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 myself and this blog. Your support is greatly appreciated.

Gadgets

  • Xbox One + Kinect – I’ve never owned a gadget that changed the way I interact with TV so quickly. “Xbox On” has just become part of my evening routine, and I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve accidentally tried to use “Xbox Pause” to pause someone else’s TV or even my iPhone.
  • Google Chromecast – Not having cable means I stream a lot of things now. I took a chance on a Chromecast as a cheaper alternative to the AppleTV for streaming from my MacBook Pro and haven’t been disappointed.
  • 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.
  • Emerson Dual Alarm AM/FM SmartSet Clock Radio – I’ve used one of these for years. They just work, and for the price you can’t beat it.
  • VIZIO S4251w-B4 5.1 Soundbar with Wireless Subwoofer and Satellite Speakers – I swapped out my complicated 7.1 system for this and haven’t looked back. The wireless rear speakers and subwoofer mean I can tuck them away without running cables everywhere, and the bluetooth capability makes it easy to play music from a mobile device or even my Mac.
  • Nest Thermostat – With a newly replaced HVAC system in my home, I’ve finally been able to reconnect my Nest, and you can bet it’s back on my list of favorite things. It just works, and I missed every month I didn’t have it.
  • Nest Protect – I replaced my condo’s smoke detector with one of these, and aside from peace of mind and having a working smoke detector, one of my favorite features is the Pathlight. My smoke detector is right outside of my guest bathroom and in the main hallway, so when someone stays over, it automatically lights the way for them.
  • 15″ Macbook Pro with Retina – No description is ever going to do this machine justice. I’ve owned 3 Mac laptops so far, and this one is about as close to perfect as can be. The screen’s gorgeous, and over 2 years later, it’s still a joy to use each and every day.
  • iPhone 6 (Space Gray 64GB) – I’ve had the iPhone 6 for quite a few months now, and just like my Mac, it’s been the best so far. It took me a bit to get used to the size, but I can truly say I’m doing more on my phone than ever because of the larger screen and Touch ID.
  • Spigen® Ultra Hybrid Case for iPhone 6 – I’ve never found a better case. It adds grip and protection to the phone without adding bulk, making the buttons a pain to use, or covering up how gorgeous the iPhone 6 is. It’s everything Apple’s Bumper cases should have been. I’ve purchased three of these now, one for my mom in Metal Slate, and two for myself in Gunmetal and Mint. Do ignore the negative reviews on Amazon – a ton of people are complaining simply because they didn’t remove the protective film or they assumed this thin case would protect their phone from hitting the concrete. If you’re looking to add a bit of grip and scratch protection, this is it. If you’re hoping to have your phone survive a 6ft drop onto the pavement, it’s not.
  • Canon P-215II Document Scanner – I know that the Scansnap scanners are incredibly popular, but I got a fantastic deal on this scanner (under $180) and figured I’d try it. So far it’s been great and has allowed me to quickly get through the backlog of papers I had. I can’t imagine going paperless without it.
  • Everdock – I’ve tried many docks over the years, and this is the only one that’s survived the test of time. No matter what case or device I have, it works unlike the other docks that had to be replaced with every device upgrade.
  • Jabra REVO Wireless Bluetooth Stereo Headphones – These headphones have changed the way I listen to audio. I have the grey model, but every model looks great. They are Bluetooth so you sacrifice audio quality for convenience, but I’ve not minded. After a year of throwing them in my bag, listening to them whenever I’m walking about outside, and even dropping them, these are still going strong.
  • JayBird BlueBuds X Sport Bluetooth Headphones – When I’m going to be a bit more active, or don’t want to carry my larger REVOs above, I reach for these. The battery life isn’t as good, but I can easily stash them in a pocket and they stay put in my ears no matter how much I jump around. They’re great for going on runs.
  • Kindle Paperwhite – This device demoted my iPad to a cabinet. I don’t read on any other device. It’s small enough to fit in my bag. The exceptional battery life means it’s almost always charged and ready to go, and the screen means I can take it outside and not worry about being able to see the screen.
  • Canon PowerShot S110 – (Disclaimer: I have the S100. The S110 is the newer model.) If you’re looking for a small point and shoot camera at a great price, check this guy out. It takes fantastic pictures. In fact, on vacation, one of my friends took my S100 over instead of his DSLR. 
  • 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.

