Monday, August 25, 2014

The Latest and Greatest in 2014’s Apps, Gadgets, and Toys (Part One)

The last decade has seen some phenomenal advances in technology and 2014 was no exception. Companies all over the world are busy trying to create the coolest and most popular new technological devices and listed below are 8 of the most awesome ones that I came across from this year.  

1. Century’s “Floe”
So many women, myself included, love ending a long, stressful day with a nice, relaxing soak in the tub. Often that includes bubbles, music, maybe even candles. Personally, I think the music is one of the best parts of the bath experience, but it can also be the most challenging. Dragging in a clunky docking station or blaring speakers from the other room serves as such an inconvenience for what is supposed to be a relaxing occasion. Enter in Floe, Century’s latest bluetooth speaker. It is a small, cone-shaped speaker that can play music from your smartphone or tablet via bluetooth, no cords required. The LED lights can be switched to a calming blue and the battery-charged speaker actually floats on water like a mini buoy. 

2. Takara Tomy’s Decora Palette
We live in a digitalized world and kids are some of the biggest consumers (and sometimes it seems, the most knowledgable) of modern day technology.  If your child loves taking pictures but you aren’t ready to commit to buying them a smartphone, this is the perfect gadget for you. It is not just a device that snaps photos but it also comes with various fun features such as the ability to alter images and add decorative stamps and frames. Cool features and it looks cute coming in blue, black, or bright pink. 

3. Aeropress
Are you a coffee drinker? If yes then you might consider this the #1 invention of the year. The Aeropress only costs about a week’s worth of coffee and saves you tons of money in the future. All it requires is a spoonful of your favorite coffee grounds and some hot water, then you press down and fresh, hot coffee comes out. It is way cheaper and less wasteful then making a whole pot for one or two cups or spending all that money on Nespresso cups. Did i mention its easy to clean?

4. Philips Norelco QT4070 Vacuum Beard Trimmer
Speaking of cleaning, finally someone has added a clean up system to one of their electric razors. Philips has created a vacuum to go along with one of their powerful electric razors so when you’re done giving yourself a stylish trim you can have a quick and easy clean up. I’m sure your spouses will appreciate it too! 

5. Logitech Powershell
For anyone who has gamers in their family, this gadget will be a favorite. The Logitech Powershell is a gaming controller made specifically for the iPhone. It works by sliding the iPhone directly into a built-in slot in the controller, allowing the phone to retain its independent functions while being attached to the controller. Another great feature is that the headphone jack stays open so your child can listen to music while they play. 

6. Mophie Space Pack
If you aren’t worried about adding a little bulk to your iPhone, then the Mophie Space Pack can serve as an awesome memory-adding addition to your mobile device. The 3-in-1 gadget includes a case, a charger, and a storage provider. 

7. Misfit Shine
Anyone interested in fitness or getting healthy should look to the new Misfit Shine. It is a stylish gadget that provides a new take on the typical fitness tracker. It can be worn in a variety of ways and is small, making it unintrusive and practically unnoticeable. Not to mention you only have to change the batteries every four months, so you don’t have to worry about it dying on you.

8. Nest Learning Thermostat
Control the heat from anywhere in your home with a click of a button on your smartphone and save on your heating bill with the Nest Learning Thermostat. Not only can you control the heat, but the device also comes with a humidity sensor that you can hook up to your dehumidifier and set to three temperature sensors. And we can’t forget the wifi radio! It also looks way cooler than any other thermostat you’re going to see in someone’s house. 

Friday, August 22, 2014

Kids and Smartphones- How Much is Too Much?

Parents around the world are battling the pros and cons to their children owning and using smartphones. The idea of letting their children have unrestricted access to the Internet their phone provides sounds pretty unappealing to most parents, but the weight of the pressure of not wanting their children to be different from all the other kids also serves as a setback. 

With increasing uses of technology in our education system, it’s not a bad idea for kids and teens to be up-to-speed on all the latest gadgets and their uses- but it continues to raise the question: how much is too much? 

