About Beth Blecherman
Beth Blecherman started her career in application development then Senior Manager, Computer Process Integrity, for Deloitte. After senior management she took on family management blogging as her career 2.0. She is a Co-Founder of the Silicon Valley Moms Group, a collaborative of mom blogs across the country, and their first international blog Canada Moms Blog.
Blecherman founded her personal blog, TechMamas.com, as a platform to discuss technology and gadgets for families. Beth vlogs with other female tech bloggers at Gadgetspin.com. She also consults with companies on blogger outreach and social media strategies and speaks at conferences on parenting, social media and technology. TechMamas.com was chosen as one of the Nielson Power Mom 50 influencers. On Twitter as @TechMama she was chosen as one of the 25 Influential Moms to Follow on Twitter and BizTechDay’s 25 Influential Business Women in the Bay Area. Beth is on the Board of Advisors for MommyTech at CES.
Latest Posts by Beth Blecherman
What started out as a nice walk between my son and I a few days ago ended up being an important discussion on Internet and gaming safety. My son kept looking at his phone and I asked him why! We usually have a no screen time when there is family time rule. What was taking his attention and making him risk breaking the no screen time rule? It was a new mobile game/app, that unless you have unplugged completely from all technology and news, everyone has heard about: Pokémon Go.
What is Pokémon Go?
Pokémon Go is a Augmented Reality game where players need to actually walk to move their avatar in the game. The concept is family friendly, the battles are cartoon “Pokémon” style battles. It is a fun game that takes kids (and adult) outside or one that they can play on the move. Players look for PokéStops and Pokémon gyms which are usually at meeting places and attractions. While the game is *free*, there is in-app purchases that parents need to be aware of. The game was developed by Niantic labs with the Pokemon Company and Nintendo. Niantic’s CEO said the goals of the game were to inspire “exercise, see the world in new eyes and break the ice“.
Here is an example of what the avatar screen looks like before a gym battle:
Here is an example of a Pokémon gym battle:
Here is the description from the Pokémon website:
“Travel between the real world and the virtual world of Pokémon with Pokémon GO for iPhone and Android devices. With Pokémon GO, you’ll discover Pokémon in a whole new world—your own! Pokémon GO is built on Niantic’s Real World Gaming Platform and will use real locations to encourage players to search far and wide in the real world to discover Pokémon. Pokémon GO allows you to find and catch more than a hundred species of Pokémon as you explore your surroundings. The Pokémon video game series has used real-world locations such as the Hokkaido and Kanto regions of Japan, New York, and Paris as inspiration for the fantasy settings in which its games take place. In Pokémon GO, the real world will be the setting! Get on your feet and step outside to find and catch wild Pokémon. Explore cities and towns around where you live and even around the globe to capture as many Pokémon as you can. As you move around, your smartphone will vibrate to let you know you’re near a Pokémon. Once you’ve encountered a Pokémon, take aim on your smartphone’s touch screen and throw a Poké Ball to catch it. Be careful when you try to catch it, or it might run away! Also look for PokéStops located at interesting places, such as public art installations, historical markers, and monuments, where you can collect more Poké Balls and other items.”
Security, Safety and Data Security Issues
Along with in app purchases, here are some other things parents need to not only be aware of, but set up safety and privacy rules for Pokémon Go:
- Physical Security Issues: You play in “public” teams and that can be a security issue for kids and adults. Parents should tell their kids to only go to know local destinations such as town libraries, schools, parks and never meet up with strangers. Depending on the age of the kids, it will be very important for parents to go with the kids on their walks. In our case, we have teens so they are out on their own more often. We still sat down with our teens to talk about the safety issues and set up rules for using the game while out of the house (such as issue 2)! This reminds me of when I found out you can actually get robbed in minecraft.
- Not paying attention to your surroundings: When you are playing there is some monitoring of the app to see when there is a battle or other game activities. I told my kids they can NOT WALK AND LOOK AT THEIR PHONE AT THE SAME TIME. It is dangerous when outside to not be paying attention to what is going on around you. I told my son that we need to stop walking in a safe place to check the game.
- Data Security Issues: One way to sign up for the Pokemon app is by setting up an account with your email. The other way is by using your Google account and that is where the security issue exists. If your kids use their Google account to sign up, then the app has full access to the account. This is a security flaw that the developers are trying of fix (Pokémon Go developers promise to tweak Google account permissions after security concerns via The Verge). For now, make sure your kids sign up for an account directly instead of using their Google Account (if they have one).
- In-App Purchases: As mentioned above, free apps with “in-app” purchases can be dangerous for kids who don’t understand they are spending real money. It is important to set up controls for in-app purchases. For example, for my son’s iTunes account, there is no credit card associated so he can’t make any purchases. Instead, we give him iTunes gift cards that he “earns” with chores to buy apps.
- Businesses: Some businesses may be putting information or Pokemon stops for the game on their location. Make kids aware that just because a business has information about this game does not mean they should share their photos or that the business are a safe stop.
Have you played Pokémon Go? And if so, what do you think? I am still getting to know the game so I would love to learn more from my readers!
