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Holiday #Gift Ideas At @MicrosoftStore #Sponsored

Microsoft Store Holiday Gift GuideAfter countless experiences of giving my kids gifts they were asking for (even begging for), that they then abandoned after a short time – I pledged to try to buy gifts that last. During the holidays some of my favorite gift ideas (that last throughout the year) are technology devices and accessories. I was excited when SocialMoms and Microsoft asked me to participate in a sponsored blogging program to discuss holiday gift ideas at the Microsoft Store because they have such a wide range of technology devices and accessories gift ideas under one roof!

 
 
 

Here is a video that shows my fun adventure at the Microsoft Store checking out gifts that satisfies everyone from tech beginners to tech savvy, gamers, fashionistas, busy professionals, students and technology for the whole family.
 
 

 
 
Some of the great gifts I checked out at the store you can also check out online first, then head to the Microsoft Store to have your gift in hand for the holidays. If you don’t know exactly what they want, you can get gift cards for the Microsoft Store, XBox  or Skype. But there are also a range of phones, unique family touch enabled All-in-One desktops like the Sprout by HP, laptops like the Lenovo Yoga 2 in 1, tablets like the Surface Pro 3 Bundle or HP Stream 7 tablet (currently only $99!).

 
 

Microsoft Surface 3 Pro Bundle

 

 

All types of cases like  Brenthaven Collins Vertical Messenger Bag , Greene & Gray Device Purse  or the Knomo Foley Device Cross Body Sleeve.

 

Knomo Foley  Cross Body Device Sleeve

 

 

Wearables are another hot gift idea such as FitBit and stylish Misfit Shine that monitor activity, calories and sleep. But there are also many other app-enabled accessories to choose from!

 

Misfit Shine and Sport Band

 

Entertainment gifts such as the Jawbone Mini wireless speaker, XBox One Plus Kinect  and maybe a stocking stuffer of a new XBox Wireless controller.  “Makers” may want the gift of MakerBot-Replicator Mini Compact 3D Printer that can inspire all types of creative projects or the Go Pro HERO3 to unleash video creativity on the go.  I know that my kids are asking for some new video games but I also have some on my list including the Nike + Kinect Training and Just Dance 2014!

 

Xbox 360 Chrome Series Wireless Controller

 

Don’t forget tech toys such as the remote controlled aircraft like the Parrot AR Drone2.0 that performs smartphone-controlled acrobatic tricks.

 

Parrot MiniDrones Rolling Spide

 

 

 

What are you shopping for this holiday?

 

 

Disclosure: This blog post is part of a paid SocialMoms and Microsoft blogging program #MSFTHoliday . The opinions and ideas expressed here are my own.

 

 

 

 

Give the Gift of Giving Back #GivingTuesday

#GivingTuesday

 

Every Christmas Eve we have a family tradition that means the more to us then any gifts: cooking for a local homeless shelter. We work as a family to peel, cut and cook our famous sweet potato casserole (with pineapples and cinnamon) in big containers that we take over while still hot. We have a group that works together serving and the others cooking.  It is a family activity that we do together and our sons get the gift of learning to give back to their community. We also make decisions on what charities we give to as another family activity.

 

With all the focus on holiday gift shopping it is important to take a break to think about ways you can give back this holiday season.  Today is Giving Tuesday and many organizations and individuals are sharing how they are giving back. Here are some posts with links highlighting their favorite charities.

 

MommyPoppins is having a virtual food drive.

 

Bill and Melinda Gates Foundations discussed the Shot@Life Campaign. The One Campaign also shares information about the Shot@Life and other important initiatives.

 

Estelle Sobel Erasmus shared a list of 54 writer’s charities on the Huffington Post.

 

Cool Mom Picks discussed Family Volunteer Opportunities.

 

MomTrends shared thoughts on putting joy in the season by giving.

 

#TeamBlogalicious shared their favorite picks from Giving Tuesday.

 

Jessica Shyba (@mommasgonecity #theoandbeau) has an adorable book “Naptime With Theo and Beau” and is donating proceeds to the Santa Cruz SPCA.

 

Glennia Campbell shared information about Advocates For Youth.

 

TechSavvyMama discussed Gifts that Give back for the holidays.

 

Jim Higley discussed #‎HelpCampKesem‬ to help youths with Cancer.

 

 

Please share charities that you support during the holidays!

 

 

 

Holiday 2014 Tech and Shopping Deals

Holiday Shopping Deals

This weekend starts what shoppers have been waiting for: Black Friday, Cyber Monday and December sales (also called “Cyber Month”). As I explained in my last post, “best time for holiday shopping deals“, deals are not only happening across the weekend and into Cyber Monday – but throughout the season. For those who enjoy shopping during the Thanksgiving weekend, then go for it and enjoy! For those who feel stressed, my advice is to pick a list of items you are looking for and then shop online over the next few weeks to find the best price. For some bigger priced items you can even wait for the “New Years clear inventory” sales that happen around the New Year. I purchased a TV for our garage/boy cave during a New Years sale and got a price better then I would have during the holiday sales.

 

For those braving the sales this weekend and want to shop online, a good place to start is your email inbox newsletters. If you signed up for any newsletters for the stores or brands, they have already probably sent out their Black Friday, Cyber Monday or holiday sales email newsletters.  For example, I shop at Athleta for fitness wear and when I checked my inbox I saw an email from them sharing their 20% Black Friday shopping code FIT20. Some of the other email newsletters, such as the one I received from Sur Le Table, talked about their in store discounts.  Many of the big retailers have in store sales that are not listed online so if you don’t mind shopping in crowds and have a big shopping list, it is a good time to stop by your favorite retailers.

