Thanksgiving weekend has taken on a new tradition in our home. As the years have passed and our sons have got older rushing out on Black Friday to buy the latest toy or gadget has been replaced by staying indoors relaxing and spending time together watching movies. This year Shop Small Saturday and Cyber Monday were also days in which we kept money in our wallets instead choosing to clear out closets gathering gently used clothing to be donated to the Salvation Army which will be picked up on Wednesday.
Donating to Toys for Tots where a local RE/MAX Realtor sets up a drop box at the entrance of over 20 local developments and donating cans and non-perishable foods to the Delaware Food Bank is yet another holiday tradition.
Giving Tuesday is a globally celebrated day of giving back that kicks off the Tuesday after Thanksgiving and continues until the end of the year.
Giving back can be done in many different ways from donating cash or checks to charitable organization which has been vetted to giving time at a local soup kitchen, homeless shelter or delivering Meals on Wheels. Giving as a family can create a positive tradition that can be passed on to the future generations, fostering a sense of caring and responsibility.
There are so many local organizations that could use your support, if you don’t know of any personally there are several websites that will assist you in locating several of them; GuideStar, Charity Navigator and the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving site.
If you live in Delaware, here is a partial list of non-profit organizations that would love to accept donations in celebration of #GivingTuesday
Soul Saving Family Restoration Center, Inc.
Students for Haiti
Freedom Center For Independent Living
Christ Servants Mission Institute
Delaware Center for Homeless Veterans, Inc.
As you know, many of your donations are tax-deductible so keep a record of the amounts or items, as well as the dates and organizations for annual tax return filing.
Is #GivingTuesday part of your holiday traditions?
How was your holiday weekend? Did you find any Black Friday bargains or Shop Small Saturday steals and deals?
Not much of a shopper myself I didn’t leave the house, however, we recently had to replace our LG Washing Machine and the new model is awesome. It’s amazing how far technology has come in just a few short years…or at least in the past 10 years since we purchased the other model.
I hope we don’t need to replace any of our other major appliances any time soon, however, I have been curious about some of the new “Smart Appliances”. Still being a little reluctant to purchase one, especially with all these Cyber Security hacking in the news, I decided to do a little research and found an interesting article that I wanted to share from TechforAnyone.
Back in 2014, a security firm announced details that a number of smart appliances were used to send out spam across the internet. It was a wake-up call to the potential security threats that our new home appliance and electronics pose. Most people now own at least a connected television for streaming but the appliance makers are pushing out the boundaries of what information and capabilities these things have. But is this necessarily a good thing?
What Are Smart Appliances?
There are a wide range of features that appliances can have that a manufacturer might claim for them to be a smart appliance. After all, many devices have computers in them to help manage their energy consumption or adjust actions so that they perform their duties better. My fuzzy logic rice cooker is great at cooking all sorts of rice perfectly but is it a smart appliance? The real definition these days of a smart appliance is one that it is connected to other devices remotely. This can be as simple as a television that can stream video from a service like Netflix to an oven that can be setup with a meal that is refrigerated and then told remotely when to have the meal ready to eat.
Insteon Home Automation Controller
Home automation is one of the key aspects of smart appliances. The ability to turn on and off appliances at specific times, adjusting lighting remotely and managing power consumption are just a few examples. In the case of home automation, the appliances and light fixtures may not even be smart appliances but connected to a smart power outlet. The key here is that there is a home automation controller that is in essence a computer that somehow controls those devices and it can be accessed with a remote computer or mobile device via a web page or through a mobile application.
Why They Are A Threat?
Essentially, anything that is connected to the internet can pose a risk. As the event at the start of this article pointed out, the smart appliances were used to send out bulk spam. Similarly, they could be setup to do things like a DDoS attack to take out web sites on the internet, be used as remote relays to try and break into other network systems or just be hacked to cause malice to the appliance owner. If the devices did not have any connection with the internet, the threats would be significantly lessened.
Lack of Security Expertise
One of the biggest problems with the rise of smart appliances is the lack of a security focus. Computers have existed for consumers for a long time and have developed a set of security standards. While not all software is necessarily secure, you often can get third party security companies that help maintain the security integrity of your computers. This is where Synmatec, McAfee, Kaspersky, Sophos and Trend Micro to name a few make computer security products to help protect consumers and businesses. Appliances on the other hand are reliant upon the developers of the software working at those companies. This can best be claimed as security through obscurity.
