Essentials for an endless summer

No matter what the calendar says, it’s still hotter than August outside.  Until the thermometer gets the word that Autumn is on the way, drink up, stock up and gear up to beat the heat with these Indian summer essentials.

Nothing’s cooler than a well-dressed pool

Dress up your pool with fashionable floaties that will be a conversation piece at your next pool party.  Airhead, the trendsetters in floats and watersports products, features a stylish new line of brightly colored SunComfort products made from soft-to-the-touch EcoCell foam, a durable material that does not require inflation. The line includes the SunComfort Lounge ($109), a tri-fold lounger that is just as comfortable on land as on water and folds to store easily; the SunComfort Saddle ($29.99) that immerses its rider in the water and features a convenient carry handle; and the SunComfort Noodle, a noodle in a fun flat design, perfect for wrapping around the body to hang out in the water.

Ice bites


Ditch the popsicle stick for LifeIce bite-sized frozen cubes of coconut water and agave along with all-natural fruit flavors that kids and grownups alike will love, alone or plopped into a drink.  The treats come in a ready-to-freeze tray with perfectly portioned squares of yummy flavors like Berry Bite and Green Grind, great for those times when you just want a little sweet treat. $6 for two trays of 48 cubettes.


Bug off


Don’t let pesky insects ruin your evening out on the patio.  Kite Shield natural. Chemical-free mosquito repellent spray is DEET-free with botanical actives that won’t harm people or the planet.  The non-oily formula is pleasant smelling and lasts for up to four hours. A 100ml bottle runs for $20 (including shipping) for a 100ml bottle, available at


Mix it up

You won’t have to work up a sweat to mix up a frozen tropical island drink with a refreshing frozen drink with the Velocity Ultra Trio Bender ($149) from Cuisinart.  The workhorse blender does it all for you.  The blender’s smart power and sophisticated electronics minces delicate herbs, whips up smoothies, and even chops ice to a fine powder.  Blend your smoothies right in the two travel cups, put on the lids, and enjoy healthy breakfast on the go.


Ice cream that’s anything but plain vanilla


Your staycation just got better with Choctal, the ice cream made with exotic flavors that will take your taste buds on a world tour.  Experience cacao and vanilla from rainforests all over the world with a multipack of flavors from the Choctál Single-Origin Ice Cream family, including Ghana Chocolate, Kalimantan Chocolate, Costa Rican Chocolate, Dominican Chocolate, or the vanillas: Indonesian Vanilla, Papua New Guinea Vanilla, Madagascar Vanilla and Mexican Vanilla.  Sold at select Target stores and other national grocery stores or online for $11 a pint.


Shoe in


Talk about cool shoes.  Moms will never yell at their kids for getting their shoes wet when they are wearing UNEEK footwear ($39-$65). These strapping shoes are a cross between a sandal and a sports shoe, made with water-repellent nylon cords designed to adapt to the natural form of the wearer’s feet for a custom and comfortable fit and for a cool open- air feeling.  So go ahead, run through the sprinkler!


Comfort is good


Be cool and wear your optimistic attitude on your sleeve, and on your back, with the Life is Good line of optimist apparel. For those fun first days of school, kids can pull the 100-percent cotton Elemental Air Time Crusher T-shirt ($18), and when temperatures drop, they can walk the halls with a positive flair in the Peace Sign Hangout Hoodie ($38).  Mom can spread her happy attitude at the drop off line in her own Oh Happy Day T-shirt ($34). All of the Life is Good apparel is pre-washed for comfort and double-stitched for durability. The best part? Life is Good donates 10% of its annual net profits to help kids in need.


Sounds great

Take your tunes outside and rock your patio party with the VAVA Voom 20 Series speaker ($79.99). The little log-like speaker blasts high quality sound with two 8W drivers and two passive subwoofers to pump up the base. The IPX5 splash protection lets you take the speaker pool side without worry, and the rechargeable 5200mAh lithium-ion battery with up to 10 hours of play life, and connectivity with Bluetooth, NFC and AUX cable makes the VAVA handy wherever you go.