 

I would also suggest supporting small businesses in your area by stopping by their stores or shopping online. Saturday (November 29) is a great day to celebrate small business owners by shopping on “Small Business Saturday #shopsmall“.  Etsy and Great.ly are sites with stores for small businesses. Huffington Post even has a post sharing “36 Black-Owned Etsy Stores For Black Friday“.  I also like to support women founded businesses such as Epiphanie and many others.  For example, a great local Silicon Valley designer of comfortable & versatile work clothes for women is Camilla Olsen. She has some of her designs on sale including the Maverick Dress.

 

Camilla Olsen Work Clothes For Women

 

 

There are websites such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday that aggregate deals.  When it comes to shopping blogs, my go-to website is Cool Mom Picks. The Cool Mom Picks Black Friday post listed a discount code for Epiphanie bags.  Cool Mom Picks and Cool Mom Tech also lists Cyber Monday deals. The teal Epiphanie tech/camera bag I had been coveting for some time was on clearance + 15% using the code in the Cool Mom Picks post!  What I like about the Epiphanie bags is that they are stylish and can hold tech gadgets securely. While my tech is getting lighter and lighter, I still need a secure bag to carry devices in so I am excited to try it out. Cool Mom Picks also has gift guides along with a site called Maker Mom which covers STEM gifts. Radio Shack has a great DIY section of the store for STEM holiday gifts and they have great holiday sales.

 

Epiphanie Tech Bag

 

For tech deals, I still suggest making your list first then looking at the deals. For example, I am interested in purchasing the Canon EOS 70D DSLR to capture high quality pictures and video on travel blogging trips. For now, the price is out of my budget even with the Black Friday sale prices of $200 off.  I did find budget friendly tech devices and accessories on sale as holiday bundles. For example, Costco, Amazon and other retailers has a great list of camera’s on sale for the holidays that come bundled with lenses and accessories that really make it a deal. But there are many categories of tech on sale so if you are looking check tech blogs such as CNET, The Verge, Tom’s Guide, Ubergmizo for Apple – Samsung & Lenovo, Chip Chick, Cool Mom Tech and more for Black Friday, Cyber Monday and holiday tech deals. The Rather Be Shopping blog has great tips for Cyber Monday including using the Black Friday sales as a benchmark. Gizmodo has a post with The Best Cyber Monday (tech) Deals“. Fashion and shopping bloggers also have curated Cyber Monday and holiday summaries like this one from my friends at Lunchpails & Lipstick.

 

Calvin Klein Women's Long Packable Metallic Down  Coat While on the Amazon website looking for tech deals I also saw a jacket I was coveting in their fashion section on sale (Calvin Klein Women’s Long Packable Metallic Blue Down Coat – great for my business trips because it fits in a bag). During NYFW 2014 I remember Sarah Jessica Parker wearing a metallic blue Calvin Klein trench coat. While designer collection jackets are not in my budget, this jacket was with a sale price $100 off the regular price. I purchased that as well as finding a great selection of sales clothes for my kids online. This is a good time to find clothes and shoe sales for the whole family. On my post from a recent tech show called Pepcom, I also listed some of the new cool technology that would be good to look out for holiday sales. That post also listed a new app called Totspot that offer the ability to sell gently used kid’s clothes (that your kids grew out of) if you want to fund new purchases or find a fun assortment of kid’s used clothes for the holidays.

 

Another category to keep an eye on during holiday sales is home improvement. Do you need a new appliances, rugs or home electronics? Do you want to automate home processes with some smart home tech? The Nest Thermostat that is $50 off and now works with Life 360 to allow you to turn on the heat when the kids come home! Belkin has sales throughout the holiday season and their WEMO Home automation works with appliances like a crockpot and a coffee maker!

 

Another type of gift either for yourself or a loved one is the gift of learning. Curious.com has online video lessons include a range of subjects from tech to how-to DIY projects and an active community.  Their current holiday sale ends Cyber Monday.

 

Here are some of the other tech deals:

 

 

Along with your regular shopping, Amazon devices are also on sale via their press release. Giving the gift of reading devices is a gift that keeps on giving!:

  • Kindle (deal running 11/27-11/29): All-new Kindle – featuring a touchscreen display, a 20% faster processor, and twice the storage. Kindle e-readers are lightweight and easy to hold, measure battery life in weeks, not hours, and allow for reading with no glare even in bright sunlight. 
  • Kindle Paperwhite (deal running 11/27-11/29) : Kindle Paperwhite is one of Amazon’s most popular Kindles, with a touchscreen that has no screen glare in bright sunlight, a battery that lasts for weeks, not hours, and a built-in light that allows you to read without eyestrain.
  • Kindle Unlimited/Kindle Bundle (deal running 11/27-11/29): Better together: Get the $79 Kindle and 6-months of Kindle Unlimited for just $79 or Kindle Paperwhite and 6-months of Kindle Unlimited for just $129. Kindle Unlimited offers unlimited reading from over 700,000 books, including best sellers like The Lord of the Rings trilogy, the Harry Potter series, Diary of a Wimpy Kid books and 2001: A Space Odyssey. Landing page:
  • Fire HD (Fire HD 6 deal running 11/27-11/29; Fire HD 7 deal running 11/27-12/1): The new Fire HD tablets are available in both 6” and 7” and five color choices – black, white, cobalt, magenta, and citron. The new Fire HD, features a quad-core processor, front and rear-facing cameras, an HD display and a world-class ecosystem of exclusive features, services, and content.
  • Fire phone (deal running 11/25-12/1): The Fire phone is now available unlocked.  The unlocked Fire phone works with GSM carriers like AT&T, T-Mobile, Metro PCS and Cricket and for a limited time only is only $199. Fire phone includes a full year of Amazon Prime membership for access to Amazon’s vast digital ecosystem and unlimited photo cloud storage as well as exclusive features like Mayday, Second Screen and X-Ray.

