Windows Store Gift Card Giveaway and Holiday Promotion

WinGiftCard_2LangAlt1_25_frnt_thumb_67633751Tis the season for tech! And in that vein Microsoft is making it easier to enjoy our new tech! With every purchase of a touch PC or tablet with Windows 8 or 8.1 (from a participating retailer) you can get a free $25  Windows Store gift card! You can get all the details here!

The Windows Store Gift Cards are a fabulous gifts in and of themselves! There are so many fabulous apps! You can get great Xbox arcade games, photo tools, video editors, and a ton of other great apps for under $5 each!

One of the benefits of being a member of the Windows Champions program means that I occasionally get opportunities to bring your guys some giveaways to celebrate great promotions like this one! So how would you like to win a $25 Windows Store gift card here?

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Looking at the Belkin WeMo

WemoI recently received a Belkin WeMo to review from Verizon and these are my thoughts! This is super easy to use! Just plug it in, install and go!

I also love that home automation is now plug and play so we can bring it into any home. To read more about some great home automation tools make sure to check out Technology and the House!

Technology and the House: Home Automation

Technologyandthehouse

Technology. Cell phones. Apps. So many people view these as things that are only for work or for play but not for real life. Well, that is so 1980’s (cheesy, I know but I couldn’t resist;). But seriously, technology is so much more than information management and game playing. There are so many companies that are taking technology into home management. And I don’t just mean todo lists or how they manufacture your keys. I mean actually being able to manage household appliances and devices with your technology on smart phones and tablets.

There are so many companies that are going into home automation (and I hope to write more about it in the future) but today I wanted to look at 4 different devices that are currently on the market (and would make great gifts;).

Wemo

1. Belkin has out the Belkin WeMo Switch. This can be plugged into any outlet and all you do is plug in a variety of things! It is a great option for an outlet in an inconvenient place or for something that you want to turn on remotely. You can control the switch with a free app on Android or Apple phones and tablets! I can’t be the only one who wishes a fan or light could be turned on before I get home or walk down the stairs?

 

 

nestthermostat

Next up is Nest Learning Thermostat – 2nd Generation T200577! This is a thermostat that replaces your existing thermostat and it learns your patterns and temperature preferences. Once you install it the Nest system it takes less than 2 weeks to learn your patterns. Then if you then change it occasionally that won’t change the programming.

There are also features like the Leaf feature that tells you when you are saving energy.  And if you are changing your schedule or are travelling and forgot to set your thermostat you can do it from an app!

Very convenient and very high tech. But at $250, it is tech you can afford!

belkinlightsensor

Light switches are a given for a tech upgrade! Belkin WeMo Light Switch is an easily doable upgrade! Just switch out you existing light switch (they promise it is easy) and you are ready to go! This works with all forms/bulb types because there is no wattage issues that can exist with certain switches (especially ones with dimmers).  You can manage it with the same Belkin app so if you want to turn the lights on while you are driving home you can. But you can also program it. You can also set it to react to sunset/sunrise!

 

 

nestfire

Nest Protect Smoke + Carbon Monoxide is about to be released! It is both a fire alarm and a carbon monoxide alarm. It can be powered by either batteries or hard wired. One of the things I absolutely love is the fact it has a “heads up” feature. Every year I do the 2 hour turkey and frantically way underneath my smoke alarm as to prevent it from going off;). With this alarm it will start with a gentle noise and you can disable it then.

It can also be controlled by the Belkin App. You can add Emergency contacts so if the alarms go off it can contact someone (like your cell phone). If you have a Nest thermostat and a gas furnace if the alarm goes off it can turn off your furnace too.

Ahh, so it has finally happened. We are on our way to “The House of Future”! Other than maids and food replicators, what are you most excited about?

(Disclosure: This post was done for Verizon but all thoughts and opinions are mine!)

