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Best Time For Holiday Shopping Deals

Holiday ShoppingWhile many are getting ready to shop Black Friday, the numbers show that the best time for holiday shopping deals are spread out from early November to New Years sales in January.

 

 

Forbes discussed the best shopping days by sharing the information from the Adobe annual online shopping forecast.  While the post stated that Thanksgiving Day has some of the best pricing, Forbes shared that  “Adobe also predicts that the largest single-day drop in prices, 5% on average, will happen on the Monday before Thanksgiving, thanks to retailers trying to get an even earlier jump on sales.”  If retailers are trying to get an earlier jump on sales, maybe shopping early is a great way to get a jump on holiday shopping!

 

Another big trend is mobile shopping so retailers are offering more deals online. I shopped during Black Fridays for the last few years and realized that while there were some key deals, many items were either sold out or out of stock by the time I tried to get them.  Looking back at the even the Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales items that were sold out, some discounts were similar what I found later in December and even January.  At the store there were also limited stock for the best pricing and other items were regular price. My lesson learned was instead of only waiting for specific “sale” days I would start looking for deals early in the season.  For the in store shopping, I like to talk to the staff to see when the sales start and also see if they have shopper programs that offer early access to sales. For example, some stores offer sale information over their email newsletters.

 

Marketwatch looked at holiday shopping information from Savings.com and found that the best shopping days for specific categories of items range from Thanksgiving weekend to throughout December. Last year I needed to buy a TV for our family and found that New Years Day sales in January not only had the best pricing but were also less crowded. I assumed New Years Day sales were good because it was after the holidays and the stores wanted to move inventory out to clear space for new items. This year we need to upgrade our gaming console so while I will be monitoring sales throughout the holiday season, I may just give our kids a “rain check” and shop the New Years sales. The biggest tip is that unplugging with family and friends is the best gift of all, so why stress yourself out shopping when sales are spread out across the season?  What good is saving money if it means increasing stress?

 

Maybe the best strategy is keep an eye out for sales starting in November and start shopping early. Then put down phones, shut off computers and enjoy Thanksgiving and holiday events. What is your holiday shopping strategy?

 

 

 

Five Ways To Use #Tech For #Halloween

I was not going to post on Halloween but I was so inspired by the fun press outreach (and seeing what my fellow bloggers wrote) that I wanted to share some of my Halloween inspired tech favorites. Please share yours and have a safe and happy Halloween!

 

1. LED and Laser Pointers to Light Up Your Jack-O-Lantern!

 

deathstar  pumpkin

PHOTO CREDIT: Fantasypumpkins.com

 

Our family favorite Make Magazine had a great link list of creative pumpkin carving ideas, including a Death Star and using LED’s and laser pointers to light up your pumpkins. The Death Star Pumpkin masterpiece is from the website Fantasy Pumpkins. May the Jack-O-Lantern Be With You!

 

2. Check out websites for last minute Halloween ideas

Cool Mom Picks has a post with the UItimate Last Minute Halloween Guide. Of course, Pinterest has a vast amount of Halloween inspirations to keep you busy for hours. Growing Up Goofy has (our family favorite Disney) Mikey Mouse Halloween crafts and Tinker Lab has Halloween craft ideas for kids. There are many other food and design blogs online to get ideas. Z Living and Rookie Moms have tips for a healthier Halloween. For Halloween fashion tips, I found a great R2-D2 skirt at I am a Funny Girl’s Fashion Friday post. For super last minute tips, Mashable posted with costumes you can make in 15 minutes…

 

 

3. Halloween Spirits For Adults

 

Halloween Cocktail Photo by Steve Murello  via HGTV

Halloween Cocktail. Photo Credit by Steve Murello via HGTV

 

 

After all the work creating costumes, decorations, food and more I think it is important for parents to give themselves some Halloween Holiday spirits. When searching online for Halloween ideas for kids, why not also search for some Halloween adult drink ideas to die for like the recipes over on the website HGTV.

 

4. Apps to help with Halloween Decorations

 

Home Outside App Holiday Halloween

Home Outside App – Holiday Halloween

 

 

Today I received a press release about an app called Home Outside that can help you create a landscape design for Halloween or for any occasion.  I may even try this app to make another attempt to landscape now that my boys are older. The last time we tried (many years ago) we had toddlers who went and pulled the tubing from our drip irrigation. I am sure there are many other Halloween apps to decorate inside and outside your house.

