Author: Deborah Cruz

Roku 2 SX

Posted on Nov 26, 2014 by No Comments

In the past, if you wanted to watch a movie you either had to hit up the nearest video rental store, swing by the closest Redbox or maybe order a DVD online and wait for it to show up and then wait another 6 months, like me, before finding the time to watch it.

Basically, you were so exhausted from the waiting that by the time you got the damn DVD, you were over it.

Then someone invented Roku, the original streaming player. I just got one of these. I love it.

Millions of people use Roku to choose what they want to watch instantly. Whether you’re in to exploring over 700 channels and hundreds of thousands of movies and shows, delving into what really interests you, or just stumbling across something new, Roku makes it happen easily, instantly and affordably.

Movie night will never be the same.

We have used the Apple TV in the past and loved it and we have also used the WD live, which we also loved, but the Roku is compact, easy to use and is a great addition to our collection.

It takes it to the next level because it’s like cable television, Netflix, Hulu, a gaming system and your computer all bundled together in one small package that’s the size of a hockey puck.

The top-of-the-line Roku 2 XS, the one I own, delivers the best experience in 1080p HD streaming to your TV plus motion-based gaming for an extra dose of great entertainment.

Product Features

600+ channels and growing. Movies and TV shows from Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, Hulu Plus, VUDU and HBO GO, plus live sports, music, news, international, and more, up to 1080p HD.

Game-ready remote. Motion control for playing games and full version of Angry Birds.

One-stop search. Find your favorite movies and TV shows all from one place—no matter if they’re on Netflix, Amazon Instant Video or Hulu Plus.

Free iOS and Android app. Use it like a remote. Browse and add new channels. Even stream your music and photos from your phone or tablet to your TV.

More connectivity options. Includes Ethernet for wired connection and USB for playing music, photos and videos.

The easiest setup. Works with virtually any TV, includes built-in wireless and sets up in minutes.

Roku is the smallest streaming player . It is the size of a hockey puck, streams silently and uses less power than a night-light.

More and more streaming choices

With over 600 entertainment channels and counting, Roku 2 has something for virtually everyone, including:

  • Over 150,000 movies and TV shows at your fingertips from Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant Video, HBO GO, VUDU and more
  • Unlimited music from Pandora, MOG, Rid and Live365.
  • Live sports packages.
  • Photo and video sharing via Facebook, Flickr, and Picasa.
  • The top news sources, including MSNBC, Fox News, and WSJ

Roku 2 also brings games to your TV:

  • Enhanced Bluetooth remote features sensors to support motion-based game play, as well as game-ready buttons to support furious button action.
  • Available games include the Angry Birds series, Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy and Storm in a Teacup.
  • Includes a FREE full version of the Angry Birds game! You can play Angry Birds on a device that is actually large enough for you to see what you are doing. I’ve been using it in our media room. Those birds are as big as I am and I love it. My scores have went through the roof.
  • Built-in MicroSD slot makes it easy to add additional storage for hundreds more games in the future.

Photo Source: Roku

The App Generation

Posted on Aug 20, 2014 by No Comments

The App Generation is a book by Professors Howard Gardner and Katie Davis.  The book examines life before digital media and life since. How has life changed for children born after digital media?

I’ve wondered this myself, as I have two children born after digital media had become the standard. They have no idea what it is like to live in a world where instant gratification was not the norm. They don’t understand a world without MP3s, Instagram, iPhones with cameras, Facebook, Twitter and Youtube.

When I was in college, the Internet was still new and mostly I used my computer for school emails and writing papers. I still used encyclopedias for research. The things I could have done with Google in the late 90’s.

Back then, cellphones were a luxury and by luxury I mean hardly anyone my age had them and those of us who did, seldom actually used them because cellphone plans were outrageously priced. I don’t even think texting existed back then. That’s what pagers were for because who could afford to waste cellphone minutes?

No one has failed to notice that the current generation of youth is deeply and totally involved with digital media. Professors Howard Gardner and Katie Davis name today’s young people The App Generation, and in their book they explore what it means to be “app-dependent” versus “app-enabled” and how life for this generation differs from life before the digital era.

How many of us parents can remember, once the Internet was common for everyone to use, how easy it made life?

For instance, I no longer have to wait when my brain is stumped on what the name is of that actor who nobody can remember. I just type in the clues and Google figures it out. I no longer have to pour over cookbooks for hours, I can just type in the ingredients I have and voila, a recipe appears. In fact, I no longer have to wait for anything.