Just in case


Whether indulging in summer sports or heading off to school, an Otterbox Defender Series ($59.95 for iPhone 6) smartphone case will protect your life line. The cases, made for a variety fo smartphones and tablet devices, features a built-in screen guard to prevent scratches, and the solid hard case will absorb drops and dings.  Plus, with an assortment of designs, you can get a case that stands out in the crowd and expresses your inner selfie.


Tequila Tea


When the sun goes down, it’s time to mix up some grown-up refreshment with Sparkling Ice drinks.  Try this recipe for raspberry iced tea that will cool you off and get your end-of-summer party started.  Ingredients:

  • I bottle Sparkling Ice Raspberry Iced Tea
  • 1 fl. oz. Tequila Blanco
  • 1 fl. oz. Mescal
  • 2 fl. oz. Coconut water
  • 3 drops Mole Essence



  1. Freeze cubes of the Sparkling Ice Raspberry Iced Tea
  2. Blend frozen cubes with other ingredients for frozen delight
  3. Pour into margarita glass and garnish with single mint leaf





If any security camera can give a family peace of mind, Vimtag does it affordably

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After our home was burglarized three times in 18 months, I decided it was time for some extra security measures for me and my family.


I installed the Vimtag Internet accessible P1 Smart Cloud camera ($129) paired with the S1 Storage CloudBox, which is a new system that a homeowner can own outright, rather than renting from their Internet provider.


The camera has the ability to adjust in multiple directions using the Vimtag app. You can add up to four cameras, so you can mount a camera for the back door, side door and the garage and monitor them all simultaneously in the palm of your hand.


I like this camera also because it features sound, which you can turn on or off. As you might expect with a device listening tuned for the slightest room noise, with sound on, there is a loud hissing noise, even in an empty room.


One aspect of this camera to consider is its size, unlike the tiny hidden nanny cams, this camera is rather large and obvious, about the size of a baseball.  While it might be visible, at least it is stylish, with a shiny modern bulbous white casing,  somewhat resembling the character Eva from the animated film Wall-E. It can be placed on a tabletop or other flat surface, or it can be mounted upside down or on its side.


The camera is powered by a micro USB cable, which if it were mounted outdoors within reach of a perspective intruder or burglar could be easily pulled out to disable the camera. Of course any camera cable could be cut, or a camera could be smashed or covered up by would be perpetrator, but in this case, the USB cord just makes it a bit easier to do.


The CloudBox can record for up to 60 days, and it can be played back from the app from anywhere, so you can check in on activity at your home from wherever you are. One downside of the CloudBox is that it has a fairly large footprint, about seven by seven inches wide and two inches tall, and it has to be laid flat. It also features a noisy fan, which I found was too loud in the bedroom for sleeping, so I had to move it into my living room, where still the sound of the whirling fan is annoying.

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All in all, the system was simple to set up. After downloading the app, I was taken through the set-up process. Prompts told me how to connect to a Wi-Fi network and set up an account with a username and password, and then I could give nicknames to each device connected to the system.

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During the setup of each device the app searches for and connects to the device via a network, and while it does this it makes a screeching hissing noise similar to the sound of connecting online using a dial-up connection. I’m not sure why the manufacturers put this sound effect to this function, because it is definitely an unpleasant noise, but it is handy in letting you know when the process is finally complete with an audible cue, when the noise stops.


A hugely valuable feature of this system is that the user can set up alerts when the camera detects motion.  Therefore, if the devices detects an intruder’s presence, the homeowner is alerted, and if the individual is a threat, the homeowner can call the police to hopefully intercept the intruder and prevent the burglary.


As with all other security systems that simply capture images of uninvited visitors, there’s the question of the value of having those images if you cannot identify the perpetrator. In my neighborhood, our community newsletter posts grainy security camera photos of suspects and intruders on a weekly basis, and these individuals are almost never identified and captured.  At least these images help neighbors be on the lookout for the alleged perpetrators, and maybe once they realized they have been photographed the perpetrators may not return.


