4 apps to keep your brain from melting.

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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

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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

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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:

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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?

New features on Picmonkey worth squealing about.

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Picmonkey has been rolling out a lot of new features lately, which is exciting because it means I get to continually up my photo editing game and also waste time on the internet! I’m already seriously digging the new mirror effect which is available for Royal members.

Royal Membership means an annual paid membership for about $30 that unlocks a slew of features. There is still plenty to do there for free, but for $30 a year I get to do all the things and support a photo editing site that I puffy hearts adore. I can get behind this.

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Combine the mirror effect with one of their new gorgeous black and white effects (I’m loving the Super Black and White with amped up brightness and contrast) and my daughter can be all #moodytwinsies which is obviously a must.

They also finally added the rotate crop which is going to make basically everything better since I can’t hold a camera straight to save my life some days. Or maybe my world is just really slanted. One of those.

If you are a photo editing junkie or new to Picmonkey and want to know all the things, I recommend following their blog where they frequently give all the dirt on new features as well as giving awesome tutorials for upping your photo game.

By the way, Picmonkey has no idea who I am and did not reimburse me in any way for this post. I just wanted to fangirl a bit over their new features and show you some pictures I edited.

Minecraft Hour of Code

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Have you guys heard about Hour of Code at Code.org? They have a bunch of free coding tutorials geared towards kids as young as 4 and as old as grandma that walk you through the principles of basic programming in an hour, with the complexity getting a little harder with each “puzzle” that you complete.

And to help pique your interest (or the interest of your kids) they have coding tutorials featuring popular characters like Elsa and Anna from Frozen, the cast of Star Wars, Flappy Bird and Minecraft.

My kids tried the Minecraft Hour of Code this weekend and both of them really enjoyed it (and successfully finished the whole hour). I played through the hour of code myself just to see what the deal was before I bothered calling them over and I was definitely impressed. I’m not a programmer and I’ve tried tutorials like this before and found them massively confusing. If I can’t figure it out, what are the odds that my six year old can?

These were simple enough starting out that anyone could jump in – and perhaps most importantly, the tutorials actually TELL YOU what to do instead of just dumping you into the program and saying “Good luck!”  So I was really excited to hand the reigns over to the kids and even more excited when they totally got it and then clamored over whose turn it was to go next. I’m planning to let them try out some of the other tutorials soon.

The coding in these tutorials is drag and drop but after each puzzle it lets you view the actual code that you’ve “written”, giving the user a peek into both the front end and back end of coding. Hour of Code is clearly becoming popular – even the president has logged on!

 

Weekly Geekly: 9.04.15

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How is it September already? Though it still definitely feels like summer outside (hot and muggy? check) – the kids are back in school, pumpkin spiced everything is starting to roll out in cafes and my grocery store just put out Halloween candy. It’s official – Winter Fall is coming. Whether this is exciting or disappointing, let’s distract ourselves with these geeky links:

Nerds Rejoice – Pottery Barn has joined the dork side with a pretty amazing Star Wars themed toddler bed.

Polaroid is finally releasing the update on their classic that we can all get behind, a kind of Polaroid 2.0.

Who wants to go on a vacation to Westeros with me?

Loved this video of the Top 10 Games for Couples – what do you and your significant other like to play?

Have you purchased from Better World Books before? I ordered three books from them after reading this post at Stay Bookish and the books just arrived in great condition, shipped for free for a good cause – it doesn’t get better than that!

What do you think about the latest Harry Potter fan theory regarding Draco?

This geeky birth announcement was kind of amazing.

Have a great weekend guys!

What I’m Into (July 2015)

I’m linking up with Leigh Kramer to share some of the things I’ve been into this month. This is a great opportunity to fangirl all over the place about what you’ve been reading, watching, listening to – or to give said things a harsh critique when necessary. Here’s how the month shook out for me.

Reading

Right now I’m reading three different books which is actually kind of rare for me as I don’t usually like to divide myself between stories. It tends to make me feel like I’m not really reading anything – but with Kindles and Kindle smartphone apps, I’ve gotten more into the habit – especially when I’m trying to finish a book club book in a certain amount of time and find myself starting before I’ve finished my last read.

All that said, I’m currently reading Looking for Alaska by John Green (on my kindle, for funsies if you can call it that), The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown (which I nominated for our book club so luckily I’m enjoying it) and The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo (whose last name isn’t a color unfortunately because that would make this list way more magical).