Gardner and Davis are concerned with three vital areas of adolescent life: identity, intimacy, and imagination. Our children are losing these capabilities because they no longer need them.

Through innovative research, including interviews of young people, focus groups of those who work with them, and a unique comparison of youthful artistic productions before and after the digital revolution, the authors uncover the drawbacks of apps: they may foreclose a sense of identity, encourage superficial relations with others and stunt creative imagination. These all become too easy when you are sitting behind a screen instead of interacting face-to-face.

On the other hand, benefits of apps are equally compelling: they can promote a strong sense of identity, allow deep relationships, and stimulate creativity. For instance, you are freer to be who you are and more likely to find a community of your peers when your pool of people is the entire Internet versus just the 200 people that attend your high school.

Sometimes intimacy is easier when you don’t have to look someone in the eye because you don’t have that immediate sense of rejection and reaction.

The challenge is to figure out the best ways that apps can be used in your life. Like everything else, it is up to us to make the most of what we have access to.

Do you think life was better before digital media or after?

Photo Source: Amazon

How to Choose the Perfect Ballet Shoes for Your Tiny Dancer

Posted on Aug 6, 2014 by No Comments

School is back in session and so are extracurriculars. My girls are in their fourth and sixth years of ballet so we’ve bought our fair share of ballet shoes and leotards.

In the beginning, I had no idea what I was looking for. I bought the wrong kinds of shoes and leotards. But as you go through the ranks, you learn what to look for and where to buy. I used to buy strictly from the ballet shops and the ballet studio but, between you and me, that is the most expensive way you can go. I have just recently started shopping online, it is much, much less expensive.

Start by knowing the exact shoe, style and brand that you need and then view shoes at stores or online. If you decide to buy online, go to the ballet shop and first have your child’s foot measured so you know what size they wear. They fit differently than regular shoes and it’s a free service that the shops offer, so do it or buyer beware. Many dance supply stores offer choices of ballet shoes.

Here are a few tips and tricks as to how to find the perfect ballet shoes for your little ballerina:

Select quality. If you are looking for flat ballet shoes, there are a few choices of materials that they will be made out of: canvas, leather or both. Pink slippers are usually used for girls and women, and white/black slippers are used for boys and men . Be sure to know if your ballet requires canvas or leather because they are very strict on this point after the creative levels.

Get the right fit. Sizes vary depending on brand and make, so make sure that your child gets measured. If there is someone there to help your child try on ballet shoes, ask for help. Never buy shoes on the Internet without trying them on your child first. Either buy another pair of shoes your child already owns, or at least  go to a store and try out the shoes you plan to buy for your child first.

Never buy ballet shoes sight unseen. The feel of shoes is very individual, so recommendations are not enough. Be sure they are the correct size and shape, as these shoes are expensive and wear out quickly. When buying leather shoes, buy them a bit too small as the material stretches with use.

Get the correct width. Try ballet slippers on. My daughters have to buy narrows in some brands and can wear regulars in other, so always measure before buying. Always try on shoes and walk in them before you buy them.

Stick with what you know. Once you find a ballet shoe that fits you, remember the brand and your size and width. When your child wears their shoes for a while, the name wears out on the inside and it’s easy to forget the brand you bought.

If you like the shoe and the child feels comfortable dancing in them, buy the same brand again. Knowing what shoe works best for your child is the best recommendation. Never go just by what works for someone else, because it may not work for your child.

Photo Source: High Tech Dad

How to Travel Like a Boss with Your Boss

Posted on Aug 4, 2014 by No Comments

You find out on Friday that on Monday, the boss needs you to accompany her on a business trip to Boston. You’ve never been on a business trip with her. You are excited for the responsibility but nervous at the possibility that you could botch the whole thing up.

So, how can you make sure that this business trip goes off without a hitch and you don’t say or do the wrong thing in the process?

Save the drama for your mama

Avoid being a high maintenance traveler. Show up to the airport early and pack appropriately. Too much luggage for a two-day trip sends off warning signs that you might be disorganized and flighty.

Pack light and smart, making sure to remember all travel documents, identification, and work documents you might need. Keep important documents in your carry on.

Don’t do the diva complain serenade about your middle seat on the flight or your view of a brick wall;  it will not impress your boss. It will only help her to make a mental note that you are difficult.

Take cues from your boss

Sure, after flying cross-country you may want to just order up some room service and take a hot shower, but if your boss quietly suggests that you go to dinner with her at the hotel bar, it wasn’t really a suggestion, it was an order swaddled in courtesy.

