About Renee Blodgett

Renee Blodgett

Renee Blodgett is the founder of We Blog the World. The site combines the magic of an online culture and travel magazine with a global blog network and has contributors from every continent in the world. Having lived in 10 countries and explored nearly 80, she is an avid traveler, and a lover, observer and participant in cultural diversity.

She is also the CEO and founder of Magic Sauce Media, a new media services consultancy focused on viral marketing, social media, branding, events and PR. For over 20 years, she has helped companies from 12 countries get traction in the market. Known for her global and organic approach to product and corporate launches, Renee practices what she pitches and as an active user of social media, she helps clients navigate digital waters from around the world. Renee has been blogging for over 16 years and regularly writes on her personal blog Down the Avenue, Huffington Post, BlogHer, We Blog the World and other sites. She was ranked #12 Social Media Influencer by Forbes Magazine and is listed as a new media influencer and game changer on various sites and books on the new media revolution. In 2013, she was listed as the 6th most influential woman in social media by Forbes Magazine on a Top 20 List.

Her passion for art, storytelling and photography led to the launch of Magic Sauce Photography, which is a visual extension of her writing, the result of which has led to producing six photo books: Galapagos Islands, London, South Africa, Rome, Urbanization and Ecuador.

Renee is also the co-founder of Traveling Geeks, an initiative that brings entrepreneurs, thought leaders, bloggers, creators, curators and influencers to other countries to share and learn from peers, governments, corporations, and the general public in order to educate, share, evaluate, and promote innovative technologies.


Latest Posts by Renee Blodgett

5 Ways To Give Your Smartphone a Luxe & Elegant Look!

June 24, 2016 by  

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You carry a cell phone around everywhere, right? It goes with you to work, to the gym and when you travel. While we’re huge advocates of keeping them at bay when you talk and in another room when you sleep (use a safe tubular earpiece connector and put your cell phone on Airplane Mode when it’s on your body — be sure to read our write up on EMF concerns), it’s hard to do without our phones. Truth be told, we use them for Skype, messaging, surfing the web, watching videos, listening to music, email and more, so with a device that is that prolific in our lives, why not give it a luxurious looking skin?

We discovered several brands we love where both the quality and design made our cut for top cell phone accessories in the oh so luxe and chic category!!

Piel Frama

This Spanish brand offers a number of stylish and elegant choices for your cell phone and for other items, like business cards, wallets and trinkets.In other words, they’re not just about making your cell phone luxe, although I’d argue that this “carry all” leather case could also serve as a great carrying case for your phone while being able to store other things you need on the road as well, such as currency, your passport, credit cards and even keys.

This Carry All Bag is handmade and created in a high quality calfskin. It’s a bit like an oversized wallet but with lots of compartments — it has its own section for a small cell phone and space for twelve credit cards.  What’s nice is that it comes in RED, BROWN and BLACK as well.

In fact, one of the things that really drew us to this brand was their wide array of color choices, regardless of the product, from vibrant oranges and deep reds, to daring greens, turquoise and pinks. BRAVO!! Shown below is their Frama Slim on the left and the Wallet Magnum on the right.

They go beyond solids as well! The Piel Frama iMAGNUM iPhone 6S case also in calfskin has an inner thermoplastic polymer structure, which gives a high resistence and a perfect fitting to your iPhone — below it is shown for the iPhone 6S. Talk about luxe and custom tailored — you can put in your own perfume, talk with the case closed, sync and charge through a travel cable.

These iPhone cases have a completely rotable and removable belt clip for belt, handbag, etc., and the knob is also removable. They tout that the Ultra Belt Clip is significantly stronger and it offers more security than anything similar on the market although we didn’t test this one out specifically but we really love the design. It has a soft leather lining and a foamy material inside the case for additional cell phone support.

They also have wallets and business card holders as well, all made of high quality leather. The business card holders are FUN as they come in a variety of fun colors — even purple and turquoise. My only wish is that they had larger card holders as they’re on the thin side, so hold very few — not quite big enough for a business networking event or a trade show. That said, they’re oh so luxe and beautifully elegant, that it’s worth having a couple in different colors that you could use to collect other cards on the road, using a different color for each category of peeps you collect.

They have cases for iPods and iPads as well and because they’re based in Europe, they offer a much wider range of support for other devices, including Samsung, HTC, Sony, Nokia, Blackberry, Huawei, Google, Microsoft, Motorola, LG and others. More information can be found at https://www.pielframa.com.

Burkley

What drew us to Burkley cases was their Ostrich and Snake Leather cases, although we didn’t end up testing one of them out. Why? Too many other great choices. Their ostrich and snake leather cases however are oh so fabulous and have a snug fit in the inner shell of the phone case so you have a tight fit, a great feature for travelers who want to ensure their phone is secure. The outer layer is bonded to the premium impact resistant polycarbonate and a smooth rubber finish inside the case protects the back of the handset against scratches and smudges. It is also covered with natural suede inside – oh so luxe!! They even have matching cases for iPhone watches if you want to really up your look!

