Saturday, August 27, 2016

My Favorite Apps: From Apple to Android, #SocialMedia #Entertainment #Travel #Technology #Food and more!

I am reminded of the first time I told my mom to go to the App Store, and she said sure- what’s the address?  My, my how times have changed- most of us could not be found without our Smart Phones (Apple, Windows or Android) permanently affixed to our hands.  I for one am a huge fan of putting it down when there’s a place and time to be “present” ala the dinner table- but for those times where we can explore the wonder which is app world, my good friend Janet Schijns- Verizon's Global Channel Chief and fellow Chic and Geek #TechNerd recently posed a question on FB asking what our fav apps are?  I started to respond and pumped the breaks... I decided that I have WAY TOO MANY  many favs, I might as well write a blog and sort by category!  Some of these you probably know and love, others might be new (or present a new use for an old classic)- in any event hope you enjoy!


I love a good book – a real paper book- I miss the days of sitting in the aisles of Barnes and Nobles immersing myself in reading and drinking a Starbucks smack on the middle of an aisle floor.  As a technology early adopter and enthusiast I am remiss to say I have not yet fallen in love with virtual books (I have yet to give Kindle and Fire a serious try) but there is a variety of other tech ways to take in a plethora of other forms of entertainment from theatre to your home.  There are a variety of apps in this category- but these are the ones that keep me entertained when not reading my legacy but oh so delicious books.

·         Net Flix- I may never need cable or Dish- ever again.  Although I haven’t bit the bullet yet and completely severed ties- when our cable went down I was SHOCKED as to how many of my fav TV Series, movies, and kids shows are readily available.  Old school cartoon favs for Brooklyn and Cali, Orange is the New Black for Mommy, and hundreds of documentaries for Daddy and I- Tony Robbins – I am not your Guru my most recent fav.  Not to mention Cooking Shows like Cup Cake Wars, Home Shows like Property Brothers and so much more.  The only down side is they don’t always have my classic favs- and I would not be able to watch the Oscars, Tony’s, Super Bowl etc- #FirstWorldProblems but also a good excuse to go to a party and make it a social event, no?  Everything else gets Chromecasted or Apple TV’d from my phone to one of our TV’s around the house.

·         You Tube- So we have all watched it for the funny cat videos, and snickered when Charlie Bit his Brother’s finger but YouTube is more than enjoyable, original videos .  For Jay, my husband, - it is “mr fix it” where he can watch a how to tutorial and be a handyman extraordinaire and save hundred if not thousands of dollars (true story from cars, freezers, to dryers and more!).  For me, it is a way for me to watch music videos of all my fav songs – classic or yesteryear.  Plus the how to’s for make up and hair are on point! Everyone is a YouTube star, and some really make it big- such as my fav Jenna Marbles as she shares her random thoughts- sometimes vulgar, but always funny. Also- a great way to share our own content- so video upload your original content, and share it all with friends, family, and the world on YouTube… who knows, you may be the next “You Tube Stars”!

·         You Tube Kids- When you have children- and are cautious of what they watch I would recommend You Tube Kids.  YouTube Kids app is designed for curious little minds to dive into a world of discovery, learning and entertainment; Filtered by you, and parent & child approved.  Our personal favorite is Baby Bum videos – classic nursery songs, plus educational learning like colors, numbers for our 2 year old Brooklyn when alternating with Sesame Street and Elmo’s World.  Plus it’s ad and commercial free.

S   Snap Chat- Snapchat lets you easily talk with friends, add moments throughout your #RealLife day (exciting
or uneventful) as well as view Live Stories from around the world, and explore news in Discover. Their tag line, "Life's more fun when you live in the moment!" A super fun and silly way to send a quick photo or video to friends, and of course there are the absolutely addictive SnapChat Filters See my daughter Brooklyn and I  for exhibit A.  From a business perspective Snapchat is bringing behavioral targeting, or advertisement based on data gathered from user activity, to the app in the near future- creepy or helpful - you decide.  Personally, if you are going to advertise to me anyway, I much rather see things I might be interested in (a win win for both of us).

