6 Ways A Tablet Makes You and Your Kids More Productive

Nokia 2520 Tablet Productivity

VZW Disclosure

I’m a Mac girl. Macbook Pro, iPhone, iPad. But I gave up my iPhone exclusivity and added an Android smartphone to my purse. And I’ve been tech driving the Nokia Lumia WindowsPhone to stretch my familiarity with another OS.

At a Verizon Insiders Summit, I was given a Nokia 2520 tablet and asked to see how I can integrate a tablet into my family. Not just any table, though. A 10-inch Windows-based tablet with a world-class lens on a forward and rear-facing camera. Together with a power-case keyboard I traded in my Macbook Pro and smartphones in an effort to see how productive my family and I could be.

Here’s the most important thing I learned from this little experiment. Phones and computers are very distracting. They multitask very well. And not that you’re unable to multi-task on the Nokia tablet, it’s just not as easy. In a good way.

So, here goes:

6 Ways A Tablet Makes You More Productive

1. Mega battery life – The Nokia 2520 battery will keep you mobile for hours and hours. With the keyboard case, I had extra battery life so I wasn’t constantly looking for a wall outlet while I waited for BabyGirl at her different classes. And think about not having to sit on the ground or jockey for that one outlet at the airport. Or wishing your flight was shorter as you put your dead device away part-way through your flight.

2. Uni-Tasking – I know you can switch between apps on a tablet. The Nokia tablet can actually dual screen and you can see two apps at once. But the key here is that you’re not likely to open the 2nd app unless you really need it for the first. Less distractions! And with less distractions work gets done faster. The added bonus is that the Nokia comes with the MS Office Suite so I can work in standard documents, even if it was emailed to me while I wasn’t at my computer.

3. Photo Editing – This is a bit tricky because the 2520 comes with a Carl Zeiss lens that gives you amazing photos in the first place. But combine that with pro-quality photo editing apps you can turn out great images that can be incorporated into presentations, shared on social media, or sent to friends/clients/co-workers all while being untethered.

4. Instant Answers – Sure your phone can do that too. And your computer. But, where are they? Usually somewhere else. And even if your phone is nearby are you really going to hand it over to your child, co-worker, or colleague? With a tablet it’s large enough to sit with another person and do research together. It’s great for brainstorming and collaborating.

5. Portable – One of the biggest complaints of business travelers is not having enough space to use their laptop. For parents just trying to keep a child entertained on a long flight, the bulk of a laptop together with limited seat space make tablets the real winner when it comes to being productive when you travel. Even if that travel is by car, it’s so much easier to handle a tablet than it is a computer. If your virtual office consists of a mall bench, a waiting room chair, a shared coffee shop table, or even your car having a tablet make it easy to actually get work done.

6. Taking Notes – Whether it’s school, work, or home it seems like we’re always taking notes. I find with a tablet it’s easier to annotate and add notes and comments rather than type out an email response and hope it’s understood. For PDFs there’s an app for that! Several, actually.

Being productive on the go or just not having to be tethered to one spot making having a table a top priority for many. My friend Terri Nakamura recently opened Alki Surf Shop in Seattle and her Nokia 2520 tablet not only kept her productive, but has become a go-to device for running her shop.

I use mine everywhere. Relaxing on the couch at the end of the day, cooking, reading, working with clients, or when I’m out waiting for BabyGirl at her different classes. BabyGirl uses it to read, play games, make movies, and learn to code.

How does your tablet make you more productive?

Disclosure: I am a member of the Verizon Insider team and received a device to facilitate my review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


LG G2, The Device For Everyday Superheroes

Hermione Halloween

Low light photo of Hermione taken with LG G2, unedited

Just as I felt I’d finally mastered my Samsung Galaxy S4, Verizon Wireless asked me to “tech drive” the new LG G2. Who says no to being one of the first to use this cutting-edge device? Not this Verizon Insider! Besides, CycleGuy’s been eyeing my S4 for awhile. So, with the LG G2 in hand I quickly discovered this isn’t like other phones. In a good way!

I’ll leave the tech specs to the experts. You don’t come here for that anyway, do you? The LG G2 has a nice big screen and the lack of buttons on the front really gives it a clean look. The toggles on the back are really easy to use, especially if you have smaller hands. People like the Incredible Hulk, Tron, or Iron Man really shouldn’t get this phone. Besides being hard on their tech, I really think this is more for the Wonder Woman or even Katniss types. A device for smart women who are busy trying to save their world from all kinds of craziness.

If you’re looking for a mobile device that calls people, texts, checks email, and gets online this LG G2 can do that. It’s typical of Android phones in that regard. Where it stands out as unique among Android devices is the camera and several key features.

