Tuesday, July 9, 2013

My Favorite Things (#6): Discounted Shipping, Better than Evite, Free Online Classes, and Book Recommendations

1. Coursera- Free

This highly rated new startup has impressive online courses from "legit" universities. Lauren and I took Stanford's Child Nutrition class (thoroughly enjoyed it), but they offer classes in a variety of subjects--science, humanities, design, business, and so on. Basically, the same kind of stuff you'd see on campus. Ever wanted to improve your public speaking? Study up on composing classical music? Take an intro to psychology? Maybe something you regret not taking while you were in college. They really have an impressive array of classes from actual professors. This is nice for when you're in one of those "learning" or "self-improvement" kicks, which should ideally be everyday of our lives. Check it out at coursera.org.

2. USPS Click-n-Ship Postage: Free to order boxes/envelopes, discounted shipping

One day I was feeling too lazy to drop a box off at the post office and wondered how expensive it would be to print the postage off online and have it be picked up by my mail carrier. A little cheaper than bringing it to the post office, actually! Who knew? Yep, they give you a discount for printing from home. And with another little one on the way, I'm all about finding things I can do from home. Too lazy to even go pick up the free envelopes and boxes USPS provides? Guess what, you can have those sent to your home for free, too! I know this isn't new information for most Americans, I've just never taken much advantage of it before. But I fully intend to in the future. FYI, if you're having trouble printing the shipping label (like I did), download to PDF instead and then print that.

3. Pingg - Free (and better than Evite!)

Have you ever been a little annoyed with some aspect of Evite and thought, "there has to be something better out there..." There is. It's called Pingg. I first heard about it from Big Red Clifford, and tried it myself. Like Evite, it's also free--unless you want to pay to opt out of the one ad they show or use their bonus "premium" designs/features. Just make sure after you select an invitation type, click the option on the left sidebar to show "Free" designs. Advantages it has over Evite:
(1) Doesn't require/pressure invitees to make an account.
(2) It lets you use your own design and puts it right in the email, looking very slick and clean.
(3) You can share invitations on social networks like Facebook and Twitter.
(4) Its invitee tracker is much better. Besides the basic RSVP, you know when people view the invite, etc.

Check it out at pingg.com.

4. Endless Alphabet--Was Free, Now $4.99

Love this app. So well done and so cute. Basically, it uses little monsters characters to teach your kids new words. You select a word, the little monsters scatter the letters and your little one (after you show them how) soon figures out how to drag the letters back into place. It makes the letter's sound as you drag it and only snaps back into place if you match it correctly. Once they match up all the letters, the monsters cheer and act out the word while the narrator states the word's definition (in kid terms). My toddler was able to navigate this app after seeing it a few times after turning two. I don't have experience with older kids yet, so I don't know how much it will hold their interest, but Little Man loves it.

5. GDesigned Printables: Free! Seriously.

Back in the day, I played volleyball. Truth be told, I wasn't great, but I did make a lot of good friends, including Gina. Gina is one of those gorgeous multi-talented people who make it look easy. She recently started doing printables. Luckily, Gina already has a lot going on (including Ivy Lane Accessories, a fabric earrings Etsy shop), so instead of creating another business, she has opted to publish her adorable printables for free. They are amazingly cute and professional, so I don't know how long this freebie will last, so I'd act fast! Here's her website where you can download the printables.


6. Xlear - Price depends on type/size - $7 from Amazon, as pictured below

Remember my son's constant runny nose? Not surprising considering his dad is allergic to...everything. I've whined in previous posts about how we'd tried everything and finally accepted our fate as constant Kleenex carriers. The bright spot is Little Man was a nose-blowing pro at age one. And *knock on wood*, he never once developed an ear infection. But fast forward to a couple months ago when my sister-in-law recommended this saline spray with Xylitol made by Xlear. We've done saline sprays before without much luck, but for whatever reason, this stuff has worked wonders for my son. Even though allergy season has peaked in our area, we rarely, if ever, have to wipe his nose. As a matter of fact, sometimes he demands unneeded nose wipes, just for old times' sake. This stuff helps clear out allergens before it has a chance to irritate the heck out of his sinuses. We bought the kind that works best for little ones, but they make it for adults, too.


