Monday, December 27, 2010

Favorite Droid apps of 2010

I love my Droid for its apps, no question. I check Market every few weeks, as new apps are coming in all the time.  Some apps have stayed on my phone, some come and go.  If you got a new Android-based phone for the holidays or new year, start loading it up!  Most come with a large SD card (mine is 16gb) and many apps can be stored on the card.  The apps that I seem to only use once or twice, especially the ones that are larger than 5mb, I usually wind up removing.  Apps that access large directories (like cookbook apps) can also use up too much space, so go into Settings, Applications, and Manage Applications to drop some when it's time to make room for more.  Because of this ADD-mentality I have for apps, I typically only download the free ones- another great Droid feature, free!

Apps I can't live without:
Advanced Task Killer - there are several versions of this and I've tried three, but it was one of the first things the Verizon rep told me upon buying it in the store; the apps drain the battery, so "killing" them every so often is a good idea.  The problem now however is that many apps are programed to run constantly (if updating weather information, running the GPS, etc) so it's almost impossible to have all programs off, ever. If there was a true battery booster app, we'd all buy one. Don't fall for those, there aren't any that truly boost the battery, at least that I've found.
Easy Tether - I no longer worry about wifi or a network card, ET turns my Droid into a modem, as fast or faster than many wifi locations I've seen on the road.  Great with Verizon, since "we have the largest network."   But not so great if you don't have any "bars."
Where's my Droid - This one is a no brainer if you misplace your phone often, but even better, read a recent post about how it can save your life in the backcountry.

Great Outdoor Apps:
Altitude Free - simple free altimeter app
Compass - works off satellites so it's always got a good signal
Google Sky - Longest running app on my phone, this one's great for camping, driving, wondering where the Moon is behind a veil of clouds, or finding your way in the woods if you're that good. Kids love this one too.
Journey Tracker - love this one for trail hiking without a topo.  Bring the final result into your computer for a detailed tracking of your whereabouts.
Maps - A no brainer, this app is a fave for many reasons, many many many reasons. To many to name them all, but ditch your stigmas of self-navigation skills and call yourself a master with this one. 
Ski Report- Favorite app of the ski season for sure- absolutely great information, up to date, with local ski area cams. Awesome for checking the state's latest snowfalls as well.
WeatherBug - I've tried many weather apps from to Weather Underground and while I do still keep my Weather Buddy from, I still like the extra mobile features of Weatherbug the best, such as the constant temperature update in the status bar, the rotating wind compass, the great satellite, and weather alerts updates.

Great Travel Apps: 
Books - if you don't mind reading on a small screen
FlightView - check your flight's status or any flight status by flight # or routeMy Sunset Finder - great photographers magic-hour tool
Maps - imperative, and standard on all Google phones
Navigation - also imperative, and awesome for features like walking directions, search nearby, or voice-directions for driving. Flaw: drains the battery faster than it can charge it in the car.
Places - great for locating restaurants, coffee shops, bars, hotels, gas stations, etc., and it offers star ratings, mileage distance from your location, hours of operation, and connects to Navigation for walking directions. Handy.
Point Inside - stuff that's not on a map- malls, airports, etc., but since I don't frequent malls, I use this one for airport terminals and locating the best lunch option on a short layover.  Finds your location and offers all mall/airport-type venues and their contents inside.
Taxi Magic - this one's huge- text your location and get a pickup time and price back almost immediately. 
Translator - has a long list of languages and translates words, sentences, or paragraphs from or to English.
Tripit - I started using this app on the computer first, but love its mobile version just as much. Updates on flights if you pay for the frequent traveler features, but when the airlines start having their own on Droid, I'll be looking to them for my mobile updates and ticket scanning. Right now iPhone has the corner on that market so I haven't used the ticket scanner yet, but plan to the next time I fly United.

