Amazon’s Alexa Joins the Toyota Team

Toyota announces a new partnership with Amazon’s Alexa service.

January 12, 2018

Toyota announces a new partnership with Amazon, introducing Amazon’s Alexa in Toyota vehicles later this year.

As consumers outfit their homes with “smart” devices at an increasing rate, tech companies ask “where else?” can they implement such technology. The answer? The car.

In a statement made from CES this week, Toyota announced a partnership with Alexa, Amazon’s intelligent cloud-based voice service. Toyota’s with Entune 3.0 App will be the first to host Alexa later this year, followed by additional models in 2019. Toyota’s move is a clear sign that they’re shedding their bland image and gearing up for an innovative and exciting future. 

What is Amazon’s Alexa service?

Per Amazon: Using Alexa is as simple as asking a question. Just ask to play music, read the news, control your smart home, tell and joke and much more! Alexa is designed to make your life easier by letting you voice-control your world. Alexa lives in the cloud so it’s always getting smarter, and updates are delivered automatically. The more you talk to Alexa, the more it adapts to your speech patterns, vocabulary, and personal preferences. 

What Does Alexa’s Addition to Toyota’s Mean for Me?

If you have an Amazon smart device at home that uses Alexa, you’ll be able to utilize those functions you love most from the comfort of your Toyota. Simply say, “Alexa, order me more toilet paper” or “Alexa, read me the news” and Alexa will seamlessly carry out those functions while you sit in rush hour traffic. If you don’t have a device that uses Alexa and you don’t plan on getting one–no worries–this news doesn’t affect you. You probably won’t even notice the button on the vehicle’s startup menu.

Once Toyota releases additional information about Alexa, including specific release dates, I’ll be here to fill you in!

Toyota Unveils the e-Palette

Toyota unveils the e-Palette concept car at the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, NV.

January 9, 2018

Toyota unveils the e-Palette to an excited crowd at this year’s International Consumer Electronics Show.

The future of ridesharing is uncertain as the once untouchable king of the game, Uber, continues its public mea culpa tour. As Uber addresses its many woes, automakers look to fill the void. Enter Toyota’s e-Palette concept vehicle.

Toyota took to the main stage at 2018’s Consumer Electronics Show, CES, and unveiled a modern concept that “harnesses the benefits of artificial intelligence and predictive analytics, connected network, and electric vehicle technologies to get people where they want to go safely, conveniently and in an environmentally friendly way,” said Toyota’s senior vice president and chief information officer Zack Hicks. While the e-Palette remains in the “concept car” stage of planning, this is a clear indication of the future Toyota wishes to build for the consumer.

Chicago Celebrates National Cookie Day

Chicago Celebrates National Cookie Day.

Chicago Celebrates National Cookie Day.

December 4, 2017

We find Chicago’s best deals & steals in celebration of National Cookie Day. Plus, we shout out our favorite local bakeries and give you the 411 on the area’s best cookies.

All around Chicago, grocery stores and bakeries are rolling out their red carpets in celebration of National Cookie Day. These are the spots offering deals today:

  • Whole Foods is offering 50% off their delicious in-house cookies at their Cookie Bar.
  • In honor of today’s holiday, save up to 40% at Mrs. Fields
  • Insomnia Cookies is offering a free cookie with any purchase from their menu today.
  • The folks at Cinnabon are debuting a special treat today called the BonBite. The new creation puts their famous cinnamon roll inside of chocolate chip cookie, surely pleasing the sugar addict inside each of us.

After you visit the national chains, don’t forget to hit up local bakeries. Trust me when I say this–our local spots offer the yummiest cookies in the Chicago area. 

  • Iversen’s Bakery: pick up a dozen of their delicious (and adorable) smiley-faced cookies.
  • Wolf’s Bakery: their chocolate chip cookies are the closest thing to heaven on earth.
  • Tuzik’s Bakery: this famous southside bakery isn’t open on Mondays but treat yourself to an order of their assorted mini cookies on Tuesday and don’t forget the kolaches!
  • Talerico-Martin Bakery: their holiday-themed cookies are not only delicious but they are truly gorgeous. Bring a few dozen to your next Christmas party and grab a chocolate chunk cookie for yourself–you won’t be disappointed. 
  • D’Amato’s Bakery: if you’re in the city, don’t forget to hit up this Italian bakery staple for cannolis, cookies & SO MUCH more. 

Next up on the blog today? I’m including my favorite cookie recipes for you to whip up for the family today.

Illinois Braces for Thanksgiving Traffic

Illinois braces for busy traffic Thanksgiving weekend.

