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Microsoft Office 365 Home Premium

GEAR, tech By April 4, 2013 Tags: , , , , , , 4 Comments

Meeting with the Microsoft Office 365 team, I got the feeling that I was their perfect target market.  I run the household, use many different brands of technology and need a better and more efficient way to do it all.  They spoke of Canadian families’ frustrations about not being able to use programs across different platforms and how frustrating it is when calendars can’t sync, or numbers and financial data aren’t easily accessible.  We are a new generation – multitasking and managing life from multiple locations.   We manage caregivers, aging parents and our kids.  We have great communication with teens with the advent of texting.  Grandparents are on Facebook and Skype, and people learn better English with the help of autocorrect.  (sometimes!!)  We need to be productive and connected between all different devices at home and in the office, on PC and Mac.

With the new Office 365, Microsoft has solved a ton of issues for families and I am pretty impressed.

The rundown:

* Includes the latest and most complete set of Office applications: Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Publisher and Access
* One license for the entire household to use Office on up to five devices
* An additional 20 GB of SkyDrive cloud storage, three times the amount available with a free SkyDrive account
* 60 free Skype world calling minutes per month to call mobiles, landlines or PCs around the world
* Future upgrades, so you always use the latest time-saving technology
* Automatic save to SkyDrive, so your documents — and even your personal settings — are always available from virtually anywhere and on your favourite devices
* As you will have a microsoft acct, you get 60 mins/mth of skype long distance free
* At CA$99.00 for an annual subscription, Office 365 Home Premium costs the equivalent of CA$8.25 per month.



What’s in My Bag: The Coolest Flash Drives sent by PR Folks

GEAR, tech By August 30, 2012 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , No Comments

I get a ton of PR pitches and therefore a staggering number of flash drives.  Incidentally, I also receive a ton of CD roms filled with information I can’t access with my MacBook Air.  (PR People please take note).  I thought I’d follow through with Kelby Carr’s ingenious ‘Marketers Who Understand Blogger Outreach’ post with something fun before the long weekend.  So I emptied my USB Drawer and found my ultimate favourites from Public Relations teams who know their brand and respect me as a writer enough to make me want to grin.  Here are my favourites:

1.  McCafe, who engraved my Twitter handle ‘@urbanmommies‘ on the back.
2.  Honda – A clever car key (that I could make into a necklace a la Tiffany & Co and take my data with.)
3.  Disney Fantasy.  Rubber (waterproof I think), fun for kids to play with and very chic.
4.  Ritz-Carlton Lake Tahoe.  Gorgeous wood.  Refined and symmetrical.
5.  Dole.  Because who doesn’t want to carry a banana-shaped flash drive in their purse?
6.  Disney Cars Land – in the shape of a race announcer’s microphone.
7.  Store Brand in the shape of a formula bottle.  Because I laughed out loud, as no Canadian PR company would ever attempt this given the volatile and judgmental Canadian nursing climate, and the most popular articles on UrbanMommies are breastfeeding-related.
8.  The Victorinox 4GB super-secure flashdrive which cannot be broken into if you’re a PC user.  And because it is made by Victorionox and stores information on it’s own brand, which is smart and somehow ironic.  And I love the spy-like nature of it’s security.
9.  The ultimate: The G. Marquis Winery flashdrive in a branded wine cork.  Because it floats, it’s durable, cool, on-brand, and, well.. they did their homework.


back to school

The Back to School Shopping Guide

GEAR, tech By August 20, 2012 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , 5 Comments

We all know that the end of August brings an obsession with things ‘wooly’ and the exciting task of acquiring school supplies and clothing for the kids.  Parents scour busy stores overflowing with pencils in order to outfit their children for back to school.  Not to worry!  The back to school shopping guide features lots of stylish goodies that can be found online.  In hopes you used a bit of the summer to de-clutter and inventory what you already have, you can fill the holes in your kids’ back to school shopping list with a few of our picks.  We’ve shopped around to find the best supplies, gadgets and funky fashions for your little collegiates.

Back to School Supplies

1.  The Spencer Stainless Steel Bento Box Container: Crafted of stainless steel with a spacious bottom compartment, an interior tray for separating snacks and a snug plastic lid, this is sure to be a winner.  Just make sure you check our our healthy snack ideas when you fill it!  $59   Available at

2. Text Bands.  Now kids only have to bump fists in order to pass notes.  The text bands allow the message to appear on a friend’s wrist with a light bump.  You can type up to 10 characters and each band can hold up to 24 messages at once. (Turning the band off will delete all messages).  Now that’s a heck of an improvement from note passing.

