Garanimals Blog

Archive for the ‘Tips and Tricks’ Category

March 11th, 2014 at 10:13 am

A Few Apps That Save You Some Bucks

piggy bank

Looking for ways to save when you shop? Here are a few apps that can help you do just that.

RetailMeNot  is a coupon site that houses hundreds of offers for discounts and freebies. Browse by store or category and get promo codes or printable coupons that save you real money. Visit the site before you head out or sign up for emails bringing the deals to you.

Are you a frequent shopper? How cool would it be to get rewarded for just visiting a store? Get the ShopKick app and head out to your favorite store. When you go in, the app lets you know about products and promotions going on in the store. Earn kicks (points) just for walking in and trade in the kicks for gift cards.

Need to shop for car repairs? How about an app that can help you find a good mechanic? Put your car’s make, model and year into RepairPal and the site will recommend local repair shops and provide estimates on common repair procedures. It’s pretty interesting to see the range of prices for standard services.

And don’t forget GasBuddy for getting the lowest price on gas in your neighborhood.

We all love to shop. On the other hand, we also love to have a healthy savings account. With the SavedPlus app,  the two don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Set up a plan so that when you spend, a predetermined percentage (5%-20%) is automatically sent to a savings account. It’s similar to banks that round up debit card purchases to the next dollar and put the difference into a separate account. Depending on the percentage you choose, this app will build up your savings a lot faster.

Go forth and save.

You can also find Paula on LinkedInFacebook and Twitter @techsmart319. Feel free to reach out if you have questions.

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February 25th, 2014 at 8:39 am

So Many Books, So Little Time

goodreadsRead any good books lately? There are more format and device options than ever before for getting your fix. I love listening to audiobooks while doing chores, but still love the smell and feel of a hardcover.

With so many great books out there, having options is helpful. Like when traveling, you can load up your ereader and save room in your luggage for shoes, or at least not exceed the weight limit.

Have a lot of time to read? Neither do I. But a new service, Scribd (like Netflix for books) gives you access to thousands of ebooks for less than the cost of one. Read as many as you want every month.

Got some old books hanging around and wonder if they might be valuable? Check out abebooks.com and see whether that old, yellowing copy of To Kill a Mockingbird might actually be worth some money.

If you like to rate, share and explore books from the comfort of your keyboard, try GoodReads. Keep your to-read list, check off ones you’ve finished, and see what others are saying about everything from the classics to the best kids books. The site also makes recommendations based on your lists. It’s fun to get lost and build up that want-to-read list to impossible levels.

Wish you could read a book in 15 minutes? Well you can’t actually, but with Blinkist, you can get a concise, well written summary of many popular non-fiction titles. It’s a subscription service with a 30 day free trial, but it’s a neat idea for checking out a book to see if you really need to read the whole thing, or can just check it off the list.

For some free read-alouds your little ones, check out this Curious George site, or visit the Barnes & Noble online storytime for some classics. And because you can never really get enough of Goodnight Moon, check out this YouTube video.

Happy Reading!

You can also find Paula on LinkedInFacebook and Twitter @techsmart319. Feel free to reach out if you have questions.

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February 7th, 2014 at 6:27 am

Helping to Keep Germs Away

imageI had the worse case of strep throat last month. My bed was my best friend for an entire week and it took all my strength to just pick up my kids from school. Since then, each of them have been treated for the same thing. It doesn’t help that the outside temperature  is so cold that we barely ever get fresh air. You hear it all over the place – the stomach flu, influenza, strep throat, and mysterious fever illnesses.

I am becoming more and more aware of where we can contract illness. The counter at our favorite fast food restaurant, shopping carts, the computer room at school, and the list goes on and on. So, what do we do to try to be proactive and prevent catching things?

My first defense is washing of our hands. I am constantly bugging the boys to wash your hands. Some soap and water along with scrubbing your hands while singing the alphabet song twice is the best way to do it. Don’t just bug the kids, do it yourself also!

If soap and water aren’t available, then use hand sanitizer gel and rub your hands together until the gel evaporates or about 20 seconds. I know, it feels like forever, but a week in bed isn’t worth it.

Disinfect your house to help prevent germs from spreading. Wipe off some of the highly touched surfaces with a disinfectant. Think about doorknobs, tables, light switches and handrails. If the sickness means a lot of bathroom time, then be sure to disinfect the toilet, floor and bathroom sink. Don’t get crazy obsessed, just work this into your cleaning schedule a little more than normal. Think about things that people may share in your house. Do your kids sip out of the same cup sometimes, is there a whistle in the toy box they play with? Think about these things and limit their use when there are sickies in the house.

It never can hurt to get your vitamins. We can’t get enough orange juice here, since that is our sickness fighter of choice. Pack meals with veggies, fruit, and even chewable vitamins so immune systems are extra strong. Also make sure you get adequate amounts of sleep.

