, , , , , , , ,

My friend Kevin recently requested a post on my favorite iPad apps. Coincidentally, I was already thinking of doing one, so here it is!

Wine Searcher

winesearcher copyI have two favorites when it comes to wine. One, Wine Searcher, I already mentioned in my post, Champagne 102. Their website is full of articles and useful information, but it’s their app that I really love. It’s available for both iPhones/iPads and Android phones.

When my husband and I were wine-tasting in France, he used the Wine Searcher app to look up wines we were trying. That way we could tell whether they were available in the U.S. and how much we would have to spend on them. If something either wasn’t available at all or was significantly pricier, we knew it was worth it to buy in France and ship back to the States. Without the app, we never would have been able to make informed decisions.

Wine Spectator

winespectator copyThe other wine app I love is Wine Spectator’s, but with a caveat. In order to get full access to their more than 300,000 reviews, you have to pay a monthly subscription fee of $2.99. I find that to be ridiculous. If they wanted to charge a one-time fee of $20 or even $30, I’d have no problem with it. But an on-going fee is just not how it’s done. Fortunately, there’s a free version that gives you access to their more broad-brush vintage ratings.

For example, say I’m at a wine store looking at some Spanish reds from the Rioja region, and I notice that the store is charging quite a bit more for the 2005 vintage than it is for the 2007 vintage. I can pull up Rioja on the Wine Spectator app and see that they rated the 2005 vintage 93 points and the 2007 vintage 86 points. An 86 falls into the “Very Good” category, but a 93 is near the top of the “Outstanding” category. Hence, the increase in price.

The app also tells me that I’m better off drinking the 2007 now or soon, whereas the 2005 is “drink or hold,” which means you could cellar it for at least a few years. I use this app a lot when I’m trying to decide which wines to keep on hand in our apartment and which ones to take to our off-site storage at my in-laws’ house.

Lastly, the free version of the app includes several articles and videos on how to store, taste, order, match with food, etc. So while Wine Spectator is a little douchey for charging a monthly fee to get everything they offer, at least the free version is still quite useful. It’s available for iPhone/iPad and Android.

Gas Cubby

gascubby copyIf you’re the type of person who wants to keep track of your gas mileage, Gas Cubby is a great app. Each time you go to the gas station, you enter your odometer reading, along with how many gallons you put in and how much you paid. It then calculates the gas mileage you’ve gotten since your last fill-up. There’s also an option for partial fill-ups for those occasions when you don’t put in a full tank. It also tracks service records, and can accommodate multiple vehicles. Gas Cubby can also sync information between multiple devices if two people use the same car and both use Gas Cubby to enter fuel information. It looks like Gas Cubby is only available for iPhone/iPad right now, so you Android folks are out of luck. 😦


naturescenes copyI’m the kind of person who hears every little noise, especially when I’m trying to sleep. This is a real problem when you live in the city. Enter NatureScenes. You can listen to the sounds of the beach, a campfire, a bird garden, a musical waterfall, rain, a lake, a Buddhist temple, or sailing the ocean. Once you choose an overall theme, you can add other specific sounds on the mixer.

My default is the campfire theme with rain, thunderstorm, night, and crickets added in. There’s also a timer so you can set it to play for a preset amount of time or until a certain time of day or night. It’s free for iPhone/iPad, but again, no Android.


duolingo copyMy friend Alexa told me about Duolingo when I mentioned that I was using Rosetta Stone to learn French. It’s a free–FREE!–app for iPhone/iPad and Android that teaches French, Spanish, German, Portuguese, Italian, and English. Compared to the several hundred dollars I spent for Rosetta Stone Levels 1-5 in French, that’s a really good deal.

I’ve been using Duolingo for the past 63 days in a row, which I know because it keeps track of my learning streak and emails me once a day around 3:30 p.m. if I haven’t done my lessons for the day. You get to set your own benchmark at the outset. I set mine at 20 minutes per day. I usually end up doing more than that, but if I’m pressed for time, at least I can meet my goal with a minimal time commitment.

Duolingo is set up kind of like a video game. You start each lesson with three hearts. For each incorrect answer, you lose one heart. If you make four mistakes, you’ve failed the lesson and a sad, crying owl shows up on the screen with a womp-womp noise. It’s very upsetting. If you finish the lesson with full hearts, you get bonus points, which you can later spend in the store to buy “power-ups” that let you replenish a lost heart during a lesson. It’s basically French taught by Nintendo.

IMG_5916Now, Duolingo is by no means perfect. I’m collecting photos of things it’s gotten wrong so I can eventually send them to the developers and tell them to fix the problems. For example, at one point it gave me a sentence in French that included the word “troisième,” which means “third.” There was a word bank of English words, and I was supposed to construct the English translation using the word bank. The problem was that the English word “third” was not in the word bank. Only “fourth” was included. So I constructed the sentence using “fourth,” and the app said I was correct. (See photo at left.) This is a problem if you don’t already know that “troisième” does not in fact mean “fourth.” (I took French in high school, so I have a bit of a leg up.)

That said, Duolingo makes learning a new language really easy because it’s right there on your phone or tablet. Even though Rosetta Stone is right there on my laptop, it’s still more convenient to use Duolingo. And the fact that it has multiple languages is great. I may brush up on my Italian when I’m done with all the French lessons. (And I will eventually go back to Rosetta Stone. I spent all that money on it, after all.)


There are other apps that I want to recommend, but I try to limit my Favorite Things posts to five items. So I guess I’ll just have to do another one in a few months. I’m sure by then I will have discovered a whole batch of new apps. Let me know your favorite apps in the comments.