Back in January of 2009, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology issued a notice to schools requesting a ban on cellphones within elementary and junior high schools, as well as restrictions for high schools. Fast forward to 2014 and the problem only seems to be more of a problem with smartphones being more popular, and well, smarter, than ever. Most parents are all too familiar with the horror stories surrounding cyber bullying that seems to be the dominating form of bullying these days. 

Parents and educators aren’t the only ones interested in answering this question nowadays, the toy industry is as well. Recently MegaHouse developed Fairisia, a smartphone made just for kids that can easily be monitored and limited by parents. 

But, at the end of the day technology is only going to become more prevalent and harder to avoid, so instead of bashing it or banning it parents should become more educated about it. Knowing how smartphones work and using one yourself can help you be aware about how your child may be using their phone. It is important to know the dangers as well as the benefits of smartphones as well as techniques for monitoring their use. Issuing a curfew, limiting the number of hours they can use their phone, having them keep their phone downstairs at night are all examples of ways to monitor their use. If they have social media accounts such as Twitter or Facebook, make your own account and see what they are up to! Or if that is totally not up your alley at all and your child is still young, require them to give you their user name and passwords so you can occasionally sign on and take a peak at what they are doing online. 

The advancing technology and kids' advancing knowledge of it can seem intimidating to most parents, but being aware and checked in as well as knowledgable yourself are all ways to ease your qualms around the subject of kids and smartphones. 

Friday, August 1, 2014

The Legend Behind the Chinese Double Seventh Festival

The Double Seventh Festival, also known as the Qixi or Qiqiao Festival, is a Chinese festival celebrated annually around the beginning to mid August. The name, literally meaning Night of Sevens, comes from the holiday celebrations falling on the seventh day of the seventh month each year.

As with most festivals, there are traditions and rituals surrounding the yearly celebration, specifically for girls and newly weds. Girls make their way to temple to pray  and burn paper in hopes for attracting a loving husband in their future. To pray for a long and happy marriage, newly wed women are encouraged to make offerings of fruit, flowers, tea, and face powder to Niulang and Zhinu, the mythical couple this festival was created for.

This Chinese festival is always one of my favorites to write about because of the legend and mythology behind it. Behind the Qixi Festival is an ancient forbidden love story between Zhinu and Niulang. 

Niulang, a young cowherd, fell in love with the Goddess’ seventh daughter, Zhinu, who fell for instantly for him. They were then married in secret, without the knowledge of Zhinu’s mother. They were happy for many years and had two children. But their happiness was cut short when the Goddess of Heaven found out her daughter had married a mortal and ordered Zhinu to immediately return to Heaven. Niulang tried to follow his beloved wife but was stopped by the Goddess scratching a river in the sky with her hairpin to separate the lovers forever. The only time they were allowed to see each other was on the seventh night of the seventh moon when a bridge forms in the sky to unite them for a single night. This night has since become known as the Double Seventh Festival. 

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Chinese Newly-Weds Pray For a Good Marriage During the Double Seventh Festival

The Chinese are welcoming the arrival of August through the celebration of the annual Qixi Festival. The festival, also known as the Qiqiao Festival, is celebrated by the Chinese every summer on the seventh day of the seventh month, which falls somewhere during early to mid August. Other names for this exciting holiday include the Double Seventh Festival, representative of the holiday’s occurrence on both the seventh day and seventh month. Qixi literally means the Night of Sevens. 

As one can expect with most Chinese holidays and festivals, many traditions and rituals are associated with the Double Seventh Festival. It is celebrated by all Chinese, but particularly important to girls and newly-wed couples. On this day, young girls go to their local temple to pray for wisdom. As they burn paper items as offerings, they wish and pray to marry someone who will be a good and loving husband. 

Newly-weds are to worship and pray to Zhinu and Niulang, the mythological couple the holiday is associated with, for a long and happy marriage. Offerings can be made to the famous couple of fruit, flowers, tea, and face powder. Once the offerings have been completed, half the face powder is to be put on the new bride and the other half thrown on the roof. It is an interesting tradition, but said to bind the woman with the beauty of Zhinu. 

