Back to Cool: Online Tools for Parents This School Year


We're finally nearing the end of summer, at least for those heading back to the classroom. If you have kids, they are probably either elated to jump into a fresh new year of learning, or on the opposite end: dreading the end of sun and, plus an earlier bed time. I was always of the eager variety, excited to go back and experience new challenges that goAalong with moving up to the next grade.

Lunch time always opened the door for meeting up with friends and making food trades. It’s kind of the kid equivalent to the office water cooler, where kids have the most time to interact and be social. For parents, the task of preparing school lunches is most likely just another item their on the to-do list. Now, we at least have some pretty cool technology that parents can use to help make the task of making daily school lunches a little more interactive, a little more frugal, and a little less stressful. I only wish we'd had these gems when I was busy at school learning my multiplication tables:


Think back to the time when you were tasked to make a 'vision board' in school. All you needed were things like poster board, magazines, scissors, glue and your imagination to showcase your dreams and ideas. These boards were great for class projects and a creative outlet for helping your teacher stay sane while keeping everyone busy. Nowadays, we have Pinterest to archive things and ideas we want to remember in a tidy, interactive digital format. Pinterest is unparalleled when it comes to recipe ideas, DIY, and creating projects on a dime. This also helps with searching for school lunch ideas, and a Pinterest account is something that any parent with young children probably shouldn't be without! And when the school year ends, Pinterest is great for finding fun activities when kids are once again on school hiatus.

Monthly Subscription Services

Way better than those Jelly of the Month clubs (a la Clark W. Griswold), we now have access to highly personalized, monthly subscription services that provide anything from gourmet food to beauty products. One such service is NatureBox. With a subscription, they will send you five healthy snacks each month, according to your tastes. Personalization is a trend that consumers seem to love these days (Hello, Share a Coke campaign), and this will likely translate to a younger generation that is used to having plenty of snack choices to add to their lunch boxes.

Retail Shopping Apps

Sometimes going to the grocery store feels like yet another time suck that burdens everyone’s busy lives. I used to love going to the store with my mom when I was a kid to see what kind of treats I could throw in the cart undetected (until we got to the checkout line). Now, I understand the frustration she must have felt back then with just wanting to get in and outta there fast. Aisles are crowded, and pacing up and down each one to find what you need seems like a pain. Enter awesome grocery apps. Some of the coolest I've found recently are Checkout 51, where you can look for discounts in your local stores, purchase the items that have discounts, upload a photo of your receipt and receive a check for all of the savings you've managed to rack up by month's end. Pretty cool, eh? Favado is another popular app that helps you compare grocery prices in different stores in your area. Better yet, if you really want to save time, you can have your groceries delivered to your home through Instacart (in most major cities), allowing you to spend more time with family: bonus!

Mom Blogs

I subscribe to a few food blogs, mainly meant for adults who cook, but there are several mom bloggers out there who write specifically for families looking for fun recipe ideas. Some of them are so creative, you may be left wondering, how did they even think of this? Mom bloggers may also offer craft ideas, tips for family budgeting, ways to save money on purchases and other life-hacks for families. Happy Being Healthy is a great example of a mom blog that explores many of these things!

Maybe by the time I have school-age children, they will just invent lunches that prepare themselves for you. Hey, I can dream! One thing's for sure, with technology continuing to evolve, there're plenty of ways to make life's insurmountable daily tasks seem a little less daunting.

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Not Just Another Weird Al Piece


Last week, many of us were delighted to witness the return of the King of Parody himself, Weird Al Yankovic, after the release of his new Mandatory Fun album. He managed to reinvigorate his musical career through his current fans, while reaching younger generations along the way.

His execution was flawless: eight new parodied music videos within a span of eight days, all sponsored by various media outlets (including Yahoo!) and promoted heavily via social media. That, combined with insane amounts of written publicity, an appearance on Conan and extra YouTube play is enough to call him a marketing superstar.

Ok, so I did open the blog with yet another reference to Weird Al’s recent awesomeness, but there’s a bigger picture here: What does it take to achieve relevance these days?


No matter who you are, you must have something about you - a look, an odd personality, or an extra dose of talent to draw people in. In the online world, we embrace the talented, the quirky, the beautiful, and the weird. Your gimmick has to set you apart, and has to tell the world that there's something interesting and unique about you that is worth noticing. Tuna, the famed Chiweenie with an overbite and a shriveled neck known as Tuna Melts My Heart, is internationally known, thanks to the Internet. At first, Tuna's owner, Courtney Dasher, never knew just how much attention her rescued pooch would garner. Now, his unique physical attributes generate thousands of likes, shares and comments resulting from his daily photos. He oozes cuteness and brings much happiness to his fans, while also being an ambassador for dog rescue.