Users are unaware of how their devices are managed or interconnected. They have no ability to put a security product on them to help prevent any sort of attack. In essence, they have to rely on the appliance manufacturer to make a secure product. Since they use a proprietary system, they think that it will be more difficult to hack but hackers were able to develop a means to remotely control a Prius or Ford Focus. They still needed local access to do this but who is to say as our cars become more connected that this could eventually be done over the internet?
Need to Limit Exposure
The concept is that these appliances need to be connected to the internet to make our lives easier. A refrigerator that can notify us when we are running low on certain groceries, an oven that can be told when to start cooking or just being able to program when a TV program will be recorded by a built in DVR. They are all ideas that are beneficial to some people but they are not critical features. The thing is that many of these things don’t necessarily need to be directly connected to the internet to do these tasks.
For instance, a refrigerator could be setup to monitor the age of various perishable items in it. When they hit an expiration data, it can modify a shopping list to replenish those items. Rather than being designed to order them via the internet, why not just design it to sync up with a mobile phone shopping list application via a near field communication to update the apps list of items to get. It still is a smart appliance as it will sync with a device but is not exposed to the internet.
What Can Be Done About it…
Whirlpool My Smart Appliances App
With the ubiquity of smart phones, I think that manufacturers should look at more ways to interface their smart appliances through a centralized system. This could be similar to a home automation system that could then be secured more readily by the consumer. After all, a smart automobile could route all its features through a smart phone or tablet connected to wireless internet. The phone security can then be used to hopefully prevent attacks. A central home automation server could do same with home appliances that need to be adjusted remotely. The downside to such a system of course is a single point of failure. That smart phone or automation computer breaking or being breached puts the whole system at risk. The different though is it is easier to secure a single point rather than multiple ones.
So, don’t give up on smart appliances. They can still be quite useful but as a consumer, be mindful of what those capabilities are and how vulnerable you may become through them. Hopefully manufacturers will start considering the smart appliance security implications now that real world threats have been found.
Disclosure Statement: I was provided with a Kia Optima LX Turbo for a week to review, however, all opinions expressed in this post are 100% my own. #Kia #DriveKia #DriveShopUSA
Two weeks ago a 2016 Kia Optima LX Turbo was driven into my driveway and needless to say, I was over-the-top excited to have her a as loaner for the entire week.
Thank you @Kia #DriveShopUSA and you can plainly see, we definitely belonged together as she complimented my outfit quite nicely! #kuteinaKia
Later in the day hubby and I sat inside listening to jazz on the Sirius Satellite Radio while checking out the bells and whistles, some of which included:
Then together, we took a slow, leisurely drive around the neighborhood before the sun set for the evening.
Wednesday, I left her in the driveway as I also did on Thursday because of the drenching rains. Having driven a small compact car (Bloggy Buggy) for the past 2 years, I was a bit apprehensive about driving this larger, more luxurious vehicle to work. I work in West Chester, PA, which is a 100 mile, 3 hour daily round trip commute.
The 32 MPG highway gas mileage for the Kia Optima LX Turbo is awesome, therefore, I doubt that I would have needed to stop and get gas to fuel up had I driven it to work those two days.
Friday was a vacation day from work but not a day off without a purpose as I attended a Friday Fuel Up, sponsored by Troy Farmer, www.tfarmerforeva.com This wonderful Women in Business event was enlightening and definitely rewarding as a new business owner.
Oh, I forget to tell you that I had officially launched my own business, A.Blake Enterprises, Social Media Management on the 13th of November. I will bring you up to speed with all the details but in the meantime, check out the website www.ABlakeEnterprises.com for more information.
After the empowerment session, driving home on a bright and sunny mid-afternoon, I took my time, leaned to the side and cruised along listening to Jazz playing on the Watercolors station from the Sirius Station. All the while thinking “I could get used to driving a car like this!” I pulled into the driveway, picked up hubby then we headed to the Dutch Country Farmers Market to get a late lunch.
Not wanting to buy too much because it was the week before Thanksgiving, we just bought some wings and pasta salad for the weekend and a few pounds of Oxtails for next week’s Slow Cooked Oxtail Stew – stay tuned for that recipe.
The Smart and spacious trunk of the Kia Optima LX makes it easy to load packages when your hands are full.