It’s not fun to take care of a sick child or to be sick yourself. Hopefully it can make it a little less likely with the tips above!

 Kim Ross also writes at  A Little Bit of This and That ~ The Adventures of a Stay at Home Mom.

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January 28th, 2014 at 5:00 am

It’s Like Having A Personal Assistant

anydo icon

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about some apps that can help you get organized in this new year. One of them, Any.do, is a really easy to use To-Do list app that warrants another mention. It makes quick work of creating and keeping an ongoing list of tasks for for today, tomorrow or an upcoming day.

With Any.do, today, tomorrow and upcoming do not mean a specific date. Today’s task rolls over to today’s list tomorrow until you swipe it as done. It’s like having an electronic paper list that you can keep adding to without it ever getting worn, torn, or lost. In my house, “Have you seen my list?”, is a common question. Every night it prompts you to review the list and cross off what is complete. It reminds you of what you didn’t get to and gives you a preview of what’s up for tomorrow.

I’ve been using this app for over a month and loving it more every day.

The phone feature is also quite useful. If you reject a call, it presents options to dismiss, send a text, call back call later (25 min/1 hour/tomorrow) and then reminds you to do so at the suggested time!

More organized with less effort. Now that’s what I call a useful app.

You can also find Paula on LinkedInFacebook and Twitter @techsmart319. Feel free to reach out if you have questions.

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November 5th, 2013 at 5:00 am

A Little Help for the Holiday Travels

holidaytravelIt’s “Over the river and through the woods” time!

As we all know, holiday travel can be a major headache but if family isn’t close by and they’re not coming to you, you’ll need any help you can get keeping it merry. Here are a few helpful travel apps. They won’t get you there by clicking your heels, but can help make it a little easier.

If you’re on a road trip and it’s time to eat, try KidsMealDeals to find out which restaurants nearby are offering deals or kids-eat-free promotions. Another handy road app, Kidzout, tells you where there are diaper decks, kid friendly restaurants, play places, as well as medical facilities nearby.

And to try to keep it fun, Sunday Drives lets you know what you’re driving by on your route. Historic places, interesting factoids and scenic routes can take the edge off of boring rides.

Traveling by air? Keeping track of the logistics can be overwhelming. Try the TripCase app. It will consolidate flight, hotel, car rental and other details into a detailed timeline-based itinerary. Include the record locator and/or trip ID and you’ll receive updates with any delays or changes. A little setup during the planning stages can pay back in a big way with a single source for all you need to know when you need it.

And before heading to the airport, check myTSA. Make sure your carry-ons don’t include anything you don’t want confiscated,  or that might delay the already painful process of getting to the gate.

May all your holiday travels be pleasant!

You can also find Paula on LinkedInFacebook and Twitter @techsmart319. Feel free to reach out if you have questions.

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September 25th, 2013 at 8:34 am

Find Your Misplaced Stuff with Tile

Ever play the Hotter/Colder game as a kid or with your kids? You hunt for a hidden something and the hider tells you whether you are getting closer or farther away from it as you search.

Wouldn’t it be great if whenever you misplaced something, you had a voice telling you hotter or colder while you pull up cushions or empty your purse?

It’s coming! There’s a tracking device soon to be released called Tile  that is the equivalent of Hotter/Holder for your stuff. It’s a small device, about the size of a matchbook, that you attach to whatever you might misplace like keys, a phone or laptop. Gee, do they make one for your mind?

Seriously though, how great is an app that lets you know if you’re getting closer or farther from your lost item. And if it’s your phone that gets lost, you can log into your account from someone else’s phone to find it. You can even turn on the audio and have it beep at you as you get closer.

Even better, if your something gets lost out in the world you can enlist the help of the rest of the Tile user community to help locate it. That’s like having a search party on call if say your bike gets stolen. How cool is that?

Tile is scheduled to be released this winter and has launched a Kickstarter campaign to make that a reality. For $18.95, you can preorder yours and help the process along. I can think of a certain person (ahem, spouse) who could really use one of these for his phone, which is quite frequently somewhere other than where he is.

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September 23rd, 2013 at 9:34 am

A Toy You Love and Hate

Do you have an item your kids play with that you can’t decide whether you LOVE or HATE?

It could be a drum set, the sandbox, or my own personal favorite, playdough. My kids LOVE to play with playdough. It distracts them for hours. They make food, people, and shapes of all kinds. Their creativity is at an all time high. I love watching their creations and the time they take with each piece.

The problem is when they are done…

All the colors are mixed together.

The special machines have playdough stuck in every single crevice.

… there are playdough pieces all over my house – ground into my carpet, covering the kitchen floor, and over their clothes.