 

5. Think Geek – One Stop Halloween Shopping

 

 

thinkgeek halloween

Think Geek Halloween – Minecraft

 

The website Think Geek has the best selection of techie Halloween fun including costumes (regular and cosplay), decorations and accessories including lights and lasers to light up your night. Of course, many of the accessories, such as the Think Geek: Mega Stomp Panic, would be great for geeky fun throughout the year!

 

 

 

 

 

What are your favorite Halloween ideas? I know that we will celebrating throughout the weekend…

 

 

 

 

 

 

TechMamas.com Road Trip: Nissan Leaf Electric Car #EcoTech

Using technology that is resource and environmentally friendly (#ecotech) is important to me and one of the most prominent ecotech products is the electric car. These automobiles are run by a rechargeable battery with no gasoline engine or carbon emission pollution like their gas-powered brothers and sisters.  To learn how these cars work and how I could fit them into my busy life as a mom, I have started to review electric as well as hybrid cars for TechMamas.com.

 

TechMamas.com road trip: Nissan Leaf

 

The first car in my series is the Nissan Leaf.  I was happy to receive a press email offering a Nissan Leaf to evaluate for one week (disclosure). All I can say, is that it was very hard to return the car when the week ended. My minivan was still handy when driving my 3 boys and their friends around, while I enjoyed using the Nissan Leaf for two mini-vacations and trips around town. I most enjoyed going a whole week without filling up a gas tank.  I also learned all about the way the Nissan Leaf works.

 

TECHMAMAS.COM NISSAN LEAF ROAD TRIP VIDEO: Here is a video showing our road trips with the Nissan Leaf. My oldest son and cameraman filmed the footage using two GoPros synced up with the GoPro iphone app to recorded the audio. Here it is:
 


 
DETAILS:
 
2015 NISSAN LEAF®S features and specifications:

 

  • 107 Horsepower
  • 126/101 city/hwy MPGe*
  • 5 Seats / 4 Doors
  • 80 kW AC synchronous electric motor
  • Zero tailpipe emissions
  • Nissan Intelligent Key® with Push Button Start
  • Bluetooth® Hands-free Phone System
  • Heated front and rear seats
  • RearView Monitor

 

My Observations:

 

1. Ride: The ride felt comfortable and sturdy, not like smaller cars that feel as though they are going to blow over! We cozily fit all 5 of us (Mom, Dad, Teen and twin 11 year olds) for a one hour road trip to Santa Cruz.

 

Even room for three in the back seat!

 

Nissan Leaf TechMamas.com Road Trip

 

Plus a trunk area that can hold enough for a road trip.

 

Nissan Leaf TechMamas.com Road Trip

 

 

2. Controls: Getting used to the charging controls and routine was the biggest adjustment. All the basic car controls are similar to other cars so there really was not a learning curve. I was able to find the dashboard, steering and general controls I needed and using them was intuitive.

 

Nissan Leaf TechMamas.com Road Trip

 

 

3. Charging: The car’s screen displayed the amount of charge and indicated the remaining miles on the battery, which was very helpful. I was able to drive two long road trips, both around 40-45 miles, on one full charge with a little left over.

 

 

Nissan Leaf TechMamas.com Road Trip

 

 

I did notice that the calculations on mountains adjusted the amount of miles I had left down because the miles are calculated on conditions (i.e. uphill). Once I hit the top of the mountain and was coasting downhill, the vehicle recalculated the remaining mileage upward. Using the regenerative brakes also recharges the battery and increases total miles remaining. In my experience, just plugging the Leaf into a regular house charger for around 4-6 hours charged it up from 75-80%, which was fine for regular use. If I were going on a long trip, I would probably stop by one of the charging stations to make sure the car is either at 100% (the car conveniently lists the closest charging stations on the screen) or I would buy one of the Do-It-Yourself charging stations (AreoVironment is an example of one) to charge the battery more quickly. Along with not needing to buy or use gas, knowing that the Nissan Leaf is zero emissions made me feel I was also doing my part to support the environment.

