Friday, December 23, 2011

Motorola Xoom and Verizon Wireless Campaign Wrap-up

In just another week, the Verizon Wireless #MidwestMoms will come to an end. I've really enjoyed using the Motorola Xoom I received as part of the program. Unlike 99.6% of mombloggers, I'm not in the habit of having internet on the go, and have actually avoided being connected everywhere, all the time.

But it's pretty handy.

As the program finishes, I'm debating whether to continue the Verizon data plan on my own. I need to look beyond whether it's simply fun being able to Tweet/Facebook/check emails on the go to considering the business case for such access, especially now that the new house finally has internet service and I'm not sure how much traveling I'll be doing in the year ahead.

Regardless of how I move ahead, it's been an interesting journey. I noticed that pretty much wherever I went with the Xoom (including my son's doctor's office this morning), someone comments on my "iPad."

"It's not an iPad. It's a Motorola Xoom." I replied this morning and so many times before.

And then I go on to show a few great features of the Xoom that are not available on the iPad (at least not version 1).

I show off the front and rear facing cameras that capture still shots and video. I demonstrate how I can rotate the screen in any direction and be able to read and type. I may even take them on a trip to the Android App Market.

And then, because I'm a disclosure nerd, I talk about the Midwest Moms program with Verizon Wireless, which often leads to a whole different conversation about bloggers and blogging. Though sometimes it just leads to looks of befuddlement.

The Xoom has definitely been a conversation starter--so I guess you can say it's connected me in more ways than one!

Thanks to Verizon for inviting me to be a part of this fun program.
 I'll be giving away my very gently used Motorola Bionic smart phone before the year's end, so be sure to look for that *soon* now through Dec. 28, 2011on Reluctant Renovator.

Disclosure: I was not paid to be a part of the program, but I did receive the Xoom and Bionic as well as an unlimited Verizon data plan for the duration of it. I will be keeping the Xoom and, as noted, will be giving away the Bionic to a lucky reader.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Speaking Engagements

Blissdom Conference Community Leader (February 2012)

Publicity Club of Chicago, Panelist, Gaining Critical Exposure with Mommy Bloggers (January 2012)

Social Media Master's Summmit, panelist, Bloggers and Brands (October 2011)

Bloggy Boot Camp Chicago, featured speaker, Monetization and Social Media Success (August 2011)

Blissdom Conference Panelist, Bloggers and Worth (January 2011)

Type A Mom Conference Panelist, "Using Your Blog to Get Gigs" and Moderator, "Monetizing Beyond the Widget" (September 2010)

Social Media Masters' Summit on "Brands and Bloggers Working Together" (August 2010)

Sweets and Snacks Expo featured panelist for "Newest Products- Hottest Trends" (May 2010)

Featured citizen speaker at a Capitol Hill press event with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (March 2010)

Blissdom pre-conference Wisdom Workshop and Conference Session, Business Track (February 2010)

Blogalicious Conference Panelist "Marketing to Women of Color: The Real Deal" (October 2009)

Family Farmed Media Meet-up Panelist on discussion for producers on how to gain media coverage (November 2008)

Ad:Tech Chicago Panelist "Reaching Moms Online" (August 2008)


After dipping into video blogging in 2010 with her not-ready-for-HGTV house hunting series, Property Sluts, Kim caught the vlogging bug and has continued on with a sequel named after her new house blog, Reluctant Renovator.

In December 2010, featured Kim's vlogging efforts in their Smart Series Interviews.

As on December 2011, Kim's YouTube channel has grown to include how-to, travel, and product review clips, and a few school concerts. The channel's 62 videos have been viewed more than 65,000 times, with roughly 2500 views in a typical month.

Kim and her children have sold several videos to the Johnson and Johnson's YouTube Health Channel. Videos featured at JNJ Health include:
Hoop Fun for Kids
Old-fashioned Face Painting
Halloween Safety Tips
How to Make Butter

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Avoiding Holiday Weight Gain

Despite Thanksgiving, the ultimate foodie holiday party and other seasonal festivities, not to mention massive quantities of renovation stress, I'm down 7 or 8 pounds from where I was in August.

{pats self on shrinking rump}

But the final weeks of the year mean more parties, latkes, candies and cookies. Lots of cookies as I'm coaching the Food Science team for Science Olympiad and we plan to bake the school break away. Yikes! What's a weight watching mama to do?

Check out these great tips for preventing holiday weight gain from Esther Crawford over at The Dish, the new blogger resource site from ConAgra Foods.

{While you're there, take a minute to register for First Look, First Taste to receive samples of new products before they hit the supermarket shelves.}

What helps you keep the pounds off during the most wonderful eating time of the year?

Disclosure: As a member of The Dish Advisory Board I am compensated for my time.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Dear Small Business Owner Whose Gift Certificate Has Expired

Dear Small Biz Owner,

I was thinking that my dusty old gift certificate for your services might come in handy now that I *finally* (almost) have a house again. I was also thinking that maybe, given that well over a year had passed since I received said gift certificate, it might have expired. However, the certificate is not dated nor is an expiration date listed.

I wrote you a nice note explaining that I had been holding on to the certificate and was hoping I might  redeem it because after a year of house hunting followed by many months of home renovations, I am ready to "nest" and your services would come in handy.

Admittedly, I gave you an out, explaining that I understood if the certificate no longer applied. (Perhaps I should have stressed the lack of an expiration date.)

Your clipped response, "Yes, those certificates are void," left me cold, though.

A short apology, i.e. including the word "sorry," might have been nice.

Etiquette aside, a smarter business move would have been something like, "Sorry, the certificate is void. However, if you want to purchase 3 hours of my services, I will add in one additional hour for free."

I could have been a customer. I could have been thrilled by your expertise and referred my friends to you, written about you on my blog, left you good marks on Angie's List.

Instead, I'm shredding the gift certificate.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Mom, Incorporated: A Guide to Business + Baby

The renovation has become my job of late, but when I saw this book sitting in my growing Pile of Neglected Items, I gasped. I did not mean to ignore this book (or the laundry pile--also growing--, or my children--who may have stopped growing due to lack of care). Mom, Incorporated is a fact-filled book of business know-how that comes with free hugs.

Danielle Smith and Aliza Sherman wrote a supportive and informative book that came along a few years too late for me, but is sure to be an asset to women, especially moms, who are just starting out.

I'm fortunate to know both of these talented woman in real life, but I tend to think that even if you don't, the book still reads like a helpful conversation with friends. Perhaps that's because the authors freely share their lessons learned and highlight so many real-life mompreneurs throughout the book.

Getting down to business, the Mom, Incorporated provides tips and worksheets on the kind of business to start and how to budget and plan for that business to launch and grow. It also shares insights on what kind of professional advice to seek and what questions to ask.

With moms in mind, the authors discuss finding workspace amidst the chaos of your home and where to get real-life support and encouragement.

Mom, Incorporated is a good book for any mom who's ready to give birth--to a new business.

