Archive for April, 2015

Most of us don’t think twice about trading in our smartphone for a newer one, just as soon as we can possibly afford it. I mean, really, buying a brand-spanking new i-anything is basically a promise to ourselves that we’ll be drooling over an even more awesome and amazing new i-something the second the next one comes out.

On the other hand, we have no problem living in the stone ages with a lot of our less sexy household gadgets, even long after they’ve reached their expiration date. Such as that toaster you got in college that cremates your toast. Or that hand-me-down microwave inherited from your parents in 1992. (I’m pretty sure the fireworks display you see every time you use it is not safe.) Sure, it still works — sort of — but some home gadgets may be overdue for an upgrade to save on electricity, time or just your own sanity.

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If you’re still sporting a vacuum from the 1960s, its retro charm isn’t doing you any favors in the dust-busting department. Since then, vacuums have not only lost their bags, but they’ve seriously amped up on suction.

Dyson’s Cinetic Big Ball is bagless and filterless, which means less nasty cleanup. It even claims to be the only vacuum to never lose suction because of it’s super innovative cyclone technology, so it’s catching all of those nasty, microscopic particles as small as pollen and mold spores and emitting Hepa-filtered air simultaneously. Prices start at $600 for Dyson’s trademarked Cinetic science.

If you can’t justify spending that much on a vacuum, then Soniclean has a more affordable option that’s still an upgrade from your carpet-brushing dust bags. TheirSoniclean VT Plus is $199 and relies on sonic vibrations to suck up all of the hidden dirt, dust, and other gross stuff from deep inside your rugs and carpets.

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Irons can cost you as little as $15, so it may seem hard to justify an investment in a nicer one. I get it. But if wrinkles are your kryptonite and you want the convenience of a once-over rather than having to press — and repress — your wardrobe, the Oliso Smart Iron ($99) with iTouch is worth a look. It’s got way more than just a steam feature. The heating plate is super powerful, and the steam comes in horizontally and vertically, creating a crosshatch effect of double steam action. The real techy part is the iTouch technology. The handle of the iron knows when your hand is on it and when it’s not, three little Scorchguard feet pop out, lifting it from your ironing board. Where was this when I burned an iron-sized hole in my daughter’s first communion dress a few minutes before we had to leave the house?

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The function of your average, two-slot, metal toaster is pretty straightforward, but there are toasters that get really innovative when it comes to how and what they cook. TheBreville Die-Cast Smart Toaster ($129) grabs and lowers your food like a tiny elevator, and you can even check on it mid-toast to make sure you don’t wind up with burnt breakfast. There’s even a quirky “A bit more” button that will lower your bread again for a bit more toasting. It comes in two- and four-slice models with slots wide enough for bagels, too.

If you want to get even more techy with your bread, you can watch it while it’s toasting in this glass-encased number from Magimix. It’s called the Vision Toaster ($280) for obvious reasons, and it heats with quartz parts instead of metal ones. If you don’t care to see your toast in action, you can go with the Kitchenaid Proline Toaster ($399), which will take the reigns for you. Toast can get cold really fast, so the Proline keeps it warm until you’re ready to eat it. How considerate.

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In college, it was how you cooked all of your meals and now you use to it to defrost, reheat and maybe even cook some Top Ramen in a pinch. I know, your trusty microwave has always been there for you, but maybe it’s time to let it go for something such as the MAID Oven ($449).

The MAID Oven raised more than double it’s $50,000 goal on Kickstarter last year and for good reason. It’s a microwave and convection oven in one, which means it can cook pretty much anything from cakes to your leftover pizza. It’s a super smart gadget that’s connected to an Internet database of recipes, can respond to voice and gesture controls and even adjusts the temperature to prevent overcooking. It may not make you a better cook, but it will at least give you less reasons to burn things.

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If you’re using your blender only for margarita happy hour, you deserve better. Blenders can whip up way more than cocktails and with the right one, you’re on your way to feeling like a sous chef. The Cuisinart Blender and Cook Soupmaker ($150) says it all right there in the name. You can make your breakfast smoothie and your lunchtime soup all with one gadget. Other than blending ice and swirling up sauces, this blender has a heating component, so you can bring your soup from a boil to a simmer all without taking it to the stove.

You can’t beat the blending power of a Blendtec ($480). If you’re looking to turn your kitchen into your own personal Jamba Juice, this one will have you blending like the pros with its programmed blend cycles and sliding speed control. The “Will it blend?” trend has taught us it can blend much more than food if you’re into that sort of thing.

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It’s almost time to pull out your floor fans. You know, the ones with giant rotating blades that sound like a helicopter is doing circles in your living room? Before you haul out that dust magnet for another scalding summer, you may want to check out Dyson’s Air Multiplier Fans. They look like a really classy version of a floor fan, minus the blades. Air circulates through its ring, giving off a consistent, cool breeze without a ton of noise. They come in tabletop or floor models with prices starting at $300.

