Slider by IWEBIX

Women Entrepreneur Spotlight: Sofia Keck of Los Shucos Latin Hot Dogs

Sophia Keck & TechMamaI reached out to a California Mom Bloggers Facebook group asking if any bloggers in San Francisco wanted to come to a local tech event and was delighted when Sofia Keck (SK) responded enthusiastically yes. Even though the tech event started at 10pm, she attended to help support a fellow blogger  which I appreciated! I was thrilled to also learn about her bilingual blog American Vida, which shares her food, amateur photography, the latest technology and essays on family and culture. I  especially noticed Sofia’s delicious looking food posts, so when she said she was opening up a restaurant – I was not surprised. Her new restaurant is called Los Shucos Latin Hot Dogs and the location is 3224 ½ 22nd Street, San Francisco, CA 94110. To learn about her new business and her entrepreneurship tips, I decided to interview her. So here it is!

 

1. What inspired you to start your own business?

 

SK: “I got laid off during my maternity leave in 2009 while working for a tech startup company. I was very disappointed with “the system.” The economic crisis was evident, however it was hard for me to understand how employees could be so disposable.  I was holding my 2 week-old baby girl when I got the call and it was devastating. Since that moment I promised myself that I would never put myself in a situation where no matter how hard I worked I could be gone the next day.  I was happy that I got to stay home with my baby. I started a consulting business from home and I have been a business owner ever since.”

 

2. Why did you start a food business?

 

SK: “I love food, I cook and bLos Shucos Latin Hot Dogslog about food.  My restaurant is Los Shucos Latin Hot Dogs, which are street hot dogs from Guatemala, my country of origin.  Shucos are a staple food item in Guatemala and internationally known by foodies and travelers and you used to be able to find them only in Guatemala. One day we were walking on the street with my husband and I told him I was craving a Guatemalan hot dog and that I wished they would have them here in San Francisco, my husband then said to me “well, why don’t you sell them”? So now I do.”

 

3. Tell us more about your restaurant.

 

Los Shucos Latin Hot Dogs

 

SK:Los Shucos Latin Hot Dogs is located in the heart of the Mission district in San Francisco, California. We sell Guatemalan hot dogs, called Shucos and other Latin-inspired creations.  Our flavors are unique, we make our own bread, we serve hand made chorizo and imported sauces.  Hot dogs will NEVER be the same! Check out the story at www.LosShucos.com and our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/losshucos.”

 

 

2. What advice would you give to other moms wanting to start their own food business? Sofia Keck responded with these tips:

 

  • “Remember it is not only about the food: Make great food but keep in mind that marketing, location, great customer service, a strong business plan and financial resources are all part of the equation.”

 

  • “Ask for help: You will need help at home, more if you have children.  You will also need help in your business, so get a mentor or advisor.  I shadowed a couple of chefs to learn from them. I had lunch and coffee with other restaurant owners. I still ask questions to line cooks, to high end chefs, to other business people and to investors. I ask for help. You can also go to your local small business administration (SBA) or an organization that helps you start your own business. They will teach you how to apply for a loan, how to write a business plan, and other important aspects  of your business that you may not have considered.”

 

  • Love what you are cooking: Make sure you really love what you are cooking, because it’s one thing to cook it once a week for dinner with your grateful and loving family.  It’s another thing to cook hundreds per day for an audience that demands a high quality product every time. For example, I am not a vegetarian, so it took me a while to find a vegetarian option for my hot dogs. I wanted to find a vegetarian hot dog that I would love no matter what it was made of.  I could never sell something that I wouldn’t eat myself.”

 

  • “Don’t feel guilty: It’s ok if you can’t cook homemade meals for the family every night, whether because you are at the restaurant or just because you tired of cooking the whole day. It’s ok to take a break and do nothing for a change. By taking a break you are doing something for yourself.  It’s also ok to immerse yourself in your business and forget about the rest of the world for a while. It’s ok to follow your dreams.

 

  • “Keep going: Like most great food ideas, the idea for my business came from hunger.  There will be many challenges but you have to keep going, because if you really want it you will not be satisfied until you get it done.  Opening your own food business is really hard work.  But as a mom you already know what hard work is all about, so you can do it.

 

3. Besides food, what other interests do you have?

 

 

Sophia Keck

 

SK: “I love kids. I have two of my own, an 11 yr old son and a 5 yr old daughter. I love pets, I have 3 dogs. I love spending time with my husband, I’m passionate about Guatemala, technology, meeting new people, social media, being involved in the community, attending conferences of all sorts, reading, coffee and tea which are technically not food but drinks” 

 

Check out Los Shucos – Latin Hot Dogs in San Francisco.. I know just looking at the pictures on the website are making me hungry!

 

 

Photo credits: Lonny Ivan Meyer or lonnymeyerphotography.com

 

 

 

OneNote And Office Updates: iPad, Feedly, IFTTT and more

I am excited to participate as one of the Office Champions because Microsoft Office was already my go-to productivity tool for work and home management. I was also interested to keep updated on the new product releases, lately there have been exciting announcements! While we have many PC’s in our house, my teen uses a MAC. Because of our Microsoft Office 365 subscription he uses Office on the MAC. He also uses OneNote on his iPhone. So the recent announcements will offer him more ways to use Office and OneNote. I also can’t wait to try the new productivity features of OneNote that will help my day including the ability to send blogs and news articles directly to OneNote via Weave, News360 and Feedly. I can also connect to OneNote through IFTTT rules, send scanned documents using printers, scanners and apps as well as sending handwritten notes on paper with a Livescribe Pen. Here are the fun details below.

