Archive for the 'Trying to be Cool' Category

Finding Unimaginable Answers to Unasked Questions

PlayStation Vita Social Lounge

PlayStation Vita Social Lounge

As a (fairly) recent transplant to Austin, Texas, I miss some of the cool blogger events in California. I’ve been known to tap my West Coast Correspondent in Orange County, and now I have my first Bay Area guest blogger Gina von Esmarch. Not only is Gina a prolific food blogger and a work colleague, she also is my dear friend. Enjoy!

Gina’s thoughts on her techie kids:

Over the winter holiday break I promised my kids — Prima (my 11 year old daughter) and Secondo (my 8 year old son) — that I would take them to ‘work’ with me. Despite the fact that I work with a high-tech PR/Marketing agency, in their minds, I work for PlayStation (my client). Which is nothing less than a tech-child’s dream come true.

While we’ve discussed the reality of this thinking, all my kids can recapitulate is this: I work for PlayStation, and they really want to see the inside of this nirvana one day. Lucky for them, and for me, I recently made their dreams come true.

Later this month, PlayStation will be debuting its newest portable console gaming device called the PlayStation Vita. In honor of the Vita, PlayStation has created the “PlayStation Vita Social Clubs” which are uber-cool lounges filled with Vitas to play and prizes to win in eight cities across the country. And you guessed it, there was a Social Club in my backyard. The kids and I visited the San Francisco Club at 1694 Union Street. I figured there was no better way to get the kids drooling over all things PlayStation than to let them play with the newest “must have” product and meet some gaming experts. Quite honestly, I was even excited about attending the Social Club. I didn’t grow up a gamer, but I married one and now I work in the industry has made me, in my kid’s eyes, the coolest mom around.

Of course, the parents in my community know I work in the industry and, as a result, they are constantly probing me for my opinions on how much gaming is safe, how much time are my kids allowed to game at home and what I consider acceptable gaming parameters. I tell them this: Having games in our house has given me the ability to connect with my kids on another level and has opened up our conversations wider than I ever thought.

I share this story because I continue to be amazed at what I learned during our adventure at the PS Vita Social Club. I was able to guide my kids to my favorite new games, which I had briefly played a few weeks prior. With the help of an expert coach, they were capable of mastering the game basics in less than 30 minutes. It was no time at all before they were teaching me some of the moves and/or tricks.

When I suggested that Prima and Secondo try out Uncharted 3, on the new 3D monitors, I realized how differently my kids think and process information. There was an area in the game that Secondo wanted to access, and the expert was not sure it was possible. Prima was happy to follow along with her expert-guide and eagerly learned new moves, but Secondo was convinced he should be able to get to a certain place despite the fact that he was told it was probably not possible.

Well, after 30 minutes of trying, he remained stuck like a broken record. I watched him and figured he was being stubborn and wasting his time. She was flying through all of these levels and making serious progress. Then it happened. He did it. He figured out the loophole that even the experts had not stumbled across in all of their gaming time. The gaming experts throughout the room rushed over to see what Secondo had accomplished, and the congratulations from a crowd of 20-somethings put a smile on my kid’s face that could span the distance of the Golden Gate Bridge!

I may not be able to understand all that he had to teach me in the game, and how he achieved this goal. I may not have learned ALL of the game functionality like Prima achieved. But, I did learn that my kids are light-years ahead of my tech knowledge when it comes to actual hands-on gaming results. The ‘laws’ that constrict our minds do not restrict their minds. They see endless possibilities and find unimaginable answers to questions yet unasked. My techie kids taught me that I have so much to learn from watching them play.

And while I didn’t take them to PlayStation HQ, I think I made a few dreams come true that day. And I’ll return to the PS Vita Social Club to see what other adventures we can learn as a family because we are growing from all types of gaming together.

– Gina von Esmarch

This post was inspired by participation with the PlayStation Family, where amazing women share thoughts on kids, tech and games each month. While PlayStation is our client, these thoughts are Gina’s, and neither of us received compensation for writing this post. #PSFamily


Bridesmaids on DVD 09/20/11

Bridesmaids on DVD 09/20/11

There are many things in life that make me happy, and topping the list are smart and funny women, good wine and dear friends. Lucky for me, this weekend, I get all three!