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  1. LIKED Goddess Interrupted (book 2) by Aimee CarterFinished July 3, 2015 – It took me a little while to ease back into the world of this story, just as it took the main character awhile to ease back into being in the Underworld with all the gods. This story quickly becomes action packed though and will have you on the seat of your pants waiting to see how it all turns out – and then ends on a major cliff hanger!
  2. REALLY LIKED The Geography of You and Me By Jennifer E. SmithFinished July 6, 2015 – This book was giving me a serious case of wanderlust in addition to being a really sweet, YA love story. I loved the main characters of this book, they were very easy for me to relate to and to root for and I loved all the descriptions of the places each character traveled to and their thoughts and musings throughout.
  3. LIKED The Goddess Inheritance (book 3) by Aimee CarterFinished July 10, 2015 – Everything has finally come to a head as we start book 3 and the book continues at a suspenseful pace. I was truly on the edge of my seat to see how everything would work out for the various characters. I thought it was all pulled together brilliantly.
  4. REALLY LIKED Normally, This Would be Cause for Concern: Tales of Calamity and Unrelenting Awkwardness by Danielle FishelFinished July 23, 2015 – I was a major Boy Meets World fan growing up and I loved getting to know the girl behind Topanga. Danielle is very funny and had a lot of good stories to tell, but I also loved that she seems to have remained pretty down to earth all told. I like to imagine that we’d be total BFFs if we ever met.

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Watching

The-IT-Crowd-the-it-crowd-24356450-859-1024Has anyone else ever watched The IT Crowd? We just discovered it on Netflix this month and were sucked in immediately. It probably helps that I am a nerd who was raised by a nerd and then married a nerd. And it certainly doesn’t hurt that it’s a British show which is somehow a merit of huge significance for me – most of my favorite shows are British shows. But it’s also just plain hilarious. In less than a week, this show completely permeated our lives and we find ourselves quoting it constantly.

We also finally started watching Game of Thrones thanks to an awesome friend who loaned me the first two seasons on DVD so eventually I’m going to be totally in on all the jokes and references and I’ll finally be cool!! Except by then, there will be another Must Watch It Show that everyone will be watching – on that one channel that we don’t get – and I’ll have to start all over again. ::sigh::

I went to see a stage production of Pride and Prejudice at my favorite outdoor theater this month with some of my favorite friends. It was pretty hot out and the giant walk up a small hill continues to make me question my love for said theater but then the show started and I remembered – ohhhh right. The Cast. The cast is just so brilliant, the shows so well done. And being one of my all time favorite stories definitely didn’t hurt. My favorite actor in the theater, Marcus Truschinski, was cast as Darcy and we momentarily worried “Can he pull of Darcy? Isn’t he too silly?” But he was ah-mazing. Every time we leave this theater we seem to say, “This was the best play I’ve ever seen here.” And it continues to be true.

We’re going to see the Minions Movie tonight. Has anyone else seen it yet? I assume it’s going to be amazing.

Listening to

We were on a road trip for two weeks so most of the music we were listening to was the same songs that we listened to on loop last year. Lots of John Mayer, Matchbox 20, Aerosmith, Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles. My husband got me a tape deck adapter so that my car can join the 21st century music-wise and we were able to plug our phones into the stereo and listen to our playlists through the car speakers instead of the tinny little things built into the phones that are apparently totally unacceptable to my husband’s ears. One day I’ll have a blue tooth adapter in my car (probably never this car) and we can say goodbye to those cables, but for now I’m pretty thrilled with the new set up.

Playing

We learned how to play Pitch this month with my in laws and it might be my new favorite card game. The downside is we need more than just myself and my husband to play, so who’s coming over tonight?

We also played a lot of Munchkin which my husband loves and I tolerate and a tiny bit of We Didn’t Playtest This At All which I thought was terrific and my husband was meh about. Between the two of us, we love a lot of games – but finding the right balance to make both of us ecstatic fans seems to be tough. I’d like to try either Pandemic or Zombie Dice next I think. Any opinions?

What have you been into lately?

jenloves

Weekly Geekly: 5.15.2015

Guys, has this week been long and draining for you, too? The closer we get to summer vacation, the harder the weeks seem to be – like oh my god, do I really have to pack your lunch again?? Luckily, that last day of school is quickly approaching AND it’s Friday AND I have the day off from work. So either I’m going to get a lot of chores done or Netflix is going to  get a lot of action today. But first…

Did you know you can explore Google Maps in LEGO form? (via Mental Floss)

OR: Find out how to become a better Dungeon Master before the next D&D night. (via The JK Vision)

Have you seen these 10 best spin off shows for TV nerds? (via Geek and Sundry)

I loved this article about how Amy Poehler is making herself uncomfortable. Also I love Amy Poehler. (via Fast Company)

Lev Grossman’s The Magicians is going to be a series on SyFy. Here are 11 things you should know and the exclusive trailer! (via BuzzFeed)

I’m reading the book now in preparation for the show – you can get a Kindle copy for $2.99 right now on Amazon!

