5 Essential Items for Using a Tablet As a Computer #VZWBuzz

using tablet as computerI go through periods in my life when it feels like I’m traveling a lot. The thing about being a blogger, though, is that the need to work doesn’t stop, regardless if I’m traveling specifically for my blog OR for a family vacation.

I’m not complaining about that at all! I know I’m so lucky I get to travel for both professional and personal purposes, but the challenge lies the fact that the blogging equipment always needs to come along with me.

What sort of equipment do I need to continue blogging away from home? Luckily, it’s not too much. I need a computer and a connection to the internet. My Verizon phone has a hotspot that activates super-fast wifi connection for me anytime, so the only thing left is the computer.  Fortunately for me, my computer is small. If I had to take my husband’s laptop with it’s 17″ screen, I’d be in trouble!

If my own computer was out of commission, it just makes sense that I’d pack up my Sony Xperia Z2 tablet instead of that beast of a laptop. But have you ever tried to actively work on any tablet? They’re absolutely perfect for web browsing, entertainment, and a variety of other activities, but it’s no substitute for a computer.

A tablet is no substitute for a computer, that is, unless you have the right accessories!

5 Essential Accessories for Using a Tablet as a Computer

1. A full-size wireless keyboard  ::

full size compact wireless keyboardI think typing is the biggest challenge in using my tablet. I don’t think anyone actually expects us to type more than a few characters on that ultra-flat on-screen keyboard. In my opinion, an external keyboard is necessary if I want to do anything more than swipe, tap or “click” on a tablet.

First, please don’t get a tablet case with a built-in keyboard. While the portability is appealing, the keys are smaller than normal and squished together to fit into the case. It will feel like you’re typing on a labelmaker, and you’ll spend most of your time correcting your typos.

Instead, use a slim, full-size wireless keyboard. I own this bluetooth ultra-slim keyboard and it hasn’t failed me. It has the same layout, key spacing and feel as my own laptop computer, so I don’t have to get used to a different set up when I’m trying to write a blog post.

2. A Bluetooth mouse  ::

best bluetooth mouseI used to feel like I wouldn’t need a mouse because the tablet’s touch screen is right there.

I was wrong. Using a mouse just goes hand-in-hand with using a keyboard. Once I started typing away on my wireless keyboard (see #1) I quickly realized how awkward it feels to reach over my keyboard to touch the screen.

Remember, you need a bluetooth mouse (not just a wireless mouse) to connect with your tablet.

3. A tablet stand with horizontal and vertical positions  ::

tablet case with horizontal viewOnce you’re working with your keyboard and mouse, you’re not going to want to lean over to look at your tablet sitting flat on a table. A stand will give you a much better view of the screen.

Be sure you consider how you prefer to position your tablet. Most stands are set up for a horizontal view. I prefer my tablet to be in a vertical position, so finding a case that allows for both positions (like the one pictured above) can be an important factor when shopping.

4. A Portable Battery Charger  ::

motorola portable battery reviewsMost tablets have decent battery lives, but actively working on any device will drain its power faster than you’re used to. Extend your tablet’s use with an external battery.

Motorola gave me a Power Pack Slim 4000 last year when I visited their headquarters. It works great and I love that it doesn’t require another cable when it’s time to use it.

I also have a Mophie Juice Pack Powerstation that works like a dream.

5. Memory Card or Cloud Storage  ::

micro sd memory cardDepending on the work you’re doing, space on your tablet could quickly become an issue. If you’re able to expand your tablet’s file storage with an micro SD card you should definitely do it. In addition to giving you a lot more free space, your device will probably run faster!

You can also save files right to the cloud. This makes them available on any device, which means it’s easier to switch between your tablet and computer. I always use my free Dropbox and Evernote accounts for documents and images I need on the fly. I also take full advantage of the free storage provided with Verizon Cloud.

 Do you have suggestions for using a tablet as a computer? 

verizon blogger

Disney Stroller Rental: Simple Stroller Rental Review

disney stroller rentalsAs I was planning our most recent trip to Disney World it crossed my mind that this trip should be so much easier now that my little ones aren’t babies. 

It only took until our first day into the vacation for me to realize that thought was absolutely untrue. Different? Yes. Better? Of course (but I think life just gets better and better–every Disney trip I’ve had was better than the one before). Easier? Nope!

I love Disney World, and I love taking my family there. But it’s not the easiest vacation to take. At the same time, there are certain things a parent can do that make the trip even more difficult and challenging before you set foot into a theme park. And there are certain things that can relieve stress and give you more space for enjoying your trip.

One of those things is a Disney stroller rental. My kids are five and six years old. Long before we left for our Disney World vacation, a stroller didn’t even cross my mind as something we’d need to bring with us. In the summer months before the trip we went to the Minnesota State Fair and several Minnesota festivals. While both Haiden and Piper walked through those outings, it wasn’t a secret to anyone around us that they were exhausted by the end of the day.

