I have discovered the most amazing camera. If you're living in the digital world like I am, the Samsung Galaxy S EK-GC100 Camera with blow your mind!
I first spotted it at the Netflix Blogger event and immediately googled it. I found it here on the Best Buy site and sent out a tweet raving about it with a link for all to see. The gods of social media answered my prayer (thank you Best Buy) and sent me one to review (and to give away...so keep reading).
I am awestruck. When I go anywhere with this new camera, strangers ask me about it. The look is sleek and modern like a camera Steve Jobs would have designed—but this is all Samsung innovation. Essentially, it's a gorgeous hybrid of digital camera meets a Galaxy smartphone. This is what I've been searching for—a camera that functions like a high end DSLR with a fabulous lens and zoom that can be shared easily in the digital space. The only thing you can't do with it, is make a phonecall.
This is what the screen of the Samsung Galaxy S Camera looks like:
Crazy, right? The camera runs on the Android 4.1 or Jelly Bean operating system just like some smartphones. It's WIFI and 3G enabled so you can download any apps you need from the Google App Store. It comes preloaded with Dropbox so your images are automatically saved through the cloud. Gmail was also preloaded! The only thing you have to do is log into to each app and you're good to go. Facebook was also already waiting for me. I immediately downloaded Hootsuite and Instagram and was ready to share!
Because I live in the social space, I've tried other cameras claiming to be social media friendly, but their systems are wonky. This camera, on the other hand, is as easy as sharing shots from your smartphone—with a kizillion added benefits because the actual camera itself is amazing.
Let's start with the 4.8-inch HD touchscreen display, making the art of framing and editing photos a dream. There are 65 different editing tools in the Photo Wizard to enhance each photograph without having to download them onto your computer. It's like having PicMonkey inside your camera! Seriously, hours of fun! And for bloggers, it's indispensable.
The zoom is magnificent. When I have attended events in the past, I would try to shoot photos with my iPhone in vain. Something about stage lighting does not agree with the iPhone camera. As a reporter of sorts, this has been a major inconvenience. The Samsung S Camera has a 21x optical zoom. To give you an idea of how amazing the zoom is, here's a photo I took at the Rolling Stones concert at the Air Canada Centre.
Here's how far I was from the stage. See the action behind me and my girlfriends? THAT'S how far the stage was!
Here's a shot I took of Biz Stone, one of the founders of Twitter (swoon), onstage at The Art of Marketing.
And here's how far Biz Stone really was from me.
As well as having a powerful zoom, there are also 15 Smart modes to help you get amazing point-and-shoot images. I used the Macro setting to take this photo of candies in my little niece's hand.
I used the Action Freeze setting to get these three fast-moving shoots. I'm amazed how the camera catches the action and is able to freeze high-speed motion.
There is also a Panoramic setting, a Food mode perfect for all of you who insist on photographing everything you eat, and a Light Trace setting which makes for some fun shots. When taking a group photo, inevitably someone closes his eyes. In Best Photo mode, the camera automatically shoots a bunch of shots with the click of one button, so you're guaranteed to find one image to make everyone look their best.
For all of you "real photographers" who only shoot with manual DSLRs, the Samsung innovators have created something really revolutionary just for you. When you switch the camera to Expert mode, a digital simulation of a lens appears on the touchscreen and you can adjust the aperture and shutter by touching the virtual lens.
And yes, of course there is also an HD Video function on the camera (with a great slo-motion feature) so you can shoot a vid and upload it immediately to YouTube or Facebook. Or save it in DropBox.
This camera is incredibly smart. It even has a voice control feature with allows you to speak to the camera to do a variety of activities like set the timer and take the photo when you're ready!
The only slight inconveniences I've experienced so far is that the camera is slow to initally launch, and the battery gets used up quickly because so many different apps are functioning simultaneously to get these amazing shots. Plus I'm editing, emailing, posting, and playing on the phone a lot.
The Samsung Galaxy S EK-GC100 retails for $599, and in my mind, worth every penny.
How is it I have never visited Santa's Village in Bracebridge before?
For the last nine years, my family has made the trek to Muskoka to spend a week at Clevelands House. The kids program at Cleve's has traditionally bussed the kids to Santa's Village for the day for some off-site fun. Although we've heard stories from our kids, we've never actually experienced the charm first hand, until recently when I was invited to experience Santa's Village for myself.
Santa's Village is an Ontario landmark, nestled in Muskoka's Enchanted Forest, halfway between the North Pole and the equator on the 45th parallel. Rumour has it, it's Santa's summer home of choice. It opened its doors 58 years ago and has welcomed almost 6 million visitors since its debut in 1955.
If there's one word that comes to mind for me after spending a day at Santa's Village? Charming!
From the minute you walk through the gate and are handed an elf cap to wear, a sense of good, old-fashioned family fun permeates the place. My kids are nine and twelve, old enough to be easily bored. But they weren't — not for a minute. They were in kid heaven!
First stop was Santa's Rollercoaster. This is not a Behemoth. It's a family-friendly, just-scary-enough ride that my kids adored. Pictures don't lie. How cute is this (my husband had the most fun of all!)
As well as the rollercoaster, there's a mini train ride, a river boat ride, swan ride, the Jumpin' Star drop ride, a quaint merry-go-round, bouncy castles, a newly expanded splash pad and other kid friendly fun. And, just like the venerable CNE, there are a bunch of carny games to be played and prizes to be won, once again evoking a simpler time.
Of course, Santa is there with Mrs. Claus, waiting to put you and your kids on the naughty or nice list. You can only guess which list I'm on this year. Oy!
