Monday, June 30, 2014

Monday Morning Round-up: A Few Favorite Apps, Websites, and Blogs.

Morning, people!

This week for my Monday Morning Round-up, I wanted to tell you about a few apps, websites, and blogs that I use frequently.  Some of these are pretty old (at least to me), but they're the kinds of things I like so much I want to make sure everyone knows about them.  And there are no pictures this week.  You actually have to read through all this.  Sorry!

I know there are several podcast-listening apps, but Swell is my favorite so far.  Basically, you just open it up and let it play.  You get a random assortment of popular podcasts from This American Life, Radiolab, Freakanomics Radio, The Moth, a bunch of different news updates, some comedy.  If you don't like what comes on, you swipe to the left and something else starts.  The app supposedly "learns" what you like listening to over time.  I don't know if that's working for me yet. I've used it over a month and it insists on playing a Comedy Central podcast for me every morning, even though usually I swipe by it pretty quickly.  There is also a way to toggle the categories so you get more of certain things, but so far I've been content letting it surprise me.

Nextdoor is a neighborhood social network so you can get the local scuttlebutt on upcoming events, crime alerts, lost and found pets, home repair recommendations, etc.  It's still newish, so it'll be interesting to see how it works when many more people are using it, but so far I'm liking it as a community-forming platform.

Feedly is my blog reader.  Now, pardon while I explain what a blog reader is, because I have mentioned this to people, and gotten a weird look.  Basically, the internet is full of blogs (and websites) that are frequently updated, right?  You can always bookmark the blog if you want to check back from time to time, or you can have a blog reader, like Feedly, subscribe to all your favorite blogs.  When you open the app, it shows you all the new content you haven't read yet, which you can then read, skip, save, or whatever.  It's almost like a magazine that's tailored exactly to your tastes.  Neat, huh?

For awhile, I've known in the back of my mind that airbnb existed, but haven't gotten around to using it until lately when we were looking for inexpensive hotels in San Diego and finding that anything under $180/night meant moldy carpets, dirty bathrooms, and mean front desk staff (at least according to online reviews).  But for much less money, it's possible to rent a lovely, privately-owned apartment or house with all the comforts of home.  For units in our price-range, things like Wi-fi, cable, a full kitchen, washer and dryer, free parking, sometimes a yard to play in were standard amenities.  One place even came with a surfboard to use!  The best part is, you are renting directly from the owner, who really wants to make you happy and get good reviews.

For shoe shopping I don't know any one site that is consistently good for deals.  I never, ever buy shoes for me or the kiddos without first comparing,, and for the lowest price and best shipping, especially when it's a brand like Keen that's sold by every retailer.

Noisetrade is a well-curated music and book downloading site where everything is free (although "tips" are encouraged).  Most of the content is by up-and-coming indie artists, but there have been some amazing full albums by more popular musicians as well as some good compilations.  The site is simple to navigate and I have found the suggestions of what I might like are accurate.

I wandered into Primer one time when I was researching suit jackets for The Mister.  And now it's become my go-to whenever I have a men's fashion conundrum.  OK, so it's actually an online style magazine for 20-something guys, but there's tons of solid advice for everyone on life skills like resume-writing, etiquette, fitness, budgeting, entertaining, and generally not acting like a dork.

Unclutterer is kind of a self-help organizing site.  I find the advice really relevant, and topics range from physical clutter (cleaning up your house), to streamlining habits, to prioritizing your goals in life.  One fun feature is "Unitasker" Wednesday, spotlighting objects that have only one purpose (unitasker, get it?), that take up a disproportionate amount of room in your house for how often you'd actually use them.

Whenever anyone brings up the subject of fashion blogs, I recommend Ain't No Mom Jeans.  Shana is a smart, funny, fashion superhero mom.  She has amazing clothing recommendations, and thoughtfully makes sure to include items to wear if you're nursing, trying to camouflage a post-baby pooch, or wrangling toddlers that insist on yanking down the neckline of your shirt.  Oh, and last year she was diagnosed with breast cancer, had a double mastectomy, went through chemo and lost all her hair...and kept right on blogging through it all.  I can't take all of Shana's clothing choices literally because she's a teeny-tiny lady, and she loves the $300 jeans, but reading her blog has made me a little more adventurous with my wardrobe.

So, what are your favorites?

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