Sunday, January 31, 2016

There's An App for That


I would be willing to bet that my friends are tired of hearing this phrase come out of my mouth. Just about any problem they present to me, my response is "You know, there's an app for that."

Sometimes there's eye rolling, but sometimes they want to know what that app is. I absolutely love sharing my favorite apps with people because many of these apps have changed my life. I've been wanting to share a little round-up of the apps I crush on, but it's not easy to narrow the list down to a manageable number, so feel free to skim those that don't interest you.

Get Organized


CardStar
FREE
iPhone, Android, Windows, Blackberry, Nokia


This app has allowed me to throw away all of my membership and rewards cards and free up space in my wallet. It was a super easy process to load all my cards into the app with the built in bar code reader.


When it's time to scan my loyalty card, I just pull out my phone and the cashier scans the barcode. Also built into the app is the ability to access deals and coupons from your favorite merchants.


DataVault Password Manager
iPhone and iPad
$9.99

I am continually astonished by the people I meet who do not have a system for storing their passwords. We use passwords for everything. Important things. Not remembering passwords stresses me out.

And I have Goldfish Brain so I cannot survive without a system for storing my passwords. I've been using this particular app for years, and I can't imagine being without it. I have it on my phone and my iPad, and everything stays synched between the two.

There are other password apps out there, so I think it's worth exploring others if you are in the market anyway, because this one isn't free. However, the thought of starting over with a new app does not appeal to me, so if there's a better app out there, I maybe don't want to know about it.

As always, I choose denial.


Grocery Gadget (Shopping Lists)
iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Android, Windows, Blackberry, Nokia, Amazon, Nook
$2.99 (FREE Version Available)

This is another app that we've been using for years. Peanut Head and I both have it on our phones and iPads, and Zoe and Stinkerbell have it as well. It stays synched amongst the four of us, which is an absolute necessity.

Sometimes Peanut Head and I will divide up the list to get in and out of the store faster, and we are able to tell what items the other has gotten as we check things off the list.

The girls both know that if they use the last of something, they'd better put it on the list or heads will roll.

Another cool feature is the ability to take pictures of things when we may not remember what kind we bought last time. For example, feminine hygiene products. If we are sending Peanut Head to the store for these, there had better be a picture and good notes attached, or else he can't be held responsible for what he comes home with.


iPhone, iPad, Mac*, Windows*, Android, Kindle Fire ($2.99), Nook Color
$4.99 (*$19.99 for desktop version)

I'm not going to spend too much time on this app because I've devoted an entire post to it here.

This is another app that I simply could not do without. It has greatly simplified the storage and retrieval of recipes, menu planning, and grocery shopping for us.

My only complaint is that you have to pay for the app on each additional device. In my own personal opinion, it's worth it. I have it on my desktop, laptop, iPad, and iPhone. Peanut Head and both girls have it on their devices as well, and it stays synched amongst us all. Thankfully, because we use Apple's Family Share Plan we did not have to pay separately for each of us to have it on our phones, but we would have done so if we had no choice, because we use this app every single day.

Another thing I love about it is the ability to share recipes with people. I can e-mail recipes to them and they have the choice of printing out the recipe, or importing the recipe directly into their Paprika app if they have it.

Importing recipes is a breeze as well. There have been very few recipes which I've actually had to type in. Most recipes I am able to import directly into the app. It's simply awesome.


iPhone
FREE

I stumbled upon this app in November in desperation to plan my Christmas shopping without having to carry a paper list around with me. This app was surprisingly easy to use right from the start.


I started by making a list of the people I had to shop for. I didn't bother with loading their pictures into the app because I was just trying the app out. Next year, I might add photos because I loved this app that much.

It was nice to be able to set a budget and then see how much I had left to spend. This is especially nice when you are trying to keep your spending the same among your kids.


Another feature I liked was the status field (purchased, wrapped, given). There's also a spot for location and notes. That's important for people like my mother who have a tendency to hide gifts, never to be seen again. The struggle is real.


Mom, if you're reading this, you need this app.

Miscellaneous



iPhone, Android, Windows
FREE

I was introduced to this slightly creepy app by my mother. Basically, it's a stalking app. You can see where people who are in your circle are at any given time. In other words, you have to agree to be stalked.

After I joined my Mama Llama's circle, within days I was getting random texts from her throughout the day. "What are you buying at IKEA, Jilly?" or "Why are you still at school, Jilly?" or "Do you really need that Dairy Queen, Jilly?"