I heard talk that the voting locations will be on the Pokémon maps. Voter turnout is an important issue, so that is one of the best uses I have heard of the game so far.
Disclosure: This is a press post. I will be updating the links as I find out more information.
The Dreams Riviera Cancun Resort & Spa recently partnered with The Moms to invite a group of lifestyle bloggers to tour Dreams Riviera Cancun Resort & Spa in Mexico. The trip, called “The Moms Escape,” was a wonderful escape to the beautiful Mexican Caribbean. While I had traveled to Cancun years ago, this is the first time I had toured an all-inclusive resort open to adults and kids.
Although we spent time touring the resort, we also had time to unwind. It was during those quiet times wandering around the resort that I had to chance to take in the beautiful surroundings while enjoying quiet places to sit on the beach, bask in the sun and listen to the ocean. As a busy mom with three boys, just finding a quiet hammock by the beach put me in vacation mode.
“Dreams Riviera Cancun Resort & Spa is a luxurious getaway for couples, friends and families designed to reflect the charm of the Mexican Caribbean. Surrounded by glistening pools, lush tropical gardens and a palm-studded beach, this 486 all-suite resort defines Unlimited-Luxury with an array of amenities for every age and interest, from the Explorer’s Club, a supervised kids club, to a variety of daily activities, nightly entertainment and gourmet à la carte dining”.
The resort is located between Cancun and Playa del Carmen on a stretch of beach which is in the Riviera Maya. Best yet, the world’s second largest barrier reef is a short boat ride from the resort beach. From a travel perspective, Dreams Riviera Cancun Resort & Spa is located a short 20 minute ride from Cancun Airport, which I found to be traveler (and family) friendly airport.
AN ALL INCLUSIVE RESORT
Dreams Riviera Cancun is an “all-inclusive” resort, offering a signature Unlimited-Luxury concept where everything, from gourmet a la carte dining to top-shelf premium spirits, is included with the stay.
As a mom of three boys who eat “adult” portions, that means that I don’t need to worry a food bill because it is already factored into our stay. Family vacations can be stressful because going out to dinner with voracious boys can break the bank. I want to relax on vacation, not worry about day to day expenses, so inclusive offerings is great for our family.
Dreams Riviera Cancun’s Unlimited-Luxury offering includes “Full breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks each day, Theme parties, oceanfront bars and entertainment venues, unlimited natural fruit juices and soft drinks (for kids) and unlimited international and domestic top-shelf spirits, Mini-bar refreshed daily with soft drinks, bottled water, and beer, 24-hour room service, pool and beach wait service , Explorer’s Club for kids with supervised activities, Indoor theater, Complimentary greens fees at nearby Grand Coral Riviera Maya golf club and All taxes and gratuities”.
The restaurants included in Dreams Riviera Cancun’s Unlimited-Luxury are six à la carte gourmet restaurants, a buffet venue, a grill and a café as well as 24-hour room service: World Café ( International cuisine buffet-style), El Patio (Mexican cuisine), Himitsu ( fusion of Pan-Asian delicacies), Portofino (Italian cuisine), Oceana (Seafood), Seaside Grill, Bordeaux (French cuisine –Adults Only), Coco Café (Coffees, teas and pastries served daily), Barefoot Grill (Made-to-order snacks). One of the night activities during our stay was a poolside themed party that included tables with linens and beautiful stations along the edge with all types of food to enjoy (also included as part of Unlimited-Luxury).
There is also a great selection of bars for adults: Rendezvous (Lobby Bar), Barracuda (Beach Bar), Sugar Reef (Pool Side Bar), Manatees (Swim-up Bar), Desires (Music Lounge) and Revive (Spa Bar). There is live, nightly family-friendly entertainment, including music at the Lobby Bar on select nights if you want to dance with your family after dinner. For adults who want to dance the night way, Desires is a good fit. For couples that want some extra romance, they can reserve in advance a private candlelit, seaside dinner for two (additional cost).
My favorite restaurants (although we did not have time to try all) were the Bordeaux and the World Café. The Salmon dinner we had at the Bordeaux cafe was the perfect mix of fresh food, great tasting flavors and an artful presentation.
If we had more time I would have also enjoyed trying the Seaside Grill on the pool front just for that great view! I found that the restaurants offered a great variety of food, including salads, fruit and vegetarian offerings, my personal preference. Room service is also included and I enjoyed a great salad delivered to my room. The resort has filtered water and I had no problem with drinking the water, ice or eating the salads. The only water that is not filtered is the sink water in the rooms, so I used the ample bottled water in the room to brush my teeth and drink at night.
When I am researching a family vacation, one of the most important things I look into is accommodations and their ammenities.
