Apps and Accessories for at Home Work & Play

Education, Fitness, how to, journal, Organization, productivity, Technology, tips and tricks, Uncategorized, writing

So…honestly, didn’t see this coming. Social distancing. Distance learning. I notice a theme here. And, as more people move to self quarantine status here are a few apps and accessories I’ve found to help.

Apps

Zoom: Video Conferencing

Looks like Zoom is going to take the top spot for online discourse. Zoom is offering free upgrades to teachers with their employee email address. I met with my students yesterday online for the first time and it went well. Easy to see everyone, the ability to show your screen (very helpful for my yearbook meeting), and record your session.

Libby by OverDrive

Libby is the official library app. Think of Netflix for books and audiobooks, only free. You use your library card to sign up and you have unlimited books at your fingertips. Read right within the app or send to your Kindle device.

Scribed

A little pricey (roughly $100 a year) but the books and audiobooks are new releases. Best sellers. Honestly, one of the best investments I’ve ever made. If you’re a book person, you need this service and, it’s less expensive than Kindle Unlimited which has a more limited number of contemporary texts. You can try the service out for, I believe 30 days, free of charge. It’s worth checking out.

Journal App: Day One or Dyrii

Both Day One and Dyrii offer on the go digital journaling. Why digital journals? I believe the biggest benefit to a digital journal during this time in history is the ability to add photos and link news reports. Also, they claim people won’t be able to read cursive handwriting in the future, although both offer handwritten pages using your iPad and an Apple Pencil. Day One backs up an encrypted version of your data on their own servers while Dyrii uses your Apple account to sync entrees (in case that makes a difference to you).

Workout App of Your Choice

Fitness is still important. Just because the pool is closed doesn’t mean I’m ok with losing my bikini body. Besides, cardiovascular health is important for everyone. Daily Burn and Beachbody have both opened their digital library and YouTube has some great options as well (I’d recommend anything from Tracy Anderson). I, personally, hate, hate, hate, Beachbody videos, they make me cringe, but they offer the most variety. Daily Burn isn’t quite so bad. If anyone is interested, I could put together a list of good videos for people who are looking to maintain their fitness (no beginner stuff) with videos which aren’t too cheesy (You can do this! You’re a superhero! 🤢 🤮 I just can’t. Clearly, I’m NOT a superhero).

Bear Notes

I know, I just wrote about them, but it’s worth another mention. Right now, I simply need a way to dump thoughts, write out the agenda for all my classes, etc. Calendar apps aren’t really working for that at the moment. I love the fact that I can add more than one tag to notes. I can find notes easily through the tagging system. I enjoy the multiple themes and different header options. Maybe I’ve just tweaked it into what I need it to be, but it’s still worth a look, especially since so many people are working from home.

ACCESSORIES

Otter + Pop

The Otterbox PopSockets duo. Normally, I’m not down with large phone cases, but since all the Apple Stores are closed I can’t exactly afford to have my phone damaged. Otterbox continues to be one of the (if not THE most) protective case on the market. And, to give them credit, they’ve slimmed down their cases over the years. It’s still my largest case, but not as bad as the Otterboxs of years ago. PopSockets, that’s a no brainer. With all the video chats, streaming workouts, and books you’ll be reading it’s nice to have a grip on your phone. One of the things I really like about the PopSocket on this case is that it’s slightly recessed, making it lay a bit more flush with the back of the case and it’s still an interchangeable pop grip. Right now I’m sporting an interesting combo of a case featuring lemons and a tortoise shell PopSocket. It works.

AirPods

Seriously, you need AirPods. I use them for workouts, video chats, regular phone calls. Everything. These things make life easier. I find myself recording my phone screen a lot for my students, they work with the MAC as well. I’m not a music person (and my Dad is a musician, personal rebellion, I guess) as in, I don’t walk around listening to music. I’m a story girl. I always have an audiobook or podcast ready to go. Pretty sure if you’re a music person, these are even more important. If, for no other reason, these allow me to walk around my house hands free. Meaning I can talk to my parents about their latest computer problem while getting my daughter her chocolate milk, banana, paper, marker, doll, dress, stuffed animal, hair tie…she’s four. I get a lot of things.