Note: I received a copy of this book to facilitate a review.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Video on the Go with the Droid Bionic

I'm still playing with some cool tech gadgets thanks to Verizon Wireless and Motorola. My beloved Xoom tablet died a sudden death shortly after I received it back from the 4G upgrade (coincidence?). I hope to be back next month with some answers and a new tablet. The reason I mention it is because not having my Xoom forces me to explore the Droid Bionic smart phone a bit more.

I know, smart phones are so, what? 2008? And yet, I haven't embraced one. I'm practically glued to my computer at home, so I find some freedom heading out into the world with limited access to my blogs, email, Twitter and other online distractions.

That said, DH and I were out shopping the other day and I wished I had brought my Bionic along. I would've been able to check consumer reviews in real time and ensure we were getting our purchases at the best prices. But alas, we were shopping old skool.

I did bring my Bionic along when I took a group of kids to a new trampoline space in town. It was easy to grab some video. Photos were more challenging given that the kids were constantly on the move. I'll be honest, they didn't come out great. I think the Bionic does a fine job with still shots, though.

And when I wasn't being asked commanded to watch record this child's dive or that one's flip, I *might* have sneaked a peak at my email. Or Twitter.

Check out the video, which was produced in Windows Live Movie Maker, which is not what I typically use for editing. For simplicity's sake, I used the "automovie" feature which automatically adds transitions and such. I'm not impressed.

But I am impressed with Sky High Sports, the trampoline place. In fact, I'm giving away two free passes to Sky High over at Reluctant Renovator.

Disclosure: As part of Verizon's Midwest Moms program I have received a Droid Bionic smart phone and a Motorola Xoom tablet along with a full data plan for each device in exchange for sharing how I am using these devices in my daily life.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Do you Send Holiday Cards?

I stopped sending cards once we started living with my parents in limbo, which is now several years ago. I feel like I'm finally ready to write a cheerful summary of the year that was and share my hopes for the one ahead. But if that note is tied to a holiday, Valentine's Day will be the likely candidate.

With skilled labor and a little luck, we hope to be in the new house by the end of this year, but when I say in, that's exactly what I mean. Once we all have beds to sleep in, there will be many, many other details to attend to in order to turn the new place into our home.

So holiday cards are on hold for a bit.

Even so, I enjoyed a recent evening with area blogger, Vanessa Druckman, and Tiny Prints. We got to preview their zippy new holiday line and picked up some great photo tips from an local photographer. (Hint: it's all about light. Also, a fancy camera is better than point and shoot.)

In addition to a few goodies from Tiny Prints (a pack of thank-you notes and a coupon for a Shutterfly book, which will come in really handy when we FINALLY go through my son's bar mitzvah photos), Vanessa sent us home with a box full of treats from Cheryl's- cookies, whoopie pies and bars. Yum!

Disclosure: What? I already disclosed everything above. 

Monday, November 14, 2011

Kim and Kris, togther again!

craftswomen bathroom signIt's true! Kim and Kris are together again. Kim Moldofsky and Kris Cain are hosting a Chicago Blogger Holiday Bash with Craftsman this Saturday night.

It all started when we met Ty Pennington at the Craftsman Experience last summer. I had been thinking that I'd like to host a holiday event for my blog friends, but I suspected that our house wouldn't be ready for me to host one. Kris and I got to talking and pitched our idea to Craftsman, and by next Monday, the rest will be history.

Craftsman is providing the party place, along with food, drink, and yes, a DIY craft as well as handy holiday swag. Kris and I have contacted some of our favorite brands and clients to arrange fabulous door prizes that night. Serta is going to provide a couple of super comfy memory foam pillows, we've got 3 Striiv units to give away, Sky High Sports in Niles is providing a handful of passes, ConAgra Foods offering a gift basket and there's more. And, of course, Craftsman is stepping up with a grand prize to give away at the end of the night.

Good times y'all!

See you there? If not, follow along on Twitter at #CraftsmanBlogBash

Cross-posted at Reluctant Renovator.

The Cult of Lego: Book Review

I was sent a review copy of The Cult of Lego from No Starch Press, a publisher that promises to deliver the finest in geek entertainment. No Starch Press lives up to its tagline with books about computer programming, Manga, Lego and more. The Cult of Lego, their latest offering, is the finest book I've seen from them.

Over 300 pages long, thissubstantial hardcover book would look as fine on your coffee table as it would on your kid's bookshelf bedroom floor. Though an unofficial book not endorsed by the LEGO group, it provides a broad overview on the history and uses of the bricks.

My 11-year-old Lego lover was the first one to start paging through the book after I removed it from the packaging.It was written with AFOLs, Adult Fans Of Lego, in mind, but as my son proved, there is enough fodder in it for eager fans of all ages.

I learned about AFOLs a few years back at a social media conference. There was an interesting presentation that included details on how long it took the LEGO brand to recognize--and capitalize--on this market of (mostly) adult men. It was a surprisingly slow development given that an adult fan typically has much more money to spend on Lego products than the average 10-year-old boy.

The serious reader can read the book cover-to-cover leaning about topics from minifigures to Lego art to LUGs (Lego User Groups) and fan resources. The casual reader, like me, can pick up the book and page through it, admiring the creations and picking up Lego factoids. Did you know that the ratio of male to female minifigs is 18:1?

If you're looking for a unique gift for the Lego lover in your family, one that won't clutter the floor or cause puncture wounds if you accidentally step on it, this book is a great find!

It retails for $39.95.

Disclosure: I as sent this book for review. All opinions are my own, though they have been influenced by my brick loving son.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Housing Update

I think I've mentioned asked begged that you guys should follow me over at Reluctant Renovator, but since I'm still recovering from surgery, I'm going to make it easy on all of us and post my latest video here. I filmed this last weekend, when I was still a bit sore.

Thursday is our first inspection day; wish us luck!

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Hunt's Dinner Sauces

Hunt's, a client, recently brought me out to Denver for the launch of their new dinner sauce line. Just as the sauces are designed to elevate an ordinary dinner to something beyond, the team went beyond, introducing a group of Colorado bloggers to the sauces at Mise en Place cooking school.

Hosted by the wonderful Anne-Marie Nichols of This Mama Cooks (on a Diet) who demonstrated a few simple recipes using the sauce, our meal was rounded off by the chefs at Mise en Place who took the sauces to an even higher level.

A Tasty Tower of Basil Quinoa, Eggplant and Ratatouille with Cacciatore Dinner Sauce

As an attendee, I received a sample of each of the four dinner sauces, described below, and a few other goodies from Hunt's including a set of Sur la Table mini-prep bowls which I can't wait to use in my new kitchen.

But our kitchen is 6-8 weeks away from completion and I wasn't about to wait that long to try the sauces at home. Over the weekend I mixed up a batch of polenta rounds with Hunt's Greek Dinner Sauce, one of the dishes Anne-Marie demonstrated at the launch event. It was simple to make and it was a hit with my family, as proved by the empty serving dish left on the dinner table.

I plan to try the Southwest Dinner Sauce at our next Turkey Taco Salad night.