 

ONE NOTE FOR MAC

PRESS UPDATE: ” OneNote for Mac is now available for the first time, and for Free. Now, you can use OneNote on all the platforms you love including PC, Mac, Windows Tablets, Windows Phone, iPad, iPhone, Android and Web (phew!) We are also offering a freemium version for these platforms—so even if you don’t have an Office 365 subscription, you can enjoy OneNote anywhere and everywhere.”

 

 

OneNote for Mac

 

NEW FEATURES FOR ONE NOTE:

 

Along with the update was information on OneNote were also recently released new features related to note-taking, travel planning and organizing (three things busy families always could always use digital help with!):

 

  • Web clipper lets you quickly save web pages to your OneNote notebook.
  • me@onenote.com service lets you email notes directly to your notebook.
  • Office Lens lets you capture documents and whiteboards with ease using your phone. It even flattens the image (even if taken at an angle) so it’s easier to read, and makes the text searchable so you can find it later!”

 

 
OneNote

 

 

The press update also included the below information on the partnerships that add new digital note-taking functionality to OneNote:

 

 

 

 

 

To keep the new announcements going, yesterday Office announced Office for the iPad. Here are details on Office from iPad from the Office blog:

“you can download Word, Excel and PowerPoint for iPad from the App Store.  The apps have the robust capabilities and familiar look and feel that is unmistakably Office, while offering a fantastic touch experience built from the ground up for iPad.  With the free versions of the apps, you can read your Word documents, view your Excel data and present with PowerPoint. Your documents will look as good as they do on your PC and Mac®, and better than ever on your iPad.  With an Office 365 subscription, you can edit and create new documents with the iPad. When you edit a document, you can be sure that content and formatting will be maintained across Office on PC, Mac, tablet and phone. And, you always have access to your up-to-date documents in OneDrive and OneDrive for Business.”

 

 

How does your family stay productive?

 

 

Disclosure: I am an Office Champion and have received sponsorship and products. This is NOT a paid post, it is a press update. All of my words are my own.

 

 

 

TechMama Talks: Work, Family, Education and Mobile Tech

TechMamas talkIt may have been a month since I last posted, but that gave me some time to think. During that time I decided to channel my dear Grandmother in my writing, who as she got older decided to share her authentic voice. Of course, that involved some embarrassing moments such as when she met a new boyfriend of mine for the first time and asked “I look forward to seeing you walk down the isle together”. I joked and said “you mean at the grocery store?”. But my Grandmother must of been reading our body language because we did end up walking down the isle and are a happily married couple running after our adorable but energetic three boys. I feel privileged to have met an amazing community of bloggers online and share my insights on technology. Now I want to go back to sharing my musings on life and important initiatives.

 

Parents and Work: I am excited to see women developing initiatives to empower and promote career advancement for women at work.  But from what I experienced as a parent, the job market is very tricky these days so finding work that offers a salary to cover the costs of childcare and extra incidental costs is a challenge. Many parents also need some sort of offer flexible work environments, which can add to the challenge. The job market has changed, there are new job skills required including technology and social media. In addition, while online networking has created multiple channels for career advancement, choosing the right channels to create real business opportunities is an important consideration.

 

The childcare challenge is not just a mom problem – it is a “parenting” challenge. I started a lively discussion on Facebook about this topic and I was thrilled to see responses of parents that are overcoming all types of challenges to work and also parents making the choice to stay home. I made a comment that we all value time with our children, that their happiness is the most important goal of whatever arrangements are made. I look forward to share stories on my blog of women that have found creative solutions to adapt to the modern workplace. Including women that have taken time off for kids then not only ramped back up to work years later – they BLASTED OFF!

 

Family Technology: We are at a time where you can stream, automate, use voice, consume content and entertainment in many ways and multiple devices. But families are struggling with helping their kids set screen time limits, stay safe online, learn social networking etiquette, decide what devices they really NEED and HOW TO use them. To make matters more complicated, kids now grow up surrounded with technology so it is second nature. For example, I have an Internet connected TV and my kids are the ones that signed up and are power users of Netflix compared to me. I feel so old school watching shows on TV networks. I know how to stream everything on my PC’s but at night I still like to turn on the TV and watch a show. My kids hardly watch traditional TV networks anymore.

 

Luckily because of my business, I also consume information and social network online which allows me to talk my kids’ language. At the same time I realize the online world is a dangerous place for kids that require a new type of education. I have been writing online for years about the concept I describe as “Internet safety is the new sex talk”. I remember years ago when I first said that at a social media conference in New York there was silence (shock) then lots of tweeting to share. Now that mostly all devices have a web browsers, it is hard to lock our kids away from the online world.

 

My perspective is that parents need to first educate themselves, then their kids, then create regular conversations and family rules about Internet Safety (and logical consequences if they are not followed). For example, sitting down with teens “together” to look at the privacy controls for all the platforms they are on and “discuss” which should be set to remain safe. But open conversations are key, and it should include cyber etiquette and consequences for inappropriate cyber etiquette (including going to jail!). In our family discussions, I also share age appropriate news stories as examples.  I want to spend more time covering all the online platforms kid spend time on. Of course, I find new platforms cropping up it seems like every day! Automated internet safety controls such as web filters, monitoring apps and privacy control settings are also an effective supplement, but they won’t keep kids safe everywhere they go because as I said web browsers are everywhere! So parents need to do the balancing act of setting “relevant” automated controls, communication and education. That balance is not easy!

