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!!!


What’s YOUR $100 Tech Tip?

As I (K) sit here prepping for a conference session on Microsoft accessibility tools, a tweet popped up in my feed by someone excited about another company’s accessibility features. Upon closer examination, there was a COST to 2 out of the 3 mentioned. Why? Accessibility should be, well, accessible!

100 dollar billI commented to G that sometimes I feel like I have $100 bills that no one will accept. The FREE Microsoft accessibility tools are so amazing and have many uses for MANY PEOPLE! (In fact, my session is called “Accessibility for All”.)

advanced features for Mouse Properties screen in the Pointer Options tab with Hide pointer while typing and Show location of pointer when I press the CTRL key checked.For G, some tips that get the “WOW!” factor are how to make your cursor and mouse pointer larger (especially handy for teachers who project their screens for students) OR, my favorite, how to set it so when you press the CTRL key on a Windows machine, a circle appears around your cursor to help guide those watching. Another is zooming with the CTRL key and the roller on a mouse. (Instructions found here.)

Voice settings in Immersive Reader in Word Online: Voice Speed with a range from turtle to rabbit and Voice Selection Female or MaleFor me, using Immersive Reader in Word Online (and many other programs) to help students with proofreading their writing. Another is using Office Lens on iOS or Android to take a picture of text and have it read to you. Students can take a picture of their textbook and have it read as they follow along. Read about more uses here or check out the full OneNote resource collection.

So, our question to all of you:

What’s YOUR $100 tech tip? That tip that YOU find incredible, but feel like no one else will listen or even give it a try?

We shared some of ours, but we would LOVE to hear from you in the comments.