Social Media

If it weren't for social media, I probably wouldn't know much about anything going on in the world these days. I get much of my news through various social media outlets instead of television, because online is a more easily accessible and digestible format for me, and I prefer this medium to get my daily information. When I see posts on subjects that I'd want friends or family to know about, I share them online and discuss further next time we talk or see each other. Sharing really is caring. It's a means for connecting with each other in our highly embraced digital world. People enjoy sharing great information, stories, and videos via social media, and that's not likely to change. If we can harness the power of social media to promote awareness for important topics and share little hacks that might make everyone’s lives better, I think we're really on to something!


I believe timing is everything when it comes to pitching someone or something online. When you discover something of interest that is currently in the news, your first instinct is to dig for as much information as you can and find a way to get in on what everyone's chatting about, but that kind of feeling usually has an expiration date. Every day last week, I would see new articles about Weird Al's new album, all of them trying to get at him from a different angle, but all coming to a similar conclusion, that he is a marketing genius. I won't deny that, and the thought of writing about his recent online success did cross my mind this week. Then I thought, who wants to be late to the party by writing yet another article on Weird Al's current rock star status? So, I figured out how to slide his genius marketing skills into this blog without making it all about him. Sneaky, right?

It takes hard work and a little chutzpah to make your personal story seem relevant in our connectively-obsessed culture, and I hope to create something fabulous that will go viral one of these days. To those who have figured out the method to this madness: I'd love to compare notes sometime!

Are you always in-the-know when it comes to what is newsworthy? What source do you use to get your information that you consider relevant, and what would you like to see more of in the online space? Let us know in the comments!

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Functional Foods Don’t Really Bug Me


If you'd asked me five years ago if I would consume insects to get more protein in my diet, you would have received a look of sheer terror in return. My tastebuds have become a bit more adventurous since then, and it's something I would actually try now. It seems like most of us are lacking some vital nutrients these days, and I would gladly get my daily dose from a food source - even if a few chirping critters are involved. Did you know, the average adult may need at least 50 grams of protein per day, depending on body mass? Many of us may not be getting the amount of protein we need, unless we are training for Ironman or happen to be professional wrestlers.

When I dug a little, I found out crickets actually offer ridiculous amounts of protein (among a sizable list of vitamins & minerals), and their backers are trying to secure a spot in a category known as functional foods: those having claims of added health benefits. There are currently two companies marketing their cricket protein bars: Chapul and EXO, Inc., and it's likely more insect-based protein products will crawl to the surface (sorry, couldn't help myself) if people can get over their aversion to eating 'bugs'.

Though added protein is high on the list in functional foods, many people are also reaching for vitamin-dense foods that contain omega-3's, calcium, antioxidants, and probiotics - ingredients that go far beyond sustenance. Food manufacturers are taking notice that more consumers are eating for health these days, and in turn seeing a need they'd like to fulfill.

Other food producers are also jumping on the functional bandwagon, but not going the route of the insect. General Mills recently released Cheerios Protein, boasting 11 grams of protein per serving (upon adding milk). Restaurants like Taco Bell are also ramping up the protein, citing that people are interested in foods that they claim give them increased energy. After a test run last year, the restaurant chain rolled out its new Power Platform of protein boosting burritos and bowls nationally this week, eventually hoping to add protein-charged foods to its expanded breakfast menu, launched earlier this year.

With many people looking for new ways to maximize their nutrition, it's likely that other food manufacturers will follow suit and continue looking for ways to incorporate functional ingredients into their products. I do a fair bit of cooking, but I don’t think I’ll be making homemade cricket flour just yet.

What do you think of functional foods that have added vitamins and nutrients? Would you try cricket bars if it made getting your daily nutrients easier? Let us know your thoughts!


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Biometric Authentication: Leaving Passwords in the Dust


Move over, passwords. We now live in a time where convenience and time saving are of utmost importance and where cool new gadgets are constantly being introduced to help us out in that endeavor. The very items we may have only imagined or spotted in movies just 10-15 years ago are finally becoming a reality. One of those is the use of biometric authentication. In theory, it's something that's been around for quite some time. Pop in any Mission Impossible movie, and you'll probably see some type of impressive fingerprint or voice recognition technology being used to gain clearance into a secret place. We hear Batman is quite the fan as well.