With a 13MP camera with Optical Image Stabilization, the LG G2 rivals most decent point-and-shoot cameras. I actually like it better than my stand-alone camera because of the image stabilization and several other camera features. You may wonder when you’d use it, but I’m here to tell you that audio zoom makes this camera unique. Audio Zoom allows you to zoom in on the audio you want to hear. You know, like when you kid is in the play or talking outside and others are around. I used it at a robotics tournament to pick up the kids from my team when they were talking to judges in an auditorium filled with other teams. It was much more clear, making the video usable. I also used it at a youth symphony concert to get better sound.

And speaking of my daughter, do your kids want to use your phone in the car or while waiting? BabyGirl has her own tablet but it’s a wi-fi only device. So when we’re out doing errands and she wants to look something up she’ll use my phone. Only problem is that I don’t want her being distracted by all of my apps. Enter Guest Mode. While I’d never hand over my phone to just anyone, knowing that I can set up a profile just for my daughter and limit her access to a few apps while she’s on my phone makes it easier to allow her to use my phone. And the phone size is perfect for her smaller hands and I don’t worry about her dropping it.

This phone may be the one to make me give up my iPhone for good!

Disclosure: As stated above, Verizon Wireless provided me with an LG G2. This post reflects my views and opinions and was not reviewed or edited by a third-party. I do, however, have a business relationship with Verizon Wireless and thus I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.



TEN Benefits of the NFL All Clear Bag Policy

NFL All Clear Duct Tape Bag

I originally wrote this post when I noticed people online complaining about how horrible the new NFL All Clear bag policy is. Before it was published, I was contacted to be part of the #NFLAllClear program. Per FTC Policy, I am letting you know that I am working with the NFL to share the information about this new policy even though this post was originally written just because I wanted to share and comment.

From the first game the NFL All Clear bag policy went into effect there has been quite an uproar in the media and on social media. Many people were outraged that the NFL would create a policy that, some were saying, alienates women. Other says it’s a ploy to sell merchandise. But after reading the policy I don’t see it that way.

For the past 10+ years most of us have figure out a way to stuff all our 3oz liquids into a quart-sized bag so we can carry them on a plane. Both men and women have had to do this, and while inconvenient we’ve, for the most part, figured it out. And in the process we’ve streamlined what we carry with us when we travel.

NFL Duct Tape BagJust like the TSA policy, the NFL’s All Clear bag policy is a way to not only ensure better safety within the stadiums and arenas but also streamline the arrival process. Sure there are drawbacks, but the list of pros is longer.

Considering that the NFL banned coolers and backpacks over a decade ago, this change shouldn’t have really come as a surprise. For season ticket-holders, they were notified well in advance. Much of the uproar has been from fans who were hearing about the change upon arriving at the gate. I get that. I’d be mad too if I had to walk back to my car and leave my purse.

For me, one of the advantages is that now I don’t have to worry about my (nice) purse ending up in a puddle of spilled beer or dropped food. I don’t know about you, but I tend to clutch my purse during the game because I don’t want to put it on the ground. Certainly, I’m not the only one.

So I’ve come up with this list of TEN Benefits of the NFL All Clear Bag Policy to help everyone (especially other women) see this as a good thing.

TEN Benefits of the NFL All Clear Bag Policy

1. No messed up purse from spilled food or drinks (see above)
2. Easy to find my ID and money
3. Keep phone in bag during bad weather and still text/post on social networks
4. Don’t take all kinds of random things I’ll never use
5. Won’t embarrass my husband (as much) to hold it while I go to the bathroom
6. No digging around looking for personal hygiene items while “hovering”
7. Show your team spirit in a new way each week (see my cute bag!)
8. When you leave the house you’ll know right away if you have your tickets
9. You’d be surprised how much stuff you can put in a gallon-sized zip top bag
10. Finally able to justify buying a really nice wallet

And, as an added bonus,
11. It will likely enhance overall security.

While it’s fun to think of this with a slightly humorous approach, there is a real threat out there. It’s the people yelling about their ‘Rights’ that really gets me angry. See, 12 years ago the United States saw the worst act of terrorism on its soil. Since then there have been multiple attacks upon the people in this country. There are bad people out there, we know that. And we may think they won’t show up at an NFL game with a ziptop bag to blow things up. But the reality is that security measures like this are the reason the bad guys don’t show up. They know we’re looking at them.

I know there are plenty of reasons why having a clear bag may seem stupid. But the fact is that it’s the new policy and if you go to an NFL game you are there to cheer on your team. While I realize it’s nice to be fashionable, as a woman I welcome the opportunity to unload all the unnecessary junk in my purse.

If you don’t want to use the clear bag, the NFL All Clear bag policy does permit small clutch purses the size of a hand. There is also an exception for items that are medically necessary, with additional screening required. If you’re going to an NFL game and are planning on taking a blanket, you can still take that. But if you’re taking a seat cushion, check the new policy to make sure yours is compliant.