This Saturday I will be throwing a party to preview the uber-popular movie Bridesmaids, starring Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph. (Smart and funny women = check!) I’ll also be pouring wine, and lots of it. (Good wine = check!) And of course, I will be surrounded by my dear friends. (And check!)

Now, I have to admit, I am probably the only woman in the United States who has not seen this movie yet. Seriously. I blame my working-mother-with-a-young-daughter lifestyle. It’s ironic because I’m a huge fan of Wiig and Rudolph. (In fact, I’ve been known to yell “welcome to Target” every now and then.) Needless to say, I cannot wait to see Bridesmaids with my girlfriends.

In honor of the movie theme, I’m asking my guests to bring a photo of the bridesmaids dresses from their own wedding, which will certainly inspire lots of laughs! I’m also serving the appetizers with cocktail napkins from my own wedding. (Yes, even 17 years later, I still have a box of wedding napkins!) And since Bridesmaids is all about girlfriends, I’m honoring my dear friend Gina von Esmarch by serving appetizers from her cookbook called Taste This!

Now, I ask YOU this: How many bridesmaids did you have in your wedding and what color dress did you force them to wear, er I mean, what color gowns were they wearing when they walked down the aisle?

I hope that you too are able to enjoy your own trifecta of smart and funny women, good wine and dear friends this weekend!

– LTV Mom

I was provided with a free copy of Bridesmaids on DVD and a party pack of goodies by the PR team representing Universal Studios. I was not compensated for this post, and the words and opinions are my own.

I left my heart in San Francisco.

I moved to Austin, Texas earlier this year. Honestly, I love it here. Austin is a cool city with great people. (And dare I mention amazing public schools and parking spaces wide enough for my SUV?) I truly am happy here and can’t wait to raise my daughter in this amazing community.

But, I have to tell you, watching the San Francisco Giants earn a spot in the World Series reminds me how much I love (and miss) my adopted home-town. I love the Bay Area. To date, my years in the “city by the bay” are my happiest. I built a life, a career, a home and (best yet) a family there. I am loyal to my beloved city.

Now, the San Francisco Giants are playing in the World Series. Just last week, I was in San Francisco when the Giants won a play-off game, and I was in Santa Cruz when they lost a play-off game. It became apparent to me: I am a Giants fan.

The irony of it all? The Giants are playing in the World Series against the Texas Rangers.

Everyone in Austin is ready to cheer for the Rangers, ready to show their Texas pride. I think that is awesome. BUT, I feel a stirring inside me, a reminder that perhaps  I left my heart in San Francisco. When I watch videos like the one above and see the Giants fans rallying together, I get a little sad because I am not there.

The up-side? I know who I am. I am an Austinite who loves the Giants! So, I’ll don the black and orange in a sea of Texan red-white-and-blue. Proudly. GO GIANTS!

– LTV Mom

Dear Tina Fey,

Tina Fey

I was a proud contributor to the Silicon Valley Moms Group for three-plus years. I was part of a network that produced amazing content, I worked side-by-side with amazing women and smart writers, and I was fortunate to make life-long friends.

Those who follow the industry know the network has stopped publishing new content, and the founders and writers have gone their separate ways. In my own personal tribute to my beloved site, I am going to highlight some of my favorite contributions to the blog. And this one might be my all-time favorite, mostly because I adore Tina Fey. Here it goes, please enjoy:

Reposted from Silicon Valley Moms Blog on May 27, 2010:

I have never written a fan letter in my life. I went to high school in the 80s, so I was tempted to write letters to Tom Cruise; in college, where I studied journalism, I wanted desperately to meet Dan Rather.

Today, as a working mom, I really don’t have time for fantasy lunch dates or dreams of meeting celebrities. I have a daughter, a husband, a job, a house and lots of responsibilities that need my focus and dedication. But, I finally found somebody I’d like to take the time to publicly thank: Tina Fey.