 

No matter what strategy parents have, new challenges come up. Like how I tell a bunch of 10 year olds during baseball practice last year that they “HAVE NO REASON TO BE ON INSTAGRAM.. SERIOUSLY!”. Or how do I tell a lovely teen girl (family friend) that the number of LIKES she receives on her Facebook photo does NOT reflect her TRUE BEAUTY. Or how smartphones have become a tool that can get kids arrested if they take the wrong picture or participate in the wrong social media exchange. Or how dangerous the online world is, so much so that I need to have a SCARED STRAIGHT strategy constantly updating the teens I know of the mistakes I read about hoping that they can learn from them. At the same time, I am regularly amazed at some of the positive ways teens are creating support online. When our beloved hamster died recently my son said he received comfort from a Reddit Hamster sub directory (created to memorialize Hamsters that had passed away).  My son received sympathies from around the world when he posted a picture of our Hamster.

 

Education Tech: One of the challenges of our education system is that while more and more kids relate to visual, interactive and experiential learning, many curriculum’s are still based on inflexible models filled with worksheets. The shining stars are the Teachers and Schools trying to transition to experiential learning. Luckily, now there are so many ways to learn online that I could spend weeks covering all the websites and programs. After speaking at a few education tech events and meeting the edtech company founders, I decided that sharing the exciting opportunities that exist in digital learning is a passion of mine. I want to highlight the education tech innovators on my blog as a way to help support their important contributions they are making to the future of education.

 

Family Schedule Tech:  One of the main reasons I wrote the book “My Parent Plan” was to help families learn project planning skills. After years of professional project planning I know the concepts but at times still struggle with how to balance it all. With three boys now going THREE completely different directions, I decided to dive deeper into tech solutions to help me manage. Or at least keep my head above water..

 

Health Tech: Feeding my family a healthy diet is one of the biggest challenges I have each week. While I like the concept of eating plant based foods I am also balancing understanding what is best for my family that has different nutritional needs. I will be covering some of online websites and apps that can help parents struggling with healthy eating solutions. I will also be covering my comic adventures trying to convince my sons why healthy eating is important. Including how my teen is “dreaming” of going to a local burger restaurant someday again as a reward. And how at times he sneaks out with his friends to get junk food for dinner after looking in the fridge filled with “green” foods.

 

So while I am far away from being a Grandmom myself, I honor her voice by speaking my own. Whats on your mind?

 

 

 

 

Taking on Family 2014 New Year’s Resolutions. Is it Possible?

*sponsored series

 

2014 Family New Year ResolutionsWhen it comes to annual New Years Resolutions, taking better care of myself and my family’s health  always tops the list. This year we are focusing on finding ways to fit regular exercise into our busy schedule, cooking more plant-based foods, practicing stress-management, spending more quality time together (unplugged!) and advancing my kids’ oral health. Assembling the list was the easy part. Actually doing the list, well, that’s the real challenge. So, following the rules in my book, The Parent Plan, we started putting together the family plan.

 

Exercise: Our family looked at our busy schedule and activities and determined that the best way to fit in regular exercise was to identify flexible exercise options. Was there a year round exercise class for my 11 year olds that focused on overall athletic conditioning? My boys enjoyed baseball, but it did not give them the overall conditioning they needed.  Their favorite gym had a great class and fortunately also offered a workout program for my 15 year old (one drop off).

 

Plant Based Foods: After examining the various medical challenges of our extended family and looking at our own diets needs, we decided to start making plant based foods the staple of our diet. But being a family of 5 healthy eaters, everyone had different tastes.  I found several great plant-based recipe websites, blogs, books and a holistic nutritionist and set out to identify different options that fit our family’s eating preferences. This goal especially overwhelmed me because I quickly discovered just how challenging it was to find recipes everyone liked. I also needed more tools to make cooking fresh plant based foods fit into our busy schedule, including a crock pot and blender. We decided to take one week at time, including new plant-based foods in our weekly meals but still cooking family favorites as well.  We also realized we needed to give our kids a chance to get use to the tastes of some new foods (to go from “yuck” to “yum”). One of those was almond milk and I am thrilled to say they are happy to drink it now, after only a few weeks of adjustment!

 

Stress: Let’s face it, the modern family schedule is so overscheduled that it is hard to dodge stress. With adults managing home and work, and kids balancing school, homework, sports, music lessons and more – even a scaled down schedule is like running a weekly marathon.  What happened to the innocent childhood of yesteryear when kids just played with their friends after school? We decided to prioritize school-week activities to only include high-priority items close to home. For example, instead of driving 30 minutes for music lessons we found a local teacher who was giving lessons to a neighbor and asked if he could stop by our house as well.

 

Family Time Unplugged: Now that our oldest is in high school, we realized that our time together as a family is limited and more family time activities were in order rather than just running past each other each day. Our first step was trying to have family game nights, with electronics turned off. OK, in reality we did accept that types of technology used for games would be acceptable, but checking email or anything else was off limits! Humorous games such as Apples to Apples (we play the “silly” version) and Catchphrase worked the best to enable great bouts of belly laughs, and belly laughs are not only great for bringing our family together – but also for relieving stress. When we feel “serious”, Battleship, Risk and chess fit the bill. But we are always on the lookout for new game.

 

Oral Health: My family moved around when I was of “braces age” so I somehow missed the chance. Because of that, my teeth have some crowding and I have experienced some dental problems. So proper oral health for my boys is a high personal priority. One of my twin sons used a pacifier as an infant while the other did not. He sucked his thumb. Years later it seems using fingers is better than a pacifier because that son does not need braces while the other one does.  My 15 year old has Invisalign, (Disclosure: I am a member of the Invisalign Teen Mom Advisory Board), as the final touch to wearing metal braces when he was 11. He is in the middle of his treatment and it has been so seamless. He just wears the Invisalign aligners, washes them, takes them out when eating and then gets new aligners to swap out on a regular basis. I was worried about how he would feel wearing Invisalign while also starting High School and we are thrilled it has not been an issue (they are pretty much “invisible”).  My 11 year old has asked repeatedly if he can just use Invisalign.  Although he will likely start with metal braces, we know that the is there will be Invisalign for him as well in the future.  Now if I can just get my kids to floss with their regular brushing without nagging from parents.

