Automoblox

Automoblox are toy cars that kids can put together themselves.  This is the Automoblox T-9 pickup.  This is yet another Christmas gift this year!

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The bodies of the cars are made from wood, all with rounded edges.  The car bodies usually come in three pieces that snap together easily with the small plastic pegs that are attached to either end of the part.  Wheels and windshields are plastic, and tires are rubber.

This is a “Mini” car, which is about four inches long and two inches wide, which is a perfect size for a kid of about 4 or 5 to play with.  There are larger models, which we don’t have, but those might be better for an older kid.

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Put them all together and here’s the completed car!   They’re sturdy and can handle rough playing without falling apart.  Race them around the house, toss them down the stairs, and they stay together.  So usually the parts are all together, and after a few minutes of playing you don’t have to fish around under the radiator to find something that flew off unexpectedly.

The pieces are not permanently attached together though, they are easily taken apart by just pulling apart the pieces at the snapped together seams.

 

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Ok, so you’ve put together your Automoblox, and you’ve been playing with it for awhile, now what ?    Well, you have to go get another one!   The Marketing genius of Automoblox is that if you have more than one, you can create your own crazy car design by mixing up the parts of different cars!

Here’s a combination of two different cars:

 

Before:

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After:

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The Automoblox minis sell in the $8 – $12 range.  We have two, and I’ll have to try to get more!

Unboxing Tegu Blocks

Tegu offers unique magnetic wooden block sets that can be used right out of the box. No instructions are needed, no batteries, no putting together of small pieces by harried parents on Christmas morning or during crazy birthday parties.

Here’s the box for their 52 piece version.

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It’s a nicely designed box, cardboard, but it is solid and sturdy. This is not something that will be ripped apart in just a few minutes once it is open. I think it’s aways a good sign that the box the toy comes in is sturdy and can be used to store the toy in. It is extremely annoying to find all the miscellaneous small parts lying around on the floor or in various storage bins within days of getting the toy out of the box.

It is also a very attractively designed box, with interesting tree and magnet facts printed on the inside. Things like; ‘Magnets are used in everyday objects like speakers, computers, compasses, cars, trains, and even credit cards!’, and ‘The oldest recorded tree was 5,000 years old’. Some interesting projects that you can try out are described too, like creating your own magnet by passing a paperclip over a magnet repeatedly.

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The company describes their efforts to help preserve trees as well, such as their efforts to provide jobs where the blocks are made in Honduras, and how they plant new trees to replace the ones they use. That’s a lot for just the outer box!

The blocks themselves are just amazing. There are four different sizes, squares, and rectangles of various sizes. Each one is magnetized somehow and easily fit together to make anything that your kid can imagine.

So there’s not much to show regarding putting anything together, you just open up the box and go! One really nice thing about the set is that it does not come with a booklet of any kind that would show what you could build. I find that our son would just look at the booklet and build things to copy what he sees in the booklet. Since there’s no booklet, he just goes ahead and builds what he thinks of on his own. We have some other magnet block sets that do have a booklet like this, which is useful to some extent at first, but I do find that it limits the imagination of the kid who is using it.

Unlike other magnet block sets, there are no tiny little magnetized metal balls that can get lost under the bed and sucked up by the vacuum. No plastic connecting panels that can easily break. No batteries that need to be replaced. Just sturdy wooden blocks that can be used to create things that other wooden blocks can not do, such as something like this:

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Every kid is different, but I always felt a little bit apprehensive about giving our son one of the other magnet sets. What if he swallowed one of those little balls ? He’s really not about to swallow one of these blocks!

Blocks like this can easily be used with any number of other toys as well. It’s not a free standing play set that can’t be used with unrelated toys. Mr. C makes all kinds of things such as bridges for Matchbox cars, skyscrapers that can be knocked down by his toy planes, pens for his Playmobil zoo animals, and lots more.

Tegu is a U.S. based company, though the blocks themselves are made in Honduras. There are a variety of other sets as well, including ones that can be used to make specific things such as cars, and smaller block sets that cost as little as $22. Here’s their website: www.tegu.com

The 52 piece block set pictured in this post, which retails for about $120. This might seem pricey for a toy, but this is something that will last for years, and will most likely be played with for years as well. Highly recommended!

 

 

 

 

 

Unboxing the Lee Valley Toy Crane

When my Mom asked us what our four year old son, Mr. C, might like for Christmas, I remembered the crane that she had bought my nephew when he was about the same age.  This has got to be a 15 years or so ago, as my nephew is now a 20 year old college student, so I was surprised to find that the crane was still available.

A quick search of the Lee Valley site showed that the crane I was thinking of was still being made, and it looked the same as I remembered it.  My Mom bought it and Mr. C loved it as soon as he opened it.

There’s not much to do once it’s opened.  Always a good thing for busy parents on Christmas morning!

I love the design of the box.  With its vintage typeface and apparently hand illustrated picture of the crane, it looks as though it was first made in the early 1960′s.  For someone that appreciates vintage toys, this a quite a find.

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It is made in the Czech Republic, by the Kovap company.  There’s a note on the box with the contact information for the company, with a note that the crane was made on July 17, 2013.  I’m always interested in learning more about the company that makes a toy like this. Especially if it is made by a smaller company in an unusual location, not by a large factory that just extruded out some plastic bits and put it all into a box.

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Just pull it up out of the box, lift up the crane arm, and place the strings on the pulleys and your crane is ready to go!

 

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It’s close to 2 feet tall, made of steel with rubber wheels on the base.  The crane fully rotates at the base, and there are two hand cranked locking levers that operate the arm.  One crank lowers and raises the metal hook, the second raises and lowers the crane arm.   Both cranks have a locking feature that keeps the arm or hook in place if needed.