We can debate this policy all we want. But the reality is that since 9-11 we’ve had to change how we go about our business. Will women be embarrassed having their “personal items” on display? Considering how many times I’ve had the TSA Backscatter X-ray or a make clerk at the store when I’m buying these “personal items”, having someone see them at a ball game is the least of my concern.  Besides, it’s not like we can’t put them in a little pouch if we want to be discreet.

Yes, this is “one step closer“. However, this is something small I’m willing to do for my safety and the safety of those around me. Is it a slippery slope? Perhaps. Is it annoying? Maybe. At the same time many are looking for the negative, I’m going to try to find the positive. If we do that, I think we’ll all find that the pros clearly outweigh the cons.

If you would like to share your thoughts, insight, or opinions on this new policy, join the #NFLAllClear Twitter chat Wednesday August 28th from 9 to 10 PM ET/6 to 7 PM PT.

So, what do you think about the new NFL All Clear bag policy? Will it affect whether you go to a game?

Disclosure: As I stated above, I originally wrote this post just because I wanted. Now that I’m working with the NFL, I’m letting you know I have a business relationship with the organization I’m talking about. My thoughts and opinions were not influenced by this relationship or compensation. This article was not reviewed or edited by a third-party. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.



Who Says A Health Dinner Can’t Be F&Easy?

There are days where I look at the clock only to realize it’s late in the afternoon and I didn’t take anything out for dinner. Or, like you, it’s been a day of errands, meetings, and having left the house early without giving much thought to what’s for dinner. And while going out for dinner may be an option, sometimes it’s more about how much time it will take than how much it will cost.

When the Fresh & Easy store by my house closed, I was really sad. Even though I have 3 major grocery stores within about a mile and a half, it was this Fresh & Easy store that was my “go to” for quick and easy meals when I didn’t plan ahead for dinner. Now I have to drive about 8 miles. I know! So much easier to drive 8 minutes, but I wasn’t going to give up on Fresh & Easy. And while I’m sad to hear that the parent company won’t be staying in the US, I’m glad the Fresh & Easy stores that are open plan on remaining.

I’m talking here like you’ve been to a Fresh & Easy. You have, right? If not, and there is one by you then you need to go. Not right now, finish reading this. But when you’re done, you should go. And since you’re going you should print out this coupon to Save $5 off of $20, through June 6th.

So if you’ve been to Fresh & Easy you know what a great store it is. If you haven’t you’re in for a treat. I love their compact size. No strolling an 85-million square foot mega mart for those few items you need. No standing in line waiting for the crazy coupon lady (yah, I’ll claim that crown a few times a month!). You’re in, you’re out. You have what you want, maybe a few extras because the prices are great.

Wheaties Mary Lou Retton

This doesn’t really have anything to do with this post other than the fact that I saw this at Fresh & Easy and thought it was so cool. That’s Mary Lou Retton, y’all!

On crazy nights when going out isn’t the best option, but neither is eating cereal, Fresh & Easy is where I go. We’re not a frozen pizza, take-out  pizza kind of family. And as I’ve mentioned before, we’re not a frozen entree kind of family either. We like fresh food, with ingredients we can understand, no preservatives, no additives, no HFCS. Convenient doesn’t have to equal funky weird stuff.

The Fresh & Easy meals to go are where BabyGirl heads when we’re looking for dinner. While the kid’s meals are great – turkey and potatoes, and mac & cheese are always high on the list – BabyGirl heads for the Asian-inspired meals. Pad Thai with Shrimp? Dad will like that. Chicken Tikka Masala? May not be mom’s recipe, but that’s a contender. Wait! Orange Chicken is the winner tonight. Take these bad boys home, 3 minutes in the microwave and dinner’s ready! Fresh ingredients, nothing weird. Add a salad or a veggie and you’re good to go!

On the way out I always make a stop at the refrigerated clearance section because if I’m going to eat the food that night, may as well save a little money and keep good food from being tossed out. We got lucky with some blackberries, which were turned in to a sauce over ice cream we had for dessert. Then there were the salad fixings to give us a more balanced meal.

I love Fresh & Easy for so many different reasons. I like their philosophy that food should be fresh, I should be able to get in and out of the store quickly when I need to, and the convenience food I buy doesn’t have to be full of stuff I can’t pronounce or are things I should avoid. The self-service check-out stands mean little waiting, and fun for BabyGirl. So even though I have to drive a little ways to go to my nearest store now, I do. Because they make it worth my time.

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.


Goodbye, Brace Face


This is a sponsored conversation on behalf of Invisalign and their Straight Talk program. When I was invited to participate in this program it was easy to say yes. I may be busy but I’m not foolish enough to turn down the opportunity to get all my questions answered by an Orthodontist who was willing to spend as much time as needed. If you or someone in your family may need braces, I hope you find this information helpful. I know there are many opinions out there, mine is just one.

