Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Best Apps for Traveling Abroad

I've traveled to Europe a few times now, but our trip to Spain in May was the first time I've gone with a smartphone. I was a little unsure about bringing it at first since I was worried that it would just be annoying to have to keep track of something I wouldn't be able to use very much. Having worked at Verizon in the past, I know what a ripoff global phone plans can be. Unless it is very important for you to have cell service it's really not worth it to get one, and it does limit your phone's capabilities to not be connected to a mobile network. 

However, I did some research, found a lot of apps that work offline, and ended up deciding to take it along. I honestly had no idea how useful my iPhone could be, even without getting a global plan. We used it all the time, and I am so glad I brought it! 

Here are a few of the best apps we discovered:

(P.S. The links are for the iPhone version, but most of these are also on Google Play)

This is by far the app we used the most. Something a lot of people don't know about smartphones is that the GPS feature works worldwide, whether or not you are connected to a mobile network or the internet, and using it won't cost you anything. With this app, you can download maps for the country or state you are in and use it to see exactly where you are, get directions, and even look up restaurants and such. 

It was really handy, especially since we rented a car for a few days so we could drive to see Dallin's friends and some other sights. The roads there are completely jacked up, and I know that we would have spent a lot of time very lost and very frustrated without this app. It's a lifesaver! I think this is the only app we paid for, and it was well worth the $2.99. 

This is basically a free, electronic guidebook... on steroids. You can download info about different countries, regions, or cities to use offline. It has all kinds of great stuff... restaurants, attractions, maps, travel and safety info, phrasebooks, local time/weather, shopping, historical facts about sites (I used this a lot!), pictures, and more. It's all free too! I loved having so much information readily available. We didn't need a lot of it since Dallin was so familiar with Spain already, but it really came in handy sometimes, and I enjoyed learning more about the places we visited (and trying to pick up some more Spanish with the phrasebook). I can't say enough good things about this app!

I love Expedia. We needed to stick to a budget to afford our trip, and I did lots of price comparisons and found that Expedia really did have the best prices on flights, hotels, and our rental car. It saved us a lot of money to bundle our flights and hotel, by the way, so be sure to try to do that. They also have a very nifty app and it was nice to have our schedule, confirmation numbers, and all that good stuff all in one place. Made all the fun logistics bizness little easier! (Although being the overly prepared person I am I still brought spare paper copies of all our info, just to be safe.)

There are a million currency converters out there. Most of them probably work just the same, but this happens to be the one I picked. It did the job!

This probably isn't the best app for traveling abroad since it doesn't work offline, but it's the only one I used. Dallin is fluent in Spanish so I didn't really need one. This is free (always a plus!) and worked well for me. If anyone has a favorite offline translator let me know!

This app lets you call people for free, which was handy to let our families know we made it safely. You can also send texts but I didn't use that feature. One thing I wish I had done was try to call a local number while we were there to make sure that works. The reviews I saw were conflicting, some saying it worked and some saying it didn't, but if it does work to call foreign numbers then this is even more useful! You do need a Google account to use this, and of course it only works when you have wifi.  If you have an iPhone you can FaceTime or text other iPhones for free with wifi as well, in case you didn't know that already.

This is one I really wish I had known about earlier. In Madrid, and many other cities around the world, they have a wifi system set up with lots of hotspots all over. It's free, but you do have to go through this app and set up an account with them. It was worth the hassle  though! 

Most metro systems also have apps with maps and other info. It's nifty to have it in your pocket instead of searching around the station for a map. 

Airline-specific apps

I am pretty sure that all major airlines have their own app by now, which is really useful for checking your flight status and such. You can also check in and use your phone as your boarding pass, but to be honest I'm a little paranoid of having something go wrong so I've never used that feature before. If you've done it successfully you should tell me so I get the gumption to try it out sometime! 