Other Great Apps:
Droid Light - serves as an amazingly bright flashlight and doesn't turn off until you tell it to. 
Earth - Mobile Google Earth, purely entertainment, as Maps has a topographic view feature.
IMDB - Movie buffs, this one's a must for solving those must-answer questions, arguments, and blanks.
PrinterShare - Like a fax, but better. Find any printer by their IP address and send.
SteamyWindow - nuff said.
Word of the Day - for language lovers who are out of practice, this one comes in all languages.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Favorite Holiday Recipes part 2

As stated last week, I have been reorganizing my recipes this year and found four great ones to share for holiday surprises for friends. View last week's post for the first two: Peanut Brittle and Pumpkin Seeds.

Two additional easy sweet gift ideas:

Rachel Ray's 5 Minute Fudge
12 oz chocolate chips
8 oz butterscotch chips
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup walnuts and/or dried currants/cranberries/cherries

Dump all ingredients except nuts and currants into a heavy-bottomed warmed pot over low heat and stir until soft.  Once fully melted, add nuts and currants and pour into a round, greased, Angel Food Cake pan.  Don't smooth out the top, and put in fridge to set for 30 minutes.  Pull out and cut into pieces.
Wrap and give!

Frozen Lemon  Mousee (GREAT for warmer climates seeking winter-y goodies!)
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
4 large egg yolks
5 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into pieces
3/4 cup heavy cream

In a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan combine lemon juice, yolks, and sugar. Cook, stirring, over medium-low heat, until mixture thickens, 5 to 6 minutes.  Remove from heat and pour through a fine strainer into large bowl to remove any lumps. Add the  butter and stir until melted.  Cover with plastic wrap, pressing the plastic against the surface of the mixture to eliminate any air bubbles. Refrigerate until chilled, about 30 minutes.  Meanwhile, beat the heavy cream to form stiff peaks.  Fold in cream into chilled mixture until well combined.  Divide into a small-muffin tin with paper liners and freeze. 
Wrap and give, bring to parties. Keep frozen.

Happy Holidays from the Elven Idea Factory!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Favorite Holiday Recipes

Last year I drafted a four-part Elven Idea Factory series for making your own holiday presents, take a peek back for recipes of Irish cream, salsa, biscotti, bathcookies, and more.

This year I sorted through 3 years of recipe gathering and reduced my huge binder of sloppy recipes to a medium sized reusable gift box, making my recipes both easier to find and easier to use. I didn't know why a binder wasn't easier to use when I created it, it takes up a lot of counter space, gets spilled on, and the sheets pull out of the hole punch too easily... I switched back to mom's method of using old fashioned "index cards" so I can pull several recipes out at once (realized this was key during the holidays!) AND they're small enough for a  magnet to hold them to the metal stove hood while in use. No spills, and at eye level! Great new system. 

In sorting through the mess, I found four of my favorite holiday recipes to share with you, to wrap and share with your friends and family as a last minute holiday gifty!   Here are the first two:

EasyPeasy Peanut Brittle
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup water
1 cup peanuts
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1 teaspoon baking soda
    (I frequently double this recipe during the holidays for better sharing)
    (have butter and soda portioned out ahead of time)

2 quart saucepan
Wooden spoon
Cookie sheet
Candy thermometer (a must!)

Two forks

Grease a large cookie sheet, set aside.
In saucepan, over medium heat, bring to a boil sugar, corn syrup, salt, and water.  Stir until sugar is dissolved. Stir in peanuts. Set candy thermometer in place, and continue cooking. Stir frequently until temperature reaches 300 degrees F.
Remove from heat; immediately stir in butter and baking soda; pour at once onto cookie sheet. With two forks, lift and pull apart the mixture to cover entire cookie sheet in a thin layer. 
Cool, snap into candy pieces.
Wrap, and give!

Martha Stewart's Sweet-Tooth Pumpkin Seeds
Seeds from one large pumpkin, washed and dried briefly. 
5 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon of each:
   salt, cumin, cinnamon, ginger
Pinch of cayenne
1 1/2 tablespoon peanut oil

Preheat oven to 250, and bake seeds dry and plain for one hour.

Combine spices and 3T. sugar in bowl. Set aside.
Heat oil over high heat until hot, add seeds and remaining 2T of sugar.
Cook until sugar melts and seeds caramelize (45-60 seconds)
Transfer to bowl with spices and mix well.
Bag in small baggies and give!