4 apps to keep your brain from melting.


A lot of my friends and family back in the Northeast are struggling through another snow day right now. My own little monsters sweet angels just went back to school yesterday, so even though I’m happily enjoying the sweet sounds of silence right now, I can vividly recall Jen of Two Days Ago wondering if she’d ever be able to watch grown up television again (you know, like, The Mindy Project or reruns of Australia’s Next Top Model – important stuff) because her kids were monopolizing the television and just generally being there and stuff.

If you need a distraction but don’t want your brain to slide out of your ears by the end of the night, here are 4 apps currently keeping me sane but also a little smart:

Ultimate Cribbage – Keep your Cribbage skills fresh between game nights with the hubby. I went on a weird downloading tangent to find the best cribbage app for Androids and this is it. Good graphics, fun variations and just enough control over game play.

Daily POP Crosswords I just downloaded this one but already I like the graphics and found the first puzzle just the right level of challenging. Good for people who like Crosswords but can’t handle the Sunday puzzle in the newspaper.

Duolingo Feel  a sense of accomplishment that you are bettering yourself and not just playing Knittens! for twelve hours straight (you can do that next). My husband and I both use this app to learn new languages or brush up on ones we learned in school. It’s free and confidence boosting and you can set it up to remind you to use it every day.

Backpacker – I’ve mentioned this one before but I’m still playing it literally every day so maybe it bears repeating. This is a fun blend of geography and general trivia with enough goals to accomplish to keep you playing into the wee hours of the night. So approach with caution?

What apps are you loving on your phone right now?



What I’m Into: December 2017


It’s been a busy month here – we’ve been enjoying Christmas Tree farms, piano recitals, cookie baking, parties with friends and all the usual fun stuff that goes into a month. Aside from the family fun, here are some of the things that have been keeping me occupied in those in between moments.

On My Bookshelf


I’ve been reading Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick this month and really enjoying it. I’ve always loved Anna’s movies and her amazeballs singing voice but reading the book and getting to know her as her actual person has been so fun. I’m only mostly delusional when I say that OMG we could totally be BFFs in real life!!

In My Kitchen

 I’ve been baking up a small winter storm as one tends to do around Christmas. Not everything was a winner but these three recipes need to be in your life.

This FUDGE recipe is so easy it almost feels like cheating. You only need three ingredients aside from salt and no candy thermometer or savvy candy making skills are required. You really just need the patience to let it set on your counter without eating it before it’s ready. I made the same recipe using peanut butter chips and that came out awesome, too. My waist line is fearful about how easy this was.

I made these RUM BALLS for my husband and he cannot stop eating them. They are potent as heck and way too delicious. Also super easy to make. These taste better the longer they chill out in your fridge so I recommend making them a couple of days before you need them. Because you definitely need them.

Okay if you are feeling like you want to step up your cookie baking game, I made these FRUIT CAKE SHORTBREAD COOKIES from Martha Stewart’s website and mylanta. This isn’t a difficult recipe but there are a lot more steps involved than I normally willingly get myself into. You’ll be chopping dried fruits, macerating them in terrific smelling booziness for a few hours, softening two sticks of butter and then making the cookie dough and shaping it into a triangular log. Then letting the dough chill for an hour in the fridge. Then slicing the log into super cute cookies and baking them. Then the hard part – not eating them all before your guests arrive. Real bakers probably read this and thought it all sounded easy but my fellow half assers know what I’m talking about. This recipe was a real test in will power and commitment but oh so worth it because:


So good.

On My TV

THE MIDDLE’S FAREWELL SEASON has been stringing me along all fall. Somehow this season turned me into a squealing fangirl shipper when it comes to Sue. Wasn’t she an awkward little tweenie bopper like a minute ago? I’m going to miss this show when it’s over but I also do think they are ending at the right time. What family sitcom should I pick up next?

AUSTRALIA’S NEXT TOP MODEL is streaming on Hulu and it’s filling the void that Tyra Banks left in my life when America’s Next Top Model ended. The formula is pretty similar but a bit different and the Aussie slang is kind of giving me life right now.

STRANGER THINGS SEASON 2 was all the things that season one delivered and maybe even just a little more. We probably waited longer to finish it than most people but it was still one of the best shows Dan and I watched this fall and I’m already missing it like crazy.

On My Phone

I’ve downloaded a few new to me games worth mentioning recently like:

DRACONIUS GO which is basically the same premise as Pokemon Go but it actually runs on my phone. My husband got me hooked on this one and it has resulted in a lot of family walks and drives around town looking for arenas. Yeah, we’re those people.