A Look at Life360

life360_logotagline_gradient_rgb

Another location app but just for family. That is what I thought about when I heard about Life360 months ago. I love the fact it is a free app that lets you track your kids, set up alerts, and even do geofencing. But my kids are little (read no phones and homeschooled) and my husband doesn’t even carry a smartphone. So I assumed that Life360 had no possibility of a place in my stable of apps. Well, I once again may have been a little too hasty. I had an opportunity to do a sponsored post through Splash Creative Media and rather than just look at it for families, I found uses for us adults too!

Life360 is a location app that is very private, that is very true. But it isn’t just usable for people who want to know if there kid is actually where they are supposed to be! It is also usable for friends, groups and to keep track of mom(and by that I mean me;).

What do I mean? Let me tell you a situation in which having Life360 would have made my life easier and would have prevented my poor husband from almost calling the cops;).

Normally when I am at a conference I spend a lot of time social media like Twitter and Facebook and it serves as a great way for my husband to know I am safe, etc. And at a normal blogging conference it is relatively easy to find people you know so you aren’t out there in the crowds all alone. Well, we found out the CES was an entirely different animal.

So my problem, since there is something like 150,000 people there, I was wondering alone! Data sucked due to the crowds so there just didn’t seem a good way to find people. So it was near impossible to see if others I knew were near by. But with Life360 I can create circles! Then I can see where my friends are or send a message to the whole group (and yes, a group and just be your family). So that is one way but not the most important way it could have helped on the trip…

The most important way Life360 works could have helped was to help ease my husband’s mind. My 2nd day at CES I wasn’t on social media after 10am. Then I was scheduled to walk the floor, attend a cocktail party, a dinner and change hotels. My roommate was leaving so in theory if I were to be missing no one would notice until I missed my plan the next day. Well, I was having cell reception issues and had to get my suitcase from one hotel and go to the other after my dinner. It boils down to the fact it was 11:45 at night and my husband called my new hotel, I hadn’t checked in yet and he had no idea where I was. I checked in and called about 15 minutes later. He didn’t mention how freaked out he was but when I got home, LVPD’s website was pulled up on my computer. If he had seen that I had gone to all my events he says that he would have felt much better!!!!! We could have even set alerts for when I arrived at each one!

Needless to say, this app is now installed on my phone!!! The husband is planning on tracking when I get to my hotel when I go to Type A next week;). Did I mention, you can even track non smartphones too? It isn’t as exact but there is the option!

I already thought Life360 was a great app for families with kids on the go but come to find out it is really functional for those of us whose kids are still trapped without cells;).

Disclosure: I am being compensated by Splash Creative Media on behalf of Life360 to write this post. The opinions contained within are mine and mine alone.

Photo Editing App for Touch: Fhotoroom

fhotoroomscreen

Touch screens and tablets are all the rage right now but I admit, I am old school. I typically use a keyboard and mouse not only to blog but even to play games. But being a geek, I am always looking for some great touch apps that will let me be productive! So I was stoked when I finally found a great photo editing app that for the Windows 8 touch environment!

It is called Fhotoroom and there is a pro and free app. I have only tried their Live Tile Windows app and it has way more capabilities than I can use;). But what I have done in it has been super easy and the results have been great!

Just pull up a picture and go at it. I have used it primarily for cropping and some color saturating and I couldn’t have found it any easier to use! (I use PicMonkey for everything!) I just grabbed the element in the picture that I wanted to crop into, did a little pinch and zoom and done!

I know it sounds crazy simple but I love it!!! I am finally taking time to play with pictures I have had forever!!! Maybe I will scan in and edit my wedding pictures… They are all snapshots (I regret not hiring a photo;) but that is another story for another post.

(Disclosure: I am a Microsoft Windows Champion and did find out about the app from them but the words, opinions and experiences are mine. Like anyone could force me to say anything;)

 

My #1 Life Management Tool

Picture from Cozi

Picture from Cozi

I know, that is a big claim but I Cozi is awesome!!! For years I ran a hybrid of list pads, day planners, list files in Google Drive and Google calendars but they just weren’t working the way I needed for my family. My first inclination was to try and get the husband to build an online tool but nobody has time for that;). So I had to figure out if I could find tool to balance all my needs and I am quite needy.

