Somedays, when I am sitting on my bed with my laptop sitting in front of me with my phone to my left while typing on my iPad, I wonder what did we even do before all of this technology. I remember the day we got internet in our house. I was 10 years old. It wouldn’t be for several more years that I would get my own cell phone (which only had the capability to make phone calls and play endless games of snake). There was no such thing as an app, or a blog, or even social media at its most rudimentary level. Now, I am rarely out of arms reach of my three major devices, all of which can pretty much do the same things. Yet I can’t seem to imagine my life with out any one of them. It is not the devices themselves that I love so much, despite what Apple may believe. It is the apps, the website, the email lists that I can’t seem to manage without.
This week, I talked to my regular group of ladies and asked them what were the digital gems that they could not live without. And now I am going to provide you with a combined list of our favorites.
iCal/Google Calendar – These two are pretty much the same, in my opinion. Both have their benefits, but now that you can sync them, it doesn’t really matter which you use. I love the color coded calendars. I have several going at all times, but I also love that you can turn them off when you don’t need that one anymore. This is especially beneficial for those of us who freelance short term gigs or work multiple jobs. Each show I work on can have it’s own colored calendar. From a visual standpoint, I can look at the week and see, based on the colors alone, what the week will entail. I could not function without this. I am sure iCal can also do this, but if I include the location of the next event in my calendar, Google will alert me when I need to leave and will use Google Maps to estimate my drive time based on traffic patterns. Greatest thing ever.
Outlook – I have to admit, I have not used Outlook in many years, but based on some of the lists I got, I should check it out again. It can combine your many emails into one place and has a corresponding calendar.
Google Drive/Dropbox – These two are also very similar. It is a great way of sharing files that are two big for email. You upload your file and invite whoever to view the file (or an entire folder of files). It is how I shared my thesis with my committee, how I sent my portfolio in for a job application, how I was able to share research images for a production where the designers were all in different time zones. If you are passing files back and forth, there is not better way I have found.
Evernote – This is a program I have been meaning to check out for years, but have never quite gotten onboard. I think because I am not really sure what all it can do. From what I hear it is a great way to take notes, incorporate images and links, and share these notes with others. I will have to check into that because in my field that sounds pretty invaluable. I have similar apps, but I cannot share the notes, so this may shortly become my go to.
Waze – Waze is a Social Networking Navigation app. Basically, it is a navigation app where other people using the app can alert nearby drivers about cops or construction or whatnot. It is a pretty cool app, though once Google Maps got an app for iPhone, I stopped using Waze. Mostly because other drivers can chat with you and I got tired of getting messages from strangers asking “Where U at?”…
Mint – The essential budgeting app. The app keeps all of your financial info and helps keep you on budget. It’s great and as one person put it “provides you with reports letting you know that you have a shopping/eating problem.” It can be a “judgy app,” but from what I can tell, it is in that “I am your best friend and I feel like you need to know you do not need another bag…” kind of way.
Songza – Songza is an app (also website) that is similar to Pandora, but I like it so much better. The playlists are more on point and it will select playlist options for you based on the time of day, your current activity, or mood. It is free, there is occasionally one commercial when you first open the app, but otherwise it will play endlessly commercial free and songs you want to hear.
OverDrive – This is an app that connects to your library account an allows you to check out e-books and audiobooks from your local library from wherever you are. I read a lot, but don’t necessarily feel the need to own every book I read. Not every one is an instant classic… I cannot always get to the library to check out or return a book, this app automatically deletes the item when it is due back (though you can renew just like a regular library book). No late charges, no guilt when you have had a wait listed book for over your limit. If you have a long commute, or travel a lot, this is a must have app.
Duolingo – This app is a game with the added benefit of teaching you a new language. It gives you a goal to hit everyday and makes you review sections from previous lessons to keep everything fresh in your mind. And yes, I really do feel the benefits. I feel like I speak better French now (in the last few months) than when I graduated from high school and had been studying it for five consecutive years…
Food Babe: I’ve got to be honest. This website is horrifying. It was recommended to me and I cringe even going to it, but it is good information that we all should be aware of. This woman basically finds out what is really going into the food that we eat everyday and telling you why you should not eat it, or basically anything ever again. The benefit being that if there is something you wish you could stop eating, read her “investigation” and you will probably be disgusted by the food forever. On the other hand, her breakdown of what is exactly in a Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte, will probably not deter most of us.
the small things blog: This is a great blog full of hair tutorials and beauty tips. There is also a lot of her talking about her child, but because she is entertaining, it is not so bad. The tutorials are awesome and her tips are solid. The woman who writes the blog used to own her own hair studio, so she knows what she is talking about.