We also liked this handy Wallet Case for the iPhone (5 and 6) and Samsung S5 and S6. It is handcrafted and hand stitched and can hold your phone and other valuables. It also has a snug fit for extra protection and unlike so many cases we’ve tested out in the past, it is easy to take out and put back in — ahhh yes! Hats off to that!  It is designed to hold 2 or 3 of your essential cards and has a card pocket for your phone, money and credit cards.

They offer simpler clip on cases as well with card pockets on the back as well for those who want a simple but elegant look!

What was our favorite? My personal pick is this unusually textured leather style cell phone case that comes in a host of fun colors. Labeled as the Wallet Case in Antique Purple with Special Effect Leather (or yellow, green, etc.), depending on what color you want.

These are not bright vibrant colors that teenagers might gravitate to, but subdued sophisticated and elegant colors in a rich soft leather. It comes in an antique yellow, red, green and purple and its antique pattern reflects the most natural form of leather with optimum thickness. I LOVE this look! Like the others, the inner shell gives your cell phone a snug fit to prevent loss and its outer layer is bonded to the premium impact resistant polycarbonate inner shell.

The smooth rubber finish inside the case protects the back of the handset against scratches and smudges. We applaud the inside design which includes three card slots and money pocket to make it easy to carry around your ID, credit and debit cards, and cash without having to take your wallet with you. They also include a magnetic clip on the back for quick fastening and access without any hassle. More information can be found at http://www.burkleycase.com/.

VRS Design

VRS Design was originally started as a third-party Apple accessory company in South Korea and has grown to support both iOS and Android-compatible products in the US and abroad. Their latest re-branding effort shows that they truly care about style and fashion and well, making you and your phone look fabulous on the road.

My favorite of all of their offerings is the Layered Dandy Series, which comes in black, a light brown, dark brown and a deep rich red, which we love. It has a lush leather texture finish and offers card slots and a money compartment on the inner left hand side. I love the very strong fasten which closes magnetically — we found that it is stronger and of higher quality than many of the other cases we’ve tested out with magnetic closes.

Below is the Dandy series in a rich dark brown – oh so elegant, oh so refined!

Their vivid two tone Klop Series comes in a fun pink/black, blue/black and a neon green/black combo.  A little simpler in design, this wallet case comes with color accented card slots and a money compartment and also doubles as a kickstand and fastens magnetically as well. Fun, fun, fun!!

Lastly, another product worth mentioning from their line is the The Verge, which is a  fully-adjustable magnetic car mount, which basically accommodates all horizontal car vents. In the theme of fun meets elegant, they offer 5 different color options as well, something most productivity product brands shy away from — BRAVO!!

DoDo Case

Next up is the DoDoCase! Truth be told, I had a toy named DoDo when I was a child, so when I first heard the name, it brought a big wide smile. It was a mini hippo on wheels with a string if I recall and I dragged the thing everywhere. What originally drew me to them was their ability to offer customers a custom built case, which in the end we didn’t review, largely because it didn’t have pockets to store credit or business cards on the inner left. That said, what we discovered on their site once we began to explore was a wealth of other great options that are both fun and chic.

Take, for example, these wooden covers for your smart phone with a satin-coated “soft touch” polycarbonate shell and a genuine wood backplate in four different color tone variations. It has an ultra-slim snap-fit design, clear matte finish for lasting protection and a wide camera hole which is worth noting since a lot of cases don’t have a tight enough fit on the back and often cover up part of the camera. It’s also ultra lightweight at only 10 ounces which travelers will certainly appreciate.

A big high five that the wooden cases come straight out of America’s Pacific Northwest. Crafted in Recover’s original wood from Oregon, each case features a natural wood backplate inlayed into a satin-coated polycarbonate bumper for a premium blend of long-lasting protection and originality. The low profile, snap-fit construction makes this the slimmest wood iPhone case on the market.  Two thumbs up for the creativity!

My top pick from their line goes to the Lorna Wallet Case and there are four two-tone color options to choose from: Black/granite, blue/harbor blue, red/granite and brown/dove gray. They use a premium Pergamena Leather exterior, a vegetable tanned leather which apparently darkens over time. I went with the dove blue but was told that after several months of use, it would become more of a royal dark blue, which btw, hasn’t happened yet.

A fabulous feature for travelers is not only does it come with pockets on the inside left like many other cases do, but it’s wide enough with the elastic band closure that you can actually fit up to 4 times more cards and bills than any other case we tested. We LOVE this as it serves as so much more than a smartphone case with this built-in functionality that is incredibly practical.

We also found it super easy to remove the phone when needed, which with earlier models of many manufacturers we tried was frustrating at best.   I cant’ tell you how many nails I broke attempting….thank God for progress!

The below shot gives you a much better idea of just how spacious the inside storage area is — and, the colors are elegant and sophisticated with enough color range to go with any purse, backpack, briefcase or bag.

They also offer beautiful leather wallets and custom cases as I referred to earlier. You can literally customize your own case and even add your own initials to the top if you wish. Below was something I created, but never ordered. Elegant and beautiful right?