On the flip side, if you have kids, this app is dabomb.com. We put it on both of our girls' phones and they were warned that if we were not able to locate them at any time, they would lose their phones. After all, giving them cell phones was for our convenience, not theirs. Plus, we're control freaks. And since microchipping kids LoJack style is not an option, Stalking App it is.

Well, it only took a few months before Zoe's phone was off the grid for two hours before we had to engage Operation Wrath of Parents and confiscate her phone for an entire, heart-wrenching week. The story is that her phone was "accidentally" on airplane mode. She didn't know how it happened, blah, blah, blah, and there was blubbering and snot. I haven't seen such a display since the Tower of Terror episode at Disneyland. I explained to her that it doesn't matter if your phone "accidentally" turns on airplane mode, I will assume that it was "on purpose." Point made. Point taken. I'm sure it will never happen again because now she obsessively checks it. Because she cares deeply. And I love her sweet little, paranoid heart.

This app can also be convenient when you are waiting for people and you want to see where they are before you interrupt them with an unnecessary text message while they are driving. That's a pretty nifty thing.


iPhone, Android, online
FREE

This is a Line Jumping app. Maybe you don't get your hair cut at Great Clips, like Peanut Head, but the place you go to might have an app of it's own.

Whenever Peanut Head needs a haircut, he pulls up the app, looks at the wait time for a haircut, and decides if he wants to reserve a spot. Then when he gets there, he walks right in and walks by the ten other guys waiting to get their hair cut.

I asked him one time if he was ever tempted to stick his tongue out at all the guys waiting as he walked by them to get his hair cut before them.

He was not.

How much fun would that be though? So much fun.

Everlance (Business Mileage Tracking)

iOS/Android
FREE

I've been using my car a lot in my job this year, and this app is keeping track of all my mileage for me automatically. I don't have to remember to start and stop it, it just does it. I do have to go into it periodically and classify each trip, but it's super easy. I swipe left if it's Personal, and I swipe right if it's for Work.

Since I have that Goldfish brain, I've set a reminder to classify my mileage every night before I go to bed. You could do it as often as you want though.


All Things Books


Audible Audio Books
Smart Phone, Tablets, and Computer
Free App - Book Credit Subscription $14.95/month + 30% off Audiobooks Purchased

This app has changed my life. I'm not kidding. I started listening to audiobooks, which aren't cheap by the way, last summer and I was able to get so much done while listening to books. I refinished our kitchen table and chairs, refinished our stair railing and bannister, washed windows, decluttered and organized, painted, walked, folded laundry, and the list goes on and on. I'm even making major progress on Stinkerbell's cross stitch stocking because of this app. So far I haven't bought any books beyond my one credit a month. A credit is worth one book, any book that they have, and they have newly published books too, so it usually ends up being cheaper than what I would pay for the actual book.

Smart Phone, Tablets, and Computer
Free App

I've had this app on my phone for awhile, but I've only recently started using it. It's saving me a lot of money that would have been spent on books, because now I am checking digital and audiobooks out from my local library and my school district's library.

This is awesome because I don't have to worry about getting in my car to return books because they are automatically pulled off my device when they are due. If I need more time to read it, I can renew it from the comfort of my couch. The only exception to that is if someone has a hold on it I can't renew. So far, it hasn't really been a problem for me.


Kindle and Nook - Both Free
Smart Phone, Tablets, and Computer

I mainly use the Kindle app for reading books that I borrow from the library. You can download the book to the app, then you don't need internet access or cell service to read it. I've had the Nook app for a long time, and that's the app I use for purchasing digital books.

I imagine I'm going to be using the Nook app less than I have in the past because a lot of books that I want to read, I can just check out from the library. There are a few titles that I won't be able to borrow though, so I'll still need it sometimes. 

I understand that a lot of people prefer actual paper books, and I get that. It has taken me a couple years to actually prefer digital books over paper books.

Here are the reasons why I now prefer digital books over paper books:
  • Access to a dictionary within the app (there are a lot of words I have to look up)
  • Digital books don't take up space, and when I go on vacation, I can take ALL THE BOOKS.
  • Digital books don't need dusting and they aren't heavy to move. Plus, less clutter.
  • No matter which device you choose to read on at any given time, the apps sync to the furthest read page. Let's say you're getting your oil changed and you left your tablet at home. You dont even need it, pull out your phone and get reading right where you left off on your tablet at home.
  • You can make notes and highlight text without ruining the book. You can remove those things with one click.
  • The ability to search character names, places, or ideas. If you have the memory of a goldfish, like me, then you will use this feature often. Especially if you're reading a book with a lot of characters and you can't remember who is who, the app is super convenient.
  • You can adjust text size and brightness. As we get older, our close-up vision goes to the birds. If you don't know what I'm talking about, just wait.