What a difference a few decades make, especially when it comes to advances in dental care. For most of us, having braces in high school meant a mouth full of metal for a few years. It’s what it was, your friends had them, you had them, and no one really cared. And, yes, I did have them. Thanks to those giant glasses you’re distracted from noticing I’m wearing braces, aren’t you. Or maybe it’s the totally 80s hair that cause you not to see that glare in my mouth.

Sure, there were the taunts of “brace face” and “metal mouth”. Then there were the days after the adjustments when your mouth would hurt like you were punched in the face. But there was always a friend who was going through this braces thing at the same time, so it wasn’t too much of a big deal.

Thirty years after getting braces, I still remember my orthodontist’s name. I loved Dr. Black and his staff. I hated getting the impressions taken, and to this day I can still remember the feel of those metal forms and the squishy material as it mushed down onto my teeth. I remember the times my lip would get caught on a bracket. And who can forget the sudden jab of a wire into the jaw. Good times!

Over the past several years I’ve heard about Invisalign. I don’t need braces again, but it’s something CycleGuy has considered. And as BabyGirl gets further into her tween years, it’s possible she will need braces. I’ve done some research, have spoken to a few people, and yet still had more questions about how clear braces compare to traditional braces.

At a recent Invisalign event, a local orthodontist shared his perspective and gave insight about pros and cons the profession has about both traditional braces and the clear Invisalign product. As someone who took great pains to constantly floss and have my wires taken on and off for my 6-month dental cleanings, I was surprised to learn that one of the biggest drawbacks of metal braces today is their impact on long term dental health. It makes sense that with Invisalign, there is no interference with daily flossing or regular dental checkups. However, I didn’t realize what a big deal this was since I had this freakish need to have clean teeth.

Since the Invisalign event was close to the end of the school year, a few people mentioned graduation, yearbook, and prom photos. It wasn’t easy to find these photos. Besides the general lack of photos from the 80s, I had a hard time finding a photo of me smiling with my braces on. I can imagine how different it is today with cell phone cameras everywhere and the ease of photo-sharing.

See that photo to the left? Yes, that’s me. Still had the big totally 80s hair, requisite blue eyeshadow, but this time I have pearly, straight teeth! And since you likely can’t read the shirt, I will out myself and confess that, yes, I was a finalist for Miss Texas US Teen. And I gladly smiled for every pageant I was in.

So much of what Dr. Shipley was saying made me understand why Invisalign is so popular. But popular is one thing, how it works is something different. The group of moms at the event didn’t hold back on the questions about efficacy. Braces, whether traditional or Invisalign, are a huge expense in both money and time. And while I don’t want BabyGirl or CycleGuy to deal with the societal stereotypes that go along with braces, I also don’t want to spend money on something that’s not as good just because it’s a better fashion statement.

Boy was I surprised. With Invisalign, there is no goopy tooth impression. In its place is a digital scan that more accurately maps the mouth and tooth alignment. Instead of relying on an assistant’s expertise, or a few minutes with a doctor, each of the incremental changes are built into the Invisalign trays with mathematical and technical precision. And there is the smooth plastic tray instead of brackets and wires that can irritate the inside of the mouth.

I think, like many people, I had an idea about much of this before attending the Invisalign event. But it really clicked after hearing other moms ask questions I hadn’t thought of, and hearing Dr. Shipley speak very candidly about both types of orthodontia treatment. It was nice hearing from a doctor who believes in the benefits of orthodontia and not just in one type of solution.

Before the event I was very skeptical. Now, though, I would definitely have CycleGuy consider an Invisalign assessment. And when time comes, if BabyGirl needs braces, I would consider Invisalign for her. Based on the out of pocket cost for us, it’s not much more than traditional braces. And with the added benefit of continuing her good dental hygiene I’d prefer to have an option that allows her to keep up those good habits.

One question I did ask, was how Invisalign works with kids (and adults) who have cleft lip and palette concerns. While this isn’t a concern for everyone, I wanted to know because I know a few people who would be interested. Dr. Shipley said that Invisalign may be an option but before you rule it out talk with your surgical team and have an Invisalign professional who has additional training and experience with similar patients. I know for many who have cleft issues, clear braces would be one less thing to worry about.

His answer to that question really sealed it for me. He could have easily just said it would be fine. And maybe some would. But when a doctor is willing to tell you that his services may not be the best for you, that level of honesty is a good foundation for everything he says.

Don’t just take my word on this. Check out the Invisalign website, like Invisalign on Facebook or follow Invisalign on Twitter, or make an appointment with an Invisalign trained specialist in your area.

I hope this information has been helpful to you. If you have any questions for me, please ask. I learned a lot and am happy to share with you so you can make the best decision for you or your family.

Disclosure: I have been provided compensation for the Invisalign Straight Talk program to share my thoughts and (embarrassing) photos about my experience with braces and how it compares to the new alternative of Invisalign. All thoughts and opinions are mine, and may not reflect the views of any organizations listed. My thoughts and opinions were not influenced by this compensation. This article was not reviewed or edited by a third-party. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising. Why do I put these disclosures in my posts? Besides being a lawyer and writing about this stuff, they’re required by consumer protection laws and you deserve to know. Invisalign is a medical device and should only be provided by a licensed dental professional. This information is not being offered as medical advice.



