My top gift picks for the tech-obsessed person in your life

2 December 2017 | 0 Comments

I was on CTV Your Morning earlier this week, sharing my top gift picks for the tech-obsessed person in your life. Watch the video clip of my segment here, and read about my picks below!

For the party planner…

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Sonos One Speaker, $249
Don’t let the compact size fool you; this speaker packs a serious punch with two Class-D amplifiers. The Sonos app seamlessly integrates with your Spotify, Apple Music, radio and podcast subscriptions, and you can stream your favourite sounds over WiFi (not Bluetooth) so there’s no frustrating setup or streaming interruptions.

 

For the fitness buff…
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Hexoskin Smart Fitness Shirt, prices vary
The fitness buff on your list might already have a wearable fitness tracker on their wrist… but do they have smart fitness clothing? The Hexoskin base-layer smart shirt has integrated sensors to track heart rate, breathing rate and volume, step count, cadence and stride, activity level, calories burned and sleep. The information is then passed on to the app or website dashboard, where performance can be analyzed and progress can be compared over time.

 

For the homebody…

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Google Home Mini, $40
Google has put all the features of the popular Google Home device in an adorably small package with Google Home Mini. The small speaker allows you to talk to the Google Voice Assistant. Ask what the weather is going to be, set a timer, get answers from Google, add items to your shopping list, play music, and so much more. Google Home Mini also integrates with your favourite compatible home automation devices, so you can control your home with your voice.

 

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Philips Hue Starter Kit, prices vary
The Philips Hue Starter Kit is the perfect gift for a homebody. They can connect Philips Hue lights to their Google Home and control their lights without lifting a finger. The energy-efficient smart LED lightbulbs can be set to 16 million colour varieties and controlled via the Philips Hue app on a smart device, Siri voice control, Google Home and Amazon Alexa – giving the option to control lights with just your voice!

 

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ecobee4 Smart Thermostat, $329
Rumour has it that we’re in for a chilly, snowy winter season in Canada this year. Give the gift of consistent warmth with the ecobee4 smart thermostat. Place the sensor in your favourite rooms and it will detect occupancy and help manage hot or cold spots, saving up to 23% of your heating and cooling costs every year. Integration with Google Home (coming in 2018 through a software update) makes it even easier to ward off a chill—you don’t even have to get up to dial up the heat.

 

For the pet lover…

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Furbo Treat-Tossing Dog Camera, $199
The Furbo dog camera allows you to check in on your best friend when you’re not home. It has a real-time barking alert, full HD night vision, and two-way talking so you can calm your pup with your voice. You can even use Furbo to remotely toss your dog a treat to reward good behaviour!

 

For the adult who loves toys…

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DJI Spark, $399
DJI, the leading brand of pro-level camera drones, has created Spark – a mini drone that features all of DJI’s signature technologies that is easy enough for beginners. Use Spark’s face-aware technology to launch the drone from the palm of your hand. Once Spark is airborne, hand gestures can control the flight path as easily as a smartphone or remote control. The ultra-smooth, stabilized video looks amazing, and can be edited in the app and shared directly to social media.

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Cozmo Robot
Cozmo is a small artificial intelligence-powered robot toy with a big personality. He recognizes your face, greets you, and loves to play games. Watch out though – Cozmo is a bit mischievous and sometimes the game will be on you! Use Code Lab to create new behaviours and explore the AI and robotics powering Cozmo, all while learning the basics of programming.

 

For the globetrotter…


Google Pixel Buds, $219
At first glance, Google Pixel Buds look like basic headphones. But they go far beyond just playing music. When paired with a Google Pixel smartphone, the Pixel Buds offer real-time translation with Google Translate. Just touch and hold the right earbud to activate the Google Assistant, and have your speech translated out loud to another language, on the fly. It’s a must-have for world travellers.

 

Stocking stuffers

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Wireless Charging Pad, $60
If someone on your gift list recently received an Android or Apple phone that supports wireless charging, make their life so much better by treating them to a wireless charging pad. Just place your device on the pad and it starts charging right away – no charging cables needed.

 

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Clip-On Selfie Lights, $15-20
 Selfies are pretty much guaranteed at holiday parties, and these fun and simple selfie lights are a perfect stocking stuffer. The clip-on LED lights fit any smartphone, and feature rechargeable batteries. Charge one up, clip it on, and snap away.

Will someone please put this in my Christmas stocking?

23 November 2017 | 2 Comments

The SipCaddy is hilarious and also practical. I would totally use it.