These deals are available while supplies last. For additional information and a full list of Amazon Black Friday deals, visit www.amazon.com/blackfriday.”

 

Dyson:

 

Dyson Black Friday

 

 

 

Target:

Target black friday

 

 

Microsoft:

  • $100 off Surface Pro 3 i5: Available through Microsoft retail stores, Microsoftstore.com, Best Buy and other select retailers.
  • $150 off Surface Pro 3 i7 or Surface 2: Available through Microsoft retail stores, Microsoftstore.com, Best Buy and other select retailers.
  •  $99 Lumia 830 Fitbit bundle: The new Nokia Lumia 830 is available in the U.S. at www.att.com and in AT&T retail stores, and at MicrosoftStore.com and Microsoft Store retail locations. For a limited time, while supplies last, customers who purchase a Lumia 830 also receive a free Fitbit Flex ($99.99 value).
  • Xbox One available starting at $349: This offer is available nationwide at participating retailers. For more details on this promotion, visit Xbox Wire or contact your local retailer.
  •  $99 ASUS EeeBook X205TA: Available at Staples.

 

The press updated shared that the Fire Hose Blog has information holiday season’s deals and to check back for more details on Cyber Monday offerings.

 

The  YouGov holiday survey commissioned by Microsoft had some interesting information about electronic etiquette:

 

Electronic Etiquette

  • 41% of Americans confess to secretly checking their phone under the table during a holiday gathering
  • 33% of American parents try to limit their kids’ technology use during the holidays. However, 75% of American parents are likely to post to social media during a holiday gathering.
  • 42% of Americans say thank you for a gift they received via text or social media instead of mail or email.

 

My last tip involves not only setting up time for the important shopping but also setting up time to relax, enjoy friends/family and unplug during the holidays.  Turn off notifications for all smart devices and leave smartphones in your wallet, bag or pockets when socializing. Unplugging from shopping and tech is important to make sure we are spending uninterrupted time with family and friends or just spending time being mindful to do events in real life that cause you joy. As a parent I realize that I am a role model for my kids so I need to help them adjust to their connected world by teaching them the art of unplugging as well.

 

 

Happy shopping and but also happy “unplugging” this holiday weekend. We are off to do family exercise and then working on building some new wood chairs for our back yard. Yesterday we had all three boys helping cook Thanksgiving dinner from scratch (cooking is a great family activity to unplug).

 

*I will add more information about holiday sales below as I find them! Please share your favorite deals!

 

 

 

Pepcom Holiday Tech Showcase 2014

Pepcom Holiday SpectacularAt CES and holidays I am always excited to head to Pepcom events to check out the new technology related products out. On the night of the World Series I braved the traffic to head to San Francisco for the Pepcom Holiday Spectacular. Because the holiday season is so busy I have not had a chance to review any of the products but here are some of the interesting ones in the family technology area.

 

 

 

 

 

2014 Pepcom Holiday Spectacular! Exhibitors:

24/7
24/7 is a medical grade sleep and activity tracking application, their new new features include giving users more insight into their sleep than ever before.

 

 

ArcSoft
ArcSoft will be showing Simplicam powered by Closeli, a home monitoring solution with facial detection. They also had information on Perfect365 – which uses Face Detection technology to scan a photo and automatically map a person’s eyes, nose, cheeks, mouth and hairline. Then photos are treated with touch-ups, using nearly 20 tweaking tools that whiten teeth, brighten eyes, remove blemishes and other editing. They can also choose from dozens of pre-set makeup templates.

 

 

Belkin
Belkin International showcased a great selection of holiday tech products from its three brands, Belkin, Linksys and WeMo.  I was especially interested in their WeMo family of products that offers home automation, such as in a remote controlled Crock Pot!

Crock-Pot® Smart Slow Cooker with WeMo  Belkin

 

I also learned about their Linksys Dual Band WiFi router and how I could possibly swap that out for the default router my home WiFi provider gave us to help power up our wireless reception (and maybe also using a WiFi extender to help rooms far away from the router).

 

Belkin Linksys

 

Belkin also had some gift guide suggestions:

 

GIFTS UNDER $50
Metallic Lightning Cables
$24.99 – $29.99
Vent Mount $24.99
Phone Accessories
$24.99 – $34.99

 

GIFTS UNDER $300
Thunderbolt™ 2 Express Dock HD
with Cable $299.99
Linksys WRT1900AC $249.99
Linksys EA9200 AC3200 Tri-Band Smart Wi-Fi Router $299.99

 

GIFTS UNDER $150
Crock-Pot® Smart Slow Cooker with WeMo® $129.99
QODE™ Ultimate Pro Keyboard Case for iPad Air $149.99
WeMo® LED Lighting Starter Set $99.99
Mr. Coffee® 10-Cup Smart Optimal Brew™ Coffeemaker with WeMo® $149.99
Linksys Dual Band Wireless AC Range Extender RE6500 $99.99

 

 

Chamberlain Group – MyQ Garage
Chamberlain Group showed MyQ Garage, the connected home device for controlling home entry. “A smart home with MyQ ensures people never forget to close the garage door and can open, close and monitor it from anywhere in the world from a smartphone. MyQ is integrated with Google’s Nest Learning Thermostat, multiple home devices through the WinkApp, and other popular connected home apps.”