Declining is like saying no thank you to a working lunch at the office. It might feel like an inconvenience, but use this opportunity for one on one time with your boss as a networking, relationship-building opportunity. This is your time to shine.

Pay attention to what’s going on. If your boss doesn’t order wine, neither should you. If you really need a drink, have a drink when you get back to your hotel room.

Share your ideas

This is your time to bring up some great ideas that you have been mulling around. You have your boss’s ear, take advantage of the opportunity. Don’t just blurt out a monologue, but when the moment is right in the conversation to insert your talking points, do it.

Go for it. You never know. Some of my best networking connections were born of opportunity meeting preparation.

Be pleasant

No one wants to travel with a person with a dry personality, nor do they want to travel with a party animal. Personally, the most enjoyable traveling companions are those who don’t talk too much yet when they do, they have something interesting to contribute to the conversation.

Try to avoid awkward pauses or situations. Your boss should never have to bail you out of jail for a drunk and disorderly citation, no matter how entertaining she or the client may have found your antics at the working dinner on the strip. Chances are, if you do something and you have to question whether or not you should be doing it, you shouldn’t be doing it.

What is your number one rule for successfully traveling with your boss?

photo credit: robkingcameraman via photopin cc

Defying Gravity

Posted on Aug 1, 2014 by No Comments

If you are a woman of a certain age who has breastfed, you know that gravity is a cruel mistress.  Breasts start to show signs of sagging starting in the early thirties.

Breast involution is not a nice thing.  All the genetics and perkiness in the world are no match for the moment your milk producing glands begin to shrivel up and leave your breasts looking like deflated birthday balloons.  But what can you do but wait for it to happen?

I refuse to go silently into boob sagging oblivion; I want to spend my 40’s and 50’s defying gravity. While we can’t stop nature from taking it’s course, we can slow down the process with a few precautions.

Keep your weight stable and when working out, choose sport bras with two separate cups to prevent ligament-straining bouncing. Maintain a steady weight by eating a sensible balanced diet and exercising.

That means all those years you spent yo-yo dieting and gaining and losing weight has probably caused your breasts to change quite a bit in appearance from when they were in their 20’s. Gaining weight causes your breasts to enlarge, and the skin to stretch. When you lose that weight, the breast skin will look stretched and saggy.

Eat vegetables, lean protein and whole grains and stay away from junk food to maintain your health and keep your boobs looking great. Exercising 3 times a week will help keep your metabolism up and your weight steady.

To make breasts appear perkier, strengthen your upper-back muscles with dumbbell rows. Chest muscles make you look saggier because it draws your shoulders forward while strong back muscles draw back your shoulder blades and give the illusion of a lift.

Pay attention to your posture. Poor posture causes breasts to droop, while good posture lifts the breasts up. Look at your breasts in a mirror while you stand with poor posture and again while you stand with good posture and notice how much higher your breasts sit when you’re standing straight.

Make sure your back is straight, your shoulders are back, and your head is level. If it’s uncomfortable to stand and sit with your back straight, work on improving your posture by strengthening your core muscles. Crunches and plank poses can help target your core muscles.

Keep your skin healthy. Drink plenty of fluids to keep the connective tissue and skin healthy to slow down the signs of breast sagging. Water hydrates the skin and connective tissue, so drink at least 64 oz. of water a day.

Push up bras can help the cause by creating the illusion of perkier breasts but once you remove the bra, breasts return to their natural state of resting south.

If all else fails, you can always have a breast lift. It’s more invasive than the other options but it also has the most immediate and dramatic results.

I know many women who have been left feeling less than sexy as age and breastfeeding have left them with unrecognizable breasts. Saggy or not saggy, it is up to each individual woman to decide what makes her feel best about herself and in her skin.

What lengths would you go to recapture your youthful appearance?

Photo Source: CRZ

Shut Eye Strategies for Sleep Deprived Moms

Posted on Jul 30, 2014 by No Comments

What’s a mom to do when she wants needs to sleep? I know moms are superheroes but even Wonder Woman sleeps sometimes. We need sleep to stay healthy and perform at optimum level just like our children.

Whether we are spending our days taking care of toddlers or going out into the office and seeing clients all day, we need to be able to stay awake and think clearly because if not, it could be dangerous to us and those we spend our days with. So what’s an exhausted mom supposed to do?