Yes! An adults-only trip to Palm Springs

3 November 2017 | 0 Comments

I spied a seat sale on WestJet a few weeks ago, so Kinnon, Ian and I booked direct flights from Toronto to Palm Springs for a vacay at the end of November. Long-time readers may remember our past trips to Palm Springs – it’s one of my favourite places to visit.

For this trip, we rented a private house with our own pool (!) on Airbnb. I’m so looking forward to lounging poolside and floating around, looking at the mountains.

Have you been to Palm Springs? Any must-see places or must-eat restaurants? We like Chocky’s for breakfast and El Mirasol for amazing Mexican.

Attractive, affordable backpacks and totes for carrying a laptop

26 October 2017 | 0 Comments

Whenever I’m at tech or media events, I’m always checking out people’s bags. Finding attractive, affordable backpacks or totes for carrying your laptop (or other tech gear) is hard! I’m always on the lookout for stylish, hardworking bags.

In Toronto, the startup worker’s brand of choice seems to be Herschel. Their backpacks are reasonably priced, but are a bit too trendy and casual for me. I prefer the backpacks and totes by Everlane (this one is my current go-to) or Montreal-based vegan leather brand Matt & Nat. I have two Bookhou totes (this one was my all-time fav, and I have this one in rotation as well).

The bag I’m now coveting is a bit of a splurge… maybe I’ll put it on my Christmas list. It’s this leather handbag by Edmonton boutique Poppy Barley. The website says it’s big enough to carry a 13″ or 15″ laptop, so it seems beautiful and practical. Only question is – should I get it in caramel or grey?

Photos: Matt & Nat backpack (top left), Poppy Barley handbag (top right), Bookhou tote (bottom left), Everlane backpack (bottom right)

A perfect evening in Leslieville

18 October 2017 | 0 Comments

It’s been over 10 years since I transitioned from working in the live theatre industry to working in the tech industry. While I don’t work behind the scenes anymore, I still like to attend theatre shows. And with Crow’s Theatre opening their own space in my Leslieville neighbourhood, there’s really no excuse to not attend regularly… so a friend and I purchased season’s ticket subscriptions.

Last week we saw the first show of the season (Asking for It) and had a pre-dinner meal at Gare de L’Est, conveniently next door to Crow’s. Both dinner and the play were great, and I’m looking forward to doing it again soon.

(photo of the steak hache at Gare de L’Est, which I had for my meal, by Hector Vasquez from the review in blogTO

Join me at the Hot Docs Podcast Festival this weekend

13 October 2017 | 0 Comments

For the second year in a row, my company Camp Tech has sponsored the Hot Docs Podcast Festival. I love supporting and participating in this great event. I was at the festival this morning, hosting a panel (Podcasting Essentials: The Tools You Need to Make Your Show) with panelists Suzanne Hancock, Sebastian Major, Nana aba Duncan and JP Davidson (pictured above). I’ll be back on Sunday to enjoy three shows: Modern Love, The Memory Palace and Canadaland. If you’re looking for something fun to do in Toronto this weekend, check it out!

PS – which podcasts are you loving these days?

A Weekend in Prince Edward County (with a 6-year old)

22 May 2017 | 0 Comments

This Victoria Day weekend, I was really looking for a family getaway. It was Ian’s birthday, and I’ve been working too much lately, so I figured it would be fun to head out of town and spend some time together. Some friends had told me about Sandbanks Summer Village, a condo cottage resort in Prince Edward County. They said it was great for families, and there were 2-bedroom cottages available for rent. Done and done.

On the way into the County, we stopped at my friends Lori and Lorraine’s farm, Thyme Again Gardens. They have a cute roadside stand where they sell fresh meat, produce, spices and more from their farm. Clara, now 6 years old and a total city kid, was beyond excited to get a farm tour from Lorraine. She met the pigs and got to pick fresh eggs right out of the henhouse.

We had lunch at County Road Beer Company, which is nextdoor to Hinterland Wines. I had a wine slushy (it was as good as it sounds) and Clara had the non-alcoholic version while devouring an entire cheese plate. She is my child after all. We picked up beer and sparkling wine from the bottle shops, and also hit up Rosehall Run to get more wine on the way to Sandbanks Summer Village.

When we checked into our cottage, Clara just about lost it when she realized that her room had a bunk bed (top bunk! yes!) and the pool was open. Ian braved the chill (it’s a heated pool, but it was still only 18 degrees outside) and took her for a swim while I read trashy magazines pool-side.

