Sweet Critique: iMemories #PreservingMemories #CBias


iMemoriesMany of us have memories we want to preserve, both in the form of old home movies and photos.  I know we “became adults” right as digital stuff was getting really popular, and then we were too poor to afford it.  But, since I love my tech stuff, I really hated not having our home movies in digital format.  For one, we never watched them because of the hassle involved in doing so, and two, you can’t share something digitally that’s on a Hi8 tape…


How to Convert the Movies?


I knew I didn’t want to do this myself.  I have access to most of the stuff I would need to do so, and the instructions on how to do so, but I’ve had that all for a while and I’ve never done it.  So a DIY was out of the question.

I knew there were services out there that could do this for me, but I never really looked into them and they didn’t seem to be readily available, you know?  If it wasn’t marketed to me actively, I probably didn’t see it…  I’m a busy mom.

Then I had the opportunity to use iMemories.  I understood the concept, but I didn’t quite understand how I’d come to love it.

Because iMemories teamed up with The UPS Store, the process is so unbelievably easy!  You literally gather up your old movie, bring them in to The UPS Store, and they pack and ship them for you.  I brought mine stuff in a plastic grocery bag!

The UPS Store

Shipping to iMemories at The UPS Store

Myra at The UPS Store

Once iMemories gets it, they label and log it, digitize it, and then post it on their secure site for you to either label and organize them, or just have them put directly onto DVD.  When they’re done, they mail back the originals and the DVDs.

That’s it.  That’s the whole process.  It’s a simple trip to The UPS Store, and a few mouse clicks.  Uber-bonus:  while you’re waiting for your DVDs to arrive, you can watch your home movies online.  We’ve been enjoying that so much.  It’s brought the three of us together at the table several times now, watching what life was like years ago.  Warm fuzzies baby, warm fuzzies.

digitized home movies

What Did I Think?


Overall I’m happy with the service.  This really makes me want to digitize the rest of our stuff.  It was so easy.  My outbound shipping got a bit wonky {the package left AL, and then came back and sat for a couple of day…}, so my package was delivered a couple of days late, but other than working with a deadline, that’s really a non-issue for me.  And for the record, I love UPS as a shipping provider, and am rarely ever presented with delayed shipments.  Like I could probably count them on one hand…

The customer service I received at both The UPS Store and from iMemories was exceptional.  I love that I got a personal email from someone at iMemories letting me know I could view my videos online and that my DVDs would be shipped out soon.

I do wish I could get them on Blu-Ray, though.  Maybe someday!

I can’t show you my DVDs just yet {they’re supposed to be here tomorrow}, but I’ll update you as soon as they come in!

If you’re looking to do this for yourself or as a gift, for whatever reason, I definitely recommend using this service.  To find out a bit more about the whole process, check out my Google+ photo story!

#PreservingMemories with iMemories & The UPS Store

True Confessions:  This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias. #CBias All statements are my own.

TOS Sweet Critique: Wreaths of Maine

Wreaths of Maine

Wreaths of Maine

You know what smells really nice?  I mean, in addition to cupcakes and Italian food and fresh bread…

Balsam fir.  But really, all of us can’t scoot up to New England and grab one to stick in our house.  That would just be absurd…

But there’s good news:  The wonderful folks at Wreaths of Maine create lovely wreaths from these firs and ship them directly to you.  With the variety of styles available, you’re bound to find one {or three} that would look gorgeous in your home!  And then there’s that whole smell thing…

Wreaths of MaineThe Wreaths


As I’ve mentioned before, Wreaths of Maine has a variety of wreaths for sale.  That one over there to the left {with a cute little girl holding it…} is ours.  It is a perfect size {in my opinion}, not too large but not tiny either.  It is a nice full wreath, no peaking through those branches!

The price is great, too.  You can get a wreath for as little as $31, and believe me, that’s a steal!

Each wreath is placed on the frame by hand by a wreathmaker {I like that job title-how fun!}, and contains an average of 32 bouquets.

They come packed tightly, wrapped in wax paper to keep the wreath intact and the moisture in.  I was amazed at how well it was packed and how nice the wreath looked when we took it out.

And, finally, I’m happy to say this is easy to care for.  Sweep up a few needles, spritz it with water.  That’s it.  Awesome.

Homeschool Fundraiser


Yep, fundraisers.  I was particularly happy to see this, seeing as how we’re homeschoolers and all.  Fundraisers aren’t just for homeschoolers though.  This is quite possibly my favorite sentence on the site:

Fundraisers are for groups, families, and individuals that need to raise funds.

Need funds?  Sell wreaths!  Of course, you have to have a good reason or people probably wouldn’t buy from you…  But you guys wouldn’t sell for not good reasons, would you?

I’ve heard of homeschoolers using proceeds from these fundraisers to fund science fair projects, field trips, and other great stuff.  The company was started by homeschoolers, and I love that they’ve found a way to help others!

