The Gift of Memories Saved: KODAK Digitizing Box [Sponsored post]

We all have that person in our lives who is tough to shop for around this time of year. There comes in a point in some lives where another pair of slippers or candle just isn't going to delight anymore. Those type of people tend to value experience and making memories over "stuff". If you have one of those, I have the perfect gift for you: Kodak Digitizing Box!

A super simple and easy service that allows you to dust off those old videotapes, film reels, photos and slides and bring them into the modern age. Aside from allowing you to organize and share online, it also helps you preserve them for future generations.

A few years ago, I gave this gift to myself and I love having these family treasures accessible online and saved in my photo archives. This year I decided I'd do the same for a loved one.

The process is as easy as ever. The Kodak Digitizing Box is the modern version of the yellow envelope that you might remember from way back when. It arrived a few days after the order was made and includes a welcome guide with step-by-step instructions, safety barcodes for every item, a pre-paid return shipping label, and access to a personal concierge to answer any questions.. You decide which memories you want digitized and then send it back. Within a week I received an email that the files were ready for download and my original items were on their way back. A few days after that I had the box back in my hands along with memory stick and CD of all of those memories.

Now we have these priceless memories saved and can be shared at Christmas with the whole family.

Ready to start preserving the past? KODAK Digitizing Box is offering you 30% off your first order with code LIMESTONE for a limited time.

Favorite 5 Gifts: Bestie Edition

You will notice I don't do a lot of gift guides here because I'm generally just as confused as to what to give as anyone.  I really aim to find the perfect gift - something the recipient desperately would want but would not buy themselves because they have no idea it exists.  Yep, pretty impossible and I often end up spinning my wheels.  So I've taken a different tact this year by noting some great gifts all year long that I can drawn on come Christmas shopping.

Beste Gifts

This is my top 5 gifts for your best girlfriends at all different price points.  I either have given these as gifts (more than once) or given them to myself so I can be sure they are scores.

Retro Rolling Suitcase: Looks like its straight out of the golden age of travel but has the modern convenience of being a spinner suitcase (The best for rolling through airports as far as I'm concerned. Fight me!). This is definitely a generous gift but the kind of thing that is a real treat for your bestie with the wanderlust.

Washi Tape + Bullet Journal: For your stationery loving friend, a rainbow of tape and fresh journal is sure to delight them for a grand total of $20. You can't go wrong.  The tape is also wonderful for your super organized friends that love to label everything!

Sorel Winter Boots:  Okay I've wandered back into expensive territory again but I promise you that this is something every women in cold weather climates need to own.  I waited years to invest in a decent pair of snow boots and I honestly could kick myself for wasting all those years with frozen wet feet.  Do your friend or yourself a favor and get these boots before you freeze your toes off again.

Statement Necklace: Need a fun inexpensive gift for your friend that enjoys extra bling or something for the white elephant exchange? This $10 cutie is just the thing. It has a nice heavy weight to it and makes a great addition to even the most plain tshirt and jeans.

Reversible Tote Bag: What woman doesn't need a simple but quality bag to cart around stylishly?  This tote bag comes in a variety of colors to suit and is a steal at $23.  I've given several of these out and often carry one myself. Don't tell anyone but my secret santa is getting one of these too.

That's it.  Five of my favorite gifts for your girlfriends.  I hope I've sparked some gift giving inspiration just in time to get your post holiday shopping gear into mode.  If you get any of these or have your own favorite finds to add, please let me know.

Paris with Two Kids

If you have been reading for a while, you know how much we love Paris. We have gone many times over the years and our affection for this amazing city knows no bounds. Last month we returned with 2 littles in tow and had a wonderful time just as Paris was transforming itself into a fall wonderland. Here are some of my favorite moments from our few days there.

As with other trips, we went out of our way to find an apartment to stay in. With kids having a washer/dryer allows us to pack lighter (1 suitcase for all four of us) and having 2 bedrooms means everyone sleeps much sounder. Not to mention that having a kitchen allows us to hit local food markets and enjoy a few meals in. Sometimes it's worth the trade off of not having a concierge or other amenities you find at a hotel to have all of those extras.  I almost always find these apartments or apartment style hotels using Don't ask me why other hotel sites don't do as good of a job at finding these accommodations but it's my go to source.

This time we tried someplace new - The Residence Charles Floquet.  It was located in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower and had the most amazing view of the light show every night. It also happened to have a gorgeous sitting and dining room complete with French doors and chevron floors which were pretty sweet. The apartment wasn't perfect - there were issues with the heat and we had a hard time getting a reply to our questions from the staff - but we loved our stay nonetheless.  It was a splurge but I don't think we will forget our evenings with the doors flung open anytime soon.

