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Thursday, June 18, 2015

Sponsored AT&T LG G4 4K Review and Sweepstakes

Disclosure:  I received an LG G4 from AT&T to review.  I was compensated by AT&T for my time.  All opinions expressed are 100% my own.



The second I picked up my new LG G4 smartphone I knew things were never going to be the same.  I was a diehard iPhone user.  Now I’m not so sure.  The LG G4 takes smartphone technology to a new heights with its 5.5-inch IPS Quantum screen and 1440x2560 pixel resolution.  Starting May 29 though June 20, 2015, you can enter to win an LG G4 of your very own in the AT&T-LG Sweepstakes.  Just click here to enter and a new winner (500 total) will be chosen every 4000 seconds (that’s every 66 minutes for those of you who were wondering).

Professional Camera in the Palm of your Hand
The LG G4 delivers an incredibly sophisticated technical camera experience that goes where no smartphone has gone before.  If you are a photography enthusiast you will thoroughly enjoy the ability to capture images in manual mode.  LG has created the first smartphone camera that allows you to control ISO, f-stop (with its state-of-the art f/1.8 low-light lens), shutter speed, white balance (Kelvin), optical image stabilization, laser autofocus and high-res image sensors.  What's really great about the manual mode option is amateur photographers can quickly understand how white balance, ISO, shutter speed, exposure compensation work together to capture your creative genius.  TIP: Don't forget to adjust the brightness of the display when outdoors for best viewing.

Fun, Fun, Beautiful Selfies
The art of the selfie reaches far beyond the length of your arm with the LG G4.  With an 8 MP front-facing camera that rivals the iPhone 6’s rear facing camera your self-esteem will soar especially with the flattering selfie light.  My favorite selfie magic is the cool “Gesture Shutter” — an amazing feature that works like magic.  Whether you have a selfie stick, tripod or are extending the phone with your arm, all you have to do is open then close your hand into a fist to activate the countdown timer.  Open and close it twice to take a photo booth series of four images in a row. If you prefer to utter a magical phrase you can say, "Cheese," "Photo," "Whiskey," to activate the selfie-timer. You’ll really feel like a photo wizard with this feature.

First of Many
There are many firsts with the LG G4.  Here’s a long list of the camera features you are able to manipulate to take extreme photos like never before:

Shutter Speed: Now you can fine-tune your exposure for low-light environments as slow as 30 seconds or as fast at 1/6000 to capture the wings of a hummingbird.  That has never been possible with a smartphone until now.

White Balance: We’ve all experienced those off-colored images since we couldn’t control the white balance before.  Now with the touch sensitive dial you can adjust the white balance from 2400 to 7400 Kelvin to capture the most authentic colors possible on a smartphone.

Exposure Compensation: The ability to adjust your exposure up or down 2 stops is amazing.  This feature is especially useful when you have a backlit subject or nighttime photography.

RAW Image Capture: Professional photographers love to capture their images in RAW, meaning they are minimally processed, awaiting the edits from a professional tool such as Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop.  Raw provides the most creative flexibility when editing an image.  The LG G4 is not the first smartphone camera to deliver Raw images, but LG is definitely proving that with the manual features of this phone they have the serious photographer in mind.

Level Gauge and Histogram: the handy little histogram chart allows you to ensure your exposure is right the first time.

The first f/1.8 Low Light Lens: The LG G4 lens is exceptional.  This is the first time a smartphone camera has a large f/1.8 aperture to give you fast shutter speeds (1/6000) and sharp, clear images in nearly any light.  Ah-May-Zing.

Mega Megapixels: This camera can pick up more details with its 16 megapixel and 1/2.6” sensor.  That means more details, incredible precision even when zooming in.

Moving as fast as Life:  The LG G4 moves as fast as you do — maybe even as fast as a hummingbird flutters.  With a shutter speed up to 1/6000, optical image stabilization and laser autofocus you will get tack sharp images and less unintentional blur than ever before.

Ultra High Definition: When shooting video you can now record in ultra high-definition.  You can even display your vivid content to your HDMI-enabled TV. That rocks!