Dreams Riviera Cancun offers:”486 luxurious suites uniquely designed in an octogonal shape facing breathtaking views of the Caribbean or lush gardens. Amenities include: King or two double beds, Private and furnished patio or balcony, Full marble bathrooms, jetted whirlpool bathtub, separate shower and separate water closet, Double vanities equipped with phone and sound speaker, Bathrobes & slippers, 32” satellite TV, Air-conditioning with climate control, Hairdryer , Sound system with music channels, CD/DVD player, Direct dial telephone, Unlimited Connectivity, Alarm clock with MP3 player, In-room safe (lap-top size) and Coffee maker along with the daily refreshed mini-bar with beer, juices, soft drinks and bottled water.“
There is also a Preferred Club that has amenities such as: Private Preferred Club Lounge, Concierge service, daily continental breakfast , afternoon hot and cold hors d’oeuvres, desserts & fine liquors in the lounge, complimentary newspaper in room every day, upgraded mini-bar service and upgraded bath amenities.”
I traveled for business around the world before I got married and experienced a wide range of hotel accommodations. I found the quality of the rooms at the Dreams Riviera Cancun luxurious. We stayed on the preferred floor and also had a chance to tour a range of other rooms. All rooms were clean and well-appointed, with details including a stone-tiled bathroom, comfortable beds, and fresh linens. I also appreciated the separate bath and shower, with an easy to use shower handle located near the front of the shower where you step in. So many hotels have the shower handle directly underneath the shower head, and I get sprayed with cold water when starting the shower.
Best of all, there were multiple electrical outlets in the room and throughout the resort that fit my US plugs and WiFi (included in the stay). Dreams Riviera Cancun, as well as other properties under the Dreams Resorts & Spa brand and sister brands, has its own app called “Unlimited Connectivity.” The iOs and Android app enables free WiFi and US/Canada International calls within the resort, as well as: “allows guests to make local and international calls, free of roaming charges, by connecting to the resort’s Wi-Fi.
I had purchased an international cell phone plan but had trouble connecting in Cancun. So I was thrilled to use the resort app for WiFi not only in the room but across the resort to stay online and make the calls home during the trip. Having regular access to WiFi allowed me to efficiently get online when I needed to and “unplug” when I needed a break. I did find that at times I needed to re-log into the WiFi when I changed locations in the resort. But the connection always worked.
Note: I did find my mobile phone’s international plan helpful at the Cancun Airport when my flight was delayed. I was able to make the calls I needed to rearrange plans after I found out I needed to stay the night in Phoenix!
SPA AND FITNESS
The options for spa adventures were dreamy! The resort offers a variety of classes at the beautiful fitness area as well as poolside. As I was taking pictures around the resort I found a morning yoga class near the beach that looked very scenic and centering. The next morning I was lucky to do yoga with the other women in our group by the pool, lead by Melissa. At first I was not excited to wake up at dawn for a yoga class down by the Dreams Riviera pool, but as the sun rose I quickly concluded it was a great way to start the day. Melissa shared some of her favorite yoga techniques, one of them called Vinyasa and I was so inspired I started taking Vinyasa when I got home!
The Dreams Spa by Pevonia with options including full spa menu of body treatments and rejuvenating therapies, Hydrotherapy whirlpool baths, Steam rooms and cold plunge baths, Swedish saunas, Swiss showers, Warm cascading outdoor Jacuzzi, Ocean front massage cabins, Garden palapas, Facials and Beauty salon. Spa services are at an additional cost, but access to hydrotherapy treatment is included with Preferred Club stay.
One of the most important things after food for families on vacation is activities. Dreams Riviera Cancun has a range of different activities including pool, beach, ocean and plenty of areas for relaxation. And seriously, one of the most important things I look for in family vacation resorts is the ability for us all to relax to take a break from our busy lives!
Along with the spa, there are many other ways to relax. For one, there are shaded huts along the pool area, and well-cushioned beach chairs in the pool and beach area. One of my favorite areas to chill was a hut bar with swings located down on the beach. Whether it be a bottle of water or Sangria, sitting on a swing sipping a drink near the beach is a great way to unwind and take in the sea air.
POOL AND BEACH FUN
Along with the quiet spaces, the pool area also has many activities throughout the day and night. There is a shallow kid’s pool area and across a footbridge is an ankle level pool with ping pong tables that really looked like fun. On the other side is a pool with basketball hoops and regularly scheduled activities (including water exercises and even dance lessons!).
The pool area also has a big chess set that my twins would of loved to compete against each other for some downtime fun. Closer to the beach was my favorite pool that included a pool bar and a very well designed “infinity” style that looked as if it were linked with the ocean. This was an adult area that generated a fantasy vision of time spent just lying on a raft, getting up only for visits to the pool bar. I also just enjoyed sitting on my balcony looking at the beauty of the pool and beach areas!
OCEAN AND BEACH ACTIVITIES
The beach area had nets set up for volleyball and soccer games. For those who wanted to take advantage of the ocean more there was a water activities desk where you can reserve (at an additional cost) snorkeling equipment, a sailboat or even a trip in a glass bottom boat.
One more exciting aspect of the Dreams Riviera Cancun is that it is located a short boat ride out from the world’s second largest barrier reef. Resorts that are close to reefs can have more seaweed in the oceanfront like I found at Dreams Riviera Cancun.
When it comes to ocean activities with three boys, I prefer they swim in pools so I can watch them. However, if we go into the ocean, activities like snorkeling are great for our family to do together. My kids love looking at fish and the reef would certainly be a draw.