Whether it’s to save money and time or just to stop burning your toast, some simple home gadget upgrades could seriously make you wonder how you’ve lived so long without them.

When we did the video that goes with this column, I hit up to see what kinds of old appliances my neighbors had lying around. The results were pretty awesome. If you haven’t seen an old leather bellows hand-vacuum from the 1900s, it’s worth taking a look.

Posted in Great Gadgets, TechNow, Tips & Tricks

For parents, Spring Break is just a dry run for summer. Do you have enough activities to keep the kids occupied — in a guilt-free way — or will you have to end up at the public pool every single day? Will you be able to run errands without going absolutely nuts? If you load up your smartphone or tablet with these apps, you may just spare yourself some tantrums … from yourself and your kid.

For Ages 0-2

If you’re a parent of a newborn, you may think that putting your kid in front of an iPad is Bad Parenting 101, but with simple apps built just for little babes you can give them a few minutes of the same kind of stimulation they get from other toys — without having to bring a suitcase full of of them wherever you go.

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1. Baby’s Musical Hands: Did all of that Baby Bach pay off? Is your baby showing signs of being the next musical prodigy? Do you want them to? Baby’s Musical Hands doesn’t require that your baby be a prodigy, but it may stimulate them right to the preschool spotlight. Your little one just taps on colored squares in three colors. Each color makes a different instrument sound and as your baby taps, not only do they play a symphony (probably one only a mother could love), but they leave trails of stars on the screen so it’s still fun when muted. The app is available on Android and iOS.

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2. Baby Bubbles: There’s a line in the movie Knocked Up that rings true for any parent, “I wish I loved anything as much as my kids love bubbles.” Paul Rudd was spot on, which is what makes this app so brilliant. Bubbles come up from the bottom of the screen, and your baby pops them with a pleasant satisfaction of a “pop” noise. It’s kind of like Fruit Ninja without the sense of urgency or samurai swords. The app is available on on iOS for free.

For ages 2-5

There called the Terrible Twos for a reason. While your kid is enduring misunderstood years of toddler-hood, there will be moments when you want to entertain them with something that’s not TV. These apps will help them get interactive.

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3. Vine Kids: There’s something that’s already so infantile about Vine. Super short videos. Easy laughs. But having your kids play with Vine is putting them within swipe’s reach of seeing something very NSFW. Vine’s solution is Vine Kids. Every video is kid-friendly cartoon or video and kids can swipe left or right to see new Vines. When they tap on the screen, they’ll hear fun noises. The app is available on iOS.

A screenshot for Disney Color And Play.

4. Disney Color and Play: Back in my day, the only way to bring our coloring book drawings to life was to make them into paper dolls. Are paper dolls still a thing? Anyway, this app from Disney works with pages from the Disney Color and Play Coloring Book. After they color a character in the book, they hover the app over their picture and watch the character come to life on screen. The app features characters from Sofia the First, Big Hero 6, Doc McStuffins and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. It’s available on iOS.

Ages 5-7

Too old for alphabet apps, but too young for Words With Friends? Here are some more options that will occupy your kid’s mind while also dropping some knowledge.

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5. Toca Nature: I’m not sure why more adult games don’t look like this. Compared to Farmville, this is a digital masterpiece. In this fanciful pastel-colored forest, your kids build and explore with no points to be won. They can plant things and watch them grow while they create new climates for new creatures. The best part is that it’s so zen, your kids won’t get too hyped up or frustrated. The app is available on iOS for $3.

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6. YouTube Kids: Children’s videos on YouTube is where the real viral action is at because kids will watch the same video over and over and over again. YouTube tapped into the kids market with their new kids app that features a collection of videos for little ones. From Sesame Street and Yo Gabba Gabba to puppet videos and train videos, your kids can surf through a simple interface with large icons and you can chill out knowing that all of the videos are okay for kids. The app is available on iOS andAndroid for free.

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7. Brainzy Math and Reading Program: If you want to keep your kids learning outside the classroom, this is one of the funnest ways to do it. The program comes with 300 games and 50 songs and stories made by the people at The games are silly enough to be fun, with the learning parts snuck in there. You can even check out your what your kid’s been up to on the Progress Dashboard. The app is availablevia any Chrome, Firefox or Safari browser for $4/month.

For Ages 7-10

These may be the final, precious years before your little ones becomes a Vine star or an Instagram master. Here are the apps that will keep them young.

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8. Masterpiece for Osmo: This app/gadget will make your coloring book collection look like old news. Just snap the Osmo device onto your iPad and download the app, then your kids can take photos of people or objects and the app will change the picture into lines so it’s easy for them to trace. They trace the image on paper and as they draw, the image is filled in on screen. They can color, print and send their own artwork by themselves and before you know it, you’re raising the next Van Gogh. The app is available on iOS for free, the Osmo gadget package is $79.

