My 13 Favorite Apps

In December of 2014 I finally got my very first smart phone. After nearly a year and a half of use, I have found my favorite apps. Of course I love carrying a camera around in my back pocket as well as having access to maps, email, and banking everywhere I go. Those things make life easier. But today I want to share with you guys the 13 apps that I have really fallen in love with!

13 favorite apps

SOCIAL:

Instagram – A favorite of mine! I’m @rach.vendetti if you aren’t already following.

Feedly – I don’t love reading blogs on my phone because I don’t love typing comments on my phone. I’d much rather have a full keyboard because it’s much quicker. But sometimes time is tight and I want to read blogs on-the-go (especially on long car rides). So at those times the Feedly app is super helpful!

READING:

OverDrive – I love that this app connects to my local library so I can download books for free here!

GoodReads – I can’t tell you how often I am standing in the library with a book in hand and the cover is pulling me in and then I scan the book on my GoodReads app and find out that it has horrible reviews. Thank you, GoodReads for saving those hours of my life. The few times that I’ve thought that the reviews are probably wrong and read the book anyway have been a waste of time. I love GoodReads in general because it helps me organize my to-read list, but also because it has such honest reviews. So having the access to that in my back pocket is fabulous! You can find me here at GoodReads.

ORGANIZATION:

Wunderlist – I am a paper and pen type person. I keep a paper planner that is color coded and I love it. But sometimes when I’m out running errands all day it’s easier to carry my phone with me than to have multiple paper lists of things to keep up with.

REMINISCING: 

TimeHop – I love picking up old journals and going back to today’s date in that year to see what I was up to. So for example taking today’s date, April 29th, and looking at that date in 2015 or 2014 or even as far back as the 90’s when I started journaling. I do the same thing with old blog posts sometimes. For example, five years ago today I shared a video on this blog of our friend Tony (who used to live with us) messing with Oreo. Watching it now still makes me laugh. So yeah, I love to look back on memories. And TimeHop does this for me. A daily dose of life from previous years. :)

HEALTH:

FitBit – You guys, I love my FitBit Charge. I didn’t understand what all the fuss was about until I got one for Christmas. It has all the perks of a normal pedometer, but the best thing is the community. Every single day my sister and I compete against each other in steps. We cheer each other on and encourage each other to stay active. I just love it! By the way, if you are looking for a FitBit and don’t want to pay full price – we found both mine and Christopher’s for more than half off on Ebay.

My Fitness Pal – I know people think of this as a weight-loss app, but that’s not all it is. Ever since we found out I was insulin resistant last year I’ve had to be more careful about what I eat and when I eat it. My Fitness Pal helps with that. I also love that it shows a break down of all the vitamins I’m getting from my foods to help me be sure I am getting a lot of my nutrition from food and not just from multi-vitamins. Plus it connects to FitBit which is super awesome!

Clue – If you have tried different period trackers and been disappointed with how inaccurate they are (or the flowers all over them) like I was, then you might like Clue better. I have been amazed at how accurate it is with everything it predicts. The teen girls I mentor actually told me about Clue last year and I made the switch from a less reliable tracker that very same day. I’ve loved it ever since!

HOME SECURITY: 

Ring – This is essentially video surveillance at our home. The Ring doorbell works like a regular doorbell, but is also motion activated and will send an alert to your phone to let you know that someone is outside your home. It also shows video of anyone outside the house and allows us to speak from the app to them through the doorbell. Confusing? Check out more information here. We love it!

Foscam –  Similar to the Ring doorbell & app, we also have Foscam inside our home for indoor video surveillance – this is honestly more to check in on Oreo than anything else, ha! Like Ring, we can talk through the camera while away from home by using the app.

REMOTE:

DSLR Remote – This app is so helpful! Sometimes when we travel we take selfies of us on our phones and sometimes we ask a stranger to take photos for us. But more often than not we set my camera on a precarious perch, say a prayer it won’t topple, and then either set the timer or use a remote control to take the photo. I have a mini remote control that I bought via Amazon and it works great, but sometimes I don’t have it with me. And in those cases, this app on my phone has been awesome. You press the shutter button on your phone and boom, the camera takes the photo. Super simple!

GAMES (well, Game):

QuizUp – This is the only game I have on my phone. If I have time to burn, I’m more likely to scroll through Instagram than I am to play a game, but I really like this one. Disney and The Bible trivia are my favorites!

