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Disclosure: This post is sponsored; however, all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.

My life has been crazy busy these days – in a good way. I’ve been on my grind non-stop covering Fashion Week and new product launches, writing stories, speaking at events and lending my discerning eye (and bubbly personality) to TV trend segments. Staying on task while juggling a full plate isn’t always easy, but I try to work efficiently and have as much fun as possible along the way.

Two products that have been a big help on that front lately are my Google Home smart assistant and Google Wifi system. They’re the digital solutions I’ve been using to keep me and my home connected – to the Internet and to my life. I’ve had them for around two months now and find they’ve totally changed how I navigate my day-to-day.   

Here are five things I’m loving about Google Home and Google Wifi so far. 

Google Home and Google Wifi – Photo Credit: Not Just A Girl In A Dress
It’s My Personal DJ

Being able to tell Google Home to play my Spotify music is one of my favorite features. I find myself listening to music more, which has been a great mood elevator for me. Saying, “Ok, Google, play my song list” has become one of the first things I do whenever I walk through my door. 

It’s A Forecast Friend
Google Home – Photo Credit: Not Just A Girl In A Dress

I’m also totally digging that I can ask Google Home the weather forecast while I pick out my outfits for the day. I live in a walkup apartment, so it’s a little inconvenient to step out just to check the temperature. Sure I could open a weather app on my phone, but it is just easier to ask Google.

It Makes Me A Multi-Tasking Maven 

I get my best ideas at the most random moments – like when I’m waiting for a conference call to start or making dinner.  Instead of stopping what I’m doing, I just tell Google to add my bright ideas to my “shopping list” and I circle back to it later. This is a digital hack that I’ve been using since it is the only “make a list” feature Google Home currently offers.    

It Simplifies My Commute
Google Home & Google Wifi – Photo Credit: Not Just A Girl In A Dress

Obviously, knowing how long my commute will take door-to-door helps me arrives where I need to be on time. But it also helps me estimate how many more tasks I can sneak in before heading out or while walking to the train. The phrase, “Ok Google, how’s my commute” has been a true game-changer in helping me check more tasks off in the morning. 

Keeps Me Connected
Google Wifi – Photo Credit: Not Just A Girl In A Dress

Google Wifi has been the little power engine in the background keeping my data uploading and downloading effortlessly. I honestly haven’t had any challenges with my Wi-Fi network since I setup my Google Wifi – which I love. Its lack of technical interruptions keeps me working smoothly, which is the best anyone can ask for from a Wi-Fi network.

Do you have a Google Home or Google Wifi? Let me know how it’s working out for you.

-XOXO Charell Star | Not Just A Girl In A Dress

The 2017 Nissan Rogue is one of those cars you instantly love when you hop in it. Not to be all hyperbolic about it, but it is just a really smooth riding car wrapped in a solid sleek body. 

2017 Nissan Rogue – Not Just A Girl In A Dress Review

I got my first experience with the 2017 Rogue when I rode in the backseat of one to a film premiere a few weeks ago. I was impressed by how the car handled the New York City roads and how spacious the car felt, so I sent a request to the brand to borrow one to test drive and review. 

2017 Nissan Rogue – Photo Credit: Not Just A Girl In A Dress

The compact SUV is available in three trim levels or models: the basic “S,” mid-range “SV” and the top-of-the-line “SL.” I test drove an “SV” model with all-wheel-drive for seven days.  

2017 Nissan Rogue – Photo Credit: Not Just A Girl In A Dress

The SV model gets 32 miles-per-gallon on the highway and 25 in the city. It also comes loaded with automatic headlights, keyless entry and ignition and heated mirrors that keep visibility clear during inclement weather. The steering wheel is wrapped in leather.    

2017 Nissan Rogue Interior – Photo Credit: Not Just A Girl In A Dress

The Rogue also features a six-way power driver seat – which is awesome for short people like me who need the seat to be at maximum height at all times but want to get in and out of the car without bumping our heads on the roof.  It also seats five.  

2017 Nissan Rogue Interior – Photo Credit: Not Just A Girl In A Dress

I have come to dread blind-spot monitoring in most cars that I test drive, but the 2017 Rogue’s turned out to be pretty well designed. It comes standard along with rear- cross-traffic alert and notifies drivers of hazards in their blind-spot or when objects or other cars are too close. Normally, I feel the systems can be too sensitive, beeping way too often (like whenever another car is around).