Some also have airport maps and such which is really nice, especially when you get in the longest line in customs with the overly chatty dude that takes about 10x longer than he needs to, making it necessary for you to find your way around Chicago O'Hare and fast, or else you might miss your flight home. Not that I am speaking from experience or anything here. ;) Also, does anyone else get really antsy at customs? I mean, I am an upstanding citizen that hasn't even so much as gotten a parking ticket (knock on wood), but I always feel like I have to work really hard to look innocent. Clearly, I have problems. ;)

Well, there you have it! Hopefully these apps with be as useful for you as they were for us. 

Any other travel apps you can't live without?

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

I will go and do.

One of my shortcomings is my fear of doing difficult things, especially the ones that really stretch the boundaries of my happy little comfort zone. 

You know, things like attending the Spanish branch when I only have a small, patchy understanding of the language. Or being asked to play the piano in that branch, even though I only know a handful of hymns that took me a very long time to learn. Or teaching early-morning seminary five days a week to teenage kids that really aren't that much younger than myself! Each of these things really test my ability and willingness to take a deep breath, put on my metaphorical big girl panties, roll up my sleeves, and just do the best I can. 

One of the scriptures that has most influenced my life is 1 Nephi 3:7
"And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father: I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them."
Seriously, Nephi is pretty much the man. To give you some background, here's a quick sum-up of what's going on here. Lehi (Nephi's dad/prophet) has a vision in which he sees the destruction of Jerusalem. He warns the people, leaves his home to seek safety in the wilderness with his family, and then has another vision in which the Lord tells him they need to return to Jerusalem to get the brass plates from a dude named Laban. Nephi's rather whiny older brothers, Laman and Lemuel, do their thang and start whining ("murmuring") about how that's too hard

1 Nephi 3:7, in contrast, is Nephi's response to this commandment.  "I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men save he shall prepare a way from them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them."

In other words, "I'm gonna go and do what the Lord asks, because I know he will never, ever ask me to do anything that I cannot do."

Even if it is difficult, maybe even extremely difficult.

Even if at first it doesn't seem possible. 

Even if it means pole-vaulting over the confines of your comfort zone by, I don't know... attending the Spanish branch, or playing the piano in church, or trying to teach "spirited" teenagers about the gospel. :)

The Lord can and does prepare the way for us. I know I've experienced this many times, especially recently. For example, playing the piano in church is a very real, very difficult struggle for me. I rarely get through a song without messing up at least a few times and I get very anxious and tense every week. My goal  is not to play perfectly, but just to keep the song going. I've almost lost it a couple of times, but somehow my hands fall on the right keys, or at least enough right keys to keep the melody flowing well enough for people to sing along until I get back on track again. 

Each week I become more confident, especially as I learn to trust and lean on the Lord to help me do it. It's really something to feel my anxiety get swept away or to "magically" have my hands fall on the right notes, even when I've completely lost my place. I am so thankful for that help and support. I couldn't do it otherwise. 

Also, it was providential that Dallin's parents "happened' to give us their piano just a couple months before we were called to the branch. Don't you try to tell me that is a coincidence! :)

P.S. I survived the first two days of seminary! My class is great and so far everything is going very smoothly! You know, this is a demanding calling, but I'm really going to miss it when they release me. It's the best.

Friday, July 26, 2013

So long, summer (kinda)

Seminary starts next week. It is so close! I can't believe my lazy summer is almost at an end and that today was my last lackadaisical weekday morning for a while. Here's some of the things I'm mourning already...

  • No more going without some of the non-essential pieces of clothing that one doesn't need to wear when they are a bum at home all day. In other words, I will now have to wear a bra. Life is so hard sometimes... *sigh*
  • No more sleeping in until 7:00am every morning, which is my favorite time to get up. Early, but not too early. 
  • Likewise, no more staying up "late", which for this old fogie means any time past like 9:00 or 9:30. We're pretty exciting around here, lemme tell ya. 
  • No more leisurely weekday breakfasts with Dallin. 
  • No more showering in the morning. (Ain't no seminary teacher got time for that!)