Speaking of sweet and salty, the food on the property is as expected. Greasy burgers, fries, and dogs will make the kids happy. A variety of onsite sandwiches are available as well. We found some delicious smoothies made with fresh fruit and frozen yoghurt. And the big news is this year you can snack on Beaver Tails which just set up shop at Santa's Village. Be warned though, if your kids have nut allergies like mine does, there are a lot of nut toppings which meant my daughter had to stay away from the tails this time. If you want to bring your own food, there's even a place for families to picnic.
After snacks, we headed to Sportsland which is especially great for older kids. My son and hubby both jumped into the automatic batting cage to hit a few, while my daughter tried out her somersaults on the brand new bungee trampoline.
Definitely one of the highlights of the day was the go kart racing. While I grabbed my awesome new Samsung Camera and staked out a great vantage point, my family strapped themselves into colourful go karts and hit the track. These little machines can really move, and I admit my stomach lurched a couple of times when my twelve-year-old side-swiped another vehicle. But he was in heaven. I was equally thrilled snapping photos like a professional photographer.
Look at these awesome shots taken while the go karts were moving at around 20mph.
Santa's Village is a sweet throwback to the kind of family fun that makes memories. It's safe, simple, and a great place to spend a day with your kids.
Here's the part where I scored YOU a discount. While I was at Santa's Village getting the tour, I spoke to Jamie, one of the owners, and asked him if he would extend a discount to YMC members. If you'd like a discount coupon to Santa's Village this summer courtesy of YMC, click HERE to be on Santa's Nice List. Once you sign up, you'll receive a BOGO 50% coupon PLUS 33% off Sportsland Tickets!
As traditional and old fashioned as Santa's Village is, their website www.santasvillage.ca is very useful. You can find out more about all the different rides, entertainers, and ticket prices on the site. And best of all, you can buy your tickets in advance online so you don't have to wait in line!
Have a great time and give Santa a kiss for me :)
I don't know what came over me. A bunch of YMC Bloggers were invited to test out RVing with their families. Candace Derickx owns an RV and travels around North America in hers. Eileen Fisher loved the RV experience so much, she's buying one. Gav Martell posted a bunch of easy recipes perfect for an RV. Sharon DeVellis' family has been counting the days until they go off to live in their rented RV. Joe Boughner is travelling 3,800 his toddler and wife in his RV, headed to a family reunion. I guess I just wanted to be part of the gang, so I asked if I too could experience the joys of RVing.
When the folks at Go RVing Canada said yes, I freaked out. Not in a good way at first. I do not like camping. Or as my Tshirt says: I love not camping. But RVing is supposed to be very different from camping. I started to get excited! So we packed our bags and the Ehm clan headed to Hamilton to pick up our 24-foot RV.
Let's get something straight. I didn't drive. My husband was comfortable getting behind the wheel of our SunSeeker. I was better as lead navigator and coffee drinker. The kids were locked into their seat belts at the kitchen table, the fridge and cupboards were filled with a variety of snacks to keep them busy on the drive to Mariposa in Orillia.
What we expected and what we experienced ended up being quite different. We expected to live in our luxurious RV, complete with air conditioning, hot showers, gas stove, flat screen TV and other amenities of home. Instead, we ended up parking in the RV area at Mariposa—aka a field not at all equipped with power. You know what that means? No electricity!! Ack! The saving grace was that the RV comes with a powerful generator which can run for hours without being plugged in. The problem was that the generator makes a bit of noise, and our music-loving, festival-going hippy neighbours wanted peace and quiet. Which I totally get.
But I'm a city slicker, hi-tech mom who NEEDS to charge her phone, camera, and iPad. Air conditioning would have been nice too. Not to mention my Tassimo coffee maker, a necessity we brought along. What? Alas, things didn't work out so well on the electricity front.
Luckily I found a really nice guy selling homemade popsicles at Mariposa who let me plug into his extension cord and power up all my tech toys.
Aside from not being able to really use all the electrical amenities of the RV, the camping part of it was definitely fun.
And the kids had a blast. We were on hippy time. My son slept on the bed which ingeniously transforms into the kitchen table, while my daughter and niece slept together on the upper loft just above the driver's seat. My husband and I slept in the "suite" at the back of the RV, right beside the bathroom with a working toilet, sink and shower.*
I fell asleep to the sounds of a field of nearby bull frogs croaking mixed in with Randy Bachman's late night set from the main stage and woke up to a cacophony of birds tweeting.
*Note to self, be sure to flick on the heater before taking a shower next time. Man, that was cold!
It was awesome to have a bunch of finger foods and ice cold drinks available whenever we wanted (the fridge runs on propane when it's not plugged in so we were good there!). We loved chatting with our hippy neighbours, especially the man who carved these gorgeous snake walking sticks by hand as a hobby.
As for Mariposa, it is the ultimate family weekend.
There is amazing eclectic music, a ton of kid friendly activities, vendors selling delicious food and a big, noisy beer tent.
This year the musical highlights for me were seeing Bahamas live and watching Family of the Year perform their hit "Hero." I also discovered the Kruger Brothers, a three-piece bluegrass band from Europe who played an amazing combination of bluegrass meets classical picking. They were incredibly gifted players.
Are you wondering if I will take an RV to Mariposa next year? The answer is absolutely not. I've learned my lesson. The next time I hit the road in a BIGGER luxury RV than the SunSeeker, I'm finding a high-end RV camp site like Candace Derickx goes to so I can plug in, have endless running water, a hot shower, and a freshly brewed coffee in the morning. I'm all about convenience. Next time I'm doing it right!