Category Archives: tips

2016 kia sorento SXL AWD (review)

It’s a funny thing, how different the lives of our kids can be from those we lived as children. For example, my offspring have zero clue what a hand-me-down is. My first car was one, and yet my husband and I are still on a quest to find the right brand-spankin-new car for our teen.  I call this the, up hill in both directions’ effect. Always wanting better for our kids while continually reminding ourselves how we never had it so good. Ha! 

Collaborating with Drive Shop has allowed us to do a few extended test drives – one week or so– for cars we’re considering. The latest ride to go through the paces was the Kia Sorento SXL AWD.

2016 Kia Sorento SXL AWD Review

First let me start by saying that I completely get that this car isn’t exactly what most would think of for a 17 year-old. I’ll go a step further and say that part of me is green with envy at the thought of my kid driving a shiny new set of wheels all decked out with nearly every bell and whistle you can imagine.

Here is the thing, it seems the kiddo has her heart set on a couple of colleges in the frozen North. Like… way north! So having a car that can handle both harsh winters and ski gear could be a plus. Also, she’ll be home for well over a year so this is going to start off as a family car. That brings us to this 2016 Kia Sorento SXL AWD review – and spoiler alert this one tops her list so far.

Is It Big Enough for 5?

Driving around town it certainly felt like it fit the bill. It has tons of leg space and three rows of seats you can configure to your needs.

That configuration ability is a saving grace as the rear cargo space is nearly non-existent. As we’ve done with all the cars we’re testing though our Drive Shop collaboration, we took this one on a road trip for a real test.

2016 Kia Sorento XSL AWD reivewThree hours – and enough in tolls to nearly make a car payment— later, we landed in the Big Apple. Packed into the Kia were not only bags for a family of five, but also our newest fury family member, Gordon Von Ottawa du Barkimedes a.k.a Gordon the Frenchie. I swear this dog has more gear than all the kids combined. All that fit easily into this car. 

Major points in the roominess category and extra props for the panoramic sunroof that makes you feel like the space is even bigger.

Best Safety Features?

Three words… Electronic Stability Control. Driving in harsh winter weather is about more than scraping ice off off the windshield. My first winter on the East Coast Maryland got hit with an epic storm. After three days being snowed in when I finally ventured out I took a epic skid on black ice. It was terrifying. If my kid is going to drive in the Tundra THIS is the must-have safety feature.

This model also boasts Side Curtain airbags in the first and second row seats and my other must-have feature, lane departure warning. I have to tell you, going back to a car without lane departure warning is tough. It’s like walking a tightrope without a net. Seriously, how is this not a mandatory feature?

2016 Kia Sorento SXL AWD review of tech

Let’s Talk Tech

Hands down the tech in this car is the reason it makes the whole family’s short list. As you might expect the kids were stoked about the plethora of power outlets for their gadgets. We aren’t talking just a couple of old-school cigarette lighter style outlets that need an adapter.

Just about every seat has a USB port nearby. There is even a rapid charge USB port in the center consul. The real swoon inducing moment was finding the AC plug! I’ll admit it takes some getting used to how it works – plug, turn, push – but man what a great option for a family on the go.

Telematics. Know what that is? You need to. It takes the rear camera concept and turns it into an all-around view from above. I am the worst parallel parker in history – or I was until Telematics. 

Infinity surround sound was made for satellite radios and people who love to drive. Or in my case mothers who like to cruise the pickup line at school with the base cranking on some Jamiroquai. The kids totally loved that, not-at-all.

2016 Kia Sorento SXL AWD review safety feature

Gas Mileage

Every rose has it’s thorn my friends. You might find yourself getting poked by a few at the gas pump. While we aren’t talking Hummer-bad gas mileage here we aren’t exactly in hybrid land.

I drive a minimum of fifteen miles a day and with an average of around 19 miles to the gallon… ouch. The Sorento did do better on the highway clocking in at about 24 mpg.

Price Tag

The 2016 Kia Sorento follows on the heals of it’s older brother , the 2015 winner of the JD Power “Highest Ranked Midsize SUV in Initial Quality” and the price tag reflects that champion lineage. That said, with all the tech, safety and luxury features {hello Napa leather cooled and heated seats and surround view monitor} I’d say it’s still a good deal.

The 2016 Kia Sorento SXL AWD we drove came in at $45,600.00

Lifestyle Points

50/50 fold third row seats. Panoramic sun roof. Kickin’ sound system and tech galore made this ride score super big in the Lifestyle category.

 

Having the roller coaster all to yourself.

A photo posted by Lara DiPaola ✈ (@dipaolamomma) on

We trekked to, from and around New York without one single, “She’s touching me.” That alone puts this one high on my list. I may not let the teen abscond to college with it.

Do you have a teen driver? What are you looking for in a car for them? I’d love some advice!  

 

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. 

 

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.