Wednesday, July 16, 2014

These Apps Are Making Me A Better Person

It has come to my attention (ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha) that I am a pretty tightly-wound, high-stress person. It has also come to my attention that more people die from stress-related health problems than all types of cancer (according to a seminar I went to last week). I have been thinking about some pieces of advice I've received lately — things like "take one day at a time" and "let yourself feel whatever you're feeling" — and decided that it's time I actually did something to make myself feel better, instead of just allowing myself to be miserable because that's "how I feel" at that moment. That I need to actually DO things to keep my sanity, and to make my goals happen, and to not die of a stroke at age 34 or whatever.

These are a few of the apps I've been using lately that have been helping me feel like a Calm, Upstanding, Personal-Growth-Focused Productive Member Of Society instead of a Screaming Banshee That Can't Get Her Shit Together. (Bonus: Some of these apps are also helping me toward some of the goals on my Life List. Win win win.)

Headspace (iPhone, Android, Amazon)

Headspace is a meditation app. It's endorsed by Emma Watson, and that was enough to get me to download it. :) But seriously, it was created by a meditation expert named Andy, and he has the most soothing voice. With the free app, you get 10 days worth of 10-minute audio tracks where Andy walks you through meditation exercises, like breathing deeply, focusing on the body and allowing your thoughts to pass you by without getting fixated on them. (After you finish the 10 sessions, you can pay for a subscription to keep getting new sessions. Or I guess you could just repeat those 10 over and over.)

The app also has cute little animated videos that teach you things about meditation and how your mind works. The graphics are seriously so cute, and somehow match the peaceful design of the whole thing.

I'm on day six of the free tracks (I repeated day four because I accidentally fell asleep during it the first time!), and I am thinking about getting a monthly subscription when I finish, because I am really enjoying it. I feel so calm and relaxed after every session.

Duolingo (iPhone, Android)

I don't remember where I first heard about Duolingo, but I am glad I did! It's a free language-skills app where you practice building up your vocabulary in other languages. (Currently offering Spanish, German, Portuguese, Italian and French.) It offers these little mini "games" where you practice saying things out loud, or translating back and forth from English into your chosen language or vice versa. Plus, you get little bonuses when you complete "levels," and there are cute owl graphics.

I'm currently using Duolingo to brush up on my Spanish. I've found it relatively easy so far, but I did take Spanish a little bit in high school and college, so I already had the foundation of how sentences are structured and how verbs are conjugated in español. It is for sure getting more complicated as I continue though; the sentences are getting longer and incorporating more and more vocab.

My favorite part is that it lets you compete against other random players, whoever is on the app at the same time and of approximately the same skill level as you. Like timed practice. But you can always just practice alone if you don't want to play with others.

When I finish the Spanish program and am fluent as a native (haaa), I intend to start working on German so I can speak Deutsch with my mother-in-law and her German relatives, should I ever have the opportunity to visit Germany. I've never taken German before, so I expect that one to be more difficult.

Fig (iPhone, Android)

I just downloaded Fig the other day, but so far I really like the concept. You create a "to-do" list of things that can help you relax, eat better, sleep better and do a whole lot of other stuff better, and then you do them. But it's not like a list where you feel bad if you don't do the things on it (I have a different app for that). Instead, you get gold stars if you DO do the things on your list! Because you're only doing them to feel good anyway!

There are six major categories you can pull to-dos from, like Eat, Refresh and Connect, or you can look through lists of overall goals, such as Weight Loss, Happiness, Stress Reduction and Energy Level, and choose the to-dos you want based on what your goals are.

Also, if you think there's a specific goal you'd like, but it's not on the list, you can always add it yourself. And you can set the frequency too. Personally, it's only been a few days and I think I've bitten off more than I can chew with that eight-glasses-of-water thing. I love water, but that's a lot of freaking water.

Fig costs $1.99 through Apple's app store.

Two Dots (iPhone)

OK, we can't all be making ourselves better people all the time. Sometimes we need games. Like when our brains are too tired to function.

