Keeping Your Sanity During the Holidays

Updated November 2019: The holidays are approaching and it can be a hectic time for some. Here are a few free apps/websites/programs that help us keep our sanity.

DECEMBER 2019 UPDATE: Check out this Wakelet collection of Google activities from @EricCurts, adapted by me (@Filibuster3) for Microsoft along with other holiday ed tech ideas.

Purple OneNote logoFirst off, in case you haven’t noticed a trend in our blogs, we LOVE ONENOTE! It is a free program from Microsoft that is app-based, software, and web-based so it is with you wherever you go! If you don’t already have a Microsoft account, here’s a referral link which gives you some extra storage space. Best Twitter account to follow for updates? Definitely @mtholfsen!

schoolhouse at night with star trails in the skyWe posted a YouTube video to our channel that shows how K uses OneNote, Office Lens, and CopyMeThat for organizing recipes, but OneNote can organize so much more! Add a checklist for things to do, gifts to purchase, cards to send, what to pack for that holiday trip, etc. Create a receipt section and use the Insert/Camera feature (or Office Lens, another free app from Microsoft) to keep track of receipts and costs. (Tax season is coming!)

Copy Me That logo with grey and red kitchen utensilsIf you aren’t familiar with CopyMeThat, check out the video. It starts around the 3:55 mark. One click and those online recipes are put into your collection without all the distractions and extra information. It is like Reading View (Edge and Safari browsers) or Read Mode (Wakelet) for recipes!

Microsoft Sway logoWant to collect family pictures? Create a shared OneNote notebook and let everyone add their memories, pictures, audio messages, and more! Another option to keep the kids busy is have them create a Sway including videos, pictures, audio files, etc. You can insert the Sways directly into OneNote. Aren’t familiar with Sway? It’s a free app from Microsoft. Again, here’s a referral code if you don’t already have a FREE Microsoft account. (Using the code gets you and us a little extra OneDrive storage. Everyone wins!)

black pen making white swish on a blue backgroundOnce you have that FREE Microsoft account, you also will have access to Microsoft Whiteboard which is now web-based if you have an Office 365 account, but is also an Apple app and Windows 10 app/feature which work with personal Microsoft accounts and Office 365 accounts (work/school). Collaborate on boards to write messages, reminders, leave notes for yourself, etc. We use OneNote for holiday shopping lists, but you could also use Microsoft Whiteboard. Follow @ianmikutel on Twitter for helpful tips and updates.

green and white Flipgrid logoIf family and friends are not able to be with you, consider using Flipgrid to create video messages. (Also good for entertaining children! Give them a prompt. Suggestions: favorite family memory, what makes you thankful, why is someone thankful for you, funniest memory from this year, etc. Recently, K tweeted an idea to have kids describe how someone in their family makes their favorite dish during the holidays. When she taught preschool, her school did a similar project for Mother’s Day. A favorite? “My mom makes pizza!” “How does she make it?” “She picks up the phone and calls Pizza Hut!”) It can also be used within Wakelet (Learn about Wakelet later in this post or read our full blogpost on Wakelet.)

Seeing AI - Turning the visual world into an audible experience.Have trouble reading the small print on ingredients? Use Seeing AI (iOS) to have it read to you or scan the barcode to identify the object. Do you have a family member who is having difficulty remembering people? Tap the 3 line icon in the top left to open Face Recognition. Take pictures of family members and label them with their relationship: Carl, your youngest son, or Violet, your granddaughter. When they use the Person feature with faces you’ve entered, it will tell them who is there. Here’s a quick overview of Seeing AI.



A few months after originally writing this post in 2018, we learned about Wakelet and haven’t looked back since. Similar to OneNote, you can use it for a variety of resources. One feature that makes it unique is the collaboration feature. Share a contributor link to allow others (even if they don’t have Wakelet accounts!) to add to a collection. Use it for YouTube videos, family pictures, important files organized by topic, or read our Wakelet blogpost for more incredible ways to use Wakelet, which is web-based, app-based, and FREE!

