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Tech

gift guide, tech for parents, girl's gift guide, Christmas, tech, travel, fashion, chooze, xdoria, kid's fit, American Girl, MaryEllen Larkin

What is the perfect gift for a parent? If you ask me, it’s a day of relaxation and leisure but seeing as that is not the easiest thing to wrap up and give in a box, why not something that makes life easier, more efficient or more enjoyable for today’s parents?

Here is my list of must-have gifts for parents in 2017.

holiday gift guide, tech for parents, gift guide

 

Arlo Baby

Yes, we all need a good baby monitor because it provides us with peace of mind. This advanced smart baby monitor includes 1080p HD video, a lullaby player, night vision, rechargeable battery, air sensors, baby crying alerts and 2-way talking. Arlo Baby gives parents peace of mind by enabling them to monitor the nursery environment wherever they are and ensure they never miss any of baby’s big milestones (baby’s first steps!).

 

holiday gift guide, tech for parents, gift guide

PogoCam

Ever worry about missing that “perfect shot”? I know when my girls were toddlers I had my hands full and they were always doing cute things that I missed catching on film because my hands were full of babies.

If I had the PogoCam, the world’s smallest and lightest attachable eyewear camera, I could have caught them all. Did you know that consumers take more than 3 billion pictures a day from smartphones? And with a phone, you need at least one hand. The PogoCam will result in more life experiences and memories being captured and shared.

It attaches magnetically to most glasses so you can maintain signature style. The small, light and easily removable camera lets users discover the world from their point of view and capture photos and HD videos. Images are easy to transfer and can be shared across all social sites when used with the PogoTec Smart Case. PogoCam connects to the Smart Case using a standard USB-C connector and can hold 16,000 photos or up to 90 minutes of video.

holiday gift guide, tech for parents, gift guide

Arlo Pro 2

Nothing gives a parent peace of mind more than knowing their precious little one is safe. As the newest generation of NETGEAR’s security camera line, Arlo Pro 2 supports 1080p video quality and also offers the ability to set alert zones, so that you can tell the camera to ping you when it detects any kind of motion in pre-specific areas. Its wire-free capability and rugged, weather-resistant design allow you to set it up from anywhere you travel, indoors or out, rain or shine.

holiday gift guide, tech for parents, gift guide

The smART sketcher Projector 

My youngest is a little artist. She wants to draw everything. Art keeps her busy, using her mind and off the computer. Art is a crucial for early childhood development. Not only does it help define and enhance motor skills, but also improve cognitive development, math skills and language skills! Imagine a product that promoted artistic ability, education and fun all in one?

The smART sketcher Projector is the first smart projector of its kind that combines both traditional art and technology in one! Kids can get sketching in 3 easy steps – take a photo of anything, filter and transfer to the smART sketcher Projector and begin sketching! Kids will learn to sketch their pets, the best friends and even their heroes.

iPhone X

The all-new iPhoneX features a gorgeous OLED Retina display without bezels and it’s waterproof. I’ve always loved my iPhones but the camera on this one makes it worth it just for the photos alone.

Apple TV 4K

This is the ultimate streaming entertainment system. You can stream 4K movies from iTunes, Netflix and Amazon prime. Apple won’t even charge you for renting and buying 4K movies. Plus what a great place to watch and share all of your family photos and home movies.

Beats Noise Canceling Head Phones

The all-new Beats Studio 3 wireless headphones help your favorite people tune out their surroundings at work or on the road. They feature high-quality noise canceling, excellent sound quality and Apple’s fantastic W1 chip.

What’s at the top of your tech list this holiday season?

Disclosure: Some of the products on this list were provided for review purposes but all opinions are my own.

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ATMOSTFX, Halloween, How to win the creepiest house on the block, digital decorating, #ATMOSFX

Disclosure: I was provided some of the products I mentioned by AtmosFX but all opinions and love of Halloween and tips for how to have the creepiest house on the block this Halloween is all mine.I scream! You scream! We all scream for Halloween! Well, you do if you’re doing it right anyway. Is Halloween your favorite holiday? Do you live for all things spooky and spectacular?

I scream! You scream! We all scream for Halloween! Well, you do if you’re doing it right anyway. Is Halloween your favorite holiday? Do you live for all things spooky and spectacular?

It’s Friday the 13th and you can bet that I am binge watching Jason Vorhees slash some teenagers trying to have sex. What a c-block, right? Having Jason Vorhees around is like having little kids in the house but with a machete.The point is I love Halloween, always have.

We are crazy for Halloween. It’s not just me. The Big Guy, our girls, my brothers and sisters and myself. We love to scare and be scared. The bigger the fright, the better the night.

Starting in August (sometimes before) we’re planning our costumes, by September we’re setting up our decorations and by mid-September, you can bet we are binge-watching all the horror movies on all the days. We live for Fright Fest and the Zombie walk. I know, it’s a bit much but it is what it is and it is full on our favorite holiday.