… it takes me forever to clean up! (An FYI: freezing by putting some ice cubes on it makes it easier to remove from fabrics and carpets).

My love/hate relationship with playdough will never end, but every couple of months I let them get out the bin again because the last playtime is just a distant memory.

What toy do you LOVE when they play with, but once they start playing you remember why it isn’t your favorite?

Kim Ross also writes at  A Little Bit of This and That ~ The Adventures of a Stay at Home Mom.

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September 20th, 2013 at 9:59 am

Child-proofing your Home

At every doctor’s appointment my pediatrician reminds me that my child’s biggest hazard is himself. This means safety – fire, drowning, choking, poisoning and falls are some of the biggest dangers that children face. A few child-proofing steps can keep your family safe at home.

The Kitchen

  • Install safety latches on all cabinets and drawers to keep children from potentially poisonous household products.
  • Use the stove’s back burners and turn pot handles toward the back of the stove to keep hot pots and pans out of the reach of children.
  • Keep kitchenware and appliances out of reach and away from the edge of counters and tables.
  • Put visual reminders like the Mr. Yuk stickers from poison prevention centers on hazardous items.

The Bathroom

  • Install safety latches on cabinets and drawers to keep children from potentially poisonous household products.
  • Keep the water heater thermostat set to 120 degrees.
  • Unplug hair dryers, flat irons and electric rollers after use. Keep them away from curious children to prevent burns and electrocution dangers with water.
  • Use outlet covers in unused outlets.
 Around the House
  • Use safety gates at the top and bottom of stairs and in the doorways of rooms that you don’t want children in.
  • Put corner and edge bumpers on furniture and other items like a fireplace hearth to protect against injury.
  • Place furniture away from high windows so children won’t climb onto windowsills. Screens aren’t strong enough to keep children from falling through windows.
  • Watch for hanging cords on blinds and window shades.
  • Remove free-falling lids from toy chests.
  • Secure bookcases, shelving, and heavy furniture to walls with brackets and anchors. Put heavier items on bottom shelves and in bottom drawers.

Remember that child-proofing doesn’t make your home 100% safe. It is still important to watch your child at all times.

Kim Ross also writes at  A Little Bit of This and That ~ The Adventures of a Stay at Home Mom.

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September 10th, 2013 at 5:00 am

Get Your Personalized Weather Forecasts With Nooly

How should I dress today? Umbrella or no umbrella?  Ever cancel an event because of a weather forecast only to have the bad weather pass you by? It’s pretty hard to know for sure when it comes to the weather.

The problem with your typical forecast is that it’s usually for a larger region as opposed to your particular location. Sure, the storm will come through your town, but maybe where you are will be just outside the cloud line.

So if you’d like to know with a little bit more precision whether, and when, the rain will come to your backyard or soccer field, I’ve got just the app.  It’s called Nooly and, using a patented technology called “Nowcasting”,  it provides you with a micro forecast for your specific location as well as a timeline that you can drill down to increments as small as 5 minutes.

How cool is that? Imagine knowing that you’re going to get rained on if you leave now, but you’re good if you just wait 15 minutes? Or that even though the skies are threatening, you’ve got an hour before the thunderstorm arrives to finish soccer practice.

I’ve been using Nooly for the last couple of weeks and I’m a fan. Even though rain was predicted for my area on several different days, Nooly told me it would be dry in my neighborhood – and it was. Pretty neat.

You can also find Paula on LinkedInFacebook and Twitter @techsmart319. Feel free to reach out if you have questions.

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August 27th, 2013 at 5:00 am

Software – Should It Stay Or Should It Go?

Do you have a lot of software on your pc? Do you actually use the programs or are some of them just excess baggage? We tend to become a little careless about cleaning out the clutter, and like our closets and cabinets at home, it’s good to purge once in awhile and get rid of the excess stuff.

When you install new programs, you sometimes end up with little “extras”. Download one thing and you might end up with an extra toolbar, virus scan program, adware or other pesky or even malicious software that you don’t want or need. Over time it adds up. You can go to the control panel and remove them but most of the time we just don’t know what the programs are or do, and don’t want to mess up the works by deleting something that actually makes something else work.

Should I Remove It? is a free app that scans your pc software and identifies what programs you’ve got and provides detailed information like what the it does, user ratings, publisher info, what operating systems it runs on, and more. It will even tell you what percentage of people uninstall it. While the real junk is pretty easy to identify, the background info (that isn’t available in the control panel) can help you avoid deleting something that is needed. If it should go, just click on the Uninstall button and it will thoroughly clean out the software.

Unless we’re really vigilant, we accumulate software clutter that bogs down system performance. This app lets you know what’s there and helps you make the right choice when deleting. Think of it as an organizing consultant for your PC.

You can also find Paula on LinkedInFacebook and Twitter @techsmart319. Feel free to reach out if you have questions.

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