The sales kit is full of everything you’d ever need to sell the wreaths and start earning commissions.  They’ve really made it easy.  You get envelopes to send orders back to Wreaths of Maine, address labels, order forms, color catalogs, easy instructions, and selling tips.  Selling wreaths is really simple with the system they’ve set up.  Quite honestly, you could get this kit and start selling the same day; it’s that easy.

Final Thoughts


I love my wreath.  I love that the company allows others to sell the wreaths and earn money.  I think it’s a win/win for all involved.  Definitely check them out, and go ahead, get yourself a wreath.  You won’t regret it!

But, just in case you don’t believe me, head over to Crew blog to check out what other members of the Homeschool Crew think!

True Confessions:  I was provided with a wreath from Wreaths of Maine in exchange for an honest review.  All statements are my own.  I really *heart* my wreath.  Get one, seriously!

Sweet Showcase: Motorola PHOTON 4G #MotoCalyp #cbias

Motorola PHOTON 4G

Motorola PHOTON 4GCell phones sure have come a long way, haven’t they?  I don’t know about you, but I feel like I absolutely need a smartphone now:  check emails, keep up with social media, productivity, etc.

My old cell phone was at least four years old and it wasn’t working for me.  Vince and I had been talking about getting a new phone for me for a while, but there wasn’t really anything that really excited me.  They all kind of seemed the same, or completely irrelevant to my life.

Until I started researching the Motorola PHOTON 4G.  I am so not even kidding you guys when I say that I absolutely LOVE this phone.  I have yet to find a feature that I need, that this phone doesn’t have.

Motorola PHOTON 4G Basics


PHOTON researchThe PHOTON is a smartphone available from Sprint for $199.99 with an eligible phone upgrade or new contract.  It runs Android platform 2.3 {Gingerbread}.

In addition to it’s stellar media performance, the phone is also uber when it comes to staying connected {social media, email, texting, calling} and productivity.  With Android apps, you’ve also got many opportunities to just sit there and have some fun with things like games and puzzles!

The PHOTON sports a touch screen, HDMI jack, and kickstand.  Great way to rest your arms while watching a movie!

For the nitty gritty specifics on the PHOTON, check out the extensive research I did here in my Google+ photo story.

Shopping for the PHOTON


We visited our local Sprint store to purchase the phone.  The rep was helpful, the displays were great, and the ability to play around with the phone was appreciated.

Sprint Store

I really liked that they had a large display with both the docking station and the lapdock for the PHOTON, both connected to a phone, so you could really see how those accessories worked and the webtop application functioned.

Read more of my experience in my Google+ photo story.

My Top Ten Favorite PHOTON Features


  1. Motorola PHOTON 4GThe large screen – With a 4.3″ screen, the PHOTON was one of the largest phones in the store.  I like this since I will be doing a lot of internet browsing, social media interaction, and emailing.  I don’t need a tiny screen for all of that…
  2. Expandable storage - I was not a fan of phones that came in different storage sizes, but did not offer the option to expand that.  Not cool.  The PHOTON allows you to go from 16 GB to 48 GB.
  3. Social media tools – Lots of choices when it comes to keeping up with all of you in the cyber world!
  4. The Android App store - Whether it’s for education, productivity, or fun, I love the selection of apps in the store!
  5. Email tools - Just like the social media tools, the email tools give me multiple ways to manage my email accounts.  Score!
  6. Speed – This thing is super fast.  Like, really.  On the 4G network it’s blazing, but even on 3G if doesn’t feel like you’re working on a cell phone.
  7. Voice recognition – Perform a Google search, make a call, send a text message, or many other things; the PHOTON supports all of these voice recognition commands.
  8. Call quality - The sound is crisp and clear.  I don’t really know how to explain it, but if you have an older phone like I did, you will LOVE it.
  9. Dock options – I like the idea of docking the phone and having access to everything on the big screen.  Sometimes you need stuff to be on your phone, but hate working on it there.  The docking station or the lapdock is all you need.
  10. Security features – Data encryption, password protection, and other choices:  the PHOTON is uber-safe.
  11. BONUS – It’s a world phone! – This might not seem like a huge thing, but it is.  There are not a ton of world phones around, and they come in really handy.  Like, say, when your husband is deployed and in port in a foreign country and wants to call you…  Ask me how I know…

But why read when you can listen to me get so excited about the phone?!?!  Here you go, a vlog dedicated to the Motorola PHOTON 4G and why I *heart* it!

Final Thoughts


Motorola PHOTON 4GI think this phone is definitely the phone for busy moms and bloggers {I’m both of those}.  Well, it’s the phone for others, too.  We enjoyed it from the time we bought the first one, on to buying a second.  I still can’t stop touching the thing!

The personalization options are great; I feel like I can really make the phone work for me.  Having the ability to keep up with my world while on the go is priceless.

Guys, believe me when I tell you I have spent hours researching and playing with the PHOTON.  If you have any questions, let me know; I’ve probably got the answer!  If I don’t, I’ll definitely get it for you.

