Let Freedome Ring…And Also…David Hasselhoff On A Serious Quest

My ambassadorship with F-Secure is coming to a close, but I thought it was important to address something I noticed in all your lovely comments on my last post about Freedome.

In your comments, a lot of you mentioned using antivirus software, which is awesome, but you’re only protecting yourself from malware and viruses, and not protecting your privacy. If you’re on an open network (one of the billions of public Wi-Fi connections), you never know who could be tracking your information. I’m not a big conspiracy theorist (my opinion of the moon landing & obsession with the show, Person of Interest, notwithstanding), but I like having the comfort of being protected on both counts.

A VPN (virtual private network), such as F-Secure Freedome, can help ensure your privacy by encrypting your information and showing your location as elsewhere in the world.

This little ole app scans my new apps, protects me from tracking attempts, secures my browsing, and protects my connection.

image

I think it’s doing a pretty great job. You know who’s also a fan?

David Hasselhoff.

So there’s that.

You can check out F-Secure Freedome for yourself with a 90-day free trial of Freedome VIP with a special code for my readers: qsf257.

Have you used a VPN to protect your digital integrity? What measures do you take to keep your information safe?

This post was sponsored by F-Secure. I received compensation and a free trial for Freedome to tell you about my experience. As always, I only work with brands and products that I wholeheartedly support.

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

Freedom!

If you imagined pre-crazy Mel Gibson, half naked and about to be decapitated? Well played.

Now let’s talk about something a little more serious.

You are being watched.

You are being watched

Is that creepy? Because I think so. Everything you do. Everything you watch. Every website you visit. Every word you type is tracked. Sure the government may be reading your email. The NSA maybe be tracking your Skype chats. Homeland Security might even be keeping tabs on your shit. (I watch a lot of Person of Interest, and so I’m all engrossed in the world of government agencies spying on everything we do and say. Those red light cameras weren’t put up to ticket us, homies – more on that another time.)

But even creepier is that there are corporations out there. Watching you. Websites and internet spies watching your every move, ready and willing to send your information to the highest bidder. Do you check the permissions before you download an app to your devices? There’s a reason I don’t use the Facebook app or the Twitter app. I use browsers. Because if the apps are on your phone, they have access to your internet connection. Your personal information. Your user history. Your contacts. Everything.

Facebook

Basically, everyone’s trying to put a price on your information. But you can protect yourself, at least a little bit. I never download an app without looking at the permissions that it’s requesting. If I’m downloading a photo editing app, I check the permissions to see what it “needs,” because it probably doesn’t NEED much. In addition to checking permissions, I’ve been running F-Secure Freedome on my devices. This handy protective app blocks websites that could be tracking my information. It checks out my apps when I download them. It blocks tracking attempts. It basically protects me from myself and those “harmful” websites I visit.

Screenshot_2015-03-02-11-23-30When a site is harmful, F-Secure says NO. Bad. Don’t go to that site. Which happened when I went to check out a site that sent me referral traffic on my blog. I was appreciative. Screenshot_2015-02-28-06-40-28

It’s super easy to use and keeps you secure by encrypting your data on free Wi-Fi networks, keeping your virtual identity anonymous, changing your virtual location so you can’t be tracked, and blocking harmful sites and apps. This video sums it up pretty succinctly:

If you’re interested in trying out F-Secure Freedome for yourself, you can do so (and I’m loving it) by visiting Freedome VIP. I even have a special code for my readers so you can try it out for free for 90 days: qsf257

After the trial, the annual subscription is only $16.99, and the monthly subscription is $1.99. I spend more than that on a single nail polish. And it makes me feel better about being on the internet all the time.

As an added bonus, if you try F-Secure Freedome, you’ll have the chance to win an iPad mini and a free year of F-Secure Freedome to keep your privacy safe on your new device. You can enter via the Giveaway tool below.

Blog Friends, what do you do to protect your privacy online? Do you use any apps or tools to keep yourself anonymous? Are you going to try Freedome?

This post was sponsored by F-Secure. I received compensation and a free trial for Freedome to tell you about my experience. As always, I only work with brands and products that I wholeheartedly support.