The tomato-based sauces come in four flavor varieties:
  • Tuscan: rich olive oil, basil and garlic
  • Southwest: black beans and red bell peppers
  • Greek: artichokes and oregano, and
  • Cacciatore: sweet bell peppers and aromatic herbs.
You can stay in touch with the brand on Twitter @HuntsChef and Facebook.

The dinner sauces will be rolling out nationwide (I hope) over the next year. I was thrilled to be able to go out to Denver and be a part of this event; kudos to Anne-Marie the Ketchum PR team for planning a fun evening!

Disclosure: As noted above, Hunt's is a client. I wrote this post of my own volition on my own time.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

The Ultimate Weight Loss Secret

A few weeks into Weight Watchers, I've lost four pounds and I'm about to make the women in my group go green with envy: I'm having surgery today. Granted, it's not liposuction, though I do plan to ask the surgeon if he can please maybe just suck out a little of the belly fit since he'll have his surgical straw going. I'm having my gallbladder removed.

Medically recommended organ removal = automatic weight loss!

It doesn't get much better than that. Oh wait, it does. The gallbladder holds bile, a fluid that aids with the digestion of fat, so the surgeon suggests finishing out my week with a low fat diet. Granted, I've been doing that anyway.

I'm not sure if I'll make it to my Wednesday weigh-in. If all goes well, I'll have laparoscopic surgery, and should be headed home before dark. If it looks like my gallbladder is acting up or my anatomy is a bit off, then I'll have old skool surgery and well, that will be a longer recovery. Either way, I'll likely be keeping a low profile for the rest of this week.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Three Geeky Android Apps

I am still enjoying the Motorola Xoom that I have through my participation in the Midwest Moms program from Verizon Wireless. In fact, I'm hemming and hawing because I need to send it in for a free 4G service upgrade. This should be a painless process, but I hate to be without my Xoom, even for a few days.  My teen son helped me find a few geek chic apps for the Xoom. Here are three of my favorites.

LH See Hadron Collider: From the marketplace description: Ever wondered how the Large Hadron Collider experiments work, and what the collisions look like? Scientists at the world's biggest scientific experiment - the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, Geneva - are trying to answer fundamental questions about the nature of the universe, the origin of mass, and structure of space and time. LHSee makes the Hadron Collider accessible to anybody with an Android smartphone or tablet PC.

Make it 3D:  From the marketplace description: You can make your own 3D pictures! You can make your own anaglyph stereoscopic 3D pictures without 3D camera. Make It 3D can make stereo pictures with only one camera.

Google Goggles: Take a picture of an object and let Google tell you more about it. Google doesn't always get it right, but it can be fun to play around with even (especially) when Google is wrong.

With my Xoom boxed up and almost ready to ship, I suppose it's time to dust off the Droid Bionic smart phone the Verizon team sent to me as part of the Midwest Moms program. I brought it along on an outing shortly after I received it, but haven't touched it since.

Using the Bionic feels like cheating on my Xoom. But something's got to fill the empty hole in my heart while I'm Xoomless, right?

Stay tuned! When the Midwest Moms program wraps up at the end of the year, I'm going to be giving away one of my devices through one of my blogs. (No worries, the Motorola folks are going to swipe it clean first.)

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Mary Poppins in Chicago: Practically Perfect in Every Way

I was recently invited to attend a performance of Broadway in Chicago's Mary Poppins. Rachel Wallace *was* Mary Poppins; she was just a fabulous fit and did a fine job of making the role her own, while still allowing older members of the audience like me to delight in our memories of Mary on the silver screen.

As a seasoned adult, I must confess that I'm quite curious about the backstory with Mary and Bert, her chimney-sweeping friend, played by Nicolas Dromard. But the fine singing, dancing, imaginative sets and colorful costumes kept my mind from wandering too far.

I got to speak with a few members of the cast after the performance as a blogger perk. As tired as I was by that time of night (I had flown home from a business trip in Denver at 7 that morning), the cast members were that extreme of perky. They were enthused and full of energy (also many years younger than I am) and regaled our small group of bloggers with tales of traveling around the country with this musical.

It's always a pleasure to speak with people who love their jobs, and frankly, I think that love shows through on the stage.

If you and your kids enjoy musicals, put this one on your list.

Monday, October 24, 2011

How Do You Manage Family Dinner?

A few weeks ago I mentioned that my client, ConAgra Foods, launched a new online resource center for bloggers. I'm pleased to be the site's first contributing guest blogger and have already posted my second piece over there. In celebration of National Eat Together, East Better Month, I'm sharing tips to help busy families sit down for a family meal.

I have to admit this is a challenge for us many nights. The school activities and sports have ramped up now that my boys are in junior high, and some weeks I fear they are turning into renovation orphans. Our construction schedule is running a few weeks ahead (I know!), which means we've got to make certain decisions ASAP, which means we're running out to Lowes or Home Depot, or the lighting store or the tile store shortly after DH gets home so that we don't slow down the amazing progress our builder is making.

I hope you'll read the family dinner tips--they are not just mine, a few blog friends chimed in, too- and share a few of your own in the comments.

Also, about that very mediocre photo that accompanies the article. Yeah, that's my family and I took the shot. That very meh photo was the best of dozens of shots taken over three photo sessions. The best. I'm not sure if that says more about me, my camera or my subjects. Ugh.

While you're at The Dish, sign up for First Look, First Taste to be the first to preview new products, request samples, ask questions of the ConAgra Foods team and get exclusive coupons.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Social Media Masters Summit is taking place in Chicago on October 25 and 26.

Bloggers can attend for only $99.

There will be great opportunities to meet brand folks and learn best practices in the ever- changing social space.

Key happenings on 10/25 include two free events (even if you are not registered for the conference!):
* A Blogger/Brand Breakfast sponsored by Jockey and Calumet Photo
* An evening book signing with Danielle Smith and Aliza Sherman, Co-Authors of Mom, Inc. The chance to hang out with Danielle and Aliza and soak up their wisdom is not to be missed. I'm certain we'll leave feeling ready to tackle new challenges.

Back to the summit, over the course of two days attendees will learn about SEO, community building and management, creating quality video content, mobile social trends, how small businesses can harness the power of social media and other hot topics.

I'm looking forward to speaking along with a rock star group of bloggers on brand blogger relationships on the 26th. I hope to see you there!


Monday, October 10, 2011

Big Renovation Update

Our builder made amazing progress on our first week of renovation. Check it out--there's even a video of our new, but still raw, space.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

About Your "About" Page and More on Bloggers and Brands

Your About page is the topic of the upcoming MomImpact #OfficeHour chat. We'll be discussing what to do and what not to do to make your About page send the right message that matches your personality, your blog, and the type of engagement you're seeking.

Here's my About page, if you're curious. But you know what? It could stand to be freshened up a bit. Which is one of my points- when's the last time your revised yours? Yep.

It's going to be a lively and informative chat.
Join in on Skype Thursday 10/6/11 at 1:00 Central and is open to members of MomImpact. (If you are not a member, sign up.). If you're not a member of the MomImpact chat room, find me on Skype at least 15 minutes before our chat (which is text-based) and I'll add you to our chat room.