A great advantage of owning the system is that there are no monthly fees for video storage and monitoring. The disadvantages of course you have to install it yourself and work out any bugs yourself. Luckily with the Vimtag system I did not have any significant problems, though I did contact customer support to learn better how to use some of the features, and the tech support was efficient and helpful.


Vimtag is a great system, though my hope is to never really have use for it. It is far better to not be burglarized then for the worst to happen and then to try to catch the thief. Of course, this is an argument for placing the camera where it is visible and could serve as a deterrent.

Improve your health and wellness by staying on the move at home

Today as a society we sit.  At work on a computer, at home watching TV, at school in class. But our bodies were not meant for a sedentary lifestyle, and diseases like diabetes and cancer and a host of musculoskeletal problems are tied to sitting.  Kathleen Hale co-founder of the Rebel Desk and leader of Chair Free Project, a health movement to educate people about the dangers of sitting and to promote standing, walking and moving during the day, offers these tips for people to stay active during their activities of daily life.

Kathleen Hale
Washington, DC, USA – May 23, 2016: Kathleen Hale, Rebel Desk co-founder, photographed at 1776. Photo by Ian Wagreich / © U.S. Chamber of Commerce


Make Your House a Healthy Haven

Stand up for cooking. The kitchen often is the center of the house. Whether preparing meals or chatting before dinner, make your kitchen a comfortable place to stand. Add a mat at your sink or stove. These mats provide comfortable cushioning and promote healthy circulation.

Pillow plan. When you come from work, you might be tempted to plop down on the couch and sit for a few hours, even if you were sitting all day. Avoid this temptation by placing throw pillows on the couch before you leave in the morning. The pillows serve as a reminder to spend less time on the couch. Instead stand up, or sit on a pillow on the floor for 15 or 20 minutes.

Remotes away. The rise of automation is a major reason for the drop in activity in our lives. We don’t need to leave our seats to communicate with people around the world, print documents or change channels. Put your remote controls away for two days a week. See how getting up to change the channel impacts your sedentary habits for the better.

Eat at the kitchen counter. Try standing at a kitchen counter to eat for one meal a day. Breakfast often is the easiest one. Simply avoiding 15 to 20 minutes of sitting can make a big difference when done everyday.

Plant a garden. Give yourself a reason to engage in light activity at home by planting a simple garden. Gardening encourages standing to water or kneeling to weed. Moving between these positions and engaging your muscles is the type of simple activity missing from modern lives.

Comfy floor. Make your floor an inviting place to sit. Having to get up and down off the floor is a great way to improve your flexibility and keep your muscles loose. Sitting on the floor lets your body rest without the negative effects of chair sitting. This is also a great way to engage kids at their physical level. Invest in a comfortable rug or large pillows that make the floor inviting for sitting.

Stairs as an exercise machine. Your stairs are one of the best ways to stay active at home. Instead of complaining about a trip up the stairs, consider it a great opportunity to get active. Stairs also are the perfect place to do easy strength training, such as calf raises or tricep dips. Sneak in these exercises while the kids are playing or while listening to a favorite podcast.

Space out your cleaning. Rather than spending an entire day doing major home cleaning, clean a little each day. Vacuum the house one day. Dust on another. Spruce up the kitchen on another. Fifteen or 5 or 20 minutes of cleaning each day a great, simple way to engage the body and keep moving.

Light it up. Allow as much natural light into your home as possible. Open the shades, pull up the blinds, or invest in a natural glow lamp if needed. Having light fill your space has been shown to be invigorating and energy boosting. You will be more likely to want to move around, take a walk, or get chores done around the house when light fills your home. Even in the evenings, just being able to see the natural world outside as opposed to a closed window shade can be energizing.

Work on your feet. Most of us spend hours on our computers at home, in addition to computer time at work. Instead of spending hours on the couch or at the kitchen table on your computer, place your computer where you can stand up and work, such as at a kitchen counter. Use a large box or crate to raise up your laptop on a desk. Not only will you avoid the draining effects of sitting, you might be less likely to spend lots of time working at home.