Ring Light

There’s a reason movie studios have so many lights, we just look better a little flushed out. I know some people are sporting pajamas all day and going without makeup, but that is not me. Getting dressed, wearing makeup, creating a sense of normalcy helps me, I do these things for myself. The ring light? Ok, that might be a vanity thing, but seriously, you don’t want to look a mess on all those Zoom chats. Again, I can not be one of those people who uses an avatar in place of a real person.

Apple Pencil

If you have an iPad, Apple Pencil is a must. Sometimes I feel the need to write things down. I can do that, within Bear Notes, with an Apple Pencil. The best native writing experience comes with the Noteshelf2 app. I have found myself writing in Noteshelf and then adding those notes to Bear. Again, it’s a weird walk around which works for me despite the fact those notes are editable once they’ve been deposited into my Bear note. I very rarely, if ever, edit a handwritten note.

UBeesize Tripod

Under $20 on Amazon, the UBeesize works with both cell phones and cameras. Not that anyone if vlogging during all of this. Please tell me no on is vlogging during all of this. The best thing about this tripod is that the feet bend. You an even wrap it around furniture so you’re finding at the perfect height. The only downside is that it doesn’t really work with the Otterbox case.

#blogpost

Take Note

Education, journal, Organization, productivity, Technology, tips and tricks, to do list, writing

Having a good note taking app is a must. Three things I believe every successful person should have on their phones: a calendar app, notes, and an e-reader. Successful individuals show up on time and plan their schedules accordingly, pay attention, write things down, and read. I also think they dress to reflect current trends and styles to look the part, but that’s a whole other issue.

Finding the perfect notes app for me has been a journey, but I believe I finally have it down. For the longest time I was a devotee of Evernote. I’ve presented at many conferences on the benefits of Evernote. But in 2017 there was some ambiguity as to the privacy of your content. At first, Evernote employees could access your notes in an effort to improve functionality. Then, after a shockingly unforeseen outcry (seriously, they didn’t see that coming?) Evernote had to retract the policy and currently claims that notes will only be accessed by employees with your express permission. The whole thing left me cold. Will or won’t, they still CAN, and that bothers me. Privacy is an issue for me. Ever since a teacher reported me for a photo I had posted on Twitter (jealous) I’ve become more guarded. I have photos on my phone from my modeling days, nothing I would consider inappropriate, but that isn’t the point, someone else did, they reported it and even though I didn’t get in “trouble” it was enough to make me stop and think. I don’t want someone getting ahold of those photos and twisting something that was fun and exciting, something I’m proud of (because honestly, how many 5’2” models were out there before Instagram?) and turning into something dirty. So for this reason, the Apple ID for my personal devices and the Apple ID for my professional devices are two totally different things. I added my work computer to my family share account so that I don’t have to pay for apps twice but those apps don’t sync up. That means, in order to be considered a top contender in my eyes, notes have to be accessible across devices and platforms. This leaves me with three options: Evernote, OneNote, and Apple Notes. Bear Notes & Noteability are excellent apps, but I can’t sync them, at lest not with the methods I’m using.

Mar 14, 2020

And then…the world of education changed. All of a sudden, I’m working from home. And it became more about ME and less about my institution. I really just needed a place to dump my thoughts. And Bear notes all of a sudden came to the top of the list. Why?

• The interface is clean and free of distraction.

• I can add multiple tags such as agenda (for the week) and assignments. After all, this could be the new face of education for awhile.

• Interlinking Notes. HUGE. So easy for me to reference what my honors class was doing previously so I can build upon prior knowledge.

• Markdown. Period.

• Ability to use my Apple Pencil.

• Password protected notes.

And… basically, I just like it. In the end, it came down to what I like. THIS was my favorite note taking app.

Because I’m doing “distance learning” I’ll be posting a lot more blog posts and my YouTube channel will expand from bags (because honestly, my bag collection is super cute, check it out @CarolynNicole YouTube) to at home fitness, remote teaching, et al.

Three Reasons to Try Things 3

family, mom life, Organization, productivity, Technology, to do list

I’m not the most organized person. To look at me you’d never guess it, but I am a disorganized mess. So when something comes along which helps me categorize my life and prioritize my responsibilities it deserves a bit of praise. Enter Things 3.

Things has been around for awhile. I’m assuming somewhere along the way there was a Things 1 & 2 although I couldn’t swear to it. Things 3 is a task manager. Ok, it’s a to do list but it’s like the Chanel of to do lists: Elegant in its classic features, useful, and dependable. Here are the top three reasons I think you should check out Things 3 (three reasons, Things 3, get it?)