{Sponsored Video} We Don’t Whisper “Cancer” Any More

American Cancer Society image

I believe our generation may be the first where most everyone has a story about cancer. When the American Cancer Society approached me to share about how cancer has affected me or someone in my life I said yes and have been trying to figure out who and what to write about because there are so many stories. And while I have been tossing around this post for weeks, with my new business relationship to help the American Cancer Society celebrate its 100th birthday this has become a sponsored post, although it’s the same post I was planning on writing before they asked me to share.

If I were to ask you to tell me a story about how cancer has touched you or someone you know, I doubt you’d have to think too long before sharing. I’ve mentioned before that my grandma is a three-time cancer survivor. I paid tribute to my friend Sally who lost her life to pancreatic cancer. I’ve mentioned my annual mammogram party. I met one of my dearest friends, Carrie, when she was on leave from her job to undergo chemotherapy. And most recently one of my clients shared that she will be undergoing reconstructive surgery due to breast cancer. I bet you could easily come up with four or five stories of your own.

On May 22nd the American Cancer Society turns 100 years old. It’s because of this organization that we no longer whisper “cancer”. When I was growing up, no one dare speak the word above a whisper. And definitely not in mixed company. I believe it was this belief that kept me from knowing my mother had cancer. Why else would she have been seeing an oncologist? It wasn’t until after she died when going through her medical bills that I saw that word “oncologist”.

Today, we see everyday men and women chronicle their stories online. We see parents take to websites and social media to share about their child who has cancer. We don’t whisper it. We hashtag it, we write it in ALL CAPS on Facebook, and we tell people about surviving cancer. Soon there will be a generation who will never have had to whisper “cancer”. This generation won’t have the effects of second-hand smoke because the American Cancer Society lobbied congress to more closely regulate cigarettes and smoking. Our children may not face some of the same risks of cancer because the American Cancer Society is funding research that may hold the key to unlocking what is needed to eradicate certain types of cancer.

I look at photos on Facebook from my friend who’ll be celebrating her 1st wedding anniversary soon. She just had a birthday. Two things many of us take for granted. But despite cancer, and the various effects it’s had on her, she’s here. And she’s doing amazing things and enjoying life.

About 5 years ago I received a frantic call that I needed to hurry to my Grandma’s side because she may not pull through her surgery. At 87 she was diagnosed with cervical cancer. She refused chemo and radiation. There were complications with her surgery and when I arrived at the hospital I was told to prepare for the worst. Little did they realize who they were talking about. I believe my Grandma takes this “more birthday” thing seriously. She watches a lot of TV and I’m sure has seen the ads for the American Cancer Society talking about beating cancer and having more birthdays. Since her first cancer diagnosis she’s had about 20 more birthdays.

My friend Sally got to have 2 birthday after her diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. That’s huge! But most importantly, she was there to see her only child turn 9. It wasn’t just about her birthday. She knew she wouldn’t see her son grow up, but that didn’t mean she wasn’t going to get one more birthday with him.

In the past decade we’ve come to realize that silence won’t eradicate cancer. We’ve decided that talking openly about cancer is the only way to get our friends and family to get screenings, to do self-checks, and to take action to support cancer research.

100 years ago a few physicians and business leaders decided to give cancer a voice and created the American Cancer Society. Silence won’t cure cancer. Each of us fights cancer in our own way. Together we can finish the fight!

Disclosure: As mentioned above, this is a sponsored post and I have been provided compensation by the American Cancer Society. All thoughts and opinions are mine, and may not reflect the views of the organization. My thoughts and opinions were not influenced by this compensation. This article was not reviewed or edited by a third-party. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising. Why do I put these disclosures in my posts? Besides being a lawyer and writing about this stuff, they’re required by consumer protection laws and you deserve to know.

Image and video courtesy of the American Cancer Society. Used with permission.


Tea for Two … or Four

Phoenician Resort Scottsdale, AZ

You’ve been to afternoon tea, right? Or maybe you call it high tea. Either way, it’s one of the little indulgences every girl should experience. And if you ask CycleGuy, it’s cool for guys too!

I was 12 when I first experienced high tea. My Auntie Emma (my Grandma’s sister) invited me as part of my Bat Mitzvah prep. We went to the country club and it was quite a fancy affair. It was just the two of us and it made quite an impression. There were no men, as this was a “women members only” experience. I remember the piano player and all the nicely dressed women and young girls. And that first experience taught me so many things. It was very formal but there was a lot of laughing and talking. My Auntie was relaxed and funny and shared quite openly, which wasn’t something she normally did when we visited.