·         IMDB- These days as a mom of two at and under 2, I often watch more drive ins than movies.  But when I am going to the movies, or selecting what to watch- the International Movie Data Base- is the world's most popular and authoritative source (self-proclaimed, but I agree) for movie, TV and celebrity content.  As you will tell throughout this blog I am a huge fan of crowd sourcing and reviews.  Removing outliers, you often receive some great feedback, new genre fav recommendations, actor histories, and rankings on what is worth watching when there is not enough hours in the day to watch “all the things”.  Plus, I love watching movie trailers to get hyped up and find the closest theatre and movie times from one convenient app.


  So it is no surprise I adore visual photo tools such as Facebook and Instagram- which I like to think of artistic virtual scrapbooks and time lines of my life.  In fact from the second Jay and I started dating- our first date, our proposal –skydiving video, our engagement our world travels, our wedding, the birth of our children and their FB pages starting from within the womb- every moment is captured.  I wish I could see my grandmother or great grandmother’s timelines from the time they were young women- their thoughts, their life, their love story, their struggles their journey in this crazy thing called life.  My social journey is my gift of my legacy, my children, and their children.  Plus, after relocating to 7 different cities before the age of 30, it is a wonderful way to stay connected with all of my friends and family around the world.

My secret passion is photography- others who do it professionally, and my attempts to do it myself with the same passion and magic.  I may not always have my DSLR Camera, but I always have the convenience of a phone handy with pretty darn good quality photos compared to previous versions.   I love apps who allow me to capture every day moments and make them artistic, magical or just plain fun. Of those here are some of my fav…

·         Photofy- Actually started by my friend Hazel Flores’s husband- this has become a world phenomenon.  Photofy is a super-easy photo editing app for consumers and businesses that combines all the features you need in one app: Templates, Filters, Light Effects.  A great way to capture months, moments, and decorate your images with fun flair.

·         Picstich- Sometimes I want to upload a ton of photos, and well, sometimes I just want one cohesive image to capture the day.  During those times- I love Pic Stitch because it quickly combine multiple photos into one beautifully framed picture! Be creative and get all the angles, capture all the looks, see all the faces together in one shot (And post on Instagram and share on FB, Twitter, and Tumblr of course! ;)).

·         Flipagram-  When you want to be creative, I love to create a Flipagram -especially for my fav people’s birthdays, anniversaries or special occasions- Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, etc. Flipagram helps bring your cherished moments to Life! You can create short photo video stories with your photos, videos clips, and favorite music.  Share some memories with someone you love, extra special and customized more than a generic Card.

·         PicPlayPost- If you can’t decide between photos, and videos- why not do BOTH? Over 10 Million users have discovered this simple way to create captivating stories with photos, videos, GIFs and music.  PicPlayPost makes it easy to combine different types of media into a collage you can share to your social networks. Share your daily workout, summarize your vacation, video collage selfies, fashion and beauty tips, and your musical range in an acapella collage.

·         I Movie- So this one is strictly for fellow apple-aholics (sorry Droid fans)-  Make Amazing  movies.  No film school required.  A great movie is right at your fingertips. Simply choose the photos and videos you want to use. Then tap and swipe to edit, add effects, and create a soundtrack. With a 64bit architecture and 4K support on iPhone 6s and iPad Pro, iMovie makes moviemaking faster and more entertaining than ever.  iMovie is designed to take advantage of the beautiful 4K video you can shoot and edit on your iPhone 6s. In fact, it is so powerful you can smoothly edit two streams of 4K video to create effects like picture-in-picture and split screen; and 3D Touch lets you speed up common iMovie tasks.  Than watch it all in full-resolution 1080p HD viewer.  I devices- once again making the complicated oh so simple, and beautiful. I recently made one for our Cisco Talent Show- stay tuned for that share.


I love food- all food- from Michelin Three Stars to "questionable" Street Meat and every local delicacy in-between.  Out of 75 countries I have only gotten food poisoning once- and it was a rogue ice cube that took me out. There are some great apps I rely on locally or globally to help advise, find specials, and recommendations- they are as follows...