Additionally, they have fabulous waxed canvas cases for devices, the most luxe and elegant being the ones for iPad models. I LOVE these!! We also liked this very simple but super handy Leather and Canvas Phone Clutch. This sophisticated clutch is made from genuine Logger’s Leather from American Tannery and is available in natural or black waxed canvas. Either choice comes with a lovely antique brass snap closure and has internal webbing to organize cash and cards.

It has an additional large backside pocket for other items, including your phone. Their small size fits iPhone 6/6s, iPhone SE/5, Google Nexus 4/5, Moto X 2nd Generation Samsung S3 and their large size fits iPhone 6 Plus/6s Plus, Moto X Pure, Samsung S5, S6, and Note 5. Sweet!!

More information can be found at http://www.dodocase.com.

Phantom Glass

Meet Phantom Glass, a tempered glass screen protector designed for smartphones, tablets, and cameras. Phantom Glass is made using the most durable tempered glass which guarantees that Phantom Glass will resist most impacts and scratches, and ensures that your device is protected. The glass protector is also engineered so that in the event of breaking, it does so in a what that is 100% safe to the touch. There are no hazardous shards of glass or sharp edges. Bravo!
Their proprietary and patent-pending silicone nano-adhesion layer ensures that Phantom Glass installs in under 30 seconds, with no bubbles, liquids, or special techniques. To use, simply align Phantom Glass with your device, and Phantom Glass will install itself. The silicone nano-adhesion will never leave gross residue on your device when removed, which we found to be a great feature.
Unlike any other screen protector out there, Phantom Glass is treated with a specially engineered oleophobic nano-coating to ensure that fingerprints and residue wipe off with ease, another great feature as we’ve had “fails” with other products in the past. This coating is applied using a unique electric infusion process, and will not degrade for up to two years of everyday use.
Phantom Glass will work with most cases and won’t peel or bubble like film protectors. Their silicone nano-adhesion layer ensures that Phantom Glass will allow a seamless fit with most snug, form fitting cases without any issue. It’s 100% clear, with zero image distortion.  Below is the protector for the iPhone 5, which is what we tested it on.
The silicone forms to the surface of the device, and will overtime, reduce the visibility of most surface scratches to zero — we’re looking forward to this as we have iPhone 4 and 5′s in-house and they’ve traveled to many countries with us. Phantom Glass is available for Apple, Samsung, Blackberry, Canon, Nikon, and Sony products, among others and range in price from $34.95 to $59.99. The iPhone 4 and 5 screen protectors are $34.99 each. More information can be found at: http://www.phantom.glass/. 

 

 

Fine Hellenic Dining at Dio Deka in Los Gatos California

June 19, 2016 by  

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I love Greek food but it’s not as prevalent as Italian or even other Mediterranean restaurants in the San Francisco Bay Area, so we rarely get an opportunity to get into a Greek frame of mine. While on an adventure south to Los Gatos California recently, we decided to put Dio Deka to the test, a one Michelin star restaurant that specializes in fine Hellenic cuisine.

Located in Hotel Los Gatos, which has its own unique history right in the heart of downtown Los Gatos, the birth of Dio Deka is the result of five Greek restauranteurs: Nikos Kalouris, Vagelis Papazisis, Yiani Dulles, Julian Platis, and Petros Katopodis. Apparently, the name Dio Deka stems from the restaurant’s address, 210, which reads Dio Deka in Greek. Coincidentally, 210 also happens to be the area code in Athens, another cool factoid. Here’s another fun quirk about how they run the restaurant, which we love. In line with Greek hospitality, all of the owners also work as servers in addition to their management duties, as a way of making their guests feel at “home”.

Truth be told, that was the case with us. After our main course but before our dessert (if I recall the order correctly), Nikos came over and joined us for a drink. He poured a bottle of Italian red to break things up a bit from our classic northern California Cabernet choices from earlier in the evening. Since we opted for red meat (they’re known for their steaks), we went with big bold reds all night long.

Presentation is part of that Greek hospitality, starting with a simple taste they serve before we even placed our order.  Rosemary twigs are part of their shtick and all I can say before we even start is BRAVO to executive chef William Roberts and sous chefs George Paleologos and Craig Ponkey. 

Those who read enough of my restaurant write-ups will know that I’m a huge fan of salads and regardless of what else is on the appetizer menu, one of them must be a salad — this girl needs her greens!! On their Chef’s Showcase, I passed up the Sonoma County Foie Gras Terrine, which I now regret, largely because I wanted to save room for steak. Their terrine is made up of strawberry black pepper gelee, pistachio, yogurt and mint. Also in the Showcase selection is something they refer to as Fragokota, which is essentially Guniea Fowl with Greek wedding-rice of Delta asparagus, Aquerello rissoto, herbs and flowers. WOW is the right word!

Getting back to my salad, I kept it simple despite the mouthwatering options above. They offered a traditional Greek salad of course with cucumbers, tomatoes, red onions, Kalamata olives, romaine and feta, but I went for the Ascolibri, which is a Chicory and Citrus Salad which they toss in a buttermilk-yogurt dressing and serve with Hazelnuts and Kefalograveria Cheese. I of course, added some rosemary to the salad and a little extra yogurt – oh so yum!!