The Rogue’s safety system felt balanced and would only beep or flash when there were true hazards to alert me about. The result was I didn’t find myself tuning out its warning system the way I have others.  

2017 Nissan Rogue Interior – Photo Credit: Not Just A Girl In A Dress

I totally dug having dual-zone automatic climate control and seat warmers. The touch-screen monitor was also a big bonus. Besides it functioning as a rear-view monitor when I parked, it included in-car navigation, Bluetooth connectivity, and voice activation dialing. It took less than a minute to sync my iPhone with the system. Phone calls were crystal clear through the six-speaker audio system and my music played seamlessly every time I turned the car on.      

2017 Nissan Rogue Interior – Photo Credit: Not Just A Girl In A Dress

The cargo hold was pretty roomy and included hidden floor compartments for when you needed to transport tall items. 

2017 Nissan Rogue Interior – Photo Credit: Not Just A Girl In A Dress

The back row of seats also folds flat to increase the storage capacity.  

2017 Nissan Rogue – Photo Credit: Not Just A Girl In A Dress
How it Drives

Actually driving the 2017 Nissan Rogue was really fun. The car handles really well on the road, around curves and on the construction-laden/pot-hole filled streets of my neighborhood. I felt safe and in control of the car at all times, even on windy stretches of road. The car was comfortable and it was easy to feel like I was driving a more expensive model at times. 

Also, it was great not having to worry about fitting the car in tight parking spaces due to its compact design – which is great for city-dwellers.

With a mid-range starting price of $25,240, the 2017 Nissan Rogue SV is a compact SUV to consider if you value comfort, power, and price.   

-XOXO Charell Star | Not Just A Girl In A Dress   

It’s holiday time which means lots of home-cooked cookies, cakes, sweet breads, and pies. In my house, we always used a basic hand mixer, but there’s a point when you may want to up your multitasking baking game to save time or make more intricate dishes. In that case, a stand mixer might be the next logical step for you.

I test the SMEG Stand Mixer . Check out my Lifestyle Unboxed video to see how it works and my tips for use.

Overall, I was pretty impressed with the SMEG Stand Mixer. It has a 10-speed motor which would be great for whisking meringues to crusts. Also, the motor wasn’t as loud as some other models I’ve tested at stores.

I also appreciated that it came with more than one mixing attachment. The box includes a flat beater, dough hook and wire whisk and they all felt pretty sturdy. The SMEG Stand Mixer is also packed with the 5-qt stainless steel mixing bowl, a plastic spatula, and pouring cover.

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The site calls the pouring cover a “plastic bowl cover,” but that’s not an accurate description. I thought it was going to be a lid, but it doesn’t cover the entire bowl. It’s designed to keep items from splashing when the mixer is on and to easily transfer liquids out of the bowl.

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The SMEG Stand Mixer is also pretty weighty. It’s about 20 lbs, so you won’t be traveling with it often. It’s very sturdy when it in use and you don’t have to worry about it sliding or moving due to the anti-slip feet on the base. The weight also means you have an excuse to use when people as you to borrow it;).

It also comes in some very fun retro colors. The one I reviewed was bold red, but it also comes in chrome, sky blue, pink and several other options. Of course, you don’t need a mixer that is colorful. But, if it’s going to be out on the counter, I’d rather have one that is pleasant to look at.  Why be boring?

The SMEG Stand Mixer is available at Williams-Sonoma for $459.99 and is totally worth checking out.

-XOXO Charell Star | Not Just A Girl In A Dress

Here’s something you can quote me on: “No one should ever spend good money on a bad drink.” Why do that when you can make tasty cocktails at home with a few simple tricks, bar tools and simple to use apps.

To make sure you never fall victim again to disastrous drinks and can even impress your friends with your cocktail skills, I compiled my favorite tips and easy fab recipes for you.

Check out this week’s episode of Marie Claire – The Fix with style babe Brittney H. Levine to see my best “how-tos” and picks to “Fool Your Friends Into Thinking You’re A Mixologist!”

I’ve also listed all the featured products below.