Every year we try to kick it up a notch. The family costumes get a little more intricate and we’re aiming for straight up scary. As the girls get a bit older we are able to decorate a little creepier with a little more of a macabre factor. When they were young, it was all about the blow-up decoration. In fact, we have a witch that we bought the year we found out that we were pregnant with Bella. I can still see her as a toddler sitting on her dad’s lap as they figured out the fan and blew the friendly witch up.

Ever wonder, how to have the creepiest house on the block?

As the girls grew, so did our collection of blow-ups to the point where all the neighborhood children came to the yard, every day to see what was new; parents were pushing strollers down in front of my lawn showing their toddlers that there is nothing to be afraid of at our house. It was “fun”. But this year, we’re upping the wow- EEE as in screaming factor.

ATMOSTFX, Halloween, How to win the creepiest house on the block, digital decorating, #ATMOSFX

This year, thanks to the graciousness of AtmosFX, we have discovered the piece de resistance in outdoor ( and indoor) decorating…Digital decorating! Y’all know we are tech nerds up in this house but this year, with the help of some exciting new products like the ATMOS FX Digital decorating kit and ATMOSFX Media Player with Motion Sensor, Premium window projection material, Hollusion Projection Material ( to hang in the yard and create holograms of the most macabre Halloween site on our block ever), the AtmosFX Digital ProDecorating Kit 2017 and the 3DFX Inflatable Form and accompanying digital download decorations.

This is how to have the creepiest house on the block this Halloween using AMOSFX!

What does all of this mean? This means that in my yard this year, in addition to the blow up witch, black cat, pumpkins, and bat there will be zombies trying to escape from the house, dancing skeletons in the graveyard assembled in our front yard and greetings from a particularly nefarious child ghoul at our front door, all accompanied by a spooky soundtrack, a smoke machine and strobe lights. I seriously can’t wait.

The best part is, not only do we get to earn the title of scariest house in the neighborhood this year, at Christmas time we simply change the projections and become the most elaborately decorated house in the neighborhood. I’ve always wanted to put a Nutcracker scene in the yard since our girls are ballerinas and it has been such a big part of our lives for the past 8 years. This year, I can do that because I can project a winter wonderland, complete with Santa and the Sugar Plum Fairy and the Nutcracker himself. It’s going to be awesome but first, we scare the neighborhood this Halloween.

If you love Halloween scares as much as we do, and you probably do, I would highly recommend checking out ATMOSFX. There is still time to get your scare on this Halloween Night!

I’m sharing some pics in this post but will be sure to share some live video on Halloween night of all the decorations in action.

ATMOSTFX, Halloween, How to win the creepiest house on the block, digital decorating, #ATMOSFX

What are you dressing as for Halloween this year? What’s your favorite decoration/fright that you’ve ever seen while trick or treating or out on Halloween night? What do you do to be the creepiest house on the block? Have you ever used ATMOSFX to kick your Halloween decorations up a digital notch?

 

 

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Best Buy, CUJO, business-level security, home network, smart home
I have been compensated in the form of a Best Buy Gift Card and/or received the CUJO smart firewall at a reduced price or for free but all opinions about how to keep your family safe on online are my own.

Do you worry about how to keep your family safe online? I mean it’s not like some freak is going to take our baby’s photos cyber hostage and Liam Neeson is going to magically appear and save the day. We have to be proactive. But who even wants to think about such horrible things? Well, you have to, for your family’s sake.

It’s your business to know how to keep your family safe online.

Have you ever been hacked? Maybe it was your Facebook or your Twitter or maybe on a deeper level, maybe your email or blog was hacked. If it’s never happened to you before or your livelihood doesn’t depend on the Internet, count yourself lucky. Mine does and I have been hacked. It is not fun. Hackers and cyberstalkers make me uncomfortable.

I thought being plagiarized was the worst thing that could happen to me while making my living online. I was wrong. You see, when someone hacks you, takes your site down with a nasty virus or uses a malicious site to impede the growth and functionality of your site, it becomes personal. It feels like someone broke into your house and stole your grandma’s watch that your mom gave you, your diary and your check. It’s pretty awful.

You are left floundering trying to reconnect and reestablish control over what is already yours. Worse, most often, especially if you make your career online, they stop you from having access to your site to make money. They hit you where it financially hurts. Let me tell you, it’s really hard to explain to companies that you have contracts for work with that you just won’t be getting your work in on time because somebody stole your site. It looks unprofessional and reflects badly on you. It may even cause you to lose work. None of these scenarios are acceptable to me and probably aren’t acceptable to you either. There has to be a way to protect ourselves from these kinds of attacks on our sites.

Here is the first step in how to keep your family safe online.

Enter CUJO. Nope, I am not talking about the rabid dog in Stephen King’s horror movie. CUJO is a smart firewall for the connected home, designed to bring business-level security to the home network. This one device will secure all devices connecting to the WiFi router.

CUJO detects and blocks malicious sites, viruses, and hacks. Think of it like antivirus for your entire network. Plus, CUJO lets you control what your kids access online and keep them safe. Mobile apps let you control your firewall’s settings as it protects networked devices and smart doorbells, cameras, and thermostats against hackers.