What I needed:
1) Calendar
2) Lists
3) Separate Calendars for my work stuff & everyone else
4) Accessibility for me! I wanted to get the information without having to remember to carry it.
5) Ability to share it with the husband

Cozi LogoHow Cozi met those needs:

1) Share ability! Every member of the family can log in with their own email and a communal password.
2) Accessibility! You can access it in your browser, cell phones and tablets! There are apps for iOs and Android. For other platforms there is a mobile site that runs fast and easy.
3) Calendars galore! You can create as many calendars as you could possibly desire. Then you can view one or many at a time. I have them for the husband, myself, the kids and my blogs.
4) Shopping lists. You can create separate lists for every store or type of store or any way you want to organize things. Then you just tick things off. That simple. They are all in a pull down. I keep my fireworks list and packing list here too!
5) Todo lists! Just like shopping lists and calendars, you can create as many different todo lists as you could possibly want. You know how you make a todo list and you hope to get to is soon but there is an absolute day it has to be done by? Put that date on it and that item will also go into your calendar but as soon as you complete it (check it off) it will leave the calendar! So all those little things you don’t put on your calendar because it would clutter it (but you really need it there) this is the answer!!

The extras that Cozi gives me:

1) Meal planning tools! You can lay in your meal plan, store your recipes and generate shopping lists!
2) Message Center! There is a communal message center where you can post just like a bulletin board. That is great for the general reminders you might need to pass along.
3) Journaling! You can note all those milestones and successes either for the memory book or to share. You can do monthly email newsletters (to keep grandparents up to date) or set it up to share straight to Facebook.

This is all the free features. There is also a Cozi Gold that takes out the ads and allows you to track Birthdays too.

Is there any wonder as to why I and so many others love this app? And no, I haven’t been compensated at all to write this post!

Unleash the Moto X

W​hen Motorola changed their logo it signified more than new marketing! It showed a change in their whole phone design mentality and that is obvious with their new Moto X. I was recently invited to a “secret” event on the Google campus by the ever fabulous Guy Kawasaski (eep!) to get to see this new phone up close!

Before we get to the phone… Can I say how the geeky me was so stoked to meet Guy Kawasaki??!?! There was an audible squeal when I got an email from THE Guy Kawasaki inviting me to Motorola event. This was my first visit to the Google campus so that it totally geek worthy to begin with. When I got to the event I sat next to Kristi Yamaguchi and got a picture with her but it still didn’t beat meeting Guy Kawasaki! Ok, onto the phone.

motox_presentation07

The new Moto X design is steeped in the results of multiple studies. Instead of focusing the phone design on solving a specific problem Motorola focused the Moto X on the end user. So they looked at studies on start screens, camera use and even hand size to influence the physical and functional design of the Moto X. There are lots of cool things that this phone will have (no, I haven’t really gotten my hands on it for a full user test yet) but I wanted to look at just a few of the most noteworthy to me.

1)Touchless Control: This phone will be listening for your voice all the time! I could get into the tech on the new X8 system including how 1 chip is a low drain chip that listens but you probably don’t care about that. What you do care about is that when you say “OK Google Now” you then get the phone’s attention and it is there to serve you! Of course you can do standard phone stuff with the Touchless Control (call, text, etc) but you can also activate the power of Google! Including all the normal Googling of facts.

2)Voice Training: One of my issues of using the S Galaxy voice features is that I have to turn off the radio and shush everyone in the car and then hope it works (I have found it buggy). Well, Motorola has worked in a solution to this with the Moto X. It has a 3 step training process so your phone can distinguish your voice among the crowd. I watched this work and I am so excited. No more holding it close (it has a great range too) in order to make sure the phone hears me and only me. I could even set it on the counter away from me while I cook or clean.