 

 

Channel Master
Channel Master debuted new features and services for the DVR+ platform, as well as a new ultra-low-cost outdoor television antenna. They were also the most popular table because they had the World Series on! Channel Masters new features for its subscription-free DVR+ include YouTube access and an enhanced DVR feature to record only new episodes of a series. The company also added the new low-cost STEALTHtenna to its metro/suburban-centric Everyday Series antenna line along with a consumer-friendly Antenna Selection Guide.  Coming in November, the YouTube streaming feature will appear in the DVR+ program guide.

 

 

 

Cobra
Cobra Electronics showcased “the addition to the company’s Drive HD Dash Cams series, Cobra CDR 825, utilizing a 2.7 inch screen, the largest in the dash cam family, along with the ultra-compact Cobra JumPack, a pocket-sized, portable charger for mobile devices and vehicle jump-starter.” Cobra also displayed some Walkie Talkies that I know my boys would have loved to try.

 

 

Creative Labs
Creative Labs has home, mobile, and gaming audio products. I was especially interested to hear about their E5 product that can be used an microphone to capture audio for me when I do video. Here is more information from their press release:

Their Professional-Grade Sound Blaster® E5  is a “24-bit/192kHz 120dB High Resolution USB DAC and Portable Headphone Amplifier for Smartphones, Tablets, PCs & Macs:

 

  • Digital High-Speed USB 2.0 connectivity to PC/Mac as a powerful external Sound Blaster
  • Digital USB Host connectivity to select iOS/Android models for direct high quality, lossless audio streaming*
  • Built-in rechargeable 3200mAh lithium polymer battery provides users up to 8 hours^ of playtime while on the go
  • Features wireless Bluetooth 4.1 Low Energy connectivity and Near Field Communication (NFC) technology for one-touch Bluetooth pairing and control
  • Supports HD audio codecs such as aptX® Low Latency and AAC for a wireless connection as good as a wired connection
  • Connects to entertainment devices such as televisions and game consoles via the optical input jack
  • Features a line-in option for analog connectivity to other various audio sources
  • Dual headphone jacks allow for simultaneous audio listening

Compatible with:      

- iOS devices using Lightning connector (iPhone 5, 5S, 5C, iPad Air, iPad Mini)

- Android devices (Samsung Galaxy S4, S5, Note 2, Note 3; Google Nexus 5, Nexus 7; Sony Xperia Z Ultra; Xiaomi Redmi, Redmi Note, Mi 3; LG G2)

**Actual battery life will vary with usage scenarios, settings and environmental conditions

 

The new flagship product is an extension of Sound Blaster’s E-Series line of compact portable USB audio solutions.  Launched in May 2014, the Sound Blaster E-Series includes the Sound Blaster E1 and Sound Blaster E3.”

 

 

ecoATM
ecoATM showed their “automated e-waste recycling kiosk that accepts cell phones, tablets and MP3 players from consumers in exchange for instant cash.” Listed below is an image they shared on what you could buy for holiday gifts from what you get back from trading in specific devices. I have not tried the service but I think trading in old devices are a great way to earn money to buy new devices instead of them sitting in a cabinet collecting dust! ecoATM, the nationwide network of 1,510 automated recycling kiosks, give’s users instant cash for their phones, tablets and MP3 players.

 

ecoATM

 

 

 

Fitbug
Fitbug Orb is a fitness, sleep and activity tracker.  They unveiled Kiqplan, a library of interactive coaching programs that use activity data from almost ANY activity tracker, smartphone or watch to build actionable 12 week plans around specific wellness goals.

 

 

Fujitsu
Fujitsu showcased their ScanSnap product lineup, including the new mobile and completely wireless scanner, the ScanSnap iX100. Included in the ScanSnap family line is the ScanSnap iX500 desktop scanner.

 

 

Kensington
Kensington has USB Hubs, Adapters, USB Chargers and Universal Soft Sleeves as well as new iPad Air™ 2 Keyboard Cases. Their PresentAir Pro Bluetooth® 4.0 LE Presenter “offers three different function modes to support different types of activity presenting, controlling media, or editing and offers one of the slimmest presenter designs on the market. The free downloadable companion app, PresenterWorks, allows users to set buttons to the functions of their choice for greater flexibility and efficiency.”

 

 

Kingston
Kingston Technology showcased holiday gifts ideas including the MobileLite G2 wireless media reader, SD and Micro SD cards and a HyperX Cloud gaming headset that offers extended hours of game play.

 

 

KODAK PIXPRO
KODAK PIXPRO featured cameras and wireless devices including the new SP360 Action Cam, an HD action cam designed to capture 360-degrees of video without the need for multiple cameras.

 

 

Lenovo
Lenovo had a few tables filled with their newest devices.

 

Lenovo at Pepcom

 

 

Some of the devices I spent time looking at where the Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 and Tablet 2 Pro, B40 All in One, Y50 Touch mobile gaming and multimedia notebook. But the one I drooled over was the Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro because it has powerful features but is thin, light and so fancy!

 

Lenovo Yoga 3

 

 

LifeTrak
LifeTrak showcased their line of wearables, including the new LifeTrak BRITE R450, that features light exposure monitoring, smartphone notifications, advanced sleep monitoring and fitness tracking, is waterproof and requires no recharging. The battery used for the device is a watch battery!

 

LifeTrak

 

Logitech
Logitech will be showcasing its latest in gaming, music, tablet, Harmony and PC accessories.