Need more activities? Create a family secret code using Microsoft Font Maker. Open Excel and create pixel art family portraits or holiday images.


You don't always have to agree with someone, but it should take much effort to be nice.

One thing to remember during the holidays, you don’t always have to agree with someone, but it shouldn’t take much effort to be nice.


PAUSE P-Is it positive? A-Is it accurate? U-Is it understandable? S-Is it spam? E-Is it enlightening? Before you post or send, pause and consider if it is Postive, Accurate, Understandable (check for clarity and accessiblity), Spam (fake news), and is it Enlightening (or Educational)? Consider if it will make a Difference (PAUSED) Will it make things better or worse?If someone upsets you, before responding, think about if whatever you say will make a difference or remember that they may be going through things you don’t know about. PAUSE before responding, whether in person or digitally.



banner with 3 dogs: Filibuster (basset hound) in a Santa hat and green coat "The Original Filibuster" and then Dug, a boxer in reindeer antlers and TeddyRoo, a golden dog with a Santa hat, all in front of presents and a Christmas tree - banner along the bottom "Happy Holidays to All!"

Stay Organized with Microsoft Tools

bride and groom feeding each other wedding cake and smilingIn the past, we’ve posted about wedding planning with Microsoft tools and keeping IEP paperwork organized. Recently, you may have read our post about K’s knee injury (which is still ongoing.)

Over the weekend, G took an unscheduled flight over the handlebars of his road bike due to poor road construction which left soft asphalt with no warning. So, today we visited our chiropractor. (Dr. Stanfield, you are amazing!) She went over exercises, diet, possible outcomes, treatments, etc.  One of the reasons we try to go to medical appointments together is so we have two people hearing the information.

purple OneNote logoTo keep track of everything, we have a shared OneNote notebook. With a medical section, we can keep track of notes from a variety of doctors, P.A.s, and office visits. After both of us were taped (with K feeling like the athlete she never was. haha), we inserted the images so we know how to do it ourselves in the future. We documented G’s bruises and road rash spots. Dr. Stanfield gave us her favorite way to prepare Brussels sprouts and it went straight into OneNote. You can also add Wakelet collections, Sways, and YouTube videos along with many other file types, text, drawing, images, etc. (Watch for a future blog on Wakelet!)

OneNote's Password Protection menu: Add Password, Change Password, Remove Password, Lock Section, Lock All Protected SectionsSections can be password protected, if you prefer to have your information more secure. Also, OneNote is an app, web-based, and software so it is available on any of your devices. K used an iPad and G had his Android phone. We also use it on desktops, laptops, and tablets (yes, Chromebooks, too!).

If you haven’t used OneNote, first of all, it is FREE!!! You will need a Microsoft account (did we mention it is FREE?!) and can use this referral code for extra storage space in your new OneDrive. K made a video on our YouTube channel for those who have never used OneNote.

a small golden puppy and an adult brindle boxer with their mouths on a chew toy on a green grass backgroundWhile OneNote is a rockstar program, it is hardly the only one from Microsoft. We use Excel to track our puppy’s growth. You can use it to track workouts, weight, height (marks on the wall are special, but K moved a lot as a child so a digital version would have been great), and now, if you already have a paper chart, you can take a picture and insert the data into Excel using the Excel mobile app.

Use a shared calendar in Outlook to keep track of appointments with reminders. OneDrive can be used to share files, photos, etc. Did you vacation with others? Create a shared folder for everyone to drop in their pictures!

Need to keep track of business cards? Make sure Office Lens (iOS) (Android) is loaded on your mobile device. It will also read text in your images. Long commute? Take a picture of that article and have Office Lens read it to you using Immersive Reader.

For other great ways to use Microsoft tools, you can follow us on Twitter @GKTechies or for ways geared more towards accessibility, you can follow K @Filibuster3. In fact, check out the translate text video K did for Microsoft as part of their You Can in 90 Seconds series. Check out the full list of quick tips! For the holidays, read how we keep our sanity thanks to Microsoft tools.