Goodreads
Smart Phone, Tablets, and Computer
FREE

Have you ever bought a book twice? Like you buy a book and you're super excited to read it, but then once you crack it open you realize that you've read it before, and you just wasted $15 on a book that you've already read. Yeah. Been there, done that.

But not anymore. Now I keep track of all the books I read and all the books I want to read in this app. You can also connect with your friends and find out what they're reading. You can read their reviews and additional reviews for any book that you want to read. It's awesome.

That being said, I should warn you, you might not have the same taste as your friends and that can be a lesson in itself.


This right here is what I'm talking about. This was a hideous book. And I'm not even going to blame my Goodreads friends for this one because I dove into this without consulting them. However, this book was on the Best Seller list, and I seriously think that we need to put new people in charge of that list.

I'm volunteering. Here, this is my review from Goodreads.

Wackadoo alcoholic stalker gets involved in the lives of other wackadoos and everyone is a walking train wreck. If they'd all just get hobbies, they might be interesting. Thankful that I listened to this as an audiobook while getting things done. This book is another example of how I can't trust that books on the bestseller list will be good.

I believe honesty is important in reviewing books that others might waste money on.

Education


Desmos (Graphing Calculator)
Smart Phone, Tablets, and Computer
FREE

I first discovered Desmos last year when I was graphing equations of lines with my eighth grade math students. I started with the online graphing calculator at Desmos.com and it is awesome.

Basically you type an equation into it and it will graph it for you. This was super convenient for me because I had short class periods and graphing takes a lot of time. With Desmos, I was able to project easy-to-read graphs without the time consuming task of plotting the y-intercept, plotting the next point using the slope, and finally drawing the line passing through the two points.

I think it's important to note, however, that I wouldn't show my students this app until they've had some experience with graphing by hand first, because that conceptual understanding of y-intercept and slope is super important.

We spent a lot of time on that last year, and towards the end of the unit is when I introduced Desmos.com.

It was one of my reluctant learners that found the Desmos app and shared it with me. He got excited about graphing equations when we used the online graphing calculator and then he went home and found the app. How cool is that?

Graphing calculators aren't cheap and many of our students already have smart phones, so this is the perfect solution.


Here are some screenshots I pulled off of the website. I like how you can save your graphs and view them again later. That's a big timesaver for teachers. Adding sliders is a pretty cool feature as well because you can see what happens to your graph as you change the values.


You can also tap any point on the graph and it will show you what the coordinates are at that point. Another cool thing that people are doing with the app is making pictures. Math is creative like that.

iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Android
FREE

If you have kids, this app (or it's equivalent if your school district uses other grading software) is a must for checking their grades. You really have no excuse for not knowing where your kids stand academically. In fact, it's your job to know what your kids' grades are, and to hold them accountable.

This app makes it easier than ever. I have my app set to push me a notification whenever my girls' grades change. Usually there is a simple explanation and all it requires from me is that I ask them about it.

Common Core (Apps for Every State's Standards)
Apple, Android, Windows
FREE

If you are a teacher you definitely want one of these apps. I encourage parents to also have one of these apps so that you know what is expected of your student at each grade level.

The app on the left is the Common Core Standards app which includes standards for all grade levels. The one on the right is the Idaho Core Standards app, which is specific to Idaho. Mastery Connect makes both apps, as well as similar versions for other states. All the state versions are yellow with the state's silhouette. You can find your state by clicking on the Common Core link above.


When you go into the app you are given the choice of accessing the Standards or Resources. From there you can choose Mathematics, Language Arts, History/Social Studies, or Science.


This is an example of the Mathematical Practice Standards for Sixth Grade.

App Mind Set


Finding new apps is a mind set. You've got to always be asking yourself, "What do I loathe about this experience that an app could fix?" Chances are, there's an app for that.

A good example is the IKEA app. I was shopping with some friends and we were trying to keep track of our wish lists with paper, the cameras on our phones, and those stubby little pencils they provide, and it took me about three minutes before I was all "Enough! There has GOT to be an app for this!" 

And there was. I downloaded it on the spot and started scanning the stuff I was considering. Then at the end when I was ready to brave the warehouse, I pulled up a nice tidy little list complete with aisle numbers where I could find everything.

What can I say? I'm all about that app.


Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Crazy Wonderful Year


Hello Friends! I'm on Christmas break right now and I absolutely can't let it pass without popping in for an update.

What a crazy, wonderful year this has been, with lots of turmoil and so, so much to be thankful for.


