My Favorite Things

Ever wonder what I use every day? My favorite products, apps, and services? Well here you go, and all in one place!
Disclaimer: The following links may contain affiliate links that allow me to receive a small percentage of sales if you decide to purchase an item. The proceeds from these links help to support this blog. Your support is greatly appreciated.

My Main Gadgets

Smart Home

  • Amazon Echo – Let me just say I feel like a wizard with this in my house. Need to know when your favorite team’s playing? Need to add something to a shopping list? Need to set a timer while you’re hands are a mess? Or maybe you just want to be lazy and turn on some Wemo lights or hear some music. Just ask Alexa. Simple as that. I also have an Echo Dot in my bathroom so that I don’t need to scream to the kitchen.
  • Belkin WeMo Switch – I can’t get stress how useful these things are. I have my bedroom lamps connected to one that turns on and off automatically each weekday morning. My Christmas tree was connected to one and set to turn on at sunset each night. They’re also great for lamps that are awkward to turn on and off.
  • Logitech Harmony Hub – This has been a game changer especially when paired with the Echo. With the Harmony Hub, I can control everything from my Roku Stick which lacks a traditional IR remote to my fireplace all with my voice or smartphone.
  • Nest Thermostat and Nest Protect – The Nest thermostat was one of the first smart home devices I purchased. Being able to control the temperature from wherever I’m at is cool enough, but admittedly one of my favorite features is the motion sensors on these. With the help of a now-defunct Mac app called Inversion, I get alerts whenever either one senses motion. The Nest Protect also has a handy Pathlight feature which serves as a convenient night light for anyone walking down the hallway late at night.

Services

  • Google Calendar – I can’t imagine where I’d be without Google Calendar. It’s one of the major parts of keeping my life organized.
  • Gmail – All of my email accounts are through Gmail. It just works.
  • Google Photos – Sorry Apple, I’m not paying you money every month just to store my photos online, especially when Google will do it for free using the eco system I’m used to. For an added benefit, there’s an “assistant” that will periodically create short videos, collages, and GIFs of your images for you. It sounds gimmicky, yes, but I look forward to seeing a notification when something new awaits, and so do my friends.
  • Sanebox – After having Sanebox for a week, I couldn’t go back to life without it. Instead of getting distracted by advertisement emails throughout the day, I get 1 email at 4PM each day that I can skim quickly. It’s been well worth the price.
  • Slack – Slack’s replaced nearly all of my work communication. It’s also added a sense of fun and community to an otherwise anti-social IT department. I also use it for chatting with a few groups I’m interested in.
  • Goodreads – I track everything I read at Goodreads. I’ve even set up shelves to know what is available to check out or what I’ve recommended at my local library e-Library site.
  • Pocket – Pocket is part of my daily workflow at this point. Rather than having countless tabs open in my browser, if there’s something I want to read or watch, it gets saved to Pocket where it can stay until I’m ready for it.
  • Feedly – I’m still a bit sad about the death of Google Reader, but thankfully Feedly was there to match nearly all its features. It’s the basis of my RSS workflow, and the #1 source of my news at this point.
  • Exist – I track just about everything about my life, but a big question has always been what to do with that data. Exist takes the guesswork out of everything and brings it together to find correlations.
  • Mint – Mint makes managing my finances easy. It notifies of me of large transactions and gives me graphs to see how things like my Net Worth or Debt are changing over time.
  • CreditKarma – Life’s thrown me a few curveballs over the past few years (getting out of debt, buying a fixer upper, buying a new car, etc) so Credit Karma allows me to loosely keep track of how my credit score changes week to week in between the monthly changes I get from my actual credit card company.
  • Spotify – After trying Rhapsody, and Rdio, I settled on Spotify as my streaming service of choice. Thanks to a student discount, I get all the music I want for $4.99 a month. That’s hard to beat. I also love the curated playlists based on mood. You can follow me here.
  • PetFlow – If you have pets, Petflow is life changing. Gone are the weekly trips to the pet store. Instead, pet supplies just show up at my door automatically. It’s like Amazon’s Subscribe and Save for pet stuff. (I’m also happy to report that they’ve started a referral program, so if you decide to sign up using this link, it will get us both $10 off.)
  • Amazon Prime – I don’t know what I’d honestly do without Amazon Prime. I mostly use it to have items shipped to me regularly through Subscribe and Save, but I also heavily utilize the free shipping on most orders. If you’re in an Amazon Now delivery area, which I am, you can even enjoy 1-2 hour deliveries for select items.
  • Backblaze – Offsite backups are a must. Having the piece of mind to know Backblaze is always running in the background keeping my data safe in the event one of my other physical backups fails is well worth the $5/mo.
  • Encrypt.me – You can’t be too safe on the internet, and the more I travel, the more I’m glad to pay for one of the simplest VPN services around. Install the app on all your devices and if it doesn’t recognize the network you’re connected to, it automatically secures your connection.

