Category Archives: something to try

Candy Cane Coffee Syrup Recipe

Homemade Coffee Flavoring Syrup Gift Set

I like my coffee dark and sweet, preferably with a flavor. As I have written before, I like to experiment with making my own flavoring syrups. Since I have accumulated several favorite recipes, I suggested to Brian that we make our own gift sets for family members we would see for Christmas. Although many of them do not drink coffee, the syrups are also good in tea, hot chocolate, cider, and steamers (hot milk with a flavor add-in).

Holiday Flavors

I posted the recipe for Cinnamon Stick Syrup a while ago and found the Gingerbread Syrup recipe on AllRecipes. I invented the Candy Cane Syrup recipe, which uses actual candy canes. I much prefer this recipe to peppermint syrups I tried using peppermint oil or peppermint leaves.

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How to Propagate Christmas Cactus

How to Propagate Christmas Cactus | StairStories.com

My “Heirloom” Cactus

When my grandparents moved out of their farmhouse last year, I came into possession of my grandma’s sprawling but sadly neglected Christmas cactus. She does not remember how long she had it, but the plant is at least one or two decades old, perhaps older. I remember arriving at her house to celebrate Christmas and her eager excitement over showing me the beautiful pinkish blooms on the cactus. For as long as I can remember, it sat with a couple ferns in front of gauzily-curtained windows.

After a few months of research and TLC, the plant recovered and I wanted to propagate cuttings to share with other family members. Here are the steps I followed to propagate – or “start” – new Christmas cactus.

Preparing the Environment

First, I filled three self-watering flowerpots with with potting soil specially-formulated for cacti and succulents. I chose self-watering containers because, from my research, mature Christmas cacti do best when watered from the bottom.

How to Propagate Christmas Cactus | StairStories.com

Choosing Cuttings

Next, I examined my mature cactus and removed any dead or dying segments. (I try to do this pruning regularly.)

Then, I chose sections that were at least four segments (leaves) long and broke them off by twisting them from the main branches. You could also cut them apart with scissors or a knife. I especially looked for segments that had tiny rootlets already starting.

How to Propagate Christmas Cactus | StairStories.com

Planting

After that, I planted the cuttings, being sure to bury the joint between the first two segments. The roots will grow from those joints.

Christmas Cactus | StairStories.com

Follow-up Care

Finally, I watered the soil a little and set the pots near a window where they would receive indirect sunlight.

I watered the cuttings weekly and then gave them to my grandma, aunt, and mom a few weeks later.


Have you propagated succulents? I have not had much success with starting other varieties (except jade). Leave your advice in the comments!

 

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Trello Gold Review

Trello Gold Review | StairStories.com

I recently posted about trying out Trello and was grateful that a couple readers signed up for Trello with my referral link, which gave me a couple free months to try out Trello Gold. According to the informational page for the Gold version, it provides several additional services for users:

  • Attachments up to 250 mb (a standard user can add attachments up to 10 mb)
  • Nine premium backgrounds and the ability to upload other background images
  • Premium stickers to add to cards besides the standard ones and the ability to upload other sticker images
  • The ability to upload an emoji if the hundreds available to standard users are not quite right
After using it for almost a month, it is my opinion that Trello Gold can make the interface more fun and, potentially, more distracting if you find yourself scrolling through the myriad of stickers or changing backgrounds constantly. The features would probably be even more fun for me if I were sharing boards with people, but so far I have been using them only for my personal planning and list making. The feature I have enjoyed most from Trello Gold has been the ability to change the backgrounds from the six standard colors to more interesting images like beautiful nature photos.

I do not plan to keep my Trello Gold subscription after my free months are up, primarily because I cannot justify paying $5 per month solely to have pretty backgrounds. As I use Trello more, though, I will keep the Gold features in mind. I really like the layout and standard features and do plan to continue using it to organize my lesson planning and other projects. Disclaimer: If you use this link to sign up, Trello gives me a free month of Trello Gold.

Do you use Trello or another organizational app? Tell me about it in the comments!

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Abby’s Apps: RunKeeper

RunKeeper App Review

App Title

RunKeeper

Cost

Free for iOS and Android

What It Does

RunKeeper tracks walking and running workouts via GPS, recording distance, time, and speed. It also offers workouts for experienced or beginning runners.

RunKeeper App Review RunKeeper App Review

RunKeeper App Review

My Opinion

I like having periodic audio updates about my statistics during a workout; it helps me regulate my speed and gauge how much further to go.

What are your favorite health-related apps?

Disclaimer: I don’t own or have any vested interest in this or any other apps nor am I responsible for how you or anyone else choose to use them. Do your own research and make wise decisions!

Reviews of iOS Apps | Abby's Apps at StairStories.com #31Days

This is a part of my 31 Days series, Abby’s Apps, linked up here.