So you get business-level internet security in a device that guards all the devices in your home plus parental controls. Oh, and did I mention you can connect to the router and control CUJO with an app. On top of all of that, it is super-fast with a built-in 1GB Ethernet. Basically, aside from protecting my business and my online presence, CUJO protects my family.

Some of the Parental controls features are parental controls for all devices. I have tweens now so we have plenty of devices that need protection. CUJO has an internet filter, allows you to set time limits, monitors social media and allows you to pause the internet. Finally, something I can ground them with that they will actually miss. To streamline your families online experience and give you added peace of mind CUJO provides alerts and reporting capabilities, allows remote administration and you can set up separate user profiles and settings. It’s everything I ever wanted and need with an entire family on the Internet.

CUJO is one of those things that you probably won’t even realize you need until it’s too late and your Internet security has been breached. As my mom has always said, it’s better to be safe than sorry and there are just too many great, security features for me to wait and see. My career, my identity and most importantly, my family means too much to me to not have this security measure put in place.

Do you have your own CUJO? Have you ever heard about this device?

To learn more about how to keep your family safe online, check out more information on Best Buy’s website.

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What would anissa do, Anissa Mayhew, Aiming Low, online friends, rest in peace

Yesterday, as I was laying on a beach watching my daughters frolic in the surf , a gentle, quiet happiness settled on my soul. The kind that can only be found in moments of calm simplicity. Those that are so few and far between in everyday life that we hardly even expect them. Then, I glanced at my Facebook page and my joy hit over the head with a brick and left in its place profound sadness.

I read the news that, my friend, Anissa Mayhew had died. I don’t have all the facts. I don’t know what exactly stole this woman that I respected and admired from this world. The point is moot because the result is the same; a bright light has gone out.

You see, Anissa was the first person who ever asked me to write professionally. If you’re not a freelance writer it’s hard to describe so I’ll say it like this, imagine the 1 thing you love to do in this world, then imagine there is someone who not only appreciates it, reads it, comments and tells you that you’re talented but then offers to give you actual money to be able to share your talent with the world! She gave me the opportunity to pursue my passion and chase my dreams, when I had no idea what that looked like or how to get there. She gave to me hope and inspiration like she did for so many others, not with just her words but with what she did.

What would anissa do, Anissa Mayhew, Aiming Low, online friends, rest in peace

Anissa and I met online through social media and blogging and one day, she offered me a place (besides my own site) to be as bold and silly with my true voice as I wanted to be. In fact, she encouraged it. She hired me to write for Aiming Low and it felt like being selected to be a part of the online version of SNL. I was not only humbled by her request, I was honored. Through my time at Aiming Low, I really got to know Anissa and see her for the force of nature she truly was. 

If you are a fellow Aiming Lower, you know what a magical group of people it was and you know it was carefully curated by Anissa; a woman who saw something special in each of us and our voice in this world. She had a knack for telling it like it was and doing it with complete love.

She loved me for my crazy, even when she knew how deep the crazy ran. That’s the kind of person she was. She was good and she was real and she saw that in others. She also had no qualms about calling an asshole an asshole and you have to respect that. She built me up before I even I believed in me.  

She gave me permission to own my funny and all of my stories, no matter how big or small. But more than that she made me part of her magical, insanely kooky Aiming Low family. She gave me the gift of my people and I’ll always love her for that.

What would anissa do, Anissa Mayhew, Aiming Low, online friends, rest in peace

I’m sad. I’m truly fucking gutted. When I was sobbing on the beach, full on ugly crying. I’m sure someone YouTubed it. I’m also 1000% sure Anissa would have loved to have seen that video. She probably would have shared it? Laughed and sent me a message that said,”Debi, stop being such s little bitch!”

I loved Anissa for her giant heart, wicked sense of humor and that smile that only she could give that let you know it was all okay. She taught me that life is hard and so what, get over it. Get your shit together and get through it. There was something special about her way of looking at the world and the way she loved her people. And boy, did she love her people. If you are one of the lucky ones to have been loved by her, you know, she had you back….your front and your side, all the way. 

I hate that the world has gotten in the way and none of us have been as connected as we once were because life and kids and the mundane shit of real everyday life but the love was always still there. I’ll miss Anissa more than words can convey. I hope she’s enjoying all the bacon someplace with really fine men fanning her with palms. I think she’d like that, especially if they smell of bacon.

What would anissa do, Anissa Mayhew, Aiming Low, online friends, rest in peace

I don’t know about you guys, but I’m feeling like from now on we get back to 2009 blogging. When you write ask yourself, what would Anissa do? And just write from your heart, comment like it matters, make connections, talk and care about more than just who will pay you the most to promote their product. Remember what we do counts… the human connections are real and far-reaching. Our words have weight and how we interact/ the way we care/love/laugh that’s part of our legacy. That’s how we’ll be remembered.

Thank you, Anissa, for giving me the balls to continue living my truth even when it wasn’t popular, the friendship to keep going during the excruciatingly hard times and for making all of us misfits feel like snowflakes, even when you had your own shit going on.