Illinois braces for busy traffic Thanksgiving weekend.

Illinois Tollway warns drivers to remain calm and allow for extra time when driving on roadways over Thanksgiving weekend.

Beginning today, Wednesday, November 22, the Illinois Tollway projects 9 million vehicles to hit the roads through Monday, November 27. The busiest day will be Wednesday, November 22, when 1.8 million vehicles are expected to travel the roadways. The Illinois Tollway H.E.L.P. Trucks (Highway Emergency Lane Patrol) will be on standby to assist drivers in unexpected situations such as changing tires, battery boosts, adding coolant, dispensing fuel, transporting customers, moving vehicles away from traffic and calling for backup tow truck assistance. Hours have been extended for H.E.L.P. Trucks through Friday, November 24, to provide aid until midnight.

The Illinois Tollway warns drivers to practice safe driving as the Illinois State Police is expected to heavily patrol the highways Thanksgiving weekend. Police are looking for distracted drivers on their cell phones (it’s illegal to use a hand-held device when driving in Illinois) as well as speeders, drivers and passengers in violation of seatbelt laws, and drivers under the influence of alcohol or an illegal substance.

Motorists are encouraged to dial *999 for help on the highway if their incident doesn’t call for the assistance of police or medics.

The LA Times Reviews the Toyota C-HR

Charles Fleming of the LA Times reviews  C-HR.

Charles Fleming of the LA Times reviews the 2018 Toyota C-HR.

Charles Fleming of the LA Times calls the 2018 Toyota C-HR “A lot of car for the money…a smart choice.”

The 2018 Toyota C-HR isn’t just any crossover in the Toyota family–it is one that drums up excitement by both consumers and automotive enthusiasts. In his review of the 2018 Toyota C-HR, Charles Fleming of the LA Times introduces Toyota’s crossover vehicle as a “welcome addition” to fan favorites like the Corolla, Camry, and RAV4–high praise from the esteemed automotive journalist who recently had the opportunity to test the $3 Million Bugatti Chiron.

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Toyota’s Flip Book in The Fader

The fall issue of The Fader featured a tiny surprise flip book animation courtesy of the Toyota C-HR.

Toyota C-Hr GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

If you were flipping through the recent issue The Fader, you may have missed the C-HR circling the bottom right of the magazine’s glossy pages. Toyota’s creative team wanted to do something inventive & fun for the C-HR and saw the possibility for a flip book at Fader as the best way to recognize that atmosphere. The animation culminates in a full page ad featuring the Toyota C-HR.

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What to Expect from Toyota at SEMA 2017

Toyota’s “Power of New” theme is expected to impress SEMA attendees in Las Vegas.

The annual automotive specialty products trade event, known as SEMA, is underway in Las Vegas. The four-day experience draws in automotive product junkies and gear heads who show off their innovative gadgets and tricks. 

Toyota’s “Power of New” theme heavily relies on the “newness” of the all-new 2018 Camry and the brand-new C-HR crossover. Singling out those vehicles was an easy decision for Toyota’s vice president of Media and Engagement Marketing for Toyota Motor North America, Steve Curtis, who said, “Our ‘Power of New’ theme at SEMA is perfect as we highlight two new vehicles in our model lineup…the all-new 2018 Camry, has been completely redesigned and reimagined. The C-HR is entirely new to our lineup, bringing in a new young buyer to Toyota.” 

Toyota also built an array of after-market custom vehicles for SEMA. NASCAR favorites’ Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, and Daniel Suarez designed their own 2018 Camry’s with personal decals and custom finishes to enhance vehicle performance and style. In addition, NASCAR analyst, Rutledge Wood, upgraded his own 2018 Camry with “state-of-the-art 3D printed body panels, an outrageous “Blurple” paint job, and a totally re-finished interior.”

While the NASCAR team was finishing up their designs, Toyota’s engineers souped up the C-HR, this iteration dubbed the C-HR R-Tuned, with a “full Toyota engine and manual transmission swap, a custom turbo system pushing 600 horsepower, aerodynamics that produce 300 lbs. of downforce, 1.2g of braking force and 1.7g of lateral acceleration.” 

Scroll through the gallery below to see Toyota’s custom vehicles. To learn more about SEMA and Toyota’s display, click here


Why Do People Put Out Teal Pumpkins on Halloween?

Why are there teal pumpkins?

What is the Teal Pumpkin Project?

Why Do People Put Out Teal Pumpkins on Halloween?