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.
  • Google Drive – I know Dropbox is the de facto cloud storage platform, but something about Google Drive just clicks. I’ve moved all of my cloud storage usage to Google at this point.
  • 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.)
  • 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.
  • Swagbucks – I’m always looking for ways to easily make a few extra dollars online. For just a couple minutes each day answering a poll, watching videos, or even just searching the web which I do all the time, I’ve easily earned over $300 worth of Amazon gift cards.
  • Bing Rewards – Bing gets a lot of flack online, but it’s honestly a pretty good search engine. Plus, for very little effort, you can get yourself Hulu for free every month (or other rewards) just by using it.
  • Feedly – I’m still a bit sad about the death of Google Reader, but thankfully Feedly was there to match nearly all it’s features. It’s the basis of my RSS workflow, and the #1 source of my news at this point.
  • 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.
  • MTurk – MTurk is another site I use to make extra money by doing small tasks called HITs. It’s no part time job, but if you’re looking for something to do at home in your spare time, this is worth it. I’ve earned almost $900 since starting last June and that’s $900 I was able to put towards paying off my credit card balances.
  • 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.
  • CrashPlan – Backups are incredibly important. That’s something I learned the hard way years ago when I lost years of photos. For years, I thought Time Machine was enough, then I got a bad OS X update that wiped my machine. It wasn’t until I read a few reports online that I realized how lucky I was though. That bad update also wiped a lot of Time Machine back ups on Western Digital drives, and I had a Western Digital Drive. Now I not only back up to Time Machine at work, but I also back up to CrashPlan. It’s so simple and affordable, there’s really no reason to not sign up.
  • 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.
  • Pinterest – Bringing my design choices to life wouldn’t be possible without Pinterest. Pinterest for me is actually a vision board. It allows me to see how products look together before I put them in a room.
  • ReadyforZero – If you’re trying to pay off debt, check out ReadyforZero. It gives you a payment plan complete with projections of when you’ll be completely debt free. Seeing how much I’m paying per day in interest and watching that number fall with each payment has been major motivation in paying off my credit cards. It even gives you a graph that shows how your debt will be paid off over time. It’s free, so go check it out.

Mac Apps

  • 1Password – 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 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 – 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 – 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 – 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 – 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 – 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 – 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 – Tweetbot lives in the corner of my 27″ display. It’s my news feed for the day, but what keeps me coming back is it’s Mute feature.
  • Day One – Day One is my journalling app of choice. It’s gorgeous and works just as it should.
  • Byword – I’m a big plain text advocate, and Byword has replaced TextEdit for me. If I’m taking notes or drafting a blog post on my Mac, it’s in Byword
  • CleanMyMac 3 – 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 – 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 – 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 – 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 – 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 – 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 – 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.

iOS Apps

  • Fantastical – Natural language entry on the iPhone is the quickest way to set up an appointment. I couldn’t live without it.
  • Dark Sky – I’m always worried about being caught out in the rain, and DarkSky solves that by giving me the weather in the ways that matter to me. I can easily see what the weather is, what it feels like, and what it will be in the next hour in one screen.
  • Omnifocus – Having access to my brain on my phone is a must. Omnifocus for iPhone is the perfect companion app for getting things done on the go.
  • Habit List– Of all the habit-tracking apps I’ve tried, none has come close to Habit List. It looks great and offers features to customize frequencies and skip days.
    • Honorable Mention goes to Momentum which I switch back and forth between. It’s not as feature-rich as Habit List, but it does offer a Mac app.
  • Day One – Day One on my iPhone makes journalling in bed possible each night. It also makes a great personal “Yelp” to review foods and drinks you’ve tried on the go.
  • Reeder – 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.
  • Pocket – I’m still waiting for a ReadKit solution on iOS, but for now, Pocket paired with Reeder is the solution. Even then, Pocket for iOS is just fantastic.
  • Overcast – I’m a huge Podcast listener, and Overcast’s Smart Speed feature let’s me listen to podcasts faster than ever. That feature alone was reason enough to switch from Downcast.
  • Television Time – 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 – 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.
  • 1Password – iOS 9 has made this app shine. All my passwords are securely synced and available to me in Safari with just my finger print and an extension. It’s free so there’s no reason to not try it out.
  • Airmail – With the death of Mailbox, I was thrilled to see Airmail, my mail client pick for OS X make its way to iOS. It’s a tinkerer’s dream, and also supports snoozing that syncs seamlessly with it’s Mac counterpart. No awkward folders structure to deal with between platforms.
  • Paprika – Paprika on the Mac is an excellent recipe manager, but the iPhone version is just as powerful. It’s a great grocery list when I’m out. When cooking it lets you set multiple timers, and the new Safari extension lets you save recipes just as easy as on the Mac.
  • Waze – 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.

Books

Podcasts

  • Mac Power Users – This was the podcast that got me started listening, and I religiously tune in every week for new tips and tricks. If you’re looking to make your Apple devices work for you rather than the other way around, check this out.
  • Back to Work – I can’t say enough about Merlin Mann, other than to just listen to him. The podcast may not really be about going back to work much these days, but just hearing the conversation is a treat.
  • The Productivity Show by Asian Efficiency – I found Asian Efficiency through their Omnifocus Premium Posts, but their new podcast hasn’t disappointed either.
  • Connected – My daily fix of Apple News featuring Myke Hurley, Stephen Hackett, and every Mac user’s favorite Italian, Federico Viticci.

Other Products

  • Too Faced Cosmetics Primed and Poreless – I swear by this stuff to help my makeup go on smoothly and last throughout the day.
  • Bare Minerals Ready Foundation – I used to use a plethora of liquid foundations until I found this. It’s simplified my make up routine and made my skin a lot happier too.
  • 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 though 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.
  • Julep Plié Wand – If you have terrible coordination when painting nails, you have to try this.
  • Thai Coconut Beach Waves Beach Wave Spray – My hair has no body. It falls board straight and that’s about it. This stuff actually works though. Not to mention it’s all natural and affordable.
  • Miracle Skin Transformer Treat & Conceal – Best concealer I’ve ever tried, hands down.
  • Dagne Dover Tote – Where do I even start with this bag?! It has a place for everything: my 15″ 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. It looks great and it’s durable. 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.

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