VIDEO: Holiday Gift Ideas

Here is the list of gift ideas I showed today on Houston Life (NBC).  More to come on my radio shows, social media and blogs.

Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge
Google Pixel XL
Moto Z Force Droid
JBL attachable speaker for Moto Z Force Droid
Samsung Gear 360 camera
Samsung IconX earbuds
FitBit Charge 2
Samsung Gear S3 smartwatch
GhostPillow
ScottEvest Enforcer Jacket
Volt Heated Battery Powered Gloves

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VIDEO: Holiday Gift Guide – Ghostbed/Ghostpillow

In the midst of a my annual holiday gift guide media tour I made a stop at “We Are Austin” on the state capital’s CBS affiliate. I almost had to pry hosts Jordan and Taylor off the Ghostbed and Ghostpillows I brought.

Watch the fun HERE

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WALLET TIPS: Be Wise, Digitize!

I still have a checkbook. Yes I know I’m the guy who preaches to get all aspects of your life on the digital train that continues to roll down the tracks of our busy lives. But I still have that stack of checks sitting in my office drawer just in case someone or some company I deal with doesn’t take credit cards or online payment.

The reality is that digitizing your life can have a bonus effect on your wallet.  Banks have caught on and quickly adapted new tools to make our financial routines simple.  And less paperwork is good for everyone along with the environment.

Capital One is a trendsetter in this area with many services and features that help automate our fiscal processes.  Online Bill Pay is my personal favorite as you can set up most all of your bills to automatically be paid without trying to remember due dates and – wait for it – writing a check, putting in an envelope and licking a stamp.

Depositing checks at a bank branch may one day be a thing of the past and Capital One is expediting that paradigm shift with Mobile Check Deposit. Snap a photo of a check with your camera phone (I know you have one of those) and it is done.

For those who want an easy-to-read overview of their account, Capital One Enhanced Transactions gives a quick, detailed look at purchases, ATM withdrawals and more.

When it comes to saving money, Houstonians should feel pretty good about themselves.  Houston ranked number four on GoBankingRates.com’s list of the best cities for saving money (out of the 100 most populated U.S. cities) and number nine on Credit Donkey’s list of best cities for frugal living.

But no matter where you live there are many things you can do to save time and money by digitizing.  Digital Life Expert (not as cool a moniker than The High-Tech Texan. Haha!) Katie Linendoll put together some smart tips that can quickly keep more of your money in your banking account.  Check them out here:

I especially like her tips on making your home smarter by switching to a smart thermostat.  And I constantly tell my radio listeners to take their old phones, tablets and other tech and turn them into cash on internet trade-in sites.  Clean your drawers and closets now, people!

So even if you still write checks like it’s the Dark Ages, there is no reason why you can’t start following a few of these tips to simplify your life and save more time and money.

 

This post is sponsored by Capital One. All opinions are my own and were not directed by Capital One.  To learn more about Capital One, visit www.capitalone.com

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Ghostbed delivers comfy mattress right to your door

ghostbed4cAbout the only thing tougher than shopping for a car might be looking for a new mattress. Between crazy TV commercials and bedding stores on every street corner it can be confusing. And I won’t even start with those pushy salespeople.

To be sure, the mattress industry is booming.  According to the website Statistic Brain, about $7 billion of mattresses are sold each year with almost 36 million units shipped.  That’s nothing to sleep on which is why the the industry can be cut-throat.

While the majority of mattresses are sold through specialty sleep retailers and furniture stores, the direct-to-consumer channel is growing.  It has a unique premise – why spend time going to stores getting confused with various models and brands, worrying how to schlep it home yourself or paying extra for the company to deliver it, when you go online and have it delivered directly to your door.  Welcome to the 21st century.

There are several players in this segment many of whom are sub-brands of established mattress companies that are in the traditional retail distribution space.  One such company is Ghostbed, a division of Nature’s Sleep.  I recently interviewed CEO Marc Werner who created a bed after undergoing three neck surgeries and had trouble sleeping as a result.

“I developed a mattress that would support my back and neck because I couldn’t find one that worked,” he told me.

Werner also realized that the younger crowd buys things online, especially through their smartphones.  So he created a direct-to-consumer business (don’t call it “mattress-in-a-box” he said) where a special type of mattress made with memory foam and gel could be put into a box and sent out via FedEx.  Ghostbed was born.