Touchy Feely
You have to touch the LG G4 to really appreciate it.  The slick, slim, curvy phone has an optional genuine leather back for an ultra-rich appearance.  The back of the phone is easy to open, accessing the 3,000 mAh removable battery (love this feature) that provides a long-lasting life, much longer than the iPhone 6.  If you’re on the move you can get additional batteries to replace in a jiffy.  The battery can be recharged to 60% in about 30 minutes.

Room to Grow
The LG G4 comes with 32 GB.  But with an optional microSD card you can expand that up to 2 TB.  That’s something the iPhone 6 cannot do — ever.

5.5-Inch Quantum 2K IPS Display: We mentioned earlier the incredible 5.5-inch display.  LG has implemented IPS (In-Plane Switching) technology, the same that is used in LCD displays.  The LG G4 delivers incredibly clear, accurate and robust color performance giving you the sweetest visual eye candy ever.

LG G4 At-a-Glance Specs
  • Display: 5.5 inch Quantum 2K IPS (2560 × 1440 resolution 534 PPI) – Corning Gorilla Glass 4
  • Cameras: 16 Megapixel rear-facing camera (with OIS 2.0) / 8 megapixel front-facing camera
  • Processor / RAM:  Qualcomm Snapdragon 808  / 3 GB RAM
  • Memory: 32GB  Internal Memory (with expansion slot)
  • Battery: 3,000 mAh removable battery  
  • Connectivity : Bluetooth 4.1/ Wi-Fi /  NFC / USB 2.0 / micro SIM
  • OS: Android Lollipop 5.1 with LG’s UX 4.0 skin
  • Features: Leather backs, smart notice, Quick Shot, 100GB of Google Drive
In addition to the LG G4 giveaway there’s a Grand, second and third prize winner based on a combined popular and judge panel.  The winners will be announced upon completion of the Judging Period, which ends July 9, 2015.

For a chance to win, participants need to: 
  • Register at http://4kseconds.att.com/
  • Upload a picture from their phone (brand does not matter in the contest). This can be done from a mobile device, tablet or computer. Images need to be .jpg or .png and less than 1 MB.
  • All submitted photos (deemed eligible by the Official Rules) will also be housed on a gallery on the sweepstakes website. These will be open to public voting in order to determine a public appeal score.
  • The photos will also be judged by a panel of judges. The photo with the highest combination score from the judges and public appeal will be deemed the Grand Prize Winner and will receive a 55” Class Smart Curved 4K OLED 3D TV with webOS 2.0 and a 3D-Blu-Ray Disc Home Theatre System with Smart TV and Wireless Speakers.
  • The second and third highest ranked photos will be deemed the First and Second Prize Winner. These winners will receive a 65” Class IPS 4K UHD Smart LED TV with webOS 2.0 and 3D-Capable Blu-ray Disc Home Theatre System with Smart TV and Wireless Speakers. 
  • The winners will be announced upon completion of the Judging Period, which ends July 9, 2015. 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Summer Skincare Essentials: ScarAway, CapriClear and Belli Pure Radiance Facial Sunscreen

Summer is upon us so that means its time to get your arsenal of skin protective creams, gels and wearables.  I recently wrote about Coolibar, a fashionable line of protective clothing to keep your skin protected from harmful UV rays.  But we can’t always wear protective clothing so it’s important to have creams and gels such as Belli Pure Radiance Sunscreen, ScarAway and CapriClear.

Younger Looking Skin with Belli Pure Radiance Sunscreen
Belli Pure Radiance Sunscreen is an oil-free formula using SPF 25 minerals with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.  This oil-free formula is lightly tinted to blend with most skin types. You can wear it alone for sheer coverage or under makeup.   It’s a fact — if you protect your skin from harmful sunrise you will have younger looking skin than folks that do not use sun protection.  

Free of allergens and parabens, Belli Pure Radiance is a must for your travels this summer. Put a tube in your tote when you head to the pool or beach or wherever your travels take you this summer.  Be sure to protect your skin year-round.  From water skiing to snow skiing - Belli Pure Radiance is a staple for your toiletry kit. You can purchase it for $24 for a 1.5 oz airless pump at BelliSkincare.com and retailers including buybuybaby.com and others nationwide.