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9. Epic! If you can’t dish out money for all of the magazine subscriptions and books that your kids wants, this digital library is a great solution. From National Geographic Kids to Batman Vs Catwoman, they can flip through thousands of ebooks and earn badges the more that they read. If your kids are a little younger, you can choose from the read-to-me selection of narrated books instead. Your kids can rate their favorites and the app will make selections of what to read next. The app is available on iOS for free orright in your browser.

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10. Dumb Ways to Die: This is one for the older kids, but this game is really clever, funny and has a really eye-catching design. It’s your simple task-based game taking your kid on new challenges to avoid uncertain cartoonish death. It’s a fun, light-hearted alternative to super graphic shoot-em-ups for your more mature kids. It’s available for free on iTunes and Android.

Full Disclosure:

***Disney has sponsored a small portion of production fees for video appearing on this blog site.***

SPONSORED POST GUIDELINES: Articles that are denoted “sponsored by” an advertiser cover topics that serve the goals of the advertiser, *but are not dictated, reviewed, or edited* by said advertiser. The editorial content therein is developed independently and does not contain opinion or marketing content from the advertiser.

Posted in Connected Kids, Digital Parenting, Girlfriend's Guide, Great Gadgets, In The Press, Sponsored

**I wrote this as a sponsored guest post for WorldMate and it originally appeared on their blog site.**

The best travelers are totally organized. They have their itineraries at their fingertips, like magic, and know exactly where they have to be when, every step of the way. And then, there’s me. I forget to check-in early, lose important information – like my flight number – and have even shown up at the wrong airport on the wrong day. I could blame it on mommy-brain or on being blonde, but the truth is, I’m frazzled and busy and tired – just like a lot of people traveling these days. I just need a little extra help from time to time. Or a clone.
You know that movie with George Clooney where he travels all the time, Up in the Air? That’s kind of my life, minus the grim-reaper firing people part. I travel an average of 10,000 miles a month for work as an on-air consumer technology contributor for USA Today, the Today Show, CNN, Meredith Vieira, and many others. Sounds glamorous, right? Ha!

As you may very well know, traveling for work is often downright brutal. I’m a mom first and foremost – which means that I try to make work and travel have zero impact on my family. I’ll take the red-eye to New York, appear on a show, and fly back to San Francisco that same day (unless I accidentally go to LaGuardia instead of JFK – been there, done that). Or, I’ll do 30 appearances in five cities in three days. I’m also a small business owner, so I have to run a tight ship – keep on top of everything and try to keep costs down. I not only try to find the best travel deals, but I make all my own arrangements. Nope, no assistants. Just me and modern technology … juggling it all. I like to think of myself as a Road Warrior Rockstar. (That’s what I secretly call myself to weather anything that comes my way up in the air, or on the road. Don’t judge, it helps, it really does.)

What tools do I use to stay (mostly) sane on the go? Here’s a quick list of what’s on my smartphone or in my bookmarks bar right this very second:
· I love using Hopper to predict the best time to snag a flight deal. It analyzes billions of airfares daily to sniff-out a price drop – then alerts you so that you can grab it.

· For a small fee, site Options Away basically lets you put a flight on hold. You can lock in an airfare as much as three weeks ahead of when you actually buy the ticket. Then, if the price drops, you automatically get the cheaper faire.

· For booking that trip of a lifetime, I like Zyppos – an online sight where registered experts (aka travel hackers) help you find the perfect flight, best itinerary, and lowest fare – all in exchange for a $20-$40 finder’s fee/reward.

· GateGuru always leads me right to the closest XpresSpa so that I can get a quick neck massage before jumping on the plane.

· And for traveling like a local, there’s Localeur. It solicits advice from the people who know a place best – the locals – to find awesomely authentic places to go, where to eat, and fun things to do.

WorldMate App on an iPad
And of course, there’s WorldMate. You already knew that I was going to say that because why else would they let me rant about all my travel on their blog – right? Yep, it’s true, I actually can’t imagine how I could travel so much without it. I use it to automatically organize all my flights, hotels, car rentals, meetings, and every other pesky trip detail into one single itinerary. I also rely on the abundance of other tools within the app as well, including exclusive hotel deals and car rental offers, integrated weather forecasts, local hot-spot searches, flight schedules lookup, and even social integration with LinkedIn. It’s this kind of technology that lets me navigate my always-changing, chaotic, challenging, and downright frenetic travel schedule – so that I still have time left to be hands-on mom, successful businesswoman, Road Warrior Rockstar, and generally cool human (in my own mind at least).
You Win!
You’ve read this far? Well then you get a big fat reward. WorldMate is giving the first 50 readers who email them a free GOLD membership – just for reading this blog post. Email with “yes,” then download the app, and you’ll be on your way to become a Travel Warrior Rockstar too. Or you can give yourself your own fierce name. Either way, it’s a cool tool that you’ve just gotten for the price of reading this post. Happy Travels!

Be sure to follow me @JenniferJolly on Twitter.

Posted in Girlfriend's Guide, Great Gadgets, Sponsored, Tips & Tricks