Apps

  • 1Password (iOS/Mac) – I can’t recommend this app enough. If there is ONE app I think everyone should have, it’s 1Password. It was the first app I ever bought with my own money, and I’ve continued to buy it not only for myself but for family and friends. The app keeps getting better and with security breaches being in the news every single week, you can’t not have a password manager. I’ve tried others, but this one is the best.
  • Paprika (iOS/Mac) – I used to save all my recipes to Pinterest until I realized how many of those recipes were gone thanks to broken links. Paprika is the best recipe manager, and the browser extension to save recipes with 1 click is just fantastic. It’s also great for meal planning, generating grocery lists, and even timers.
  • Fantastical (iOS/Mac) – Fantastical is one of the few apps that lives in my menu-bar. The natural language makes it easy to add a calendar event, and it’s a quick, compact way to see the date and check my calendar without having a calendar app open at all times.
  • Deliveries (iOS/Mac) – This app has grown up since it’s days of the Dashboard widget. It now lives in the Notification Center, and with a few clicks, I can grab a tracking number from an email and be able to track it until whatever I’ve ordered gets to my door.
  • ReadKit (Mac) – Readkit has changed the way I consume content because I now have 1 app that collects all the new content from RSS feeds and allows me to also view everything I’ve saved to Pocket. For more on how I use Readkit, I wrote a post on it.
  • AirMail (iOS/Mac) – AirMail is everything Apple Mail should have been. It’s simple yet incredibly powerful. It integrates with Omnifocus, and lets you customize nearly everything you could ever want to change.
  • Omnifocus (iOS/Mac) – Where to begin with Omnifocus… coupled with Google Calendar, Omnifocus completes my brain. For more on how I use Omnifocus, read the numerous posts I’ve written.
  • Tweetbot (iOS/Mac) – Tweetbot lives in the corner of my 27″ display. It’s my news feed for the day, but what keeps me coming back is its mute feature.
  • CleanMyMac 3 (Mac) – I’ve used numerous utilities over the years to keep my Mac running nicely, but none have been as comprehensive and nice looking as CleanMyMac 2. To date, I’ve cleaned over 200GB of junk off my Mac and when you have an SSD, every bit of space matters.
  • Bartender (Mac) – Every app seems to want to live in my menubar these days. Thanks to Bartender, those apps no longer stretch across the top of my 27″ display. Instead, my menubar is kept to 1Password, Fantastical, Volume, and the time. Anything else lives hidden in Bartender until there’s something trying to grab my attention where it’ll pop into the menu bar for a set amount of time.
  • Keyboard Maestro (Mac) – Technology is supposed to make your life easier, and Keyboard Maestro helps with that. When I get to work in the morning, Keyboard Maestro automatically opens the apps I need for the day, and before I leave, it shuts everything down. The possibilities are endless, and it one of the many apps that make everything I do each day possible without having an assistant.
  • Alfred (Mac) – Alfred is another one of those apps that I install as soon as I get a computer. Command-Space is just ingrained in my muscle memory. When it’s not running on a computer I’m lost. I use it to search the web, open apps, do calculations, and a myriad of other things.
  • Unclutter (Mac) – Unclutter is a handy app that lets me jot down notes and access my clipboard history just by swiping down at the top of my screen.
  • Moom (Mac) – Working with any number of windows is made so much easier with Moom. Being able to snap windows to certain sections of the screen with just a drag or click is a lifesaver, but that’s just the start of what Moom can do.
  • Hazel (Mac) – I refer to Hazel as my assistant. She quietly sits in my computer filing away all my papers and looks for any trivial tasks that can be done. One of these is my job’s weekly report. When Hazel sees the weekly report has been downloaded, it renames the file, runs a script to convert the file type, and opens the folder in Google Drive to upload it.
  • Reeder (iOS) – I don’t use Reeder on my Mac anymore, but when it comes to RSS readers for iOS, I’ve not found one that’s more convenient than Reeder. A quick swipe to the right sends an article to Pocket which lets me quickly sort new feed items on the go.
  • Television Time (iOS) – Being a cord cutter means you need to find a way to track your place in various shows. I’ve tried several apps that sync with Trakt.tv (iTV Shows and TeeVee are big names) but most seemed buggy.  If my word isn’t enough, head over to the Sweet Setup and read their in-depth review.
  • Threes (iOS) – This app is my guilty pleasure. It’s a quick game that you can pick up for a minute or two (or several hours…). It’s the perfect app for one-handed play, and I find myself playing it while watching TV, waiting in line, or whenever I have my phone in my hand really.
  • FlipFlop Solitaire – Along with Threes, this is one of the only staple games on my phone. Imagine Spider Solitaire but better because you can build stacks in either direction.
  • Waze (iOS) – This has been my favorite GPS app for as long as I’ve had my iPhone. It works. It’s cute. And it has every feature I could ever ask for.
  • Carrot Weather (iOS) – Don’t let this weather app’s snarky personality fool you. This isn’t just a fun weather app, it’s incredibly powerful, looks great, and has up to the minute weather alerts.
  • Streaks (iOS) – As much as I love to track everything, I’m pretty lazy about it. What’s nice about streaks is that it integrates with Apple Health Data so now I don’t even need to bother to track most of my habits.
  • Castro (iOS) – When you listen to as many podcasts as I do, you need an app to help you stay on top of them. Castro’s inbox triaging, along with options to trim silence, allows me to do so with ease. I also appreciate that it shows how many episodes I have to listen to.
  • AutoSleep (iOS) – The Apple Watch still doesn’t have native sleep tracking, so I solve this with AutoSleep. Just wear your watch to bed, and it does the rest.