 

 

Nissan Leaf TechMamas.com Road Trip

 

 

When I was just driving The Nissan Leaf on quick rides around town, the regenerative braking recharged the battery enough to avoid the need to plug in.It was a real treat to know that I did not need to visit a gas station and was not releasing any emissions.

 

I enjoyed driving the Nissan Leaf for a week and it especially made me realize (after NO visits to the gas station) how much gas I use while driving my minivan. Every visit to the gas station makes me want to buy an Electric car even more!

 
Click over to the Nissan Leaf website to find out more information, Facebook: www.facebook.com/thebetterride, @thebetterride and Instagram @thebetterride.

 

 

 

Disclosure: A Nissan Leaf was provided for a one week review. This is a review post.

 

 

 

 

 

Dolby Atmos Audio Tech

10am Oct 6 update: Giveaway is closed.

 

Dolby Atmos There are so many different technologies that need to come together for a movie to be immersive. While many of us first think of the visual aspects (3D for example) the sound plays a very big role in a movie experience. I first realized this when I went to a Dolby press event in San Francisco last year. Dolby creates audio, visual, and voice technologies for cinemas, home theaters, PCs, mobile devices, and games. The press were given the opportunity to sit in the Dolby Theatre and watch one of the 2013 Dolby Atmos Movie Releases: Monster’s University.  When the movie started I wondered if I would really experience the sounds in the movie as if they were above, next and behind me. Well I can tell you that it was an audio delight to experience Monster’s University with Dolby Atmos because the sound was completely immersive adding another dimension to the movie experience.

 

 

 

When Dolby contacted me about one of the new movies out with Dolby Atmos, I could not resist taking some extra time to also learn more about how Dolby Atmos works. But first I got the opportunity to give away 3 copies of Transformers: Age of Extinction (one of the 2013 Dolby Atmos Movie Releases).

 

 

Transformers: Age of Extinction with Dolby Atmos

 

TO ENTER:

Leave a comment on this post talking about how you like to experience movies at home to an “immersive” experience. For example, we have a sound bar but I never thought about installing speakers at home to make our movie night more immersive!

PRIZE:

3 commenters will each win one Transformers: Age of Extinction DVD.

TIMING:

Contest starts Oct 2 and ends Oct 6 2014 -10am pst. Winner will be announced by Oct 7 2014

RULES:

1. One Blog Post comment per person. One Blog Post comment is equal to one entry (so only one entry per person)  2. Winners are limited to US residents only 21 years of age or older. 3. If a valid email address is not provided in the entry, another winner will be chosen. 4. The prize is not redeemable in cash and must be accepted as awarded. 5. Approximate value of prizes may vary. 6. All decisions are final 7. By entering any giveaway on this website you release Techmamas.com from any liability whatsoever, and waive any and all causes of action. 7. Contest starts Oct 2 and ends Oct 6 2014 -10am pst. Winner will be announced by Oct 7 2014.

 

Dolby also provided me some fun facts in their press release about Transformers: Age of Extinction:

●     “Besides the fact that it’s a Transformers movie, what makes this release so great? It’s the first Blu-ray released with Dolby Atmos technology.

●     Transformers: Age of Extinction, released Sept. 30, is the first movie mixed in Dolby Atmos for home theaters. This fall will see more Dolby Atmos titles for home theater on both Blu-ray Disc and from streaming video providers like Vudu.

●     Dolby Atmos makes it easy for filmmakers to place or move specific sounds anywhere in the movie theatre, including overhead. As a result of this multi-dimensional sound, audiences feel as if they are inside the film, not merely watching it. Major Hollywood studios are partnering with Dolby to create Dolby Atmos home video versions of current box office releases and previously released favorites. Dolby Atmos debuted in 2012 in the hit film Brave. Since then, it’s been used for more than 180 theatrical releases, including hits like Godzilla, Guardians of the Galaxy, Gravity, and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. In addition to global studio partnerships, Dolby is partnering with game, music, and broadcast content creators to take advantage of Dolby Atmos technology for future home theater use.