·         Yelp- Reading and leaving reviews for extraordinary food and services I often turn to Yelp.  Local crowd sourced user Reviews and Recommendations of Top Restaurants, Shopping, Nightlife, Entertainment, Services and More.  I especially like the menu recommendations and tips on child friendly (Schmoo inclusive) vs. romantic (Schmoo Free Date Nights)- or searching a craved cuisine like Italian, Chinese or miscellaneous a certain mileage (or what’s closest)  from where we are standing when we  get hangry (hungry +angry J).

·         OpenTable- My Go To for quick and easy Online Reservations- I need a table of 4 – in this city- what times are available and what are the reviews (but I usually check that on Yelp first).  OpenTable is an online real-time restaurant-reservation service. Make online reservations, read restaurant reviews from diners, and earn points towards free meals- as my uncle Joe would jokingly say- “if it’s free, it’s for me- give me three”. According to the company, it provides online reservations for about 31,000 restaurants around the world and seats about 15 million diners a month.  Word of warning- if you are going to cancel- don’t forget to cancel your online reservation on OpenTable or you get dinged. 

·         Swarm – formerly known as Four Square is the fun way to geo tag into a place – restaurant, airport, gym and more.  Swarm turns every day into a game! Earn prizes and compete with friends based on the places you go. Jay and I jokingly competed to see who would wear the crown by checking in more to our home… for all intents and purposes, and a happy marriage – it was a tie (wink wink #LonglivetheQueen).  You can also see when your friends are hanging out nearby.  The reason I list it under food is a surprise bonus that some restaurants give you a free perk just for checking in.  In fact, I have gotten awesome free desserts, appetizers and glasses of wine!  Plus some people leave funny reviews, like- make sure to check out the delish bread pudding- you can die a happy man, or stay away from the extremely questionable “meat loaf surprise”.

·         Pinterest- is. Life. From DIY home projects, motivational quotes, tips and tricks to food and drink.  It could fit into many categories but my primary use for it is recipes.  As a reformed cook book collector addict I have saved money, time, and diversified my cooking skills by turning to pinterest for new take on classics, decadent holiday treats, festive food art- especially Christmas and Halloween, and healthy options such as 21 day fix meals to work it all off (wash, rinse and repeat).  I love the simple steps, that every recipe has a picture and that there are so many new and exciting uses for food.  For example- every time I bought a butternut squash my go to recipe was soup. Thanks to Pinterest I took the same ol’ and transformed it into a delish butternut squash and spinach lasagna- a surprising take on a classic, and a huge hit at Brooklyn’s 2nd Birthday party!  When there is a school fundraiser, or party- this is where I turn.  I will give an honorable mention to my other favs for recipes BuzzFeed’s TASTY videos are a quick and easy way to leave your mouth watering, and Epicurious is delicious refined recipes- Epicurious has been the ultimate food resource for the home cook, with daily kitchen tips, fun cooking videos, and, oh yeah, over 33000 recipes!

·         Groupon/Living Social- For me it is a tie between Groupon and Living Social for most things (Dining, massages, concerts), but for some reason when it comes to food I tend to gravitate towards Groupon- but our relationship is not exclusive.  A great way to discover and save on 1000s of great deals at nearby restaurants, spas, things to do, shopping, travel and more.  Perhaps it is because Groupon is available in 28 countries and countless cities, and  Living Social has 70 million members around the world.  Some tips and tricks, I tend to sign up for the local deals when I have a tripped plan-for ex going to Chicago, I sign in and cancel after trip is completed,  so I can count on local deals in advance.  Even if it’s a short commute away (ie NYC for us) I always leave it populated for a good deal and an excuse to go home sweet home.  Another tip, should you find yourself at a restaurant- type in the name and see if they have any deals… if they didn’t require reservations in advance to use,  it is often a great last minute way to save some bucks- and room for dessert.

News & Media:  

What can replace your News Paper- sans paper cuts- check out these News Worthy Apps and never miss a thing!  