If you’re interested, you can purchase the PHOTON and get free 2-day shipping right now!

True Confessions:  This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias.  Everything I’ve said is my own honest opinion.  Stock photos have been taken from Motorola.

Sweet Critique: Reader’s Digest Educational Gift Pack


Reader’s Digest has sent me more awesome books!!!  And this time, they’ve put them together in a pack of four, just for the student in your life!

These are great books filled with tons of information about each specific subject.  Here’s a look at each one:

  • I Wish I Knew That:  Geography – James Doyle:  Earlier this month I reviewed a similar book, but it was more suited to adults.  This book is perfect for little minds to learn all sorts of fun stuff about geography.  It’s got cute illustrations, a fun font, and it covers things like continents, the Earth, and oceans.  There’s even a cool little section on ecological communities.
  • I Wish I Knew That - Steve Martin; Mike Goldsmith, Ph.D.; and Marianne Taylor:  This is my absolute favorite of the set, and probably my favorite of all the RD books I’ve gotten so far!  I enjoy learning the “why” behind things and learning about all sorts of miscellaneous things.  Sure, I may not really ever need to know that Baku is the capital of Azerbaijan, but it’s still great to have the opportunity to learn it.  The book is divided up into sections like literature, history, and math.
  • i before e (except after c):  Easy Cool Ways to Remember Facts - Susan Randol:  Like things like Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally?  Then this is the book for you!  Filled with a myriad of ways to remember all sorts of facts, you’ll find an acronym, rhyme, or acrostic for just about anything.
  • Write (Or Is That “Right”?) Every Time:  Cool Ways to Improve Your English - Lottie Stride:  This book is filled with all sorts of grammar, spelling, and punctuation goodness!  This is a great reference for your child; it’s very thorough and complete.  The material is presented in a fun and intriguing way, though, making it great for kids!

Reader’s Digest is giving all four of these books to one of you!!  Use the Rafflecopter form to enter!

True Confessions:  I was provided with copies of these books in order to facilitate my review.  All statements are my own.

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Sweet Critique: Barilla Whole Grain Pasta

Barilla recently launched their Barilla Whole Grain Taste & Share Challenge.  To help get the word out, they sent me a Challenge kit full of all sorts of goodies!!  I received:

  • Six boxes of Barilla Whole Grain pasta – Linguine, Thin Spaghetti, Spaghetti, Medium Shells, Rotini, and Penne
  • Barilla apron
  • Academia Barilla 100% Italian Olive Oil
  • Academia Barilla Balsamic Vinegar of Modena – aged 3 years
  • Academia Barilla Pesto Alla Genovese
  • Academia Barilla Canned Cherry Tomatoes
  • Academia Barilla Sicilian Sea Salt with Italian Black Olive

I was ready to start tasting!

What Did I Make?


Well, the genius people at Barilla came up with the Whole Grain Dinner Kit to help people find tasty and healthy recipes to prepare with their pasta.  It’s a pretty neat little doodad, definitely go check it out!

After using the Kit I decided on Rotini with Creamy Bolognese Sauce and Peas.  It was a special occasion recipe {which, in this case, meant it took a while to prepare} and we really enjoyed it.  Personally, it had a few too many peas for our tastes, but the overall dish was excellent!

The key to working with whole grain pasta is to properly prepare it* and flavor the dish as a whole well.

*  Prepare the pasta according to package directions, otherwise you end up with a gummy mess.  This means adhering to cooking time and heavily salting your water!

What Do I Think About the Pasta?


I love it!  I’m the first to admit that I steer clear of most whole grain stuff unless I know it tastes good.  We’ve tried other whole grain pasta and it just wasn’t good.  The texture was off and it was just blech…

Not the case with Barilla!  The pasta of course tastes different than traditional pasta {51% whole grain will do that}, but it’s a great wheat-y full-flavored taste that doesn’t overpower the dish.  The texture is awesome, pretty much like that of traditional pasta.

I was so shocked at how much I liked it that I decided to give it a second go, you know, just to make sure the first time wasn’t a fluke.

This time I used one of my recipes:  good ole spaghetti.  The only alterations I made were to include the can of peeled cherry tomatoes in the sauce and use the whole grain noodles instead of traditional ones.

How did it go?

Well, Babydoll actually said something to the effect of this being the best sauce I’ve made.  The pasta was still good, and filling.  Looks like the Barilla Whole Grain pasta really is awesome!  Yay!!

What’s This Taste & Share Challenge?


Glad you asked.  You can get all the details here, but basically by sharing your experience with others on Facebook, you AND your friends get Barilla coupons.  Awesome!

I’m so excited to let you guys know that Barilla is giving three of you {!!!!} a Taste & Share Challenge Dinner Kit just like mine!  Use the Rafflecopter form to enter!!

True Confessions:  I wrote this review while participating in a blog tour by Mom Central Consulting on behalf of Barilla and received a Taste & Share Challenge Kit to facilitate my review, kits to giveaway, and a promotional item to thank me for taking the time to participate.

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