 

 

muvee
The new iOS app TWINE “makes short split-screen videos. Capture opposite or parallel moments in time and TWINE automatically stitches them together“.

 

 

Otterbox
OtterBox will be showcasing protective cases for the recently released iPhone 6, GALAXY Note 4 and more.

 

 

Parallels
Parallels Access app (for iPad, iPhone, Android tablets and phones plus Kindle Fire) “lets you access everything on your PC or Mac just like it was made for your touch-based device (a way to run Windows on your Mac without rebooting).

 

 

Plantronics
Plantronics will be showcasing its new line of consumer, stereo and Bluetooth products including the new BackBeat PRO – wireless, active noise canceling stereo headphones with mic.

 

 

Plantronics Backbeat Pro

 

 

RadioShack
RadioShack has the latest in sound, toys, power and smart tech for gifting or for upgrading your own tech this holiday season.  I went to the press event to celebrate the interactive remodel of San Francisco Bay Area (and other locations) Radio Shack stores.  I was really impressed with the selection of tech in the new design. Especially their DIY section that had so many DIY tech projects that my boys could keep busy for a long time!

 

Here is information about the Radio Shack store redesign:

  • Innovative products from startups and inventors, such as mobile device-controlled robot ball Sphero, educational magnetic circuit boards from littleBits and Lively’s activity sensors that create a smart home for older adults to log daily routines
  • An interactive speaker wall where customers can shop and compare different speakers using music installed on in-store tablets
  • Experiential displays that enable shoppers to find and compare products, including headphone demo stations where they can listen to leading brands like SOL REPUBLIC, Skullcandy and Beats by Dr. Dre; in-demand devices from Apple, Samsung and HTC; a remote control (RC) toy exploration center; and a GoPro camera display demonstrating the capabilities of several models of GoPro cameras
  • Technology that makes shopping interesting and playful, like touchscreens and apps that help shoppers understand the benefits of products
  • Full mobility offerings from top mobile carriers such as AT&T, Sprint and Verizon with flexible financing plans available all under one roof
  • Helpful, informative RadioShack staff who can answer shoppers’ questions about hundreds of products and services and direct customers to the items that meet their specific needs.

 

 

ResMed
S+ by ResMed: a non-contact sleep system that monitors, analyzes and provides personalized feedback to help improve your sleep from the first night.

 

 

Ring
Ring Video Doorbell “lets you answer the door from anywhere using your smartphone. It features an HD camera with night vision, providing a clear view from your front door, day and night.”

 

 

simplehuman
simplehuman builds smart home-tech that is “simple, functional, and built to last“. I tested the sensor trashcan they had on display and it really was able to tell the different between me waving my hand to open the trashcan versus just walking by. The other brand sensor trashcan I tried kept opening up when I would just walk by it.. Next time I will try simplehuman!

 

Simple Human

 

 

Speck
As a leader in slim protective cases for mobile devices, Speck will be showing its latest bulk-free cases in smashing good looks. Their candy shell smartphone cases have been great protection in the past when I dropped my phones (just a few times…).

 

Speck

 

 

TiVo
TiVo showcased the TiVo Roamio OTA, the over-the-air DVR and TiVo Mega.

 

 

Totspot
Totspot is a mobile shopping app for moms to buy and sell gently used kids’ clothes.  I think this is a great tool for families to control clothing budgets for their kids – who grow out of clothes so quickly. And also to find great clothes for their kids!  “Totspot solves the age-old challenge every parent faces when outfitting their growing soccer stars and fashionistas – kids grow, clothes don’t. The free app has an intuitive interface designed to be simple and fast, and supports easy mom-to-mom mobile retailing, giving families a simple way to cash in their kids’ closets and keep little ones toddler-trendy and fashion-forward. Totspot (http://www.totspot.me) is currently available as a free app for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch and Android.

 

Totspot

 

Totspot

 

 

TripIt
TripIt booth is a trip planner keeps travel plans in one spot with features such as custom itineraries, sharing features, travel alerts, alternative flight info,  flight refunds and a travel dashboard.

 

 

Velvetwire
Velvetwire showcased the Powerslayer Blu – an Bluetooth-connected charger with built-in software that “reduces energy waste and promotes battery health”.

 

Velvetwire

 

 

ZAGG
ZAGG Inc highlighted their newest accessories for protecting and enhancing handheld electronics.

InvisibleSHIELD GLASS and HDX: Features HD clarity and 3X greater shatter protection for even industry-leading smartphone glass.

  • GoLite power series: A family of portable batteries will charge any device that utilizes a USB, including smartphones and tablets.
  • iFrogz InTone earbuds: Feature a smooth surface which rests comfortably on the ear while their 14mm driver delivers vibrant sound.”

 

 

Disclosure: This is coverage of a tech press event.

 

 

 

 

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 To #NavigateTheHolidays With Gift Offerings at GameStop

*Disclosure: Sponsored post.

 

I am a regular Gamestop customer, whether it’s pre-ordering a new kid’s video game or buying used video games and accessories.  So, I was excited to recently host with Techlicious – a Gamestop event and tour at my local GameStop store. We had a fun group of bloggers, many who were already GameStop customers and excited to learn even more with a tour by the local GameStop team. Beyond being the “world’s largest, multi-channel video game retailer“, GameStop offers:

 

***Video games for  all types of consoles (Xbox, Sony PlayStation, Nintendo Wii) along with Video game consoles,  portable gaming devices, tablets and more.

 

 

***Tech accessories including headsets, tech toys such as Skylanders and Disney Infinity and even my kid’s favorite Lego video games (that compliment nicely all the Lego building they do).

