Saturday, August 1, 2015

These are a Few of my Favorite Things

I often think that I should write a post about products that have worked well for us, but I never get around to it.  So here it is…a few of my favorite things!

APPS
I have an iPhone, so these apps are all from the Apple Store

:: Build a Menu – this allows me to take my menu planning service on the road with us. We often try to stay in Prophets Chambers so that we can have some routine and stability for our family even on deputation. But that means that we are responsible for preparing all of our own meals. This helps me save money, time preparing the shopping list, provide variety in our meals, and keeps all the recipes in one place!

:: Blue Letter Bible – I started using this Bible Study app when I began the Busy Mama Bible Studies for my devotions. Some of the features are only available on wifi/data connection. But it gives me a Strong’s concordance, lexicon, interlinear definitions, related word studies, commentaries, and more at my fingertips. I love it!

:: Waze – we use a GPS for most of our route planning on deputation, but our maps are a little outdated. When we hit a snag or come upon a traffic jam, I always reach for my Waze app. It’s an app that tracks drivers while they have the app open. You can report hazards, construction zones, police sightings, red light cameras, and more. The information is shared with other travelers on the same route to help them avoid the same dangers. I can usually see why traffic is stopped, the average speed in the slow zone, or how long of a back-up there is. If you’re a speeder (shame on you!) it will alert you to cops also.

:: iExit – this app has been a particular blessing on deputation! It recognizes your location on all US interstates, and tells you what is available at upcoming exits. You can search for a particular store/restaurant, or you can view them by exit number. I use this to find out how far to the next Rest Stop (essential during pregnancy!), and to decide where we will stop for lunch/dinner. I can browse the upcoming restaurants and we can decide where we want to eat. It also tells amenities, such as which fast food restaurants have a drive-thru or playplace (a necessity with kids!). For each restaurant, hotel, or gas station it tells me which direction to turn after exiting, how far off the highway it is, and also lists the address and phone number. The app integrates with my Google Maps app so I can get turn-by-turn directions if needed.

BIBLE STUDY

I am really enjoying the Busy Mama Bible Studies on the Doorposts Blog. These in-depth studies are broken in bite-size pieces, so that I can do a decent study even in just 10-15 minutes per day. Each study runs for 30 days and focuses on a passage/chapter of Scripture. Since they are designed for busy moms, I can complete an assignment each morning. But if I am able to spend more time in a particular morning, then I can dig deeper. But it allows me to start the morning off on the right foot without getting up an hour before the kids (nearly impossible for me right now). There is an optional assignment to use with your kids for Bible class or family devotions, which correlates with Mom’s study. There is also a catch-up day once a week. There are a few studies which are published in book/Kindle format. All the studies can be found on the blog. Current/new studies arrive in your inbox each morning. They offer a new study about every other month. There is a study that started this month which is topical – Child Training Boot Camp. There is also a Facebook group so you can interact with others doing the same study. I am usually a few days behind, and the group isn’t as “separated” as I would prefer, so it hasn’t been necessarily helpful to me.

PRODUCTS

:: Aveeno Stress Relief lotion – I simplified a lot of our toiletries by getting everyone in theAveeno family to use the same body products. I switched to Aveeno lotion with the kids, so they didn’t have to smell like Moonlight Path. But I just discovered the Stress Relief scent – with lavender, chamomile, and ylang-ylang. I have used other stress-relief aromatherapy products which are usually eucalyptus spearmint. But I am loving the ylang-ylang scent, and the oat essences in the Aveeno products makes them very moisturizing!

:: Bug Bite Soother – I made this essential oil itch relief from a recipe on Learning About Essential Oils. It works SO WELL!!! When I get a bug bite it bothers me for a long time. Hydrocortisone doesn’t seem to help, and I haven’t had much luck with other bug bite relief products. But this chases away the itch for a LONG TIME. And it was really easy to make!

:: Lilla Rose Flexi Clips – I bought one of these a couple of years ago but didn’t use it very much. I don’t think I had purchased the correct size. On various sales since then I have accumulated a stash of one in each size, allowing me to use a flexi-clip regardless of the hairstyle I have selected for the day. They are much more comfortable than a claw clip. They stay put, even in my fine, thin hair. And they look pretty too!

pd_flexiclip

:: Thirty-One Bags – I’ll probably do a separate post on what Thirty-One bags I use to pack for depuation. But I use a lot of these products and they are wonderful! At first I was really skeptical, because I have a hard time justifying $50+ for a bag. But at the same time I’m a bag-addict, and these ones have lots of pockets and styles that keep things organized. I usually buy them on sale, but I have found them to be well made and functional.

:: Build-A-Menu – this online menu planning service has been very helpful to keep me on track with meal planning, even when life is busy. It did take me a while to get used to it and come to like it, but I think it was simply because I was used to doing my menu planning on a different “system”. I still don’t care for the way the weekly schedule prints, so I usually just hand write it. I have purchased my subscription for 50% off the last two years (this sale was in May both years).

With Build A Menu I can select the grocery store where I want to shop (and they even have Aldi and Wal-Mart!), then choose from a list of weekly menu items, and then print my shopping list and recipes. They offer several different meal categories, including freezer cooking, family friend, dine on a dime, Trim Healthy Mama, Gluten Free, Paleo, Allergy sensitive, slow cooker, etc. I can choose meals that feed 1-2, or 4-6. They have breakfast and lunch options, but I primarily use this for dinner planning. A newer feature allows you to input your own favorite recipes so you can select from them at any given time. I have not taken time to use this feature, but I am looking forward to doing so!

I really like that this helps me to add variety to my menus. It also takes advantage of seasonal items to maximize savings – something I have never been very good at! There is usually a dessert of the week, but I haven’t really utilized it. Sometimes the instructions on the recipe don’t seem completely clear, but since I consider myself to be a decent cook/familiar with the kitchen, I can usually figure out what to do. I also like that they now have an app so I can take my list and menus and recipes on the go… i.e. deputation!

:: Eucalan No Rinse Wash – I originally discovered Eucalan when I was cloth diapering the older kids.  It’s a wool wash that helps to re-lanolize wool products, like the ones we used for overnight.  However, it also works well as a delicates wash, and it’s perfect for traveling!  Whenever we need to rinse a few things in the sink I can just soak them for 15 minutes in Eucalan, and I don’t have to try to rinse all of the detergent out when finished.  Just wring them out and drip dry.  It comes in several scents, but we like Wrapture the best.

:: Shutterfly – hands down the best photo site out there.  I find their interface easy to use, and I get lots of great prices and coupons through email offers.  I buy a lot of photo gifts for Christmas presents, and then they send me “thank-yous” in the form of special offers…and I usually end up getting several 8x8 albums printed for free each year.

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