·         Flip Board- Flipboard created a new type of reading experience on mobile, one focused on engaging the reader with the most exhilarating stories of the day and a magazine-style aesthetic. Hundreds of publications are now available on the news reader, and Flipboard offers a generous amount of topics, whether you’re into technology or entertainment or anything in-between.

·         Buzz Feed- BuzzFeed has it all: the news you want now, the stories and quizzes that our constantly buzzing on your social networks, and the recipes – YUM- do they make you hungry, or what?  Oh, and of course the hilarious life tips you didn’t know you needed.

·         Mashable- THE source for digital culture, breaking news, innovation, inspiration and entertainment.  What was the most notable things that happened on Jimmy Fallon, Sports, Media, politics- Don’t miss it with a first glimpse and a morning read of Mashable you will have plenty to talk about what’s trending in a variety of subjects.

·         Twitter-  Twitter has a  plethora of uses from social connections to business networking- but one of my favorite uses is to see what’s trending.  Today, when someone sees or hears of something from politics to natural disasters they quickly tweet and retweet until it becomes a trending topic. With a click of the mouse the world’s news has never been more connected than it is today.


Working at one of the world’s most secure Internet working Companies, I realize the concern some people have putting their finances in the cloud.  Recent events have showed certain things can be hacked (celebrity selfies and retail customers would agree)- nothing is 100 % guaranteed, but there are two tools that I personally trust for my finances, as highly safe, secure and extremely beneficial in terms of financial knowledge and planning.

·         Mint- free, web-based personal financial management service for Canada and the US.  Safe and secure Mint allows you to manage your money, pay your bills and track your credit score.  Mint takes security extremely seriously and understands some people’s trepidation to share personal bank information.  In response, recently introduced a service aimed at helping consumers reach their long-term goals that doesn’t require the entering of any financial account information.  I personally feel safe- and helps me keep track of credit, loans, banking, rental properties, all in one sweet banking stop.  If you still have concerns, read this fascinating article by the NY Times on If You Should Trust Mint? 

·         Credit Karma- Helps provide easy-to-read credit reports and personalized score insights Tools & tips to help you understand your financial situation.  Plus it gives you free credit monitoring and can help you spot potential identity theft!


Everyone who personally knows or follows Jay and I know we are huge fans of World Travel- or travel in general.  After exploring 75 countries, countless states and cities- here are some of the tools of the trade we cannot live without!

·         Hotels.Com- We use it- everywhere we GO.  The company has 85 websites in 34 languages, and lists over 325,000 hotels in approximately 19,000 locations. Its inventory includes hotels and B&Bs, and some condos and other types of commercial lodging.  Even if it has only one apartment for rent in Belarus- we were never disappointed in the accommodations, reviews- and for every 9 stays your tenth stay is free based upon the average of the 9 prior hotels.   I have tried other sites – I always come back.

·         Kayak- KAYAK, is a fare aggregator and travel metasearch engine operated by the Priceline Group. It searches hundreds of other travel sites at once to find the information you need to make the right decisions on flights, hotels & rental cars.  It even tells you the ideal times to buy or wait.  The only downside is not all airlines are on their site (IE other low fare competitors such as Jet Blue, and Southwest etc.)

·         TripAdvisor - World's Largest Travel Site (Made in America). 200 million+ unbiased traveler reviews. Search 200+ sites to find the best reviews on where to go, eat, or stay!  A live interactive forum- my fav part as we globetrot is looking at the top 10 recommended places to go!  The way we travel right now is to see as much in as many places as we can, in as little time as possible.  Stack ranked we can hit off the most popular places to visit, dine, or experience a specific place-  A wanderlust dream come true!


I love Shopping. Cliche? Sure, but it doesn't make it any less true.  I love stores, Home Imrpovements/Goods- SuperMarkets/Specialty Foods, and a vast unending array of Clothing. I love a variety of clothing and styles.  Brands, No Brands - Bohemian Chic, Romantic, Sporty, DRESSES (I have a whole closet dedicated to dresses)- Shoes- All. The. Shoes.  So picking one app for clothing or shoes would be much too difficult, plus I feel that all depends on your personal style...but one thing I think we can all agree on is a deal! So here are my fav tools for retail deals.