 

We want to keep doing family activities that give back (like our regular cooking for a homeless shelter during the holidays), spending time with extended family/friends and setting goals to achieve our own personal best. Maybe I will be brave enough to attempt our household to-do list which includes finding new ways to organize the large quantities of stuff from our three boys. No matter how hard I try I will never be one of those perky naturally organized people that create those beautiful images on Pinterest (even though I find them totally inspirational). Or maybe it is time to realize that achieving perfect household organization may be something not to include so we can at least achieve the family resolution of reducing stress?

 

Organized kitchen

 

What are your 2014 family resolutions? Please share yours and any tips on achieving them while juggling a busy family life!

 

 

 

Disclosure: I am a member of the Invisalign Teen Mom Advisory Board. My son has received complimentary treatment from Align. The opinions expressed are my own. Here is the link to the Invisalign Smile Assessment.

 

 

 

Must Have Mobile Tech: AT&T Unite Pro

 *sponsored series

 

Must Have Mobile TechAs I checked into Treasure Island for CES (Consumer Electronics Show) 2014, I was excited to have found a reasonably priced hotel in a central location. I was sharing my room with an east-coast blogger friend and looking forward to seeing her and other tech press friends. One benefit of Treasure Island is the optional “resort fee”, an extra added to the hotel bill which covers internet, health club use, morning newspaper and other amenities. This is great for those like me taking a business trip on a budget.

 

 

However, I was interested in paying for daily in-room Internet access. When they told me it was “20 dollars PER DAY” I was so excited to say “no thank-you” because I remembered I had my new AT&T Unite Pro mobile WiFi device with me. Considering that I would be staying at the hotel for 5 days, I saved $100 on the spot.

 

 

Working with NETGEAR (disclosure) to share information about the new AT&T Unite Pro was great because mobile WiFi is an important tool for my busy lifestyle.  The more time I spend with my own mobile WiFi, the more I realize how it frees me to work on the go no matter where I am. As a busy working parent who also travels, working on the go is essential to being productive each day.

 

My CES roommate was excited to share my mobile WiFi and not pay the daily $20 internet fee! In addition to the security benefit of using our own WiFi, it was great to know we had a reliable WiFi connection to complete our work at the hotel.  I was able to take the device with me to use on the go during the conference; this is a great benefit because I store most of my documents and media in the cloud.  With the AT&T Unite Pro BatteryBoost feature, I was also able to keep my smartphone charged, enabling me to keep my social media updates flowing to my fans without the dreaded “phone dead” syndrome some of my other tech press friends experienced.

 

 

The AT&T Unite Pro is an update from the AT&T Unite which I covered in my first blog post. Here are some of the key features of the AT&T Unite Pro:

 

AT&T Unite Pro

AT&T Unite Pro

 

 

  • Up to 16 hours of battery (all day!)
  • Internet access for up to 15 devices.
  • 2.4  inch Intuitive Touchscreen with keyboard.
  • Password protection and guest WiFi.
  • Advanced  LTE support. First mobile hotspot to offer Dual-Band WiFi which lets you maximize speed and reliability of your data connection.
  • Internationally compatible.
  • BatteryBoost: BatteryBoost lets you share the AT&T Unite Pro’s powerful battery to keep your smartphone going. Just plug-in the special boosting cable provided and connect your smartphone charging cord.

 

Having mobile WiFi also enables me to share connectivity with my kids so they can do homework on the go and reach their productivity goals each day.  In fact, when my teen brought the AT&T Unite Mobile WiFi to his study group, he realized that having a mobile WiFi that offered access to his friend’s devices saved the day by enabling everyone in the group to get their online research done. This also allows me to help one of my twin sons finish a class project while the other twin is at baseball practice. This reduces the logistical difficulty when my twins participate in different sports. Who knew that a mobile WiFi device would help support my twin’s transition into independent paths in life!

 

Pricing and availability:

The AT&T Unite Pro is $49.99 with a 2 year contract and AT&T offers other Unite models from $1 to $99.  There are several flexible and affordable monthly data plans as well.  Any of the Unite products can be added to an AT&T Mobile Share plan for only $20 a month.  Or if you want a stand alone plan, there is a $50 for 5GB monthly option available.  Visit www.att.com/data  for more information.

 

Disclosure: This is a sponsored series. I received products for review as part of the program. My words are my own.

 

Check out the full line of AT&T Unite mobile hotspots from NETGEAR, including Unite Pro, Unite and Unite prepaid, at www.att.com/unitepro or connect with us on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube at WiFiFamily.

 

 

Office 365 Anniversary: One Year, Lots of Productivity

*sponsored series

 

It has been one year since I went to NYC to celebrate the launch of Office 365 Home Premium and shared the key features in my post. Now Office 365 Home Premium has more than 3.5 million subscribers!

 

Felicity Huffman sharing her productivity tips with TechMama at the Office 365 Home Premium Launch.

Felicity Huffman sharing her productivity tips with TechMama at the Office 365 Home Premium Launch.

 

A single subscription to Office 365 Home Premium allows the use of Office on up to 5 PCs or Macs shared among all users in the home and includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Access, and Publisher. Upgrades are now automatic. Subscribers also have flexibility to change their 5 devices at any time. This subscription also includes 60 minutes of Skype world calling per month and 20 GB in the cloud storage site called OneDrive, formerly known as SkyDrive, in addition to the 7GB every Microsoft Account holder gets for free. Subscribers can stream full Office apps to any Internet-connected Windows 7 or 8 PC with Office on Demand. With Office Web apps you can view, create and edit Office files on virtually any device, enabling sharing and collaboration. Office 365 Home Premium applications allow the flexibility of writing, typing or using touch.