7. Heaven Is Here by Stephanie Nielson - Free from Library or Buy on Amazon

I can't nail down exactly what I loved about this book. I really am not much of a reader, so generally a book earns my recommendation when I choose to forgo eating and sleeping in order to keep reading it. I imagine most people enjoy it because of her interesting life, both before and after her plane accident. I enjoyed that aspect of her story, but this book also touched me on a personal level. Obviously, I've never been in a disastrous plane crash, but when I had my first (and, at this point, only) major life crisis, it felt like life as I knew it had ended and I felt so horrendously alone, like no one could understand the pain that was going on inside. So to hear Stephanie describe some of the experiences she had in the hospital, how she felt about her new self, her relationships with her husband and kids--sometimes I had to stop reading just to sob, partially because I was reliving my own experiences, but mostly because it made me realize that we are never alone. Even though other people (excepting one) will never share our exact same experiences, we all go through so many similar emotions. And we all have to come to the same decision that even though we sometimes have trials that result in lasting life changes, we can still find the strength to go on, accepting and then embracing our new reality. And as we do that, we find a strength and beauty we could have never seen before simply because we lacked the perspective to do so.

8. Edenbrook - Free from library, $11 from Amazon

This historical romance novel won't change your life, but if you're looking for a fun read for your next vacation or beach trip, this is a good one. I tell you what though, once you get into this thing, there's no putting it down--once I really got started, I finished it that day. I generally don't get to read while Little Man's awake, but just to give you an idea of how into this book I was, he and I sat in the car in the garage for over an hour so he could play to his heart's content (he has a bit of a car/carseat obsession) while I kept reading. Lest you think I'm joking, I took a picture to document my shame:
It's one of those books that you are torn between voraciously devouring every page without stopping and hesitantly beginning each new chapter because you know you'll be kind of sad when it's over. To give you an idea of whether you'll like this book or not, it's set in the same time period as Pride and Prejudice, but written in 2012, so obviously not quite as authentic. It definitely doesn't reach the class of Jane Austen in terms of wit, but I must say, this book is much more romantic than P&P ever was. If they don't make a movie out of this book ASAP, I'll be shocked.


9. Greek Chicken Gyros & Tzatziki Recipe - Free

Another Big Red Clifford find. Recipe here.
A great summer BBQ recipe--We've made this recipe a couple times now and it is FAB. The chicken is really moist and the homemade tzatziki sauce is a winner-winner-winner. And if I can make it, you know it's easy. My only caution is I felt like it made more than 4 servings, but if you're down with leftovers, it's perfect (the leftover chicken is great for salads and the leftover sauce made a great carrot dip or maybe I recommend: toast + avacado + tomatoes + tzatziki = heaven). Megan provides a naan recipe, but I copped out and bought it. Very filling and very delicious.

10. You Tell Me!

Recipe - What's one of your success-guaranteed dinner recipes right now?


School Days - What class do you regret not taking in college?


  1. I may have missed the opportunity, but I can't find "endless alphabet" for free on my apps page. I can only find it for $4.99. Maybe it was so good they only offer the paid version now:)

    1. Such a bummer!! I must've caught it during its Beta testing while they were still offering it for free. I can see why they'd charge $4.99, though. I'm sure not all kids love it (I just found out my friend's little girl is scared of the monsters), but I would say this is my #1 favorite App for my 2 year old. He's not even 2.5 and he already knows all of his letters. I hate to admit it, but besides reading books to him, he learned his letters 100% from this App and the "Letter Factory" DVD from LeapFrog. I tried teaching him with flashcards and he had no interest.
      Anyway--thanks for letting me know! I updated the post.

    2. I bought it for $4.99, and it was SO worth it. C learned all his letters from it in a matter of days. (He didn't care until they were presented in game format.)

  2. The endless alphabet app is the best! We also got it when it was free, and I'm so glad we did. My kids love it. It's definitely worth the $5. Love your blog by the way!

    1. I know, Endless Alphabet is the best! So glad you like the blog. Thanks for the comment.

  3. This blog is definitely making me wish I took some accounting/finance classes! So glad to know about free classes, there are SO many classes I still want to take!

    1. Yeah, Coursera.org has some great classes! I've only taken one class through them so far, but it was great. Just the right amount of structure.

  4. Thanks for the recommendation on the nasal spray. My son has horrible allergies and they are already kicking in. I'll have to check this out!

    1. Awesome! I hope it works out for your son. Once I starting using those saline drops, my son also started catching colds less often, too. I'm a big fan of NeilMed Sinus Rinse, but my little guy is way too young for that, so this is the next best thing (in my opinion). Thanks for stopping by the blog!


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