The Kitchn: A great site for really good recipes and other articles about everything related to the kitchen. The recipes are solid and the food is just really good in every sense of the word.
TVLine: This is hands down my favorite blog. When it comes to TV news and Spoilers, this is the place to go. As a longtime reader of Entertainment Weekly (like been subscribing for the past 10 years), I recognize the name Michael Ausiello as the guy for entertainment news and I was devastated when he left EW and his column was no more. Thankfully he came to TVLine and I always have access to the latest TV news, and usually before anyone else.
Brain Pickings – A site I have not really gotten to dive into fully since it was recommended to me, but it seems like a pretty cool site about art and culture. My favorite thing so far is the Literary Jukebox which pairs classic literature with a song. It’s like two-for-one recommendations. Plus, I always have a hard time finding the right music to go with my current literary headspace.
Momastery – Just an uplifting blog from a woman who has been there. As the name would indicate, the blogger is a mother and spends a good amount of time discussing parenting, but most of the pieces I have read are just good life talks. I have not read much of this, but everything I have read has been interesting and just good reading.
Piktochart: I have not really gotten the chance to explore this site as of yet, but it is supposedly an easy way to create Infographics and other visual resources to relay information. Sounds pretty cool and I will have to go exploring soon.
graze – graze is a mail order service that delivers healthy snack packs to either your work or home. You tell them what you like and they send you a box of snacks inspired by your taste preferences.
Fandango – Now I know not everyone likes to buy their movie tickets online (pay the service charge), but Fandango is good for so much more. It is the go to source for movie times for all theaters. I, for example, have two major movie theater chains near me, rather than go to both sites for times, I just check Fandango and get al the info I need. Plus the length of the film, general plot synopsis, cast information, and trailers.
StubHub – Now I am not really a concert/sporting event person, but from what I hear, StubHub is the place to go. A way to buy and sell tickets in a lot safer way than Craiglist.
theSkimm – I have always hated the news. I hate watching the news, reading the news, hearing about the news, all of it. But I LOVE theSkimm. When you sign up for their email list, they will send you an email every morning with an abbreviated version of the news. I read it every morning (business days only) between the time when my alarm goes off and I get out of bed. It takes only a few minutes to read entirely and I feel totally in the know. From major international headlines to book recommendations to definitions to words you may not know and don’t know to ask. Subscribe to this and read it. You will not be disappointed. Oh, and I forgot to mention, it’s also funny.
PureWow – This is a website that also sends regular emails. I have signed up for a lot of email blasts over the years, but this is one of two I have never regretted. The previous is listed above. This site delivers what it say it will, only Wow. Only the best books, best buys, best apps, best recipes, best life tips. It is, in short, the best.
Social Media Personalities:
Elle Degeneres (@TheEllenShow) – For starters, she is hilarious. Also, she is nice. Rather than spread humor by tearing people down, it is good fun. For example Classic Joke Wednesday: “What do you call four dolls waiting in a line? A Barbiecue.”
BuzzFeed (@BuzzFeed) – I love the BuzzFeed site, but sometimes it is too much to navigate through. On Twitter, they tweet their updates and you can click on the ones that interest you (Quizzes) and ignore the ones that don’t (pretty much not quizzes).
GeekTyrant (@GeekTyrant) – An excellent follow for anyone interested in TV and movie news on the Nerdier side of the spectrum.
Wes Craven (@wescraven) – The man of modern horror movies himself. He typically tweets on things from the Horror genre both modern and classic, and it is all really interesting. Every so often, he will throw in some of his own behind the scenes photos which are super cool.
Mindy Kaling (mindykaling) – My favorite celebrity of the moment. She is super funny in all of my favorite ways, plus she is constantly posting pictures of behind the scenes shenanigans.
Man Repeller (manrepeller) – A perfect combination of humor and fashion. My sister has been trying to get me on board forever, but only recently have I actually checked it out. Not disappointed.
Michelle Dockery (theladydockers) – Dear Downton fans, she is exactly as fantastic in real life as you hope she is. Maybe this will tie you over until January…
Lupita Nyong’o (lupitanyongo) – She has been taking Hollywood by storm for the past year. Always fashionable and just a seemingly cool person. Her Instagram account is a good reflection of that.
Feel free to add any additional recommendations in the comments section. If you or anyone you know is interested in getting in on my email list to have you suggestions included in the Adventures with Friends posts, click on the “Wan to Join the Adventure?” button above and send me your email address.