It wasn’t until I was out of college when I decided afternoon tea shouldn’t only be for “life events”. Periodically I’d gather a few friends and we’d spend a Saturday afternoon sipping tea and eating the most adorable and delicious little sandwiches and pastries. Sometimes I’d convince CycleGuy to come along, but usually he’d be the only guy and would rather it be a girls’ afternoon for me.

That was until we went to London when I was 8-months pregnant and I mentioned going to Afternoon Tea at The Ritz. So in all my pregnant-ness I squeezed into a lovely dress and CycleGuy donned a coat and tie and we sat among locals and tourists alike for what was probably 4 hours. The interesting thing about tea at The Ritz was how many men were there. No matter how many times we’d had tea before, there were rarely men. Not here, though. There seemed to be an expectation that men would attend, or maybe it was that these men didn’t think women should be the only one to enjoy such a delicious and relaxing time.

Fast forward a few years and my friend Zoni and I were hired to write reviews of the several locations for afternoon tea in Phoenix and Scottsdale. That was a no brainer! Afternoon tea at the finest locations, with BabyGirl and CycleGuy? Absolutely! It was an amazing experience and we definitely had favorites.

When I was asked if I’d like to experience Scottsdale and write about it from a local’s perspective, of course I said yes. And I knew exactly what I’d do, Afternoon Tea at The Phoenician. Known the world over as a top resort destination in Scottsdale, The Phoenician opened 25 years ago and was once owned by a royal family.

The Lobby Tea Court is a spectacular setting and has been home to the Afternoon Tea tradition since it opened. It’s definitely an experience, not an afterthought. From the moment you’re welcomed into the intimate, but open, lounge your cares and stresses start to melt away. For the next two or so hours your biggest decisions will be what type of tea you would like and if you want another chicken salad sandwich (or two).

Tea at Scottsdale Phoenician

While it’s not common to see children at Afternoon Tea, they are welcomed and offered the same tea service. For some this may be a deterrent, but BabyGirl was 4 the first time she had tea at The Phoenician (actually, she was 3 months old but being there isn’t quite the same as actually having tea) so she’s fairly familiar with the options. And oh, the options! This time there were almost 20 teas to choose from, all described so deliciously it was difficult to choose.

Tea is as much about the relaxing and visiting as it is the food. And The Phoenician doesn’t disappoint with either. Fine silver, Wedgewood China, beautiful piano music, amazing views and delicious food all create an experience you’ll want to have again and again.

We’re very fortunate here in Scottsdale to have more than one place to have afternoon tea. But The Phoenician is definitely my top choice. It hold so many memories for me, having been here numerous times. It was the first place CycleGuy and I had tea with BabyGirl, introducing to a tradition we hope stays with her.

Every time I have tea I’m taken back to that first time, at the country club with my Auntie Emma and the laughing and sisterhood. Afternoon tea may have started as a way for royals to have a little bite to eat and get them through until dinner. Today, it’s less about that and more about slowing down, relaxing, letting go of stress and technology and the fast-paced world and just being with friends having some tea and talking about life.

The Phoenician’s Afternoon tea isn’t a showcase of culinary excess or musical interludes. It’s traditional and relaxing. There are big windows with views that are truly breathtaking, fine linens and comfortable chairs. You look around and imagine the celebrities and royalty that has been there before you.

Every time I’ve been to the Phoenician it’s been nothing less than perfect. And for a few hours, perfect is gladly welcome!


Disclosure: This post is part of a compensated project by the Scottsdale Convention & Visitors Bureau. I was asked to share some of my favorite places, from the perspective of a local. This post was not reviewed by a 3rd party. All opinions are mine and may not reflect those of the company. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising. All photos are mine and subject to copyright.


All we need is love & cute cards!


For years, I’ve used Shutterfly to make photo gifts, cards and actually print out my photos. They’ve always been well-received. As Shutterfly has expanded their offering from those first days of being just a photo print site, they’ve maintained a high quality and the competitive pricing.

This past holiday season was the first time I didn’t send out holiday cards. I decided that I wanted to send greetings at another time of year when my friends wouldn’t be overwhelmed with trying to get it all done. Instead, I  thought it would be fun to send out cards around Valentine’s Day to let them know that they’re loved and thought of not just in December. And while I’m not a big fan of the commercialism of Valentine’s Day, I am a fan of telling people they are loved and appreciated.

So when Shutterfly asked me to talk about their Valentine’s Day cards and gifts, it was easy to say yes. Even better, one of you will win a very nice prize pack just for commenting on this post! How’s that for sharing the love?

My first photo gift from Shutterfly was a photo mug. BabyGirl was probably about 3 and saw mugs at the store and said we should get that and tape a photo on it. I laughed, but BabyGirl was serious. So now, Aunt Zoni is the proud owner of a mug with BabyGirl’s mug on it. Now that she’s 10, I think BabyGirl secretly hopes AuntZoni drops the mug because the photo is definitely a bit cheesy. But sometimes, that’s what these type of photo gifts are for. Right?