I could talk for days about how amazing Anissa was. I know many of us share similar stories and I hope that you will share your favorite moments about/with Anissa in the comments below. I want to reconnect with all of you because one thing Anissa’s passing has taught me is that life is too short.

But mostly, I want to send all of my love and prayers to Peter Mayhew and Anissa’s 3 beautiful children who she loved so very much. You’re in our thoughts.

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Nielsen, Nielsen App, Tap Influence, How to partner with your dream brand, Entertainment

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post for Nielsen. I have been compensated through the SheSavvy Influence Network. All opinions remain my own.

You all know that I love entertainment; television, music, movies and live productions are my jam. It’s always been my outlet since I was a child, the way I decompress. I just never knew how important it was to me until I was bedridden when I broke my leg in 2015. That’s when I realized entertainment keeps the mind agile, even when the body is immobile. But who decides what works and what doesn’t?

Have you ever heard of Nielsen, as in the Nielsen ratings?

Nielsen is the leader in TV, radio, and Internet measurement. I’ve always associated the name with television but it is so much more. They are the people who figure out what should be on television based on what the viewers want. Luckily, they understand that people who watch TV, listen to radio, and use the internet come from diverse backgrounds and that’s why they make sure to reach out to African-American, Latino, Asian-American, and other communities to ensure everyone’s voices are heard. Each culture’s experience is different and we can relate to shows differently. This is important.

In fact, Nielsen has been the leading global research company that provides consumer insights to businesses for 90 years and work in over 100 countries. They partner with real people to provide the science behind what’s next. They do research all over the world to find out what real people watch, listen to and buy.

 In today’s digital age, just like their work with TV and radio, Nielsen wants to better understand how people use their computers and mobile devices so that they can provide insights to those providers that give us the best user experience.

Like with television and radio, Nielsen does this with online panels, people just like you and I. This gives us an opportunity to voice our opinions and provide honest insights that can help improve our online experience. We can make our voices heard.

Being a member of the online panel is simple. You just sign up, fill out a registration survey, and download an app onto your computer(s) and/or mobile device(s). While your participation in a panel impacts the future of the Internet; it can also be rewarding! As soon as you download the app, you can start earning rewards like sweepstakes entries (for up to $1,000 per month!), gift cards and more.

So what is the Nielsen Computer and Mobile Panel?

The Nielsen Computer and Mobile Panel is our opportunity to be a part of the research Nielsen does. They analyze information from the panel to understand how people use their computers, tablets, and smartphones. Companies rely on this important research to make better decisions about the products and services they offer.

What are you signing up for as part of the Nielsen Computer and Mobile panel?

You will help Nielsen understand how people use the Internet by simply using the Internet on your computer or mobile device. By using the app, you’re signing up to become part of a “panel” and share your internet habits. Just be you, they want real feedback.

How does it work?

Sign up using your email address, fill out a registration survey, install the app on all your registered device(s) and start earning rewards. Simply, use your computer/ phone as you normally do and get rewarded for it. Even if you don’t use the Internet all day every day like me and only use the Internet once a month, your feedback still provides important insights.

What is in it for me? Does it cost money to participate in the Nielsen Computer and Mobile Panel?

Absolutely not! In fact, you will be rewarded for participating. Active members receive sweepstakes entries for their registered computers – you could win up to $1,000 per month! For participating with a mobile device, you can earn points that can be redeemed for prizes or gift cards—up to $50 per year!

Your participation will never cost you anything and no one will try to sell you anything but it’s vital to shaping the future of the internet. It gives you the opportunity to represent your community with your voice.

How does Nielsen protect my privacy?

They are committed to protecting the data and personal information you share with them. They will NOT use such information to advertise, promote, or sell goods or services directly to you and we do not allow their clients to sell directly to you. So they will not be selling their panelists list. Panelist data is automatically encrypted to help ensure complete security. The information about you and your household for research purposes. However, as part of the panel, Nielsen might contact you about future research opportunities.

It’s a win-win, you use your devices as you normally would and you get to influence the future of the Internet while possibly earning some extra cash for yourself. Being part of the Nielsen panel is simple and safe, like getting rewards for walking or breathing.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Intuit Quickbooks, self-employment, freelancer

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Intuit QuickBooks and #WeAllGrow Latina Network. The opinions and text are all mine.

Are you self-employed? In today’s digital world, more and more people are working as freelancers, contractors and quite frequently, remotely. Brick and mortar businesses are quickly becoming obsolete dinosaurs. With the Internet, many jobs can be done online from anywhere in the world.

It’s not like when our parents were starting their families. Moms don’t have to stay home with kids (unless they want to) and dads don’t have to leave the house for a traditional 9-5 corporate job because now, almost everything we can do in an office, we can do from home, and it costs less overhead for the company. Not to mention, it’s a savings for the employee because you’ve eliminated the cost of gas, lunch and even a car.