While the photo doesn’t do it justice, I wanted to mention one of their more unusual sides: Mesquite grilled romaine hearts — let’s just say that the smokey Mesquite flavor just “works”. Also worth trying is the Orzo with burnt butter and Myzithra cheese, creamed spinach with lemon zest and nutmeg, their Carmamelized mushrooms and the Garlic and Rosemary French fries.

While there were so many Greek specialties on the appetizer list I wanted to try, it’s hard to pass up classic Baked Lamb Meatballs when they’re offered. While the lamb was delicious, it was really the Ouzo-tomato sauce with fresh Myzithra cheese that had me at hello! This dish won both of us over in fact, and on a future visit to the restaurant, we might just opt for four appetizers and a bottle of their 2011 Barolo Guido Porro from Piedmont Italy and call it a night!

Other apps worth mentioning include their Mesquite-grilled Octopus with romesco sauce, lemon vinaigrette and hazelnuts, the slow-cooked Pork-Robs rubbed with Greek spices, Attiki honey and lemon and sour cherries with Ouzo and the Strata, which is a Delta Asparagus with grilled Haloumi cheese, soft poached egg and herb bread crumbs.

If you want to go classically Greek, go for the Dolmathakia (Stuffed Grape Leaves) with a braised short rib, mushroom puree, crispy mushrooms and an egg lemon sauce, or their Spanakotiropita, which I was addicted to when I lived in Greece for my short stint in my early twenties. Yup, it’s those crispy phyllo pastry with Greek sheep and goat milk cheese and baby spinach — it’s to die for if you’ve never had it.

Let’s move onto their steaks since we were told by a few locals to not miss out on their Bone-in Filet Mignon, which our waiter who has been working there since day one, agreed. We couldn’t say no to this rare 16 ounce cut of USDA Prime which was naturally aged for 30 days. It had that WOW taste quality combined with extreme tenderness and I’d recommend it medium rare. We also went for their Veal Porterhouse, also 16 ounces but of milk-fed “pink” veal steak. As tender if not moreso than the Filet Mignon, it melted on our tongues! Combine both with some of their caramelized mushrooms which they sauteed with Greek herbs and a little sauteed greens, and you’ll be in heaven for the remainder of the night.

They get their beef from Stockyards of Chicago and rather than use gas to grill it, they grill the steaks on Mesquite charcoal, which is known for imparting a subtle Mesquite flavor into the meat. T’was a treat and we noticed the difference!

You’re probably wondering how we had space for dessert at all, but our waiter insisted we try the Yiaourti, a classic Greek yogurt (which is thicker than traditional yogurt), with fruit, Attiki honey and a sesame seed Pastelli. While all of the desserts were scrumptious, I found my fork going back to the Yiaourti again and again, and….long after I was full.

I tend to avoid heavy carb choices whenever possible, but the gentlemen at our table couldn’t care less and wasn’t about to leave the restaurant without sampling their Greek beignets or otherwise called Loukoumathes in Greece. They dip them in thyme-honey syrup with cinnamon and nuts and they were apparently so delish that they decided to finish them off.

They offer a Greek yogurt Panna Cotta with strawberries, rosemary short bread and yogurt sorbet as well as something they refer to as SOKOLATA, which is a flourless chocolate almond cake and whenever a dark chocolate something is on the menu, Anthony always obliges. They serve it with Brandied milk-chocolate mousse, caramelized bananas (they were let’s just say outa this world) and my absolute favorite of the whole dish — their homemade vanilla bean ice cream, which was so pure and so fresh, you wanted dessert to last all night!

The dining room itself has a very Mediterranean flare to it and while the below is taken during the day, imagine a dimly lit room for dinner, where it feels like a cross between classic fine dining and your favorite dinner party in your own home: warm, inviting and just lovely….I’d recommend a table up against the window if you book in advance, which I’d suggest — we were there on a Thursday night and it was packed!  They seem to attract a lot of locals from Los Gatos and nearby towns and cities, including Saratoga, Campbell and San Jose. While the hotel is under separate ownership, it’s attached to the historical hotel where we stayed that night, so combining the two would make for a nice romantic weekend getaway from either San Jose or San Francisco.

We’re fans and would definitely return!

Be sure to read our write-up on Hotel Los Gatos as well.