 

Tech For Modern Parenting

 

Since then, I’ve enjoyed incorporating many of these key features into my workflow. As the family technology manager, I am in charge of setting up new computers and tech devices. With the Office 365 Home Premium subscription, I just log into my Microsoft account and it installs Office 365 on new computers within our house.  Even if I am not at a computer that has Office 365, I can use Office on Demand to stream full Office apps to any device I am using.  I can also install it on a total of 5 mobile devices (including iPhone and Android), so it is easy to use on the go as well.  Office 365 has all of the tools needed for me to manage family projects and more!

 

The OneNote app on my mobile phone is a great tool to keep my notes, research and information organized on the go. I sync my OneNote app with OneDrive so I can have access to my OneNote notebooks across devices. We also store Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents in OneDrive to have access across devices. This allows me to be productive on the go during open slivers of free time. As busy parents know, you need all the tools possible to utilize those free “slivers” of time to stay on track.

 

To start writing this post, I had one hour of free time while my kids were at their sports lesson and was disappointed I forgot my laptop. Then I realized that I had the OneNote app on my phone and started jotting down my key points. When I got home I opened my laptop and via OneDrive I accessed my OneNote notebook to finalize the post. I also use Word, PowerPoint and Excel for my work, and my kids use them for all types of homework assignments.

 

To truly test out the ease of using Office 365 Home Premium subscription, I went through the renewal process after a year. I received the notification to update my subscription, let the date pass by accident, then logged in and received a renewal note. It was as easy as going to the Office 365 Home Premium website to renewal under my Microsoft Account.  When I logged in again I was all set to access the Office suite on my 5 devices.  I also decided to set up auto renewal which would make renewing even easier!

 

Office 365 Home Premium (digital subscription) has made it easy to be productive with a big family like mine juggling two busy parents, three active boys and multiples of tech devices to keep track of! Now if I could only find an easier way to keep track of my boys.

 

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. I am excited to be one of the Office Champions. All of my words are my own.

 

 

 

 

Sponsored: CES 2014 Whirlpool Innovations

While at CES 2014, I had the opportunity to learn more about the new Whirlpool innovations. The concepts are exciting because they will not only add more functionality and control over my kitchen but also enable me to be more productive. Listed below is a summary.

 

Whirlpool Induction CooktopInteractive Cooktop:  One of the most exciting demos was of the Whirlpool interactive cooktop concept which turns a simple surface such as a cooktop into a multi-functional information, cooking and entertainment space.  For example, while I can cook anywhere on the surface I can also browse the internet to pull up a recipe to view on the same surface! While entertaining, I can cook while checking the guest list online.  Combing the functionality of a cooktop with digital connectivity will enable a busy mom like myself to be much more productive in the kitchen.  With three “always hungry” boys I spend lots of time in the kitchen so I need all the help I can get! The Interactive Cooktop concept would also allow me to have less devices in the kitchen but still have access to digital connectivity on capacitive touch surface or hands free when needed.

 

Here is a Whirlpool video about the Interactive Cooktop:

 

 

Whirlpool Wash AppConnected Appliances: Whirlpool also introduced a digitally integrated suite of appliances and smartphone app that would not only give me more control in the kitchen, but also on the go. Because my appliances would be connected via a WiFi network, they can be controlled via a smartphone. This would allow me to do things such as saving energy by using my smartphone to run my washer during the right time of day, even if I am not at home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is a video that explains more about Whirlpool Connected Appliances:

 

 

 

Whirlpool Duet Series PaisleyDesigner Duet Series:  The Whirlpool Designer Duet series goes behind the simple solid colors to allow for personalization such as paisley or chrome bubbles. This type of customization is exciting because it would enable me to bring some stylish touches into my laundry area.  The Duet series also has technology to help whoever is doing the laundry (hint, hint to my older sons who need to start doing their own laundry!).  The Adaptive Wash Technology in the Duet® washer automatically selects the cycle settings for every load and Advanced Moisture Sensing technology in the dryer prevents over-drying clothes by sensing how long the dryer should run (and also saves energy!). I could even use the Whirlpool WashSquad app to assign laundry tasks to my sons!

 

 

 

Here is a Whirlpool video on the Designer Duet series:

 

 

 

 

Whirlpool CoolVoxThe CoolVox™ sound system refrigerator concept (available Q2 2014) extends the functionality with wireless Harman Kardon Speakers built in that are not distrupted when the doors are closed! This would allow me to listen to music or podcasts from my mp3 player, tablet, smartphone or computer (Note: “Only one device can be paired to CoolVox™ at a time“). I can also use apps such as Pandora, Spotify or my playlists.

 

 

 

 

 

Here is the Whirlpool video on CoolVox:

 

 

  • Since Whirlpool 20/20 is all about a future focused on you, we, want to hear your ideas for it. Leave a comment below telling us your idea for the future for your home and be entered to win a $1,000 grand prize.

 

Sweepstakes Rules:
No duplicate comments.

You may receive (2) total entries by selecting from the following entry methods:

  1. Leave a comment in response to the sweepstakes prompt on this post
  2. Tweet (public message) about this promotion; including exactly the following unique term in your tweet message: “#SweepstakesEntry”; and leave the URL to that tweet in a comment on this post
  3. Blog about this promotion, including a disclosure that you are receiving a sweepstakes entry in exchange for writing the blog post, and leave the URL to that post in a comment on this post
  4. For those with no Twitter or blog, read the official rules to learn about an alternate form of entry.