When I left the classroom in June, I had every intention of stepping up my blogging, and as you can see, that hasn't happened. I don't have a good excuse. I've certainly had the time. I just haven't had the blogging mojo. I think about it all the time. I just can't seem to dig up the motivation to sit down and write.

Often I'll have something small I want to share and I can do that much easier and quicker on Instagram or Facebook, so I'll go there. I'm not ready to give the blog up though. I'm just not that into it right now. I hope that will change.

I think a lot of it has to do with the changes I've had this year. Leaving the classroom has given me some wonderful opportunities and I have been thoroughly enjoying myself, but there is a part of me that misses it terribly.

In my new position I'm at the high schools frequently and I've seen a lot of my former students, and it makes me long to be back with them. 

As sure as I was about leaving education earlier this year, I'm looking at teaching in a whole new light. If, or maybe I should say when I go back, it has to be different. I knew when I left that I was part of the problem. A big part of the problem. I put too much of myself into my job and there was nothing left for me.

My new job has been such a gift. I feel like it has thrown me a life raft and said "Hang on. It's not over yet. Take some time to recover and then get back in the pool." Truly the best part about what I'm doing right now is helping teachers. I want to do whatever I can to ease their burdens.

Enough of the heavy stuff. I don't want Zoe Bug all up in my business about always whining about my job.

Did I mention that I'm on Christmas break? Wa-HOO! It's a beautiful thing.


I'm dedicating part of my break to working on Stinkerbell's stocking. I'm only a third of the way finished, so there's no way it will be ready this week, but next year it really should be. If it isn't, well then I'll just suck that much more.

And Stinkerbell reminds me about the stocking often. She's all "MOM! I'm 12 now. Do you think you could finish my stocking before I go to college?"

Well, I'll certainly try, Sweetie.


For years we've had three of our stockings finished, and Stinky's stocking is still on the cross stitch frame. It's so sad. It's like she's the orphan child.

In order to motivate myself to work on it, I listen to audiobooks or stream Netflix while I'm working. If you've never done cross stitch before, it's tedious. When this project is finished, I will never cross stitch another thing, as long as I shall live.

I have another tedious project I'd like to work on over break, but I'm not making any promises because it's one of those projects that I find depressing to look at.


It's this table. Take a moment to drink it in.

Actually, now that I'm staring at it, it doesn't look that bad. It just looks like I don't want to do it. And I really, truly don't. I'm such a whiner.


This is something else I want to spend some time on. I am now six years behind on my digital scrapbooking. It wouldn't be so bad except 2009 was a very long winded year on the blog.

Geez, I'm bored with myself already. Thankfully I also went back to work that year and I didn't have as much time for all the yapping, so things should be picking up here soon.

I've started using Digital Project Life with PhotoShop Elements, and it has changed my life. It's so much easier and faster to get my photos into books now. No mess either.

I'm hoping that future books have more than a year in them. I work on pages until I have enough to fill the maximum number of pages that Shutterfly will print (over a 100), and then I let them sit in my cart until Shutterfly runs a 50% off sale.


I started taking piano lessons in September. It's something I've always wanted to do and I'm so happy to be doing it right now.

Things were going great until a couple weeks ago when I realized I wasn't really learning which piano keys played which notes, or even what notes they were, but instead I looked at a note and by its position knew which finger played it. Well, playing the piano isn't like typing, apparently.

Dang it.

I feel like I need to start all over again. I'm a little frustrated, but not frustrated enough to give it up. I just need to start fresh.


Peanut Head and I did our usual holiday baking this year, but while attempting to apprentice Kimikaze and Angelina Ballerina, the crazy science teachers.

Man what a organizational juggling act that was. The flip side was that it was a blast. An exhausting blast, but it took the chore out of the process and put a whole lot of joy in its place.


This is Angelina Ballerina. She was all business showing up with her apron and everything. We had a hard time trying to get her to focus on Bon Bon and Buckeye nights though. The middle school boy in her was fixated on the spherical aspect of the treats. We're not going there, just setting the record straight.


And then there's Kimikaze. This girl is a handful and she puts the snap in Gingersnap. 

We had a little chocolate fight, and I'm not afraid to say that I won. She was a chocolate mess. There were pictures, but they were all too blurry on account of we are lightning fast like ninjas.


Check out our ornaments for this year from Liane and Alison. Do you recognize them?

If not, go refresh your memory with my Crazy Town post. Alison, you nailed it.


Gunny Man!

Zoe took this awesome picture of him with her phone. She's taking a photography class at school and has been taking some crazy good pictures with just her phone. Most of the pictures on our Christmas card were taken by Zoe.