Two Dots is my new Candy Crush. It does that thing where you have to wait to replenish your lives, but unlike Candy Crush, I can actually put this one down once in awhile.

Ahem, you may be sensing a theme, but CUTE GRAPHICS. It has different goals for each level, but it doesn't require a whole lot of thought unless you're stuck on Level 35 like me. It's also free.

What apps are you obsessed with lately? Any you love that I should check out?

P.S. No one paid me for any of these reviews. I bought and/or downloaded all these apps on my own. And all photos are screenshots from my phone.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Housekeeping + Let's Have Some Good Conversations

I have been avoiding switching to a new blog commenting format for, literally, years. People have been telling me — intermittently, yes, but still — for a while that they were having problems leaving comments through Blogger's default comment form.

And also, since I discovered that it's easier to have legitimate conversations with people through e-mail responses to comments, I've felt like kind of a tool only responding to certain people within the original comment thread (because I was e-mail-responding to everyone who had it set up).

I had wanted to switch to Disqus a loooong time ago, but was terrified by the prospect of losing all the comments that I've received over the last three years. And it wasn't until Jennifer told me that she thought they'd fixed that problem that I even reconsidered switching.

So now Everyday Adventures has a shiny new comments section! Hopefully it's all working hunky dory. But if it's not, and you're having problems commenting, please e-mail me. I don't know if I'll be able to fix it, but I'll do my best trouble-shooting. :)

Hopefully this will help to facilitate better conversations, as you'll receive notice (via e-mail or Disqus notification) when I respond to your comments!

So here's our conversation starter for today: what's the best thing that happened to you this week?

P.S. I know that the switch messed up the formatting of the old "stacked" comments (like, if I've replied to your post with my own comment), so I'm sorry if it looks like you didn't get a response, or if my response isn't attached to your comment and therefore doesn't make sense. It'll be better moving forward.

P.P.S. If you don't already receive e-mail notifications about responses and you'd like to, you can set it up through Disqus when you set your avatar and the name you want to post under.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Fire Academy: Top 10 Things That Could Save Your Life (or Someone Else's)

Part two of my posts about Citizen's Fire Academy! If you missed it, I shared in part one the top 10 coolest things I got to do and learn. :) Now, I wanted to share some of the things that we learned that I thought were really important, as far as understanding the firefighters' jobs and some other random tidbits that might be beneficial someday to you or your family. And we'll be all dramatic and say that these are ...

The Top 10 Things I Learned That Could Save Your Life

10. I don't know about you, but I had not taken a CPR class since the sixth grade. So I was glad that I had the opportunity to get re-certified. It turns out, it's changed a little bit in the last 15 years. Now, if you come across an unconscious person that is not breathing, you're not supposed to check for a pulse; you're just supposed to start chest compressions. (Thirty compressions, two breaths, five rounds altogether; you can compress to the beat of "Staying Alive" or "Another One Bites The Dust.") The breathing part is less important. Of course, if you know the person you can give them breaths, but it's not like you have to do it on random strangers. Do the same if you see someone choking and they go unconscious, just start chest compressions until the ambulance gets there.

Learning about defibrillators.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Things I've Done That Don't Get Separate Posts

I'm a super awful wife.

Matt sometimes has a hard time getting rid of things he no longer uses or needs, including old clothing. As of last year, he had dozens of T-shirts in a plastic container under our bed: T-shirts from high school drumline, college tees he got for various undergrad events, shirts from every performance of the percussion organization he was in through all four years of undergrad and three years of grad school. So last fall, I decided to be an AWESOME wife and turn some of his college and high school percussion shirts into a quilt, so they could be useful. (I'm sometimes horribly unsentimental, but I understand that other people are not unsentimental, and therefore, he and I agreed that this was a good solution.) I decided that this would be his Christmas gift, and it would be so thoughtful of me.