KNITTENS! is only available as a prerelease app right now but it shows a lot of promise. It’s a match three game that has you collecting yarn and patterns to “knit” outfits for your in app kitten. Seriously. It’s the most adorable game ever.

BACKPACKER is a kind of Travel Trivia geography game that tests your knowledge of the world as your character backpacks around the world, picking up odd jobs and doing favors, answering trivia questions and more. I’m far, far too into this game.

What have you been up to lately?

5 Apps To Hide in the Bathroom With.



I know a lot of you are home with your kids on spring break right now and maybe you are nearing your breaking point. I mean, maybe you are off on a grand adventure and achieving pure bliss in between hair braiding and picture perfect family picnics – but just in case you are feeling the heavy weight of “when will I be able to watch my shows again and how are you still here???” I’m just saying if you are thinking about going to hide in the bathroom for seventy two hours…

How about a new game on your phone to get addicted to instead? I know we’re supposed to be patient and present and in the moment and smart phones are the worst or something, but whatever. Sometimes a mom needs five minutes with Solitaire to get the skip back in her step.

Here are 5 games on my phone* that I like to turn to when my daughter has been singing the same Moana song for eighteen hours / my son has literally not stopped talking about Minecraft since he woke up.

*I’m an Android girl so my apologies if you are living that Apple life and these games aren’t available — but usually they are on both stores, so definitely check!

We all have different game preferences and different situations call for a different fix.

If you want an artsy kind of puzzle:

Hungry Cat Picross is literally the best picross game you are going to find on your phone. I’m not trying to be Eleanore Exaggeration here. I literally downloaded all of them when I was running out of puzzles and they were all terrible. So save yourself the struggle / data usage and skip straight to this one. I’ve gotten several people hooked on this game. I’m not proud.

If you want to redecorate every day but like for free:

Design Home is the game I never knew I wanted to play. It’s literally designing rooms and then voting your favorite designs, buying virtual couches and potted plants and competing in design challenges. I am way too addicted.

If you are feeling nostaligic for middle school:

MASH is seriously an Android Game now and I won’t like, I made my 7 year old play with me – multiple times. I do wish there were less ads and more varied games but you know – nostalgia for the win. Break this one out when your little girls are getting antsy and need a distraction. Maybe your boys would like it, too, but I’m pretty sure my 11 year old would just roll his eyes at me like my husband did.

If you like hidden picture games:

Fantastic Beasts: Cases has two things going for it – the nerdgasm of Harry Potter universe references and a fun and unique game in its own right that is kind of somewhere between a hidden picture game and a mystery detective game. It may even help to tide you over until the next Fantastic Beasts movie.


If you want to take Solitaire to the next level:

Fairway Solitaire is probably the game I open the most frequently right now. It seriously takes Solitaire to new places and has just enough little goals and tasks to keep you checking back in throughout the day. Cute graphics, relatively speedy load times and not too many ads. Plus there is a sneaky gopher causing trouble, so.

What phone apps have you been hooked on lately?


I’m linking up with Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop again. Let me know if you are playing along, too!



The 10 Best Android Apps On Our Phones.

We’re linking up with Mama Kat’s Pretty Much World Famous Writer’s Workshop answering the prompt: 3. List your top 10 favorite apps currently. We’re splitting it up and sharing Jen’s 5 favorites and Kim’s 5 favorites (ignoring the obvious apps that everyone has on their phone like gmail, google maps, instagram, Angry Birds, etc).


I was a slow convert to the world of smart phones so when we finally made the plunge, I decided that my smart phone had better do damn near every possible thing a phone can do – a device that expensive needs to seriously pull its weight in my life and justify the cost. Now many phone upgrades and years later, my beloved Galaxy S5 and I are inseparable (for better or for worse, in sickness and in health).

Here are the 5 apps that I cannot live without:

  1. Alarm Clock Xtreme reminds me to wake up, take my allergy medicine, pick the kids up from school, take them to karate, exercise regularly and anything in between. In addition to having my 8,000 alarms which can each have their own ring tones, possible number of snoozes, and necessity to solve math problems or enter Captchas before dismissing – the app also has a stop watch and timer feature. (free with premium upgrade for $1.99)
  2. Bloglovin’ has quickly become my feed reader of choice since the cursed demise of Google Reader (seriously, what were you guys thinking?). After much deliberation and a bit of time using a few platforms, I eventually settled on these guys because of their attractive layout and just the right amount of features like saving and sharing content, sorting capabilities and I kinda dig their interactive interface that encourages blog owners to claim their blogs and mingle. (free)
  3. Frozen Free Fall is the latest game that has me obsessively playing every day. My husband and I are constantly comparing notes about what level one or the other is at and we’ve thought perhaps too long and hard about which characters from Frozen are more helpful or least annoying in a given level (Hans gives the worst condescending smirk whether you are doing well or not – unsurprising, really). It’s similar to Candy Crush Saga as far as game play but it boasts the ability to advance through levels without ever nagging your friends to participate. All games need to follow this trend – the patience level for friend nagging is seriously decreasing and inevitably discourages long time use of a game in my humble opinion. (free)
  4. MyChart lets me schedule doctors appointments, send messages or photos to my doctor, view my kids’ vaccine records and health charts and more. If your doctor’s office / insurance company works with MyChart, I cannot recommend this app highly enough. (free)
  5. S Health tracks how many steps I take each day. It runs in the background on my phone and from what I can tell it isn’t using much battery or date to do so. I have a widget set up that I can flip over to that tells me how many steps I’ve taken, how many miles that is equal to and with a few more taps it can also tell me calories burned, let me log what I’ve eaten or what other exercises I’ve been doing and on my S5 it can even measure my heart rate! (free but only works on Samsung phones)


For years I balked at the thought of a smartphone. (What do you need GPS for? Use a map!) I couldn’t fathom the logic behind a small device to do tasks that I could already do on larger, slower, less technologically confusing device than a smartphone. Why fix what wasn’t broken? Eventually I was convinced to give them a try and while ‘convenience’ might as well be my middle name, it’s the myriad of games that has become my downfall.


1. BrainWars is exactly what it sounds like. A war of the wits. The games are simple. Tap numbers in the right order, match the right color, etc. However once you’re playing against a random opponent for the higher score, these simple games get a lot more tricky. The better you do, the higher you go on the global rankings. The higher you get, the more difficult the puzzles become.

2. Flow Free is a game with a simple concept. Match the same colored dots together with one continuous line. Now match up the next pair without interrupting the first line. Continue until all dots are paired up. It isn’t too bad with only a few dots per grid, but once there’s close to dozen this game will burn your brain cells, unlike your battery life.

3. Ingress is a guilty pleasure of mine whenever I’m downtown and not the one driving. Public locations, statues, artwork, etc are all “Portals” in this augmented reality game which two sides fight over to control via their phones burning their batteries on GPS usage. You have to be physically present at the portal in order to capture it, which has resulted in some rather odd walking routes, and also some interesting local discoveries.

4. Google Sky Map is a nice sneak peak at what exactly is out in the night sky and exactly where it’s hiding. Just a tilt of my phone towards whichever direction I’m curious about and voila, star and constellation names show up on my screen. If I happen to be looking at a planet, that’ll show up too. I don’t use this app often, but it comes in handy when trees, clouds, or streetlights are getting in the way.

5. Hoplite starts off with one objective. Get to floor 16 of the underworld and retrieve the Fleece of Yendor. There’s just one problem. There’s enemies on each floor on the way. Good news, they can’t move until you do. Bad news, they move when you do. The number of enemies increases with each floor. Only with careful, strategic moves will one ever win. Since starting it last fall, I’ve only reached floor 12.

What are your favorite apps?

Road Trip Tips: 8 tips to reduce vacation stress and have a blast!


This summer our family took a three week road trip up and down the East Coast and camped at half the stops along the way. This vacation was hugely daunting to me and I’ll admit, I was terrified that it was going to be a disaster – but we had a great time and survived the experience with our sanity in tack.

Here are the things I did that I think helped make the vacation a success.

the road trip binder1. Do your research and stay organized! While planning the vacation, I bought a three ring binder and a bunch of plastic sleeves and sticky tabs to keep organized. Inside the binder I had our itinerary (which I reprinted at least a dozen times over the months leading up to the trip as things changed), all our reservations, directions for each day of driving (rather than trying to do the whole trip in one set of directions) and ideas for things to do in each state. I also had a list of camping recipes and activity ideas and plenty of room to add new papers on the go. Each day had a plan of attack, a place to drive to and an estimate for how many hours we’d be driving. As important as ALL of this was (crucial really), equally important is…

2. Don’t be too rigid. Let yourself change plans: We probably changed 40% of the trip as we went. Some days were just NOT panning out to be camping days and we got a hotel instead. Some days we decided to just keep driving. Some days the drive time estimate was way off or the restaurants I’d looked up were not what we wanted or the place we wanted to go was closed. Don’t hug that binder too tightly. The whole point is that it gives you both a starting point and a place to fall back to. It’s not The Only Thing That Will Work. Let yourself roll with the punches and embrace the journey or you will be a hot mess. This leads in nicely to…

3. Go with the flow but acknowledge your own needs. Especially if you are traveling with other people – friends, in laws, etc. all naturally move and live at a different speed than your family. That’s just how it is. We’re programmed differently with different needs. Try to be flexible so you can all get along and find road trip harmony but acknowledge your own breaking points and give yourself time to reboot and do things on your own speed when you need it – and if you are like me, you will need it. Don’t feel guilty about needing your own rhythm.