Full disclosure: neither of us work for Microsoft nor are we paid by Microsoft. We just find their products accessible, useful, and FREE!!!


Wedding Planning Made Easy with Microsoft

Usually our posts are education-related. This one strays a bit, but is definitely technology-related AND, though it was originally posted a few months ago, we’re sure at least a few people got engaged over the holidays and might appreciate the tips so this has had a few updates and been reposted! 

So you are engaged? Congratulations! When we got engaged, we had about 3 months to plan our wedding. (I (Karyn) wanted a Christmas time wedding.) There were brochures, quotes, notes, Post-Its, contact information, checklists, receipts, and more all to keep organized. After helping friends plan weddings since college, I was well-prepared.

If you are planning a wedding, let us help with some wedding planning (and other) advice. For any follow-up questions, you can message Karyn on Twitter @Filibuster3. We were not paid by any of the companies and businesses mentioned in this article. These are OUR opinions from OUR experiences from our own wedding in 2009.


First, if you can afford a wedding planner, that is great! They can handle the organization for you.

(Side note: IF YOU ARE a wedding planner, get OneNote! Read more to understand why.)

Why OneNote?

  • OneNote is free.
  • OneNote is cross-platform.
    • iOS
    • Android
    • Mac
    • Windows 10
    • Browser-based
  • OneNote is easy to use.
  • OneNote notebooks can be shared with others with viewing or editing rights.
  • You can insert multiple file types in OneNote (PowerPoint, Word, PDF, YouTube, etc.)
  • You can digitally ink in OneNote.
  • Did we mention that it is FREE and will sync across all your devices?

Being teachers, we didn’t have a giant budget for weddings, nor did we want to go broke for a one day event. We love our friends and family who celebrated with us, but we know they wouldn’t want us starting out married life in debt!


  1. If you don’t already have a Microsoft account, create one FOR FREE! Here’s a referral link to get you more free storage space.
  2. Log into your new account and click on the tiles icon. (Some call it the waffle or the Rubik’s cube.)
  3. Go to OneDrive and click New at the top to choose New OneNote notebook.
  4. Name your new notebook.

Now you are ready to get organized! (If you have never used OneNote, we posted a basic tutorial. It is for organizing special education paperwork, but should give you a basic idea.)

Create sections that will make sense to you. Some suggestions might be Flowers, Caterer or Food, Bridal Party, Guest List, Clothing, Venues, DJs or Music. Use the INSERT feature on pages to add images and other files. With the insert from camera feature, you can take pictures of paperwork and the text in the images is searchable! Insert contracts, take pictures of receipts, add random ideas you get while at other weddings, just about anything! Perfect for documenting offers from vendors. GET THINGS IN WRITING!

Excel logo on green backgroundSince you have a Microsoft account (and if not, go back up to the referral link and create one), use Excel to create and organize your guest list which then can turn into your gift list and thank you list. Create a budget in Excel to keep track of expenses. We used shared Excel files to update the lists, added a column to check off as we mailed thank you notes, and had a sheet for the budget.

green and white Flipgrid logoConsider using Flipgrid! @annkozma723  saw it used at a wedding to post messages for the couple. (Saves money and nice for people annoyed by a videographer in their face while they are eating.)



Learn to negotiate and ask questions! Don’t always take the first quote. Our caterer gave us some alternatives to better fit our budget.  K won a “free bridal bouquet” at an event, which the company tried to say required ALL the flowers come through them. After some online searches proved scary (Thank you, Better Business Bureau), we decided not to use her “prize” and reported them to the bridal fair organizer and the BBB.

white on white wedding cake with random desserts around itNot every one loves wedding cake. Order a smaller cake with side desserts like brownies and tarts. These were a lot cheaper (and we learned later, VERY popular! In retrospect, we should have ordered more desserts and less buffet items.)

