Category Archives: tips

Last Minute Gifts from Your Smartphone

So this is Christmas, and what have I done? Forgotten teacher gifts, failed to mail holiday cards and let the Big Guy down in the stocking stuffing department. In short, I’m failing Christmas this year. Or maybe not. Did you know you can get last minute gifts from your smartphone? No shipping. No wrapping. Nobody has to know how very Grinchy it got.

Generally I’m the very model of Merry and Bright. Most years the halls have been decked by the day after Thanksgiving, shopping finished by December first, by the week of Christmas the oven is  continuously cranking out sweets and savories for friends, family and public servants too.

This year… not so much.

I’m not sure if it’s the 70 degree weather in Maryland – Maryland NOT California! Or loosing one of our fury family members of 13 years the day before Thanksgiving. It could just be seasonal lazy. Who knows. All I do know is that I’m every so grateful that modern technology has my back. Otherwise people might be on to the fact that I don’t really have it all together… any time of year.

Last Minute Gifts from Your Smartphone

Last Minute Gifts from Your Smartphone

Smilebox Holiday eCards

Didn’t have time to create that cool holiday card, stick a stamp on it and mail it? No worries, you can send an equally awesome eCard with your own photos and personal touches straight from your smartphone. Smilebox has an easy app with lots of customization available through templates and more.

You can create cards, build slideshows, and create collages. Plus this is an Eco-friendly way  to send those holiday wishes.

Text A Gift Card

I can’t even tell you how awesome this feature is. Imagine no shipping charges, not having to fight crowds, no wrapping. It’s a holiday miracle.

I forgot gifts for the kids’ teachers this year. I always give them Starbucks gift cards, because coffee.  This oversight came to my attention sitting in the drop-off line this morning… the last day of school before the break. That’s the level of fail we’re talking about here.

I’m a Verizon customer and the messaging app on my phone allows me to click on a cute little package which then opens up a window with gifting options. Three clicks and all the teachers got texts wishing them a Merry Christmas and happy caffeinated New Year.

Google Store has a similar option as does iTunes. Helpful little elves that they are.

Last Minute Holiday Gifts from Your SmartPhoneBe There, Even When You Aren’t

My parents live in California, where I grew up. We are all the way on the East Coast. It gets pricey to fly four kids, two grownups, and an ostrich in a bear tree across the country at the holidays. Airlines with inflated holiday fairs are the real Grinch, huh? 

Live video streaming is a built-in feature on my Galaxy S6 Edge Plus. All I have to do to let Memaw and Papa see the kids open their gifts, is tap a few buttons and we’re all in the same room.

Sing and Dance Together

Music is a big deal in our house. It seems everything we do from hiking to house cleaning has it’s own playlist. The holidays are when we turn it up to 11.

The kids and I put together playlists for cookie decorating, Christmas dinner, and even to send to our Marine who is stationed far from home. Spotify let’s us all contribute our favorite tunes and share them. We play this music through the audio in the car on the three hour drive to see my husband’s family in New York city, and beam it to our smartTV while we unwrap gifts. The teen even rocks the tunes from her phone while she’s doing dishes… cuts down on the complaining… sometimes.

Even if you’ve totally failed the holidays to this point, if you’ve got a Smartphone you’ve got it covered. Merry Christmas from our family to you and yours!

Disclosure: As member of a pretty cool team of influencers, I occasionally receive cool products to test drive and share my honest thoughts on. No additional compensation is provided, neither were any favorable comments promised.  All opinions are my own. 

 

random acts of kindness apps

random acts of kindness there's an app for thatKindness is the the best investment. Think about it, how good do you feel right after you’ve done something – big or small-– for someone else? See, just thinking about it paid dividends in you feel good all over again. Right? Investing in kindness is even easier thanks to tech. Check out these ways random acts of kindness apps, websites and tech tools. 

Walk The Dog

I love this one because it has so many layers. Walking your dog is good for you and them. With Walk for a Dog, Woof Trax is making it your walk good for dogs living in shelters too.

Whether it’s a walk around the block or that epic hike you’ve been gearing up for, every walk counts. Download their app, and use it every time you grab for the leash, and Woof Trax donates to one of 6,000 shelters across the country!

Get Those Steps In

Sure, hitting your daily steps goal is great but it can do good for others too. Charity Miles partners with corporate sponsors to make those steps add up to cold hard cash for charity.  Just download the app, fill out your profile and get moving. Bikers earn up to 10¢ per mile; walkers and runners earn up to 25¢ per mile, and it all goes to the cause of your choosing from a long list of participating organizations.