ScarAway Fades and Shrinks Scars - Even Old Ones
Every now and then we all get those pesky scars whether from bug bites, burns, cuts, scrapes or acne.  My youngest daughter recently had an abnormal mole removed from her forearm that left her with a small scar. After the mole was removed for a biopsy we applied the ScarAway discs daily to help alleviate the scarring.  Within weeks we could see a noticeable fading.  My daughter has skin that tends to scar easily.  We are happy to see that it is already beginning to blend to the color of the skin surrounding the scar.  The suggested retail price of ScarAway is $24.99 for a box of 30 discs.  It is now available at a local drugstore near you including CVS, Riteaid and Walgreens.  

Easy Breezy CapriClear Spray-On for Smooth, Hydrated Skin
When the weather is warm we tend to wear clothes that expose those parts of our body that were covered up in the winter.  That dry, flaky skin isn’t so easy to cover up anymore.  Combat that quickly and easily with CapriClear, an over-the-counter spray that’s safe for anyone in the family including babies.  The spray is composed of 100% fractionated coconut oil.  We’re seeing the benefits of coconut oil everywhere it seems.  It is an odorless and colorless spray free of preservatives, additives, dyes, fragrances, paragons, sulfates and PABA.  CapriClear is proven to relieve eczema and atopic dermatitis. It goes on painlessly, no stinging or burning upon application.  Quickly get rid of your dry, itchy, flaky skin with regular use.  You can find it at Walgreens, CVS, Ulta, Bed Bath and Beyond for around $19.99.  Also available at amazon.com and drugstore.com 

When you’re packing up your summer tote bag - don’t forget these summer essentials.  What’s in your bag?

Disclosure: I was provided with sample products to review.  All opinions are 100% my own.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Hallmark Kiddie Car Classic

Father’s Day is a week away.  What does that mean?  It means you’d better have your game plan ready to buy the perfect gift for him.  A tie, a handkerchief - heck no, those went out along with flip phones and LPs.  But then again retro is cool.  So check this out. Hallmark has reintroduced the Kiddie Car Classic. Yup, that’s right - complete with fully functioning pedal pushers and steering wheel.

Check out the cool blue Mustang.  It (coincidentally) fits Elsa perfectly. Wonder Woman patiently waits her turn at the wheel.
Kiddie Car Ornament Giveaway is a smaller replica of this or another car in the collection
Kiddie Car Classics were first introduced in the early 1990s. Hallmark's line of Kiddie Car Classics proved to be a very successful and highly collectible toy. Twenty-five years later, the mini-replica pedal cars are cruising back into Hallmark stores. Each car is individually numbered as part of a limited-run quantity and includes a collector card inside the packaging to leverage the artist story behind the product. Each design features a coordinating Keepsake ornament.

So besides bringing back some fond memories of his youth your dad will appreciate this great 
Kiddie Car Classics collection. In 1992 Hallmark introduced the scale models that accurately reproduced the classic toddler-size pedal cars that were popular during the mid-20th century. 

The original collection included models of children’s pedal planes, scooters, tricycles, and wagons of that era. These highly detailed reproductions fashioned from high-quality die-cast metal bring back an era your dad can appreciate. They also are a great way to introduce the younger generation to this piece of classic Americana.

Over the years the early models in the collection continued to increase in value as the collection gained popularity and today the first five models in the collection can command premium prices from collectors. These five models are referred to as the “Original 5″ by collectors. They consist of the 1955 Murray Fire Truck, 1941 Murray Airplane, 1955 Murray Tractor and Trailer, 1955 Murray Champion, and the 1953 Murray Dump Truck. In addition to a wide variety of standard models Hallmark occasionally issued limited editions which have also steadily increased in value over time. Hallmark also released numerous Kiddie Car Classics Christmas ornaments. The Kiddie Car Classics collection is a favorite of Hallmark collectors and it’s easy to see why. They’re a nostalgic reminder of a bygone era in America’s history.

So get your dad one of these cool hotrods - and maybe one day when you’ve saved up enough you can get him the real thing.  Until then - collect away and pick up your favorite collectible for your father in time for June 21, 2015 - Father’s Day!

Leave a comment below along with your email address if you'd like to win a Kiddie Car Classic ORNAMENT (approximately 1.44"wx1.81" h x 3.78" D).  Great for hanging in your rear view mirror or garage! Random drawing to take place by Tuesday June 16, 2015.

#lovehallmark


I received a Blue Mustang Classic Car in exchange for a review and recommendation. All opinions are my own.  I love this, it’s going to great family keepsake for years to come.  