3.  ABC Sigg Water Bottles are BPA and phthalate free. You can recyclable them at the end of their lifetime, and the nonporous interior lining in the bottles ensures that it remains taste and odor neutral.  Know what that means?  You can put grape juice in it (or something stronger for Mom) on the weekend and send it to school with milk on Monday.

4.  Fun, Fictional Flash Drives –  From The Simpsons, Family Guy, and Looney Tunes to skateboard USBs, students can transport files with their favourite characters.  Unfortunately, they do not come with your very own Princess Leah hologram.  You’ll have to hit the rides at Disneyland for that.

5.  The Madbox from Land’s End is the coolest lunchbox we’ve seen in a while.  Five kids from Madison, WI set out to build a better lunchbox and Land’s End liked their idea so much – they produced it!  It comes with an adjustable ice pack that focuses the cold to the food that needs to stay cold and leaves room temperature food alone.  No more soggy crackers.

6.  Who doesn’t love labels?   Mabels Labels has a cool new Tween pack that is sure to delight your kids.  They’ve also got a rock-sold back-to-school pack and even preschool shoe labels.

7.  New for the fall, the Native ‘Jimmy’.  From the makes of our favourite summer show comes the Jimmy, just in time for fall.  These durable and funky boots will look great with this season’s signature trench for kids.

8.  The Lunchkin reusable sandwich bag.  In Hermes orange, or course.  Wait.  That’s for me.  Well, if you want uber-cute, they’re available in crabs, sailboats, soccer balls and school apples too.  And they’re great for the environment.  And cool.  Need we say more?

9.  Any flower-lover would eat every bite out out of this adorable PVC-free grab-and-go lunch purse.  But be careful.  Unless you snag a couple you may have a fight on your hands, as we guarantee you’ll want one too!  I think I may grab one and use it for a funky back tie clutch…


Unique Fathers Day Gifts for Dad

fitness, GEAR, style, tech By June 6, 2012 Tags: , , , , , , 3 Comments

Father’s Day is a tough one.  PS – socks and ties just don’t really cut it.  Here are a few curated picks that we’ll be ordering.  And probably using for ourselves..  (That’s when you get them for the father of your children instead of your own dad so the items are.. ahem.. nearby.. for your personal use.)

This was so awesome we actually already bought one for the office.  Sorry dad.  A new take on the retro polaroid, the shots from the Fuji Instax Mini 50s Camera come out immediately and in a mini size – about half the width of an old-fashioned polaroid.  And you don’t have to wave them in the air either.  Available at Caya.

What man could possibly attempt a camping trip without his R2D2 Folding armchair? If he’s into starwars you might want to check out our feature on the hand-knit R2D2 hat as well…. Available at

CHARGE ‘N’ FRUITS Designed Docking Station: The most decorative way to charge cell phones and MP3 players: definite shapes and creative styling. Simply load your charging cable through the fruit from above and place the cord in the cable channel at the bottom.

Blown Away: A Year Through the Lens of The Tornado Hunter.  I was so riveted to the photos in this tome that I could feel my testosterone level rising.  Showcasing the surreal, scary, romantic electricity of tornadoes across North America, Greg Johnson’s stunning book can be found at WalMart and online at chapters/ (Oh – and if you comment on this post with your fav idea for dad you get an entry to win one!)

WEBER FIRESPICE® TRIAL-SIZED SMOKING KITS: Not sure what flavour dad likes to smoke? Here’s an opportunity to sample different smoking woods – hickory, cherry, apple and more. Comes in assorted four and six packs.  Pair it with Weber’s Smoke™ cookbook written by New York Times best-selling author and James Beard Award Nominee Jamie Purviance. It reveals the secrets to infusing rich, smoky flavours into almost any dish on any barbecue including  gas, charcoal, or smoker.

Date night with Dad. Especially wonderful for the dad who doesn’t get much one-on-one time with the kids, here is an opportunity for the children to share ideas as to what a perfect date with dad would look like: Building a model airplane? Learning how to fly a kite?  fly fishing?  Yes please. 12 different ideas for activities to do with your dad for a special date.  Brilliant DIY idea by the Happy HomeMaker.

Collapsable shot glass.  You couldn’t possibly go on a golf course without one of these.  Or to Europe.  Or to the office.  Just sayin’

The Man Bouquet.  Attach assorted cigars, beers and Dad’s favourite items to small dowels and ‘plant’ them in a huge pot.  (You might also want to include some lingere for yourself, which we’re sure he’d also enjoy.)  Idea and photo by: Elyse Nichol


A Sony Handycam at Disney. A must.

GEAR, tech By May 12, 2012 Tags: , , , No Comments

I had the pleasure of getting a lesson on filming with Kimberley Blaine and Sony at the Disney Social Media Moms Conference – a perfect fit with the launch of UrbanMommies TV.  And now, Sony has teamed up with Walt Disney Parks and Resorts to promote its latest line of Handycam® camcorders in an integrated marketing campaign that focuses on capturing and sharing family memories.