Honorable Mentions: 

Facebook – I use Facebook less and less these days, but when I’ve got time to kill I’ll find myself scrolling through Facebook while waiting in line. I use it predominately for my photography business.

Snapchat – I’m still pretty new to Snapchat, but it has been a fun way to connect with the teens we mentor. I’m rach.vendetti there if we aren’t already following each other.

Pinterest – I very rarely use Pinterest on my phone, but I do love the organizational aspect of the website! So I have the app for times when I need to pull up photos to show clients. Don’t get me wrong – I love Pinterest and if I’m looking for something specific, I definitely can spend a good ol’ chunk of time on there. I just don’t usually do it on my phone. You can find me here on Pinterest.

So tell me, do we share any of the same favorites? Do you have a favorite app that wasn’t listed here?

Love Rach

Red Beans & Rice

I love red beans & rice. So much. My mom made this often when we lived in China so it’s one of those things that taste like “home” to me.:) I asked her if there was a story behind why she  made this or where the recipe came from and this is what she said:

When we lived in China I was always looking for ideas for meals that seemed like “home.” Now we both know that “home” or American food is a hodgepodge of wonderful dishes from all around the world because the US is such a melting pot of cultures—there really isn’t a quintessential American dish, just regional favorites. I landed on red beans and rice early on when I found canned kidney beans in the market. Whenever I found an ingredient that was the basis of something from home, I started thinking about dishes I could make with it for our family. {Random aside—I still wonder what Chinese dish uses kidney beans because I don’t think we have ever been served any Chinese dish in the past 16 years that has them as an ingredient.}

First two dishes that came to mind were red beans & rice and chili. So, then I had to think about the rest of the recipe and that made red beans & rice easy. Kielbasa type sausage was everywhere in some form. We could get the garlic & tomato paste from our tomato paste lady in the market, onions & peppers & tomatoes from our vegetable vendor, and the rest of the spices off of my kitchen shelf. Viola!! Cajun cooking in China. :) {After I came home to America I stopped using tomato paste & chopped tomatoes and just used canned diced tomatoes in my recipe.}

red beans and rice (1)

red beans and rice (3)

Red Beans & Rice

Ingredients:

2 cups brown or white rice
4 cups water

1 (16 oz) package kielbasa, cut into 1/4” slices
1 onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 (15 oz) can dark red kidney beans, drained
1 (16 oz) can no-salt-added diced tomatoes
½ tsp oregano
½ tsp cumin
1 tsp Worcestershire
1 tsp Cajun seasoning
2 bay leaves
¼ tsp dried sage
½ tsp pepper
½ tsp thyme
salt to taste

Directions:

1. Cook 2 cups rice and 4 cups water in medium saucepan (or rice cooker).

2. In large skillet or dutch oven over low heat, cook sausage for five minutes. Stir in onion, green pepper, and garlic; sauté until tender. Pour in beans, tomatoes, and seasonings. Simmer uncovered for 20 minutes.

3. Mix rice into bean mixture then serve

Is it just me or does anyone else think my mom should write a book about our time in China? I took for granted all of mom’s pioneering spirit when we were living in China because she made it look easy!

Love Rach

Be Stronger

It was a hard weekend. A family emergency in one city and problems back home all in the same day. There has been a lot of stress and worry this weekend, but also a lot of prayers and grace. We spent yesterday afternoon with friends out in the country-side and Christopher snapped this shot of me that kind of perfectly sums up the weekend.

be stronger.jpg

It’s not often that you’ll see a photo of me not smiling or laughing. Normally we are all sunshine and rainbows, but Saturday kicked us in the face. When I saw this photo I knew I wanted to share it with you guys in an attempt to be honest with where we are today. And the tank I was wearing – I picked it because I knew it was what I needed to be reminded of that day. Be stronger, Rach. We can do this. Jesus has us. His mercies are new every morning.