Sunday was cloudy so we played a few outdoor games at the resort before the rain came in. Then it was indoor games (Clara kicked my butt at Battleship) and a trip to Picton to check out the antique fair. I bought Clara a locket, since she’s kind of obsessed with them, and she picked a skeleton key so she could be “just like Mary in The Secret Garden.”

We drove over to the bottle shop at Barley Days Brewery, and then went to the small town of Bloomfield for ice cream at Slickers. Everything is close in the County, so it’s easy to bop from town to town.

A few places were open on Victoria Day Monday, but not everything, so those that were open were busy. We had breakfast at Enid Grace Cafe in Wellington which was fantastic, but it was so rammed with people it was hard to enjoy.  A good reason to go back sometime when it’s not so crowded.

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If you’re thinking of going to Sandbanks Summer Village, here are a few tips. The cottages are all individually owned, so while they’re the same from the outside, they’re really different on the inside (depending on which model the cottage is, how many upgrades the owners chose, and how they are furnished). The one we rented was… shall we say… spartan. There was one couch and one chair, a basic dining table, a double bed in one room and the bunk bed in the other room. The patio furniture was basic and the BBQ didn’t work until Ian fixed it himself. I got the feeling that this unit was purchased purely to be a rental. It was totally fine and we were happy enough, but if we were to go again I would rent from an actual owner (there are lots on Airbnb and VRBO). Our rental was through Expedia.

Speaking of rentals, read the fine print before you book. We paid what I considered a fair enough price for a 2-bedroom cottage on the long weekend, but it wasn’t super cheap. Then after booking I received an email from the resort saying there would be an additional $80 cleaning fee. I went back to Expedia and read the fine print, and yes it did say that there would be an additional cleaning fee charged. $80 seemed ridiculously steep though, considering the cottage was 600 square feet. I assumed cleaning would be included in the initial price.

The cottages are in three main areas – the “meadows”, the “woodlands” and “lakeside”. They go up in price based on location. We were in the meadows, where the cottages are close together and there are no mature trees. The weekend we were there was quiet so it wasn’t an issue, but it doesn’t really seem like a traditional cottage when you’re looking at the plastic siding of the neighbouring unit. If you’d like a more picturesque view, book a woodland or lakeside cottage.

All of that being said, the cottages are brand new and the facilities are great. There are canoes and kayaks for anyone to use at the lake, and tennis, basketball, shuffleboard, ping pong, and a putting green by the heated family swimming pool. There’s a large playground with swings, and a game room with boardgames and puzzles to take out. During the summer months there are kids’ activities every day. Everyone we saw was very friendly and there were many families with young children. If you were looking for a place to take your kids (or even go with your extended family or a few friends and their kids) it would be perfect.

 

 

 

Finally, an eReader I can drop in the bath

5 May 2017 | 0 Comments

poster for Into the Water book

waterproof Kobo eReader

I love to read in the bath. And I love to read on an eReader. Normally those two don’t go so well together. I’ve been known to put my Kobo or Kindle in a ziploc bag to protect it from splashes. Very glamorous. 😉

Earlier this week I went to a press event for the launch of the new book Into the Water (by the Girl on the Train writer Paula Hawkins) and the launch of a new Kobo eReader that’s WATERPROOF. Now I can read in the bath or by the pool without worrying. Game changer!

PS – this isn’t a sponsored post. I’m seriously pumped about this device.

Next Time We Go to Scotland, I Want to Rent This Cottage

30 April 2017 | 0 Comments

Next time we go to Scotland (whenever that is), I’d really like to visit the Isle of Harris. It has spectacular beaches (look at that photo above!), mountains and fjords. If we do make it there, I’d love to stay in one of these holiday cottage rentals. Don’t they look so cozy?

Podcasts I’m Loving Right Now

30 April 2017 | 0 Comments

What podcasts do you enjoy? Lately I’ve been loving the new seasons of Startup and Science Vs. I’m just starting S-Town (I know, I must be the last person on the planet who hasn’t heard it all yet).  My all-time favourite podcast is Reply All and I listen to CANADALAND every week. When I’m feeling kind of sappy I love Cheryl Strayed’s advice column podcast Dear Sugar. In December I listened to Making Oprah (fascinating!) and I really enjoyed The Globe and Mail‘s Colour Code and The Risk Takers podcasts last summer and fall.

Did you know I have a podcast? It’s the Camp Tech Podcast with Avery Swartz, and I talk all about tech for small business, sometimes with guests, sometimes on my own. If that interests you, check it out!