The “Share Magical Memories” co-branded campaign will feature a unique online contest and dedicated website hosted by Disney Interactive at where guests* can submit a written entry about a special someone in their life, a family member, friend or educator, who has helped create a lasting memory. A panel of judges will review the stories about the special memory makers and select five grand prize winners. Each grand prize winner will receive a vacation for themselves and three guests, plus a vacation for their memory makers and three guests to Walt Disney World Resort. The winning families will also receive a Sony® HDR-PJ260V projector camcorder to document new memories before, during, and after their experience at Disney Parks.

There will also be a weekly sweepstakes on where guests can enter daily on the site or text “SONY” to DISNEY (347639) on their mobile devices, for a chance to win prizes such as a $200 Disney gift card and a Sony HDR-PJ260V camcorder. One winner will be awarded per week.

Gotta go enter.

surprising benefits of video games

Surprising Benefits of Video Games

GEAR, tech By September 15, 2011 Tags: , , , No Comments

I am a cool mom, but I’m not a mom who likes video games. In fact, I really dislike them. I hate seeing my kids (or anyone’s kids) blipping away in front of a game when the sun is shining outside or there’s homework or chores to be done. However, I am married to a gamer and I birthed four of them (the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree…), so I’m trying to keep cool about things, as long as it’s in moderation. I did some research, and there are some surprising benefits of playing video games. Here are some of them:

  1. It gives kids a safe place to socially interact. If they play a MMO or MMORPG (if you’re a gamer you’ll know the term…), they must interact with people in their various quests and missions. As long as you take some basic precautions and make sure they’re interacting with safe people, this is not bad. Psychologists say that it’s healthy for them to have a virtual life, one where they feel empowered and aren’t as socially awkward as in “real life.”
  2. It improves hand-eye coordination and reaction time. Although you may disapprove of violence, games that involve shooting, pointing, aiming, etc., can actually improve someone’s hand-eye coordination and their response and reaction times. The US military and others have begun integrating these kinds of programs in their training, but it hails all the way back to flight simulators and wargames.
  3. They can get some exercise. Yes, this is a recent development, but the Nintendo Wii, Xbox Kinect and other physical interaction games promote better health. There are games that make kids dance, play golf and tennis, etc., which is a very healthy development.
  4. It encourages competition in a healthy way. Gamers get to strut their stuff on the screen in a myriad of ways; they get to pit themselves against imaginary and real opponents in a platform that doesn’t discriminate against the non-athletic kid or the one with the physical disability. They get to set goals and achieve them, besting their own scores and breaking their own records.
  5. They get to decompress. School is tough: dealing with academic, social, and other pressures during the day can be stressful. Games provide an outlet to vent frustration, pent-up energy and emotion, and simply “decompress”.

The Best and Coolest Kid CDs

apps, GEAR, tech By August 10, 2011 Tags: , , , 1 Comment

Kids love music, just like we do. Childhood is when we begin forming our musical sensibilities and preferences, and it’s also when we learn like sponges. So, choose your Kid CDs wisely: select music that is smart and fun, and try something different every now and then, since variety is the spice of life! After all, how many times and ways can “Old MacDonald Had a Farm” be done? Here are some of the best, funnest, most popular and smartest Kid CDs out there.


Best Gadgets for Mom

GEAR, tech, toys By August 10, 2011 Tags: , , , , No Comments

I love gadgets, but I admit that they’re intimidating sometimes. The purpose of a great gadget is to be easy to use and to make your life simpler and more streamlined. Modern mums have to be tech-friendly to a certain degree, especially hip mums like us, right? Besides the essentials (smartphone or PDA, iPod/MP3 player, laptop or tablet computer), check out these mom-centric gadgets that will make your life a lot easier…plus they’re a lot of fun!


Cell Phones in the Car

auto, GEAR, tech By February 4, 2010 Tags: , , , , , , , , No Comments

Driving while talking or texting on a cell phone is now illegal in many Canadian provinces.  If you a) haven’t figured out your Bluetooth (or never remember to charge the batteries), or b) can’t seem to get off the phone in the car, we’ll give you a few options.  Urbanmommies spoke with Corporal Dale Somerville of the RCMP, who verified a few points for us as stated in section 214.1 of the Motor Vehicle Act.   Holding and talking on a mobile device while driving will now cost you $167.  Texting or emailing while holding a mobile device will cost you $167, plus 2 points off of your license.  Hands-free devices are allowed provided you only touch one button on the earpiece in order to answer or dial.  Ouch.  For busy moms who are used to returning calls in the car… what do you do?