This giveaway is open to US Residents age 18 or older. Winner will be selected via random draw, and will be notified by e-mail. You have 72 hours to get back to me, otherwise a new winner will be selected.

BlogHer will pool entries from participating blogs and select a sweepstakes winner at random and will contact the winner with details about fulfilling the prize.

The Official Rules are available here.

This sweepstakes runs from 1/2/14 – 1/18/14.

 

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. All of my words are my own.

 

 

 

Sponsored: CES 2014 Preview – Whirlpool Innovations

  

Whirlpool Your Future In FocusAs I prepare for CES (Consumer Electronics Show) 2014 it has been exciting to see the new innovations ahead that can help my life as a busy mom and working professional. Of course, what is more in the center of managing my family life than the kitchen. I am excited this year to be working with Whirlpool to learn more about Whirlpool’s innovations that will be highlighted at CES.

 

Whirlpool’s new products, and several still in development, are designed to help the family workflow.  As a mom of three constantly-hungry boys, saving time in the kitchen makes a big impact on my schedule. The overall concept of a connected home and a connected kitchen, where devices use WiFi and the cloud to share and report data, is a key technology enabler to help families in their home and on the go (mobile).

 

Whirlpool will be back at the MommeyTech Zone showcasing the evolution of the kitchen beyond 2014. Whirlpool’s concept is “simplify your life by designing products that sense and adapt to what you need, the way you want to cook, clean and entertain—the way you want to live”.  I received some press information in advance of CES to provide a sneak peek and here are some of the fun details:

 

Whirlpool’s concepts concentrates on three pillars:  Connection,  Innovation and Expression.

 

Whirlpool Apps

 

 

Connection: Whirlpool will be introducing “a digitally integrated suite of appliances and smartphone app, that manages the information and activities of your kitchen for you.By connecting your appliances to each other and your family, the kitchen begins to anticipate and understand your family’s needs. And access to the information you need gives you more control than ever in the kitchen”. Whirlpool views our homes in the context of this connected world, designing concepts that anticipate and understand a family’s needs while adapting to your preferences and daily habits. Examples include communicating the best times for energy consumption as well as alerts that help ensure the food is cooked properly and preserved for freshness.  These are all things that as a mom I really want to know about. Having an intelligent appliance will not only save me time but also make me more productive each day.

 

Whirlpool Induction Cooktop

 

 

Innovation: Whirlpool is using technology innovation to evolve the kitchen as a more interactive hub of the house.They are even innovating with kitchen surfaces. Their press release explained these exciting concepts:

  • Cooktops can also browse the internet:“When your cooktop can browse the Internet and connect with your social network, the kitchen becomes a hub of communication and exploration within the home and beyond.”
  • Cook Anywhere Surface: With a cook anywhere surface, serving as the kitchen island, consumers can monitor the weather, manage appointments, find favorite recipes and make a delicious dinner—all without leaving their kitchen island or using multiple devices.
  • Entertain and cook on same surface: Entertaining is revolutionized too when you can plan your dinner party (invite and monitor your guest list, search for recipes, make phone calls, and more) on the same device that cooks the meal. The concept applies technology that consumers are familiar with in their daily lives—hands-free devices and capacitive touch—to help her focus on cooking.

 

 

Whirlpool Laundry Room

 

 

Expression: The next pillar is Expression which for Whirlpool means customizing  everyday appliances with personal style. Debuting at the Consumer Electronics Show 2014 will be the new Duet® Designer Series from Whirlpool®, consisting of front load washers and dryers in a variety of colors.  The technology in the Duet® washer is called ”Adaptive Wash Technology” which automatically selects the perfect cycle settings for every load. The Duet® Dryer has Advanced Moisture Sensing technology that saves time and energy and prevents over-drying your favorite clothes.

 

Whirlpool Max Art

 

 

Also showing at CES will be a concept called MaxArt Microwaves that brings together design, art and appliances to create a functional piece of work representative of culture. Whirlpool® brand collaborated with with the Local art collective Los Contratistas to turn a set of 50 Whirlpool microwaves into a colorful, modular installation representative of Mexican culture using graffiti techniques. The final pieces work together “to create a unique take on the modern day appliance, enriched by culture, design and the arts”.

 

 

Whirlpool CoolVox

 

 

Expression + Innovation + Connection: The new CoolVox™ sound system refrigerator concept, enabled by Bluetooth® wireless technology and Harman Kardon Speakers, will allow users to play music/podcasts through the refrigerator directly from streaming through Bluetooth®-enabled devices (i.e. mp3 player, tablet, computer). This opens up new entertainment options in the kitchen including the ability to cook to music without any additional wires, cords or speakers.  Music can be played through iTunes account, a playlist on a Bluetooth®-enabled computer and Pandora/Spotify apps on device. The device (i.e.  iPhone, tablet) acts as a remote to do things such as change the volume.  Another option is listening to “How to Cook” podcasts directly through the refrigerator. I like the concept of adding more features to my kitchen devices! Note: Only one device can be paired to CoolVox™ at a time and the current iteration of CoolVox™ does not allow for speaker phone capabilities.

 

 

Whirlpool Fridge

 

Here is the link to find out more information about Whirlpool 20/20 at CES.

 

Throughout the week of CES, consumers will have the chance to win a custom laundry pair of their own with the You Be The Designer Sweepstakes!   
  

Also, since Whirlpool 20/20 is all about a future focused on you, they want to give readers of this post a chance to win a $1,000 grand prize. Leave a comment below, tell us your idea for the future for your home and you could win.

  

Sweepstakes Rules:

  

No duplicate comments.