With this technology come useful devices that are necessary to unlock its power. With this power also comes risk. Samsung introduced its Galaxy S5 smartphone several months ago that uses fingerprint technology as a device locking mechanism. The technology sounds amazing and futuristic, but it isn't totally secure. Within a week or so after the phone was pushed out to the public, tech gurus figured out how to get a picture of a fingerprint, mold the image using wood glue and use it to unlock the device. Scary, huh? Apple is no stranger to this breach either, and is continuing to work on the security of its Touch ID fingerprint technology, first introduced on the iPhone 5s. Security has been a longstanding issue in biometric technology, and with the increasing level of digital identity theft that we have experienced over the past year in retail, it's no wonder we are not willing to leave ourselves vulnerable to potential security breaches by means of our trusted smartphones.

One device that may actually have the whole biometric security thing figured out is the Wocket. It acts as a digital wallet that eliminates the need for multiple credit, debit, and other payment and loyalty program cards, as all can be stored on the device. It only works when multiple forms of biometric identification, such as voice recognition, are bypassed. The difference between this and other biometric authentication is that a single Wocket Card must still be scanned in order to authorize a purchase.

Wearable devices, such as smart watches, are another area in which biometrics are next most likely to appear later this year, according to Goode Intelligence. This technology could eventually spread to a universal system of recognition that could be beneficial for gaining access in all kinds of scenarios.

Using long, complicated strings of letters, numbers and symbols to authenticate our identities may seem slightly annoying (just one more thing to remember), but for now, they may be a necessary evil until technologists can figure out how to eliminate, or at least lessen, the potential for biometric security breaches. Now if you'll excuse me, I must go change my password.

Do you like or use biometric technology on your smartphone? Do you think this nifty technology needs more fine-tuning before it’s used more widely? Let us know!

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Exploring Your Local(e)


Summer is the perfect time to reconnect with what's going on in your neck of the woods. If you're looking for something to do this upcoming holiday weekend, why not check out what's just beyond your back yard? It's always fun to get away when there's an upcoming three-day weekend, but not everyone has that luxury. Staycations are quickly becoming more popular for those who want to relax and take in part of the local scene that they've never explored before.

Here are some ways to keep you and your family entertained if you do decide to stick around your hometown this weekend:

Farmers’ Markets

In downtown Kansas City, we have the River Market. It's a hodgepodge of merchants: local food growers, bakers, and crafters who get up at the crack of dawn every Saturday to offer up homemade and homegrown goods. It's usually hot, sticky and crowded, and you must be born lucky if you can find parking after 9 a.m., but it's an amazing way to spend a Saturday. You can get some great deals on fresh produce, and find some exotic foods, spices and goods that you may not find elsewhere.

Fruit/Vegetable Picking

Picking fruit is one of my favorite things, since I don't have a yard to grow my own. There's something about getting out and getting your hands in the dirt that's sort of invigorating. I remember my mom buying seed packets from the store when I was a kid and growing radishes. I never had a taste for them (I was a picky eater), but the idea of growing something myself was so cool! There are some berry farms near Kansas City, and some farms will let you pick veggies as well. It's fun, gets you out of the house and is almost like having your own garden, minus the growing part.

Live Music

This time of year, there are sure to be music festivals nearby where you can take the whole family. If not music, some cities have theater in the park, Greek festivals and other types of live entertainment. Don't forget to do some research on a 4th of July spot for fireworks! We were able to find a great, secluded spot last year on a hill, just north of downtown where you could see the beautiful Kansas City skyline.

Pottery & Painting

I just went to a local pottery cafe this past weekend and painted something for my niece. It's a great way to relax and get out of the heat. There are also places where you can paint while sipping a glass of vino. You don't have to be amazingly artistic either! Many studios have design templates and employees that will lend a hand if you aren't a natural Picasso.


Volunteering is one thing you can do if you want to help a local organization in a big way, as many are always looking for an extra hand! It's a great way to give your time if you are staying around town this weekend. Animal shelters make for a great volunteering experience, though some may require additional training beforehand.

The Great Outdoors

If the outdoors are more your thing, why not use this extra time off to bike, run a 5K, hike on a trail or camp out in your own backyard? If you have access to a pool or lake, this is always a fun option too. Who doesn't love basking in the sun next to a body of water? Just don’t forget your sunscreen!

Whatever you end up doing this holiday weekend, just remember to kick back and enjoy! The point is to relax, reconnect and recharge your batteries however you choose.

Happy 4th of July from all of us at Lundmark!

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