Now, I typically don’t like it when commoners like me praise celebrities. After all, we don’t really know them as people; we know their work, their public persona and the stories we read in the press. Even so, I am inspired to write my very first fan letter. Here it goes:

Dear Tina Fey,

Even though I don’t know you, I adore you. I know this letter might sound creepy and stalkerish, so please know that I am just another working mom who thinks you are a genius. I want to thank you for many reasons:

  1. Thank you for being smart: I respect the wit and candor in your writing. You have more than proven your ability and sense of humor; you have shown that smart writing leads to quality entertainment.  If you ever have any doubts about your gifts, just count your Emmys and Golden Globes.
  2. Thank you for being brave: Your writing and acting, namely on 30 Rockand Saturday Night Live, is fearless. I loved your stint on Weekend Update, as you always took the “did she really say that?” approach to your commentary. You don’t go for the easy laugh; you take a topic and smother it with your own brand of sass and wisdom. (Plus, any woman who takes on Tiger WoodsTiki Barber and Jesse James — and theirmistresses — in a single segment is awesome in my book.)
  3. Thank you for writing what I feel: The opening monologue from your most recent SNL appearance was both brilliant and real. It also taught me that we actually have something in common; I too receive the same two questions time and time again: 1) Are you going to have another baby? and 2) How do you juggle it all? (Your answer was classic: And that’s how I juggle it all, Bitches!)
  4. Thank you for Liz Lemon: Even on the days I feel my most cool; I always have a little Liz Lemon in me. I work too much, I fear having fun, and I obsess over minutia. Like Liz, I too need to figure out how to have fun and not “Lemon” my life.
  5. Thank you for dominating: I tell you what, it is so refreshing to see a woman at the top of her game (and earn the recognition she deserves.) You are in an elite class. I love that I can watch your shows and movies, point to the woman who created them, and tell my daughter the actor and the writer is brilliant.

Even though this letter is addressed to you, I highly doubt you’ll ever find it or read it. And I’m sure someone will laugh at my note and tell me I am lame. In reply, I’ll simply quote the great Tina Fey and tell my critics to “SUCK IT!”

Sincerely, Stacy in Silicon Valley

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Wordless Wednesday: Fourth of July 2010

Sunny day at Dana Point, Calif.

Enjoying the waters of Orange County with best friends!

My California Girl!

My California Girl!

The Next Food Network Star: Weeks Three-Four

Well, this working mom gig I have has been keeping me from my blogging. Oh well, even I know when to walk away from the laptop (and the TV) and focus on things like dance recitals, summer camp, client meetings, and a load of laundry or two. That said, I am still a loyal watcher of The Next Food Network Star and have been joining the weekly calls to talk to the judges and eliminated contestants. Lets’s get caught up:

Drama and Divas: There’s been some drama in the show, including some fallen stars and some surprise winners. One thing I have noticed is some lost confidence and some uber-divas. So, during one of our weekly conference calls, I asked Food Network’s Vice President of programming and production Bob Tuschman how he can differ confidence from Diva-ness. Bob quickly pointed out that the two are often “flip sides of the same coin” meaning that most stars on TV and film are “charismatic and demanding.” [LTV Mom: You probably need a little of both to reach the top of your game, but appearing cocky turns me off no matter what you do for a living.]

Points for Bravery: A blogger on the call asked Bob if the contestants got “bonus points” for creating a daring dish, even if the dish was a flop. Of course, this question was in reference to the famous “jerk cabbage” that was created during a challenge in Week Three. Bob response was “ultimately not” and the contestants still have to focus on execution. We also asked what saved the chef behind the nasty dish from getting the axe, and Bob quickly replied “there was somebody worse than him.” [LTV Mom: This was the week Dzintra Dzenis went home.]

Learning from Experts: I love it when guest judges appear on the show, and on Week Three, famed chef Guy Fieri joined the cast. One blogger asked Bob what the contestants can learn from someone like Guy, and I appreciated Bob’s response when he said there is “so much to learn from Guy, he’s a model for what you can do in this competition.” Bob also said “Guy is 100 percent unapologetically Guy.” Bob recommends that aspiring celebrity chef should follow Guy’s lead and not try to imitate other people and “don’t do what you THINK a cooking show host should be. Don’t try to become a TV host, that will get you sent home.” Lastly, Bob underscored that “Guy is Guy whether the camera is on or off.” [LTV Mom: Great reminder for all of us, regardless of our profession.]

