" looking for a solution for a common problem. Support your fellow mom-run small businesses!

Win a pair!

Agloves has graciously provided me with one pair of gloves to give to one lucky reader! The winner can choose which size works best for them.

To enter, leave a comment below telling me your favorite outdoor winter activity. (Mandatory entry.) Be sure to leave a valid e-mail address so I can contact you if you're selected as the winner.

For additional entries:

2. Follow me on Twitter @mommystory and tweet this contest leaving me a link here in the comments. (one entry)
3. Follow @TheAgloves on Twitter. (1 entry - leave a comment here with you link)
4. "Like" Agloves on Facebook. (1 entry - leave a comment here with your Facebook username)

One of each entry per person, US residents only.

Giveaway will close on Sunday, November 28 at 11:59pm ET. One winner will be selected by random drawing to win the pair of Agloves. Winner has three days after being contacted by e-mail to respond or another winner will be chosen in his or her place.

Get FREE SHIPPING on Agloves!

If you can't wait and want to get some of your holiday shopping done, Agloves has also provided readers of Mommy's Must Haves with a great promo code for free shipping on any order from Agloves. Simply enter the code mommusthave in the coupon code box to get free shipping on your order through December 15, 2010!

Full disclosure: I received a pair of Agloves to facilitate my review, and no further compensation was received. A positive review was not guaranteed - all thoughts are my honest opinions. You can bet I'll be taking advantage of that discount code, though - I've got a lot of holiday shopping left to do.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Rapunzel Gets TANGLED in Disney's Newest Film

I had the chance to check out a sneak peak of the new Disney film Tangled last week, and I'll admit I was probably just as excited as many of the kids there. I'm a big fan of Disney, and many of the recent animated films have been instant classics, so I jumped at the chance to get a first glimpse at this new take on the story of Rapunzel.

The story synopsis from Disney is this: When the kingdom’s most wanted—and most charming—bandit Flynn Rider (voice of Zachary Levi) is taken hostage by Rapunzel (voice of Mandy Moore), a feisty teen with 70 feet of golden hair who’s looking for her ticket out of the tower where she’s been locked away for years, the unlikely duo sets off on a hilarious, hair-raising escapade filled with adventure, heart, humor and hair—lots of hair.

Truthfully, that's a fairly shallow description of everything involved in this movie. It doesn't mention that Rapunzel is a princess who was kidnapped by Mother Gothel and has lived nearly all of her life inside the tower. Or that her parents still hold out hope they'll find her again one day and have a lantern lighting ceremony on her birthday each year. (You'll sob when you see this.) Or that the cast of supporting characters could include vikings who like to collect tiny ceramic unicorns. Or that Rapunzel can wield a mean frying pan.

The movie is both funny and heart-warming, with a few scenes that brought tears to my eyes. Rapunzel is an innocent teen, both afraid and in awe of the world yet unwilling to back down from her dreams. Flynn is the semi-stereotypical self-absorbed rebel with a heart of gold. Mother Gothel ranks right up there with Ursula and the Shadowman as a creepy villain, and certainly a mother I'd never want to have.

I don't want to give away too much of the movie, but I will declare this one a must-see. Kids will love the humor, the songs and the horse, Maximus, while adults will enjoy the love story, the emphasis on family, and will cry with the realization that we someday must let our children go free into the world.

I had the chance to see it in 3D, and while it had moments of dazzle, overall I felt the movie could do just as well without the 3D. Unless you're a big fan of it, skip the 3D. Also, the movie is rated PG for some moments of violence and a moment involving death (practically nothing is rated G anymore), so use your best judgment in determining if your child is ready to see it.

I do love that Rapunzel is a strong female character. She's kept away from the world at a child, innocent and scared of the outside, and yet she faces her fears to follow her dreams. Along the way she encounters a lot of frightening moments, but she rises to the occasion for each - she's a good modern princess role model for young girls. (Honestly, I still am not sure why this movie wasn't titled Rapunzel like all of the other Disney princess films.) 

Overall, I wouldn't rate it as my favorite Disney film, but Tangled earns its place in the Disney library of films. It's a great story, the music is good, the animation is lovely and the characters are a lot of fun. You won't be disappointed by Tangled.

Friday, November 12, 2010

12 Weeks Until Christmas: Week 6 Garage Week (GIVEAWAY)

I'll admit, the garage is my final resting place for many items. After removing items from my black hole closets a few weeks ago, several boxes ended up in the garage where they're still waiting to be moved to Goodwill or some other place outside of my home. But many items in my garage have been waiting an awful long time for a new home, making the garage a purgatory for clutter, awaiting the final judgment.

While the clutter is annoying, it's also keeping me from getting my car into the garage.

So while the weather is still not yet freezing, I'm going to take some time to get my garage in shape to park at least one car in it. If your garage could use a little help, too, here are some tips I'm following to organize this space:

- Start by getting rid of the space wasters. Have you touched it in the past two years? If not, then get rid of it immediately. Have you used it in the last year? If so, then take a careful look at it and decide if it's worth the space it occupies.

- Next, get tools and sports equipment off the floor. Think vertical and use your wall space to your advantage. Use tool organizers and bicycle hooks to organize equipment and keep your most needed tools easy to reach.

- Sort holiday decorations into bins by season and store them on shelves. Again, think vertical when planning out your space to leave you with the most floor space available for your vehicles!

- Finally, clean up the floor. Make sure bags of fertilizer, mulch, and pesticides as well as gas cans are properly sealed and stored away from electrical or heat sources. If a bag is torn, transfer the contents to a plastic container that can be sealed.