 

 

***Gift Cards and Stocking Stuffers.

 

 

Best of all GameStop has affordable “Buy-Sell-Trade programs for video game hardware, software, digital content accessories, consumer electronics (including Apple Devices) and more“. To keep within our budget, we have our kids identify games they no longer play with to help save up for new ones. I was happy to find out that “GameStop also offers more then 2,500 video games under $20″. That also helps with the budget!

 

When looking for video games at GameStop we can always first check if there are used copies available. Long ago my teen figured out that we should sign up for the GameStop Power UP Rewards (customer loyalty program) – so we did. Along with the rewards, exclusives, point earning opportunities and extras, the GameStop’s PowerUp Rewards benefits include earning points towards future purchases.

 

 

 

We also had a lunch where we discussed holiday tech shopping tips, trends, tips on choosing video games and more from Suzanne Kantra of Techlicious and the GameStop team.

 

 

 

GameStop, with research partner Brierley+Partners, asked 500 U.S. gift givers what was at the top of their purchase lists this holiday season (fielded from November, 2013). Listed below are some highlights shared from the event and a press release:

  • 42 percent of shoppers surveyed plan to purchase video game related items for their children this holiday – including video games, consoles, and accessories.” While we’re always thrilled for the holiday season, this one is especially exciting as we welcome the first new gaming consoles in nearly a decade, along with a flurry of new titles to show off the systems’ next-gen technology,” said Ashley Sheetz, chief marketing officer of GameStop. “It seems more people than ever, at almost any age, are getting into gaming, and if this survey is any indication, the number of gamers will keep on growing thanks to the holidays this year!”
  • 84 percent of ‘gifters’ are aware of store and website trade-in programs, and nearly 20 percent are planning to use them to help defer gift costs. We learned that “GameStop offers instant store credit or cash on a vast range of products, from old video games, consoles, to smartphones, tablets, and other electronics sitting in drawers and on shelves. And with special holiday trade-in bonuses, the savings can grow large very quickly!”
  • 82 percent of ‘gifters’ expect to turn to store employees when making purchasing decisions this holiday season. “We know holiday shopping is stressful and even more so when presented with the plethora of gaming choices out there,” said Jason Cochran, vice president store operations and strategic initiatives of GameStop. “Our goal is to relieve some of that stress with our trained employees armed with the latest gaming knowledge, as well as through our loyalty and trade-in programs that can make the financial strain of the holidays less stressful.”

 

When it comes to video games for my kids, I spend the time to gather information about the game by using not only sites like Common Sense Media and ERSB, but also knowledgeable GameStop salespeople. Over lunch, we had a chance to talk about screen time and tips to understand if a game is appropriate for kids/family use:

 

  • Current state of kids & technology:  83% of parents set rules or have a conversation with kids about the safe use of technology, with the majority of parents setting limits starting at ages 5-8*, Overall daily screen time for kids under 8, 1 hour 55 minutes, decreased by 21 minutes per day vs 2 years ago.** More time on: mobile devices, Less time on: TV, DVD, Computers, Video Games.*From Microsoft/Comscore study 2013 .
    **From Common Sense media 2013 survey: Kids 0-8.
  •  Games are social: 40% of gamers play with friends with 17% playing with their spouse or significant other and 34% playing with other family members. Video games are a family activity: 40% of parents play video games with their children at least weekly. Most video games being sold are appropriate for kids with 73% of the 245.6 million video games sold in 2011 rated Everyone (E), Teen (T) or Everyone 10+ (E10+). Ninety-one percent of games evaluated by ERSB in 2012 were rated E, T or E10+, From Entertainment Software Association.
  • American Academy of Pediatrics Recommendations : Establish screen-free zones, turn off electronic devices during dinner.  For children and teens: limit entertainment media to no more than 2 hours per day (does not include homework). For children under 2: no TV and entertainment media.
  • Recommendations to help find the appropriate video: Common Sense Media offers the ability to search game titles for younger kids and drill down by age, content, educational benefit and more. PluggedIn.com offers the ability to sort by rating, platform and genre. ESRB rating search app (and website) flags “Interactive Elements” so you’ll know if the game shares location, personal information or user habits. ESRB recently expanded search filters for exclude/include content type (violence, language, nudity etc) or a specific rating, plus access to rating summaries for packaged games.

 

How do you choose which games are appropriate for your family? What types of family technology are on your holiday shopping list?

 

Here are some posts from other bloggers at the event:

Mom With Apps: Three Tips for Family-Friendly Gaming
ParentGrapevine: GameStop – The Place to Shop, Sell, Trade-in and Buy for the Holidays
 

 

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

 

 

 

 

Tame Holiday Chaos With OneNote Cookbook

The day to day adventures of a family with three boys is best described as controlled chaos. Adding the November/December holidays to the mix results in wonderful family events wrapped in noise, toys and meals best described as “feeding time at the zoo”. Trying to tame the chaos, I try to plan ahead and organize whenever possible.

 

One of the biggest challenges is the various food requirements of family and friends. I am starting down the road of plant-based Vegan diet as are several other members of my family. My three sons are happy to eat plant-based foods as long as they can have meat and fish in the mix. They especially love vegan Indian food with creamy coconut and curry sauce.  Another family member has Type 1 Diabetes so he needs to have non-starchy foods, lots of veggies, plant-based drinks like Coconut milk and protein. Other family members and friends have different food related requirements, including some with serious allergies. Everyone has found their personal balance with their diet, so I wanted to find a process to support them in their efforts. My solution is to use OneNote http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/onenote/ to organize recipes to be used for different events. I found this blog post on the OneNote blog that explains how to create a OneNote Cookbook that includes a template to get started and ideas about using different tabs for different types of food:

 

 

 

Because I already use OneNote for digital note-taking and organization, creating a holiday cookbook was both easy and efficient. I created separate tabs in my Holiday Cookbook Notebook for each of the categories required for a flexible menu: Chicken, Fish, Beef, Vegetarian, Vegan/Plant Based, Gluten Free, Nut Allergy Friendly.