Mixologist Tools and gadgets to look the part

High-quality mixers you can pretend you mixed yourself 

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Awesome apps to make your next bar-night in a blast and be the envy of all your friends

XOXO Charell Star | Not Just A Girl in A Dress

Five years after Apple launched Facetime, Google is responding with a one-to-one video calling app of its own – Google Duo.

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The free and easy to use app stands out for a couple of reasons. One – unlike on FaceTime – you can make calls between IOS and Android devices.

Two, unlike Skype – another popular video calling service – you can call anyone already in your existing phones’ address book. This is a big improvement over Skype where you have to add a person’s user handle before you could call them.

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And three, Duo gives you a sneak peek of the person who’s calling you before you pick up. The “Knock Knock” feature lets you preview the screen of the caller and decide if you want to pick up. Android users can see the video preview on the lock screen while iPhone users need to hit “Preview” first or already be in the app.

The app will also ring for up to a minute in case you can’t get to the phone right away.

Once on a video call, Google keeps Duo features to a bare minimal only providing options to mute audio, switch between front- and back-facing cameras and end the call. There isn’t even a time stamp to let you know how long you’ve been on the call (which feels like a miss).

 

I’m an iPhone user, so I don’t really see the need to use Duo when I’m calling other IOS users. However, I would use it instead of other services when calling my friends who are Android users. I also think the app is way easier to use than Skype and would totally lean to using this over that service when I’m out and about.

 

That being said, I’ll still use Skype for business-related video calls. I like to use my laptop for business video calling because I can have it sit stationary on my desk or flat surface instead of trying to steady my phone in my hand. Video calling is already super awkward without the camera jerking about.

Duo is currently mobile only, so it won’t work on a laptop.

-XOXO Charell Star | Not Just A Girl In A Dress

At the mention of Microsoft, the first person to come to mind for most would be Bill Gates, however in 2014 John W. Thompson made headlines by becoming the first African-American chairman of the company.

Let’s be clear. You don’t ascend to a leadership role at of one of the most influential tech companies of the age without being someone who can get things done and Thompson has had a storied history in the world of technology.

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Born and raised in South Florida as the son of a teacher and postal worker, Thompson received a scholarship to play the clarinet for a Missouri college marching band before transferring to Florida A&M to study his real passion, business.

The no-nonsense star spent 28 years with IBM in sales, marketing, and software development before being given the role of GM of the Americas business unit. From there, he worked for 10 years at Symantec and resigned as company’s chief executive in 2009.

At 64 years old, Thompson brings decades of experience to his new role, which is probably one of the many reasons Microsoft’s chief executive, Satya Nadella, sought him out.

Thompson is known around the industry for his tremendous level of strategic insight and as one of the best communicators to work with for his ability to take complicated messages about technology and make them understandable.Thompson_print-857x1200

His ability to make tough decisions may be exactly what Microsoft needs as lately, it has had a very scattered business approach of trying to be everything to everybody, without having a real hit product or service in any one area.

At the time of his appointment, Thompson was largely quiet about his plans to help turn the company around, but has been challenging his new team with questions like, “Is this strategy right, and more importantly is the team executing well against that strategy?”

To be fair, only time will tell where he takes Microsoft next, but we’ll all be eagerly awaiting his next boss move.

-Staff | Not Just A Girl In A Dress

No matter how broke I was in college I always could scrape together a few dollars to go with my friends to the local club and pay for at least one drink. Call it the ingenuity of youth! The fun I was having shaking my booty and hanging with my girlfriends always won out over the fact that the $10 I plopped down for a badly mixed drink was my last and I’d have to walk home once the night ended.

I roll with the ride-or-die type of girlfriends, so I rarely had to make the trek back to my dorm room alone. However on those off occasions when I did, I can clearly remember my inner voice chastising me. “Girl, you know you should have saved that money for a cab home.” It’s not that the area around my campus was dangerous, but any desolate area can feel sketchy at 2 AM when you’re walking solo and know all the sensible folks are fast asleep at home.

I’m guessing the folks behind Companion – had a few bad decision making, late night solo commuting stories of their own, which inspired them to create the new safety app.  Available on iTunes App Store and Google Play the free app bills itself as “your personal safety device” and is designed so you “never walk alone” again.

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Essentially, you tell the app where you’re going and select up to three “companions” to view your route as you proceed.

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The companion(s) you select don’t need to have the app installed on their phones. The notification they receive appear as a text message and they click on a link to view your progress via GPS.