Heavenly Organics ginger chocolate honey patties offer guilt-free snacking for back to school


Organic Honey-Based Patties Are Under 60 Calories and Made with Just Two to Four Ingredients

 If you are looking for an option to sugary treats to pack for your children’s lunch, for a great pick-me-up for yourself, try these new patties from Heavenly Organics.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that less than 10% of a child’s energy intake should come from sugar and that the sugar should be sourced from the naturally occurring sugars in honey, syrups and fruits. As children head back to school, it is important to plan ahead and stock up the pantry with sweets that are healthier than mainstream candy. Heavenly Organics Chocolate Honey Patties are a mom’s back to school dream. Each Pattie contains just two to four organic ingredients, featuring 100% cocoa and 100% organic raw white honey and are non-GMO, gluten free, dairy free and soy free.

Heavenly Organics bite-sized Patties are the perfect size for monitoring chocolate and sugar consumption to stay within the WHO’s daily recommendations. Chocolate Honey Patties have only 50-60 calories per Pattie and come individually wrapped or in packs of three, making them an easy treat to pack in lunchboxes or in the side pocket of a backpack for a mid-day surprise.


Not only are Heavenly Organics Chocolate Honey Patties a healthier treat for children of all ages (to be truthful, parents love them too!), they also support wild honeybee ecosystems and fair labor in Northern and Central India. In fact, every purchase directly helps support the almost 600 family farmers that the company employs.


You can view a video of Heavenly Organics’ unique, sustainable and friendly harvesting method here.


Heavenly Organics Chocolate Honey Patties come in 6 flavors including Ginger, Mint, Almond, Double Dark, Peanut, and Pomegranate and can be purchased at



Amped Wireless introduces ALLY Wi-Fi system for better streaming and tools for safer Internet use for kids

04_kidstabletIf you hate those “reloading” reloading messages when you are streaming your favorite shows, and you worry about what content your kids are accessing online, Amped Wireless has a new solution for your family.

Amped Wireless, the leading manufacturer of high power, long range wireless solutions, is bridging Wi-Fi performance, security and simplicity with the launch of ALLY, a whole-home smart AC1900 Wi-Fi system with MU-MIMO. Available for pre-order August 23, ALLY is designed to deliver an unparalleled Wi-Fi experience for homes of all sizes.

The ALLY Wi-Fi system is the first seamless roaming solution with blazing-fast Wi-Fi speeds, MU-MIMO technology and whole-home coverage with award winning, high power technology. Offering easy setup and a mobile app for on-the-go control, the ALLY and ALLY Plus systems reach up to 15,000 square feet of secure coverage for seamless roaming and uninterrupted streaming.

Built with the digitally-connected family in mind, ALLY features intelligent parental controls that make online parenting feel easy and safe. Through ALLY’s customized user profiles, parents can manage and limit access to selected content, websites or apps. Additionally, parents can monitor and segment a child’s screen time, review an activity log, pause Internet service and even set a curfew schedule for their Internet use.

Parents can also feel at ease knowing that devices on their network are protected by AVG Technologies, the leading provider of software and services to secure devices, data and people. Customers can download the ALLY app and help safeguard devices from malware by activating AVG’s free, built-in web protection and real-time monitoring of network traffic. ALLY’s security features, parental control options and iOS and Android apps are built on Chime, AVG’s smart router platform developed by AVG’s Innovations Labs, an exploratory branch of AVG Technologies.

“Innovation is part of our DNA here at Amped Wireless,” said Jason Owen, Executive Vice President of Networking, Amped Wireless. “We are elated to announce ALLY and our partnership with AVG. By combining Amped Wireless’ award winning high power technology with AVG’s software and security expertise, we’ve created the industry’s best whole-home Wi-Fi solution. The result is a one-of-a-kind system that performs at the highest levels while providing a user experience that is second to none, bringing peace of mind to users as their network and families are protected.”

The partnership establishes ALLY as the only home wireless system that offers web protection that safeguards devices, including tablets, phones, computers and other devices. Additionally, the system alerts users when a new device requests network access, further protecting the network from unwanted parties.