As part of the Mexican Caribbean, Cancun is known for it’s warm sunny climate. But with any tropical climate there is changing weather such as rain during the year. When I checked the weather websites before the trip mid October, it showed 4 days of rain during the tail end of our trip. But then I read that weather estimates in Cancun can be off because the weather moves quickly from one area to another.
I found that to be true during the trip. While it did rain, it mostly rained at night and early morning. When it did rain during the day it was the tropical type of rain that passed quickly. That left us with days of beautiful sun to enjoy during our stay.
THE KIDS EXPLORER CLUB
Kids ages 3 to 12 can go to the Dreams Riviera Cancun Explorer’s Club which can give their parents some time to themselves while their kids have fun! The program is a fully supervised and includes activates such as sandcastle competitions, arts and crafts and creative play, with a large playground and game room plus weekly adventures. You can also reserve a sitter through the resort (additional cost). During our trip I saw kids with a sitter playing soccer on the beach and another group having dinner while their parents enjoyed a romantic night out.
The Dreams Riviera Cancun is not only a beautiful resort in the exotic Mexican Caribbean, but it has activities that families, couples or groups of friends can enjoy together. The customer service was top rate, everyone had a smile on their face that helped set the tone for a fun vacation. There are lots of types of vacations, but when you are looking for a luxurious resort that is able to offer everything from quiet spaces to relax, dancing at night to adventures at the pool or beach and access to the world’s second largest barrier reef offshore – the Dreams Riviera Cancun Resort & Spa is a great option.
Diane Mizoto from The Spiritual Playground brought her camera and captured the essence of how we all felt spending time connecting, adventuring and relaxing as the perfect break from the daily grind we have back home.
Disclosure: Travel and accommodations were hosted by the Dreams Resort. All opinions are my own.
Whether you are a social media professional or just a professional in any career - graphics is an important part of presentations, events, group, online and meeting communications. In the past expensive and complicated graphics software was needed to create and “size” graphics.
I have been following and learning about social media from Guy Kawaski for years and recently he shared information about Canva as a great website to create graphics. I started using Canva for my social media and professional graphic projects and was thrilled at how easy it was for even people like me (graphically challenged). I just received a press release that Canva is now available on the iPad, which makes it even easier to create graphics on the go!
“Canva makes it amazingly simple for everyone to create professional quality graphic designs. Its online design platform brings together a simple drag-and-drop design tool and a library of more than one million photographs, graphics and fonts, allowing anyone to take an idea and present it beautifully in print or online.
Canva can be used to design almost anything: presentations, posters, blog content, cards, online marketing materials, invitations, flyers and so much more.
“Design for work, and play. Never worry about dimensions again. Easily design for social media, blog graphics and print. Create social media graphics with ease. Professionally designed layouts that are perfect for Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, Pinterest, and Instagram.
- Design on your iPad or the Web. Create a design on your desktop computer, edit it on the go.
- Collaborate with anyone, anywhere. Canva lets you share and edit your designs with friends, clients and coworkers.
- Choose from one million images and hundreds of fonts. Design with 1 million photos, graphics and fonts, or upload your own.”
For example, I was on a tight deadline to write a post about tips for finding your kids first phone. Canva enabled me to quickly add a text banner to my graphic that looked great across social media platforms. I also use Canva to size my graphics for different online platforms. The flexibility to either find my own graphics or use Canva’s vast collection ensures that I can always get what I need.
Canva will be available in the app store starting from today. Find out more at http://about.canva.com/ipad.
Disclosure: This is a press post.
Lately I have been busy trying to help my family really understand how to live a healthy lifestyle. I realized it is not only about exercise or eating food that seems “healthy”. It is also about understanding what are the right foods to eat and to control things like the amount of sugar being consumed.
We have a history of diabetes in our family so it is especially important. I really did get “Fed Up” with the type of foods in the schools, restaurants and even grocery stores that have moved so far away from whole food ingredients.
We just recently started cooking from scratch, adding more plant foods and even making my kid’s lunches for school. I am also trying new nutritional apps and websites that I am excited to talk more about in future posts.
But for today, I am excited that Katie Couric took her amazing background in investigative journalism and worked with Laurie David (Oscar winning producer of AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH) and director Stephanie Soechtig, to create a documentary on the truth behind the obesity crisis in America called Fed Up opening in Theatres across the country today starting May 9, 2014. This was the topic of the Katie Couric Show on May 8 as well. I wanted to share some of this information to help spread the word in the hopes that everyone will take the time to learn more about this important topic.
Photo Credit: Credit: Disney/ABC. Katie Couric Show #2148 with Stephanie Soechtig, Laurie David, Dr. Mark Hyman and Dr. Margo Wootan.
On the May 8 episode of the nationally syndicated daytime talk show “Katie,”, Laurie David and Katie discussed their documentary “Fed Up” on obesity in America and the truth behind one of the greatest health crisis of our time. Director Stephanie Soechtig joined the conversation along with Dr. Mark Hyman and Dr. Margo Wootan, Director of Nutrition Policy at the Center for Science In The Public Interest. Find out what you should be doing to live healthier and longer and how this obesity crisis happened.”