1. You Can Turn Emails Into Actions:

This is a must for me. You can take items from your inbox and send them to your Things list, add tags, give them due dates and even add sub tasks. This is probably the feature which is most important to me. For example my SAG-AFTRA dues are up for renewal. I know I have to take care of that this weekend but in the event that it was going to slip my mind, I’ll get a friendly reminder along with the original email and all the information I need to take care of that online. My Dad sent an email weeks ago regarding his Christmas card order (can’t be too early with that) which I safely filed away for a more reasonable date in November.

2. Calendar Integration:

I’m obsessed with planners. I have one app I use for my monthly view and one I use for a daily agenda and a paper agenda. It’s extra. But seeing my schedule one more place doesn’t hurt.

3. Project Completion Circle:

Ok, not sure that’s the technical term, but that’s pretty much what it is. You can create a project with a sub list. As you complete each step necessary to achieve your overall goal, a part of the circle closes. I can’t tell you how much this motivates me.

A Few Issues:

  • Things 3 does come at a cost, so if you’re only into free apps, this one isn’t recommended. Try Wunderlist.

You also have to purchase apps for each of your devices. Apple devices specifically, Androids you’re out of luck. In my defense, I did call this the Chanel of apps, and Chanel does not come cheap and it is not for everyone.

  • Things 3 can’t support photos. Sometimes I need to take a photo, usually a handout from a staff meeting (yeah, they still use paper). Or, I’d like to attach a screenshot for reference. I recently picked up three freelance jobs (well, two, one ended before it started and was one of the oddest experiences) and screenshots would’ve helped.

If you’re serious about managing your time and you’re willing to spend some money to make your life easier, try Things 3.

The iPad is on Life Support…

Education, Organization, productivity, Technology, writing

and the Apple Pencil is the only thing keeping it alive.

I’m one of the recent adopters of the iPhone xs Max. No, I don’t find the screen size sexist (how can you even suggest that with a straight face?) and I’m probably one of the smallest women you’ll ever meet. There’s nothing better than a tiny person with a giant phone. So the phone is larger than my face, that’s what AirPods are for. I love the screen size since I do the majority of my work on my phone.

The thing is, my employer provides me with an iPad Pro and, of course, I had to go out and get the Apple Pencil. I try to use my iPad at work and it is handy to grade papers on. Honestly, both Schoology and Turnitin have greater functionality on handheld devices than they do from the desktop because they know teachers live in a tumultuous world and not tethered to their desks as movies continually portray them (I also dress better than any fictional teacher, but I’ll save that rant for another time). The other day I was giving a presentation on the power of a good thesis statement when my iPad made the executive decision to stop playing keynote. It was my last class and I couldn’t break my stride so I unplugged the iPad and quickly plugged in the iPhone Max. Ironically, I created the presentation on my new phone because I find it more convenient to type on a phone than an iPad without a keyboard any day.

The Max worked perfectly. And, since it is smaller than the iPad I found it easier to walk around while holding the device (yes, a Bluetooth clicker would solve this). The thing is: I created the presentation on the phone, I ended up giving the presentation on the phone, I compose email on the phone, create YouTube videos, even write this. So what do I need an iPad for? The only functionality the iPad has over the device in my hands is the Apple Pencil. The ability to write on my slides as I speak, the ability to annotate texts and grade essays with handwritten comments. That’s it.

Therefore, is the Apple Pencil the only thing keeping the iPad alive? If Apple did release an update to allow for the use of the Apple Pencil on the iPhone Max, would anyone have a use for iPads anymore? How do you use your iPad? Perhaps there’s something I’m missing or should we prepare a eulogy and clear a space in the junk drawer next to our Palm Pilots?

A Case for Cards

fashion, Organization, Technology

When I think about subjects to write about, I think to myself, what’s important to me or what makes my life easier? One of the more difficult aspects of taking on freelance jobs is that the subject matter is often assigned to me (and my students think I don’t understand their struggle) so although I’ve been given the opportunity to try a product or service out, it’s usually something I’ve only had for a limited time. Here I have space to expand upon things which I actually use and rely on regularly. Which is why I want to talk about phone cases with card slots. Honestly, it’s not something I ever thought I’d use, and yet, since purchasing one last year it has proven to be one of the handiest accessories I own.