DETAILS:

DIO DEKA

210 East Main Street

Los Gatos, CA 95030

408.354.7700

www.diodeka.com

Phantom Glass Screen Protectors Make Shattered Screens a Thing of the Past

June 16, 2016 by  

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We discovered a useful product find for avid travelers with smart phones. Meet Phantom Glass, a tempered glass screen protector designed for smartphones, tablets, and cameras. Phantom Glass is made using the most durable tempered glass, which ensures that Phantom Glass will resist most impacts and scratches, and ensures that your device is protected. The glass protector is also engineered so that in the event of breaking, it does so in a what that is 100% safe to the touch. There are no hazardous shards of glass or sharp edges. Bravo!
Their proprietary and patent-pending silicone nano-adhesion layer ensures that Phantom Glass installs in under 30 seconds, with no bubbles, liquids, or special techniques. To use, simply align Phantom Glass with your device, and Phantom Glass will install itself. The silicone nano-adhesion will never leave gross residue on your device when removed, which we found to be a great feature.
Unlike any other screen protector out there, Phantom Glass is treated with a specially engineered oleophobic nano-coating to ensure that fingerprints and residue wipe off with ease, another great feature as we’ve had “fails” with other products in the past. This coating is applied using a unique electric infusion process, and will not degrade for up to two years of everyday use.
Phantom Glass will work with most cases and won’t peel or bubble like film protectors. Their silicone nano-adhesion layer ensures that Phantom Glass will allow a seamless fit with most snug, form fitting cases without any issue. It’s 100% clear, with zero image distortion.  Below is the protector for the iPhone 5, which is what we tested it on.
The silicone forms to the surface of the device, and will overtime, reduce the visibility of most surface scratches to zero — we’re looking forward to this as we have iPhone 4 and 5′s in-house and they’ve traveled to many countries with us. Phantom Glass is available for Apple, Samsung, Blackberry, Canon, Nikon, and Sony products, among others and range in price from $34.95 to $59.99. The iPhone 4 and 5 screen protectors are $34.99 each. More information can be found at: http://www.phantom.glass/.

Let Grillbot Clean Your Grill While You Relax!

June 15, 2016 by  

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Meet one of my favorite products for the home since my “falling in love”moment with the iRobot, which I now can’t imagine living without. We even called him Rocky – yes, really — we wrote about it back in February. Meet the next best thing, but for grill lovers — Grillbot, which we now call RED!

While we obviously went for the RED one, Grillbot comes in four colors: blue, orange, black and red.  The grillbot is the world’s first automatic grill cleaning robot and might I add, a godsend for  anyone who grills a lot, regardless of the season. The units are very compact, so easy to store and they fit inside most grills for easy cleaning without you even having to be there while it “takes over” your grill.

The concept is relatively new as Grillbot has only been around since 2014. Like the iRobot, you simply place the Grillbot on your grill, close the door and let him go! The grillbot does all the grill cleaning for you so you don’t have to. We actually shot a video of the process (twice), however as we were checking on the progress, he crawled out and well, let’s just say we don’t have a great one to post. The top of the grill must be closed while he does “his thing.”

Like the iRobot, it goes back and forth across all areas of your grill until it’s clean. It’s fully-automatic and begins as soon as you push the button. The default time is ten minutes however you can also set it to clean for twice the time if your grill is particularly dirty or larger than average. We’ve used it 6 or 7 times so far and each time, ten minutes was ample to get the grill clean.

We also love the nifty carrying case as well which is optional. The handle is so handy that rather than use valuable storage space in an inside closet or the garage, we simply hang it on a hook on the left of the grill so it’s easily accessible.

 

 

There are replaceable wire brushes which are easy to swap out — you simply pop them off to clean and apparently you can even toss them right in the dishwasher for cleaning although we haven’t tried that yet. There’s also a rechargeable Lithium Ion Battery, which they include with your Grillbot, making it easy to charge when he loses steam.

The grillbot comes with three strong high-power electric motors, which cuts through the grease to really get your grill clean. Truthfully, we were surprised that it cleaned so well – Anthony was sure that it was a “gimmick” and that we’d have to end up cleaning it afterwards regardless. So far, so good!!

He’ll turn off when you’re done using him (yup, remember, we gave him a name but then again, all of the cars I’ve ever owned have had names too, so just bear with me). While Anthony refers to RED as “it” rather than “he,” he has adjusted to the fact that I love giving things names, even our plants.

Because it’s a robot, it has a build-in smart brain — in fact, it’s driven by a sophisticated CPU chip that controls the movement, speed, and direction of the brushes.

 

I should note that there are also 3 different brush types to choose from: Brass, Stainless Steel and Nylon brushes.

Brass brushes are important if you have a stainless steel or porcelain grill. Brass is a softer metal and won’t scratch the surface, helping keep you grill looking great. If you own a stainless steel or porcelain grill, they recommend you stick with the brass brushes.

Stainless steel brushes are great for cast iron or expanded steel grills. Cast iron is by far the best outdoor cooking surface because it holds heat better than other kinds of grills. The bristles of steel brushes are able to better penetrate the tiny pores in the cast iron, which allows for a much better cleaning experience.

Nylon brushes are softer than the Brass and Stainless Steel brushes, but last longer although they may require longer clean cycles. The Nylon brushes won’t scratch the surface though and works on all types of grill grates.

You can get the Grillbot Automatic Grill Cleaner, Black Bundle with Stainless Steel Brush with the case or solo without the case! Two thumbs up – we are huge fans! More at www.grillbots.com.

