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.