My current love is the Wally case from Ullu, which is an investment. I started off with a cheap non label case I found on Amazon for $12 in a beautiful red alligator print…pretty sure it wasn’t real alligator. Once I was able to see how useful the case was I upped my game to the 12 South relaxed leather case (with pockets) and finally, since I didn’t splurge on a new iPhone this year, I went for the ullu, which I think is one of the most beautiful and well designed card holder cases on the market.

I don’t actually use the case as a full time wallet, my cards only reside there when I need easy access or I have limited space. Here are the situations where I find the case to be the most useful:

1. Taking My Daughter to the Doctor:

Sick babies are not fun. Colicky, fussy, sick babies are the worst. You’ve got the baby and the diaper bag, sometimes the stroller, she’s screaming and the front desk needs to see your medical card, her medical card, your ID & you have to pay the copay. My daughter had several digestive issues as an infant and a card case just made my life so much easier. Everything is all laid out on the back of your phone, phone goes in and out of your pocket with ease, no digging through your bag. You can hand the receptionist your cards all while texting your worried husband that you arrived safely. I assume that this would also come in handy at a place like an amusement park (I’m not a big amusement park fan) or anywhere you have some kind of “pass”.

2. Tiny Clutch Bags:

Gentleman, this is probably not an issue for you, or maybe it is, who am I to judge. I don’t need to transfer my stuff to a smaller wallet and then back again. I just add what cards I need to my phone case and go. The next day, I can just put my phone back in my big bag and transfer the cards back into my wallet when I get the chance (which is actually kind of funny, because I don’t carry a wallet, I’ll write more about that later).

3. Travel Time:

I’m notorious for losing hotel keys. Now when I travel I just stick them in the back of my phone. Easy to grab and go to the pool or the vending machine. I’ve never had an issue with the phone demagnetizing the cards. Same for ticket stubs and coupons you’d otherwise forget.

The Argument for a Digital Diary

journal, Organization, productivity, Technology, writing

I’ve been an avid journal writer for most of my life. I think it’s the narcissist in me, the same one who thought it was a good idea to try my hand at Hollywood, this thought that someday someone would care enough to read what I had written. It started in the 5th grade with a Scholastic Book Fair “diary” blue with pink hearts which by high school was a legit Laura Palmer type with a real lock and tiny keys. The diaries of my formative years are an open letter of who wronged me, who talked about me (who I was talking about, secret crushes and who attended what party.

Writing took on a whole new meaning in college when I moved away from home and everything I knew. No longer was I writing for an imaginary audience. As I struggled to find myself I wrote solely to sort out my ideas and feelings. To figure out where my place was in this world.

I never stopped. My career, my marriage, the deaths of loved ones, the birth of my child, successes, and some really dark times have all be recorded.

In 2010 I began using a digital journal on my Blackberry. In 2011 I switched to the iPhone and started using the Day One App. At first I was skeptical about digital journaling (and I’ll admit there’s a less comprehensive, yet Louis Vuitton, journal on my bedside table). There is something about putting pen to paper and leaving something behind for the next generation. I have my grandmother’s diary from 1915 and it’s an exquisite piece of history. There’s something to be said about expressing yourself using your own unique handwriting. If there’s one thing I can say about myself it’s that I have beautiful handwriting probably from all those years of journal writing. So I understand the argument for keeping your memories in a book,but here are some reasons to consider for either switching to a digital platform or keeping a digital journal in conjunction with a handwritten diary.

1. A digital journal is always with you: Life is busy. We’re constantly on the go. It’s not reasonable nor plausible that you’d have your paper journal with you everywhere. If you’re in the habit of writing things down as a way of catharsis than it’s beneficial to have that means to express yourself with you at all times. I once lived in a hotel for a month and there was no way I was leaving a traditional paper journal in my room.

2. A digital journal is more secure: If you choose one of the many popular journaling apps such as Day One, Wonderful Days or even Evernote, you can add a passcode or fingerprint lock to secure your writing. Day One even offers encryption as an added safeguard. The chances of someone “finding” your journal and gaining access are minimal.

3. It is a lot easier to add photos to your writing: Do places even develop photos anymore? I love being able to add photos to my entries, especially as I watch my daughter grow.

4. Unlimited space: My journal currently encompasses almost 8 years of memories. I’m saving space by not having all those books cluttering up my closet AND it’s much easier to return to my writing and read past entries, something I rarely do with my previous journals.