 

 

 

Within each category/notebook I add “pages” of different recipes and sub-categories including “Vegan Appetizers”. All the pages have live links to the recipes online so I can check back when needed and create shopping lists. The OneNote screen clipper tool makes capturing what I want to add to my cookbook easy, especially when I am clipping from an online recipe because it brings the URL with the picture so I can click through to the recipe online.

 

I always try to have vegan dishes available for the Vegans and Vegetarians. For those who need protein I also include dishes with lean meats cooked without dairy plus a creamy cheesy dish (or at least a cheese plate) for those who love cheese! Providing a big salad, vegetable and fruit plate with hummus and olives also helps a variety of diets. Nuts are served separately to help those with a nut allergy stay safe.

 

Best of all, my husband also has OneNote on his mobile phone so we can share shopping responsibilities. Our OneNote Notebooks are synced via my cloud storage on SkyDrive, where we also store holiday photos and albums to be shared with family and friends. I can even share my OneNote Holiday Cookbook via Skydrive with family if they want to add recipes.

 

Getting organized in these ways helps gain some control over my busy holiday schedule. How do you tame your holiday chaos and manage a holiday menu to support different nutritional needs.

 

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

 

For more Holiday tech tips check out the one stop shop #MadePossible on who other people are preparing for the holidays and to show how anything is possible with Microsoft Products.

 

 

 

Curious.com Launches Video Seminars With Sunset Magazine

After years of school it was not until college that I realized I was a visual learner. Now as a mom with three kids, I found out that my kids are also visual learners. I have also come to the conclusion that many people are also visual learners. Just ask someone how they learned to make their favorite meal. For me it was watching my Grandmom make chicken soup which now I make the same way.  Or watching my Pilates teacher demonstrate what using “core” stomach muscles really means (i.e. – not the cheater’s sit ups I have been doing for years using my back instead of my stomach).

 

 

That is why I have been so excited to see all the new learning options online using visual platforms such as video. Curious.com is one of those exciting websites with video lessons that inspires their online community to learn, teach and share a wide range of topics. They also believe that learning should happen beyond the classroom: “At Curious we believe in lifelong learning. Learning for its own sake. Learning that happens beyond classrooms, and not only in academic subjects (unless you count beer brewing, pipe soldering, and organic gardening as academic). Learning as a necessity of living “.

 

The new announcement out today is just in time for the holidays, especially those “Turkey cooking challenged but have lots of family coming over” like myself. Curious is collaborating with Sunset Magazine to create Sunset Seminars: “Sunset Seminars” will initially contain lessons in three courses: Sunset’s Perfect Holiday Meal, Sunset’s Essentials of Wine, and Sunset’s Guide to Container Gardening.  See the press release below. Looks like there will be Turkey (and lots of other holiday) cooking and entertaining video lessons in my near future!

 

What are you Curious to learn?

 

 


 

PRESS RELEASE:

IN TIME FOR THE HOLIDAYS, CURIOUS.COM LAUNCHES “SUNSET SEMINARS” IN COLLABORATION WITH SUNSET MAGAZINE
Sunset and Curious.com Share Food, Wine and Garden Inspiration through Interactive and Entertaining Video-based Lessons

 

Menlo Park, CA, November 21 – Curious.com, Inc., the marketplace for lifelong learning, today announced the launch of  “Sunset Seminars” on Curious.com. Created in collaboration with Sunset magazine, the premier guide to living in the West, “Sunset Seminars” will initially contain lessons in three courses: Sunset’s Perfect Holiday Meal, Sunset’s Essentials of Wine, and Sunset’s Guide to Container Gardening. Available now, Sunset Seminars can be accessed by going to www.curious.com/sunsetmagazine.

 

Each course, which is taught by one of Sunset’s expert editors, consists of 6-8 video-based lessons. In time for the holidays, Sunset’s Perfect Holiday Meal features Sunset food editor Margo True sharing invaluable insights on everything from a 1966 recipe for Thanksgiving stuffing that’s withstood the test of time, to how to prepare the perfect bird on the grill. In Sunset’s Essentials of Wine, a comprehensive primer on wine appreciation, wine editor Sara Schneider takes wine lovers on a journey of “Old World” and “New World” red, white and sparkling wines, plus takes a trip to the supermarket wine aisle. In Sunset’s Guide to Container Gardening, garden guru Johanna Silver teaches everything needed to cultivate a vibrant container garden from choosing the right containers and, selecting the best plants to maintaining a beautiful garden.

 

As with all lessons on the Curious platform, Sunset Seminar learners will have the means to ask their instructors questions and receive input on their own creations, providing a rare and intimate level of access to some of the world’s leading food, wine, and home and garden experts.

 

Sunset Seminars represent Curious’ first co-branded lesson collection giving Sunset a new platform through which to share their expert editorial content, while also infusing Curious with more lessons from the world’s best teachers. Curious already allows learners to browse over 3,000 lessons by theme through other collections, including such favorites as Languages, Art & Photo, Tasty Treats, Green Thumb and Learn to Code. Adding quality co-branded content is the next logical step.