●     Even if you don’t have a Dolby Atmos home theater, content mixed in Dolby Atmos sounds better. This format gives filmmakers the tools and freedom to bring more sound off the screen and into your living room creating a more enveloping experience – it’s as if you’re actually in the movie.”

 

I also received a press document that covered more details about the Dolby Atmos technology.  I was happy to know that even in my house I could create an immersive experience with Dolby Atmos enabled speakers in our own living room.

“Dolby Atmos enabled speakers can produce an incredibly accurate Dolby Atmos experience in many types of rooms. You’ll get the best sound if your ceiling is flat (not vaulted or angled) and made of an acoustically reflective material, such as drywall, plaster, concrete, or wood. Dolby designed the technology for rooms with ceiling heights of 8 to 9 feet (2.4 to 2.7 meters ), but testing indicates that you can still hear incredible Dolby Atmos sound in rooms with ceilings as high as 14 feet (4.3 meters), though the effect may become more diffuse in rooms with higher ceilings. There are some rooms in which we don’t recommend using ceiling speakers…”

 

 

 

Dolby Atmos Speaker Placement

 

 

The press document also had information about how the Dolby Atmos technology works:

“Dolby Atmos is based on the concept of sound objects. In the cinema, Dolby Atmos relies on a combination of 9.1 “bed” channels and up to 118 simultaneous sound objects to deliver an enveloping sound scene. Every sound in a scene—a child yelling, a helicopter taking off, a car horn blaring—can be a separate sound object. Each of those sounds comes from a specific location in the scene, and in some cases, they move. The car careens from left to right, while the yelling child runs up a set of stairs. Using sophisticated content creation tools that represent the sound objects in a three- dimensional space, filmmakers can isolate each of the sound objects in a scene and decide exactly where they want them to be and how they want them to move. In the final sound mix, the sound objects are combined with metadata—additional data that describes a number of parameters about the sound object, including its location and movement, if any.”…

 

 

Dolby Atmos Speaker Placement

 

 

The Dolby website also has speaker recommendations and information on how to set them up. The press release explained some of that information and I learned that one of the main things you need to start is an AVR – which is an “AV receiver – which magnifies sound from multiple sources” and if I already have have conventional speakers you like, you can simply buy Dolby Atmos enabled add-on speaker modules:

“Although Dolby Atmos is a revolutionary new home theater format, it doesn’t require that you start from scratch. Although you will need a new AVR, in most cases, you’ll be able to keep most, if not all, of your existing speakers. But if you already have conventional speakers you like, you can simply buy Dolby Atmos enabled add-on speaker modules. These include only the upward-firing speakers. You can place these add-on modules on top of your current speakers or on another nearby surface.

 

Dolby recommends that you use four Dolby Atmos enabled speakers when possible. Use of four speakers will make the placement of overhead sounds more accurate, and you’ll get more precise, realistic sounds as an object—such as a helicopter—passes overhead in a video..  Two of the speakers (whether they are integrated speakers or add-on modules) should be in the front left and front right speaker locations of your system. The other two should be positioned in the surround sound speaker locations, ideally the rear surround speakers, if you have them…. Some home theater enthusiasts will also be able to install speakers in or on their ceilings, but you don’t have to. If you use ceiling speakers, Dolby recommends that you use four or more speakers when possible, though two speakers will still provide a great experience. If you use four ceiling speakers, you should place the front pair of ceiling speakers in front of the position where you’ll be listening and the second pair of ceiling speakers behind you when you’re seated. If you use two ceiling speakers, mount them slightly in front of where you’ll be listening.

 

 

There is one important consideration in expanding your system: new speakers must be added to your Dolby Atmos system in pairs. A new speaker on the right side of the room must be matched by a similar speaker on the left side of the room. This is true for speakers located on the floor as well as in the ceiling. This pairing ensures a balanced soundstage. The exceptions to this rule are when you add speakers in the center or center surround locations.”

 

 

Home theater manufacturers started announcing Dolby Atmos enabled equipment in June. The first Dolby Atmos receivers and speakers are starting to appear in stores now. More information about Dolby Atmos can be found on the You can get more information about Dolby Atmos on the Dolby website and Dolby blog or follow updates on Facebook and Twitter. on our website and on our blog.