 

You may receive (2) total entries by selecting from the following entry methods:

  1. Leave a comment in response to the sweepstakes prompt on this post
  2. Tweet (public message) about this promotion; including exactly the following unique term in your tweet message: “#SweepstakesEntry”; and leave the URL to that tweet in a comment on this post
  3. Blog about this promotion, including a disclosure that you are receiving a sweepstakes entry in exchange for writing the blog post, and leave the URL to that post in a comment on this post
  4. For those with no Twitter or blog, read the official rules to learn about an alternate form of entry.

 

This giveaway is open to US Residents age 18 or older. Winner will be selected via random draw, and will be notified by e-mail. You have 72 hours to get back to me, otherwise a new winner will be selected.

 

BlogHer will pool entries from participating blogs and select a sweepstakes winner at random and will contact the winner with details about fulfilling the prize.

 

The Official Rules are available here.

This sweepstakes runs from 1/2/14 – 1/18/14.

 

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tips For Winter Holiday Preparation And Organization

*This is a sponsored series.

Holiday PreparationThe Winter holidays are a time for family, friends, and co-workers to celebrate with food, gifts and social gatherings. Behind the scenes is lots of work that needs to be carried out with the utmost precision to make sure everything falls into place.  At the same time, kids are off school so planning activities and keeping them busy is key. Here is a system I used to organize the holidays, please share yours!

 

 

 

  1. Centralize gift and wish lists in the cloud: Gone are the times of separate handwritten notes for gift lists and wish lists. Having the cloud (i.e. storing online) gives us the ability to create a list that can be accessed across devices, whether it be your smartphone, tablet or laptop. Just choose a family digital note-taking app and make sure it is loaded both on the family PC’s and on the family smartphones for mobile access of lists.
  2. Digitize holiday receipts: While some stores now send email receipts, others still use paper receipts. It is important to take a picture of receipts or scan them and retain digital copies online.  For example, while I take pictures of receipts with my smartphone camera or tablet webcam and load to OneNote, my mother has a Neat Receipts Scanner and likes to load her receipts to the NeatCloud. Having digital receipts simplifies both household accounting and returns.
  3. Create central holiday recipe and shopping lists: With  so many recipe websites and apps to choose from, finding recipes to fit the various dietary need of family and holiday guests is easy.  By loading both family recipes and links to ones I find online onto my digital note taking app, I always have the recipes with me no matter where I am. I also maintain a digital list of my favorite local restaurants that offer take-out for those days where cooking is not an option.
  4. Organize travel information: My old habit when traveling was to print out flight and hotel information and carry in a folder, hoping I don’t lose or forget one of the sheets. Some of my friends started using one of the many websites/ apps that help organize trips (such as Expedia or TripIt). Now I use OneNote and load my travel documents in as digital travel “notebooks”. While we try to load all the entertainment in advance of our traveling, my mobile WiFi is really helpful to enable loading of last minute downloads or new entertainment on my kid’s tablets.
  5. Create activity lists for kids, whether on vacation or staycation:  Holidays may mean time out of school for kids, with plenty of time available for activities. With three boys, I research potential vacation activities online in advance (as well as what time they open/close) and create an activity list beyond the regular holiday events. We then sit down with our boys and discuss which activities interest them, which is usually anything outdoors. The weather or strong disagreement between the boys sometimes leads to a “Plan B” requiring more research online.  For example, while a family hike is always a great activity, on rainy days we like to check the schedules for local museums or indoor sports such as trampoline jump parks. If we are visiting relatives in colder climates, then playing in the snow and ice skating are perfect outdoor activities! In San Francisco Bay Area, we enjoy taking winter walks on the beach outdoors with layers of warm clothes. Or indoor activities such as the Exploratorium, ice skating rinks or climbing gyms.  It is also handy to have a list of sites that I can check for family activity ideas such as Red Tricycle, Alpha Mom, Red Rover, Traveling Mom, Parents.com, Rookie Moms and local activity resources such as Bay Area Parent.

 

What are your winter family activities? How do you prepare and organize your holiday fun?

 

Disclosure: This is a sponsored series. I received an AT&T Unite as part of my sponsorship, which keeps me connected on the move to mobile WiFi. My words are my own. For more information, visit att.com/Unite or connect with WiFi Family  (@WiFiFamily) powered by Netgear.

 

 

 

 

Tips For Planning Your Holiday Social And Shopping Time

In my book “My Parent Plan” I discuss that making a plan before doing an activity will help gather your thoughts, consider options and make a strategy for best use of your time. Of course, holiday social and shopping time are one of the top activities that benefit from a plan. Here are some of my tips:

 

1. Time for Charity: Holiday time can be hard for everyone, but especially those in need. We decided early on to get our kids involved in volunteering with charities during the holidays. Whether it be collecting food for a food bank, cooking food for shelters or assisting with charity drives, there are many options to give to charity. We are excited this year to buy the food donation bags at our local grocery store for Thanksgiving and cook along with my fellow local community members for a homeless shelter on Christmas.


2. Time to Pay It Forward: Along with giving to charity, the holidays (and all year round) is a great time to pay it forward by helping family, friends and others that need assistance.  I decided this holiday would be a good time to help some of my friends that are returning back to work learn computer skills.  A few of my friends specifically asked me to teach them to use Microsoft Office because it is listed as a skill needed for the job they are interviewing for.

 

3. Time To Show Teachers and Family Service Providers Your Thanks: Holiday time is the time I like show the people that contribute to making my families life more special – special as well. Gift cards seem to be the most popular gift, but I suggest putting the receipt with the card in the envelope just in case the card has an error. I bought a gift card for a teacher one year and she returned it to me (thanking me and apologizing) because it did not work. I had to take it back to the store and to re-issue the card because I had the receipt. I felt bad, so now I make sure to get individual receipts for each gift card and include it in the gift. Another option is sending online gift cards.

