Friday, December 31, 2010

These are a few of my favorite apps . . .

Sing with me! "When the dog bites, there's an app for that! When the bee stings, there's an app for that, too!"

Hey, it's a modern-day interpretation.

Finally getting around to doing a blog post of my favorite/most useful apps. As always, it'll take me a while, because I have to get it just so. But I'm a little under the weather today, so I think it's a good use of sitting-on-the-couch time.


Olive Tree BibleReader: I have had an electronic Bible since I got my first PalmPilot almost eight years ago. It makes so much sense for a mom with little kids (one less thing to carry on Sunday morning), and it makes it easy to copy whole sections of Scripture into my notes (on the same device). Plus, I can easily carry multiple versions. The thing that endears Olive Tree to me even more is their Bible Reading programs. A built-in feature allows you to choose to read the Bible chronologically, from beginning to end or by the "M'Cheyne" plan. I chose the M'Cheyne plan. What? You don't know what the M'Cheyne plan is? Well, I confess, neither did I. It's a set of four readings a day that take you through the Old Testament in a year and the New Testament and Psalms twice each year (read about it here). What I like is that it's four small chunks, so, if you get interrupted (not that I ever do), you have a convenient stopping place. Plus, it better fits my attention span these days than long passages would. And Olive Tree feeds it to you one chunk at a time, takes you to the next passage as you finish one, and keeps track of it all for you. I'm actually finally going to read through the entire Bible in a year!

Awaken: I was happy with using the Clock app that came with my iPhone for an alarm clock. Until I had an infant sleeping in a hammock on the other side of my bedside table where my phone sat each night. I needed an app with a variable volume. ML found me Awaken. I have fallen in love (with the app; I was already in love with ML). I now go to sleep each night with my phone on Awaken (plugged in to charge), set to the old-timey flipclock setting that takes me back to my childhood alarm clock. It wakes me up by gradually increasing the brightness of the screen and gradually increasing the volume of a song of my choice. Ahh. (And we use the "sleep timer" function in our boys' room to let them fall asleep to music but not have it playing all night. It fades out after two hours.) Oh, and if you shake the phone while it's on clock mode in Awaken, it flips to a candle/lightbulb option, so you can see your way to the bathroom in the middle of the night. Handy. (I still use the Clock app as a timer for various things around the house, like Wii time. It's very useful for that.)

CalenGoo: We used to love iCal (which comes installed on the iPhone and we used for a long time on our computers), but it got too glitchy. Plus, we needed an app from which we could "invite" people to events, i.e. each other. Rather than sharing calendars, we prefer to send invites, so we see events as they're created (as opposed to just looking at the calendar and discovering you have dinner with someone that night). At the time, CalenGoo was the only Google calendar app with that function (there may be others now).

2Do: Again, we got this app so that we could send to-do items to each other. Recently, it seems to have lost that functionality, but I'm invested, and I like all the ways I can sub-organize things like shopping lists, etc. (and ML's moved on to a to-do app that works better for him, anyway).

AwesomeNote: Way better than the note app that comes on the phone. Much more subdivisable (my spell check says that's not a word, but *I* say it is). I synch AwesomeNote with Evernote on-line, so I have a back-up. Plus, that allows me to cut and paste things from my computer (like recipes and patterns) to Evernote and then synch AwesomeNote, so they appear on my phone. This is where I take sermon notes, keep birthday party plans, make notes as to what is to be included in my funeral and what possible names we've ever talked about for future children (or pets), etc. It's a large percentage of my brain. That and 2Do.

FemCal: I'm not going to go into much detail on this one. As my grandmother would say, it's a ladies app. Well, my grandmother wouldn't have said that exactly, but . . . feel free to research it, if you want. Suffice it to say, I use it daily.