The fact is that today many of us do work from home and with contract work and freelancer gigs, that freedom, has a price. we have to figure out the logistics of the accounting; not only doing the work but filing the invoices, following up for payment, keeping track of receipts and, on top of all of that, we have to make sure that we are setting aside the right amount for taxes. It’s a lot a work but totally worth it to be your own boss.

With a lot of hard work, dedication and a great accounting software, being your own boss doesn’t have to be a dream; it can be a reality. Honestly, who doesn’t want to be their own boss? But you have to take yourself and your business seriously. Just because you are not working in an office, doesn’t mean that you don’t have to be professional.

Since I am self-employed and I make most of my income freelancing, keeping track of invoices and receipts for business costs is an absolute nightmare. My secret weapon is good accounting software. Intuit QuickBooks is a game changer when it comes to keeping track of your hard-earned money whether you are self-employed or just want to be in control of your finances.

Why Intuit QuickBooks, you ask? Let me count the ways.

• The Intuit QuickBooks Resource Center has free resources for starting, running and growing your business which is awesome when you are trying to manage running the financial aspect of a growing business.

• There are in depth guides, free tools, helpful articles, and even videos to help you succeed.

• The Intuit QuickBooks Resource center is not just for small/medium businesses, but also the self-employed, freelancers, creatives, like myself.

• And one of my personal favorite resources is A Woman’s One Stop Resource for Starting and Financing a business.

Intuit QuickBooks Resource Center features or articles that can definitely be helpful to you.

a. Free self-employment tax calculator for self-employed people to figure out how much they need to pay for self-employment tax. This is an important one, you do not want that surprise when doing your taxes. Believe me.

b. Article on 10 tax deductions every freelancer needs to know:

c. Users that use the automatic mileage tracking feature can save an average of $7,393 in tax deductions each year.

d. There is also a paycheck calculator for employers to figure out how much to pay their employees.

e. Free income statement (profit and loss statement) template, example, and guide.

If that isn’t enough to convince you that maybe Intuit QuickBooks is something your business needs, here are some quick facts about Intuit QuickBooks to make your life as a freelancer so much easier.

1. Intuit QuickBooks is the #1 accounting solution for small businesses.
2. Intuit QuickBooks users save an average of 11 hours per month.
3. Intuit QuickBooks users find on average $4,350 at tax time by linking expenses and receipts on their phone.
4. Customers agree that Intuit QuickBooks gives them peace of mind their books are accurate.
5. Customers are more efficient and productive with Intuit QuickBooks.
6. Intuit QuickBooks Online customers find an average of $4340 at tax time by linking expenses and receipts on their phone.

You work so hard for your money, shouldn’t it be easier to keep track of it? For more information visit Intuit QuickBooks on Facebook and on Instagram.

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Intuit QuickBooks and #WeAllGrow Latina Network. The opinions and text are all mine.

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Google Chromecast audio, 12th birthday

Disclosure: I have been compensated in the form of a Best Buy Gift Card and/or received the product/service at a reduced price or for free.

Do you love music? I think most people do. I feel like there should be a soundtrack to life and for each milestone, there should be a designated song playing in the background always. I think the world would be a better place if music was just always running in the background.

It probably has something to do with the way I grew up. My parents are both very big music lovers and there was always some kind of music playing in the house when I was growing up. Whether it was Mexican music playing softly in the background during dinner while my dad told us stories of growing up in Mexico, nursery rhymes playing when one of the children was small of soft jazz playing as my dad held my mom and swayed through the house on any given Sunday, music was always playing. It’s one of my favorite childhood memories.

We do the same at our house. But instead of playing music on huge speakers we use portable speakers and instead of blasting a boom box in one room of the house, we now have Google Chromecast which makes it easy and affordable to play our music from our devices in any room, or multiple rooms in the house.

 

Google Chromecast audio, 12th birthday

 

Google Chromecast Audio is available at Best Buy. Google Chromecast Audio enables you to play music on your speakers, new or old, wirelessly from your phone, laptop or tablet.  Because Chromecast Audio uses WiFi instead of Bluetooth, you can stream crystal clear hi res sound. It is the best of all worlds and makes the transition from the boom box to your tech devices effortless. Because Chromecast Audio uses WiFi instead of Bluetooth, you can stream crystal clear hi res sound on your new or old speakers.

Listen to your favorite tunes on your speaker/

By using your phone, it’s easy to play, pause, or change the volume from anywhere in the home. And while streaming, you can still text or call without interrupting what’s playing or draining your battery.

1)      Crystal clear sound, powered by the cloud     Use Chromecast Audio to stream over Wi-Fi which has many advantages over Bluetooth including higher sound quality.

2)      Enjoy hundreds of your favorite audio apps

Stream millions of songs, radio stations, and podcasts through apps like Pandora, Spotify, YouTube Music, and Google Play Music. Find more at chromecast.com/apps

3) Play music everywhere with Multi-room

Now you can easily fill every room in your home with synchronous music. Simply group Chromecast Audio devices together so you can listen to the same song on multiple speakers making curating the best life soundtrack that much easier.

