SNOW, WIND & ICICLES, OH MY!
HOW YOUR IPHONE CAN HELP YOU BEAT THE WINTER BLUES
O h, winter. As much as I wish I could curl up in bed and hibernate like a bear, I still have as much to do during this season as any other. There are apps such as AccuWeather (free) to keep me informed about the forecast and the Winter Survival Kit (free) to help me prep my car or send for help when the weather gets scary. But in general, I just want my chilly days to be easy and enjoyable. Here are a few products and apps to make winter less of a hassle and more of a holiday.
FOR GETTING COZY AT HOME
Who doesn't appreciate a hot drink on a cold blustery day? With the Ember Ceramic Mug ($79.95), I can enjoy coffee, tea, or apple cider without scalding my tongue (it's happened so many times). This temperature-controlled mug pairs with the Ember app on my iPhone and features a sliding degree scale where I can choose how hot or cold I want my drink. The app also notifies me when my drink has reached my preferred temperature, and it maintains the temperature for up to an hour, reducing any moments of grief over a cup of tea gone cold. The app also tells me when the mug needs to go back on its saucer-shaped charger. The one clear downside is that the charger isn't waterproof; to keep the charger dry, I place the mug on a different surface before pouring my drink. Another app feature is the ability to customize the color of the light on the mug. I could set it to red and pretend my mug is KITT, the artificially intelligent car from the reboot of Knight Rider, but right now I'm very partial to neon fuchsia.
Getting cozy with a book is a typical way to unwind in the winter, and I like listening to audiobooks while I cook or do something crafty. Audiobooks (free) from Cross Forward Consulting provides free classics thanks to the public domain and the volunteers who read and record books for the LibriVox Project. Listen to well-known works like O. Henry's The Gift of the Magi to get in the holiday spirit or
browse the nearly 10,000 free books to find new favorites. Podcasts are also available, and there's an option to purchase certain titles.
Staying indoors can be a drag, but it doesn't have to be if you find a fun app that doubles as a hobby. I'm a sucker for checkers but recently have been learning chess thanks to the Chess - Play & Learn app (free). Another great app that engages your artistic side is Color Therapy Adult Coloring (free), which allows you to tap to color over 2,000 available images in multiple themes. Whatever activity that comes to mind that you'd like to try, type it into the search bar of the App Store and enjoy your new hobby.
FOR EXPLORING THE OUTDOORS
I think my keys might have legs, because I have trouble finding them where I could've sworn I put them. Worse is when I drop them in snow or slush and have to dig around to see them. A smart tracker like Nut (starting at $14.99) makes retrieving my keys inside and outdoors a whole lot easier. The fob syncs to the Nut app, where I can customize the noise it makes when searching for my keys. It also works the other way around, so I can click on the fob to find my phone. Nut offers an Anti-Loss feature—if my phone gets too far from my key fob, the app sounds the alarm so I don't leave them behind. I've found this feature to be triggered at a distance of 160 feet. The one customization option is setting Silent Regions or Silent Time so the alarm won't go off when I'm at work or at home. Another feature lets me notify other Nut users that I've lost my fob, so if someone is nearby they'll find it— probably near that icy patch of sidewalk where I pretended to be an Olympic skater.
You bundle up before facing the cold, why not do the same for your phone? The LifeProof FRĒ case (starting at $89.99) advertises 360-degree protection while maintaining full functionality. With a built-in screen cover, the case tightly snaps around my phone to keep out dirt and snow. I'm always dropping my phone, and this case protects it from damage from a fall of up to 2 meters (about 6.5 feet). And while I doubt I'll be doing any underwater photography on an ice-fishing trip, the LifeProof FRĒ case can also protect my phone when underwater to a depth of 2 meters for up to an hour. Included with the case is a cleaning cloth and plastic tab to help reopen the case. Instructions for putting the case on your phone are simple to follow; one thing to note is that LifeProof recommends submerging the empty case first to test the waterproof quality. As part of Otter Products, LifeProof offers a one-year warranty on its cases.
FOR AVOIDING THE COLD AT ALL COSTS
Parking lots can turn into a merciless tundra in the winter, but I still need groceries. Amazon can deliver goods to my home and Walmart offers grocery pickup after I select what I want and pay through the store's app. Sure, I still have to drive to Walmart to pick up my groceries, but I can stay in my car and leave in minutes instead of wandering aisles while the weather worsens. More stores are offering grocery pickup, so check your local options.
Other apps I use to avoid venturing out into the harsh weather include Venmo (free). I simply link Venmo to my bank account and add friends, so I can pay them back without having to run to the ATM. I currently use Venmo to pay my landlord, and I try to make other payments—like my utilities, cellphone, etc.—via an app or online option instead of dropping off payment in person or through the mail. Speaking of mail, do you find yourself braving the bitter winds outside only to find junk in your mailbox? Informed Delivery from USPS (free) is an app that shows scans of your incoming mail so you can decide if it's worth leaving the house for. A similar app for shipment notifications is ParcelTrack (free), which takes the tracking information from more than 50 delivery services and shows you what's arriving when.
These apps and products can help you save time or find better ways to spend it. Keep from getting too frosty and enjoy the winter season. Hallei is obtaining her BFA in Creative Writing while living in Fairfield, Iowa. She's currently working on a novel about people using witchcraft to clean their houses.