Everything we’ve been told about food and exercise for the past 30 years is dead wrong. FED UP is the film the food industry doesn’t want you to see. From Katie Couric, Laurie David (Oscar winning producer of AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH) and director Stephanie Soechtig, FED UP will change the way you eat forever. The film opened in theaters across the country on May 9th.
Holidays mean time with family and friends and I can’t think of a better place to spend time than Disneyland. I had the fun opportunity to attend a press preview of the Disneyland Holiday events and with a full line-up of cross-cultural activities there was lots of holiday cheer to go around. Beyond my regular delight with being at Disneyland, it was great to experience holiday surprises in many of the attractions, yummy holiday treats and decorations that sparkled beyond belief. Here are details, including my favorite events and tidbits from the press releases and a video made with my partner in “video” Kimberley Clayton Blaine, TheGoToMo.
Disney ¡Viva Navidad!
The newest celebration at the Disneyland Resort is “Disney ¡Viva Navidad!” -Nov. 15 2013 through Jan. 6, 2014 in Disney California Adventure Park. I had the chance to see the beautiful parade with music that made me want to get up and dance (I was wishing I had one of those amazing skirts to dance in). Then I learned more details from the press release: “Disney ¡Viva Navidad! is a merry celebration inspired by the warmth and joyous spirit of the Latino culture, filled with holiday traditions, jubilant dancing and exciting music. Based in and around the Paradise Garden area of Disney California Adventure, the special activities include crafts and face-painting for children, live Latino music, dance lessons, holiday foods, the “Disney ¡Viva Navidad! Street Party” and, of course, appearances by some popular Disney characters“.
“Micky Mouse, Minni Mouse and Goofy will have festive costumes along with the Three Caballeros: Donald Duck, Panchito from Mexico and José Carioca from Brazil. It takes place at Paradise Garden several times a day (check the daily schedule for timing). You can watch a great performance at the Disney ¡Viva Navidad! Street Party that includes “Mexican folklorico dancers, samba dancers and drummers, plus giant “Mojiganga” puppets, including Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus” Jan. 3 Through Jan. 6 2014 will be the grand finale of “Disney ¡Viva Navidad!” with a special celebration of Three Kings Day (Dia de los Reyes).
If you are hungry, you can also head out to dining locations in Paradise Garden to try popular Mexican dishes such as “such as pozole (hearty stew), chicken mole drumettes, pescado (fish) Veracruzano, champurrado (Mexican-style hot chocolate), sweet tamales, torta al pastor (pork sandwich), buñuelos (deep-fried sweet treat) and choco flan”.
World of Color Holiday Winter Dreams:
The new version of the after-dark Paradise Bay (Disney California Adventure) experience called “World of Color − Winter Dreams” features a new story including new characters from the Walt Disney Pictures animated motion picture “Frozen” hosted by Olaf the snowman. There are also new special effects, advanced technology, music and methods for utilizing the “massive “stage” of water, color and light on which “World of Color” is presented”.
The new World of Color – Winter Dreams has seven sequences that was explained in the press release.
1. “The Pre-Show: Glow Honor Choir Wonder – Season’s Greetings: features the “World of Color” Honor Choir singing “Glow,” written especially for this new show. Then Tinker Bell’s traditional greeting from “Wonderful World of Color” summons Old Man Winter and the skating Frost Fairies. more than 500 singers representing all 50 United States appear in the pre show! Disneyland Resort teamed with Grammy®-winning composer Eric Whitacre, who has joined hundreds of voices online in similar “virtual choirs.” More than 1,400 submissions from around the country were received for the “World of Color” Honor Choir. Other Disney fans designed holiday cards and submitted them online to appear in the “Glow-A Season of Light” sequence.
2. Snow – A Winter Wonderland: Olaf takes guests on a breathtaking winter sleigh ride, encountering Bambi, Thumper and, from “Frozen,” sisters Anna and Elsa.
3. Glow – A Season of Light: The holidays are celebrated with images of holiday cards created by Disneyland Resort guests and cast members.
4. Enchantment – The Toy Story Nutcracker: This familiar ballet is danced in some delightful, offbeat renditions by favorite “Toy Story” characters.
5. Spirit-Holiday Sing-Along: Snowman Olaf has always loved the idea of a warm summer. He innocently imagines himself enjoying the sunshine, then leads the audience in a holiday sing-along.
6. Finale – Merry & Bright Holiday Lights”: Olaf welcomes a surprising Santa as 700 newly installed lights blaze to life for a colorful finale around the lagoon.
7. After Glow: Finale (Honor Choir): “World of Color – Winter Dreams” features more than a dozen songs, ranging from familiar holiday tunes such as “Jingle Bells,” “Feliz Navidad” and “The Dreidel Song” to musical numbers from “Frozen” and original compositions such as “Glow.