Mattresses are priced at $750 for a Queen and $875 for King.  Shipping is free.  I ordered a King on a Monday and the box was sitting on my doorstep by Wednesday morning.

Not only is the experience of buying a mattress online unique but the process of unboxing it is a phenomenon.  Customers make videos of themselves opening the box to show the mattress slowly coming to life.  Werner and his staff promote his customers to do this and upload them online.  It actually is kind of fun as you can see here:

The mattresses is 11-inches thick and after a few weeks of sleep I have to agree with Werner.  The process couldn’t be simpler and it is honestly one of the most comfortable mattresses I have ever owned.  I still have a few months left on the company’s 101-night tryout but there is no chance of me returning it.

Ghostbed also sells pillows and box springs to make it a one-stop shop.

According to Statistic Brain the average length of time a person keeps a mattress is 7 years.  My previous one lasted just over 3.  I’ll be sleeping with a ghost for quite a while now.

 

 

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VIDEO: Downsizing Your Gadgets

Gadgets are getting smaller and can do many more things.  Whether you are downsizing your living space or just want some cool all-in-products, here are some of the products I spotlighted on a recent HOUSTON LIFE appearance.

Hot Logic Mini
Beddi
JetComfy Travel Pillow
The GunBox

WATCH [Houston Life, KPRC-NBC]

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One (Fun) Night in the Mississippi Gulf Coast

Driving cross-country can be an experience that some people despise while others enjoy a leisurely, cathartic trip across our great country.  I generally remember my family trips when I was younger sitting in the back seat of our station wagon.  The only that kept us entertained between nightly stops at a Holiday Inn was playing the license plate game on passing cars.

Today’s driving experience is much easier thanks to luxuries like satellite radio, GPS directions and – with all due respect to Holiday Inn – much nicer places to stay and a lot of entertaining (and appetizing) cities to stop over in.

On a recent journey from Orlando to Houston I wanted to stay the night where I could take in some nice scenery, experience local food and culture and relax a bit to get my mind off the 1,000 mile trek.  Based on that smart GPS map I found that Biloxi, Mississippi, was the perfect place to chill out for about 20 hours.

I contacted the Mississippi Gulf Coast Regional CVB for some tips on what to do in the area during a quick stop.  I was inundated with a variety of options that could have kept me busy for a week.  Here are some of the places I checked out and recommend when in the area:

  • Harrah’s Gulf Coast.  It helps that I like to gamble so why not stay in a hotel/casino.  Harrah’s is centered along the seawall with sweeping views of the gulf and other large hotels that twinkle at night.  The rooms are spacious and the pool is situated on a deck a few floors above the street which provides a wonderful place to watch the sun rise or set with your favorite cocktail.  I spent some time in the vast casino just off the lobby area.  The table minimums (as low as $5) make it easy to hang around awhile and the dealers were some of the friendliest people I have ever met.
  • Magnolia House by Kelly English.  We had reservations at this restaurant which I imagined was a stand-alone house with a 100 year-old back story.  I actually appreciated the fact it is situated in Harrah’s just inside the pool deck area.  But the easy and laid-back décor made it seem we were dining in that heritage home I had envisioned.  Kelly English is a 2009 Food & Wine “Chef of the Year” who makes a very creative menu that highlights the southern and Gulf Coast roots of the restaurant.  It is a luxurious experience that is romantic; made even better by the attentive and knowledgeable wait staff.  Must try dishes: Fried Oyster Spinach Salad, Black Truffle Burger, Gulf Snapper with Pontchartrain Sauce, Cheese Grits.  You will thank you me later.
  • There is a great deal of history throughout the Gulf Coast and as you can imagine a number of interesting museums, tours and sightseeing for all ages.  The Lynn Meadows Discovery Center is a top 50 children’s museum and the Infinity Science Center should also be a stop with the family.  History buffs should visit the Maritime & Seafood Industry Museum which will impress and make you hungry at the same time.  Beauvoir is very unique as it the home of Jefferson Davis, the last president of the Confederate States of America.  The Walter Anderson and Ohr-O’Keefe Museums of Art offer lovely exhibits and pieces showcasing the Gulf Coast. The design and architecture of the Ohr-O’Keefe itself is a work of art.
  • We did not have time to play on the water and beaches during our brief stay but Biloxi is not lacking in adventures for those that like sun and sand.  Kayak and jet ski rentals can be found up and down the shoreline.  Biloxi Schooners and Ship Island Excursions take passengers out on the water to a variety of destinations or just to sightsee from the water back to the land.

