Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Amazing Apps: Voxox

A few months back, the Internet was abuzz with stories about younger users - a.k.a. teenagers - leaving Facebook for alternatives like WhatsApp and Snapchat as parents continue to sign up. The lead researcher from a European study released in December 2013 states that “What appears to be the most seminal moment in a young person’s decision to leave Facebook was surely that dreaded day your mum sends you a friend request.”

Now there’s a communications option that lets moms stay easily stay connected without imposing on their kid’s social circles or downloading app after app of social media in the hopes of catching their attention.

Voxox is a free to download communications app that enables people to communicate with anyone, whether they are a Voxox user or not. Mom can download both the mobile and desktop apps and easily communicate with their college Sophomore who’s studying abroad this summer and their high school Senior who’s constantly chatting on Facebook Messenger and dad who’s a Voxox user and grandma, who’s never held a smartphone and is never going to give up her landline – All from one app! And all this without breaking the bank.

The app allows users to make inexpensive international calls, receive voicemail transcriptions, fax quickly and easily, share photos and videos, translate SMS messages into 60 languages in real time and much more making it perfect for all your communications need this back to school season.

It is available for iPhone and Android and can be downloaded for free from the app stores.

Mealtime Magic: Fun Kid-Friendly Drinks

As you send kids back to school, you can spice up kids' lunches or after-school snacks with some tasty drinks. Using zero-calorie sparkling flavored water Cascade Ice, families can mix up some fun recipes or simply pack a Cascade Ice bottle to go! Kids love the great taste, and moms are thrilled to have a healthier option than sugary juices and sodas.
  • Back-to-School Berry Blast: To create, mix 1 cup of apple slices, ¾ cup of Greek yogurt, ½ cup of soy or almond milk, a handful of fresh berries and 4oz of Cascade Ice Huckleberry Blackberry in a blender. Blend until smooth and top with a few more fresh berries.
  • Apple Fizzies: So delicious and fun to make! Just pour 6oz of Cascade Ice McIntosh Apple over ice, add in sliced apples and sprinkle in some cinnamon. For the perfect after-school combo, serve the extra apple slices with a tablespoon of peanut butter!
  • Watermelon Slushie: Watermelon is oh-so-delicious, and ripe for the pickin’ this fall. In a blender, combine a few handfuls of ice, several seedless watermelon chunks and 8oz of Cascade Ice Blueberry Watermelon.Then, pour in 6oz of club soda. Blend to desired consistency and enjoy! 

Cascade Ice beverages are available  in stores nationwide – click here for the "Where to Buy" map! 

Thrifty Thinking: Preventing Identity Fraud

View Interactive Version (via Choice Loans).

Giveaway: The Princess Problem

Disclosure: I received complimentary products to facilitate this post. All opinions are my own.

Many little girls are into princesses. Some are completely into princess culture, others merely interested as one of many pastimes. Rebecca Hains has written a book, The Princess Problem, that provides parents easy-to-implement strategies for taming the beast - as well as reasons for why it's important to provide balanced stories to kids.

Princesses are naturally appealing - feminine, popular, heavily marketed. But they can portray negative stereotypes about appearance, culture, and and gender. Even strong princess characters have significant drawbacks.

If you have daughters into princesses, this is a wonderful resource for improving media literacy. Even if you don't, it's important to have conversations with your kids about what their seeing. Openly point out the strengths displayed by princesses, but also have frank discussions about what's not realistic. Encourage your daughters to think outside the story for other options that could have happened. Don't buy toys just because they're "girl" toys - make sure it really matches your daughters' interests. And above all, be sure to celebrate your daughters for what makes them special, what makes them strong, what makes them wonderful, so they never have to wonder if they fit the right mold.

I have a chance to give away one copy of the book. To enter, leave a comment about why your daughter loves princesses. Deadline is September 6th.

Caring Causes: Cetaphil/Camp Wonder

Every child deserves the chance to go to camp and for the past three years the Cetaphil® brand and the Children’s Skin Disease Foundation have made that possible for children from around the country with chronic and life-threatening skin diseases. For one week, Camp Wonder campers get to take a break from being patients and enjoy the outdoors.

As a part of this commitment, Cetaphil Moisturizing Cream jars, featuring a Limited Edition Label, are now available exclusively at CVS. For every sale of this Limited Edition packaging, the brand will donate a portion of the proceeds to the Children’s Skin Disease Foundation and Camp Wonder!

The Limited Edition Label was created by current Camp Wonder Camper, Amani Williams whose drawing was selected out of the various submissions received from the brand’s Limited Edition label drawing contest and genuinely conveys the story of the children who attend Camp Wonder.

Giveaway: The Pout-Pout Fish Goes to School

Disclosure: I received complimentary products to facilitate this post. All opinions are my own.

My daughter's preschool had The Pout-Pout Fish in school last year, and absolutely loved it. The poor grumpy fish and the fish who tried to make him happy were adorably written and illustrated. Now, in time for the start of school, you can get The Pout-Pout Fish Goes to School. The poor fish tries classroom after classroom and just doesn't fit in - until he finds the classroom for the new fish. It's always helpful for kids to read books that help them work through fears and anxieties that come from new situations. My daughter loved this book just as much as she loved the other Pout-Pout Fish books she's read.

Now I have a chance to give away a copy to one of you. To enter, leave a comment by September 6th with your favorite back-to-school tip.