It struck me that, unless James and I were on board with carrying kids through a busy theme park in a hot climate, we’d better plan on bringing a stroller. But lugging a stroller through airports and keeping track of it through cross-country flights isn’t ideal, especially when our kids wouldn’t even want to ride in a stroller until we were at Disney World.

Solution: A Disney Stroller Rental.

I reached out to Simple Stroller Rental before we left for Orlando and they hooked us up with a Disney stroller rental:

Disney stroller rental

A Baby Jogger City Mini Double from Simple Stroller Rental!

I’m sure you’re asking why wouldn’t I want a Disney stroller rental right from Disney World?

1. Convenience: We stayed in IHG hotels off Disney property. Our stroller from Simple Stroller Rental included FREE delivery and pickup from any Orlando-area hotel or vacation residence. Official Disney strollers are only available to be picked up and dropped off at one location in each park. Disney strollers aren’t available to rent at the Disney water parks and double strollers aren’t even available for rent at Downtown Disney!

2. Price: Our offsite stroller from Simple Stroller rental had a total cost of $91 for 8 days of use. That’s just over $11 a day, and it was in our possession every day.   According to this page, an official Disney double stroller rental is $31 a day. That means a Disney stroller rental for only our days at Disney World would be $155.

A single stroller from Simple Stroller rental for 8 days has a total cost of $69. A 5 day Disney stroller rental from Disney World only for use in the parks is $75.

3. Area of use: It bears repeating that the Disney double stroller rental from Simple Stroller Rental was with us for our entire vacation, not just when we were on Disney-owned property. Further, the official Disney stroller rentals are only available to at one spot in or near the gate at each park (they’re not available at water parks). That means on park days you won’t have your Disney rental stroller for the long walks to and from your car, waiting in line at the entrance, trips between Disney parks and anything else you’ll do that day.

5. Stroller Features: We didn’t rent an official Disney stroller, and I didn’t take pictures of one, but this Disney stroller rental picture was easily found on Flickr. Here’s what a double Disney stroller rental looks when it’s right from Disney World:


disney stroller rental

The “official” Disney rental strollers are hard, plastic, low to the ground and just big enough for a bigger kid to ride with a small toddler. My two bigger kids would be squished together in it (in 90-degree heat)! There’s a storage bag on the back with a hanging fabric cup holder. That’s it for features.  No reclining, no adjusting, no 5-point harness.

This is one of the Baby Jogger City Mini Doubles you’ll get if you rent your double stroller for nearly half the price from Simple Stroller Rental:

disney stroller rentalThe Baby Jogger City Mini Double is the most basic Disney rental stroller you’ll get from Simple Stroller Rentals. Here are the features:

  • Quick-Fold Technology – Simple lift & fold
  • Swivel front wheels – for precise maneuverability can lock into place for long distance strolling
  • Lightweight wheels
  • Padded seats – reclines to a near flat position
  • Large multi-position sun canopies – with clear view windows
  • Rounded handlebar
  • Front wheel suspension provides a smooth comfortable ride
  • Seatback storage compartments
  • Under seat storage basket
  • Adjustable five-point safety harnesses
  • Foot operated rear parking brake
  • Fold strap – to keep stroller folded for transportation or storage

Note: If you spend $5-15 more for your total rental, you’ll get an even better stroller with more features! If you need a single stroller the price goes down. 

In addition to the amazing stroller at a lower price than the super-basic Disney World rental stroller, there are so many other advantages to renting a stroller from Simple Stroller Rentals for your use at Disney World:

Every stroller is inspected, steam cleaned and sanitized before it’s delivered to you. You’ll also get free use of a parent console so you’ll have cup holders and storage at your fingertips! Further, you can add optional items onto your stroller rental, like car seat adapters, Boogie Boards so bigger kids can hitch a stroller ride and even ERGOBaby carriers to pair babywearing with stroller riding!

I highly recommend using Simple Stroller Rental rather than the Disney stroller rental at the theme parks! You can easily make your reservation online and see real-time availability of all their products. Simple Stroller Rentals is a fantastic way to save money, save time and lessen the stress of your vacation!

See everything Simple Stroller Rental has to offer!

Disclosure: SimpleStrollerRental.com provided a Disney stroller rental for our use during our trip. 

Travel Giveaway: Host Happier Holidays with Hampton Hotels! #HamptonHoliday

Hampton inn for holidayThis post and giveaway is provided by Hampton Hotels.

This year, Christmas of 2013 is a historic one for our family: it’s the first year we’ve ever stayed home for Christmas! It’s actually the first time I’ll actually be in the city I’ve lived in for nearly 11 years on Christmas Eve and Christmas day.

Because our extended families don’t celebrate close enough for a day trip, we’ve always packed up and headed out of town to enjoy Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and usually a few more days at in either my husband’s or my hometown.

This year, my husband has a funky work schedule that’s keeping us home for Christmas. I’ll definitely miss seeing family on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, but I’m excited to put out our milk and cookies for Santa and see my kids come downstairs from their bedroom on Christmas morning!