If you ask to join too close to 1:00, I'll be busy with the #OfficeHour and won't have time to add you.

And, by the way, drop me a note if you're interested in writing up a summary of one of the archived chats from September. I will pay a small stipend per chat, which I call my disorganization tax because I never got around to doing it.

There's a bonus chat this week, too!

On October 26, I'm going to be speaking about brands and bloggers at the 3rd Annual Social Media Masters Summit in Chicago on October 26. We're kicking things off ahead of time with a Twitter chat this Thursday evening from 8-10 ET. I'm one of the panelists for #SMMS. Click for details and prize info (there are some good ones).

Also, my friends at KidzVuz are hosting a Twitter party tonight. Click for deets. (Also good prizes!)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Welcome to my Publishing Empire

First off, if you're a fan of my witty banter, please add Reluctant Renovator to your feed reader. These days I'm writing more often over there than I am here. Don't want to commit to the full feed? Subscribe to Progess Notes, the RR monthly e-newsletter where I share some of the month's best posts and current giveaways.

We're cleaning out the reno house because we are hours days away from demolition. Well, in theory. We're waiting for final permit approval and the village clerk I spoke with assured me that even when the signed papers hit her desk, they may have to sit there for a day or two as she attends to other aspects of her job.

Uh huh.

So this is the latest glimpse of MomImpact's world HQ, artfully arranged.

That's my Motorola Xoom on the lower left side. You might recall that I'm part of the #MidwestMoms program from Verizon Wireless. They gave me the Xoom along with six months of a Verizon data plan.

I can create a wifi hotspot with the Xoom and it's been a lifesaver because our house is not yet wired for Internet. With just a couple of touches to the screen I've got my wifi, which means no more time wasted twiddling my thumbs and I wait for workmen. Now, I can waste my time on Twitter.

Seriously though, it's been fabulous to set up shop at the house and be able to write, blog, Tweet and email from my Xoom or the laptop of my choice. (Typically, the Lenovo up top the ladder. I mostly use my old Dell for making movies. Speaking of which, don't miss this one.)

Also, my husband has this idea that we won't have wifi in the house. Something about me not bringing my computer to bed or whatnot. {rolls eyes} With the Xoom's 3G service, I don't need in-home wireless! He'll be happy about that some day when he's sick in bed and wants to watch a movie. Or kitten videos.

But alas, such a day is far off. We've got walls and cabinets coming down and new ones going up. Soon. I'm going to call that village clerk now.

Monday, September 26, 2011

ConAgra Dishes with Bloggers

Many of you know I have been working with ConAgra Foods as their Social Media Mom for years. In that time they've taken on quite a few blogger projects and even stepped up to sponsor conferences like Blissdom. Today, I am pleased to announce the launch of their latest effort, The Dish.

I want to call it their newest effort, but honestly, it's been in the works for a very long time. It's been fun to see this online resource center for bloggers evolve and finally go live, but I also know it's just the beginning.

Hop on over to meet the ConAgra PR team, get the latest grocery news from Phil Lempert, find a recipe for your family or your blog and more. I'm there, too! {blushes}

You can also sign up for First Look, First Taste to be at the front of the line to receive new product samples from brands like like Orville Redenbacher, Healthy Choice, Pam cooking spray, Egg Beaters, Hebrew National, Hunts and other family favorites. First Look, First Taste members can also ask the team questions and get exclusive offers.

Check it out!
Disclosure: The PR/social media team was quite progressive when they brought me on years ago as a professional consultant and The Dish is just another example of their innovation as well their desire to connect and share with bloggers. I am compensated for my consulting time and my involvement with The Dish.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Social Media Power Moms of Color

The other day I mentioned that I had tired of the same old conversations among brands and bloggers. It seems like they haven't changed much and I'm weary of being stuck in an echo chamber just adding to the noise. So I feel compelled to warn you that what follows is nothing new. In fact, in May 2009, I had a feature article in the MediaPost Engage: Moms column about the need for ethnic diversity in blogger outreach.

I was pretty disappointed after seeing the latest Power Moms List.

No wait, I was excited because I have so many friends on that list and it was-more than a rehash of the familiar faces that seem to be on the Big Lists. After a quick review of the honored bloggers, I headed over to the MomImpact Facebook page to share the list, and then it hit me.

Where was Jennifer James, founder of the nearly 15,000 member Mom Bloggers Club and so much more?

What about Stacey Ferguson, co-founder of a fabulous blog conference for women of color, FTC attorney and, of course, long-time blogger?

So I said this, "Great women, but lacking in diversity, which is a shame."

And I shared a few thoughts via Twitter, where I learned that a "Social Media Power Moms of Color" list was coming soon. But that didn't satisfy me or others, apparently. It was seen as too little, too late. I'm not sure if the new list ever came out. Regardless, I made my own version.

Marketers, PR pros and editors looking for high powered social media moms of color, look no further.

In no particular order, here are ladies who bring the awesome online:

Jennifer James
Stacey Ferguson

Kimberly Coleman
Carrie Weir
Ana Flores
Thien Kim Lam
Sandie Anugulo Chen
Melanie Edwards
Melanie Sheridan
Christine Koh
Miss Lori
MJ Tam
Ilina Ewen
Carol Cain
Leticia Barr
Yoly Mason
Divina Rodriquez
Caryn Baily
Veronica Arreola
Onica (Nikki from Mommy Factor)
Renee Ross
Grace Duffy
Duong Sheahan
Migdalia River
Anissa Mayhew

(D'Oh! forgot these wonderful women on the first go around. See my note below and let me know who else to add!)

Kris Cain
Stefania Pomponi Butler
Kelly Wickham
Sheila Bernus Dowd
Liz Dwyer 
Jennifer Rabulan-Bertram
Christy Matte 
Christie Crowder

Disclosure: I hate making exclusive lists because I like to be inclusive. Also, I just know I forgot to include some brilliant women. No offense intended! Leave your name and blog in the comments.

Also, as much as I would have loved to give a brief description of what makes each of these moms so fabulous, I have consulting to do and walls to paint.

Should My Gifted Kid Take Out of Level Tests?

Yesterday morning I received this note: I was wondering if you could give me some of your thoughts on the EXPLORE test. My daughter brought home a brochure from NUMATS, offering the EXPLORE test. I was wondering if you saw any value in doing this test so early. She's only in 4th grade, and I understand that the test is for 8th graders for placement in high school. Would you do it at this age? What's the point? Will it only stress her out?
As I went to answer her, I recalled that I've already written about this issue. These tests aren't good or bad, it's a matter of why your child would take them and what you might do with the info. For example, when you realize that your third grader is academically in line with the average 8th grader and you've already maxed out your district's enrichment offerings? It's more of a bummer than a delight, IMO.

At this old Momformation post, I shared reasons why out-of-level testing, that is testing that compares them to older students, can be useful. It helped convince the school to put my older son in a more advanced math class. Scores may be needed for the child to enter certain enrichment programs.

Then again, whoever provides the test probably has some advanced pricey math classes that your child will qualify for once the results are in. (Sorry, I'm cynical like that.)