The only drawback I can find is that the strings that hold up the crane arm are easily removed during play, making the crane arm collapse, which can lead to a very frustrated four year old.  However, he soon figured out how the crane arm worked and after I had to fix those strings a few times, he figured out how to do it himself.  I would not avoid getting it because of this, just watch what your kid is doing for awhile when they first get it.  If they’re at all interested in figuring things out for themselves, I’m sure they’ll like the idea that they can make the arm move on their own once they figure out how it works.   I suspect those strings will eventually break, but it looks like they would be easy to replace.

Overall, it’s a very sturdy toy that will survive rough play to a certain extent, and will most likely last for several years.   My nephew played with his crane for years, and I suspect my son will have his for years too.

At just $31.50, it’s a good bargain considering that a lot of toys that are in the general price range will not survive much longer than a week after Christmas!

The Garden Week 4: Where’s the April Showers ?

I’ve fallen behind on posting news about the garden.  I know that I missed last week, so I should post something quick before I miss another week!

In case you missed it,  here is week 2   and here is week 1

We’ve had a lot of nice sunny days here in Southern New Hampshire, so things are looking good.  There has not been a lot of rain though, so the ground is very dry.

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The foliage of the plant in the foreground in the photo below is a very pale green, don’t worry it’s supposed to be that color.  The flowers on that plant are a very deep purple, a very striking combination.

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The side yard is also starting to fill in.  That’s a some kind of vine on the fence.  I know it’s somewhat of an invasive, I believe it’s honeysuckle, not positive. It’ll be easier to see in a few weeks as it blooms.

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Why anyone would have buried bricks in the yard is beyond me, but there they were buried in an area of the yard that I just cleared this Spring.  Any suggestions for plants to consider there ?

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The List

Do you make lists ?   I don’t.   At least I didn’t until I opened my big mouth last week and  now I have a list that has more than 100 things to do on it.

WordPress sends out a daily prompt email with a suggested topic for you to blog about.  If it’s something interesting I’ll discuss the question with Ms. J.  They’re usually things like, ‘How did you name your first pet?”, or “What’s your favorite pasta shape?”.   We’ll talk about the question for a few minutes, maybe tell a funny story related to the question, and then move on to something else.

Well, a week or so ago, the question was something about making lists, “Do you make lists ?” , “Make a list right now”, or maybe it was “Why are you so lazy, go make a list!”    I suppose you were then to go write a post about your list and explain how efficient you are.   The conversation with Ms. J started off as usual, I think we each told some list related anecdote, maybe there was a funny story as well, but we didn’t end up doing the “move on to something else” part.  What she did, to my shock and horror, was to actually start a list.

The purpose of the list, or as we have since started to call it:  ”THE LIST” , is to itemize the things that we should get done.  They can’t be minor things like “Take out the garbage every week”, or “Clean the cat box”.  Cleaning does not count.  It has to be something major, like home improvement projects such as fixing the garage door opener, and getting rid of the ‘Monster Weed’ in the back yard.  Or the item can be related to Mr. C, such a signing him up for some kind of Summer class.  All important things, but things that I tend to keep putting off and before we know it it’s May and I haven’t done much of anything.

As a lifelong procrastinator, lists are poison for me.  Like Kryptonite.  Once some task is written down it is made official, it has to be done.  I have often been accused of having selective hearing, or selective memory, when it comes to getting things done.   This is not true.  There is just so much to get done that I can not keep up with it.  This is a 100+ year old house after all, there’s always going to be something to do around the house to keep it livable.  And the addition of Mr. C just triples the things to do, and also cuts in half the time to do them in too.  I do admit that before THE LIST came along it was easy to say something like ‘When did we talk about that?’.  Such as  when I was confronted with the broken door bell that has yet to be fixed, even though it has been ten years since  I moved in.

So far, we’re up to 106 items on the list.

I guess it’ll be productive, and a motivator.  I’ve already gotten one item done, number 86, ‘Get an Easy Pass for the car’.  For those outside the US, ‘Easy Pass’ is a pre-payment system for toll-roads.  It is a radio transponder that can be attached to the inside of your car’s windshield, sending out a signal to the toll booth, letting you breeze through the line of cars waiting to pay their toll.  Especially helpful during the 6 hour drive down to New Jersey to visit my in-laws.  We have more than once had to scrounge around in the car for the $13 toll to get over the George Washington bridge in New York City.  (What do they do if you don’t have the money?  Do they make you work the toll booth?)

So this past weekend the drive to New Jersey was clearly shorter as we zipped through the tolls.  Always helpful to get to the in-laws faster!

Here it is, my nemesis.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Up

I’m usually taking photos of our 3 year old, or plants in the garden, so it’s not too often that I get one that would fit this week’s theme.  So I had to go back through my piles of photo CDs to find these photos from a vacation on Martha’s Vineyard.

This one’s a little blurry since the day had started warm and sunny with me wearing shorts and a T-shirt and ended as a very windy and chilly day, with me in the same T-shirt.  So I’m shivering as Mr. C is pointing out the moon in the sky.

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And for a different interpretation of UP, here we are at the Martha’s Vineyard Ag Fair.  Mr. C was very impressed that he could lift up a 30 pound weight through the magic of a block and tackle.

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Our little nature boy decided to climb the massive tree in the middle of the town green in Oak Bluffs.  The tree is huge since it has no competing trees around it and is quite the tourist attraction for boys ages 3 through 10 who all seem to be competing to see who can climb to the highest limb inside the huge canopy.   So this is a photo of  me trying to both take a photo of him climbing the lower area of the tree and while making sure that he doesn’t break any bones by holding on to whatever part of his body I can hold on to.

Do I manage to get a cute photo of him climbing the tree ?   No, I only get this shot looking straight up into the branches just before I dropped the camera on the ground.

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