I am a bonafide insomniac and I have tried every trick in the book to illicit sleep; desperate measures for desperate times. A few immediate tricks in my arsenal are:

1. Keep the bedroom dark; invest in room darkening blinds and a sleep mask.

2. Get yourself some white noise. I can’t sleep without a fan. If you are light sleeper or have a spouse who is a snorer, get yourself some earplugs.

3. Ban the television, computers and clocks. No tech in the bedroom at bedtime or it will signal your brain to stay up long after your body has decided it is desperate for sleep. This is so much easier said than done considering I work up until the moment I pass out from exhaustion.

4. Skip sugary foods that can cause wakefulness and caffeinated drinks in the hours before sleep. Try calming chamomile tea instead of coffee or coke.

But what about when the dreaded lists appears, deadlines are looming and the kids need you to wipe their butts and kiss their booboos? Here are a few ideas to squash the stresses that keep you lying awake in bed at night.

1. Keep lists because even though they generally make matters worse, they can also be helpful. Keep a list of things you are worried about forgetting and get as much as you can done. Whatever you can’t finish, you can just leave on your worry list and know that it will still be there tomorrow.

2. Embrace the calm by cuing your body, mind and soul that it is bedtime. Have a bedtime ritual; not like sacrificing chickens or anything but take a warm bath, put on some lavender lotion and some comfy jammies. Get into bed and relax, maybe read a couple pages of a book. Reading tuckers me right out at bedtime.

3. Melatonin, Melatonin,! Like I said, I am a real insomniac and I used to have to depend on sleeping pills to get any sleep at all, but that left me feeling awful if I didn’t get at least 8 hours. It also rendered me useless in the middle of the night if a child had a nightmare of fever so I could only use them on the weekends.

But alas, I am not a sleep camel and cannot stock up on sleep for the entire week so it was pointless. Melatonin is natural and a lot gentler. It eases me into slumber and I wake feeling rested after.

4. Hormones are not always so natural. Certain times of the month are a little more challenging in the sleep department than others. I personally suffer from insomnia most nights of the month but the week of menstruation, I experience extreme insomnia and sleep is damn near impossible. A low-dose hormone birth control pill can help temper hormonal fluctuations.

5. Go to sleep when you start to feel sleepy. This is the worst mistake an insomniac can make. When I get that initial sleepy feeling, I push through it and get my second wind, only my second wind usually lasts until 3 in the morning. So my best advice for anyone who’s having trouble sleeping is to go to sleep as soon as you feel sleepy, if that is an option.

What is your best sleep strategy?

photo credit: mark sebastian via photopin cc

National Geographic Angry Birds Star Wars The Science Behind the Saga

Posted on Jul 28, 2014 by No Comments

Who knew there could be a book that is universally appealing to boys and girls alike and is all about science? Leave it to National Geography to figure out how to make this happen.

Okay, so what are two of my girls’ favorite things, aside from American Girl dolls, National Geographic and Barbies? Angry birds and Star Wars! Yes, they are completely crazy for angry birds and anything that includes Princess Leia makes them happy.

So you can imagine how they reacted to National Geographic’s latest book, National Geographic Angry Birds Star Wars: The Science Behind the Saga! They went nuts. I have to admit, I loved it too. Anything that gets my girls interested in science is awesome.

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away the worlds collided. Angry Birds, Star Wars and National Geographic united to take their fans on a mission to uncover the science behind the science fiction.

Included in this book are true stories, inventions, and the incredible real science behind the epic blockbuster series Star Wars. Chapters will correspond with the Star Wars films and individual levels in the  Angry Birds Star Wars games. Talk about the best of both worlds.

Discover how closely the movies are to true life by exploring the discovery of a real Tatooine planet or learning just how a hovercraft works and how it many ways it resembles the land speeder from Star Wars. You also can find out if a light saber will ever be a real thing in our lifetime.

Your child will walk away from this book thinking possibilities are endless with science. Anything we can’t do, we will be able to do someday through science and invention and if the Star Wars science isn’t enough to keep them interested, the angry birds aspect will keep them engaged.

This book is full of fun science facts, movie trivia and gorgeous,vibrant photos that will keep your little one engrossed for hours. The book also includes a great list of astronomy and robotic books for the young scientist who wants to take their grasp of scientific knowledge even further than the book provides.

A comprehensive glossary of  scientific terms and  of Angry Birds Star Wars terms will insure that your young scientist understands every aspect of the book.