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

Another New Fancy Phone For the Win

I participated in an Influencer Activation Program on behalf of Influence-Central for Sprint. I received a sample device to facilitate my review.

2014-12-28 15.31.01

So I’m really loving the Sharp AQUOS Crystal that I received from my friends at Influence-Central and Sprint. This beautiful fancy phone has a stylish look and runs on the Sprint Spark network, which gives it a one-up when it comes to watching videos, so watching Netflix was fantastic! I spent some quality time with this phone on the train watching some of my favorite shows, playing a game or two and just enjoying everything that the AQUOS had to offer.  This phone also comes equipped with Google Mobile services that I use regularly, including Google Search, Google Maps, Google Navigation, Google Talk, Google Calendar, Google+ and YouTube, so I can get all my Google on in one place. Sharp AQUOS Crystal

It comes pre-loaded with lots of apps with which to play

I love the style of the phone. The sleek AQUOS is thin, and the screen kicks serious butt with a five-inch, edge-to-edge HD design. The screen is clear and bright, and I think it’s awesome. My brother recently cracked his current phone’s screen and called dibs on this piece of tech that he oohed and ahhed over.

Sharp AQUOS Crystal

I love how thin the phone is

I wanted to show you the camera features, but I’m not a very talented photographer. There are a lot of sweet options to make this camera stellar, if you’re really good with a camera. I know that with a little more time, I could get to know the features better and my pics would look magnificent. So here’s what I was able to capture.

 

Sloth and Lillian Connelly artPhoto captured with Sharp AQUOS Crystal

I thought I’d take a picture of my new sloth buddy, Ebenezer hanging next to my Lillian Connelly print. Photo captured with Sharp AQUOS Crystal

Photo captured with Sharp AQUOS Crystal

Photo captured with Sharp AQUOS Crystal

Olive penguin photo captured with Sharp AQUOS Crystal

Olive penguin photo captured with Sharp AQUOS Crystal

Backyard Photo captured with Sharp AQUOS Crystal

Backyard photo captured with Sharp AQUOS Crystal in the 50-degree Chicago December

The Sharp AQUOS is only available through Sprint, Boost Mobile, and Virgin Mobile. As a Sprint Ambassador, I have been given complimentary services on both Sprint and Boost networks, but I’m also an eleven-year Sprint account holder with a family plan that I do pay full-price for. We recently switched my mom over to Boost, and she’s enjoying services with them, as well.

Overall, I was a huge fan of this phone. The design, the HD quality, and the Sprint Spark bonus makes this a sure bet for this girl. If I wasn’t giving it to my brother, I’d be switching my service over to this puppy in a heartbeat.

What features do you look for in a mobile device? What about in a mobile carrier?

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

My Mom’s First Selfie, My Secret Phone, and My Code Name is Cheesasaurus Rex

I’ve been with Sprint for over a decade. More than eleven years, according to a HAND-WRITTEN note from Angie at Sprint. Actually, it’s been about twelve years, but who’s counting?

Disclosity-closure: I participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Influence Central for Sprint. I received a sample device to facilitate my review. I really have been a Sprint customer for what seems like forever. And I really would recommend them. And there’s a pretty fun story below, so keep reading. 

I like to say that I sold my soul to Sprint back in the fall of 2002 for a VERY fancy, then-super-techy flip phone. The Sanyo flip with a pretty blue screen and a retractable antenna was ALL the rage…and a pretty lofty upgrade from my Nokia brick with the hot pink sparkle face plate (Funny; come to think of it, my phone now is bigger than that brick). It was also jumping from a Chicagoland cellular phone provider to a company that had nationwide service, particularly service that stretched to the middle of Illinois, in Peoria, where I was a student at Bradley University.

So I sold my soul. Because I’m never leaving the Sprint family. (And it’s totally not a bad thing.)

What started as just me, and worked up to a family plan of five (me, Brian, Mama Bear, Papa Bear (post about Dad coming soon), and Little Brother), was a business relationship that has, in truth, had its ups and downs. My Sprint love-affair was a little rocky for a few years. Between 2011 and 2013, Sprint service was spotty. I was on the phone with customer service almost as often as I was on the phone with Brian. I got to know several of the customer service associates and they were, in fact, the reason I stayed with Sprint. I would get yelly, and they would calmly explain that they were upgrading the towers and talk me off my ledge.