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I tested the app with my husband and it was pretty simple to use. Once activate, you can toss your phone back in your pocket or purse and it will continue to track you until you end the trip.

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The home screen also features two notification buttons – “I Feel Nervous” and “Call Police” – which you can use to tell your companion to contact you asap or dial “911” instantly.

Also, a few minutes after pressing the “I Feel Nervous” button, the app will check back in with you to see if you still feel unsafe. IMG_0349The Smart Trigger will beep loudly for 15 seconds and then notify your companions if you don’t respond in that time.

Honestly, the app is pretty ingenious and worth downloading; no matter if you’re a college student who walks home from the club library late at night or a professional who is headed to an out of town conference for work. You can use it whenever you feel uneasy about walking, running, riding or driving in any location alone.

-Charell Star | Not Just A Girl In A Dress

Looks like RadioShack is “Wild n Out.” The neighborhood tech retailer announced it has hired ‘America’s Got Talent’ host Nick Cannon as their Chief Creative Officer. The entrepreneur, philanthropist and TV personality, will work with RadioShack to introduce its line of products to a younger generation of consumers. He’ll also organize events and develop an exclusive line of new products for the retailer.

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Working at “The Shack” was one of the was I paid for college, so they will always have a special place in my heart. After working there for six years, there isn’t a stereo system I can’t set up or a HDTV I can’t understand. They have been bankrupted hammered in recent years by online giants like Amazon, but have managed to stay afloat in the game. We’ll see if Cannon can help popularize the retailer once again and bring it back into the public’s lexicon.

à bientôt

Charell Star | Not Just A Girl In A Dress

 

 

One of the biggest recent tech announcements came not from the scions of Silicon Valley, but from the [web] pages of Vogue Magazine. The Met Gala, chaired by godmother of fashion Anna Wintour, announced the theme of the 2016 Ball: Fashion in the Age of Technology. The annual, $25,000-a-ticket affair is one of fashion’s biggest nights of the year and serves as the annual fundraising event to benefit the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute in New York City.

So, for tech to play the starring role at the Gala is a pretty big deal.

Source: Instagram
Source: Instagram

The fashion and tech industries have been courting each other for a while now. Wearables like Google Glass (RIP) and smart watches have been showing up on Fashion Week runways for the last few seasons. Designers are ready to stab each other with sparkly stilettos to be the one with the hottest iWatch band or phone case design. And that’s not to mention tech’s introduction of smart clothing into our closet rotation with fabrics that cool the body, wick away sweat and monitor your heart rate.

It looks like the feisty fashionistas and boys from the valley are ready to make their civil union official with a fairytale wedding next May. It’s about time. People were starting to talk.

Source: Twitter
Source: Twitter

But, before you start imagining what their future collaboration will spawn – personal 3D printers that print the latest kicks at the push of a button, affordable self-sewing machines that can stitch an entire dress in a hour, startups that will lend you a wardrobe for an entire season –  instead question if this union will stick in the long-run.

Will an industry built on apprenticeships and a working your way up from intern model be willing to play house with an industry built on an ask-forgiveness-not-permission culture? Following the rules isn’t Silicon Valley’s strong suit and Fashion Avenue isn’t known for its fast innovation (DVF has been selling the same wrap dress for 40 years, after all).

So, will this marriage be a paper wedding or will each partner bring their best to the relationship?

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Source: Instagram

Fashion could desperately use some of that challenge authority spunk to make improvements in its manufacturing process and chain (reduce its carbon footprint and bring some production elements back to the US) and tech could urgently use some of that debutant charm to learn how to play within the system (eliminate wage law violations and improve relationships with government officials). Both industries are already stellar at making their individual offerings as revered like art in the minds of consumers. Maybe the best is yet to come.

Apple is the 2016 sponsor of the Met Gala and the accompanying exhibit that will be displayed at the event and it is anyone’s guess what Cupertino wonders they’ll unveil. Will they surprise and delight their new in-laws (yes, please) or try to blend in with the old society crowd (I really hope not).

Whatever happens on May 2 as these industries come together for a spectacular night, it will set the tone for how they create together in the near future. Hopefully, they realize that they can do amazing things together and consumers are ready for them to make the future reality, now.

– à bientôt

Charell Star | Not Just A Girl In A Dress

Featured Image Source: Twitter