My older son typically tests well and does not get stressed out by these tests. Indeed, now that he's in 8th grade, some of his friends are really worried about EXPLORE, but it's old hat to him.

And when young students take the ACT or SAT, their scores don't "count" for college, so it's good practice for later in high school. This fall my son has received a few invitations to apply for scholarships at a handful of boarding schools as a result of last year's test scores.

To be clear, he hasn't actually received a scholarship offer, but I do have a friend who's son got one for a private high school in their city.

As the parent, if you have a reason for your child to take it-- mainly school placement or entrance to a program-- then I'd say sign him or her up.

Monday, September 19, 2011

For Anna See

Not surprisingly, the early weeks of this month were filled with conversations about 9/11/01. I read one survivor recap in which the writer, now is his 30s, said that he is certain that he survived the worst of day of his life.

"No," my mind automatically shouted back, "the worst day of your life is when your child dies."

This is, fortunately, not something I've experienced, but I imagine that even the horror of 9/11 would pale in comparison.

Recently, I caught wind that at least one momblogger was not so lucky. Marinka wrote an eloquent post about this and I echo her thoughts, as well as those of Alexandra whose reactions to the news were the same as mine, Unimaginable Realities, so I will let her tell it.

My heart goes out to Anna and her family.

Please go share your condolences with Anna See, whose beautiful son was close in age to my boys.

And if you write about this on your blog, leave a note in the virtual condolence card that Kate has started at The Big Piece of Cake.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Bloggers and Brands - A must read post

While I still listen to, analyze and am involved in a lot of conversations about bloggers and brands, very little has made it onto my screen as of late. Do I share it here? On MomImpact? On the MomImpact Facebook page? On my Facebook page?

Do I write about it at all or should I stick to writing about my house, which is where most of my bloggy energy has gone lately.

I just don't know. I do know, however, that I'm tired of having the same conversation over and over. So much today's brand and blogger discussions are simply a rehash of the discussion that took place yesterday and the week before and so on back to about 2008.

But there are new gems here and there and maybe now that my boys are back in school and I'm settling in to a work routine I should get back to it? Yes? No? I just don't want to add to the noise. It feels like social media has gotten so noisy lately.

Enough with the navel-gazing, though. The must-read post isn't even mine. It's written by Amy Oztan of Selfish Mom and the Blogging Angels. Yes, the Amy Oztan of this scandalous video* and Working Mother Magazine's latest Power List of social media moms, FTW!

Go read her Blogger Pledge. Paste it up as the wallpaper on your monitor, print it out and post it where you need it. If you're making the transition from hobbyist to problogger, you need her advice.

*Did I make you click?

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Venus Williams has Sjogren's Syndrome and I Have Advice

Hi Venus,

I was shocked to see Sjogren's Syndrome noted as a hot topic on my Alexa toolbar. I had to click. Nobody ever talks about Sjogren's Syndrome (SS) except for the people who have the autoimmune disease, mostly women, and rheumatologists. I'm sorry to hear about your diagnosis.

Draft 1: It sucks now, but it gets better. I'm living proof!

Draft 2: Sorry to break the news, but no private medical insurer will touch you until 2014 when they have no choice (unless the Republicans send us back the old way where only healthy people get the care they need).

Draft 3: The Advice Route-

Make sure you have a good dentist and visit 3-4 times a year for preventative care. With SS your immune system attacks your salivary glands, which means less saliva and low quality saliva, which makes your teeth vulnerable and can lead to some pretty bad damage. Also, floss daily.

Find a good rheumatologist. Believe him when he tells  you that you will likely develop rheumatoid arthritis or lupus in the coming years and listen to his treatment plans. I'm thinking you can afford a second or third opinion, so get it.

Find a good opthamologist. SS attacks the body's moisture-producing glands, including your tear glands. This is bad for your eyes.

Lubricant eye drops like Refresh by Allergan* can offer a lot of relief. Carry them with you at all times. Try not to leave the little droppers like a bread crumb trail everywhere you go. This is bad for your relationships.

If you think some babymaking action is in your future, find a good maternal-fetal medicine practitioner (high-risk OB). Hopefully, like me, you will be one of their most boring cases and your babies will be just fine.

Change your mind. For someone like you, a true champion and top-notch athlete, a fighter, it's going to take some getting used to living with a chronic disease. This is not something you beat, it's something you live with, find a way to make peace with it.

This will take time and practice.

When RA was settling into my bones, it would take hours each morning before my hand could form a fist. I was training shotokan karate at the time and certain I could fight with my "warrior" outlook, so I'd force myself to make a fist ten times over on each hand, crying my way through the pain and the uselessness of my body. In the end, it didn't make a difference, it still took my hands hours each day to become useful.

The right medicine makes all the difference. Now my fingers once again fly over the keyboard.

As one of my doctors put it, finding the right meds in the right amount for the right person is as much art as science. Sidenote: some of your meds may make you seriously sensitive to the sun, you need your next cool tennis outfit to be more along the lines of a burqini as opposed to the current ones that show off your assets. Other side note: I'd totally buy one from your line, though maybe you'd send me one as kind of a 'thank you for the inspiration, Kim' kind of thing.)

But back to those meds- I sincerely believe Western medicine is your very good friend. Which is not to say you shouldn't explore diet or exercise and other alternative options, but don't dis the drugs.

Screw your lousy health insurance plans their direct mail pharmacy, getting your meds at Costco will save you money. I'm not sure how they manage to sell my meds at a lower cost than my health plans, but they almost always do.

You may feel like you're on a downward spiral and will never get back up. You may cry about the end of your life as you know it and as you cry, you'll notice that your nose is runny and snotty, but you aren't really producing tears and then you'll be even sadder. But you know what? It gets better. I'm living proof!

BTW, here's an uplifting piece about my autoimmune journey at the fab website, ChronicBabe. Welcome to the club.

Need more advice Venus, I'm just a tweet away.

*Disclosure: I only wish they were paying me. If Venus does not accept their offer to be a spokesperson (they can finally make eye drops sexy!), I'd like to be next in line for the job.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Engaging Bloggers by Hiring a Blogger

It's great to see brands engaging mombloggers on a professional level as spokespeople, content creators, consultants and more. I believe in the old truism that a rising tide floats all boats, so rather than complain that Brand A hired her instead of you, I believe it behooves us as a community to celebrate that person's success with the understanding that she's opening doors for others.

I witnessed a good example of this a couple of weeks ago when Audrey McClelland passed through Chicago as part of a TJ Maxx/Marshall's back-to-school* event. Audrey is known for being a stylish mom with an eye on fashion, as well as a mom with four young boys to clothe. If hers boys are anything like mine, which is to say adventurous and messy, she doesn't want to spend a lot on their school clothes.

Audrey was a great fit, and as an out-of-towner, her presence added to the "one show only" atmosphere. I didn't want to miss her on her quick visit, whereas, if the brand had simply invited me to an early morning breakfast in the city, I don't know that I would have joined in.

Audrey also did a great job; she not only related to and was accessible to the moms in the crowd, she stayed "on message" and, I thought, made a wonderful ambassador for the brand.