Good-bye to DAS: Week Four’s eliminated contestant was cutie-pie Darrell (DAS) Smith, who hails from the Great Midwest. As a viewer, I could see a spark of “something” in DAS, but he just couldn’t get past is nerves to shine on camera. During our conversation this week, DAS admitted that he was so stunned by the serving raw chicken to Wolfgang Punk during the first episode that he never recovered. (DAS called Puck “culinary god.” I asked DAS for his signature dish, to which he replied: “A potato crusted halibut over assorted vegetables, what ever is fresh and in-season, and a rosemary beurre-blanc sauce.” I also asked DAS what goes through his mind when he’s in the middle of cooking a dish for an elimination challenge, only to be confronted by Bobby Flay. DAS admitted that the kitchen creates a very high –pressure situation, but the contestants get to the point where we are comfortable with the judges. He added, “We are all chefs, and it’s like talking to a regular chef.” I tell you what, DAS showed more charaisma and charm on the call than he did on the show. He told stories about being on his grandma’s farm, picking fresh tomatoes, and watching her create tomato-basil soup. Now that would have been a charming story on-camera.

Dishing with Dzintra: Week Three’s eliminated contestant was the eccentric Dzintra Dzenis who famously told her challenge partner to “shhhh” while in front of the judges during an elimination challenge. Manners aside, this Texan beauty is (as my mom would say) an odd duck. Even Bob wisely called her “interestingly quirky” but her downfall is that she can appear “dazed and confused.” On the plus side, Dzintra is a great teacher and she truly loves food. Like previously eliminated contestants, I asked her signature dish, to which she replied: “A nice great big piece of beef tenderloin that’s grilled, steak fries, steamed asparagus and hollandaise sauce.” I also asked her for a favorite restaurant in her hometown of Austin, to which she replied: “Chez moi!” She added there are so many good restaurants in the area, but “I really love my cooking, my family loves my cooking, my friends love my cooking. It’s all about here. It’s home.”

Next Episode: Tune into The Food Network on Sunday night at 9 p.m. PST to watch next week’s episode, and then come back to Laptop TV Mom for another recap!

– LTV Mom

My Life Scoop: Top 10 Wired Mom Blogs

Well, I am blushing. I was on vacation with my family last week, and began my Thursday with a Twitter check where I discovered some great news. Turns out that Laptop TV Mom made the list of Top 10 Wired Mom Blogs by My Life Scoop. Even better, I am listed with some great company including some of my friends and co-bloggers. Thank you so much, I appreciate the nod.

Top 10 Wired Mom Blogs

The list is designed to highight the blogs that share how everyday moms are using the Web and mobile devices to manage our crazy lives. Whether we have one kid or a dozen, whether we work outside the home or not, we all use technology to keep our families (and sanity!) in check. And heck, we even use technology to create a source of entertainment.

The List

There are some high-powered moms on this list, including the ladies from BlogHer and Silicon Valley Moms Blog (where I also write). I also am a personal fan of list-makers TechMamas, TechSavvyMama, Who’s the Boss, Cool Mom Picks, and Rox and Roll. I’ve also recently discovered Topsie Techie and Help Me, Obi-Mom Kenobi, You’re My Only Hope! and hope to meet them soon!

Other new lists from My Life Scoop include Top 10 Home Office Idea Blogs and Top 10 Homework Help Blogs. A complete list of their Top 10 lists can be found HERE.

About My Life Scoop

My Life Scoop is a blog dedicated to showing how people use technology to run their lives. Yep, this is my kind of blog. I use technology to run my household, keep track of my family, manage my paying job, and (you guessed it) entertain myself in my spare time.

– LTV Mom

Photo Credit: My Life Scoop

Wordless Wednesday: My Kid and Travis Wall from SYTYCD

Dear Girl Scouts: “Thank U Berry Munch!”

Since launching this site, I have had some dream opportunities in my life. I have interviewed celebrity chefs, A-list journalists, television stars, and even First Ladies. It’s mind-boggling that this former journalism student turned mom-blogger can have such opportunities, even 20 years after graduation.

All that said, every once and a while, I receive an opportunity that makes me giddy. Thanks to the power of Twitter (and the Girl Scouts in Garden City, NY, I was offered the chance to test and review the newest Girl Scout Cookie, just pulled out of the oven this year, called “Thank U Berry Munch.” (Um, you had me at Girl Scout Cookie.)

While I was excited to test-drive the newest treat, I must be clear about my loyalty to the Thin Mint and Samoas (which are called Caramel deLights in Northern California). I buy boxes and boxes of those cookies as soon as I see Girl Scouts in front of my Safeway grocery store. Honestly, I can eat an entire sleeve of Thin Mints in one sitting.