Be sure to visit Kelly, Heather and Lisa for more tips this week!


To help you in your garage clean-up, I've got a $50 gift card to The Container Store to give to one lucky reader.

To enter, leave a comment below sharing what (other than your car) takes up the most space in your garage! (mandatory entry)

For additional entries:

2. Leave a comment here with your favorite organizational tool for keeping your garage and shed neat and tidy. (one entry - separate comment)
3. Follow me on Twitter @mommystory and tweet this contest leaving me a link here in the comments. (one entry)

4. Write a blog post about how you plan to (or already are!) getting your garage organized and ready for winter and link back to this post. (1 entry - leave a comment here with your link)

Giveaway will close on Friday, November 26 at 11:59pm ET. One winner will be selected by random drawing to win the gift card. Winner has three days after being contacted by e-mail to respond or another winner will be chosen in his or her place.

Good luck!

Full disclosure: Gift card to The Container Store is provided fully by myself. I was not approached by the store and received no compensation at all for this giveaway. Links to Amazon do include my affiliate code, meaning if you purchase something at Amazon after clicking that link, they give me a small percentage of that sale. Win-win, everyone.

Twelve Weeks Til Christmas, Week Seven: Kitchen Clean-Up Time

Can you believe how close we're getting to the holidays? I can tell you that I'm still feeling overwhelmed at all I have left to do to get ready to host family members for Christmas Day.

This week's focus is the kitchen, and this is an area I'll admit I often feel out-of-place in. I'm a lousy cook, but I'm not a half bad baker. So while most of the year I avoid the kitchen, during the holidays there are so many baked goodies to make and share!

Getting the kitchen organized for me begins with a massive storage container hunt. Plastic containers of all sizes seem to breed in our cabinets during the year, and no lid ever seems to have a matching container.

So I begin by pulling out every storage container from every cabinet and setting them all on the table. I start by recycling any container that looks like it's seen better days - warped plastic, dented holiday tins, permanent stains, etc.

Then I start the process of matching up containers and lids. Once that is done, anything left without a partner hits the recycling bin, leaving me with only the storage containers that I'll actually use this season!

This is also the best time of year to take a look at your baking pans and cooking utensils and replace anything that is looking worn out. Make sure you have all of the supplies for your baking needs - you don't want to find out at the last minute that you don't have that double boiler you need to melt chocolate!

This week, Lisa and Rubbermaid are giving you a hand at getting your kitchen organized and ready to bake up some holiday cheer. Visit her blog to enter to win a Rubbermaid modular canisters prize pack!

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Eye-Fi Makes Backing Up Photos Even Easier

I've listened to several people at blog conferences rave about their Eye-Fi cards, and for the longest time I never knew what they were. Wi-fi for your camera? How does that work?

I recently had the chance to try out an Eye-Fi card, and now I think I understand a little better. The Eye-Fi card is an SDHC memory card with built-in 802.11n wireless ability. That means that when you're in your home wireless network, you can easily upload your photos from your camera to your computer with no cables, and no need to remove the memory card.

Setup for the Eye-Fi card is a breeze. Put the card in the included USB card reader, plug it into your computer, answer a few questions, and you're ready to go. It took about 10 minutes to completely set everything up and take a test photo to make sure it was working properly.

I put the 4GB Eye-Fi Connect card to work at Halloween, as I took many, many photos of my girls in their superhero costumes, snapping away safe in the knowledge that the 4GB card could hold hundreds of images. The Eye-Fi software gives you the option to upload all photos directly to a website like Flickr or Picasa, but I prefer to edit and pick and choose which photos I want share so I didn't enable that option.

However, each photo was quickly transferred to my computer only seconds after being taken. At the end of the night, I turned off the camera and went to my photos folder on my computer, where all of my photos were waiting for me. Perfect!

Eye-Fi cards can transfer video as well as photo, too. All Eye-Fi cards also feature the Endless Memory setting, freeing up memory on the card as soon as photos are securely transferred to your computer. Upgraded features include Geotagging and the ability to upload photos to your computer from any Wi-Fi hotspots in the US.

Overall, I like the Eye-Fi card. Being able to transfer photos without taking out the memory card is a nice feature, and the Endless Memory setting is nice, too. But unless you have the upgraded Hotspot Access feature, the card will only transfer photos when in your home wireless network.

Also, one disadvantage to me is your computer and camera have to both be on and awake in order to transfer photos. I have a laptop, so I have to keep it open while photos transfer, and my Canon Rebel has a tendency to go to sleep mode if not used for 30 seconds. When I wanted to transfer several photos at once (taken outside of my home wireless network) I had to keep hitting buttons to keep my camera awake so the photos would continue transferring.

Do I recommend the Eye-Fi card? While I don't know how useful it would be if you only take a single photo here and there, I think it would be very useful for someone with a taste for photography, whether hobby or professional. If you take a lot of photos away from home, I'd recommend the 8GB Eye-Fi Explore or Eye-Fi Pro, both of which include Hotspot Access.

Eye-Fi cards are available in 4GB and 8GB memory, and can be found in many retail locations, including Amazon. They'd make great gifts for the photography fans in your family!

Full disclosure: I was provided with a 4GB Eye-Fi connect card on loan to facilitate this review. No compensation was received and the Eye-Fi card was returned after writing the review. The links above include an Amazon Associates code, meaning that if you click them and purchase anything at Amazon, I get a tiny percentage of the sale. (And thank you if you do!)