Song of this week: You’re Not Alone by Downhere

To end on a MUCH happier note… the giveaway ended for the Memphis Goodies last night. Thank you guys all so much for your congratulations and sweet comments and for entering! The winner, thanks to random selection via Random.Org, is Olya from The Siberian American. Congratulations, Olya! You will be hearing from me soon!:)

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Love Rach

The Kitchen Nook: Before & After

Tomorrow will mark 6 years since we bought our house. That’s longer than I’ve lived anywhere since I was a little girl so you better believe I’ve grown to love this place we call home. So in honor of 6 years in this house, I thought I’d finally share all the work we’ve done in the little nook area of our kitchen!:)

2010 (1)

This is what our kitchen looked like in April of 2010 when we bought the house. Did I mention we bought a foreclosure? It was in pitiful shape and we spent 5 weeks renovating it before we moved in. We had help from friends and family (and Youtube and Google), but no contractors or professionals. And of course we continued to work on the house long after we moved in. It was a long process, but so worth it! If you want to see a short video showing some of the before & afters in the house, you can check out last year’s post right here.

2010 (2)

This is the “after” from 2010 when we completed the kitchen. We knew eventually we wanted to do more in here, but we just needed it to be functional for the time. Well that “time” turned out to be for the next six years, ha!😉

kitchen nook after2.jpg

And this is my kitchen now as of April 2016! The old table is gone and in its place is a new cabinet giving extra storage and more counter top space! And across from it is our little bar & bar stools so we don’t have to give up our breakfast eating area.:)

before and after2.jpg

So before & after of the left side of the kitchen. You can see that the table is gone and in its place are beautiful new cabinets and more counter top space!

before and after

And the kitchen from the other side. You can see the counter top to the left as well as a great view of the new bar & bar stools!

kitchen nook after5.jpg

You guys, my husband BUILT this. Everything new here, he built. Cabinets, counter top, bar, bar stools – all custom built. I helped with the sanding, staining, and painting, but he did all the precision work. He is SO talented!

kitchen nook after6.jpg

This wall is a lot of what slowed us down in the process. Originally this was going to be a cut-out into the dining room, but after looking into it further, we realized that we couldn’t put a hole here due to the way the wall is built on the other side (sorry Joanna Gaines, we tried!). So then we thought that we would put up shelves. So Christopher built shelves and we didn’t like them here. So those went into the dining room (which by the way, I will need to show you later because they look GREAT in there!). Which led to much Pinterest searching. Which led to putting up a big mirror which looks perfect in here! It was our final touch and we finished it just a couple of weeks ago.:)

quiet time

One of my favorite things about this remodel (besides the fact that it looks better and is more functional), is that it gives me a beautiful place to have quiet time. I love sitting at this bar in the morning and spending some time with Jesus. {for those curious: I love the She Reads Truth devos as well as this Common Prayer book that Shane Claiborne put together – I start my mornings with both along with some prayer journaling:) }

kitchen nook after.jpg

If you’d like to read back on posts about this kitchen project that you may have missed, you can find them here:

Kitchen Sneak Peak (we have cabinets!)
Kitchen Renovation: We Have Counter Tops
Kitchen Project: The Cooking Tribute Collage (we changed from calling it a “renovation” to “project” around this time because we realized that we couldn’t tear down the wall we originally intended to thereby making this a lot less of a renovation and more of just a remodel.😉 )
Kitchen Project: We Have a Bar & Bar Stools

Now… on to the next project!:)

Love Rach

The 1,000th Post {Giveaway}

Well, my friends, WordPress has let me know that this post is my one thousandth post on this blog. I actually started my very first blog on June 9th, 2003 over at Xanga. Nearly 13 years ago! Anyone remember Xanga? That was back in the days of MySpace and AOL chat. I’m officially dating myself now, ha! It has been nearly 13 years since I started blogging and it has been such a fun journey. I’ve had a couple of blogs over the years, but I started this one on WordPress back in 2010 with a post about poop (it was a rough day😉 ). And today this blog officially reaches 1,000 blog posts. So it’s clearly time to celebrate!

And how do we celebrate?? PRESENTS!:)

You guys know I love Memphis. This city is all heart. Grit & grind. We have awesome food and so many people who are passionate about caring for each other. It’s a rough city in some ways, but it’s also an incredible place to live. It’s also a great place to come and visit, but I know many of you are far, far away. So today I’m offering one lucky winner a little taste of Memphis!:)

memphis giveaway.jpg

All the goodies! None of this is a sponsored post – I purchased each of these items as a way to say “thank you” to you guys for sticking with me through one thousand blog posts and for encouraging me along the way! I just wish I had a little care package to send to each of you, but at least we can go with the luck of the draw on this!:)

bbq seasoning.jpg

So first up is the BBQ seasoning! Memphis is famous for her BBQ and while you have to come here to really enjoy the secrets of the perfectly smoked meat, you can have a taste of it at home by using these seasonings!:) I’ve blogged about how much I love both Corky’s BBQ Ribs and Rendezvous’ BBQ Nachos. If only 3 Little Pigs, home of my favorite pulled pork sandwich, had seasonings to sell. But you will just have to come visit Memphis for that particular joy!:)