Those interested in the “behind the scenes” will be excited to know that the programming for the new “Winter Dreams” show took three months to create the 17 million pixels in the “World of Color – Winter Dreams” screen. The surrounding area was enhanced with “700 high-power, color, LED strobe lights were installed along the side of the California Screamin’ roller coaster, 16 narrow-beam moving lights within the sun-ray sculpture on Mickey’s Fun Wheel, plus 21 narrow-beam movie lights within the viewing area. To add to the Winter Dream theme were six snowflake generators within the viewing area produce giant snowflakes in six different shapes. The beautiful sparkle effects were created with ten mirror balls installed on the speaker and lighting towers.”·
The existing “World of Color” technology (already amazing in itself) includes “a platform composed of nearly 1 full acre of engineered superstructure, longer than a football field and capable of settling on three levels – one for the performance, one under the water surface and one for maintenance. There are nearly 1,200 powerful and programmable fountains, and a vast underwater grid with more than 18,000 points of control. Each fountain has multiple points of control for lighting, color intensity, water angle and height”.
Steve Davison, creative director of the original “World of Color” show in Disney California Adventure, also staged “World of Color − Winter Dreams.” Davison, parades and spectaculars, executive for Walt Disney Imagineering Creative Entertainment, said: “I’m thrilled and amazed to see ‘World of Color – Winter Dreams’ come to life on the Paradise Bay. Each night as we worked on the programming, it was fun to see the magic happen as we blended the new music, animation, lasers and special effects into a dazzling holiday show.”
Disneyland Park – Here is information from the press release about the other Holiday fun at Disneyland and California Adventure Parks:
* Fantasyland, guests meet the enchanting sisters from “Frozen” – the fearless and optimistic Anna, and Elsa, who has the power to control snow and ice.
* Sleeping Beauty’s Winter Castle – A sensational holiday lighting and special-effects show carries the magic of the holidays from the castle all the way to the 60-foot tall Disneyland Christmas tree in Town Square. The finale of the show includes the legendary “Believe … in Holiday Magic” fireworks show, ending with a touching rendition of “White Christmas,” along with a climactic snowfall swirling upon Main Street, U.S.A., “it’s a small world” Mall and New Orleans Square.
* Tomorrowland, Thor: Treasures of Asgard invites guests into a column of light and color which magically transports them from Disneyland to the home world of Thor, the Mighty Avenger.
* A Christmas Fantasy” Parade – On Main Street, U.S.A., Disney characters celebrate the magic of the season, wrapping gifts, baking holiday treats and preparing for the arrival of Santa Claus, who shouts a jolly greeting to spectators along the parade route. New for 2013, winter skiers (on roller skis) glide around a frost-covered pine tree, Princess Tiana and Prince Naveen from “The Princess and the Frog” join the Candlelight Costume Ball, and a corps of Finale Dancers in gorgeous Dickens-era costumes lead the way for Santa and his reindeer.
*“it’s a small world” Holiday becomes a worldwide celebration of the season, boasting more than 300,000 glittering lights on its façade and, inside, the children of many nations in their holiday attire. New for 2013, the smiling clock at the front of “it’s a small world” reveals a sparkling, new projection show. After dark, on every quarter hour, the façade of the attraction is transformed into an enormous clockwork mechanism with advanced 3D-projection technology. The gears and springs pull back to reveal a world of holiday wonders hidden behind the clock.
* Haunted Mansion Holiday presents a madcap celebration as the traditions of Halloween and Christmas collide. The ghoulish but well-meaning Jack Skellington from the film “Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas” has come to Haunted Mansion to transform it with his skewed vision of the holidays.
* Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus greet Disneyland guests at Jingle Jangle Jamboree in Big Thunder Ranch, in Frontierland. Children and families can chat with St. Nick, meet Disney characters, and enjoy games, music, crafts and seasonal entertainment.
* Carsland: Adventure A whimsical “snowcar” (the Radiator Springs version of a snowman) stands at the entrance to Cars Land, and each address along Route 66 – Flo’s V-8 Café, Fillmore’s, Cozy Cone Motel, Luigi’s Casa della Tires and more – features holiday décor that reflects the personality of the “Cars” character who lives there.
Buena Vista Street: A dazzling, 50-foot Christmas tree adorns Carthay Circle along Buena Vista Street. The tree and surrounding buildings, inspired by Los Angeles as it appeared when Walt Disney arrived in the 1920s, are decorated with vintage-style ornaments. Children of all ages may visit a classic department store Santa at Elias & Co., the main department store along Buena Vista Street.
* Mad T Party: Wintertime fun rocks the night at “Mad T Party” as Alice and the Mad Hatter add their own brand of off-kilter holiday spirit to the nighttime celebration in Hollywood Land.
* “a bug’s land” transforms as Flik and his bug buddies spread giant Christmas lights and oversized ornaments throughout their realm.
* A Holiday edition of the street show, “Phineas and Ferb’s Rockin’ Rollin’ Dance Party,” includes festive décor, costumes and holiday tunes. The show invites guests of all ages to “seize the day,” dancing and singing on Paradise Pier with the Disney Channel’s inventive animated boy geniuses.
*We found Hanukkah Decorations at a store on Buena Vista Street which I promptly purchased to celebrate Hanukkah in Mickey style. The stores at Disneyland have a wide assortment of holiday décor.