By contrast, when brands hire bloggers, but spin it differently, it doesn't work. I recently got a pitch from a brand that noted they had engaged a handful of Chicago's top mommybloggers for a project and thought I might want to post about it on my blog.

Wait a minute, I thought I was one of Chicago's top mommybloggers?!

That's what I wrote the PR rep, wishing that I could be as much of a smartass as The Bloggess is. But I don't channel her that well.

I received an explanation back, but that's not the issue. My concern was not who was or wasn't chosen, but rather how I was pitched. This was not the first pitch I've received that essentially says, "You are cool enough to pitch, but not cool enough to actually participate."


Behind the blog, behind the words on the screen, there's a girl who was picked last for the team, had her best friend asked out by the guy she was crushing on, or didn't get invited somewhere special.

(Wait, are you saying that's just me? Because I'm pretty certain it's not.)

Nobody likes to be reminded they are on the B-List.

But many people do like to support their friends.

Brands, choose your words wisely.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Zoom Xoom with Motorola and Verizon

I'm part of of the new Midwest Moms group from Verizon Wireless. They have provided me with a Motorola Xoom and a Verizon data plan for six months and set me loose to share my experiences. 

I received my tablet just before BlogHer, which was perfect timing because the wi-fi network at a women's blogging conference, especially one with 3,500 highly connected women, tends to be a bit sluggish. No worries for me. I was able to create my own wifi hotspot and zip around online as needed.

Having only played with my mom's iPad (my mom's iPad, how wrong is that sentence?), I wasn't sure what it would be like using a tablet as my only computer while at the conference.

It was handy in some ways, not so much in others. For example, one of the tasks hanging over me on the flight to San Diego was to crunch numbers to calculate the surface area of the rooms in our new house so I'd know how much paint we'll need for the walls and ceiling. I was able to pop open my Xoom to complete this. However, later, when I went to enter my data into a Google Docs spreadsheet, I realized it was too cumbersome to achieve without a keyboard (which I may purchase).

That said, having a computer I can tote around is fabulous! Angels sing each time I power it up.

Two weeks ago I attended a high school orientation on my son's behalf while he was away at overnight camp. I took notes on the Xoom (via the Google Docs app) and then snapped shots of his classroom as well as the recommended route to the room from where the bus will drop him off each morning.
The other day I stuck it in my purse before heading to the mall with my younger son. I popped it open while we were waiting for our food (I know, bad manners, but we were in a "fast, casual" place- does that make it acceptable?). Everyone who walked by our table stopped to comment on the Xoom.

I showed my 11-year-old son pictures I'd taken with the Xoom on my flight to BlogHer and within seconds, he was making movies on it. Nothing to feature here just yet, but give him a few weeks and we he'll have something other than me ducking away from the camera.

The Xoom has dual cameras, meaning they can face what you see, or with a quick tap on the screen, capture you as your laptop computer might, so my clever boy tried to switch the camera before I snapped my shots.

And Twitter, dear Twitter, I can finally tweet out pics, something that would be cumbersome (impossible?) with my not-very-smart phone.

I'm really enjoying the Xoom and will be sharing updates on how I'm using it to make my life easier, better (truly!), and the cool apps I've my boys found in the Android Marketplace.

Disclosure Recap: Verizon Wireless has provided me with a Motorola Xoom and six months of data service, so I can be online all. the. time.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

BlogHer and BrandHer

Each year after BlogHer (or any conference, really) I intend to share a little blog love with the sponsors, but I rarely get around to it. By the time I return home I'm some combination of exhausted and overwhelmed from 3 overstimulating days of conference fun.

This year, I'm driven by a bag of blogworthy swag that I swore not to put away until I blogged it. And I reaaaaaalllly need to get that bag out of my already full room.

I spent more time than I ever expected in the expo area at BlogHer. It was very social and I ran into so many friends that it took me a while to work my way around the room. Speaking of which, special shout-out to The Mother Company for hosting an informal gathering of my Yahoo Motherboard friends and I and for not kicking me out when I spilled a grande latte all over their floor. Their products skew a bit young for my guys, but I'm going to watch the award-winning DVD they gave me and then find a good home for it.

I had a few brand conversations, too. I have to be honest, though. I'm not one for deep engagement with brands on the expo floor. Perhaps this is largely because I don't imagine deep relationships with most of the brands.

This is not good or bad. It just is.

That said, here's what caught my eye and a bit of commentary. If I had a name a theme for the swag that came home with me, it would be PRACTICAL.

Glad's new "To Go" line. BPA free containers with a little cup for dressing or dip that snaps into the underside of the lid. It's different. It's practical. We'll see if they're a hit once school starts.

Centrum vitamins. The free bottle saves me a trip to the store, FTW! On the downside, their ingredients include artificial food coloring. Also, why can't adult vitamins be smaller? I'd rather swallow two small pills than one giant horse pill. I often skip taking my vitamin just because of the thought of having to swallow those honkin' big pills. The travel packets of Advil are also a hit.

Lindt chocolate bars. I think they knew I'd eat of every last Lindor truffle if they put them on display, so they brought their new line of intense dark chocolate bars instead. Nom nom. I blogged it, now I finally get to eat it.

My tool belt! D'oh! I was wondering where I'd stashed that. No wonder my swag bag seemed so heavy and full.

Also, the wood. Yes, I brought home some leftover pieces of wood and an unopened pack of shims from the swag exchange room (left over from Lowes) because I'm a total nerd practical like that. Who doesn't need shims, especially when their entire house is being gutted?

3M not only hosted a fine party, but handed out all manner of practical items at their booth. I happened to stop by with my friend Deb who raved about the Command line of products in a more convincing and authentic way than any official brand rep could. 3M is all excited about their new line of full adhesive "super sticky" Post-it notes, but my tween son is less enthused because he loves to turn regular old Post-it pads into cute animated shorts. I should post a video on YouTube.

More likely to be a hit with him is the new Next Generation 20Q! An electronic, handheld version of 20 Questions.

Another hit: Arm and Hammer toothpaste. Between this and the vitamins, I figured I've saved about $15 and a trip to Target.

Did you know that the company that makes Mega Blocks also puts out the Rose Art line and a brand of pens called "The Write Dudes"? I did not. These bright, shiny pens are sure to be a hit with the same boy who makes the Post-it animations. Though he also does this thing where he turns pens into mini-cross bows, so no one can really predict whether he will actually use these to write.

My biggest surprise on the expo floor? Dannon Oikos Greek Yogurt. I love it!

What did you think of the expo area this year?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

BlogHer Food

I'm talking about the food at BlogHer11, not the BlogHer Food conference. This was my 4th BlogHer conference and I have to give big kudos to Stacy's pita chips and Sabra hummus for the best BlogHer snack ever.

Saturday afternoon, they served up pita chips and hummus alongside loads of freshly chopped cucumbers, tomatoes, guacamole and other goodies. I was in heaven!