The MSRP on this fully loaded Kia Optima LX is $27,415 and these are just a few of the many standard features:
USB/Auxiliary Input Jack and 12 Volt Outlet
Bluetooth Wireless Technology
60/40 split-folding rear seats which are perfect for travel back and forth to college or a quick trip to your local Home Improvement Store
Push Button Start / Smart Key / Smart Trunk
The additional LX Technology Package Features on this vehicle included:
Dual Zone Auto Climate Controls with Rear Vents
Navigation System with 8” Display
Memory Driver’s Seat and Mirror Position
Blind Spot Detection System
Rear Cross Traffic Alert
Rear Parking Assist System
Auto-dimming Rear view mirror
There are many safety features in the LX Technology Package which are definitely of benefit to me because I spend a lot of time on the road. With so many distracted drivers and others who need a remedial Driver’s Ed course, having these options are a definite plus especially the “Blind Spot Detection System”.
Saturday, hubby was feeling well enough to take another “Road Trip to Retirement” which was a regular feature on my YouTube channel before he began his chemo treatments. Check out the latest video of this visit to the Village of Eastridge, a 55+ Community in Smyrna.
I had an evening appointment with a Venetia Thompson, a small business owner in New Castle, who is featured this year on my blog in honor of #ShopSmall Saturday. When I got home there was another surprise…our youngest son was home from college.
He had come home early for the Thanksgiving break with a big bag of laundry, fortunately he has been washing his own clothes since the age of 10 so it was not my responsibility to handle!
The Kia adventure continued into Sunday when my oldest son and I went shopping and then created this mini video, once again touting a few of the cool features of the Optima LX.
On Monday hubby had a chemo treatment, so the Kia spent the day parked at the Helen Graham Cancer Center, then Tuesday morning, I had to say, “See Ya” to the Kia.
It was definitely a fun filled, wonderful way to spend the week with a Kia. Now it’s your turn to tell me what you would do if you had a week with a Kia Optima LX Turbo…where would you go, leave a comment below.
In October I attended a 2-day eCommerce Marketing and Sales Workshop in Dover where I met a wonderful small business owner, Venetia Thompson who also lives in Middletown, Delaware. In recognition of Shop Small Saturday, I wanted to feature her on my blog this year.
Very Venetia, is the creation of Venetia Thompson who has delighted her family for over 40-years with unique gifts! Whenever there were gifts to be given, Venetia’s gifts were usually quite striking as being so “Very Venetia” which is how she got her name.
Diagnosed with lupus over 18 years ago, Venetia refuses to let lupus dictate her lifestyle. So in 2008, Very Venetia, Inc. was conceived to provide a platform for expressing her love of upcycling with the use of vibrant colors, multiple textures, and ingenuity to design fabulous gifts. Inspiration usually comes from self-necessity or seeing an old piece of furniture and envisioning a new life for it.
When Venetia is not working in her Home Studio, you can find her selling her merchandise at Penn’s Place which is located in Historical New Castle just across from the Courthouse. Her fabulous creations are on view, Thursday through Sundays.
Penn’s Place is a house of Artisans where you can chat with artist while sipping coffee from the Coffee Shop, Trader’s Cove, just on the back end of the shop. So, if you are in the neighborhood, stop at Penn’s Place, 206 Delaware Street, New Castle, Delaware and see what fabulous concepts are waiting for you!
Make sure to support your Small Businesses and Shop Small tomorrow!
Support your local small businesses as they are the backbone of today’s economy. Also, one of the best things about Shopping Small is that you can find unique and cute gifts that are not mass manufactured.
Let’s Chat: What do you like best about shopping small, especially during the holidays?
Hello friends, now that your Thanksgiving meal has been digested, the crowds have dissipated from Black Friday and you supported small businesses on Saturday, it’s time to go online in search of more deals and bargains.
Online shopping has increased dramatically over the years, but some things never change, and that is security and scams. So this year before you click with a credit card, review these 10 tips from internetsecure.com to keep you cyber safe this season.
1.Look for the latest credit card password procedures, such as Verified by Visa.
In the last year, each major credit card issuer has come up with a secure system online that involves use of a password known only to the credit card owner. This presents to you the highest form of online security possible when shopping, and so you should look for sites that support these new standards.
2. Check the return/refund, warranty, guarantee and other policies. Take the time to ensure that you are dealing with a reputable, reliable merchant that will offer you the same shopping peace-of-mind that you would get elsewhere. If the online merchant doesn’t post sufficient information to provide you a degree of comfort about such policies, consider taking your business elsewhere.