*Guests in the Downtown Disney district get into the holiday spirit at the Downtown Disney Winter Village, visiting the quaint cottages, browsing for gifts in the “shopping chalets” and enjoying a 30-foot Christmas tree. Guests also lace up their skates to make spirits bright along the newly themed Olaf’s Frozen Ice Rink. The rink hours are scheduled for 3 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 3 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. Friday through Sunday.
I was thrilled to bring a new TechMamas.com writer, Jennifer. She is not only my friend but also one of the most knowledgeable people I know about all things Disney with great tips about the park and rides. Here are some of her tips from the Disneyland Holiday 2013 press event:
Disneyland: The Haunted Mansion has been transformed into Nightmare Before Christmas in the most entertaining, eye-catching way. I found this attraction so amazing that it alone was worth the trip to Disneyland! The creativity and artistry was truly impressive, and I became attached to Zero, the darling ghost dog who appears throughout the ride.
If you are traveling with a child who can handle just a little spookiness in the not-so-dark amidst a ton of visual delights, then I would label this attraction kid-friendly. If a fast pass is offered when you are visiting the park, I suggest grabbing one and making the Haunted Mansion a priority. Check in at the information booth on Main Street to ask about the fast pass option or wait time.
It’s a Small World is another must-see on your holiday to-do list at Disneyland. How could you do just relax and enjoy with a big smile as you sit back and tap your feet to the musical beat on this boat ride through a wide assortment of singing dolls? I loved singing along to the usual “It’s a Small World” tune perfectly mixed with Jingle Bells to give it that holiday spark. Disney went all out with the holiday decor for this attraction, both inside and out. Even with its popularity, this ride handles large crowds. Rarely is there much of a wait. But, if you want to avoid a line, consider visiting in the morning or later in the evening for your best chance of walking right on. For Hidden Mickey fans, keep your eye out on the ride for two extra Mickeys this holiday season.
World of Color: I’ve seen the World of Color show many times, and it’s always a delight. Without a doubt, the new World of Color show, “Winter Dreams”, is my all time favorite! Olaf, the Snowman in Disney’s upcoming movie, “Frozen”, is the host of this spectacular. Now, I cannot wait to take my family to see the movie Frozen. A couple of things to keep in mind…you can pick up a free Fast Pass for this show earlier in the day to reduce your time in line for a great standing spot. Alternatively, you can purchase a dinner package, which is a great way to enjoy a delicious sit-down dinner followed by a short wait for this fabulous show! Just call Disney’s dining for more information on this.
Of course, you’re not required to do either of these and can just show up an hour or so prior to show time. Ask a Disney employee when people start lining up. Once you arrive, choose to stand in the front section if you enjoy a good spray of water. Alternatively, there are plenty of good viewing spots slightly back which allow you to stay dry. When planning out your souvenir purchases, keep in mind that it’s fun to pick up a pair of Mickey Ears for this show because the ears light up and change colors in sync with the show. I was impressed with the comfort and (light) weight of my set of ears.
Buena Vista Street:
I just loved experiencing the festive holiday cheer from every direction, both in sight and sound. Many times, I heard the music of a quartet singing holiday songs or discovered a gorgeous array of wreaths loaded with attractive colors.
I have to admit…I’m a shopper. I couldn’t help but recognize this as an opportunity to pick up holiday gifts of adorable plush characters decked out in cute holiday outfits! And, who can resist the yummy sweet treats in the candy shops? I certainly couldn’t. A little chocolate is a great way to end a fabulous day! It always tastes better when in the shape of a favorite character, of course.
For more information about the Disneyland Resort, visit www.disneyland.com/holidays. For ticket and hotel offers, visit www.disneyland.com/offers.
Disclosure: This was a press event.
Heading out the door to catch a plane, like many busy women, I stopped on the front steps and went through my mental packing checklist. Airplane tickets were in my briefcase, as was my trusty little technology bag. Arriving at the airport 45 minutes later, I discovered one of my most important travel tools was missing. Public and hotel Wi-Fi can be unreliable and lack proper security. Time for Plan B.
I decided to jot down some notes and write the blog post later at the hotel. Arriving at my destination several hours later, the slow and spotty hotel Wi-Fi forced another change of plans. I quickly acknowledged that my writing, like many day-to-day tasks, depends on access to online research and I was starting to hyperventilate, thinking of missed work deadlines due to poor quality connectivity. I longed for my mobile Wi-Fi device on my desk back home, realizing just how dependent I am on that small piece of electronics and how confident I felt with it in my briefcase.
Whether I am heading out to work, meetings or business trips I review my technology travel list before heading out the door. Here’s my technology travel list – what on your list?
1. Tech Devices: I usually bring my laptop with me on business trips but powerful tablets may change that habit. I also bring other devices such as a video or digital camera depending on the event.
2. Smartphone: It’s like one of the family.
3. Backup charger: My favorite is a universal charger that works for both my laptop and my smartphone.
4. Mobile WiFi: Uninterrupted work on the go requires connectivity. The AT&T Unite (powered by Netgear) not only gives me a secure network but it also has a battery life up to 10 hours, which is enough to get me through my day.