A Few Insights From Author Annabel Gurwitch @ Watermark

June 8, 2016 by  

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This year was my first Watermark Conference, a conference by women for women in the Silicon Valley/Bay Area ever year (see my announcement of this year’s event earlier this Spring and my Q&A with Mallika Chopra). Sadly, I was only able to duck in and out for a few hours, although among a few other magic moments, I managed to catch Annabel Gurwitch’s talk who spoke about a myriad of things including Re-Invention, which in her opinion is all about creating community, not competition.

What I love about the conference is it’s focus on women and all the issues we as women deal as we go through every decade. As a writer and a woman who struggles with both a career and my gender, I applaud her commitment to having a sisterhood, something I need to get better at and don’t spend enough time cultivating. We ALL NEED to cultivate COMMUNITY!!

Photo credit: PublicTheater.org.

She has a writing group where they read each other’s work, give each other criticism and coach each other and from that “safe zone,” she is able to hold herself accountable by going into an office every day. Like all support groups, it ups the odds of success and with that success, everyone in her circle will ultimately benefit from her success.

She quotes David Benjamin Rakoff, who was a Canadian-born American writer based in New York City and noted for his humorous and sometimes autobiographical non-fiction essays. He said, “when you’re cooking something, if you follow that recipe and each time, add the same ingredients, you’re going to get the same results, but there’s never a single day as a writer when you sit down at your desk and you get the same results. Success depends on constant output and I’m constantly being judged and the work I do next year and the year after that. There’s no guarantee.”

As a writer, I see the parallels people make every day. Writing is an art form, people say and yet so is painting, so is acting, so is singing. While acting, directing and producing is and often needs to be social, where you collaborate with each other, as a writer, you are alone in a room, most of the time and they’re ultimately very different.

I love Annabel’s projection on aging. She says, “the notion that when you’re 50, people at 40 think you’re just like they are, is ridiculous.” Call a spade a spade — to pretend things are anything other than what they are as you age is indeed ridiculous . We’re doing a disservice to ourselves by trying to subscribe and buy into that notion and yet so many women do it again and again and again.

She decides to lead with her age. In other words, why not tout all of the experience, knowledge and mastery that she has garnered over the years?  She says, “My age makes me better and I’m not fooling anyone anyway. My age is out there, so why not lead with it?” Rather than run away from it, she decided to run towards it with a vengeance. “There’s a great power to running with my age, leading with it and embracing it. Put it right out there. We are a huge demographic,” she reminds the audience. Hear hear, I thought out loud.

She then went on to provide useful tips for writing at any age. When you think of recording your story, think about it in these three chunks: “who was I then, who am I now and who am I becoming?” All of the best memoirs answer those 3 questions. She laughs as she says, “what is my mother doing in my house? Oh my god, it’s me?” She writes about aging and uses anecdotal stories to give examples…in other words, the way being her age here and now impacts her and how she now writes towards her future and who she is becoming.

Annabel hates the phrase, “aging gracefully” because it feels too passive and outdated. She adds, “we are living longer, and are healthier. Aging with a vengeance is a better more modern description of where I’m heading as a woman.

I think about this all the time — if you’re looking at a re-invention, you need to take stock of where you’re at again and again, especially when you’re in a competitive place like Silicon Valley. Yup, I still live here and the older we get, the harder it is to play with the young role models that constantly lead the way in the day-to-day worlds at Google, Facebook, Instagram, Yahoo, Microsoft and more.

She reminds us when we take stock of our lives regardless of our age, that we’ll find that whatever we write, is the story we’re living. Once you get it out of your head, it’s a pointed mission statement – a framework to assess where you’re at in your life, which is really telling. Ask yourself once it’s down in writing: is this what you want to be and where you’re going? Then, she suggests, to answer those questions as a writer.Once those stories are down on paper, we can then, ask ourselves: do those STORIES fit our mission statement? See how it translates to a tool for living. These are life questions. Then, ask yourself, is what am I doing every day fitting those questions:who am I now and who am I becoming?

Lastly, look at how you’re spending your time – what stories am I writing every day and does it fit into who I am and who I want to be in the future? If you do ever want to write, she reminds us that a publisher always asks those questions before put up money for a book: Why this book? Why this author? Why now? AND, who will read this author? Is it the right timing, right now?

Encouraging women, writers or not, to find a support group that becomes your community and then after you identify a community or two, to have a set of rules that you abide by. Rules need to be helpful and everyone needs to agree on those set of guidelines that are helpful for you and for the group.

Think about a few questions as you ponder next steps in your life. What would you do if you thought you would not fail? She encourages us all to do something that is terrifying even if you think you’re going to fail.   If you find yourself at the end of the line of a career and you’re in a new place, be sure to ask yourself those questions and make sure you’re on track.

Her next book btw, is all about “Finding Your Tribe.” Trust me, we all need one!

HButler’s Travel Totes Boast Built-in Phone Charger

May 28, 2016 by  

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I love my new Reversible Navy and Cream Tote by HButler!  While it is not made of leather, it gives the illusion that it is with its sleek and chic style that is both elegant and functional. As avid travelers know, finding a bag you can take with you on a trip that will go with a variety of outfits can be hard.

