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  • Lisa Jevens

Gadgets Enhance Outdoor Enjoyment

After an extraordinarily long winter, it is time to enjoy the outdoors. Whether you like to garden or merely enjoy the scenery, a new crop of gadgets awaits. From low-tech waterproof shoes to a bird feeder spy cam, here are some cool things for a warm spring.

Bird Photo Booth

See wild birds in a whole new way with the Bird Photo Booth. It is an ingenious bird feeder with professional lenses built in. Simply pop your iPhone, iPod Touch or GoPro camera into the back of the feeder, and start the show. You can download a motion-sensing app to automatically photograph a bird when it comes to feed. Or you can turn on your phone or camera's Wi-Fi or Bluetooth and watch the birds live from inside your house on your tablet. The photos and video quality is amazing due to the special lenses. The Bird Photo Booth even comes with a perch rod, so you can hang specific types of food (such as a hummingbird feeder) in front of the camera. The item is weatherproof, made from sustainably harvested white oak and aircraft grade aluminum. Visit for more details, or buy it on for $119.



These waterproof rain and garden shoes work as good as they look, and the price is economical as well. Sloggers are made of a flexible resin that is tough yet comfortable. They slip right on without the need to bend over. A removable insole allows the shoes and insoles to be easily washed and air dried. Formerly just for women, with bright, eye-catching patterns, Sloggers now has a men's model in brown. Sloggers are sold in hardware stores, garden stores, discount stores, and at Cost: $35 for men's, $30 for women's.

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Herb Scissors

There is a tool for everything, and this one is ideal for cutting herbs and scallions. It allows you to snip the herbs you need quickly, neatly and accurately. The scissors have five sharp stainless steel blades that allow you to mince the herbs directly into your pan or plate. The large plastic handles have a soft silicone lining for easy gripping. They are also dishwasher safe. Sold at Crate & Barrel for $8.95.



The Click & Grow Smartpot is how the Jetsons would have grown their food: using high-tech engineered soil (but no chemicals) in battery-operated pots that water themselves, lit by LED lighting. Simply buy the base unit, and whichever plant pot you choose: mini tomato, chili pepper, basil, thyme, sage, lemon balm, sugar leaf, busy lizzy, china pink, cockscomb, lamb's ear, or painted nettle. Then add water. The Smartpot does the rest. Great for folks who want to grow something foolproof in a tiny space. Starter kits start at $80, refills are $20.

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Chair Umbrella

The Portable Clamp-On Sun Umbrella makes anywhere you choose to sit a shady spot. The clamp secures to any shape chair back, including patio chairs, beach loungers, picnic tables and portable camp chairs. Its 39-1¿2-inch wide canopy provides 50+ UPF sun protection. As the sun moves, you don't have to because the umbrella rotates up to 180 degrees. When you're done with sun, it folds up into the shape of a standard umbrella and weighs only 2 pounds. Costs $39.95 at Hammacher Schlemmer.

Originally published in the Chicago Tribune, Prime Time senior living section on May 7, 2014.

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