Luckily, I stuck around. The Sprint upgrades in the Chicago metro area now include 4G LTE (long-term evolution) and HD voice (high-definition voice) so Sprint customers like me can get faster speeds and better call quality. Speeds of 50-60 Mbps are especially beneficial for streaming video and online gaming.

But this fancy 4G LTE service isn’t just for Sprint customers. Boost Mobile, a subsidiary brand of Sprint that offers pre-paid plans, also runs on the network. For the last several weeks, I’ve been testing out the LG Volt with a Boost Mobile monthly plan courtesy of the powers that be over at Sprint and Boost Mobile.

LG Volt

The LG Volt retails for $179.99

For $35, my secret phone and I can talk, text and max out on up to 1GB of high-speed data. They also have higher plans for $45 and $55 with higher levels of monthly high-speed data. Since this wasn’t my “real” number, I allowed myself to play with the Facebook app, Twitter app, and use it for social media galore. Which worked out well. I texted and called just a few people with the number, allowing it to be my “secret” phone. Obviously, I needed a code name.

Secret Phone and Code Name

A textversation with one of my favorite people.

My mom is excited that she’s getting her first smart phone pretty soon (coughthisonecough), so I let her test it out. The first thing she did? She took a selfie. My cousin and I photo bombed it. (The self-facing camera isn’t my favorite (It only has 1.3 MP), but it’s still better than a certain little i. I’m just saying.

My mom, my aunts, and my cousin were at cats for Halloween. Me? I was a mouse.

My mom, my aunts, and my cousin were at cats for Halloween. Me? I was a mouse.

The rest of the features are pretty on par with my regular smart phone. I really enjoyed having a phone that utilizes the Kit Kat system. Brian was less than impressed with some of the pre-loaded apps. I can’t say I blame him.

LG Volt pre-loaded apps review

The 8 MP rear-facing camera was pretty solid, too. Doesn’t it make you just want to drink capirinha  all night long?

Capirinha

What do you think, Blog Friends? Do you have Sprint? What cell phone service provider do you have? Do you love them, hate them or neither? Would you try out the Boost Mobile service for an easy $35 monthly cost?

You can also keep up with Sprint on Facebook and Twitter.

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

I May Have Accidentally Given Someone My Password. Again.

I’m a brand ambassador representing F-Secure KEY in the effort to change the way people think about passwords and security. While I have been compensated for my time, all opinions, stories, and ideas expressed are still my own.

Another quick cautionary story about passwords (because my first password fail wasn’t enough). Last week, the day I posted about my password fail, I was G-chatting one of my girlfriends while doing some stuff. I went to type an important password into the password pop-up box…and clicked enter. Thus sharing my BRILLIANT but top-secret password to my friend. And now I can never use that password again. Not that I don’t trust her or anything, but what if her e-mail gets hacked? So now I have to come up with yet another BRILLIANT and top-secret password.

Bummer.

We’ve all got passwords. Some of us (cough me cough) use variations of the same general password across a bazillion different platforms. And can never seem to remember the right combination of usernames/passwords…

Others are organized and efficient and (Um. Can you come to my computer and help me sort this stuff out?) really good with passwords. I recently started using F-Secure KEY to track my usernames and passwords – and yes…I’m STILL inputting them (stop laughing) because I’ve had to change passwords and have e-mail reminders sent left and right (no, really, stop laughing).

This handy-dandy infographic is actually SUPER helpful for creating passwords. I never would have thought of personalizing passwords for the different sites, but that’s a pretty neat idea.

Password Safety

Which of these tips do you think is the most useful?

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

Tell Me Your Password And No One Gets Hurt…

The following story about password security is true and real and SCARY. So listen up. Don’t do what I did.

While we’re here, I figured I should mention that I’m a brand ambassador representing F-Secure KEY in the effort to change the way people think about passwords and security. While I have been compensated for my time, all opinions, stories, and ideas expressed are still my own.