Our wedding venue did not allow alcohol. BIG savings! Sparkling apple cider or sparkling white grape juice are pleasant substitutes.

giant green Christmas wreaths hanging on a stone wall next to a carillon - Crystal Cathedral ArboretumWe saved by getting married during the Christmas season. The church was already decorated so we bought only the flowers people were wearing or carrying.

Technology is amazing! On top of the suggestion about using Excel above, we found templates online for name cards and printed them ourselves. Our wedding program was created in Microsoft Word.

Create a free wedding website. (We used Shutterfly.) Friends of ours married a few months before and the day of the wedding, we couldn’t find the invitation with the ceremony location. If web-based, we could have looked it up! (Side note: We found it in time.) Our website had a map for directions, times for events, and even bathroom locations. We also posted links to our photographer, caterer, and hair salon, in case others were interested.

Think of the trees, postage, and waste from extravagant wedding invitations. We made a handful of paper invitations for older friends and family and created digital ones for the rest.

Borrow items! K’s veil was borrowed from the best man’s wife.

IMG_2793_2_2_2Have some fun! G was living in Kansas at the time so K got red ruby slippers for the reception. Comfortable and playful! Though, the sequins snagged K’s crinoline a few times during our first dance. Minor issue.

On that note, know that things may NOT go as planned! As K has told future brides, as long as he is there at the front when you get there, that’s all that matters.

Have multiple announcements about silencing cell phones and have people ready to assist those who don’t know how. (Trust us on this! A cell phone ringing during your vows is distracting.)

Tide to go stain remover pen

TIDE PEN! Pack one or THREE! After pictures, K noticed marks on her dress. Tide pen to the rescue! Other companies make similar pens. Pack a few to share.

Joel Austell Studio logoPhotographer: Get a good one! If you are in California, we used Joel Austell and he was amazing! Joel and his wife make a fantastic team. K saw pictures from the bridal room and commented that she didn’t realize Joel’s wife was there (yes, they are THAT good!). Check Yelp reviews and your photographer’s portfolio before signing a contract. Rather than hire a separate videographer, we paid Joel a little more and he did both.

woman in ivory wedding dress looking out hotel room doors that overlook California Adventure with balloons, wedding Mickey ears, and character photos on the bed to the leftAlterations: K had an amazing seamstress and worked with her to redesign parts of her dress purchased at a local bridal store. Her seamstress recommended a French bustle, which was perfect. It was easy to move around in, and there were bright ribbons to make the ties easier to find under the dress. This image of it was from our hotel room at the Grand Californian, discounted thanks to a family member who works for Disney. Another budget saver!

Newly engaged couple huggingRemember that though the day is all about the two of you, don’t forget the others who are there to celebrate WITH you. We chose a variety of music, each set of parents picked a song that was special to them, and made sure the music wasn’t too loud so people could have conversations. Also, we chose to orchestrate our garter/bouquet toss by agreeing to K’s brother’s request to propose to his girlfriend that night. K let her friends know so they wouldn’t go out on the floor and G’s friends were married so K’s brother was alone. He caught the garter and stood by while his girlfriend caught the bouquet and K handed him the microphone. BEAUTIFUL family moment! (They were married a year later and also used Joel Austell as their photographer!)

To save money, we wouldn’t recommend a sit down dinner. Much of the food is wasted. People are trapped at the tables and it is a big expense. We chose finger foods and our caterer (Country Garden Caterers) had the best idea: garlic mashed potato bar in martini glasses! GORGEOUS and everyone could make their own and be free to walk around and socialize.

garlic mashed potato bar with martini glasses and topics in silver hammered containers with lighted trees in the background

Parents: Both sets of parents lit the unity candles rather than just the mothers. In our minds, we had been influenced by watching both marriages and wanted our dads, as well as our moms, to participate.