5. Writing becomes more organized: I can have multiple journals and tag entries according to subjects or yearly events.

I understand that some people may be worried about trusting “the cloud”. What if the internet goes down? What if the company (app) goes out of business? Those are legitimate concerns. I regularly export my journal as a PDF and save it on a removable hard drive. I have a friend who chooses select entries monthly, prints them out, and adheres them to a scrapbook.

A journal is a personal thing and it isn’t my place to tell anyone how to record their memories but if you’ve never considered a digital journal I hope I’ve offered viable reasons to give it a try. Below are my top three picks to start your mobile writing journey.

Day One

My Wonderful Days

Evernote

Staying Organized in 2018

Organization, productivity, Technology

The holidays are over, 2018 is here, and it’s time to

get organized. Most of us are back to work trying to juggle our professional and personal lives while maintaining our sanity. It’s no wonder some form of productivity tops the list of New Year’s resolutions. The thing is, keeping your life together is more about finding a system as opposed to finding a one stop solution. Here are the five things I use daily (and in conjunction with one another) to stay organized.

I don’t believe in keeping my tasks for home vs. work separate, on a technicality I have three jobs, I don’t want to look at three calendars. I need to see the monstrosity of my day in its entirety. I also prefer a month view over a weekly or daily display, which is again a preference that can be augmented.

Step 1: The Calendars

Erin Condren Monthly View Planner

This is your basic spiral bound monthly planner with extra notebook pages added to the back. The thing I like most about Erin Condren’s line is it’s customizable. This one is large, so it stays parked in one place most of the time (usually my desk at school) but it comes home for the holidays or anytime I have to attend a district meeting. I like being able to come into work and getting that instant visual on what’s coming up. I have extra notebook pages added to the end so that I can take notes on a larger scale tablet and later digitize them if I feel they’re worth keeping. Erin Condren planners can be ordered with daily or weekly agendas as well, you can add stickers, or other accessories, they even have one specifically for teachers (which doesn’t work for me AT ALL, ironically). I have mine customized with my initials and my daughter’s photo. The Louis Vuitton stickers were added later 😜.

Awesome Calendar

This was one of the apps I mentioned in my best of 2017 post. Obviously you need a digital calendar (maybe I shouldn’t say obviously, my parents haven’t jumped on the digital bandwagon yet but they’re close to 80). Digital calendars are just so practical. I started with a Palm m100 (anyone remember those? Am I that old?) when I was doing the acting thing full time and working as an assistant to a producer over at Hollywood Center Studios. My life was crazy because my day never looked the same twice and things were constantly changing. The benefits of a digital calendar is the unlimited space for not just events but notes, directions, and photos as well. We’ve come a long way since those Palm days. I know every phone comes with a calendar app and Google makes a great (free) calendar alternative so why spend $10 on another calendar? Again, it’s about finding what works for you. I like being able to add personal photos as the background to my months. I feel that entering events is intuitive. You can look back on events 5 years in the past or look at your photo calendar (all the photos you’ve taken on a specific day). There’s even a Filofax mode in case you need a bit of nostalgia.

Step 2: My Note Takers

Again, I have a digital and paper version of notebooks to simplify my life. Most of the time I have a Field Notes notebook with me, they’re small, light, and fit in even the smallest of bags. Physical notebooks come in handy if your on the phone and need to write things down,as well as certain meeting situations. I hate carrying my laptop around & I don’t always have my iPad either. Some people don’t understand taking notes on a phone (they automatically think you’re texting) so having a tiny, lightweight notebook keeps you looking professional while capturing your ideas. And you can doodle, come on people, don’t act like you don’t love to draw. On a side note, a small notebook & a highlighter are a great way to entertain a fussy toddler in an emergency.

The final resting place for all my notes is Evernote, my digital notebook. Evernote has been my modern TrapperKeeper for almost a decade. Physical notebooks are great but once they’re full they’re relegated to a desk drawer never to be visited again. I avoid losing handwritten ideas by transferring them to Evernote along with news articles, business cards, photos, and import emails. Everything gets tagged and added to the appropriate notebook. I rarely use it, but voice notes can added as well.

Headphones:

The productivity tool everyone forgets about…until they forget them. 2017 was the year of the video call. Front facing cameras may have improved but microphones could still use some work. LHeadphones help you stay focused and in the conversation. Headphones also give you a hands free option for regular phone calls & voice memos.