 

 

Disclosure:  This is a press post. One copy of Transformers: Age of Extinction was given to me for review purposes. The giveaway is being offered as value to my readers – this is NOT a paid post.  All of my opinions are my own.

 

 

 

 

Lenovo CES 2014: Tablets Still Rock

*sponsored series

 
With all the new announcements at CES 2014, it may have seemed like tablets were not top priority. But I was excited to see the quality of new tablets that are truly becoming that one unified device for both entertainment and work.   A great example is the new Lenovo ThinkPad 8 tablet that joins in with the already released Yoga Tablet 10 and 8.

 

Lenovo ThinkPad 8 Tablet

Lenovo ThinkPad 8 Tablet – Photo credit: Lenovo

 

The Lenovo ThinkPad 8 Tablet is high definition enough for entertainment while also having the features needed for a successful work device. It has an a 10 point multi-touch 8.3 inch display (1920×1200) with Windows 8.1 Pro, 2MP and 8MP cameras, latest Intel Bay Trail Quad Core processor, up to 128GB of storage and Global 3G/4G LTE support.  Accessories include a USB 3.0 dock that converts the ThinkPad 8 into a full PC experience and a keyboard base. The Quickshot Cover enables converting to Tent mode and peels back to use the 8 MP camera. There is also a microHDMI port that allows connection to a PC to view pictures or photos or use Miracast technology to transfer them wirelessly.

Lenovo Yoga Tablet

Lenovo Yoga Tablet. Photo Credit: Lenovo

 

The Yoga Tablet 10 (10 inch) and Yoga Tablet 8 (8 inch) Android tablets offer a unique multi-mode design: it has a battery cylinder on the side that makes it easy to hold, Quad core 1.2 Ghz processor, Android 4.2 Jellybean, native storage of 16GB  or 32 GB and can add up to 64GB micro-SD card storage, micro USB for charging, a pop out stand for standing up (good for watching or listening to media and video chat) and the ability to “tilt” the stand (good for typing or gaming).  To really enable mobile use, the battery has a maximum life of 18 hours, lasting throughout the day and more.

 

Both the 8 inch and 10 inch Yoga Tablet have an HD 1280 x 800 display with a 178 degree viewing angle that is wide enough to share with the whole family.  The screen is  crisp, clear and easy to ready and the chrome design is stylish to look at.  Connectivity includes integrated Bluetooth, 802.11 b/g/n WiFi and GPS. The sound is enhanced with the tablet’s Dolby Digital Plus speakers that face front. The 5.0M rear and 1.6M front cameras offer the ability to take high definition pictures.  For those that prefer using a keyboard, there is a touch keyboard with nice haptic response or an option to use Accutype keyboard Bluetooth accessory.

 

 

Lenovo Tablets

 

 

Our family had the opportunity to review the Lenovo Yoga Tablet 10 and 8. We found that the 10 inch is the perfect size for teens and adults to comfortably read content. The Yoga Tablet 8 inch is the perfect size for my 11 year old to watch ESPN and consume all types of content instead of squinting to see content on his small MP3 player. But the 8 inch would also be great for mobile adults looking for a smaller form factor. My husband has been looking for a tablet for a while now, evaluating different operating systems, form factors and performance. His latest experiment has been with the 10 inch Lenovo yoga tablet and it is proving to be very capable for both business and personal use.

 

 

He found that the set up of the Yoga Tablet was very straight-forward and similar to other Android devices. Charge it up, turn it on, establish the WiFi connection and start downloading the apps you need to be productive. The kids were very impressed with the games both familiar and unfamiliar in the Google Play store. LinkedIn loaded quickly and was easy to use, with the front and back camera on the Yoga tablet coming in handy to capture valuable information for various folders that help in home/family and business management.
One very handy feature is the built-in kickstand which enables the tablet to be used multiple ways in addition to holding it in your hands. With the kickstand down, the tablet props up like a computer screen in a landscape position. This is very handy when used in conjunction with a Bluetooth keyboard. Roasted 90 degrees, the kickstand also secures the tablet upright in portrait position, which is convenient when looking at an email inbox, photos, long documents or games. For those who like to use a tablet almost flat to the table, placing the Yoga down with the kickstand in place provides a tablet at a small angle to the table which is great for touch screen use. Our family really enjoyed these different positions, each with their own benefits allowing for customization of use according to what we were trying to do and whether we were sitting or standing.