Except that I had never quilted before. I basically had to ask my friend Jess to hold my hand through every single step of the process. Christmas came and went. Then January came and went. Matt's graduation came and went. AND STILL THAT DAMNED QUILT WAS NOT DONE.

But gosh dang it, I finally finished it last weekend. Merry Christmas, Matt. I'm never quilting again.

The day before Quilt Finishing Day, I took a trip to Farm Patch. A friend had told me that they sell basil and tons of other herb plants for $2.50, and since that's how much a little packet of basil costs at the grocery store, I decided that perhaps it was time to start my own tiny herb garden. So I bought a pot of basil and a pot of cilantro, and came home excited to try my hand at actually keeping plants alive and harvesting edible things from them.

Then Matt got super into the idea and came home with a Mexibell pepper plant after a trip to Lowe's.

After some discussion about whether we should plant them in the ground (in the tiny space we have in the flowerbed) or whether it'd be easier/better to re-pot them, we wound up getting some decent-sized pots and Matt "built" this cinderblock stand for them, so that it'd be harder for Elliott to go right up to the plants and chomp on them the second she runs out the back door. He drilled holes in the wood so the pots can drain properly, and so hopefully I can avoid drowing the plants.

(I think I accidentally once drowned a succulent. It looked sad, so I watered it, and then it looked sadder, so I watered it more. #fail)

It's been nine days and the plants are still alive. I'm sure it's too early to call success, but I am inclined to celebrate anyway.

I was informed that cilantro doesn't need a lot of space, so it got a small pot I already had.
L to R: Basil, cilantro and tiny Mexibell buds! (Mexibell is a mild bell pepper/jalapeño hybrid.)

This actually happened on the trip back up from Mexico, but do you remember when we first decided we wanted to try all the places along the Texas Kolache Trail? And how we managed to hit two of the places on the south route, but the Original Kountry Bakery was closed on Sundays?

Well, it is NOT closed on Mondays! And on the drive back home, we passed through Schulenberg right around lunch time. We stopped for lunch — the egg-salad sandwich was NOM, and Matt said his burger was good too — and picked up a few kolaches for later.

We got lemon, cherry and apple fillings (Matt didn't want to get meat ones since we still had a ways to drive), and I'm glad we finally got to try the last place on my south-route list! The lemon one was amazing, but I wasn't convinced the apple one actually was apple — the filling tasted like it had something peachy in it, but Matt thinks I'm wrong. I wouldn't say these were my favorite of the kolache places or anything, but they were still pretty tasty.

Clockwise from left: Apple, lemon, cherry.

What little "everyday" adventures have you gotten up to lately?

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Worry Dolls

When I was in high school, my mom got me a set of these little hand-sewn "worry dolls." They're tiny dolls that you place under your pillow each night. You tell each one a specific worry, and they're supposed to worry for you while you sleep, so you don't have to.

They never liked to stay under my pillow in high school; those feisty dolls were always jumping backwards under the bed, or spreading out over my full-sized mattress like they owned the place. I don't know what happened to them when I moved to college. Apparently when I decided to leave town, they packed up too.

A few weeks ago, I went to visit one of my college BFFs in Tulsa for her baby shower, and I stopped at my parents' house on the way up. My mom presented me with a set of worry dolls and, assuming they were the same ones I'd had in high school, I asked where she'd found them — I hadn't seen them in years! And she told me that she got them in Honduras during a recent cruise. But they were exactly as I remembered them, down to the beautiful dress designs and hand-stitched faces.

(I'm sure the stitch lines are intended to be their eyes, but I like to think of them as eyebrows, to give them unique facial expressions.)

I don't know that I believe they actually work. But the idea is comforting to me.

It's no longer enough to hear that good things are coming. That something is going to happen soon. Soon is not enough anymore. Soon is no longer comforting.

So for the past week, I've placed two worry dolls under my pillow at night.

One for Matt's job search. And one for my little business.

And they've stayed there all night. Maybe this time they'll do their jobs. And perhaps be better behaved.