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Abby’s Apps: Breeze [the one I wish I liked]

Today’s app was on my list of apps to share this month and I almost decided against it because the more I use it, the more I dislike it. But I concluded that this series does not have to be only reviews of apps I love. This is one have fallen out of “like” with.

 Breeze: an app I wish I liked | StairStories.com

App Title

Breeze

Cost

Free for iOS

What It Does

The app claims to monitor your activity and to help “effortlessly improve your fitness by giving you guidance and motivation to be more active every day.”

Breeze: an app I wish I liked | StairStories.com

Breeze: an app I wish I liked | StairStories.com

Breeze: an app I wish I liked | StairStories.com

 


 

 

My Opinion

From my perspective, it is a pretty, sleek pedometer for iOS. The app must stay open, running in the background, but does not seem to drain my phone battery more than normal. Breeze has issues refreshing the data when I return to it after using other apps. In addition, the constant notifications are annoying. The app acts like a needy friend with all its reminders and alerts. I wish there were a way to dial back the notifications instead of all on or all off. Furthermore, I dislike the arbitrarily assigned goals for my activity level each day.

Breeze: an app I wish I liked | StairStories.com
 Breeze: an app I wish I liked | StairStories.com


Breeze: an app I wish I liked | StairStories.com

Ultimately, the pedometer in the Health app that comes standard with iOS8 may be a good replacement for Breeze but I have not used it enough to know. Breeze is okay if you like the reminders and interface and getting assigned a “spirit animal.” I have not completely given up on my relationship with Breeze but I am looking for a replacement and will keep you posted.

Do you have a pedometer app that you love? Tell me in the comments.

Disclaimer: I don’t own or have any vested interest in this or any other apps nor am I responsible for how you or anyone else choose to use them. Do your own research and make wise decisions!

Reviews of iOS Apps | Abby's Apps at StairStories.com #31Days

This is a part of my 31 Days series, Abby’s Apps, linked up here.

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Abby’s Apps: WebMD

WebMD: Good App, just not for Hypochondriacs!

App Title

WebMD

Cost

Free for iOS, Android, and Kindle Fire.

What It Does

Users can look up symptoms, attempt self-diagnosis (for the purpose of knowing when to seek medical attention, of course), find first aid advice, read descriptions of medical tests and procedures, peruse descriptions of medicines or conditions, and more.

WebMD: Good App, just not for Hypochondriacs!

WebMD: Good App, just not for Hypochondriacs!


WebMD: Good App, just not for Hypochondriacs!

What I Like

Having WebMD on my phone is like having a medical reference book on hand at all times. Sure, it is possible to scare of gross yourself out if you misuse it, but I avoid that. When I had a minor cuticle infection, the WebMD app gave me at-home treatments to try and it cleared up before I went to the doctor.

WebMD: Good App, just not for Hypochondriacs!

WebMD: Good App, just not for Hypochondriacs!

WebMD: Good App, just not for Hypochondriacs!

WebMD: Good App, just not for Hypochondriacs!

What I Dislike

Having this app easily accessible on one’s phone could lead to compulsive symptom checking and chronic misdiagnosis for hypochondriacs (like a few of my friends). If this is you, please do not download WebMD. It is an excellent app for everyone else.

Disclaimer: I don’t own or have any vested interest in this or any other apps nor am I responsible for how you or anyone else choose to use them. Do your own research and make wise decisions!

Reviews of iOS Apps | Abby's Apps at StairStories.com #31Days
This is a part of my 31 Days series, Abby’s Apps, linked up here.


 

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Abby’s Apps: Lose It!

Lose It! App for making healthy choices & losing weight | StairStories.com

App Title

Lose It!

Cost

Free for iOS and Android and on the official website.

What It Does

Users can set goals to lose, gain, or maintain weight. Based on the goal, the app sets a daily calorie budget. After that, users add foods and exercises as they go. Adding most foods and exercises is quick and it is simple to add recipes or foods that are not already in the Lose It database.

What I Like

Whenever I use this app consistently, it feels a bit like a game and encourages me to be strategic about my food and exercise choices. For instance, one of my favorite indulgences is a cinnamon chip scone from Panera Bread and, at 530 calories, is enough to wreck a day of healthy eating! On rare occasions when get to indulge, I ask for the scone to be cut in half (either to share or have the rest on a different day). Later, I add a nice, long walk to my day to balance out my treat.

Exercise counts as negative calories!

The bar code scanner is by far the easiest way to add foods when I still have food package.

What I Dislike

I wish the app would stop suggesting I invite my friends to connect with me on the Lose It network. I really do not want to.

Disclaimer: I don’t own or have any vested interest in this or any other apps nor am I responsible for how you or anyone else choose to use them. Do your own research and make wise decisions!

Reviews of iOS Apps | Abby's Apps at StairStories.com #31Days
This is a part of my 31 Days series, Abby’s Apps, linked up here.