My family shares this love for Girl Scout Cookies (adding Lemon Cremes to my husband’s list of favorites), so we decided to make this taste-test a multi-generational experience. Today’s taste-testers are: LTV Mom, LTV Dad, LTV Kid (age 5), and our Granny (age 90). Here’s a recap of our taste buds:

LTV Mom: Thank U Berry Munch is a shortbread cookie with tiny bits of dried cranberries. I equate the cookie to a Pecan Sandie, with cranberries instead of pecans. I expected the cookie to be chewy, but it’s nice and crunchy. Honestly, the cookie is better than  I expected and paired nicely with a cup of tea. Thumb’s up!

LTV Dad: Excellent. This cookie has nice flavors, in fact, better flavors than some other Girl Scout cookies. I still prefer the Thin Mint, Somoas and Lemon Creme. [Note: he made this statement as he reached for a second helping of Thank U Berry Munch.]

LTV Kid (age 5): Very good, and I love it til my heart.

Granny (age 90): Very good! Very! Very excellent! This is my new favorite. My daughter was a Girl Scout.

I am happy to report the Thank U Berry Munch cookie was a big hit in my family. While it did not displace the Thin Mint or Somoas, it certainly is a welcomed addition to our annual Girl Scout Cookie feast!

– LTV Mom

Photo Credit:

Next Iron Chef: Chef Jose Garces

Iron Chef Jose Garces

Iron Chef Jose Garces

It’s no secret that I am a Food Network junkie. I’m addicted to the network’s line-up of foodie shows including Food Network Challenge, Next Food Network Star and Chopped. But, I have to say, my recent interview with the Next Iron Chef was a highlights for my blogging career.

If you are new to Food Network and the Iron Chef franchise, The Next Iron Chef is a TV show that has ten super-star chefs competing to achieve the status of Iron Chef. The few who achieve this status then cook and compete against the best chefs from around the world on the show Iron Chef America. The dramatic show features “kitchen stadium” (which is a completely tricked-out kitchen), a surprise theme ingredient (which ranges from eggnog to eggplant), and lots of drama (including a time-clock and feisty judges).

The winner of this season’s Next Iron Chef is early-season-favorite Chef Jose Garces, an Ecuadorian-American who was raised in Chicago and owns famed restaurants in both Chicago and Philadelphia. A handful of bloggers were invited to speak with Chef Garces the morning following his victory, including yours truly. Here is a snapshot of the conversation:

Q: I am a big fan of Chef Freitag and was disappointed to see her leave so early. Whose early exit was most surprising to you?

A: “Chef Appleman was most surprising to me.” Chef Garces said that Appleman was a strong chef from the beginning, and then added he was both “surprised and alleviated” when Appleman was cut from the show.

Q: There are moments when the “secret ingredient” is unveiled and I think to myself, “I would never eat that!” Throughout the season, what secret ingredient or menu-theme made you cringe?

A: Chef Garces quickly pointed to the episode where the Chefs had to cook with challenging ingredients including un-laid eggs, stinky tofu, dried grasshoppers and duck tongue. He reminded us that this episode was all the worst ingredients rolled into one heinous menu. [LTV Mom: I would rather cut off my right arm that eat those dishes.]

Q: Whose food would you most like to try?

A: Chef Garces said, “Chef Mehta’s food… I never got to try his food!” Note: Chef Mehta and Chef Garces competed head-to-head until the show’s finale! [LTV Mom: I am heading to NYC this week and hope to try Chef Mehta's Graffiti.]

Q: What’s the most important thing you took away from this competition?

A: Chef Garces said, “The show triggered my creative juices, I proved to myself that I can cook on the fly.”

Q: What was your favorite gadget in Kitchen  Stadium?

A: Chef Garces likes the “blast chiller” which helps you quickly chill food. [LTV Mom says "I want one too!"]

Q: How will you be preparing your Thanksgiving Turkey this year?

A: I was shocked to learn that even Chef Garces will brine and fry his turkey this year. He says, “the product comes out the best.”

Q: Last and most important question: Chef Garces, you are from Chicago, so I have to ask: Cubs or Sox?

A: Cubs! [LTV Mom: Go Cubbies!]

At the end of the day, I have to say Chef Garces came across as a very kind, hard-working, down-to-Earth person. I hope to dine at one of his restaurants in the near future. In the meantime, I will root for him during his premiere on Iron Chef America on Sunday, January 17.

– LTV Mom

Photo Credit: Food Network