Zoe has also been taking hours of video footage of Gunny jumping and we set up a You Tube channel just for him called Gunny Bun Bun. Click on the link if you want to check out the one video we were able to upload successfully. 

We're having some serious technical difficulties uploading videos because Zoe made the movies in iMovie and they are in .mov format when they need to be in .mp4 format. Does anyone have any experience with converting those files that can give us some advice for converting those videos? We are pulling our hair out trying to figure it out.


Lastly, I leave you with our Christmas card and "This is How it Really Is" letter, should you care to read it.

I hope you all have an amazing, restful, peaceful, and healthy holiday season.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!                              

I know you’re probably wondering why there are three pictures of the dog on our holiday card, and only one each of our two children. Well, it’s partly because we have more pictures of Gunny than anyone else in the house, but mostly because he’s such a lovable guy. He’s never grouchy or unpleasant to be around (except when he has flatulence), and he will let us dress him up in practically anything we’d like. In fact, as I type this letter, my friend Betsy Wetsy is making him a reindeer hat. He is very excited about it. And since our kids no longer let me dress them, the Bunnery Sergeant is now my favorite child.

Now that that’s out in the open, here’s an update on the human kids.

Zoe is 14 and a Freshman in high school. She’s always doing homework and doesn’t have time to get into trouble (as it should be). She thinks she needs to start Drivers Ed in January. I don’t know what’s wrong with Idaho, but kids can get their driver’s permit at age 14-1/2. She’s barely out of diapers, for crying out loud! One thing is certain, and that is that we are not teaching her how to drive when there’s snow on the ground. So let’s have some snow, Weatherman, shall we? On the other hand, we still have the mini van and I am itching for a new car.

Zoe has started setting up obstacle courses for Gunny to master, and I am astonished at how high the dog can jump. He will do anything for Zoe Bug. She has taken to making videos of his jumping and we have more video footage of Gunny than any new parent has for miles around. She has gotten pretty good at trimming and editing video as well. Now we just need to set up a You Tube Channel for Gunny and we’ll be set.

Annika is 12 and in seventh grade. She has been wearing a very short haircut this year (lately sporting blue bangs as well) and is regularly mistaken for a boy. She doesn’t help matters when she wears boy clothes and walks like a truck driver, but she doesn’t seem to be bothered in the least by people’s gender identification mistakes. On the contrary, I think it amuses her. We went out to dinner one night and a little boy followed her into the women’s restroom. When he realized where he was he looked at her, alarmed, and exclaimed “We’re not supposed to be in here!” She just stared at him with her stone face, compliments of her father. I’m pretty sure it bothers me more than it bothers her. Before school started, I ordered her a couple t-shirts with #notaboy printed on the front to help people out. Middle school is awkward enough. Why make it harder, right?

I had a job change this year and I left the classroom at the end of the school year. I am now working in the same school district as a Math Specialist for the middle and high schools. It’s a curriculum position where I get to nerd out on data and help teachers. I’m on a teacher schedule (same days off and vacations) without the stress and bringing work home. It has been such a wonderful opportunity for me, and I have learned so much. The only negative is that it’s only a one-year gig. It has the potential to be extended, but there are no guarantees. It’s okay, though. I am so thankful for the time I’ve had to put the focus back where it belongs. I do miss the kids and a lot of things about teaching, but right now I’m just enjoying my free time. I’m finally taking piano lessons, which is something I’ve wanted to do for a very long time.

Clark hasn’t had any changes in his job this year. Last spring we decided to start getting our house ready to sell. We’d like to have some land and eventually Zoe would like a horse. We’ve both been pretty busy working around the house, replacing things and sprucing it up. We were going to try to put our house on the market by fall (just passed) but we’re not sure now when we will. Maybe this summer? There’s no rush now since the bond for our school district finally passed (after four tries), so we are no longer in a rush to get out of this house.

We still have five chickens, two gerbils, one cat, and one dog. Lucy (the cat) has taken over sleeping in Gunny’s bed when he’s not in it. We recently bought him a second bed to keep in the living room because he’s such an old man when it comes to his bedtime. As soon as the sun goes down he starts rolling his eyes and trying to get us to go to bed. Now that he has a bed in the living room, he’s in it all the time. Last night Zoe was yelling at him because he wouldn’t get his gnarly carcass out of his living room bed to go to his bed in her room. His living room bed is much more plush, you see.

As you can see, all is well in Idaho. We are happy and healthy and so thankful for what we have. We wish you all a Merry Christmas and a very happy and healthy New Year.

Love,


Clark, Jill, Zoe, and Annika