Apps to Write Home About

By: Leah Prescott

I have joked for years that I was the last person in North America to still use a flip phone. I am happy to announce that I have finally moved into this millennium with a much anticipated iPhone 5S. Because it was so long coming (thanks to cell phone contracts that last longer than a Carolina summer and my continual outrage at the price of data plans) I had a lot of time to anticipate the upgrade. I was determined to use my new phone for good, and not for evil. By that I mean for healthy meal planning and listening to edifying podcasts rather than just playing Candy Crush non-stop. So although it is new to me, I wanted to share some of my favorite apps that you might want to download as well. With the exception of DragonBox, all of these Apps are free!

Kindle & Overdrive Apps: I am listing these together because they go hand in hand with Richland County Public Library’s digital lending library. (Shout out to the Broad River Road location….my whole family loves the staff there!) I don’t think I have ever paid for a digital book, but both my husband and I download digital content using the Kindle or Kindle app all the time. I prefer the Kindle for reading; however the iPad or iPhone is great in a pinch, My Fitness Palfabulous for reading on the go, or for reading in the dark when I am trying not to wake the most finicky sleeper in the world, my two-year-old son. Remember, there is also lots of FREE content available on Amazon too. Have you noticed I am all about free?

MyFitnessPal: There are many Apps out there for calorie counting and meeting your fitness goals, but this is the best one I have seen. It combines easy record keeping (you can even scan barcodes for instant info) with the fun of social media. Having the chance to connect with others and give and receive advice is what helps me stay on track when I am focusing on a weight-loss goal. If you want an App to make staying healthy fun and simple, this should be your first stop.

Our Daily Bread: This is a new App for me that I am very excited about. Our Daily Bread is a well-known devotional that gives simple yet powerful selections of Scriptures with a short message for each day of the year. This App combines Our Daily Bread’s classic format with “live” links to the passages for each day. Each Scripture link takes you directly to Bible Gateway where you can choose to read the applicable section in your choice of translations, giving you the chance to really delve into the message with deeper understanding.

PBS Kids: This is a cute little app that allows the child to choose from various PBS Kids Television clips. The sidebar displays buttons with different characters including Martha Speaks, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, Curious George and, my two-year-old’s favorite, Caillou. The clips aren’t full episodes (thank goodness), but short snippets that can be navigated using a simple kid-friendly control panel at the bottom. When I need a few minutes to get my older two started on a homeschool assignment, this is very fun for my two-year-old without giving him a full 30 minutes of screen time. Hooray!

SkyviewSkyView Free: I stumbled across this App by chance when I was desperately trying to locate the Big Dipper with my 2nd Graders for an assignment. This App makes stargazing impossibly easy by highlighting the constellations and labeling them right on the screen. I felt a bit like I was cheating but at least we found the stars! As I told the girls, sometimes it’s ok to get a little extra help when you have tried your best and it is already way past your bedtime.

Read It NowiReaditNow: This is a very simple App, but it serves its purpose beautifully. I haven’t fully explored it but it’s a quick and easy way to record and store a Book List. I like to keep track of the books my kids read each month and this makes it easy. You scan the barcode on the cover, and more often than not, all the info pops right up onto the screen. This is making it much easier for us to track our reading and to easily reference favorite titles and authors that may have made their way back to the shelves of the Library.

DragonBox: As a homeschooler, I’ve downloaded quite a few “educational” Apps and been disappointed in them for the most part. However, DragonBox is one of the few paid Apps we have and it has absolutely blown me away. Appropriate for children age five and up, DragonBox is a true “Edutainment” application that teaches Algebra through games. I have seen it happen before my very eyes; my seven-year-olds are doing Algebra, plain and simple. I could not be more impressed with this App and unlike many of the others we have tried, the kids LOVE it. ‘Nuff said.

Honorable mention goes to: Spotify for Music and Audiobooks, SkinDeep to check the contents of cosmetics with the swipe of a barcode, Cartwheel for hidden savings at Target, and Common Sense Media to help guide you in making safe viewing choices for your family. On my list to explore are FlyLady, Shazam and Spelling City. Now if there was just an App to keep me from misplacing my phone, I’d be good to go.

Do you have any recommendations to share? Leave me a comment with your favorites!

Super Cool Apps

By: Shannon Shull

iPhoneOk, so I’ve written a blog entry about yummy apps to eat, now I’m writing to chat about fun apps (this time meaning technical applications for our new age gadgets) to play with.  Since getting an iPhone, I seriously feel like I’ve finally joined the tech savvy age. Every week I learn something new and super-cool that I can do on this phone. It really blows my mind!

I don’t get into all the games. My kids love Mindcraft, Bearville and Temple Run, just to name a few. We like to play with the apps Action Movie and Voice Plus. And I love my Pandora and iHeartRadio apps! But, recently one of my middle school students showed me an app called iMovie.   I have always wanted to be able to edit videos. Back in the day, I tried to figure out how to use a few different editing programs on my computer and just could never figure it out.  If these middle school kids can master it so easily, I thought, “Surely I can swing it!” I cannot believe how easy the program is! I absolutely love it. My kids and I have had a blast creating movies with this super-cool app.  Below are two of the recent movie trailers we created using iMovie – one to commemorate the visit with our Elf on the Shelf and one featuring my rascal pup named Monte. If you have an iPhone, play away and take advantage of all these cool apps – especially the ones that help you create video and voice recordings that you can treasure forever.

Latest Obsession: Photo-A-Day

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

Mary Pat Baldauf

This month, I started playing a cool “game” with my iPhone: Photo-A-Day.

It works like this. Each month, you get a list of daily prompts. All you have to do is use any camera you have — iPhone, Smartphone, Digital, — and use the daily prompt as inspiration. You then share the photo using your favorite social media platforms, i.e. Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Flickr, Tumblr.

You can Google “picture a day challenge” and find any number of challenges. I’m doing FatMumSlim’s Photo-a-Day Challenge because 1) it’s the one that a lot of my friends are using, and 2) I like her style. (Click here for a great article about FatMumSlim blogger Chantelle Elam and her Photo-A-Day challenge.)

FatMumSlim gives five ways photo-a-day will change your life for the better, but here’s why I’m doing it:

It Expands My Horizons.  Seeing Photo-A-Day shots from friends gives me insight into who they are, what they are doing and how they see the world. It also exposes me to things I might not otherwise see or know about, such as a beautiful flower or a new camera app.

It’s a Great Way to Document My Life, Day by Day.  I blog, but my blog isn’t really a journal in the true sense of the word.  And who has time to scrapbook anymore?  I have a nice camera, but I usually just use my iPhone to capture every day moments.  I post a lot of them to Instagram anyway, so it’s a no-brainer.  Once I post my “Photo-A-Day” picture, I also save it in a monthly “Photo-a-Day” folder I’ve created on my iPhone.  I think it will be neat to go back at the end of a month, even the end of the year, and see my month in photos.

It’s Plain Out Fun.  I love the challenge of illustrating the daily prompt. It helps me think outside of the box and gives me an opportunity to express myself.  It also forces me to slow down from the daily grind and take time to think about something besides work and my daily to-do list.

Sound interesting? Visit FatMumSlim and get started today. You can get some practice with the remaining days in July and start your first full month in August. Let me know how you like it!  Already do a monthly photo challenge?  Please share your experiences!