Following Day 1 of Four Days of Favorites, we are on to…lifestyle!
My favorite things right now in the world of lifestyle, home, & entertainment are:
- Apple TV (4th Gen)
We LOVE love love our Apple TV. We had a 2nd Gen Apple TV for years, but my mom bought us the newest one for Christmas and it is probably the most-used piece of entertainment we have. Beyond just using it to access movies to rent, Netflix (my 14 year old and I really got into Stranger Things this summer…so weird, but so good!), bypassing cable with individual channel apps, etc., we have found that the games can be a lot of fun for the whole family. Recent favorites have been: Agent A, Lumino City, Atomic Hangman, Crossy Road, and Song Pop Party [some major language warnings in some categories, fyi]. It’s lot’s of fun to play together and some games let you link up iDevices for a multi-player experience.
Also, the Siri option is great. It works awesome if you know exactly what episode you need (ex: “show name, season 3, episode 2”) as well as if you need to rewind a bit or turn on subtitles (we love our British programming, but sometimes they can be hard to follow). There are also big updates in Siri functionality coming this fall.
The Apple TV seems to stream better than any other streaming device we’ve tried and the other integration features are pretty awesome (linking your music, photos, and computer files) plus the remote app for iDevices gives you a keyboard and larger swiping area. The only downside for us has been getting used to the swipe technique after using the old-style remote for so many years.
As a sub-fave, we have been loving the Vid Angel app. It allows you to “buy” movies, apply filters for language, sexual content, and violence, then “sell back” after watching. For one day rental of an HD movie it only costs $2. This has opened a whole new world of enjoying family movies. I was shocked to find all the movies I grew up with have such racy language (turns out PG-13 wasn’t a designation until the early 90’s, so if it wasn’t R-rated before then, it got a PG rating…which is not the same as current PG standards) but with this app we can edit out the trouble parts and enjoy otherwise great movies together. We were all able to enjoy Forrest Gump this way. Plus, its cheaper than other rentals.
As a bonus sub-fave…check out this list from Mom Deals listing hack codes for unlocking content on Netflix!
2. Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mirrorless Camera
Many moons ago I owned and operated my own professional lifestyle photography business. But then I had my third kid and just couldn’t maintain a business, a baby, and homeschooling all at once. So, I shut down my business, website, blog, and…gasp…sold all my beloved equipment. I had an original full-frame Canon 5D that was my trusty companion for years. But the thing was SO big, as well as those hefty L lenses, and I rarely used it once I got my first iPhone…since the best camera is the one you have with you and whatnot. So I sold it all. And bought the Olympus.
I won’t go into great detail here about mirrorless cameras, but I will say this little camera was affordable, has a load of great lens options, has a fabulous, fast processor, has wi-fi connectivity, comes in a stylish, yet sturdy package, and is small enough to take with me anywhere I want. No, it is not the powerhouse that my 5D (or any current full-frame camera) was and I will never get the easy and gorgeous depth of field that was achievable with a full-frame camera. But, life is about compromise, folks. And this little camera is it. My favorite lenses are the Olympus 45mm f/1.8 and 17mm f/1.8 lenses.
Here are some examples:
(top image, 45mm f/1.8; bottom image, 14-42mm kit lens)
I will say, coming from years of Canon use, getting used to the menus and small size of this camera took some adjusting (in fact, I’m still adjusting) but I’m actually taking it places. Also, there is now a new model out, the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II, as well as an even higher-end model, the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II that offers waterproofing, better image stabilization, and other features.
3. Duolingo French
If you’ve been living under a rock for the last few years, Duolingo is a FREE desktop website & app for both ios & Android. It’s advertised as a personalized, fun, universally accessible way to learn foreign languages. There are currently 27 languages available for English speakers, including the usual suspects, as well as the more obscure languages of Welsh, Swahili, Hindi, and even Klingon (diff’rent strokes, I guess).
I have been an off-and-on user dabbling in Spanish, French, & German for a few years. Earlier this year I committed to working my way through the whole program in French and am currently on a “54-day streak” and at “49% fluency” (what that really translates to, I don’t know…but it sounds like progress so I’ll take it!). They use the immersion methodology (similar to Rosetta Stone…but FREE!) and while I feel like it is taking me a while to get through, I am really reaching a point where I’m starting to think in French. Conversationally, my pronunciation & grammar is probably terrible, but I feel like I am beginning to understand the language & integrate the vocabulary. It’s fun, fast, easy, and rewarding so my motivation is high to keep at it. If you’ve ever wanted to learn a new language but don’t have the time or money to invest…try this app! Btw…the website is more fully-featured with notes and vocab lists and “immersion” documents to translate, but I find the app easier to use.
The folks at Duolingo also recently released a whole slew of flashcards covering numerous subjects (including languages) packaged in the cute app Tinycards. You’ll want this one, too.
I have a notorious black thumb. The fact that produce develops in my garden months after I stick those little seeds in the ground speaks only to the miraculous design the Lord imparted on plants and has literally nothing to do with me. Until the last two years every single plant I tried to grow inside my house died. Quickly. But something happened after my mom bought me the little bonsai tree on the right, above. It lived. Then it thrived. Then it doubled in size. So I got another plant. Then another. They lived. I now have about 7 potted green beauties, all alive and doing their thing, surviving and making me happy. Happy living things inside my home are my favorite.
5. Hamilton: An American Musical soundtrack
This January we went on our first real vacation since having kids, with some of our best friends in the world, and saw our first-ever Broadway play, Something Rotten (bucket list check-offs galore!). Needless to say, we loved it. So obviously Hamilton would be the next logical step in the Broadway dilettante’s ascension to theatrical pundit status. However, the bank account tells no tales and re-mortgaging our home to see a single (yet magical, I’m sure) performance just somehow seems…ridiculous? When the soundtrack came out I skeptically decided to listen to see what all the hype is about, thinking that there’s no way I could get into a soundtrack of a musical…that I haven’t seen live…that’s delivered primarily in hip-hop verse…especially when I only recently decided that I actually like musicals. But, this is a work of art and a complex story probing the ideas of legacy, consequences, and the founding of America. I do not generally like hip-hop or rap, but this is leagues away from the filth and drivel of Kanye or Lil (fill-in the blank). This is what the poetic form of rap was made to do: tell a story. There is a language warning that goes with this one, but it’s not profane and is generally just the s-word. If you think it’s not you’re thing, just try it. You might be surprised, sir. 😉
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