“Gartner predicts the average family house will contain more than 500 smart devices by 2022. As the complexity of the connected home increases, so does the potential risk involved,” says Todd Simpson, Chief Strategy Officer of AVG Technologies. “AVG’s Innovation Labs created Chime to simplify security and router technology for connected families. In time this will be like an antivirus for the home that can stop threats before they reach devices.”

In addition to the advanced software and security, the ALLY hardware is also ahead of the innovation curve. All units are built with next generation 802.11ac, Multi-User MIMO technology. Traditional Wi-Fi systems stream data to just one device at a time, leaving the rest of the devices to wait their turn which results in slower downloads and video buffering. With MU-MIMO, ALLY is able to stream HD content at faster speeds to multiple devices at once, delivering increased speeds for homes with multiple devices. Pair that with Amped Wireless’ award winning High Power Technology and you have unparalleled reliability, coverage and performance. Every smartphone, tablet, computer, TV and more can connect from virtually anywhere in the home or office. It is the solution for a flawless, whole-home, reliable Wi-Fi system.

There are ALLY solutions for both small-medium sized homes, as well as medium-large sized homes, and everything in between. Both ALLY and ALLY Plus products have an estimated delivery of early October. ALLY is priced at $199.99 and ALLY Plus at $379.99. For purchase information and additional details visit


IHOP Teams up with No Kid Hungry for two-month campaign to help millions of children nationwide

A Special $1 Buttermilk Pancake Short Stack Day on August 23 Punctuates Efforts as IHOP and its Franchisees Aim to Serve One Million Pancakes in One Day to Benefit No Kid Hungry

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If your family loves IHOP for breakfast like mine, you will be happy to know that your next meal of short stack pancakes, until September 25, will not only make your own children happy but will help other children across the nation.

IHOP® restaurants and its franchisees proudly announced today that the Family Dining leader has again joined forces with No Kid Hungry in an effort to end childhood hunger in the U.S. The IHOP + No Kid Hungry campaign, which runs August 1 through September 25, invites IHOP guests and fans to join in the fight by donating to the leading non-profit on their check or through

To amplify efforts, on Tuesday, August 23 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., IHOP restaurants will offer* guests a short stack of their world-famous Buttermilk Pancakes for just $1 with 100 percent of the proceeds benefitting No Kid Hungry. The brand and its franchisees have set an ambitious goal: serve one million pancakes in just one day to help every child in America get access to the healthy breakfasts they need to start the day.

For close to six decades, IHOP has been the leader in bringing guests a freshly made breakfast served any time of day, every day ― but at least one in every five children across the U.S. struggles to get the food they need to grow and thrive. No Kid Hungry works to connect our future leaders with a healthy breakfast by delivering food to where kids live, learn and play.

“IHOP and our franchisees are passionate about helping build the overall well-being of the children and families in communities everywhere, including addressing the critical issue of hunger in the United States,” said Kirk Thompson, senior vice president, marketing for IHOP and Marketing Advisory Board Member for the Dine Out for No Kid Hungry platform. “Together with No Kid Hungry, we can enable the more than 16 million children across America who struggle with hunger to start each and every day with the strength that comes from eating a good breakfast.”

IHOP restaurants’ efforts will help kick off the Dine Out for No Kid Hungry campaign, which fully launches nationwide in September and unites the restaurant industry around a shared mission of helping end child hunger.

“We’re thrilled to have IHOP back for a second year supporting No Kid Hungry and extending to their guests the mission to end childhood hunger in America,” says Billy Shore, founder and CEO of Share Our Strength. “IHOP’s tremendous goal to serve one million pancakes in one day means that three million more breakfasts will be possible for kids in need. That translates into more kids doing better in class, missing less school, and becoming more likely to graduate high school. That’s a lot of potential in one pancake.”

To learn more about the IHOP + No Kid Hungry campaign and the fight against childhood hunger, including how to donate to the cause, go to participating IHOP restaurants and starting August 1.