So what charities can you help by getting in your daily workout? Organizations like; Habitat for Humanity, (red), Autism Speaks, Feeding America, Wounded Warrior Project, and lots more! 

Share the Moments in REAL Time

One of my favorite features of the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge Plus I’m test-driving as a part of the Verizon Wireless Buzz crew, is the live stream video ability. Most of my family lives on the west coast, I’m on the east. We miss out on sharing so many of the milestones and moments of life just because of geography.

This feature allows me to text a link to my parents and have them join in LIVE at the kiddo’s violin recital, in the kitchen while I’m trying to make one of my mom’s signature recipes, at the big game. Unlike Periscope, this is a private stream only shared with those that have the invite. I can also download the video to my private YouTube channel and keep it like a video scrapbook.

Share A Meal

A meal has always been my favorite way to connect with others. Somehow feeding the belly, can also feed the soul. Though the Meal Sharing isn’t an app or charity, it does bring people together.

Go to the website, sign up and then search for meals being prepared by gifted home cooks. Find one that appeal to you, pay on the site and then show up to eat. Maybe bring along gift for the host or ask if you can donate to a food bank in their area. 

Giving Tuesday

The UN Foundation has put kindness and giving back into the holiday season with their Giving Tuesday campaign. In a time where Cyber Monday and Black Friday dominate the season,

#GivingTuesday, is a global day dedicated to giving back. On Tuesday, December 1, 2015, charities, families, businesses, community centers, and students around the world will come together for one common purpose: to celebrate generosity and to give.

It’s a simple idea and a powerful thing to do. Gather your family, community, coworkers and come together to give something more.  It can be something as simple as donating to your local homeless shelter or as big as hosting a day of community service where you get everyone involved. Tech plays a big role in Giving Tuesday, by connecting people, sharing plans, and getting others involved.

A rising tide floats all boats.

Text It

Remember when you were a kid and something unexpected came in the mail for you? That thrill was a powerful thing. In the busy lives we lead it may not be practical to sit down and write a note, find a stamp, and hit the post office. BUT  a random text out of the blue? That we can do!

Try it this week. Pick two new people a day to send a text to. Make it fun, happy, appreciative, silly, whatever fits your relationship with that person. I’d wager by the end of the week you’ll be smiling and so will a bunch of people you care about. 

How about that for the power of kindness when it meets tech?

Verizon gives some great ideas on how you can use tech to do random acts of kindness any day, for any reason. Join in using technology for good this month and spread the word using the hashtag #VZWBuzz, let’s make kindness a thing! Okay, an even bigger thing.

 

Disclosure: As member of a pretty cool team of influencers, I occasionally receive cool products to test drive and share my honest thoughts on. No additional compensation is provided, neither were any favorable comments promised.  All opinions are my own. 

Expert Tips for Taking Smartphone Photos

Expert Tips for Taking Smartphone PhotosSad to say, but we can’t all be great at everything. Sorry to burst that bubble – ha ha. What we can do though is surround ourselves with greatness and learn from it. When I wanted to start taking better pictures I reached out to some of the smartest, most talented people I know and asked them for their expert tips for taking smartphone photos.

When it comes to seeking out expert advice in all things smartphones and tech, I’m a lucky girl. As a member of the Verizon Wireless Buzz crew I need look no further than the amazingly talented folks who “crew” with me. {Honestly, most days I’m not quite sure what I’m doing among this level of awesome. But hey, fake till you make it… right?}

I recently added the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ to the family. This baby has a great camera! We’re talking ditch-the-DSLR level awesome. The thing is, most pictures are only as good as the skills of the person taking them. I’m getting better, but there is lots of room to learn. To that end I’ve gathered the aforementioned {and following} expert tips for taking smartphone photos from the #VZWBuzz folks…

Use Apps, But Never Shoot In them

C.C. Chapman advises that shooting in the native camera app or in an app that shoots in full resolution allows you more flexibility in editing. He also give tips on framing, editing, and more in his piece; Making the Most of Mobile Photography.

Do NOT Use Zoom When Shooting

Turns out this can cause distortion and problems when editing later. Robyn Wright lists this tip along with others like; clean your lens front and back regularly in post that features 10 Tips for Smartphone Photography. Seriously, before that tip I never thought of cleaning my lens… doh!

Use a Tripod When Shooting in HDR

Um, don’t even own one and have no clue what “HDR” is, so I just avoid that. Or I did until I read this post by Rick over at Midlife Road Trip.  Still no tripod – yet- but after reading that post I did use HDR mode when snapping this pic of the dome inside the U.S. Naval Academy chapel… not too bad, eh?