Though our stay was short lived the entire area is inviting and I look forward to a return trip with a longer stay.  I plan to bring my golf clubs, sandals, sunscreen, dancing shoes and maybe even my kids.  It’s my turn to show them how to travel in style and have fun doing so…unlike their dad in the backseat of that station wagon and playing in above-ground motel pools.

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Bowl & Barrel Opens in Houston

Bowling is the one sport that your score seems to improve proportionally to the amount of alcoholic beverages you imbibe.  If that holds true then get prepped to roll high scores at Bowl & Barrel.  The new venue opened its third Texas location in City Centre on the west side of Houston after its success in Dallas and San Antonio.

20160802_181229Fifteen bowling lanes featuring the newest QubicaAMF bowling equipment welcome bowlers of all sizes.  The electronic scoring machine is one of the simplest ones I have used that takes just a few seconds to enter names to allow for a quick start.  Lanes are rented by the hour with prices from $32 per hour Monday-Thursday and $44 per hour Friday-Sunday (they can also be rented in half-hour increments).  Shoes can be rented for $6 per person.  I suggest bringing socks.20160802_180917

Beyond the bowling comes good food and drink.  I remember when bowling alleys served nothing but greasy burgers and fries.  Bowl & Barrel goes for a modern, upscale tavern menu with hot fried quail appetizers, buffalo chicken meatballs, a six-pack of mini hot dogs and 18″ pizza pies.  It’s a full-service place with a friendly waitstaff bringing food right to your bowling.  My only suggestion for them as of now is to put a bottle of hand cleaning gel on each table so you can grab snacks in between rolling your bowling ball.

20160802_183824The barrel part is abundant with several local beers on tap and a nice selection of wine served by the glass or bottle (why not?).  I recommend the Bloody Mary with sriracha and curry (hint: order before 3pm and they’re only 3 bucks) and the Lebowski.  This aptly named cocktail is pretty a White Russian but goes down nicely.

Bowl & Barrel is located at 797 Sorella Ct., Suite 118, next to its sister restaurant, The General Public.  Hours of operation are 11a-12a Sunday-Thursday and 11a-2a Friday-Saturday.  This is one of the properties run by Dallas-based FreeRange Concepts.  Founder Kyle Noonan is originally from Houston and earned his chops in the business inside the Pappas restaurant chain.  20160802_181009

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is my conversation with Kyle at the VIP opening.

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VIDEO: Father’s Day Gift Ideas

Even if you are not a dad here are some items that may be interesting to you.

SureCallEZ4G Cell Booster – Don’t drop those phone calls (can you hear me now?)
Oregon Scientific DreamScience Alarm Clock – Sleep better with brainwave technology
ThinOptics – The most convenient pair of reading glasses evah!
Coin – An example of where e-wallets are headed.

WATCH [Great Day Houston, KHOU-CBS]

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New Houston Showroom Opens For Online Custom-Made Suits

Knot_Standard_manIf a company sells custom-made suits online then why would they need physical stores?  I posed that question to Knot Standard co-founder John Ballay at the grand opening of their newest shop in Houston.

Ballay is a University of Texas graduate which is reason enough to check out his company.  They combine a high-tech approach to classic tailoring which appeals to me on several levels.  I love tech and I live for fashion (or is it the other way around?).  Customer measurements are digitized and a 3D image of their measurements are created and stored in their database.  Once an order is placed their tailors use lasers to cut pieces directly from the cloth.  The process takes 3-4 weeks from order placement to delivery.

Placing an order can be fun as you can customize everything from the jacket lapel style (the Peak Lapel is classy), to the number of buttons, pocket style, and jacket lining. You can even have your name embroidered on the inside jacket pocket in one of 18 thread colors.  Blazers start at $375 while suits have a beginning price point at $595.  Shirts and slacks can also be ordered in the same manner.

The Houston showroom is located at 2439 Bissonnet and is the company’s third Texas location after Austin and Dallas.  Other showroom locations include New York, DC, Chicago and Dubai.

WATCH my interview with Knot Standard co-founder John Ballay:

 

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VIDEO: Post-CES products and toys

Deborah and I have a dance-off whilst showing off some new gadgets on Great Day Houston this morn.

A piece of smart luggage, a smart cup that tells you when to drink water/coffee, Polaroid is back and some cat headphones with outside speakers from Brookstone.  And a little surprise for me at the end.

WATCH HERE

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