5. Travel Cases: Keeping technology like chargers, cords and memory organized is essential. I have a stash of different zip cases and travel bags with zippers to store technology within my laptop bag and stay organized on the go. One case contains power cords, another has my smartphone, mobile Wi-Fi, backup battery and digital camera. A final small case holds my extra business cards. In my purse I also have items separated in zip cases. One case contains my lipsticks and face powder. Another case holds odds and ends like mints, pens, bandages, pain relievers and basic travel items. For trips require a large amount of technology (such as the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas), I put my devices in separate cases with their chargers and accessories. Or sometimes I put all of my technology accessories in a few cases of their own.
6. Travel Documents: As a backup, I have paper printouts of key travel and work information I need on the business including hotel reservations, driving directions and meeting agendas.
7. Memory: Even though I store my documents in the cloud, I like to bring an extra flash memory cards (if I bring a camera) and USB Flash drive. Having a second copy of my presentation on a flash drive gives the comfort that if something goes wrong I always have a backup copy. But there is something ironic about having “memory” as a step in my checklist to remember what to bring to business trips.
8. Power Plug: I find that many hotels do not have enough plugs to charge up my tech each night. So I travel with a plug that has three outlets and two USB slots and that plugs into one wall outlet. Of course, if I am traveling in a different country, I bring the international plug.
Over the next few weeks I will be covering new phones that I think offer great features for busy travelers. The first is the new Moto X by Motorola.
I was invited to a media event at Google a few weeks ago to learn about the Moto X.
Guy Kawasaki opened the event, starting with a few opening remarks followed a presentation by Rick Osterloh, the SVP of Product at Motorola Mobility. I must admit, I had arrived on the Google campus curious how Motorola could differentiate a new smart phone from the really good Android phones already available. Well, the presentation helped me appreciate some new features that are perfect for busy travelers and parents (and everyone else!).
The unique features of the Moto X were discussed during the media event. Listed below are some of the key points. I will update my blog when I have a chance to spend more time using the phone.
Touchless Control: The Moto X responds to your voice (there is a 3 step training process) and is always on listening mode. To engage the controls, you just need to say “OK, Google Now” (for example “Google Now, navigate to 1234 Smith Drive, Mountain View CA”). Even when the screen is off, the phone is still in listening mode. The architecture of the phone allows it to be in listening mode without draining the battery.
Quick Capture: With the Moto X, it only takes a few seconds to take a picture. With two twists of your wrist when holding the phone, the phone goes right into one-hand operation camera mode. Then press anywhere on the screen to take photo or video. The quick shutter speed is perfect for catching kids on the move. During the demo, the pictures appeared very clear on the phone’s screen.
Active Display: A feature called “Active Notifications” allows you to turn the phone over and see texts, calls and other content on the screen without going into the specific app. Another convenience is that you can listen to recent calls on your desktop using the Chrome Extension.
Hands Free Authentication: Devices that are authenticated can be connected to your phone without typing in a password.
Fits in your hand: Motorola did studies to find a form factor that fits nicely in your hand.
Assembled in the US: Always great to bring more jobs to the USA.
Custom Colors: Here are details from the Motorola press release “Through our online studio, Moto Maker, you choose the colors, and decide on the details: front, back, accents, memory, wallpapers, even add a name or a short message. When you’re done, we assemble your Moto X right here in the USA and ship it to you for free in 4 days or less (*Subject to parts availability).” I am happy that the colors include my favorite TechMama Turquoise (well that is the name I call it at least)..
Lots of Accessories: I was trying to take quick notes during the media event, but there is an extensive list of accessories available from brands including: Belkin, Sol Republic, Speck, Incipio, Lifeproof, Otterbox, Casemate, Griffin, Powersupport, M4DE, So-earphones & deck bluetooth, JAX headhpones and speakers….
Price/Timing: Check carriers for specific pricing, but the Motorola press release stated price of $199 for the Moto X with a 2 year contract. Moto X will be available in the US, Canada and Latin America starting in late August/early September.
I’ll be posting additional information on the Moto X after a trial run with the phone. I’m excited by the opportunity to have a smartphone that actually listens to me. Maybe my kids will take notice and follow the phone’s example, responding obediently to the verbal command, “OK Kids Now”. What do you think?
Disclosure: This was a media event.
Time goes by so fast, and as a Mom and the family historian I want to make sure I am keeping track and sharing family memories. The first step in this effort was learning to copy all digital pictures from numerous cameras to my PC in a timely manner. Next was the challenge of sharing photos and movies with family and friends.
A big time-saver in this content management exercise, with multiple devices taking pictures and offering quick connection with cell or WiFi access, is to send pictures directly to the cloud. I store my digital photos and documents all in one place in the cloud using SkyDrive, which allows me to send a link to these great memories if I want to share. I not only have SkyDrive on my PC, but also have the SkyDrive app on my phone to enable photo loading to the cloud no matter where I am!
Skype compliments SkyDrive in family archiving. Video calls with family and friends are just a click away, and if I want to give them a peek at the kids’ homework, art work or class projects, Skype easily allows screen sharing.
Both sets of Grandparents know that the only way they will be able to keep up on what is going on in our busy lives is with regular Skype chats while viewing our family SkyDrive digital photo albums at the same time.