Google Chromecast audio, 12th birthday

What would be the top three songs on the soundtrack for your life and why?

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freelancing, how to file taxes as a freelancer, TaxSlayer, taxes

 Thank you TaxSlayer for sponsoring this post. Get simple pricing with no surprises when you e-file with TaxSlayer this tax season!

The life of a freelancer is one of excitement. Seriously, you never know from one week to the next what your income will be for that day, week, month or even year. You can set goals but sometimes you exceed them and others, you fall short.
Some people might call that nerve wrecking. I call it hustle motivation. I’ve never done anything the easy way. I like forging my own path but let’s not get silly, I don’t like making things harder than they need to be. Though I’ll admit, figuring out how to file taxes as a freelancer was difficult in the beginning.

For me, freelancing was an answer to the dilemma of how to be in two places at once; at work and with my children. After giving birth to our first daughter, I knew I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. I knew that I wanted to be very hands-on and, lucky for us, we could survive on one income as a 3-person family. That worked for a minute until we got pregnant again and suddenly, we needed that extra income. Babies aren’t free, ya’ll.

freelancing, how to file taxes as a freelancer, TaxSlayer, taxes

I learned real fast that babies burn through money at an alarming rate and when there are two, they go through it twice as fast. I took a job tutoring college students in English and editing college research papers online. It really was perfect but it reminded me how much I truly loved writing myself, and my daughters provided more material than I could have possibly imagined. It seemed like they were always getting into one thing or another so after a couple years of blogging on the side, I was able to quit my tutoring job and focus on freelance writing exclusively.

This gave me the freedom to work from home while staying home with my girls. I had the best of both worlds. I never had to miss a recital, match, meet or dance. I didn’t get much sleep in those days because work-from-home mom is code for most exhausted woman on the planet but we were all so happy, I didn’t care.

freelancing, how to file taxes as a freelancer, TaxSlayer, taxes

That’s where I am still today, blissfully exhausted doing what I love while getting to spend time with the people that I love. Being a freelance writer is a dream come true in most aspects but it can be a little trying at tax time because when you’re a freelancer, taxes are not withheld from your check. I used to joke with my husband that it was “free money”, you know, like in college when they were handing out credit cards in the quad with t-shirts to anyone willing to take them? Credit card money isn’t real money, right? WRONG!

It’s awesome getting your entire paycheck until you actually do your taxes and realize that you need to come up with thousands of dollars in a short amount of time because you owe the government. Then it’s not so awesome not having taxes withheld. Freelancing is an act of restraint. For me, it took a few times for the lesson to take. I’ve finally learned.

freelancing, how to file taxes as a freelancer, TaxSlayer, taxes

Here are a few easy, practical tips that I’ve learned over the years to make doing taxes as painless as possible so that you can enjoy your life with the people you love;

Receipts: Keep your business receipts in a safe place. Don’t crumple them up in jacket pockets and in car consoles. Have a designated place for those receipts and if you are really thinking ahead, I like to write exactly what I used it for (which post) because believe me on April 14th, they all look the same. If possible, I highly recommend digitally scanning all receipts in ASAP.

Know Your Deductions: As a freelancer, you really need those deductions to off set the amount you will owe, especially with all that “free money” floating around. Remember, you can deduct things like your home office up to 300 feet at $5 per SQ foot, domain and web hosting, telephone and internet expenses, legal and professional services to maintain your website, education (all those online courses that you bought to improve your SEO), office supplies and equipment and even a percentage of business meals and so many more. Oh and don’t forget about these Top 5 overlooked deductions.

Put money in a designated business banking account: My personal suggestion is to have business savings and checking accounts. All that “free money” that should be withheld in taxes, be smart, put it in that savings account and let it gain some interest. Take the rest and put it into your business checking account. Then, not only do you have your business earned money readily available to you, you will have a digital trail of what you spent. You might need that for reference later.

We normally do our own taxes at home. TaxSlayer helps me to navigate my complex freelance tax issues and allows me to file my taxes from the comfort of my own home. With TaxSlayer, you choose your level of service, everything else is included. TaxSlayer offers free live phone and e-mail support to all customers. It’s simple and affordable. TaxSlayer has over 50 years of tax preparation experience. It is the total package. File now at TaxSlayer.com

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of CLEVER and the content and opinions about how to file your taxes as a freelancer expressed here are all my own.

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Get Healthy, working out, New YEar

Time to get healthy. It’s that time of year again when I’m not quite sure what day it is and my jeans no longer fit. Even the jeggings are being pushed to their limits. Well, technically, I can still zip my skinny jeans but they are functioning more like a tourniquet these days than actual clothing and there is nothing “skinny’ about the situation. Unless you consider the magic they hold that can hold a 10-pound sack of ass in a 5-pound bag sort of stretchy magic. I’m afraid I’m going to be in public and a bend in the right direction is going to send my derriere publicly exposed in all directions.