My most recent purchase was a custom iPhone case. CycleGuy got a new work phone and I wanted to get him something that fit his personality and wouldn’t be the same as everyone else at the office who had the “corporate” cover. The nice thing about getting it from Shutterfly is that I upload hundreds of images every month so it’s easy to find the right one and create the case without spending too much time sifting through the thousands of images on my computer.

I’ve shared before that I like unique photo gifts, not just stashing a picture in a frame and calling it a day. The prize pack includes one of the newest additions to Shutterfly, the desktop photo plaque. Last time I saw these I was in high school and we ordered one for my grandparents. It’s still the one photo my grandma gets the most compliments on. I’m so excited to get one for CycleGuy (Valentine’s day spoiler alert!) because the other photos he has at the office are also unique.

Back to my “holiday” cards, though. before I was contacted by Shutterfly for this promotion, I’d already started looking through their Valentine’s Day cards for just the right one. Nothing too lovey-dovey or goofy. There are just so many great options. And even better, there are various card sizes so I don’t have to send out a giant “look at me” card when what I really want is something that says “you are thought of”.

I remember taking a shoe box and decorating it to collect all my Valentine’s Day cards at school. Year after year I looked forward to carrying this construction paper-covered box to and from school and opening it up to see all the sweet candy hearts and little cards from my classmates. I hope my friends will be as excited to get their Valentine’s Day cards as I am to send them out.

I’d love for you to enter my giveaway so you can share the love too!

Enter my Shutterfly Valentine’s Day Prize Pack Giveaway

Prize: (50) – 4×5 Stationery Cards and one (1) – 5.5×5.5 Desktop Plaque.

The approximate retail value (“ARV”) of the prize is $85.

All you need to do is leave a comment below telling me your favorite Valentine’s Day memory.

Extra Entries: Please leave a separate comment if you:

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This Promotion begins January 21, 2013 at 06:01:00 AM Pacific Time (“PT”) and ends January 28, 2013, at 05:59:00 AM PT. By entering, you agree to the Official Rules.

Shutterfly will provide me with the same items I’m giving away. Items stated as purchased are those where I have paid and were not provided gratis or as part of a business relationship. This post reflects my views and opinions and was not reviewed or edited by a third party. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

The Promotion is open to legal residents of the fifty (50) United States, and the District of Columbia (excluding Puerto Rico and all other U.S. territories) who are eighteen (18) years of age or older, and have a valid US mailing address. For more details view the Official Rules. Void where prohibited.


Not Quite Talladega, But A Girl Can Dream

 NASCAR experience

“There’s no next time. It’s now or never.” — Author Unknown

If you follow me on twitter you know I have an odd obsession with Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. About two years ago I tweeted one of the movie’s lines and my friend Marylynn replied back. It began what is now a running joke, with a few other people who periodically chime in when they see a tweet with the #shakeandbake tag. For many, this oddity comes as no surprise considering that I’ve outted myself with my ring tone as not your typical city girl.

As I mentioned, I was going to do something that many would think is out of character for me. I was going to ride in a stock car at a NASCAR speedway! So, on December 9th CycleGuy and BabyGirl headed to Phoenix International Raceway with me to watch me (and be my personal paparazzi) suit up and zip around a legit NASCAR course at 150+ mph. It was AWESOME!

I had so much fun and while I was screaming with such excitement as we banked the curves at 176mph, it was so loud I couldn’t even hear myself. And the funny thing is that I didn’t think we were going all that fast. With no other cars around you it’s hard to get a sense of just how fast you’re going.

Now, I couldn’t image doing that for a few hundred laps. I know that professional drivers have different suits and helmets, so maybe with those it’s different. But the noise is everywhere. And the HANS (Head and Neck Support) device is quite restrictive. I can see why pro drovers don’t really like them (except for the less-likely to break your neck part). There’s actually quite a bit of room in the car. Then again I was a passenger, something that’s not usual on the NASCAR circuit.

Ride in a NASCAR

While I didn’t have “ride in a NASCAR” on my someday list, this experience is one that I think more people should have. I’m not a fan of race car sports, I don’t watch it on TV, and I know practically nothing about the sport. I do know a few names but that’s more from watching/listening to The Dan Patrick Show. I also know that the drivers subject their bodies to forces most of us can’t imagine. As the mom of a coaster junkie, I’ve been on my share of confining coasters and attractions. None of that comes close to the reality that sets in when you’re strapped in with a real 5-point harness and your head is all but locked into looking forward. And then you leave pit row!

I’ve jumped out of helicopters and airplanes, and I’ve rappelled down pretty decent mountains. And, yes, I’ve been stopped a few times for exceeding the speed limit. But I can’t even explain to you how fast 176mph really is. And how cool it is to go that fast!