Speak up! This wedding is for the two of you so you should have the final say (unless someone is paying for everything and then they should have a small amount of input). K was grateful for her dad speaking up to get china rather than paper plates (which were free). The china was only $1 more a person. We think he thought $165 was worth the smile on his daughter’s face. The church wedding volunteer questioned having both sets of parents lighting the unity candle. “Well, that’s different.” Yes, and we wouldn’t have it any other way! It was OUR wedding, not hers. Our future sister-in-law handled another issue with the same volunteer trying to tell the bridesmaids how to walk, not knowing that one attendant has a physical issue. (Sis-in-law didn’t tell us until later so we wouldn’t be upset. Smart move.)

Chair covers: Sure, you see them in movie weddings, but they are an added cost and a trip hazard. If on a budget, focus on the table, not the chairs (as long as the chairs are decent).

buffet table with silver hammered containers and red and green centerpieces with a wreath in the middleCOMPROMISE! (or Win-Win) When the caterer asked us about centerpieces, we each pointed at a different one. Solution? Every other table had one of our choices. We also had a win-win on the exit music since G preferred traditional and K wanted “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” by Stevie Wonder. We left the altar on the traditional music and halfway down the aisle, it switched. Big smiles from everyone!

More about music: Look around to see who you know. K went to college with the organist of the Crystal Cathedral (our venue) and her college roommate is an amazing singer. Another note to remember others – when K’s parents were married, her mom wanted the Sound of Music wedding processional, but the organist refused. Happily, our organist did not feel the same and it was a nice tribute to K’s mom.  For budget, do you really need a DJ when there are iTunes playlists? Maybe. Check out the sound system at the venue and ask around. Again, negotiate! We saved a lot by getting married on a weeknight during Christmas break.


bride and groom feeding each other wedding cake and smiling

There are multiple pictures of us laughing. Our photographer said we were one of the best cake feeders since we didn’t smash it in each other’s faces, but were playful. This meant less time cleaning up to enjoy the rest of the reception, too.

Fun Tech Tips for #TechorTreat!

Last year on Twitter, K posted a series of tweets for Tech or Treat with tech ideas for October. Below is the collection:

Trading Card Creator#TechTip – For Halloween fun, have your students create trading cards of who they want to be: #Halloween #techortreat

Use Trading Card Creator year round for biography projects, studying historical figures, creative writing, Literature Week, etc.

Free Rice 2.0#TechTip #freerice One of my fav sites – Free Rice. Practice many subjects, all grade levels, feed hungry kids! #techortreat is free with difficulty levels that adjust based on if your answers are right or wrong. We’ve used this from elementary to high school students. For each right answer, 10 grains of rice are donated to the United Nations World Food Program.

Quizizz logo#TechTip #techortreat If you love Kahoot, check out @quizizz Slower speed, create memes, #formativeassessment

While our students love Kahoot, some struggle with looking up to the board to see the answer choices and then looking down to their device to answer. Quizizz puts the answer choices on the student screens AND the teacher’s.

pixel art tree in Excel OnlineMake Pixel Art on Excel – Stop Motion Animation See fun side of #MSExcel! Hubby used this to introduce columns! #techortreat Great video that students always enjoy!

In the tweet last year, there was a video tutorial link, but since then, we’ve posted our own video to YouTube with directions on how to introduce students to column and row sizing through pixel art.

KidRex search window - Safe Search for kids, by kids!KidRex! A kid friendly search engine. Inappropriate searches result in “Oops!” #techortreat #happyhalloween #techtip

KidRex is a great way to introduce young children to search engines. You also might want to check out MSN Kids. Open it in Microsoft Edge and click the book icon in the address bar to access reading view (no ads), read aloud (great for early readers), along with other Learning Tools. Read K’s accessibility OneNote about Edge here or this post from WindowsCentral.

We hope you enjoy these tips as much as we do! Happy Halloween! As always, a BIG thank you to Phillip Martin and his clipart. He provides thematic clipart free for teachers for NON-commercial purposes. (G and K make no money on this blog, but are happy to share what we’ve learned with others!)

logos or images for Trading Card Creator,, Quizizz, Excel Pixel Art, and KidRex search engine
Trading Card Creator, FreeRice, Quizizz, Excel Pixel Art, and KidRex search engine