I am in full on Humpty Dumpty land and feeling every bit of all of those holiday carbs that I’ve been shoveling into my face between Halloween and the New Year holding their hands up and demanding to be counted. This happens every year. Somehow, I slowly phase out the cute skinny jeans for full skirts, A-line dresses and the dreaded Christmas leggings and voila, here we are…”fat girl in a little coat” ( or jeans as it were) time.

It sucks. I hate feeling perpetually bloated. And I’ve convinced myself that my skinny jeans have to weigh at least weigh 15 – 18 pounds. It’s not me. It’s them and they need to get on a diet STAT. It’s the only logical explanation. I’m sure this new egg shaped physique that I’m sporting has nothing to do with all the cakes, pies and alcohol that I consumed at all the holiday gatherings. Oh and I blame my period, as I always do. Has to be. I mean that’s at least another 5-10 pounds of water weight, right?

All I know is that if this state of being is not remedied soon, I’m going to go postal in the nearest fast food joint or maybe the nearest 1200 calorie latte serving Starbucks. Sonsabitches, I knew that caramel crème brulee latte was French for fat girl. Bastards. The thing is no one made me eat it. No one forced me to sip that sweet, overpriced, calorie stuffed latte. I wanted it and with wild abandon, I consumed in typical American nature. Moderation? I don’t need any stinking moderation. Come on we all know that I operate on two speeds; restriction or no moderation whatsoever. It’s a sickness. Really.

Anyways, you know me, I’m not one to go gently or silently into anything. I’m scrappy and I’m going to fight it to the death. It’s that time once again when I feel the need to beat the fat back into submission. Okay, all joking aside, I’m not delusional. I’m never going to sport the waif like body of my 20’s ever again. Mostly because I’ve been in eating disorder recovery for nearly 20 years and I can’t relapse into full on anorexic, not with tween girls in the house, that would make me a terrible role model. Hey, I didn’t say it’s right but everyone has their thinspiration’ mine just happens to be healthy for my girls without being off the rails mentally ill in front of my girls while doing it.

It’s a daily battle that I’ve mostly been winning. I won’t lie, there have been days when I’ve purged out of guilt after a particularly rich meal or simply passed on something I should have eaten because I needed the control on that day and there has even been the bad choices of mania laden juicing or over exercising. I know my triggers and I know, like an alcoholic, I’ll be in recovery (one day at a time) for the rest of my life. Eating disorders are a life sentence. Nobody tells you that.

I don’t want the setback if I can help it so that means I have to jump into that familiar territory of “healthy living” or as I’d like to call it “Moderate restriction with good intentions.” Don’t worry, it mostly entails actually watching what I’m eating, getting those 10000 steps in a day and just saying no to all the cakes, pies, fast food and alcohol for a while. But don’t feel sorry for me, it also means looser jeans, better fitting tops, lower blood pressure, lower sugar, feeling sexier in my own skin and feeling strong and the cherry on top, being a good role model for my girls.

I’m sharing a few of the things I’m using to get healthy in 2017. Because I don’t care what the number on the scale says anymore. I do, however, care about how my clothes fit me and that I have enough energy to play with my kids. They are tweens now so we’re not chasing them on the floor but the hours they can walk in the mall is mind boggling. I may as well put on a pair of good gym shoes and become an undercover mall walker. Plus, side note, no one wants to be their kid’s very own Gilbert Grape’s mom, right?

I’m sick of feeling sick and tired. Also, after the break last year and the subsequent loss of weight, now that I’ve gained it back, I can really feel the effect it is having on my knees, ankles and back. It’s not good.

Here are my favorite tools in my arsenal to battle the holiday bulge.

ExoSOLS inserts: These are awesome because they are custom made orthotics that are made specifically for your foot, to give you the support that your feet need. No prescription is required, simply download the SOLS app and capture images of your feet to render your true custom foot support. Made for you, on-demand, ExoSOLS will be shipped six days later.

Gel-Nimbus 18 Lite Show by Asics: I found out that I suffer from supination or as you runners call it underpronation.Basically, my ankles roll out in a state of sprain your ankle or stress fracture your legs at all time so I need to take precautions (Along with my physical therapy and orthotic inserts…see above) just not to fall.My world is filled with metaphorical banana peels.

TRX training: Get the workout of your life using your own body weight and it’s easily taken with you and doesn’t take up a lot of space. TRX, the global leader in Functional Training and creators of the Suspension Trainer and Suspension Training, has teamed up with PEAR Sports, the leader in app-based, real-time audio coaching focused on performance and fitness, to provide world-class interactive training to TRX newcomers and devotees anytime and anywhere, at home or on the road.

Qardio scale: This is my favorite scale ever because it not only sleek and beautiful, it is a very functional, wireless smart scale and body composition analyzer that provides users with in-depth knowledge and a broader view of fitness goals by measuring body mass index (BMI), muscle mass, body fat percentage, and water and bone composition, in addition to weight.

QardioArm Blood Pressure Cuff: High tech blood pressure cuff that works wirelessly through an app on your phone. It is accurate, convenient and awesome. It offers users a convenient way to take medically accurate measurements of key heart health metrics including blood pressure and heart rate. It’s a great way to be proactive about monitoring your health.