For these couples, the holiday represents the symbol of a successful marriage and shows that the bride is treasured by her new family. 

The Qixi Festival is associated with many traditions but there are century-old legends behind those traditions and celebrations. To learn more about the legend behind the Qixi, or Double Seventh Festival, keep a look out for the second part of this blog! 

Friday, July 18, 2014

The Annual "Hand Made in Japan" Festival Houses Japan’s Finest Artists Under One Roof

Starting tomorrow and going until the 20th of July is the “Hand Made in Japan” Festival. The huge festival celebrates Japan’s most beautiful arts as well as the artists behind them. Taking place in Tokyo Bay, the annual festival introduces over 3,000 of Japan’s finest artists.

Attendees are given the chance to not only look at, but purchase, a wide variety of arts and crafts, as well as attend demonstrations and participate in workshops. Once visitors have explored the seemingly endless selection of already made crafts, they can test out their own inner-artists at any of the 20 themed workshops provided in the Tokyo Big Sight Atrium. 

After trying out one (or all) of the workshops, attendees can continue through the halls of artwork towards the West Exhibition Hall. This area of the festival houses around 2,200 booths all offering original works ranging from fashion accessories to household decorations. Finish out the amazing day by attending one of the live concerts or a paining session. And would any Asian festival be complete without food? Absolutely not! A wide array of food and beverages from different regions of Japan are also provided while visitors explore the halls. 

One of the special elements about Japanese art is the rich history behind it. With almost all ancient Japanese art, there is a story that comes with it. Those stories are woven through the Japanese people and their culture- thus making their art feel more personal. And what better way to display hand-crafted ornaments with a history than through a large festival where thousands of eyes can appreciate it. Often it is festivals like these that keep culture alive as time goes on. 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Child Salsa Dancers Become Internet Sensations Thanks to their Incredible Moves

Two adorable kids have stolen the Internet, receiving over 2 million views on YouTube in just a month, but not just due to their cuteness but also their dance moves. The pint-sized pair blew away the crowd at the Israeli Salsa Congress with their incredible salsa moves. The routine wasn’t just impressive for small children, but for even an adult dancer, which makes it all the more awesome. 

Since they went viral, the two, named Kevin and Beberly, have won international competitions and even made an appearance on the Ellen Show. 

Click below to watch the video that made Kevin and Beberly an overnight internet sensation:

Thursday, July 10, 2014

DKNY Features a Clothing Line Specific for Muslim Women During Ramadan

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. All over the world, Muslims honor this special time through a month of fasting. Beginning June 28th and lasting through July 28th, Muslims have been fasting from sunrise to sunset. 

Other observations of Ramadan include increased prayer and recitation of the Quran. The purpose of such activities is to improve and increase worship and devotion, as well as participate in spiritual reflection. Exercising restraint from other activities, such as drinking, arguing, or engaging in sexual activities, enables the mind to focus more on their spiritual improvement. 

Although Ramadan is a time of great spiritual development, it is important to be cautious when eating and drinking so little in the hot temperatures of summer. But often, it can be difficult for Muslim women to stay cool while meeting the Islamic guidelines. DKNY has tried to combat this issue by releasing a line of clothing designed specifically for Muslim women, not just during Ramadan, but for all year round. 

The best part is that the designers were Muslim women themselves. And in addition to being Muslim, these women are also professionals in the fashion industry. So they not only are up to speed on all the latest trends, but they are experts in the context and requirements of Islamic dress. 

The collection is stunning without crossing any lines. Arms and legs are covered, plunging necklines are not a problem, and slips are added so light doesn’t shine through- all while being chic and trendy. One of the major complaints of a lot of the fashion choices given to Muslim women is that they are bag-like and plain, but these clothes drape around the body, encasing the curves nature gave women without making them obvious or inappropriate.

DKNY has opened the doors of designer fashion to something amazing, and it is my hope that other big name companies will soon follow suit.