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Rockets! Take a trip to space with the space shuttle booster rockets

Rockets! Take a trip to space with the space shuttle booster rockets

Every time we throw a coin into a fountain to make a wish, Elliot always wishes to go into space on a rocket. It’s a pretty cool wish, and in his lifetime maybe more possible than it has ever been for us. Anything rocket related is pretty cool, so when my husband spotted this amazing video online, we streamed it to the TV and settled in to watch as a family.

It’s an incredible clip pulled from the video cameras attached to the booster rockets on the space shuttle. You watch as they blast off and head up past clouds at breakneck speed and then peel off, one by one, and tumble back down to the ocean. The sound is all real as well. The clip is more than a year old, but what an incredible thing to see!


How we ended up with a piano

How we ended up with a piano


We heard the piano before we saw it.

Walking along the seawall near our building, we came across an upright piano, sitting on the edge of the seawall, overlooking False Creek. Just sitting there. Someone was having a laugh with their friends, playing silly songs on it. And then they left and Elliot climbed up on the bench to have a go.

We must have spent 20 minutes playing around on the piano that evening, and every time we’ve passed it, or its sister piano down under Cambie Street bridge on the seawall, Elliot wants to play it. Or we stop and listen to someone else play them.

Music is important in our house. We watch concerts on TV and talk about what the instruments sound like. Elliot has played around with my cello and has his own ukulele. We’re keen that he learns an instrument, but also fully aware it can go horribly wrong if he shove him into it. I also know that one can still be an incredible musician and pick up an instrument later than 4 years old. But the lure of the piano for Elliot was obvious, so my husband trawled craigslist and tracked down a piano.

Not only are we thinking about starting Elliot on piano in awhile, but my husband has also started teaching himself piano as well. Having spent a few years learning the cello in a teaching orchestra in London, Christopher is having a great time figuring out his second instrument, and I love hearing piano around the house.

So thank you to Keys to the Street, for spurring us to bringing a piano into our home, and kickstarting the music again.


iPad app review: Naxos Records’ My First Orchestra

iPad app review: Naxos Records’ My First Orchestra

Naxos Records' My First Orchestra app

As a musician myself, albeit a keen amateur one, I’m always looking for ways to involve Elliot in listening and talking about classical music. We watch concerts on TV, we listen to it around the house and talk about how the music makes us feel, maybe about which instruments we can hear. Sometimes if I’m feeling brave, I get out my cello and let him bow while I stop the strings, or we drag out the accordion for a bit of a polka party.

When I spotted Naxos Records’ My First Orchestra iPad app, I had to try it.

Tormod the Troll takes you on a journey around the orchestra, learning about the different instrument families and what each one sounds like. You get to hear a few composers talk briefly about their music, and Tormod even has a go too. The app is for ages four and up, though Elliot is only three and a half, he is quite interested in it. There is a lot of text on the screen most of time, and I was sure this would turn him off, but it doesn’t seem to. He goes back to it quite often of his own accord –  I have to admit I was thrilled!

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A price of $4.99 CDN is likely to stop a few people in their tracks, but let me tell you why it’s worth it.

Naxos Records has an interesting story – they are relatively new as record companies go, beginning only in the late 80s. Starting out as one Hong Kong entrepreneur’s idea alongside his high-end audio equipment business, Naxos grew into one of the most innovative and interesting classical record labels out there. They commit to recording new classical music, which is something spectacular in itself as the market for these recordings isn’t huge, and they keep their prices low. It’s incredibly important now, because without Naxos we wouldn’t have the ability to hear some of the newest composers at all. Within traditional classical music, they tend towards young performers and lesser-known orchestras. These are not substandard recordings, by any means.

Of course, this means they have an extensive catalogue to draw from when it comes to an app like My First Orchestra, and for your $5, you get full recordings of over 30 pieces of music. Full-length ones, not just clips. Whether your child will sit through an entire recording is something else of course.

There is loads to explore here, and I would happily recommend it. No wonder both the Sunday Times and the Guardian picked it out in their best apps lists.

Note: I just spotted this isn’t available in the US, but it’s good to go for the UK and Canada.

Disclosure: None, I spotted the app myself and paid for it.


The 100 things list

Fifteen years ago, I ended up in a nutrition counsellor’s office. I don’t really remember how I got there, but after chatting with me for a bit, she asked me what I wanted for myself.

That stumped me.

Even 15 years ago I wasn’t very good at putting my needs first, that was before I got married and started a family. You can imagine my skills in that department have not improved.

The task she set me is one I’ve come back to many times over the years, and as we hit New Year resolution time, I thought I would share it.

Sit down with whatever list-making equipment works best for you: pen and paper, iPad, laptop, phone – whatever. Make a list of 100 things you want. Do it in one sitting, and everything on it must be only for you. Not your partner, not your children, not your parents, not your friends – you.

They can be small things – often, a nice lunch when I don’t have to rush features on mine. They can be materialistic things, they can be impossible things, but you have to fill up the 100 spots. I would also say, in this age of oversharing and commenting, that to be truly honest with yourself you should keep it private.

What ends up happening when I do this is by number 43 or so, I run out of random pieces of kitchen equipment, fantasy holidays and foods I want to try, and the truth starts coming out.

When I’m feeling a bit lost, frustrated with myself for feeling lost and grumpy with the world because I’m not getting what I need, I make time to do this. Even just getting a better sense of what’s actually important to me can improve my mood. I hope this helps you too – and happy new year.


The self-cleaning fish tank that also grows herbs on top

My husband said to me once, whilst flipping through Kickstarter, that he wished we were rich mainly so we could be modern-day Medicis and fund everything that looked cool.

Now this is something that’s worth sharing – the Aquaponics Garden. It’s a fish tank that grows herbs on top. A learning tool that has an entire closed-loop ecosystem on your table. The plants feed on the fish poop, so there’s no cleaning the tank. I love this idea, and I want one! You can pre-order one by funding their project at the $50 level (it costs $50 to ship to Canada, though they will ship two for $60).

Watch the video and hop on over to the Home Aquaponics Garden Kickstarter page to contribute. Definitely watch the video over there – I would have embedded it here, but Kickstarter videos and WordPress don’t play well together. I trust you can go over there and check it out!