What are you geeking out over this week?

jenloves

Currently.

Here’s what I’m currently…

Reading:

7826803Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel for my book club on Wednesday. I’m only 1/3 through the book so my odds of finishing on time are not looking great. It took me awhile to get into this one but after the first 100 pages or so it starts to pick up. I’m still not crazy about the narration and sometimes the subject matter borders on too heavy for night time reading.

On nights when I need something lighter, I’ve been picking up John Green; I’ve read a couple chapters of An Abundance of Katherines as well as Paper Towns but have made little progress with either as I really am trying to focus on the book club pick.

Watching:

We took the kids to see the new Cinderella and it was fantastic. I thought they did a good job of honoring the original but still bringing something new and untold to it. Lily James was an outstanding Cinderella and I loved Holliday Grainger and Cate Blanchett and Helena Bonham Carter and basically everybody. It was fun picking scenes out from the original Disney cartoon version and seeing them come to life and the twists and turns were wonderful. Funny, heartfelt, all the things.

literallyWe’re watching Season Seven of Parks and Rec on demand right now. The menu for U-Verse’s On Demand is horrendous but getting to binge watch for free without waiting for the season to make it’s way to Netflix is worth it. I’m a little misty eyed at the thought of the show just being over but my DVR is all like “hurry up, I’m running out of room while I wait for you to move on from this addiction.” So.

I rented Lucy and The Other Woman this weekend. My thoughts:

Lucy has a fascinating premise and of course Scar Jo is always fabulous and really the obvious choice for a “perfect woman” – I was impressed with her portrayal of a creepy intelligent super person as well as the nervous wreck normal girl she was at the beginning. And everyone loves Morgan Freeman and yes obviously he was terrific. But something about the story was almost too lofty to permeate. Like it didn’t really leave me feeling anything so much as observing.

The Other Woman is an absurd chick lit romp with Cameron Diaz at her finest and Leslie Mann and Kate Upton are also fantastic. For any girl who has ever been the other woman or found out about the other woman or who can simply commiserate based on being a human being with feelings – this one is funny, touching, inspiring, silly, smart, ridiculous. I’m not saying it was AMAZING but it was VERY GOOD. I’m not sure if your male significant others will appreciate it – maybe save it for a girls night so you can enjoy it without them.

Eating:

20150227_203126I made apricot baked french toast using a recipe from Sheet Pan Suppers by Molly Gilbert. Being a family of four, there was more than enough for one meal. I thought it came out pretty good but I think I poured the milk a little too heavily.

We were on vacation for most of last week and found ourselves eating out a lot and eating a lot of convenience junk and amusement park food so our diets could use a bit of a cleanse right now. Also our refrigerator is filled to the brim with random leftovers, beverages and just random stuff so I am hesitant to buy any real food as I have nowhere to put it. I’m trying to turn all that random into meals so I can clear out space for healthy food.

Buying:

I broke down and designed new business cards on moo.com today – I’m terrifically pleased with the end result but assume that this means that some key piece of information about me is now going to change and render them unusable because that’s how this goes, right?

51rN7BEu4nLI just ordered book five of the Underland Chronicles for MM’s 9th birthday: Gregor and the Code of the Claw by Suzanne Collins. He is obsessed and fanboying all over the place and I couldn’t be prouder really.

MM has reached a new rite of passage. Last week we took him in for an eye exam and then bought his first pair of glasses. He’s still a little apprehensive about it but I’m just swooning over how adorable he looks in them. Damn right, my kids are rocking Ray Bans.

Researching:

41dFCedGRPLWe’re still seriously considering buying a color laser printer and saying good bye to our ink jet. My husband didn’t really “get” why I was so angsty towards it and agreed to sit and look at it and maybe fix the issues it was having. 30 minutes later I think he wanted to chuck it out the window, too.

Color laser printers are not all a great deal and there are a lot of different models and options out there, some more affordable than others. We’re currently leaning towards this one by Brother that seems to have decent PPM and has toner that gets an impressive yield. We’re still balking a little at the price but seeing how many pennies we can pinch together to make it happen. Because it isn’t an All in One, we’re considering either keeping the ink jet as a copy machine / scanner or maybe getting something like this. Or none of these things. You know.

What are you into right now?

jenloves