·         Amazon- Everything I buy from tires- books, movies, music and games along with electronics, toys, apparel, sports, tools, groceries and general home and garden items comes two days free shipping from Amazon Prime.  There might be a slight higher cost with prime (I usually don’t notice one) but when time is money, and shipping- especially weekend shipping cost big bucks- I choose two days and free.  This is especially true with a busy working mom of two who remembers she has to send last minute presents! Plus, I actively use the QR Code reader when I go to places to price check- even Walmart!  Most of the time, people price match- so if Amazon is cheaper, I get the same price from them; and if they don’t price match I click purchase and anxiously await it in two days for free.

·         CartWheel – I grew up with a great aunt who we would visit every Sunday.  My job she assigned me was to scour the Sunday Newspaper and clip her coupons.  Well, fast forward 25+ years later since Danica, my beautiful stepdaughter became a Target Employee, I have reinvented my love of a deal and coupons.  With a Target card I get 5% off every purchase (debit or credit) + Manufacturings coupons + Cart Wheel + in store deal discounts I on average save $200 on every supermarket trip.  Target’s Cart Wheel App is especially helpful because you save on the things you already buy whole new spin on coupons. Find & share the best deals in all your favorite categories: grocery, baby, apparel, health & beauty & more - a .  You can select from hundreds of discounts ranging from 5% to 50% off, and add them to your personalized cart.  Plus, it then uses an algorithm to make suggestions on things “you might like” based upon previous purchases and sends you an email weekly.  Extreme Couponers watch out, every dollar counts and 200 buck-a-roo’s is not too shabby!


 Although I do not have the time to play that often, there is a little board game lover which lingers on in each of us.  Living in remote Albany, I get to play with my mom, family, friends and strangers some of my fav classics when I have the time and pick up in a day or two if I do not.  I also run an Employee Engagement Quarterly Bracket competition at Cisco –friendly competition and an opportunity for people to meet new colleagues and friends no matter where in the world they sit.

·         Words with Friends- Words with Friends is a multi-player word game developed by Newtoy, Inc. Players take turns building words crossword puzzle style in a manner similar to the classic board game Scrabble.  It really tests and enhance your language skills for a broader vocabulary –especially if you guess and are delightful surprised when you come up with a unique new word.

·         Trivia Crack- Trivia Crack is a mobile app that allows users to compete against friends and people around the world. Modeled after popular games such as Trivial Pursuit, Willy, the Spinner Wheel will select one of the 6 categories for you from sports, entertainment, science, geography history, and art.  Whoever has the most knowledge and useless knowledge wins- addictive and fun.

·         Song Pop- If you love music and/or movies this is another simple and fun trivia game.  Challenge your friends or play with other music fans.  Hear song clips from thousands of ORIGINAL artists in over 300 genres of songs and of movies.  Guess the artist or song faster than your friends.  If you unlock more songs, more playlists open and you become a true music master (at least at Guessing if not Singing J)!  For Song Pop- Today’s Hits to Classic Rock, Country to Rap and Hip-Hop, Young Pop Stars to Indie and Latin Hits, Collections for every decade: 2000s, 90s, 80s, 70s, 60s and more!  Plus New music & playlists added every week to keep it fresh.

·         Movie Pop- From the same makers of Song Pop- Fresh Planet challenges if you are a huge movie fan. Get some buttered popcorn and turn down the lights! Guess clips from some of your favorite movies and send challenges to your friends or fellow movie fanatics.  Choose your favorite genre of movies with thousands of titles to play with from classics to today’s blockbusters.  Y”ou want the truth? You can’t handle the Truth…The little things in life, there’s nothing bigger...  There’s no place like home”- with this app! 

I hope you give some of these apps a try.  Comment below and let me know what you use, like, or alternatives you might recommend. Have an App-filled day… but remember to turn it off and be present when it counts! 

1 comment:

  1. I would add Evernote for keeping all of your notes and articles and links in one place - across all of your devices (although they recently started to charge for more than two devices. Phooey!