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Coolibar Sun Protection - Clothes that Look Great While Providing Sun Protection

The month of May is SKIN CANCER AWARENESS MONTH.  Be forewarned and prepare your family for summer 2015 with beautiful and full sun protection wear from Coolibar. Skin cancer prevention is too often overlooked.  But recently my youngest daughter (who's only 17 years old) had a mole scare. And this was something "abnor-mole" for her. And be aware - "normally" there are lucky diagnosis, not close calls. 

Fortunately we discovered that there are fashionable UPF 50+ sun protection clothes. At first glance most people don't think clothing is such a big deal when you're outdoors, afterall, aren't all clothes sun protective? But upon closer inspection a lot of clothes don't cover susceptible areas on the body or proper sun protection.  And that fateful area where my daughter's mole was on her forearm. 

The difference between regular clothes and Coolibar clothes is the lightweight and high UPF factor. My daughter doesn't typically wear a long sleeve anything in the summer! But this jacket, even on an 80 degree day and in a sweaty environment, was comfortable and cool. It was like wearing a loose tank top! 

The fabric was incredibly soft and the color was just great. Check out the cowl neck hoodie here.  We got one in 'smock blue,' perfect for a spring or summer day. My daughter loved the two pockets which held her contents better than a hoodie. 

So remember Coolibar, -great clothes, full protection and definitely worth the price! The medical costs to remove the mole was in the range of $500. Have peace of mind and be sure to provide adequate sun protection for your family.

Find Coolibar on Facebook, Twitter Youtube and their Website

Check out more of the beautiful and full sun-protection line on their website, and social media pages!



Founded in 2001, Coolibar is dedicated to providing the highest quality sun protective clothing, hats and accessories. Its mission is to develop fabrics that save lives, protect loved ones and encourage a healthy, active outdoor lifestyle. Based in Minneapolis, Coolibar brings Australia’s world-leading approaches to sun protection to the American market and beyond by producing and selling sun protective apparel for active families through their catalog and website. Coolibar’s name comes from the famous eucalyptus tree found in the Australian Outback that provides relief and protection from the sun’s harsh rays.  I was provided with a beautiful cowl neck hoodie to check out - it's beautiful!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

It's Mother's Day at Hallmark!

There's something magical about sending your mother, grandmother or mother-in-law a card from Hallmark.  There's such a variety to choose from - there's a card for every personality in your motherly life.

Mother's Day Cards from Hallmark!
Check out the selection above.  From a card that comes with a felt coffee cup sleeve to the giraffe with the big eyes (inside it says "You bet giraffe I do!"), there's a sentiment for that special mom who should be celebrated everyday!

For one lucky reader, leave a comment with your email below and one of you will win 5 cards from Hallmark.  And remember, when you send a card from Hallmark, you send the very best.  Love, Hallmark!  Entries must be received by May 2, 2015 to qualify for the random drawing.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Gamble Gardens Spring Tour 2015

Who's ready to Spring into Action at Gamble Gardens?

Head on over to Gamble Gardens on April 24 & 25, 2015 for the 30th Anniversary Spring Tour! This year their theme is There is No Place Like Home.  It is meaningful in many ways as Gamble Garden approaches this milestone anniversary of the founding and dedication of the garden.  The five gardens selected for this Spring Tour were each designed and planned as family retreats, for family resort living, and for gracious home entertaining.


Gamble Gardens is rich in history and makes a lovely backdrop to your family, prom or wedding photos.

I photographed a bunch of HS Juniors prior to their prom.  This time of year is spectacular.

For information about tickets please link here.  

Bring the whole family!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

2015 Kia Sedona SX-L Review

Once my husband and I ticked off the 3 children check box we consciously chose to be a minivan family.  Our current minivan (2005 Honda Odyssey) is coming up on 10 years. Through all of those years it’s been reliable, practical and comfortable.  However it was with great anticipation that we got to review the Kia Sedona SXL since we’re in the market for a new van. It would be great to see what’s changed in the 10 years since we’ve had our minivan.