 

The speakers provide high quality Dolby sound and are located on the front in the bottom corners, a much better design than speakers in back which can be muffled by a tablet cover. The volume controls and headset jack are conveniently located on the side and feel high quality to the touch. No loose headset connection where if you don’t press it in just right the stereo sound turns mono and the audio gets scratchy. And while it’s not usual to like the on/off button on a computer or tablet, the large button on the end of the built-in battery with a very clean motion when pushed is a welcome role model for what buttons on computers should feel like. Also impressive is the screen, with 1280X800 max resolution and a built-in graphics processor which delivers the quality needed for everything from writing documents  to watching YouTube videos and playing games.

 

Pricing as of Jan. 2014:

The ThinkPad 8 convertible tablet configure to order models start at $399 and Topseller
models start at $429.  The Yoga Tablet 8 starts at $199 and the Yoga Tablet 10 starts at $275.00.

 

 

Disclosure: This is a sponsored series for Techlicious Lenovo blogger program  I received products for review as part of the program. 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.

 

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

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Black Friday Roundup: Tips and Tricks!

Today is BlackFriday and many people are probably not reading posts but working like crazy to check off their shopping lists. I wanted to provide a roundup to save time of some of my favorite BlackFriday posts. Please share your tips!!

 

1. SHOP SMART – USE PRICE TRACKERS & AVOID SCAMS: Save money by understanding the true pricing across stores by using a price tracker. Also, take time to learn about the scams.  Here are some recommendations from Techlicious:  Price Trackers that Can Save You a Fortune  and 3 Holiday Online Shopping Scams To Watch Out.

 

 

2. MAKE A HOLIDAY SHOPPING PLAN: I shared my Holiday and social time shopping tips to recommend taking time to make a shopping plan but also a plan for spending time with family and friends. For example, instead of just shopping for gifts at stores, check out gifts for your loved ones or yourself that invest in your health or provide fun throughout the year: Health Club or Sports Club Memberships (like in San Franciso area memberships to YMCA or JCC’s, Western Athletic Clubs, Indoor Rock Climbing or more), Memberships at Art or Family museums (such as Exploratorium), Season tickets for your favorite local professional, minor league, college or sports teams (like the SF Giants or Stanford Sports – GoStanford in my area!).

 

Also look for opportunities to invest in education for yourself, kids or the whole family (cooking classes?) by purchasing online or local classes/instruction. I purchased indoor rock climbing lessons for our family as a holiday gift and will be purchasing tickets for the SF Giants and Stanford Sports.  We also want to learn how to program ( i.e Code Academy, Tynker, Girls Who Code and TED 10 places to learn to code) and to speak Spanish, so we are looking for education classes in those areas to invest in. Use the holidays to invest in a success plan for yourself and your loved ones!

 

 

 

3. SHOPPING ONLINE IS A GREAT OPTION:  Develop a shopping plan that is less stressful by doing some shopping online! First make a list of your favorite stores and check online. Then check the holiday gift guides online such as for Cool Mom Tech, Cool Mom Picks, Techlicious, Mom Trends, The Shopping Mama and more. When shopping online, check the coupon sites for coupon codes (such as Coupon.com and RetailMeNot.com). I found a 30% off code for pants for my teen from RetailMeNot!

 

4. Mind Your Budget, Walk away if needed:

 

 

What are your favorite Black Friday Shopping Tips?

 

Video: Microsoft Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 Midnight Launch

*Sponsored. See Disclosures below.

Technology product launches, when done right, can be a real celebration of software and silicon. I always enjoy fun technology events, especially when the products are more exciting than the entertainment.  On October 21, I was thrilled to cover the Midnight Launch of the Microsoft Surface 2 and Surface 2 Pro in San Francisco. Throwing on my leather jacket, I headed off to San Francisco for the 10pm to Midnight launch and capturing all the fun on video.