It always shocks me when someone says Paris isn't child friendly because our experiences are just the opposite.  Paris is chock full of child friendly activities that are integrated perfectly with everyday life.  Unlike in the US where doing something family friendly generally means trekking to a specific activity that can be adult torture, Paris will have little surprise activities that are perfect for small kid attention spans.  Like the pop up "race track" in Champ de Mars that had rental push and pedal cars that could be rented for a few euros and the kids could race around a impromptu track. We stumbled upon this quite by accident (despite having been to that park many times over the years) and the kids love it.  Or more permanent fixtures like the wooden boat rentals and puppet theater in the Luxembourg Gardens or the trampoline park in the Tuileries.  That says nothing for the carousels and excellent playgrounds that are spread all over the city. 

Of course going to Paris is not complete without strolling at their street markets.  We try to hit different ones each time we go and always find a new treat to enjoy. For the most part we walk everywhere rather than dragging a stroller up and down the metro steps. Paris is large but very walkable.  Because we are on foot, we have a lot of opportunities to enjoy the view.  We walk and eat our way through the streets each time.

The Jardin d' Acclimation had been recommended to us several times before but we never had made it out there before this trip. We are so glad we finally took the suggestion. It's the most adorable theme park for little kids. We spent the whole day there and could have easily spent more time. There are lovely gardens, great little rides that won't scare even the smallest children, a charming café and a wonderful natural playground that the kids went crazy for. There is also an aviary (I'm sharing this super unflattering photo of myself so you can be warned that those birds WILL land on your head! I had no idea. Be prepared.)

Of course we had to make it back to our favorite guilty pleasure restaurant: Relais de l’Entrecôte.  A restaurant that has just one thing on the menu - steak frites cooked in some kind of mystery buttery green sauce that is a favorite for the whole family.  We got there early and waited on line before they opened so we could be seated in the first round. Despite a rather crowded dining room, they allowed us to bring sleeping Oscar into the restaurant in the stroller which was an absolute life saver.  It allowed the 3 of us to have a nice meal before he awoke and then he had his dinner.  Once again, Paris surprises me with their kindness to little kids.

A trip to Paris isn't complete without some colorful macarons.  We stopped by Angelina (whether they top Laduree is still in question for us) to have the kids pick out a couple and then let Oscar enjoy his very first macaron not far from where Aggie did the same a few years ago. 

To end the trip we had some family portraits done by our favorite expat family photographer, Katie Donnelly. I'll share those at another time.

We had such a fabulous trip - we can't wait to return!  We have quite a few family trips planned next year and this experience makes me even more excited about it. Hope this post is helpful for those planning their own trips to Paris. If you have questions, feel free to drop a comment below.

Halloween Loves Lately

October has flown by and Halloween is just a couple of days away but I didn't want this year to go by without sharing a little Halloween love.  A shoutout to some things that have caught my evil eye this year.

Speaking of eyes, you can make these ghoulish but tasty "cow eyeball" treats if you follow this recipe by Squirrels of a Feather.  They are vegan and gluten free too!

If ghoulish isn't your thing, take a peek at this McQueen inspired butterfly and skull tablescape by Domicile 37.  I need friends like this to invite me to these dinner parties!

Last but not least this gorgeousness by Makerista.  She created this Dickens inspired Halloween set up and costume that deserves some serious love.  Stop by her blog to see more of this incredible scene.

There are so many great costumes and décor ideas this year, I could make this post a mile long but I'll stop here. Happy Haunting!

 If you have a great Halloween party, craft or project, please share it in the comments!

Feeling Safer with Blink: Amazon's Wire Free Blink XT (Sponsored Post)

I've been meaning to install security cameras for ages but I've always been daunted by the project.  My tendencies against new gadgets are pretty extreme which further delayed this out.  Then, I found Amazon's Blink security camera system and saw it's promise of a relatively easy set up, no subscription fee and wire free set up, it was the perfect opportunity to take the plunge.

I didn't have to worry!  This system is so simple to set up, anyone could install it in a few minutes.

My relief started when the box itself arrived.  It contained just a few pieces and a very thin instruction manual.  This was going to be easy!  If you can recall your WIFI password, you are almost home.

After downloading the Blink app on my phone, I plugged in the command module and linked it with my WI-FI and then installed the camera.  It really was that easy.  The app itself is intuitive without too many bells and whistles. It just does the job well.

The hardest part was deciding where to put the camera. Since my house is rather vertical, has two doors and a barrel shape, the typical installation near the front door wasn't going to give me the most coverage.  I "tested" (and when I say tested, I mean held the camera up for a second and looked at the blink app to see the view) a few different spots before realizing I was coming at it from the totally wrong angle.  Instead of sitting on our house facing the street, it would be better to face the camera at our house.  Installing it on a large planter facing our house was the perfect spot.  Not only did that installation give full coverage of the ground floor entrance and front yard, it was also super easy to install because it required no ladders.

The Blink system allows up to 10 cameras to be linked so we will be adding more cameras to cover the stoop and a few other spots as well.  Now that I know how simple it was to install, I will have the whole house covered in a flash.

One screw and it was installed.  After arming the system, I am notified when the camera detects motion and can watch the video.  Or I can click into the app to see a live feed at any time. I feel a lot more secure knowing I can watch what is happening at my home whether home or away.

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Amazon Blink but all opinions expressed are my own. 

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