While walking my dog through our neighborhood the other day, I noticed a beautiful glowing teal pumpkin sitting on my neighbor’s stoop. I didn’t think much of it until I saw another teal pumpkin sitting atop a ledge on the expansive porch of another home. I wondered if “teal” was the new “unicorn”.  When I got back to my apartment, I did a quick search and learned the teal pumpkin isn’t just a fun decoration, it represents an alliance, a safe space, an inclusive home for children with food allergies. THIS is a home where trick or treaters with food allergies can find a safe alternative to Halloween candy.

I know what you’re thinking, “Christina, food allergies are not a big deal–why do we have to change our candy routine for a few kids with silly allergies? Tell them to suck it up!” I get it. You’re annoyed because kids these days are coddled and you’re probably not wrong. But food allergies don’t have anything to do with placating picky children; putting a teal pumpkin on your stoop doesn’t mean we’re setting up children to expect that society will bend at their will. The Teal Pumpkin Project signals that our culture is getting smarter in learning how to incorporate the needs of ALL kids on Halloween.

Do you remember trick-or-treating as a kid?! Can you recall the thrill of running from one house to the next–that small sliver of freedom you experienced in exploring your neighborhood while accumulating hoards of candy to pack in your pillowcase? Now imagine you’re a kid with a severe peanut, egg, milk, soy, or tree nut allergy? Your candy options are markedly limited and it’s another reminder that you are not able to participate in things the way your friends do. Sure, you can dress up, but you can’t accept the candy and if you do, you can’t eat it. Because if you do eat it, you’re likely to go into anaphylactic shock and end up in the hospital. 

My niece, Pearl, has severe food allergies. If she simply comes into secondhand contact with one of the foods on her “do not eat” list, she breaks out into hives–red rashes peppering her tiny body and causing excruciating discomfort. It’s heart-breaking to see her suffer and while she’s too young and blissfully ignorant of her food allergies, I know her parents worry about providing her a normal childhood, creating a life for her that’s similar to her peers.

Kids like Pearl deserve to enjoy Halloween just like the rest of us did. The Teal Pumpkin Project was born out of the idea that homes with a teal pumpkin are safe spots for kids with food allergies–neighbors often choosing to hand out non-food options to trick or treaters. I know it’s Halloween morning and you’re scrambling to get out the door. But if you have time today, I encourage you to run and grab a few things for those kids with food allergies. 

The Teal Pumpkin Project gives a variety of suggestions on fun things to hand out but here are a few favorites: glow sticks, bubbles, beads, notepads, stickers, stamps, temporary tattoos, pencils, or anything else you find in the Dollar Section at Target. Just be sure to put the non-food items in a separate bowl from the food items if you’re handing out candy. Ask the trick or treaters to “choose a prize OR candy” and I promise both kids and parents will feel grateful for your empathy and for thinking about their child’s needs. 

Today should be a fun and carefree day for kids. Let’s help reduce risk and anxiety for our neighbors and friends today. To learn more about the Teal Pumpkin Project and to see an interactive map with participating homes in your area, click here

Jimmy Butler Drives a Swagger Wagon


What kind of car does Jimmy Butler Drive?

Jimmy Butler is the subject of Lee Jenkins’ latest profile for Sports Illustrated, entitled Don’t Try to Change Jimmy Butler

Lee Jenkins of Sports Illustrated profiles former Chicago Bulls forward (and Marquette alum) Jimmy Butler to discuss, among other things, the NBA All Star’s move to Minnesota, his passionate off-season training and his notorious fondness for country music. The profile provides insight into Jimmy’s mind–shedding light on his struggle to reconcile the past and the present; one a life of luxurious wealth, the other a life fraught with uncertainty and strife. This is best illustrated at the beginning of the piece: 

Most hoop elites are identified by no more than two syllables: LeBron. KD. Steph. Russ. Kawhi. CP. Beard. “I’m always Jimmybutler,” he muses. The formality suits him, a superstar who used to be a sideman and still grapples with the transition. “How is a star treated?” he wonders. “I don’t know. I’m learning like everyone else, and it’s a helluva curve.” Butler flies in a Gulfstream but drives a Toyota minivan with a baby on board sticker across the back, even though he is single with no children.

At the end of the profile, the subject of Butler’s minivan pops up again. Jenkins notes that while Butler trains in Malibu, California over the summer, he drives a Rolls Royce and not a Toyota: 

The Rolls gleams in the parking lot. The minivan is back in Minnesota. “I miss it,” Butler says. “Unfortunately, we have to use this thing just a little longer.” He shrugs with the slightest hint of irony.

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