 

4. Make A Social Plan: Holiday time is the best time to turn off spending time on your online networks and turn on spending time in real life social events. When you are with family and friends, try to do activities where everyone can join in. There are also many other options for holiday social events. One example is finding other people with similar hobbies. Our family is taking up indoor rock climbing and ice skating over the holidays and finding other families to come with us. There are local email groups and general sites like Meetup.org that provide groups and activities for every type of interest.

 

5. Make A Purchase Plan: In my book “My Parent Plan” I have a chapter on creating a Purchase Plan to identify the purchases you need to make over the year to figure out the best timing and family budget.  For example, because we identified that an electronic drum set was on our family purchase plan for this year and realized it was expensive,  we decided to give it to our boys to share as a holiday present. Our boys had to wait awhile to get it – but it is something they will really value at holiday time as a gift! Or my husband made a request months ago to have a work area in the garage to do building projects with our kids. So I looked at converting our broken down utility cart in the garage into a workspace by purchasing a garage system from an organizational store. That space will not only be a special present, but give year around joy.  A post on Square mentioned gifts for the Junior Chef, which is a great idea because gifts that also support kids spending time cooking with family members is something kids will never get tired of.

 

 

 

Setting a family budget may also help balance the need to over-shop with what is really in the budget. Family and friends always appreciate a gift, but not if it is at the expense of a friend overspending past their budget. There are also ways to offer your time that in the end is most valuable thing, such as “drop your kids off at our house for movie night”  or a “one hour how to play guitar” teaching certificate. Or instead of impulse buying items just to check off the list, research budget friendly alternatives instead.

 

6. Make A Shopping Plan: No matter what your holiday plans are, most people need to do some sort of shopping.  If you don’t want to shop during the Black Friday weekend then don’t feel the pressure to do it. Shopping with the crowds can be stressful and you may not get the best deals. A post on CBS gave the following reasons not to shop on Black Friday (which I agree): ” Door-busters are mainly second-tier products , you can find some of the same deals online, you’re more likely to overspend, layaway may not be available and return policies may be stricter.”   But if you do enjoy shopping over Black Friday weekend, join in the fun but try to still create a shopping plan to check as much off your list as possible. And make sure to wear comfortable shoes..

 

If you, like many this Thanksgiving weekend, are to busy to shop – don’t worry because next Monday is CyberMonday – the day that online deals are posted for cyber shoppers. Mashable posted about tips to shop discreetly at work for Cyber Monday. But really shopping at night during your free time will be just as effective – and not have the danger of losing a job that is needed to pay for the things you are buying!  Deals are even online now so you can start by visiting your favorite online sites and general deals sites to look for their Cyber Monday (or Cyber week!) sections.

 

7. Make A Technology Shopping Plan: If technology is on your holiday shopping list, it is important to make a technology shopping plan. Because there are so many types of technology, the first step in holiday technology gift giving should be to understand the workflow of the people you are giving the gifts to. What technology do they already have? How old is their technology? What types of things do they want to start doing (such as getting in shape, getting into photography, listening to more music, making videos). When do they use technology, is it on the go or mostly at home? What’s not working for the technology they are using now?

 

Then once you understand their interests and workflow, the next step is to understand what technology the recipient of your holiday gift already has.  Do they need more features and functionality? Would they benefit from an upgrade or a new device? Are there new accessories for the devices?  Are their new colors or styles out for accessories they already have? Do they have specific activities that could benefit from a specific accessory (such as a waterproof sports earphones good for jogging)? Are there ways to personalize technology accessories to give it a personal touch (like a smartphone case that has a family picture or kid’s art)? Can a new device take the place of multiple old devices? For example, can an updated tablet, computer or smartphone offer more productivity and entertainment options then the multiple devices they currently use?

 

Best yet, for families it can be a great time to “pool” gifts to invest in technology that can benefit everyone. For example, replace an older TV with a new internet enabled TV to allow entertainment streaming. Replace an older family computer with a new computer that has a big enough screen to also watch movies online. Is there a specific teen in the family that may benefit from a smartphone to help manage their “own” schedule with an online calendar and using dictation apps to help write their papers? Then that would also help their “parents” by enabling their teen to be more independent. We did this with our teen by  updating his phone from a regular phone to a smartphone (with a data plan) so he could use productivity apps for school and an online calendar to help manage his schedule. We had to make sure he followed appropriate smartphone online safety etiquette and family technology rules, but after we set that up it was a huge benefit not only to our son but also our family schedule.

 

8. Make A Plan to Live In The Moment:  Most of all, take time during the holiday to live in the moment, take a walk, connect with your loved ones or meet new people. Kimberley Clayton Blaine has a great quote on the Simple Reminder’s website that I remind myself of on a regular basis -especially now with one relative that just passed away from Ovarian Cancer and another that is still fighting bravely.  When I feel frustrated or get wrapped up in things that are not important in the “long term”, I remind myself that when waking up each morning it is a gift. I remind myself to treasure the moments with family and friends. I remind myself:

 

 

9. Make A Plan To Exercise: On the prior note of keeping perspective in life, I try every day to do some sort of exercise – even if that “exercise” is taking a quick walk, doing situps and pushups on the floor for 10 minutes, stretching or jogging. Even better are those special days when the stars align and I have time to take a hike with family or friends, go  to a group class or working out at my gym. Days when I am with family, I try to find activities that the whole family will enjoy that is also exercise.  But the reality of the holidays is that time is tight, so just fitting in some sort of exercise when I can is my mantra. Even if it means parking really far from the store to fit in a power walk in the parking lot!

 

10. Make A Plan To Just Breath:  If you do every feel stressed, remember to just breath..