3. Make sure that the checkout process is secure Always make sure that you are using a site that provides full “encryption” over the credit card transaction, which helps to ensure that your credit card information can’t be accessed while it is in transit. You can determine this by looking for a small “padlock” at the bottom of your browser screen, or by a message indicating that you are entering a secure site.
4. Look for privacy and security policies A company that is very conscious about security issues will most often post some information online for you to read. Take the time to look for the security and privacy policies that the online store might have posted and read them, since this will give you more comfort that you are shopping with a site that will carefully guard your credit card and personal information.
5. If concerned, do due diligence If you are dealing with an online store, but are unsure whether they are reliable and credible, do a search for them on the Internet, to see if other consumers have expressed concern or have had positive or negative experiences.
6. Understand the “safe-shopping” policies established by the issuer of your credit card Take the time to understand the guarantees that your card-issuer offers with respect to shopping online. You will likely find that even if you are subjected to an online fraud, you will not be liable for any loss greater than $50, which should put your mind to rest.
7. Shop around Often what might seem to you to be a bargain might not be, once you factor in other costs, or if you don’t consider that there might be other online stores offering the same product or service at a lower cost. Take the time to look at alternatives.
8. Beware of hidden shipping, duty and other costs Many of those who shop online are surprised by the hidden charges that were not well-documented on the site. Make sure you understand all the potential charges before committing to a purchase, and if something seems unclear — ask! Look for sites that clearly post such charges as part of the checkout process, or post the information elsewhere on their site.
9. Keep receipts and other documentation Make sure you print out a copy of the receipt once you’ve finished the purchase. In addition, if the online store offers to send you a copy of the receipt by e-mail, take advantage of this option.
10. Order early! The common complaint of every online Christmas shopper is that they ordered too late to ensure delivery of their goods by Christmas. Shop early — and shop often!
Last week I was thankful for the opportunity to have met the beautiful and “blessed with success” owner of Lai Renise Boutique, Nadira Alston. Lai Renise Boutique is located on the 2nd floor of 11 West Main Street in Middletown.
Nadria and her family relocated from Philadelphia where she started and still operates a successful online boutique with clients from New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia and Delaware. She moved to Delaware and on the 3rd of May opened Lai Renise which is partially named after her daughter.
Lai Renise is a high end yet affordable shop for women looking for something special or a one of a kind outfit. Nadira offers a personal shopping experience and hosts Trunk Shows in which family and friends gather for wonderful evening of shopping and styling.
Nadira had always dreamed of operating a brick and mortar shop and was blessed to have found this location which was previously a dance studio. The mirrored walls were already in place so she just added the shelving to showcase the beautiful handbags and accessories with brands like Big Buddah Bags, Betsy Johnson, Vieta and Russ Jewelry.
Nadira also runs a full time Ministry and enjoys working with young women in empowerment and positive transformation. On Saturday from 4:30 to 8:30 she is hosting “Daughter’s of Excellence Annual Dessert Cafe” a fellowship featuring an Open-Mic, Singing, Poetry and Storytelling at 14 West Main Street. For more information please send an email to email@example.com.
In honor of #ShopSmall Saturday I treated myself to a Big Buddah Handbag – it was a tough decision but I purchased the black one.
Now it’s your turn – what are you thankful for this week?
This is a sponsored post for DressFirst.com, however, opinions are 100% my own.
Now that you’ve eaten the last of the Thanksgiving turkey, survived shopping on Black Friday and Small Business Saturday, today is Cyber Monday so it’s time to start thinking about the holiday parties!
During this time of the year there are always special events to attend, whether it’s a Christmas, Kwanzaa or a New Year’s Eve party. There are also house socials with family and friends or little get-togethers with co-workers and neighbors.
Have you starting planning your outfits yet?
If you are you looking for something a little extra special make sure to check out Dress First.com Dress First is an online shop that carries a large selection of dresses for all occasions including Homecoming, Cocktail Parties, Proms, and even Weddings.
This is just one of the new arrivals of LBD’s which would be perfect for a New Year’s Eve celebration. Dress First also carries a large selection of shoes, and accessories all reasonably priced.
Dress First advertises weekly specials with savings up to 80% and free shipping on all all dresses.
So today while shopping online check out DressFirst.com and don’t forget to “Like” them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter so you’ll be the first to know about the specials, new arrivals and of course the Giveaways.