On the bright side, there's a lot of things I'm really looking forward to, such as...
  • Teaching! It can be difficult some days, but I love that it challenges me, and I hope I can do some good in the lives of my students. I know high school was a very defining time for my character (in other words, it was misery... but I learned from it!), and I know seminary played a part in helping me avoid bad influences and decisions. 
  • Preparing lessons! I learn so much when I'm studying the scriptures and lessons manuals. It really helps me study with a purpose. Also, the new manual is going to make this much less stressful than last year... yippee! 
  • No longer being a bum all day. It was nice to take it easy for a little while, but I've started to feel a little useless just hanging out at home all day by myself. There's only so much cleaning, reading, and Netflix-watching one can do before it gets a little very monotonous. I kind of wish I could be working, at least part-time, but employment around these parts is hard to come by, especially good employment (as in something that doesn't make me work on Sunday and isn't a bad environment like the job I quit a while ago).
  • Being forced to get dressed and "prettied up" in the morning. It really makes a difference in my day to get home at 8am already dressed and with makeup on. I tend to be much more productive when I start my day early.
Wish me luck! (I need it...)

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Printable Scripture Mastery Cards/Bookmarks

Seminary is getting closer and closer! I've been busy preparing lessons, getting materials together, and (to be honest) kind of dreading getting up early. I think I've been a little spoiled this summer!

Grumpy Cat always understands me.

This year, along with the new curriculum, eight of the twenty-five Book of Mormon Scripture Mastery scriptures are different. Unfortunately this means that a lot of the materials are still in the process of being updated, and a lot of the free printables and things I've been using from other seminary teachers are no longer current. Bummer! So... I made a couple of my own. I figured I would post them here just in case there are any other seminary teachers looking for something like this. Feel free to print or edit them any way you like! 

I made this one to be the same size as the new Scripture Mastery cards. Last year some of my students (and myself, to tell the truth...) had a hard time keeping track of their cards, so this year I put them on rings and added this list to the ring. I figure it is a good way for them to have everything in one place so it's easy to pull out and hopefully won't get misplaced as easily. 

(Left click to enlarge, right click to save and print)

To get the card the right size, I printed them as wallet sized pictures (on white cardstock). The tricky part is cutting them the right length because the new cards are kind of long. I messed up a couple of sheets, so... good luck! :)

Also, because of the way the new SM cards were printed, the only way to punch holes in the cards without losing text is to do it in one of the bottom corners. Keep that in mind if you plan on putting them on rings!

The finished product!

I also made a 4x6 version for my students to use as bookmarks, especially since we don't have the new ones put out by the church yet. (Plus these are cuter... which is very important, am I right? :P)

(Left click to enlarge, right click to save and print)
I plan on printing this on the back so they have a place to keep track of the scriptures they passed off besides the poster at the front of the class. This is partially because we had a couple problems with people putting stickers in the wrong places... sometimes accidentally, sometimes not. ;) 

Last one... I have had this quote hanging on the wall in front of the classroom and decided to make one that was a little more eye-catching (but still simple). 

The colors are a little dark in the download because my printer tends to print things lighter than they should be, so feel free to tweak the colors if it doesn't print quite the way you want. 

Here's how it looks in real life. See what I mean?

Well, there you have it! Let me know if you have any questions! Also, I plan on making (and posting) more seminary printables so if you have suggestions or ideas feel free to shoot me a comment or email. 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Five reasons why you should judge me

1. I hate shaving my legs. No really, I do. This means that I when I do shave, it probably means I have a doctor's appointment, all my maxi skirts/dresses are dirty, or the long tresses crawling out of my pant legs were posing too much of a safety hazard. (That last one might have been a slight exaggeration) Fun fact: I did not shave once when I was in Russia for 4 months, just to see if I could do it. Yes, it was nasty. No, I don't regret it. And no, I will never do that again... I do have my limits, believe it or not!