 

“Sunset’s readers don’t want to just read our content. They want to live it,” said Peggy Northrop, Sunset Editor-in-Chief. “This collaboration with Curious.com allows us to give our fans–plus millions of passionate consumers who are actively seeking quality DIY instruction on the Web–what they want: new ways to access and learn from Sunset’s trusted experts anytime, anywhere.”

 

“Sunset is an iconic brand, known for covering the West’s best flavors, destinations, design trends, and innovations. Sunset’s content and amazing editors are ideally suited for the Curious flavor of video-based lessons,” said Justin Kitch, founder and CEO of Curious.com. “But even more importantly, the Sunset team shares our vision and passion at Curious for helping people achieve, grow, and learn.”

 

How it works:

 

Beginning today, anyone can go to Curious.com to access Sunset Seminars. The Sunset Seminars will initially feature 19 lessons on food, wine, and gardening. Designed specifically for learners, all lessons on Curious are comprised of interactive videos broken into “bite-size” conceptual sections. They also include exercises and additional resources, such as recipes, product and book recommendations, and a special Sunset magazine subscription offer. The Sunset Seminars can be accessed 24×7 via computer or iPad so that people can tap into Sunset’s expertise anytime.
To access Sunset Seminars at Curious.com go to www.curious.com/sunsetmagazine, or view other lesson collections at www.curious.com/learn.

 

About Sunset
Sunset (www.sunset.com) is the leading lifestyle brand in the West. Through magazines and books, events and experiences, and digital and social media, Sunset covers the West’s best flavors, destinations, design trends, and innovations. Sunset engages and inspires an audience of over five million educated, active and affluent consumers every month through its five regional print editions—Pacific Northwest, Northern California, Southern California, Southwest and Mountain—as well as via all tablet devices and its website. In addition to its print and digital publication, Sunset showcases the region’s unique lifestyle and noteworthy destinations through its flagship events, established home programs, licensing partners, books and International Wine Competition. Sunset is part of the Time Inc. Lifestyle Group.

 

About Curious

Founded in 2012, Curious.com, Inc. offers an innovative and engaging marketplace that connects lifelong learners with exceptional teachers around the world. Curious is home to short-format video-based interactive lessons that help anyone learn about anything on their own time. It also provides a range of free, easy-to-use tools for teachers that enable them to market, share, and monetize their lessons to millions of learners. Curious is a private company funded by Redpoint Ventures, Bill Campbell, Jesse Rogers and Justin Kitch based in Menlo Park, CA. For more information visit www.curious.com.

 

Disclosure: This is a press release.

 

 

 

AT&T Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Holiday Deals

The AT&T gift guide includes handsets, emerging devices, U-verse, Smart Controls and Accessories. The holidays are a great time to make gifts not only fun but practical (like upgrading to a smartphone for you or a loved one). Some of the handsets listed on their holiday guide are Nokia Lumia Smartphones, Sony Xperia TL, HTC smartphones and the LG Optimus G.  Some of the accessories listed on their gift guide are iFrogz Boost Plus Near Field Audio Speaker, iGrill Thermometer, Zip Wireless Activity Tracker, and the Jawbone Jambox Bluetooth Speaker (red is a nice holiday color!). I will update this post with more of their accessory and stocking stuffer recommendations.

 

 

CURRENT DEALS (from the press update):

  • $100 Off any Tablet (including iPad!):  Customers will receive $100 off any tablet purchased at an AT&T company owned store or online at www.att.com or at selected agents or retailers with a two-year data plan agreement. Details.
  • Windows 8 smartphone + Tablet: For a limited time, AT&T customers will receive a $100 off the ASUS VivoTab, after purchasing any Windows smartphone and an additional $100 off any tablet, purchased at an AT&T company owned store or online at www.att.com with a two-year data plan agreement. Details.
  • Samsung BOGO: For a limited time, customers who purchase a Samsung Galaxy smartphone, including the Galaxy Express, will receive up to $100 off a second connected Samsung device. Details.
  • Exclusively at att.com, AT&T will be ringing in the value with a series of revolving online promotions kicking off on Black Friday, Nov. 23 and continuing until the last chime on Cyber Monday, Nov. 26. Here are a few:


Black Friday Weekend: Nov. 24&25
HTC Vivid is just $.01
Rugby Smart is only $.99

 

Cyber Monday: Nov. 26 (begins 12:01 a.m. ET)

Some of AT&T’s most popular smartphones for just $.99 — the Pantech Renue, Motorola Atrix HD, HTC One X (gray only) Samsung Galaxy S II and the Nokia Lumia 900.

 

As with all deals, quantities are limited.

 

 Disclosure: This is a press update.

 

 

 

Sprint Cyber Monday and Holiday Deals

Sprint just updated me on their Cyber Monday promotion – but they also have a Sprint holiday cell phone deal page on their website that lists deals on phones, tablets, hot spot devices and accessories.

 

Listed below is the Cyber Monday press info Sprint sent my way:

 

“The ‘Unlimited Edition’ savings continue from Sprint. On Cyber Monday, Nov. 26, and continuing through Monday, Dec. 3, Sprint customers activating a new line of service can buy Samsung Galaxy S® II and Galaxy Nexus for FREE1 exclusively online or by calling call 1-800-Sprint1 with a two-year service agreement2.

 

1Device pricing excludes taxes and surcharges and customers must purchase with a new line and two-year service agreement.

2Qualifying smartphone plans include: Simply Everything, Simply Everything Share, Everything Business, Everything Data, Everything Data Share, Business Advantage Messaging & Data, Business Share Plus with Pro Pack Plus.”