National Geographic Angry Birds Star Wars: The Science Behind the Saga! is a fantastic companion to the Angry Birds Star Wars games. It takes fun and makes it a teachable moment that we can all be happy about.

Photo Source:

Tips for Successfully Working from Home

Posted on Jul 25, 2014 by No Comments

If you are like me and you work from home, you have probably spent a lot of time trying to find the best way to make working from home work for you. It’s not as easy as it sounds. You’d think you stay in your jammies all day, close the door, pop some bonbons and just do your work but that is not how it works. There is a lot more involved in working from home.

Here are a few tips to help you survive working from home:

Have a dedicated office with a door that closes. Seriously, set aside a specific place in your house that is used exclusively for work.  If you do so, you will be able to deduct it from your taxes and it will help you to get into work mode.

Cultivate an IT contact so there’s someone to call when the Internet goes kaput or a video conference link doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to. Mine is my husband. He is an engineer turned IT guy who specialized in graphic design. It’s like he knew he was going to marry a blogger.

Participate in office networking opportunities. I freelance but if you are working remotely and there is an actual office near where you live, making a cameo appearance from time to time is not the worst idea. Not being onsite can make it difficult to form office relationships and even more difficult to advance to a managerial position.

Set clear standards for when you’re available to available to work and to family. Create a daily work schedule. Mine is 8 am-2:30 pm, I break until the girls are in bed at 7, then I usually work again from 8 pm- midnight. On Fridays, I work half a day and on the weekends, I don’t work at all. 

It’s easy to get sucked into being available to work any time, any day, but I have committed to not working when the girls are home from school. The most important thing I do is raising my daughters. Everything else is secondary at this point in their lives and mine.

Make sure that you set well-defined work hours to avoid phone calls and emails without boundaries on your personal time. I don’t take phone calls after 3:00 pm because that is when my girls get dismissed from school.

Pay your taxes. There is nothing worse than a surprise payment of $10,000 on April 15th. Make sure that you set aside some money each month to pay your taxes or at the very least make sure that you expect it.

Last year, I almost had a heart attack half way through getting our taxes done because I realized I was going to owe a substantial amount of money. That’s why it is important to keep track of any money that you paid out for the year for your business or freelancing; those write offs help balance it all out in the end.

What is your best work at home tip for success?

Photo Source: Travis Isaacs

How to Separate Family & Business

Posted on Jul 23, 2014 by No Comments

Have you ever had a friend or relative put in a good word for you with a potential employer that they worked for? Have you ever been asked to perform a little nepotism on the job? Or worse still, have you ever made the ill-advised decision to go into business with a sibling or best friend?

Bad move unless you have a clear-cut plan in writing to separate business from family.

Business with family is nothing I would ever recommend, it never works out like you planned it. I found this out the hard way and will never do it again because, for me, my relationship with my family is more important than any business deal could ever be.

It ended badly with people feeling cheated and disrespected and there was lots of collateral damage done to feelings. If it’s too late and you are already neck deep in a business arrangement with a family member, here are some ways to separate business from pleasure.

The first thing you need to do is set ground rules. Before you ever go into business with a family member, you should write down a business plan. If you are close enough to be running into each other at family functions, you need to work out a plan to save the relationship, even if the business goes belly up. You don’t want to lose loved ones in a business deal.

There are a few details that need to be hammered out ahead of time before any business ever takes place.

Who is in charge?

I know it is a slippery slope and especially between siblings, but there has to be a clear boss in charge. A clear hierarchy needs to be in place before anything else happens. If not, you may have a lot of hurt feelings based on assumptions. Someone might assume they are in charge because they are the oldest or because they thought of the original business idea.

A boss needs to be named and everyone involved needs to sign off on it in the beginning.  No handshake deals among family; it must be in writing, very business like to keep the whole thing professional. People are promoted based on doing something worthy of advancement, not on who’s the oldest or thought of what.

What happens if the business fails?

Decide from the beginning how you will define failure and success of the business and agree on it. Success needs to be defined from the start and people need to know what the give up and go home point is. You don’t want one person willing to jump ship if the company isn’t in the black after 3 months and another who is willing to work to the bone for 3 years.

Decide how disagreements will be handled and decisions will be made. 

Sooner or later, there will be a disagreement on some decision about the company. The best way to handle this is to appoint an impartial mediator, who is not a relative, to hand down decisions to avoid resentment. This will help keep all decisions professional and not personal.

Have you ever worked with family? What were some problems that you faced in doing so?

Photo Source: Kamal Zharif