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I’ve also shared with you guys here on the blog how much I love Bartlett Soap Company and their products! I love that their products are plant based and all organic, not to mention absolutely luxurious! My favorite is the Good Morning Sunshine soap which is included in this giveaway. It smells so delightful and it is super moisturizing.

j brooks coffee.jpg

J. Brooks is Christopher’s favorite local coffee (not to mention several of our friends’ favorite as well). It is roasted right here in Memphis! We have a lot of overlap with this company including the fact that my old boss was a big financial part of the J. Brooks start up. Which meant that when they were just starting out, they would roast their coffee in the same building where I worked. Let me tell you, it smelled incredible! Randomly, Christopher also happens to play basketball with one of the owners of this company and they’ve become friends through that. So I know we sound biased, but it’s not just us! Lots of Memphians love this coffee! I chose the Gallant blend because it’s Christopher’s favorite. It’s stout, deep, with teasing shades of chocolate. Winner, eh?😉

ekata necklace.jpg

And finally, Ekata Designs is a company that offers employment, income, and training to refugees in Memphis. You can see more of their jewelry here on their website as well as read more about them and their mission on their about page. For this giveaway I picked out the Dreamer necklace (the chain is 24″ long for a visual) because I thought it was so pretty!:)

To enter the giveaway just leave a comment below letting me know which item you are most excited to receive if you win! The giveaway will be open until midnight on April 24th after which a winner will be randomly chosen and announced!:)

Love Rach

Slow Cooker Buffalo Chicken Sammies

Have you guys seen this recipe before? It has been floating around the internet for years! I first came across it on the AllRecipes website back in 2008 when Christopher and I were newly weds. Since then I’ve seen it several places so I’m not actually sure where it first originated from but to whoever created it, I say thank you! This one is deeeelicious! And simple. You guys know that I like delicious and simple.:)

slow cooker buffalo sammy

Ingredients:

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (can be frozen or thawed)
1 (15 oz) bottle Franks Red Hot sauce, divided
1/2 (1 oz) package dry ranch salad dressing mix (or even better, make your own Ranch seasoning! We use this recipe.)
2 tbsp butter
10 Sister Schubert Rolls

Directions:

1. Place chicken breasts in a slow cooker and pour in 3/4 of the wing sauce. Sprinkle the ranch dressing mix on top. Then cover and cook on low for 7 to 8 hours or high for 3-4 hours.

2. Once the chicken has cooked remove it from the slow cooker and shred with two forks. Place back in slow cooker then add the butter and combine so that all the meat is soaked in the sauce. Pile the meat onto the rolls and splash with the remaining Frank’s sauce to serve.

We like these on Sister Schubert Rolls because those rolls are heavenly and simple to pop in the oven to warm up, but we will also just eat it by the fork-full, ha! I’ve heard some people serve it over rice with avocado and that sounds especially delicious to me. I think I’m going to have to try that the next time I make this!:)

Have you seen this recipe or some form of it floating around the internet? Have you tried it?

Love Rach

Photography Favorites: Newborn

It’s Wednesday. Wednesday seems like a great day to look at some pictures of babies, right?! I say yes! These are some of my favorite newborn shots from 2015. Enjoy!

newborn (1)

newborn (2)

newborn (3)

newborn (4)

newborn (5)

newborn (6)

Newborn photo sessions are a lot of work and they take a lot of time and patience. I nearly always refer everyone who asks me to do newborn photos to another photographer here in town who specializes in them because she has tons of expertise and all the adorable props. But every now and then I’ll accept a session when it is a long time client or someone who specifically loves my work. And you guys, it’s such fun every time. I mean, yes, they tend to be longer sessions and they include pauses for feedings and diaper changes and soothing babies, but there is nothing quite like holding a brand new baby. And I am always honored when someone asks me to capture these precious early days.:)

If you are interested in other photography posts, you can see a few of my favorites here: Seniors, KidsFamiliesMaternityONE, and Siblings. And as always, you can see all my favorites on the Rach Vendetti Photography page on Facebook.:)

Love Rach