What’s unique about this reversible tote is not only can you choose the cream side for dressier evening occasions and the dark navy blue that won’t show dirt for all day city strolls, but this Mighty Purse features a concealed slimline battery to charge your Smartphone on the go. Tucked into the side of the purse, a small detachable purse has a charger that will give your cell phone life again when your juice is low, a godsend feature when you don’t have access to a power outlet on the road.


It’s made from Vegan Leather and its built in Slimline and lightweight rechargeable battery that can recharge a smartphone up to two times (4000 mAh). Their “Auto-Power On” Technology means nothing to ever switch on or off, another godsend feature for those frequently on the go.  They include a built-in Micro USB cord to charge your smartphone and a certified iPhone 5/6 Apple adapter as well. On the concealed device, you can see a LED Power indicator so you know where your phone is in the charging cycle.  I particularly love the detachable wristlet inside.

For those worrying about luggage weight, the tote comes in at around 26.7 ounces. The recharger is compatible with all Micro-USB Smartphones, including Samsung, HTC, Blackberry, LG & Android Smartphones, iPhone 5, 5s, 6, 6 Plus, 6s and 6s Plus. They also offer a one year warranty from date of purchase which is sweet.

They also have smaller clutches in a variety of fun patterns to choose from as well

I had never heard of HButler before, however the brand has been around since 2008 and was started by a husband and wife duo: Ana Slavka and Stephan Kljajic. Their passion for manufacturing handbags extends to accessories as well and are known for their popular Handbag Hook and the Key Holder. HButler is available globally and can be found in over 3,500 stores internationally. More information including on where and how to buy can be found on their website at http://hbutler.co/.

Washington State’s Mercer Wines from Columbia Valley Simply Delight…

May 27, 2016 by  

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Meet Mercer Wines, a newbie on our radar from Washington’s Columbia Valley. Let’s start with their oh so round and lush 2013 Chardonnay since I’m a huge Chardonnay fan and have rarely met a Chard from northern California or Washington state I haven’t liked. With Mercer’s 2013 Chard, think apples and pears coupled with sweet vanilla and hints of lemon-lime zest. What we loved about this wine is its versatility and the fact that it made a perfect accompaniment to a sauteed chicken dish we had for round one as well as a seafood alfredo dish with creamy onions the second time around. It’s elegant but diverse and is a fun and delicious wine that I’m loving with my new Spring recipes.

A note for those who love even more details: the grapes for this Chardonnay come primarily from Zephyr Ridge Vineyard in the Horse Heaven Hills.

This winery offers a wide selection of choices — from Cab and Red Blend to Chardonnay and Riesling, though we didn’t try them all. While Chardonnay is always on my “must try” visit if a vineyard makes one, we also tend to drink a lot of Cabs and Zin’s around here, particularly when we’re grilling our Elk, Veal and Beef Burgers.

With that grilling visual in mind, let’s move onto Mercer’s scrumptious 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, which had me at hello. Truth be told, we used our Vinturi aerator to open it up a bit faster since we forgot to pop the cork early enough to let breathe before dinner that night.  We paired this deep rich red gem with both a BBQ chicken fresh off the grill and a lean steak with mesquite sauce and lemon pepper. This Cabernet blend, which is made up of 76% Cab, 76% Merlot and 6% Syrah bursted with cassis, red cherries and warm baking spices.

I love bold reds where cassis is a core part of its taste. In this case, individual vineyard lots were fermented separately and barrel aged in a combination of French and American oak for up to 12 months. Barrel aging the wine brings you a lovely warm baking spice taste throughout which only adds to the wine’s overall depth and complexity. Powdery tannins give structure to the wine, while maintaining an elegant, balanced mouthfeel. Of  all of their reds, it was our favorite and the price point is so sweet, after you taste it, you’ll want to order a case — hands down!

 Want a real treat? Then get out the latest lamb recipes you’ve been dying to try and pop up their 2012 Reserve Cavalie Bordeaux Blend – OMG! We love this wine!! It’s main delight is that it surprises and gives you a palette burst you may just not expect. I’m picky about my Merlot’s and am not as versed about Merlot from Washington State as I am from California or frankly for that matter, other parts of the world. The powerful Merlot will bring you ripe blueberries wrapped in the warmth of caramel and coffee.  Oh yeah baby, bring it on! The Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot create a frame of structure, while the Malbec adds suppleness, weight and length.  The majority of the fruit for this Bordeaux Blend is grown at their estate Big Tee Pee Vineyard and Zephyr Ridge Vineyard, both in the Horse Heaven Hills.

I’m relatively new to Washington Merlot! Remember, that it’s much cooler up there than it is in northern California, and traditionally wetter. Remember that surprise I was telling you about? It’s due to the complexity of its blend and the end result is just oh so fine. The wine is made up of 52% Merlot, 27% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Syrah and 4% Petit Verdot . We paired this with grilled lamb and rosemary which went absolutely beautifully however they also recommend Fillet Mignon, Rack of Lamb, Crepe with Nutella and Strawberries and Vanilla Ice Cream. Oh so yum!