PEAR Sports: PEAR Sports delivers an innovative and intuitive technology that guides users through every step of their fitness journey. With over 500 unique workout programs including running, cycling and strength, users can experience real-time, interactive audio workouts and personalized training from some of the world’s most talented athletes and fitness experts. Utilizing biofeedback and data, PEAR’s interactive software empowers its users to train smarter, keeps them motivated throughout the process and shares in their successes. PEAR is helping the everyday fitness enthusiast achieve better results, faster.

Huawei Watch: I wear my elegant like it is going out of style, which it never will. With the Huawei Watch, classic Swiss design meets smart technology to create an enduring timepiece. A superior full circle display offers a window onto the world. A wearable to be worn in the gym, to the office or on a night on the town. I loved it so much I got my husband the classic for men.

Portion Control boxes to measure my food because I need portion control in my life badly.

Oh and CIZE and Pure Barre videos because honestly, I love to do classes but I just don’t have the time and money right now to be on someone else’s schedule at the gym.

Now, I start the work. I’ve already begun the portion control and better choices, less carbs and alcohol part of the new year healthy living plan. Tomorrow, when everybody goes back to their respective places, I will begin my workout regime. Wish me luck.

What’s your favorite thing you do to get healthy?

 

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unlocked smartphones, tech, Best Buy

Disclaimer: I have been compensated in the form of a Best Buy Gift but all opinions are my own.

I have been dying to get the newest iPhone 7 Plus but I’m trying to decide if I want to stay with my current provider or if I want to switch. I desperately want the phone but I want the best price for the service and no dropped calls, as I work a lot from my phone. I need dependability and so, I don’t want to commit to a phone and a contract until I really check into everything. Meanwhile, my phone is on the fritz and I just have to deal with it until I have the time and money to upgrade or change providers. I think everyone who has ever owned a cell phone in the history of cell phones has faced this dilemma and it sucks.

But I’ve been learning about unlocked smartphones. What? What is that? I pretty much thought all the good cellphones were being held hostage by the cell phone providers. Seriously, every time I have to renegotiate my contract, I feel like my provider is demanding a ransom for a release of service on the phone I want. It’s awful but what were my options? Now, you can get awesome unlocked smartphones. I’m not talking about some analog flip phone that your grandpa’s still using from the 1990’s either.

What is an unlocked smartphone? An unlocked smartphone is a phone that isn’t tied to a specific carrier or contract. Therefore, you have the freedom to shop for the latest phones and plans as often — or as infrequently — as you like. And when it comes to international travel, unlocked phones can’t be beaten.

Unlocked phones are becoming a very popular choice here in the U.S. And why not? Nothing beats the freedom of an unlocked phone when it comes to choice of models, carriers or plans. An unlocked phone offers you freedom and flexibility from carriers and contracts. You definitely save money because you have the freedom to be choosy and it’s great for international travel.

In case you’ve never traveled outside the U.S. with your cell phone under your current contract, just try it once and you will see just how expensive using your cell phone outside the United states can be. I bought a data package and minutes specifically to accommodate a press trip and my bill still doubled after only 4 days traveling internationally. I use my phone a lot but I never go over my data but international usage is not under the same umbrella and you will get heavily charged for usage.

Interested in finding out more about how an unlocked smartphone could change your cell phone experience or how it can save you money? Best Buy has an Unlocked Smartphone savings event going on right now with sales on Samsung, Huawei, Moto, Sony, BLU, Alcatel and ZTE smartphones. Shop your favorite brand during the Unlocked Smartphone Savings Event.

Offers:

Moto:

  • Offer: Save $50 on Select Moto Mods with purchase of Moto Z Play
  • Valid Dates: 10/30/16-11/5/16

Huawei:

  • Offer: Save $50 on the Honor 8 by Huawei plus get a free case
  • Valid Dates: 10/30/16-11/12/16

Samsung:

  • Offer: Save $100 on the Unlocked Samsung Galaxy S7 edge
  • Valid Dates: 10/30/16-11/12/16

BLU:

  • Offer: Save $40 on the BLU Life XL
  • Valid Dates: 11/6/16-11/12/16

Sony:

  • Offer: Save $100 on the Sony XPERIA X Compact
  • Valid Dates: 10/30/16-11/12/16

And, in case you were wondering, an unlocked smartphone is the perfect gift for that special tween, teen or college-aged child that you want to give a cell phone to but don’t necessarily want to add to your plan or have locked into a 2-year contract. Maybe you just want a way to let your kid check in and say they’re safe or need a ride home or whatever. Why should we be charged an arm and a leg for wanting to stay connected to our child? Check out unlocked smartphones during the unlocked smartphone savings event, you won’t be sorry.

Disclaimer for all offers listed: Offer valid 10/30/16-11/12/16. Phones, service, and coverage not available in all markets. Available in New Jersey. No dealers. See a Blue Shirt for details. 4G/4G LTE not available in all markets. Products must be purchased on the same receipt to receive bundle/package savings.  

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