Smooth as Silk
First off, the Koa Sedona SXL is a slick, silky vehicle.  I have to say it truly handles much nicer than my Odyssey.  It was one of the smoothest rides I’ve ever experienced.  The electric power steering makes driving a breeze.  While my current van has a back-up camera, the Sedona has front and rear cameras that help during parking and exiting a parking spot.  The navigation screen displays both front and back views in a split screen so you can clearly see what might not be as visible just with the naked eye.  There’s the added benefit of an audio feedback system that lets you know if you’re getting close to an object.  That’s a great feature and very handy for those teen drivers.  It works not only in a tight parking spot but also while driving and changing lanes.




Ready for a Road Trip?
The Sedona delivers 276 horsepower and a super quiet and smooth drive.  Both active and passive safety features provide the utmost safety whether you’re going to the grocery store or a cross-country road trip. 





Driver View
The Kia Sedona was named Best New Car Design at the 2014 New York Auto Show.  It’s definitely a winner and was a dream to drive. The dashboard has loads of features.   The steering wheel has a bunch of buttons to maximize the safety of having 2 hands on the wheel at all times.  You can answer the phone, lower the media volume, and manage cruise control and other car settings.  The comfortable driver bucket seat allows for 2 different drivers to have preset settings so you never have to grumble about your husband changing the perfect seat height and mirror view.   The front passenger seat also has electronic control seat settings.  There is a sunroof in the front, which I find I don’t use much in my current van.  Both seats have heating and cooling settings – true comfort in the cockpit.  There’s also ample room to store commuter mugs, snacks, small bags and more in the center console.





Passenger View
My 3 kids tested the second row and marveled at the comfort.  Not only are there two captain chairs but they come complete with ottomans or foot rests that make traveling first class. The middle row also has a separate sunroof.  Perhaps that makes up for the lack of an entertainment center.  I don’t find the lack of an entertainment center a concern at all now that most kids have their own hand-held device whether it is a smartphone or tablet. 





Kia’s UVO eServices App
Kia’s UVO is a subscription-free media service offered by Kia Motors America.  Besides hands-free calls using your smartphone and the built-in Bluetooth you can also stream music, download apps from the UVO Download Center including Yelp and Google Maps and register your account to view maintenance information.  Available for both the iPhone and Android you can sync between the phone and car and take note between your parking location, get roadside help plan stops along your trip.



Doggy and Luggage View
The third row and trunk space offer lots of convenience you don’t find in an SUV.  You can fold both the single seat or double seat or just one at a time.  When flattened my only complaint is the floor is not completely level.  A flat surface would mean it would be easier to sleep in the vehicle of you were using it for camping or to transport something that required a level surface.  My two big dogs are often relegated to the back of the van so having a level surface means more comfort.  I would add some blankets to make up for the bump in the back.  But beyond that minor inconvenience there’s plenty of room to pack, store and move lots of stuff.  Again, something most SUVs are incapable of carrying as much as a minivan.  That to me is reason enough to go with a minivan.










For me it was a welcome bonus to have an trunk door that opens with the click of a button on the remote.  You can open it with the remote or by pressing a button above the license plate of the trunk door.  Then simply press the button on the base of the door to gently close.  My two dogs, a Golden Retriever and a Labrador Retriever, had no problem jumping in the back of the van. The height of an SUV is typically too high to allow your dogs to jump in the back.

Nice to Have’s
A few of the niceties with the van include two USB ports in front, one in the back and two 110v outlets (front and rear).  The outlets are very handy when camping, charging or using a device that does not have a USB port.  On more than one occasion we’ve used someone else’s outlet to blow up our mattress when camping or use a blender at a tailgate.  So it’s a great ‘nice-to-have’ feature.

Some other awesome features include the cooling glove box that comes standard on the EX, SX and Limited and optional on the LX.  The trunk light is detachable for those times when you need a flashlight – ingenious!

The exterior has a lot to offer too.  The sleek looking grill mimics the lines of the windshield.  There are interior window shades and the overall comfort level is outstanding.  It rated very high in the crash test scores with an overall score of 8 out of 10. 







What’s the Bottom Line?
After driving the Kia Sedona SXL for a week, I have to say we are seriously considering buying or leasing this minivan as our next vehicle.  While Toyota and Honda minivans are often the top pick, their many recalls and hefty price-tags make the Kia Sedona is definitely a heavy contender. 

For more on the Kia head over to US News 2015 Car Rankings or Kia’s website.