If you're interested, you can see the author and illustrator team at one of their fall book tour spots:
Monday, September 15- Nicola’s Books, Ann Arbor, MI
Tuesday, September 16- Left Bank Books, St. Louis, MO
Wednesday, September 17- Naperville, IL (exact location TBD)
Thursday, September 18- Boswell Books, Milwaukee, WI
Friday, September 19- SIBA Regional Trade Show, Norfolk, VA
Sunday, September 21- WORD Books, Jersey City NJ and Books of Wonder, New York, NY
Tuesday, September 23- Blue Manatee, Cincinnati, OH
Wednesday, September 24- Little Shop of Stories, Decatur, GA
Thursday, September 25- Country Bookshop, Southern Pines, NC

Friday, September 26- Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC

Mealtime Magic: Nutritious Snacks and Lunches for Brain Power and Energy

The lazy days of summer are over and most kids are heading back to school! According to a study conducted by the Journal of School Health children with healthy diets perform better in school than children with unhealthy diets. So it’s time to clean out the thermos and pack up the lunch boxes with well-balanced foods and drinks! Nutrition Expert Diane Henderiks has tips to help moms and dads with hectic schedules plan and prepare easy-to-make meals with better-for-you ingredients!

I interviewed Diane Henderiks, who has appeared on “Good Morning America Health” and “Good Day New York” will talk about how you can help your kids boost their brain power by packing them nutritious snacks and lunches to help keep their energy levels up throughout the day.

Diane Henderiks is a personal chef and Registered Dietitian on a mission to teach America how to cook and eat well! Diane’s passion for food, nutrition and exercise has framed her life and career. Cooking has always been Diane’s passion and she began to notice that people were equating eating healthy with boring, bland food which was not what she was whipping up! In 2005, after years in private practice Diane self-published a cookbook and started, “Diane’s Daily Dish”, her personal chef and catering business. “Any dish can be revamped to be good for you”, she says, “it just takes a little education and finesse!” After appearing on a few television segments, Diane has become a go-to food, healthy cooking and nutrition expert for national television, print and on-line media. Media appearances have included the CBS Early Show, Good Day New York, Good Morning America, FOX & Friends, CBS News, ABC News, NBC, FOX, CNN, TLC, BetterTV and Martha Stewart Radio. Diane has been featured in The New York Times and in Shape Magazine. 

Parenting Pointers: Elderly Parents with All Their Marbles

Disclosure: I received complimentary products to facilitate this post. All opinions are mine.

Elderly Parents With All Their Marbles: A Survival Guide for the Kids is a humorous and practical guide to surviving when your parents move in (or simply require more care from their adult children). It can be a big transition in the relationship. Pam Carey writes a guide that includes dozens of practical, useful points. She incorporates her own experiences that will resonate with anyone who has aging parents. 

One of the most surprising tips in the book was the advice to play along with hallucinations. It really makes sense - helping them to retain their dignity, while playing detective to figure out if there's a cause (such as a change in medication) that could be eliminated.

Other important takeaways from the book (whether spoken or unspoken) - don't be afraid to ask for help and get advice from others, and approach situations with humor and a positive attitude.

If you have parents, a spouse, or other relatives or friends that need care, this is a great resource - concise, yet informative.

Amazing Apps: OneDay

Dallas-based company OneDay announced today that its story curation app is now available to iOS users for free. The app enables users with varying technological expertise to create high-quality movies instantaneously that capture candid answers to pre-determined questions.

OneDay Chief Marketing Officer, Clint Lee, says, “Our goal with this product is to create an effortless way for people to capture their stories in a convenient, high-quality manner. This app allows everyday people the ability to create movies from scratch in minutes directly from their iOS device.”

The app’s ready-made functionality is what makes it desirable. Immediately after download, users are prompted with a series or question sets that make storytelling easy. Once a question set is selected, users are taken to an in-app video screen that resembles that of the traditional iPhone video camera, and the storytelling can begin. After the story capturing is complete, the app seamlessly stitches all answered questions together, adds a background song, and the result is a high-quality movie that can be shared via email, Facebook, Twitter, or saved to the users camera roll.

OneDay is available to iOS users for free for a limited time in the app store.

Healthy Habits: FASD Awareness

September is FASD Awareness Month.  To mark this occasion, the Minnesota Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (MOFAS) is leading the way in increasing awareness and educating women on the importance of not drinking alcohol during pregnancy. 
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) can only be caused by a woman drinking alcohol while pregnant. Despite myths, there is no scientific evidence available that sets a “safe” amount of alcohol that will not affect the developing fetus.  The U.S. Surgeon General, the Center for Disease Control, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists all advise pregnant women and women who could become pregnant, to abstain completely from alcohol during  pregnancy.   An estimated 5,367 babies are born each year in Minnesota with some level of prenatal alcohol exposure.  That is over 100 babies born each week with potential brain damage and life-long struggles that could have been prevented. 

MOFAS encourages all pregnant women and women trying to get pregnant to remember 049 – zero alcohol for nine months.  In Minnesota, nearly half of all pregnancies are unplanned, and many women do not know they are pregnant for up to 4 to 6 weeks after conception. If a woman is drinking alcohol during pregnancy, it is never too late to stop drinking.  Brain growth takes place throughout pregnancy, so the sooner a woman stops drinking the safer it will be for her and her baby. If a woman cannot stop drinking, MOFAS encourages them to get help through a health care provider, local Alcoholics Anonymous, or other local treatment center.  MOFAS educates and supports health care providers to ask every woman, every time about their alcohol use and provide information on FASD as part of preventive medicine. 

For more information on alcohol use during pregnancy and a month long series of activities and events by MOFAS to create awareness and educate people on FASD, go to www.mofas.org