U.S. Naval Academy Chapel DomeUse Great Apps

Now that you’ve taken that snap outside the app, finding great photo editing apps really helps. Many experts tell me that Snapseed is among the best, and I’m LOVING it. That said I’m looking forward to playing around with Enlight, and app that Social Media Super Star Jason Ramsey recently wrote about in this article.

Use A Remote Shutter Feature
Over at The Online Mom,  Monica Villa and her team have built an entire library of tips on how to get the best photos from any smartphone – and it’s growing. One I’d never even considered is this;
 
“Instead of tapping the screen, which sometimes risks moving your phone or tablet from where it was originally focused, try using the remote shutter feature. On your iPhone or Android device try using the volume up button to snap your photo. You can even use a pair of connected headphones and use the inline volume control to snap pictures too.”
Wireless headphones for snapping photos? It’s a brave new world people!
 
These expert tips for taking smartphone photos just scratch the surface of what we can do with those amazing devices we carry around every day. I’ll be seeking out more advice and info from the VZW Buzz crew and other experts too. As I learn from the greatness around me, I’ll be sure to share! Who knows, maybe one day I’ll be half as amazing with smartphones and “real” cameras asTony Bennett {no, I won’t be singing… there are limits to greatness and they start at my vocal chords!}  
 

My stories get even better in autumn #paulfallvere #thecolorsarecoming #thecolorsarecoming

A photo posted by Super Tones (@tony.bennett) on


 

 

 

Disclosure: As member of a pretty cool team of influencers, I received the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ to test and give my thoughts on. No additional compensation was provided, neither were any favorable comments promised.  All opinions are my own. 

Tips for the Aspiring Traveler: Go. See. Do.

Travel is my lifes work

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“I’d love to travel, if only ________.”

Have a long list of ways to fill in that blank? Here is the thing, all of them are invalid. Why? Because you’re looking at travel entirely wrong.

As a kid, the longest trip we ever took was the trek from our home in California to visit family in Illinois. Not exactly an exotic safari. Though, my Uncle Jeff had me convinced “Big Game,” lurked in the wooded area behind Grandpa’s farm.

There’s a Squatch in them woods!

I’d hem and haw about how we never went anywhere “cool.” Wasted endless afternoons daydreaming about setting out on Hemingway-esque adventures in Paris or Spain. In my mind, the journey had to be epic or it wasn’t worthy. Then I ended up living in Spain.

My time in Spain opened up a whole new world. Take a road trip, catch a ferry, and you’re in Morocco exploring the Kashba (nearly getting sold for two camels, a monkey and an iguana – a story for another day.)  A day jaunt to Portugal meant tasting the best clams ever to pass human lips. The World’s Fair in Seville, art, and architecture in Madrid, wine at the little bodega down the street. My wanderlust was ablaze.

I was a Traveler.

In retrospect, what I was doing in Spain wasn’t all that different from traveling with my family as a kid. Road trips, weekend excursions and exploring the world nearby. Sure, I was collecting stamps in my passport, but the basic concept was the same; Go. See. Do.

When I talk to people about travel or travel writing the conversation often turns to the statement above. Their “If only,” is then followed by a packing list of the reasons they can’t travel; the kids are too young, money is tight, I just don’t have the time. Pick a reason, I’ve heard it. My answer is always, “You can. All you have to do is; GO. SEE. DO.”

travel defThere isn’t anything in Webster’s definition that says your trip must be an extended, expensive sojourn requiring months of planning, or an extensive itinerary. Here are my favorite tips for the aspiring traveler in us all;

  • Fill up your tank and drive as far as half of it will take you. Explore what’s there!
  • Hop a train. Or any other form of public transportation, and get off at a stop you’ve never been to.
  • Be a tourist in your hometown. Go do all the things people from out of town flock to.
  • Follow a cause. Pick a way to give back in the town next door. You’ll see a whole new side of that city.
  • Let your taste buds transport you. Discover the exotic at ethnic eateries. Do a Gastro Pub Crawl.
  • Escape down the street. Make a reservation at that luxury hotel downtown. Do it in their offseason and you’ll save money and still get the five-star treatment.

As you explore you’ll be expanding your horizons without breaking the bank or using up all your vacation days. Trips like these are great ways to acclimate kids to travel. On top of that, you’re building a lifetime of memories.  Plus, when it comes time to plan that epic adventure, you’ll have the time, money and travel chops to do it.

Redefine what it means to be a Traveler by changing the way you define travel, and you’ll change your world.