It doesn't hurt that I enjoyed the snack while getting to know Michele Spring, who I'd met earlier in the day at a Blogging Angels event. We talked so long we shut the (snack) bar down.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Why You Shouldn't Eat Ice Cream for Breakfast

The short answer: because if you wind up heading to the ER later that day with a gallstone attack, you will feel very defensive about your food choices. (I swear, it was only about a 2 ounce scoop, and I was out running errands at 6 AM on a very hot day; it seemed like a decent idea at the time.)

I had a handful of gallstone attacks a few years ago. They came painfully and unpredictably, but disappeared withing 20 minutes to an hour. When this one came on, I was pretty sure what it was and waited, maybe too patiently, for the pain to go away.

The pain was as relentless as that of childbirth labor pains. It simply Did. Not. Stop.

I couldn't get comfortable. I bent, I turned, I twisted, I moved from my back to my side to all fours, but the only relief I felt was a brief respite after a moaning til I ran out of breath. But then, how long could I go without breathing? And if the pain was so bad that I was writhing and moaning, why did I wait three hours before deciding to go to the ER? Good questions all.

Eventually, a small dose of morphine put some distance between my mind and the pain. But while I still had my senses, I thought of friends like Brandie, who recently had a double mastectomy, and dear Susan, whose fight against cancer has brought her more pain than anyone should experience in her lifetime (and yet, she still runs circles around me productivity-wise. For example.).

I especially think of Susan each year around BlogHer. In 2007, just weeks before the conference, she was diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer, the breast cancer without a lump. Because she need to stay home and start chemo, Susan passed her room at the conference hotel to Robyn and I.

She's been fighting on and off since 2007 and she's not done yet. She's mentored women in the planetary sciences (yeah, she's a rocket scientist), as well as other mothers with cancer. Susan has also inspired and helped so many more.

So, um, how do I neatly wrap up this post?

My pain was bad, but the pain of women with breast cancer is worse. The number of my friends who have or have had breast cancer is growing at an alarming rate (I was warned this would happen after 40). There is no way to neatly tie this up with a humorous punch line.

I can only say I'm sorry I won't see these friends at BlogHer this year and I look forward to seeing them later this year.

Please, please sign up for the Army of Women and do what you can to support breast cancer research.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

The Obligatory Pre-BlogHer Post

BlogHer, Blissdom, Blogalcious- all blog conferences can stir up anxiety, but with 3,000 attendees BlogHer 2011 is going to be the MacDaddy (MacMama?) of them all.

Here are two fresh fun posts to help get you ready:

A reference guide to common blogger types from Mom101.

How not to be that jerk everyone talks about next week from Mommy Needs a Cocktail--she is also my ticket sponsor; thanks Kristen! She shares 10 great tips, but in case you don't read down to the comments, I'm going to share number 11 via Backpacking Dad:

It’s always a great thing if someone knows who you are, but it’s not an insult if they don’t. The Internet is a big place, and even if you’ve left 90 comments on someone’s blog some people can’t even remember faces, let alone a comment-pseudonym that has some combination of “mom” “kids” “crazy” and “booze” in it. Taking it personally just means you invented a relationship in your head that isn’t there, not that the blogger is a bitch.
PunditMom's comment about tipping the lovely ladies who clean your room is also one to take to heart. (Does swag tipping count? You know, thanks for cleaning my room. Please enjoy a year's supply on hand lotion!)

And finally, here's a bit of my own timeless blog conference wisdom:

Why I'm not going to talk to you at BlogHer

You are not invisible

How to have the best BlogHer ever

Ten Commandments for BlogHer success (good, but not nearly as funny as Kristen's post above)

Thursday, July 28, 2011

My Other Car is an Earth Mover

Uh, yeah, so I came home yesterday and found this in the driveway. It's related to work we're doing in the basement. If you thought our basement looked bad a week ago, wait 'til you see what's up now. And by that I mean it's even worse.

Way worse.

Details soon over at Reluctant Renovator!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Chicago: I See London, I See France

I see Marilyn Monroe's underpants. Yep, that's hubs in there somewhere. There were fewer crowds in back and we are all about avoiding lines.

 {Insert your own pantyline joke here cuz I couldn't think of one.}

Want to see her from the front? Odd choice for a very large public work of art, but it gives us something to talk about besides the weather.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Soda Stream Review

The bottle of Soda Stream root beer I brought home from the Housewares Show was the topic of much discussion and product lust, so I got in touch with the PR rep and she sent us the make-your own soda machine to review

The Soda Stream is easy to use and does not require electricity. It's simple and fun to mix up fizzy water on demand and flavor it as desired. Along those lines a certain boy in our house learned the hard way that one does not make a chocolate phosphate by carbonating a bottle full of chocolate milk (seriously folks, don't try this at home).

{pause to pour a glass for sipping}

Along with the Soda Stream unit, we received a CO2 cartridge that will make us about 60 liters of bubbly drinks, two one-liter bottle for making drinks and enough flavoring to last us all year.

Let me break that down a bit. The gas cylinders, or carbonators, can be returned through participating retailers and then the Soda Stream folks inspect, clean and refill them for re-use. The plastic bottles can be washed at home with hot soapy water and re-used, so there's a green element to this system. At the Housewares Show, they had some impressive displays indicating the amount of waste plastic drink bottles create to reinforce the environmental advantages of Soda Stream.

{pauses for sip}

There are a variety of Soda Stream flavor options. Flavor syrups include a variety of traditional options (cola, ginger ale, root beer) in regular, diet, energy and caffeine-free and Sparkling Iced Teas. These retail for $4.99 and up per bottle and make 12 liters or equivalent of 33 12-ounce cans at a cost of about 25 cents a can, according to their website.

Another option is the unsweetened Flavor Essences which retail for $9.99 and make up to 20 liters.

And they also have a sparkling natural line made with cane sugar and without artificial colors or flavors. Woot! Though it's a bit pricier at $9.99 for 6 liters.

We like that it Soda Stream makes bubbly drinks in a few simple steps and that we can mix and match our own flavors, or just drink our fizzies plain. It would be nice if flavorings could be added more simply per glass rather than per liter, so the hubs could drink his plain, I could add a bit of lemon-lime and the boys, well, they'd just go nuts with flavor combos.

If you're a big pop drinker, just enjoy a fizzy sip or two now and then, or like to impress your friends, the Soda Stream will hit a sweet spot with you. Try it, you'll like it. And if you don't Soda Stream offers 30 day money back guarantee.

Soda Stream prices start at around $80 and go up based on the model. You can find them at Bed, Bath and Beyond and other retailers.

Disclosure: I received a Soda Stream maker and many sodamixes to review. All opinions are mine. Ask me for a drink with your choice of flavor when you stop over to see my new house.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Win a Kohler Kidz Wisconsin Getaway

In early June, just days before closing on our new-to-us abode, we headed up to Kohler, Wisconsin for a housemoon.  You know, like a babymoon or honeymoon, only for home ownership.

I'm going to pat myself on the back and say the housemoon concept is rather brilliant. Also, Kohler is the perfect place to take one. I received a bit of inside info on shower and bath trends at a meeting with a Kohler PR rep, but anyone can meet with Kohler design staff and take in sights at the Design Center like the Great Wall of China, as well as dreamy designer bathrooms.