Keep reading for your chance to win a FREE one night stay at a U.S. Hampton Hotel! [Read more…]

Top 5 Entertaining Tips Learned at ALDI’s #InTheALDIKitchen Event

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Last week I had a great time on a blog trip visiting the ALDI headquarters in Illinois. The great team at ALDI put together a blogger-centric event that not only introduced us to ALDI’s culture and products, they also gave us crash courses in entertaining, food styling and photography.

Let me tell you, I can’t believe how much I learned in that time about all the topics, but I left excited about sharing some great entertaining and food styling tips with all of you! [Read more…]

Answers to Food Photography Questions from ALDI Food Stylists and Photographers

If you meet me in person and we get to talking about grocery shopping, you’ll likely notice that I’m something of an Aldi evangelist. Like most people, my life is busy, and I definitely don’t have it all together. It’s also nearly ingrained in the very core of my being that I must save money on groceries.

food photography questions

I know other people are amazing at clipping and organizing coupons, staying on top of store sales and getting fantastically low prizes on groceries. On the other hand, I am a huge failure at grocery coupons. Instead of spending time and energy on something I’m not good at, I opt to shop at ALDI where I can feel good that I’m spending less on groceries while still getting quality food that my family will eat.

I’m so excited to say that I’ll soon be headed to the ALDI US headquarters where I’ll be participating in interactive food styling and food photography demonstrations. The best part is that ALDI wants to hear from YOU!

nikon camera

I think almost everyone knows that food photography is challenging. The food stylist and photographer I’m going to meet with want to answer any questions you have about photography, tablescapes or other food questions.

It’s not everyday that I get to ask specific questions of a professional food photographer, so I’ll definitely be paying close attention and bringing up any topic I can think of!

Please leave your question in a comment below. I’ll be happy to pass it along and report back with the answers!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook as I share everything I’m experiencing at ALDI’s Test Kitchen Event. I’m positive I’ll have some great information to pass along!

Join Me at Macy’s Glamorama on Friday, 8/2! See Cirque Du Soleil and Sheryl Crow!

glamorama 2013If you’re available tomorrow night, you should join me at Macy’s Glamorama! Ticket information is below, and it’s certain to be a fantastic event!

22nd annual fashion extravaganza starring Sheryl Crow with a performance by Cirque du Soleil, benefiting Children’s Cancer Research Fund!

Macy’s Passport Presents Glamorama 2013, a Fashion Extravaganza, launches in Minneapolis celebrating this year’s theme, Fashion In A New Light, at the State Theatre on Friday, August 2nd at 8PM. Multi-talented singer, songwriter, record producer and musician, Sheryl Crow will headline the 22nd annual event. This year’s show also features a performance by Cirque du Soleil and Macy’s iHeartRadio Rising Star contest winner, The Summer Set. The event will once again benefit Children’s Cancer Research Fund.

Topping the list of deisigners this year: Jean Paul Gaultier, Philosophy, Rachel Rachel Roy, TALLIA Orange, Tommy Hilfiger, Weekend MaxMara, and Diesel. Attendees will also get a first look at Macy’s newest Impulse collection, Maison Jules launching at Glamorama in Minneapolis.

When: Friday, August 2, 2013 at 8 PM

Where: State Theatre in Minneapolis, Minnesota
Post-party to follow at Macy’s Minneapolis 8th Floor Auditorium

Tickets: Price ranges from $75-$1,000 and can be purchased through the Children’s Cancer Research Fund at www.ChildrensCancer.org/Glamoramaor by calling 952.893.9355.

Following the light themed show at the State Theatre, experience the illuminated after-party on the 8th floor of the Macy’s Downtown Minneapolis store. Refined, sophisticated illuminations lend to the after-party décor theme. Relax in ultra-cool sponsor lounges. Interact with fun activities. Enjoy a vast array of delicious culinary creations and special libations guaranteed to light up your taste buds. Dance the night away as the soundscape from K-Twin 96.3’s own DJ Dan lures guests to the dance floor.

In 20 plus years, Macy’s Glamorama has contributed nearly $5.0 million to Children’s Cancer Research Fund. Proceeds from the event support lifesaving, leading-edge research in the prevention, treatment and cure of childhood cancers and blood disorders. “Macy’s is helping us to change children’s lives by funding research that is changing the practice of medicine,” said John Hallberg, CEO of Children’s Cancer Research Fund. “We engage more people in our mission, and provide hope to more families, because of the support of Macy’s, their retail associates, and their customers. Their partnership is truly making a difference.”

About Children’s Cancer Research Fund
Children’s Cancer Research Fund has one focused and clearly defined goal: to cure childhood cancer. The organization is the largest single contributor to the University of Minnesota Masonic Cancer Center, a world-wide leader in pediatric cancer research.

Children’s Cancer Research Fund’s support enables researchers to continue their pioneering efforts in the prevention, diagnosis, treatment and cure of childhood cancers. Many discoveries funded by the organization have revolutionized the way childhood cancer is treated worldwide. For more information, visit ChildrensCancer.org.

Find the best travel and hotel accomodations for Glamorama with Easy Click Travel!

Disclosure: I am receiving admission to this event in exchange for writing about it via this website and various social media channels.