Password Safety KEY app

Photo by Viktor Hanacek

A story about giving away my password

A while back, I committed the ultimate password sin. My then-boss called me on my personal cell phone, while I was at lunch. “Quick! What’s your work password?!” The panic in his voice and the anxiety in my system (which gets even more GAAAHHH! when I’m put on the spot) responded immediately and completely stupidly. I gave him my password.

Not only did I give him my password, I clued him into the type of password I was, at the time, prone to using. THANKFULLY it wasn’t the password that I was using at the time for anything but my work log-in, but it was MY password. The password that I’m not supposed to give to ANYONE.

Even worse? I found out later that he was on speakerphone.

Now, he didn’t think twice of it as something he was doing wrong. He genuinely did need my password to get into a computer for something. But he should have waited the 10-15 minutes it would have taken me to return and input my own password without giving it out.

After the chaos, I politely sent my boss an e-mail explaining how uncomfortable his request made me and that I felt it was a little inappropriate, and I would prefer not to be put on the spot like that ever again. It was then that he realized what he had done, and he did apologize profusely, promising not to compromise my personal security again.

Since that day, I’ve come to adopt a system of creating new passwords for different log-ins to ensure that I’m keeping myself digitally protected.

F-Secure KEY

Now, let’s get down to the nitty gritty. Let’s talk about F-Secure. I’ve been using the app for about a week and a half, and I still haven’t integrated all of my passwords yet. But I’m getting there. And oh-my-God, I’ve had to change 3 passwords already so that I could input them into KEY – but I’ll never have to change them because I forgot them again! Obviously, I’ll need to change them every 6 months or so, but with KEY, I’ll have access to all the up-to-date passwords without a whole heck of a lot of effort. THAT’S what I’m talking about.

I’m not going to lie, you guys. This app? Totally not sexy. Although I’m AM a huge fan of the delicious purple color. But what this app does? TOTALLY important. One might say necessary, depending on how many times you have to key in your password before you get it right…which for me is often quite a few. KEY stores all of your passwords in ONE place, so you never have to remember the 27 billion passwords for all the sites you utilize. With the free KEY app, you can store your passwords on a single device, but with KEY Premium, you can use the app on ALL your devices, whether you’re a PC/Mac/Android/Little i. You won’t have to try to remember all the passwords, as the app will keep them for you. You’ll only need to remember your KEY password.

So who needs another flashy app when the function is what keeps you safe?

Just for you, I’ve got a code to try KEY Premium for two months, so you can see if less than $2/month is worth it to keep your passwords safe across all your devices. Download the KEY app and use the code PREMIUMKEYOFFER14 to check it out.  And even better? A giveaway.

Free KEY Premium for a year & iPad Mini 16GB Wi-Fi Giveaway

Oh look! The lovely people at F-Secure want to share their wisdom (and give you another device for storing your passwords)! All you have to do is enter, and we’ll do the rest. The Giveaway Tools form below will be open until September 30 at 9:00 PM Central Standard Time. Good luck!

Blog Friends, have you ever accidentally given out your password to someone? How would you have handled the situation if your boss asked for your password?

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

Get Where You’re Getting With Curb

I participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for Curb. I received a promotional code to facilitate my review and a promotional item to thank me for participating.

I love it when an app makes my life easier. I love it even more when it involves me not having to walk a mile in my shoes or anyone else’s.

Curb_RGB

In case you were unaware, I live in suburbia and work in downtown Chicago. The Loop. Smack dab in the middle of everything awesome. And about a mile away from the train that brings me in and out of this beautiful city.

Curb, formerly known as Taxi Magic, is a super useful app that helps you get a cab when you need it. I’ve been using Curb, and their network of more than 4,000 taxis in Chicago, for several weeks and I’m never looking back. The drivers are licensed, commercially insured and have all completed thorough background checks. That’s a program I can stand behind.

In the past, I would hope and pray a taxi would show up where I needed it, when I needed it, and more often than not, cabs driving by were already full with people (the perks of working two blocks away from one of the biggest Chicago tourist traps – Millennium Park). When I’m in a hurry, I want to know that a cab is going to be there when I need it. Especially if I’m trying to make a train. Cue Curb, where I can order a cab to pick me up now or plan for later! The process is simple and made my life so. much. easier.