Books

Podcasts

  • Do By Friday – Discussions about current events, lots of laughs, absurd weekly challenges, and a whole lot of internet randomness brought to you by two of the folks behind Cards Against Humanity and Merlin Mann.
  • Cortex – If there was every one person’s mind I wanted to pick apart more than anyone else’s in the world (not in a creepy way), it’d be CGPGrey. The intentionality he lives by is incredible, and the relationship he has with Myke is great.
  • Back to Work – Merlin and Dan are just incredible in this podcast. Don’t let the title fool you – it’s really not about work these days. Just two good friends talking about whatever strikes their fancy – Apple news, decluttering, comics, anxiety, and managing to survive without losing your mind in the world of today.
  • Reconcilable Differences – I’ve really come to appreciate the conversations between John Siracusa and Merlin Mann. Topic wise, I’d compare this with Back to Work – meaning they cover everything and anything, but their banter back and forth is what makes the show.
  • Hello Internet – Another CGPGrey podcast. This one is a bit more topical. If you couldn’t tell by the title, it’s a show about random things on the internet.
  • Reply All – This podcast has featured some of the most entertaining stories I’ve ever heard on a podcast. From tracking down those pesky tech support scammers all the way to their office in India to the mysterious person behind Pizza Rat, they never seem to disappoint.

Other Products

  • Real Techniques Make Up Brushes – High-quality brushes without the high price.
  • The Wet Brush – I have incredibly long hair and without this brush, I’d never be able to get a brush through it.
  • Conair Infiniti Pro Hair Dryer – After taking a terrible chance on a NuMe dryer, I opted for this Conair Dryer. At less than 20% of the price of the NuMe, this dryer blows the NuMe away.
  • Seche Vite Dry Fast Top Coat – My nails NEVER dried until I found this. I’d get my nails done at a salon only to have them still wet or tacky days later. Seche Vite is a super affordable, and it lets me do my nails in 10 minutes and move onto something else without worrying about smearing them for days.
  • Miracle Skin Transformer Treat & Conceal – Best concealer I’ve ever tried, hands down.
  • Dagne Dover Bags – Where do I even start with these bags?! I have both the Legend Tote and Midi Tote. Both have a place for everything. The Legend is my work bag and fits my laptop, tablet, phone, ID cards, keys, pens, wallet, water bottle, and room to spare, and still manages to not look like I’m carrying a suitcase. I’ve had it for several years and it still looks great. The Midi for days when I need a larger purse than just my wristlet. My only complaint is that I don’t have one every single color.
  • Contigo AUTOSEAL West Loop Stainless Steel Travel Mug – I threw out all of my coffee mugs and replaced them with these. They don’t leak, and my coffee stays warm for hours. I do recommend getting the cleaning brushes from Contigo though because the lids can get funky if not cleaned properly. I also love their water bottles and you can almost always find me with my Ulla hydration reminder strapped to it and probably blinking because I need to drink more..

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