2. I don't really watch what I eat. Lucky for me, I was blessed with a high metabolism and a love of fruits and veggies to somewhat balance out my love of Oreos, ice cream, IBC root beer, and kettle corn. My hippie(ish) mama always fed us pretty healthy food (which is why every birthday we asked for Cap'n Crunch... that's the only time we got to eat sugar cereal!) so I think I owe her for that. Thanks mom! ;) Oh, and I also don't like exercising. I love being active, playing sports (Ultimate Frisbee!!!), canyoneering and going for walks with Dallin, but exercising just for the sake of exercising? I get so bored. I find watching CSPAN more entertaining, and that is saying something. It's gonna catch up with me one of these days! 

how about you jamison? stacey? jaime?

3. I have really bad taste in TV shows. Just ask Dallin, who likes to tease me when he sees what pops up on "Recently Watched" on Netflix. Why yes dear, I did watch more than a couple episodes of Toddlers and Tiaras today, thankyouverymuch. (And let's be honest, that's one of the less embarrassing examples!) In my defense, it's really easy to multi-task during mindless enertainment like this, so hypothetically I can be doing the dishes or working on some kind of project while I watch. Hypothetically. Which brings us to...

4. I really really dislike doing the dishes. All I have to say is... ain't nobody got time for that! 


5. I judge people by their grammar and spelling, which is pretty hypocritical since I know I have plenty of typos and such all the time. Still, it drives me a little crazy sometimes when people mess up basic rules like your vs. you're or their vs .there vs. they're. Ahhh... make it stop! 

Funny Somewhat Topical Ecard: I would 'like' your status but you don't know the proper way to use you're and your.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Summer, slushies, and sunsets

I haven't been in the blogging mood much lately. It's not due to a lack of time; in fact maybe the overabundance of free time I've had lately is making me feel a little... blah.

Seminary starts in two weeks, and although that partially makes me freak out a little bit with all the things I need to do to prepare, I'm also looking forward to having something to occupy my time. And trust me, seminary is very good at that, meaning I will probably be whining about how stressed and busy I am in a few months. (Go ahead, judge me. DO IT.) Also, fun fact: I accidentally wrote "busty" instead of "busy" at first and it made me giggle.

Moving on.

Summer is in full swing at our humble abode. Here's some of the signs of summer around these parts:

  • Slushie/vanilla malt/oreo mcflurry runs. All day erryday. Sometimes I feel bad when I go on one of these runs when Dallin is at work, but clearly not bad enough to stop it. (Sorry babe!)
  • Never wearing pants (or any other unnecessary layers) in the house if I can help it. It gets too dang hot to keep them on! Unfortunately, the UPS man seems to time his stops at our house perfectly with No Pants Time, so I've started keeping an emergency pair of shorts around just in case after having an awkward experience in which I hid behind the couch after we had made eye contact. Because I'm that smooth and totally not a weirdo at all. (False!) 
  • Spending lots of time downstairs, where it is much cooler. Unfortunately since this is where our TV is I usually end up wasting too much time vegging out on the couch. Working on that. (which is why I'm blogging as I sit on said couch watching TV... because somehow that makes it okay, right? Right!)
  • Thoroughly enjoying afternoon monsoons. One of my favorite things about living in AZ! I absolutely love how it makes my house smell.
  • Eating outside on our brand new deck furniture! We got this a few days ago and I might not eat inside ever again. 

We live on a bit of a hill, so the view from our deck involves surprisingly few houses, and lots of trees, peeks of distant mountains, and a painted sky every evening at sunset. Last night was especially beautiful, and the fact that it was lightly raining, our bellies were full of our amazing homemade pizza, and I had that cute husband of mine holding my hand made it the best.

I'm looking forward to many more lovely summer (and fall and winter and spring) evenings with him. He makes my life pretty darn happy indeed.

Better enjoy the beautiful summer while it lasts... I am not ready to trade my summer wardrobe of t-shirts/sweats for dresses/skirts once seminary starts, but I guess I'll probably survive. Wish me luck! ;)