App_Map

Recent occurrences when Curb has been a lifesaver or just plain convenient:

  • When my train was 30 minutes late getting into the city. I was only 15 minutes late for work.
  • When I left work just a few minutes late. (I have my walk time scheduled to a TEE. Any later, and I’m usually out of luck.)
  • When I met Brian for drinks in River North after work.
  • When Brian and I left the aforementioned bar and went to an event hosted by my website host. I love them.

I have yet to plan my next Curb adventure in advance, but I’m more of a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kinda girl. As if you didn’t already know. You can get started with Curb, and as an added bonus for you, my lovely readers, you can get $15 dollars off your first ride! Just use the code: CurbMom14 To use this code, download the Curb app on your Android or iOS phone. Then, follow these instructions:

  • Open the Curb app
  • Tap the gear symbol in the top right corner
  • Tap “Promos and Credits” on the dropdown menu
  • Enter your code and tap the “enter” key on your keyboard
  • After entering the code, $15 will appear on your “Promos and Credits” screen.
  • Full details on using the Curb coupon code can be found here:http://bit.ly/1CnLGVc 

Do you take cabs anywhere? When? How do you call for cabs? Have you used Curb or as its previous name, TaxiMagic? Will you? Tell me all your secrets.

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

How GE Lighting Brightened My Reading Spot

I was offered the opportunity to give a room in my home a mini-makeover with lighting from GE, and I thought to myself, self, this sounds like a great excuse to clean your apartment.

And then it took me several weeks to clean my apartment.

Are you surprised? Me neither.

The One Change I Made to Brighten Our Family Room.

So when GE sent me free light bulbs to test out the difference between soft white light and GE Reveal bulbs, and when I finally cleaned the disaster of an apartment (and put away the Christmas village), I took it upon myself to spruce up my favorite spot in the apartment (aside from my cozy squishy bed…), my reading chair.

GE Lighting
The bulbs looked pretty sweet to me. Brian was just excited to have acquired more free things we need for our home (or maybe I was excited. One of those.). I’m sure he can’t wait to see what happens when we get a house later this year…Then again, neither can I…well, whatever. This is the Chrissy Show anyways. But for now, we’ll have to settle with lighting up the apartment.

I love this chair. I learned to read in this chair. I remember being a tiny little (FINE) chubby little girl who could sit in the chair with her entire collection of Barbie dolls and read a book or put together a puzzle of the United State while watching Faerie Tale Theater’s Sleeping Beauty or Rainbow Bright on laser disc. (Yeah, I had a sweet childhood.) Anyways, I figured it was the perfect place to add a little bright lighting. And I was most certainly right.

 

Below, I’ve taken a few pictures of my reading chair to showcase the difference with before and after shots of the lighting.

Please forgive the barren nature of my walls. With Christmas just recently departed and plans to move soon, I never got around to adding a splash of color to the giant wall behind my reading chair.

And actually…One of the things that I think is really cool about lighting is that it not only brightens up a room, but it can also add depth and texture to your walls. Sure, I don’t have fancy art on the wall above my chair, but look at the way the lamp shadows behind itself when the light is directly on the area. It looks awesome, right?

Before:

When the light is indirectly shining on my reading chair

When the soft white light is indirectly shining on my reading chair

After:

When the light isn't directly aimed at the spot, it's still brighter and more natural

When the GE Reveal light isn’t directly aimed at the spot, it’s still brighter and more natural

Before:

This is what soft white lighting looks like on my book chair.

This is what soft white lighting looks like on my book chair.

After:

Shining the GE Reveal Light on my favorite spot

Shining the GE Reveal Light on my favorite spot

So you can see that it doesn’t look bad with the soft white lighting, but the GE Reveal is actually super bright and makes it feel like natural lighting. I’m a huge fan of the new lighting. And so is Staley the Bear.  We’ve been using the new lighting for a few days now, and it’s really picking up the mood around here, too. Winter may be long and depressing, but spring will be here soon, amiright?!

If you’re interested in learning more about GE Reveal, you can visit GE’s website at www.gelighting.com/reveal.

*These opinions are all my own. Other than the complimentary light bulbs, I was not compensated in any other way to write nice things in this post. I truly love the way the Reveal lighting looks in our home.

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!