Next up is its 2013 Sharp Sisters Red Blend, which is 47% Merlot, 41% Syrah from Dead Canyon Vineyard and a little Sangiovese just to mix it up a little as well as some Petit Verdot, both from Spice Cabinet Vineyard. Think blackberry, toasted oak, coffee, dark chocolate, jasmine and dark pomegranate. Want more blueberries, plum and caramel? Then, go for their 2012 Sharp Sisters Red Blend, which coming in at a 14.1% has quite the diversity: 40% Merlot, 20% Syrah, 14% Cab, 11% Cabrernet Franc,  3% Sangiovese, 3% Malbec, 2% Petit Verdot, 1%  Tempranillo and 1% Grenache! Wow, right? It was exquisite!

So, what did we pair it with? We brought it to an open cork night at a local BBQ joint nearby so had it with smoked pulled pork and beef brisket. Their recommendation? Smoked Meats, Texas Style BBQ (Brisket!), Pastas with Red Sauce and Meat Kebabs. How can you go wrong?

What else is worth knowing about this winery that I’ve yet to still visit? It’s beautiful with its lush rolling hills and how can you beat a trip to Washington State? Simply put, it’s beautiful anytime of year!

They have a great tasting room as well. You know what else I love about this winery? The winemaker is a woman: Jessica Munnell, who actually grew up in the heart of Washington wine country and began her career as a viticulturist, working with over 32 growers in Washington. Bravo and a seriously two thumbs up! More details can be found at http://mercerwine.com/ including how to order….and be sure to order a variety – it’s all so so good!

“The terroir of the Horse Heaven Hills creates wines that are balanced and elegant with graceful power and structure.  

These are the reasons that winemakers all over Washington state seek out fruit from the Horse Heavens, and

why I count myself as one of the lucky few who get to work with it exclusively.”

– Jessica Munnell

DETAILS:

Mercer Winery

3100 Lee Road
Prosser, WA 99350

TravelTechCon on Moving the Travel Industry Forward

May 27, 2016 by  

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Introducing Travel Tech Con, an independent conference organized by a group of travel startup founders who share a common passion of moving the travel industry forward. Now in its first year, the event this month spanned over two days, the first of which had 15 startups present at the Plug & Play Center in Sunnyvale California. Day two focused on players in the world of travel tech addressing what needs to change in the next ten years to bring an industry with an antiquated infrastructure up to what consumers expect in 2016 and beyond.

Photo credit: EMaze.

From Virtual Reality, Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain, the Internet of Things, Big Data, Open Travel Standards, Automotive Innovations and more, we heard from Adobe’s Head of Global Industry Strategy & Marketing for Travel & Hospitality Mohammad Gaber, Emergent VR’s Peter Wilkins on the future of VR and Travel, OSLET’s Gadi Bashvitz on using personalization to drive conversions, Chute’s Ranvir Gujral on AI, GEIOS’ Michael Frischkorn talked about using IoT to help travelers create more memories, and Roomstorm’s Maksim Izmaylov talked standards, a necessary for efficient global communication.

There was also an interesting panel on emerging automotive tech which was addressed by Roadgazer’s Maria Mokhnatkina, Bosch’s Tom Lindma, Skurt’s Tin Hang Liu and Princeton Optronics’ Alexey Kovsh. The second day was held at Yelp so not surprising to hear from Yelp’s Rachel Zhao who talked about making it global while keeping it local.

SFOX’s Akbar Thobhani, Factom’s Tiana Laurence and Norm Rose talked about the opportunities Blockchain can bring. Think of it as a distributed network that offers value….value that can’t be duplicated. When you’re dealing with strangers, blockchain can offer tremendous benefits. Since travel is so distributed and so global, blockchain is a way to help make travel booking more direct and more efficient, cutting out the umpteen number of middle men that are in the way of a vendor and the consumer today. This will allow direct booking will increase and improve. Since blockchain is all about being decentralized, it may be harder at first to establish loyalty although new models will certainly evolve to re-engage and build loyalty with customers.

The future is here but it’s just not distributed…yet. The idea for vendors is that they should be able to continue using their existing systems but supplement them with blockchain to more directly reach their customers. Blockchain is contextually the next infrastructure platform that could eliminate the middle man in travel as well as help to reduce fraud.

Other trends include the growth of services like AirBNB and couchsurfing and as more services like it emerge, identity and transparency will increasingly become more important. And of course, we talked about the interests of millennial travels since their patterns of behavior is so different than the generations behind them.

Millennials increasingly want experiences not physical objects. People are traveling earlier than ever and they want to see the world. There’s less fear than ever before, largely because millennials are more familiar with the world because of social media and technology. While so many tour companies and destinations still focus on print articles and advertising, they don’t realize that most millennials find their ideas about where to travel and what to do through social media and online networks.

They trust what their friends recommend on these social networks over something they might read in a magazine they don’t have a personal connection with.  Because they use technology all the time and it’s an integral part of their world, they also expect technology to be part of their travel experiences.

 

 

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