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Abby’s Apps: White Noise & Dog Training

Happy Saturday! Today Brian and I are replacing gutters on our house, so I am trying to keep this short. This is the first of my favorite health-related apps in the 31 Days of Abby’s Apps series.
 
Using a white noise app to train yourself & your dog | StairStories.com

App Title 

Ambiance and Ambiance Lite

Cost 

What It Does

Ambiance is basically a background or white noise player. It lets users choose from thousands of free sounds, record their own sounds, or combine sounds to create their own custom blend. The Lite version only allows users to download three sounds.

What I Like

I sleep best with a white noise in the background to muffle any small, middle-of-the-night noises. My favorites are rain, brook, vacuuming, or fan sounds. I looooove sleeping while it rains!

Puppy Training

I also have a furnace sound downloaded on my kitchen iPod and we play it for Cola, our puppy when she is supposed to be in bed sleeping. We have used the same sound since we brought her home and now she is trained or conditioned to it. When we let her out for the last time before bed, we turn on Ambiance and she runs right to her kennel when she comes back inside.

What I Dislike

It would be nice if the Premium version were free, but I do not mind supporting a quality app that I use daily.
 
Disclaimer: I don’t own or have any vested interest in this or any other apps nor am I responsible for how you or anyone else choose to use them. Do your own research and make wise decisions!
Reviews of iOS Apps | Abby's Apps at StairStories.com #31Days
This is a part of my 31 Days series, Abby’s Apps, linked up here.

 

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Abby’s Apps: Duolingo

Several months ago, my husband walked into our dining room where I was looking at my phone and heard an unfamiliar voice saying something unintelligible.

“What is that?” he asked.

“Portuguese.”

“Why?”

“Um, I got a new app. I want to learn Portuguese.”

Since then, I have switched to Spanish because I want to improve my conversational skills for my job.
 

Language-Learning App for Smartphones | Abby's Apps


Title:
Duolingo

Cost: Free for iOS and Android

What It Does: Enjoyable and engaging language learning activities for over Users select a language skill and then have the option to quiz out or to learn each lesson of the skill separately.


Language-Learning App for Smartphones | Abby's Apps
Language-Learning App for Smartphones | Abby's Apps


Language-Learning App for Smartphones | Abby's AppsLanguage-Learning App for Smartphones | Abby's Apps

What I Like: This is one of the few language learning apps I have used and enjoyed. First, it is convenient because it is always on my phone. Second, I like that one of the activities tests my pronunciation. Third, Duolingo keeps track of how long it has been since I reviewed a topic and shows a meter as a graphic representation of the strength of the skill. The goal is to keep all the meters topped off!

Language-Learning App for Smartphones | Abby's Apps
Language-Learning App for Smartphones | Abby's Apps


Language-Learning App for Smartphones | Abby's Apps
Language-Learning App for Smartphones | Abby's Apps

What I Dislike: Nothing, this is one of my favorite apps!
 

Disclaimer: I don’t own or have any vested interest in this or any other apps nor am I responsible for how you or anyone else choose to use them. Do your own research and make wise decisions!

Reviews of iOS Apps | Abby's Apps at StairStories.com #31Days

This is a part of my 31 Days series, Abby’s Apps, linked up here.

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Abby’s Apps: Quizlet

Quizlet App Review | StairStories.com

Title: Quizlet

Cost: Free for iOS and Android and on the website

What It Does: The app allows users to create free electronic flashcards or use shared ones to learn information. The cards can be made and used and ever printed via the website. With the mobile app, users can access all the same card sets for review or playing a matching game. The app also makes the cards available for offline use. Students can use the sets like traditional flashcards, looking at one side and guessing the answer before they check themselves, or they can play one of the two games or simply look at the list of terms.

Online Games With Flash Cards
Scatter is a matching game where the learner clicks and drags the two parts of each card together to clear them from the screen. In Space Race, definition cards move across the screen and the player must type the correct term before it reaches the other side.

What I Like: Since school started in August, I have been using Quizlet to make flashcards for the high school students I work with. So far, I have made sets for vocabulary learning and learning how to combine root words with suffixes. As an added bonus, they can use my flashcards (along with any they create) online or on their smart phones.

 
What I Dislike: I do not like creating card sets on the mobile app, but will sometimes make a correction to a set. I prefer an actual keyboard for lots of typing, so I create sets on my desktop. On the mobile app, I would like there to be another game in addition to matching and trying to beat my previous time.

 
Disclaimer: I don’t own or have any vested interest in this or any other apps nor am I responsible for how you or anyone else choose to use them. Do your own research and make wise decisions!

Reviews of iOS Apps | Abby's Apps at StairStories.com #31Days


This is a part of my 31 Days series, Abby’s Apps, linked up here.

 

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