As CycleGuy and I get older, it’s experiences like this that we appreciate. Experience gifts are really the best answer for that person who really doesn’t need another random whatever you’ll pick up. They’re especially great when you’re doing a group gift. And what’s even better is that across the country there are different types of experience gifts. Sure golfing on a PGA course is a great gift, but what about making it a truly unique experiencing and having a PGA golf pro pair up with your special someone? If you’re in to wine, why not spend the day with a master sommelier? It’s these “once in a lifetime” experiences that really do make life so much more interesting.

If you could pick one of these “once in a lifetime” experiences, what would you choose?

This is a sponsored conversation written by me. This post reflects my views and opinions and was not reviewed or edited by a third-party. Cloud 9 Living provided me with a complimentary stock car ride-along experience. I was under no obligation to write about it, share images or video. But I did because it was just too awesome not to! I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.


Breast Cancer Early Detection Plan, Do You Have One?

It’s October! Know how I can tell? The entire month is pinkwashed. But I don’t need for everything to be pink-ified to tell me how important breast cancer screening is. I’m reminded every day, not just in October.

As part of the “Check Your Headlights” campaign, GoDaddy asked me to be part of the team reminding women (and men) to set a date to do a breast self exam each month. In partnership with Danica Patrick, GoDaddy’s bringing awareness to the importance of early detection of breast cancer. So here’s why I’m participating.

About 8 years ago my grandmother had a single radical mastectomy. Her sister had breast cancer. My mother may have had breast cancer. I say may because if the multiple biopsies and cyst removals were for cancer, I never knew.

This month my grandmother celebrates her 92nd birthday, despite having had cancer 3 times. But even when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, and subsequently, there has been no open dialogue or discussion about how I should be extra vigilant. I know it’s partly because of her generation. But when it comes to talking about breast self-exam many just can’t or won’t do it.

I hate that in 2012 we can’t say the words “breast self-exam” without feeling the need to whisper. Or that it’s something only when in the company of my girlfriends. Talking about breast examinations in mixed company is still so awkward for most people. Yet every year millions of women (and some men) die from this deadly disease because breasts are so sexualized and we’re not comfortable talking about touching them for fear we’ll be looked up as inappropriate.

So to fight fire with fire, several different organizations have undertaken campaigns to make the notion of breast self exams less clinical and more approachable. If it takes a sexy woman, who is a standout in her career of car racing, to bring attention to the topic I say why not. With 1 in 8 women in the US being diagnosed with breast cancer each year we have to do something. Danica Patrick’s No. 7 Chevy sported a bright pink paint job for the NASCAR race in Charlotte earlier this month. But unlike many of the pink promotions in October it wasn’t a gimmick.

Both Danica and GoDaddy are committed not only to raising awareness but also money to assist in Breast Cancer research and education. And in a world where just the word breast causes people to snicker, the “Check Your Headlights” campaign brings an awareness to both men and women.

My family didn’t talk about cancer or self exams. Still doesn’t, really. But that doesn’t stop me from remembering the importance of monthly breast self exams. Many of us are comfortable talking to our girlfriends about all kinds of things, so why not pick a day and make sure we remind each other. If that’s a bit too public, then grab your phone and add a monthly reminder.

As a way to thank you for being a strong woman or encouraging the strong women in your life, GoDaddy is offering 20% off your entire order (subject to some limitations) when you check out on their site and use the code STRENGTH.

Not only is Go Daddy giving you a coupon for 20% off to share with your readers, but they are also giving
the opportunity to donate to the National Breast Cancer Foundation with their Round Up For Charity
program. For every order on GoDaddy.com, you can choose to round up to the next dollar, giving the
difference to charity
Not only is Go Daddy giving you a coupon for 20% off to share with your readers, but they are also giving
the opportunity to donate to the National Breast Cancer Foundation with their Round Up For Charity
program. For every order on GoDaddy.com, you can choose to round up to the next dollar, giving the
difference to charity.

GoDaddy is also offering you the opportunity to Round Up For Charity. If you choose to round up your final total to the next dollar, the additional funds will be donated to the National Breast Cancer Foundation.

If you are on Twitter, join me, @theBlogFrog and @DanicaPatrick on Tuesday, 10/23 at 1pm ET for a twitter party to help bring awareness to the Check Your Headlights campaign. The best way to follow along is with the #GoDaddyCares hashtag.

What is your tip for reminding yourself to “check your headlights”? GoDaddy is giving away a $500 shopping spree to one lucky person who shares their tip and also registers for the GoDaddy newsletter!

How to enter:

1) Leave a comment below, sharing how you remind yourself to “Check Your Headlights”.2) When the contact form appears, complete three short fields to be entered to win the shopping spree.3) That’s it! Don’t forget GoDaddy is giving 20% off domains, websites & more when you use the code STRENGTH when you check out.

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Go Daddy. This post reflects my views and opinions and was not reviewed or edited by a third party. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Image Courtesy of National Breast Cancer Foundation

Official Sweepstakes Rules.