Still, I understand maybe you'd want to go to Kohler to fall in love with your family, not a sink.

Horrible phone camera shot of a lovely vanity/sink
Fair enough. Kohler's American Club Resort has a lot to offer families, though I think it's best for families with kids who are age 5 or up.

We stayed at the Inn on Woodlake, the modern young cousin to the more stately American Club. I think I would have spent a lot more time shushing my boys at the latter. That said, I have a cautionary note about the shower from our room at the Inn, which might be a bit intimidating to young children. My boys (husband included) loved the "car wash" shower in our room, but the showering experience is a bit intense at first and we didn't have a tub.

Water can spray out of all of those squares, or shower tiles.
The showers were a lovely treat; DH wants something similar for our new house. But if you really want to take your relaxing Kohler experience up a notch, make time to visit the Kohler Waters Spa.

Ah, I got hung up on the bathrooms again. Sorry.

The resort has n indoor swimming pool at the Sports Core or outside in Wood Lake proper, as well as ice skating in the winter. They have bikes that can be rented for touring the small village. And though not an official resort activity, we caught a horse drawn carriage one beautiful night and clip-clopped through town, which is by all accounts modern day Mayberry.

For big kids, there's horseback riding.

Not to mention hiking or golfing. And if hitting the links isn't your bag, hit the shops at Woodlake, instead.

If you have really big kids, 14 and up, you can go on a fascinating factory tour.

And oh, the food.
What? Chocolate counts!
If you're with the kiddos, you might skip the upscale dining experience at The Immigrant and opt for the Horse and Plow. Apparently there's a state law requiring every Wisconsin tourist to eat at least one batch fried cheese curds and you can get a big, hot order with your dinner. If you want to go really casual, pick up local produce, artisanal Wisconsin cheese and other local delicacies or order sandwiches to go from Woodlake Market.

Oh, how I regret not buying this.

We kept busy during our short time in Kohler, but if you're feeling antsy (or just not as into kitchen and bath fixtures as I currently am) there's even more family fun to be had in nearby Sheboygan, like the children's museum. (Oh look, Kohler is their donor of the month.)

So you've got your food, your fun, your family time. What more could you want?

Free, you say?

Okay, you can win a Kohler Kidz package with:

   * Two nights at Inn on Woodlake
    * Kohler Kidz Amenities
          o A gift from Movers & Shakers Kids Toys Gift Shop (featuring all kinds of fun that doesn't require batteries)
          o Baseball Hat and wristband
          o Smoothie at Take 5 (yum!)
          o Special treat at Craverie (small, but super yum!)
          o One meal at Horse & Plow (don't forget the cheese curds)
          o Complimentary breakfast buffet
          o Rental of select activity equipment (i.e. free kid's bike rental when you rent one)
    *  20% discount on services at Kohler Waters Spa (do not pass this up!)

The Kohler Kids Package starts at $371 a weekend at the Inn of Woodlake. Rates based on a two-night stay for two adults and one child. But you can win one for free, plus Kohler will provide amenities for up to two children under age 16.

 Would you like to win a Kohler Kidz weekend? Enter to win  at Reluctant Renovator through July 24!

I'm Going to BlogHer11!

Come Talk to Me at BlogHer '11!It's true, I'm going to BlogHer11. When I first attended in 2007, I thought I'd never go again. At BlogHer08, I had a great time, but figured that was my last. Then its came back to Chicago in 2009. How could I stay away?

But by in 2009, even though I had many friends in the space BlogHer felt too large for me and I decided to focus on smaller conferences. 2009 was also the year of the swag-whores. I was done with BlogHer, especially since there are so many great blog conferences are there now.

But after giving away my tickets to Type-A Parent and EVO, and feeling mired in many issues related to our reno house, I decided BlogHer11 in San Diego would be a nice place to be. And then I won a ticker from Mommy Needs a Cocktail and thus, booked a flight.

On a personal level, I want to see my friends. I'd like to learn a few things, especially since I'm approaching my new blog with a different mindset than built this one with back in 2005. I'm interested in connecting with a handful of brands. I'm going to run participate in the 5K.

I'm not concerned about being at the right parties or gathering the most or coolest swag, though if I can win a tablet or something for my new home, I'm game. 

On a professional level, I mostly want to take in the scene and note how the space has evolved is evolving in order to best serve my consulting clients.

Will I see you there?!

I'll be reposting some of my BlogHer prep and wisdom posts in the coming weeks. These old posts are not so much about what to wear, but how to be.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Goal Zero Provides Portable Power to Brighten Dark Moments

It seems that every few years we lose power as the result of a storm. And in the last three years, it seems we've headed to the basement because of tornado warnings more than I can ever remember doing in the past. While there's something cozy about the family gathered together in one room, blankets and flashlights at the ready (it's a cold basement), we have modern worries beyond, say, whether the food in the refrigerator will spoil if the power fails.

What about our gadgets?!

Granted, Tweeting a tornado isn't a priority for me, but keeping some form of communication with the larger world is important during an power outage. That's where GoalZero comes in. I met these leaders in the portable solar technology field at the Travel Goods Association Show when they passed along a handy solar-powered flashlight.

Goal Zero was founded by an entrepreneur who saw a need for renewable power and light based on his work with a nonprofit in the Republic of Congo.

They sent me a Goal Zero Guide 10 Adventure Kit to review* play around with and share some thoughts. The Kit consists of a Nomad Solar Panel and the Guide 10 USB Power Pack. It will charge cell phones, PDAs, PSPs, iPods or MP3 players, and USB devices as well as AA and AAA batteries. Other models will charge laptops, and even TVs or fridges.

But back to the Guide 10. It allows us to charge from the solar panels (as pictured above) or from the battery pack. According to GoalZero, we can charge the battery pack, which also functions as a LED flashlight, in 3-5 hours. The pack can also charge a cellphone 1-3 times per charge. (Note to self: if I want to use this in emergencies, I need to make sure to keep it charged up.)

Confused? This video explains it all.

The ability to use the solar pad directly to power or charge devices, gives us some geek chic cred. In fact, I might just bring it with to the beach today. Though I fear then my son's teen friends will want to play killer zombie games, rather than in Lake Michigan, so maybe not.

This is a very portable system, with its lightweight, foldable design and weather-resistant finish. It has a built in flap to store, say, a cell phone or iPod but it doesn't have a pocket for storing the other cables and adapters included in the kit. This does not make mama happy.

In our techy household we already have a whole mess of cables and adapters, and it irks me to add to the mess. Plus, if we were to use the Guide 10 Kit for camping, it could be even more of a challenge not to misplace anything.

Other than that, the Guide 10, our first foray into portable solar power, if pretty cool. You can find Goal Zero products at a variety of outfitters and sporting goods stores. Retail price for the Guide 10 is around $139.95.

Also, if you like to camp, check out my air mattress giveaway over at Reluctant Renovator.

*Disclosure: I had the option to keep this product for a set amount of time and then return to the company or purchase it at a steep discount. The teen ponied up the money to keep it.

We lost power AND this tree in a local park.