3)Active Notification: One of the things the studies told Motorola is that people turn their phone onn and off with in 15 seconds over 50 times a day! They were checking the time or finding out why their phone buzz/beeped/shook. They also found that everyone puts their phone facedown during meetings (and I thought it was just me;). To make our phones work better for us all you have to do is flip the phone to see the time and notifications. If you want you can then unlock it or the screen will just shut back off in a few seconds.

4)Quick Capture: Back to the studies to find out that it takes on average 4.5 seconds to 10 seconds to go from your pocket to being able to take a picture. In order to get that to 2 seconds they created “Quick Capture”.  You start with a specific gesture with the phone as it comes out of your pocket (it is basically a twist) and then touch anywhere on the screen to take a picture. It is that easy. Which means it will be easier to catch those action shots or silly things someone is doing before they realize you have the camera ready;).

5)Moto Maker: Siting the Ikea effect, Motorola is now allowing us all to design our own phone! You can go to the website and start choosing colors. You have 2 choices for the front plate, many choices for the back plate and even accent color choices. They also have custom clear covers you can order plain or with an accent color and even color coordinating accessories from other vendors. You may not walk out of the store with the phone (you can customize in store or at home) but you will receive it with in 4 days! In order to do this Motorola had to change all their manufacturing and bring it domestic. They are the only phone assembled in the United States!

This is just my first look at the Moto X and you can be sure I will be posting more as I get my hands on it!!! I appreciate Motorola bringing me out to Google to partake in this fabulous event!!! If you want to see what someone else thought of the even and the phone make sure you check out my friend TerriAnn’s great post on the event over at Cookies and Clogs!

Mophie Juice Pack Powerstation Giveaway

mophie juice pack powerstation
Recently I was very blessed to receive the opportunity to attend a gathering of bloggers at Verion’s headquarters recently! We were there to learn what great things Verizon is doing and to give them feedback. They blessed us with some great gifts while we were there. One is my brand new Samsung Galaxy S4 along with some cases. They also gave me a Mophie Juice Pack Powerstation and they gave me an extra to give to one of my fabulous readers!!!

So what is a Mophie Juice Pack Powerstation? It is similar to an external battery for your phone or any device that can be charged via usb cord. It has a 4000 mAh charge ability and works with just about all Android and Apple phones and tablets.

I was recently traveling to the Savvyblogging conference in Cincinnati and then straight onto Berkeley for the Disney on the Road event. So I was living out of my suitcase. I was using my Mophie on the planes and all around town. I have quickly become dependent on the safety of having a nice back up battery at all times.

So how would you like to win one? Just go through the Rafflecopter to enter!!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thanks to Verizon for the awesome Mophie to giveaway! While they gave me the prize, the words are all mine! Prize will only be shipped within the US!

1 Year with My Full Service Verizon Plan!!!


It has been on Verizon for 1 year! I made the jump from a $25 a month plan and was afraid that I would regret the jump and I haven’t at all! Having a great cell phone plan has really improved my quality of life!!! I don’t regret a dime.

#Disclosure I am a Verizon Ambassador and they have provided me a phone to us but all the thoughts and opinions are mine and mine alone!

Great McAfee AntiVirus Sale

mcafeeIn this day and age, having an antivirus software is a must! And many people are super brand loyal to antivirus software. If McAfee is your favorite brand (or you are looking for one) today is your lucky day! Swagbucks has an offer where you get 50% off of your McAfee purchases AND gives you 18 Swag Bucks for every dollar you spend, so one purchase could give you enough Swag Bucks to get a $5 Gift Card!

Click the link to start shopping and earning – if you’re not already a member click “Sign Up” – you’ll quickly create your Swagbucks account and then be returned to your opportunity to earn! I’ve used gift cards from Swagbucks to get lots of things from Amazon – it’s great!