 

 

I have been using Windows devices for many years, and the new Surface 2 and Surface 2 Pro computers are making me itch to switch away from my laptop to these new devices. The Surface 2 Pro is not only the perfect size (and weight) for my handbag, but is also has powerful, pre-installed productivity features including productivity, with touch optimized versions of Outlook, Word, Excel, Powerpoint and OneNote. Also included is 1 year of unlimited4 free voice calling to landlines in over 60 countries as well as free Wi-Fi at Skype hotspots. The Surface 2 also includes multiple storage options, long battery life, cover options and entertainment features

 

Below is my video of the Surface 2 Midnight Launch in San Francisco. The celebration started with a line outside the store and continued with a DJ to set the upbeat tone with music, food, beverages and giveaways (hats, tees, gift cards, etc.). Three-time Super Bowl Champion Roger Craig, provided autographs, and the Microsoft team was giving away games and offering test drives of the Surface 2 and Surface 2 Pro. I was in the market for a new laptop, so after taking a test drive of the new Surface 2, I decided to start saving up for the Surface 2 Pro with a Type Cover 2 and a docking station.  That will enable me to have a “fit in my bag” powerful and productive device for mobile use as well as a laptop experience for home use.

 

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

Check out the Microsoft Surface 2 and Surface 2 Pro at http://www.microsoft.com/surface/en-ca/.


 

 

 

CES 2013: 5 Tech Trends That Will Simply & Automate Busy Life of Any Mom


Attending this year’s 2013 CES helped me conclude that there is hope for my house and my exercise routine to become even more efficient and enjoyable. In the past, companies would showcase their products with a general message of “here’s this new high tech thingy”. This year the messages focused more on value, communicating “here is how you can simplify your life by using this new technology”.  I have been waiting to hear the word simplify for years. If new tech adds any additional steps to my daily routine, then it does not fit into my busy life as a mom. But if it helps streamline and automate any of the processes I do each day – then that is technology I will embrace in a heartbeat. I will be covering my picks for CES 2013 top trends over the next few weeks. Here are some of the top tech trends from CES that will simplify (and automate) the life of any mom.

 

 

1. Mobile Health Tech:   Fitbit, Fitbug, iBitz and Withings (to name a few) offer activity, sleep, medical and weight management information automation as well as environmental feedback (i.e. The Withings scale also measures indoor air quality). Utilizing mobile health tech will help me get the information I need for weight and health management from mobile devices so I can just incorporate it into my day.

 

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2. Home Monitoring (from your smartphone!): Dropcam is a HD Wi-Fi monitoring video camera that not only remotely captures and monitors activities in a whole room, but also can send alerts for movement or loud noises.

 

 

 

3. Mobile Home Lighting Control:  The Belkin WeMo line has a new internet connected  Light Switch that remotely controls household lighting from the internet via a WiFi router and an iOS device (v5 or higher). Android 4.0 device (or higher) compatibility will be enabled “shortly after launch”.

 

 

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4. Streamlined and Connected Kitchen:  Smart Appliances were a top trend at CES 2013. At the Whirlpool booth I saw kitchen concepts that could help me automate some of my key daily challenges. Fresh Connect from Whirlpool would allow me to reorganize the way I store and shop for food by grouping foods that need to be stored in similar temperatures together and automating my shopping with mobile apps and home delivery to my front door.
freshconnect_small

 

 

Whirlpool Appliances with 6th Sense Live will allow me to manage my appliances remotely (such as a refrigerator’s temperature or when a wash cycle is done) and because it would be connected to the Smart Grid I could save energy costs by tracking my usage and remotely running wash cycles at “off peak” times.
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Two concepts adding new functions to appliances would be the Whirlpool Cool Vox that streams music or podcasts through the refrigerator directly from a Bluetooth-enabled device and The Fireplace concept that could turn the family kitchen table into a social “Fireplace” that also warms food or keeps it cool.

 

 

Whirlpool CoolVox small

Whirlpool Fireplace Concept small

 

 

5. Home Information AutomationAbout One is an online tool/app that utilizes the existing calender and contacts to not only organize household information (inventory management, school info, medical info etc) but also offers “ reporting, alerts and private sharing”. New announcements at CES 2013 include partnerships with Swagbucks for gamification real world rewards and Working Mother  to “gather product feedback from Working Mother readers, who will then be alerted when their requested product updates have been implemented”.

 

 

 

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