VIP's (apps that I use often and/or are extra-specially-useful when I do):

YNAB: Standing for "You Need a Budget," this app synchs with a program ML uses to keep track of our finances. It's been great. And trust me, finances not being our strong suit, we've tried a lot of programs. I use the app to enter any cash transactions I make, so he sees them. And I can access our budget and see how much we have to spend in any given category. Yep, I always do that. Mm hm. Okay, so I'm working on using this one more (I'm not an outrageous spender, I just do better with limits, and I need to make more use of my access to those boundaries).

myLite: A free app that I use relatively often as a flashlight. 'Cause I don't have one of them fancy iPhone 4's with that thar built-in flash/flashlight opshun.

AllRecipes: Having used, I built up a stockpile of saved recipes in my "Recipe Box." This app allows me to access those and look for new ones (like Cheese Grits!). I don't use the main screen "Dinner Spinner" option, though.

Netflix: ML uses this one much more often than I do (watching something while doing a repetitive task like data entry), but I recently discovered the beauty of being able to let ZL watch a favorite show while I teach an after-school study session at the kids' school. Nice to have more choices than just what we own in iTunes.

SpellDown: You type in your kids' spelling words, it looks up a voice pronunciation on-line and quizzes your kids. While you drive them to school on the day of their spelling test. Or earlier in the week, even. A must for parents with more than one kid with a spelling list.

VerseByHeart: The only app I found that allows you to enter your own verses (as opposed to preloaded ones) and quizzes you (by having words missing or having you put the words in the right order). Many times, I've handed the phone to my kids in a store line (or, okay, in line to say their verses) to review what they're memorizing.

Mad Libs: Kind of expensive, as far as apps go (above and beyond the basic free one), but by far, the best $3.99 I've ever spent on an app. The kids spend hours playing it, and I even consider it educational, because they're reviewing parts of speech. Win/win. I'm just kicking myself for not knowing that there were new modules out that I could have given as stocking stuffers.

That's all she wrote, folks. What are some of your favorite apps? I'm always looking for new ones.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Stateside '10 Playlist

Several friends living overseas have posted on FB wanting music recommendations, and I kept saying, "I should post my 'Stateside '10-'11' playlist, since it's made up of my favorite songs I've heard since we've been here, and they may not know about them." I kept saying that over and over again (to myself). And I finally got around to it.

1. Whatever You're Doing (Something Heavenly) - Sanctus Real: my theme song for the fall (it was rough); mentioned by a friend who had been through a "worst nightmare" (you know, the kind of thing that happens where people tell you it is their worst nightmare; okay, maybe you don't; it's an interesting phenomenon)
2. Healing is in Your Hands - Christy Nockels: a healing song I didn't have! I couldn't believe it until I looked at the copyright date and realized it was brand new; that explains it
3. Untitled Hymn (Come to Jesus) - Chris Rice: a new classic; I hate it when people call things that, but it is what it is; it feels old; in a good way
4. Our God - Chris Tomlin: packed with truth
5. Bring the Rain - MercyMe: I know, this one isn't new, but I bought it when it first came out but forgot to put it in a list, so I didn't listen to it; something reminded me of it the other day, and I decided to put it here; it's my list; I can do that
6. Rise Up - David Crowder: the new fight song David Crowder wrote for the Baylor football team; now there's something I can worship to; seriously, it has all sorts of applications, and I like to listen to it with various ones; including the football victory one
7. God of Our Yesterdays - Matt Redman: He was and He is and He is and He is to come; in a new(ish) worship song
8. Love Came Down - Brian Johnson: the greatest story ever told
9. Beautiful for Me - Nichole Nordeman: straight from a VeggieTale video (SweetPea Beauty), plain and simple; love the message
10. Give Me Jesus - Fernando Ortega: a beautiful rendition of an old song
11. Forever Reign - Hillsong Live: pure worship
12. Restoration - David Brymer: one of His greatest gifts to us
13. Better Than a Hallelujah - Amy Grant: heard it at the kids' school during a Zumba demonstration; yes, I did; I like the message, even thought I'm not super wild about the artist
14. A Little Longer - Brian and Jenn Johnson: a beautiful song about striving; or not, rather

Caveat: I know some of this is not cutting edge (aka, it's been around a while), but I have not necessarily been in the right places to have heard it, so it's new to me.