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Breathe new life into your old ballet flats and ankle booties with one (or two or three) footwear accents from Shoelery. That's right: shoe jewellery. The spark for Patricia and Nadia Macri's detail-oriented business was a pair of embellished boots. "Wouldn't it be great if we could take the accessories on and off when we felt like it?" Patricia wondered. "That was it. Six months later, we were in business," says Nadia. Shoelery's offerings range in price from $5 to $40 and include shoe clips, boot sleeves, shoe straps and unique additions like heel rings. The line is now available across Canada at Town Shoes, Nine West and Hudson's Bay.
The digital age is constantly being blamed for the demise of outdoor exercise. People are choosing tech over treks, apps over adventure. But one company is using technology to get people exploring the hidden gems of the Canadian countryside. TecVana is a web-based app that asks users to select the kind of experience they're looking for. Depending on your preferences, the app might suggest taking the kids ziplining, a culinary tour with your spouse or a visit to the nearby country fair. Once you get to the destination mapped out for you, you can scan a QR code and earn points that can be redeemed at TecVana's virtual store.
The pilot project was launched in Ontario's Oxford County and will soon expand to southern Ontario and the rest of Canada. TecVana CEO Doug Matatall hopes the app will draw urbanites out of cities, reinvigorate rural culture and economies, and help Canadians experience their country in new ways. "The rural-urban divide is getting bigger," says Matatall. "We want to motivate the younger urban generation to get out and explore rural life."
3. Vancouver Tool Library
Need a stand mixer or a chop saw? In a couple of Canadian cities, there are lending libraries for that. Out west, members of the Vancouver Tool Library (VTL) pay a small membership and yearly maintenance fee to access a collection of home repair, gardening and bicycle tools for up to five days. It's a great idea for those without the funds or the space for a stocked tool bench. Borrowing is also environmentally friendly. "As sharing tools and reclaiming materials catches on, we become more mindful of our usage and its effect on our environment, and we can reduce our consumption accordingly," says Lauren McGuire-Wood, events and communications officer for the VTL.
A similar idea is at work in Toronto, but with kitchen tools. The Kitchen Library loans out small- and medium-size kitchen appliances, including a breadmaker, slow cookers and even a complete canning kit. Donated by people in the community, the selection allows people to experiment with new recipes and techniques without having to buy expensive, space-consuming pieces, says founder Dayna Boyer.
4. Radon testing device
What if you could ensure you're not at an increased risk of lung cancer just by bringing a simple device into your home? Radon, a gas released during the breakdown of uranium in rocks and soil, can enter your home through drains or cracks in the foundation and accumulate in the air. Responsible for 2,000 deaths in Canada each year, it's the second leading cause of lung cancer, and it can't be seen or smelled. But you can test your home to learn if you're at risk. Just place the testing device, which costs about $50 and can be ordered online, in your home for at least three months. Afterward, send it to a lab and await your results.
A Health Canada study found that seven percent of homes have excessive levels of radon. And while some areas across the country have a higher risk than others, no region is radon-free. Canadians are becoming aware of radon's dangers: Nova Scotia has released a map of radon risk areas; Saskatchewan's schools and hospitals have been tested; and the Ontario government is working on a bill that would necessitate the establishment of a radon-tracking registry.
5. Parrot Flower Power
In Canada's cool climate, gardening season can be too short to get the results you want from your vegetable garden. So get a head start in the spring by growing veggies like cabbage, tomatoes and peppers indoors. Still perfecting your green thumb? Parrot Flower Power ($70, parrot.com) can help. This little gardening gadget analyzes your plant's conditions and sends smartphone alerts when it needs more water, light or fertilizer.
6. Philips Hue
Having trouble adjusting to the dark mornings of daylight saving time? Or just hate mornings in general? Try making your own morning light. The new customizable wireless lighting system Philips Hue (meethue.com) lets you program a gradual light to wake you at whatever time you like. The coloured lighting options even let you create your own sunrise! A study published in Chronobiology International showed that waking up to a dawn-simulating light can improve your mood and cognitive function even when you haven't had enough sleep. Light therapy has long been used to help insomnia sufferers get back on regular sleep cycles. The light can create the perfect ambience to relax or energize. Plus, it can be controlled remotely via an easy-to-use app to make it appear that you're home.
Is your inbox cluttered with newsletters? The new email management service Unroll.Me promises to end email overload by eliminating the time-sucking junk mail you don't want and reorganizing the subscriptions you do want into one easy-to-read daily digest email. This way you can keep track of coupons from your favourite stores and avoid having to filter through pesky promotions.
Looking for more cool inventions to try, then check out the technology that can help you stay healthy.