Okay so apart from the State of Mind Suggestions, here are some fun and practical tips that we utilized on our vacation.


The I’m Bored Box: In an effort to be Super Mom, and avoid back seat boredom, I spent months leading up to the trip collecting books and activities that would tie in nicely with the various legs of our journey or just be a fun distraction. I wrapped them up by date and wrote where we were going and what we’d see. Most days that we were on the road both kids had a package to open – sometimes it would be a combined package.

Cautionary tale: This was way too many packages for a 3 week road trip. Imagine your backseat slowly becoming cluttered with 40+ books and activities and toys along with the other things you accumulate on the trip. If it’s a short trip (like less than a week) then I think my method would have worked well. For longer trips, use this idea more sparingly so that you don’t have to spend 20 minutes waiting for your kids to find their seat belt at each stop.

A hack for mounting your tablet as a portable DVD player: Before we left, I’d spent a lot of time looking for a portable DVD player or some kind of carrier to put our tablet in so the kids could watch movies during the drive. We never found one we were 100% sold on.316-7xx_2Then right before we left my husband came up with the idea to take a bungee cord and wrap it under the fold in the case that my tablet came with (the kind with a cover for the front) and then attach the tablet to the center console of our truck so that the tablet was facing into the backseat – right in the middle so both kids could easily see. We were able to charge the tablet up front so the battery lasted the length of the movie and the whole thing cost us nothing because we were reusing things we already owned.

There’s An App For That: Take advantage of technology where you can. In addition to your phone probably having a great GPS and camera to use on your trip, you can also find a lot of great apps to use along the way. Two that we took major advantage of were:

  • The KOA app for Android which lets you search for KOA kampgrounds near you, gives detailed descriptions of said campgrounds and what is nearby, stores your Value Kard Rewards if you are a member, make reservations, mark favorites and get emergency alerts along the way.
  • RoadNinja is awesome  for planning what exit to take when you need gas, food or a hotel. You can search by highway and see what is at each exit and how far away it is. There are several apps with this premise but RoadNinja was the best executed free app available, in my opinion.

Avoid car sickness: Aside from keeping road sickness medicine on hand and having plenty of barf bag options, a new thing I learned the hard way is Keep the kiddos hydrated! If they aren’t getting enough to drink, apparently it can exacerbate motion sickness and keep them from feeling any relief. Bring some gatorade in case anyone accidentally goes too long without a drink. For us this seemed especially true when trying to wake up uber early for the day’s drive.

Family Photo Ops: You want everyone in the picture but you don’t want to use a tripod or your arms just aren’t that long. Look for another family ALSO trying to get a family picture and offer to swap photographer duties with them. It can be super sketchy trying to find someone to take your picture and not be paranoid that they will run off with your camera. Another mom or dad with kids is way less likely to commit theft like that in front of their own children. And you’ll be paying it forward.

These are just a few things I learned along the way that I think made our vacation a success. In short, be prepared but don’t be married to your plans. Be creative and have fun!

 Read more about our vacation here.

bitstrips love: meet momma’s cartoon self.

a bitstrips comic

If you’ve ever wanted to have your own comic strip but lacked any and all drawing skills / creativity…

If you are hiding from the kids and looking for something silly to do until they find you…

If you secretly love making avatars and you’re looking for another excuse to Toon yourself…

If a normal status update with no pictures of you as a cartoon just sounds too boring…

Jennifer shows her dog who's boss.

Have you met Ted Bitstrips?

This neato groovy Facebook app lets you create your own avatar and create comic strip status updates and greeting cards to share with friends and family. It also auto generates little comics for you every day starring you and any of your friends who also use Bitstrips. It’s kind of awesome.

I found the app loaded really well on my Windows 8 PC, the options to customize your avatar are quite impressive and extensive. You can even move the limbs around for all the people and animals in the comic to suit your preferences. Add speech bubbles and make your own funny captions or use the handy captions provided by Bitstrips if you are feeling less than creative / lazy.

Will this app cure cancer? Probably not – but it definitely promises a giggle or two and a fun way to kill some time between diaper changes and peanut butter and jelly sandwich making.

Are you using Bitstrips? What’s your favorite Facebook game or app?