Matt's Favorite Things 2015

I don't really follow the goings-on of Oprah Winfrey but of course, I am aware of who she is. I have also heard that she has a list of "favorite things" every year. 

I looked at her list. None of her things appealed to me. So I decided to write about some of my own favorite things of 2015.

1. Scannable by Evernote. Seriously, my favorite new app of 2015. If I had a nickel for everyone I have shown this to... well, I'd have a lot of nickels! I am a super-fan of Evernote. I have used the organization / note-taking / everything capture app and service since 2009. Through the years, it has truly become an extension of my person. This year, Evernote released the new app, Scannable, a simple scanning app designed to work flawlessly with Evernote, although one needn't use Evernote to use and love Scannable. Scannable is a smartphone app that turns your smartphone into a high quality scanner. It is perfect for scanning images, documents, receipts and business cards. I haven't used my traditional scanner since I downloaded this app several months ago. Its beautiful presentation turns into a super simple user experience. Just open the app and hold it over the item you need to scan. You don't even need to press a button. Scanning multiple pages is quick, considerably quicker than using a flat-bed scanner. Placing the document on a surface that has a high-contrast from the document will allow the app to appropriately crop the final scan. I use it for everything I need to scan: receipts, business cards and anything I need to keep digitally, like car service reports, medical records, etc. Receipts and documents are saved in PDF format, images as JPGs and business cards imported into my contacts. After the document is scanned, there are options to save in Evernote or Dropbox, or send using e-mail or text. As a default, I have all of my scans saved automatically in Evernote which makes it completely searchable. And with Evernote's great markup options, sketching or writing on PDF documents is easy! There is simply no better scanning app out there.
Free |

Scannable by Evernote

2. Harry's Daily Face Wash. Yes, I am writing about face wash. It is truly that good. A couple of years ago I wrote about the best shave ever and I have been shaving with nothing but Harry's products ever since. The newest product in their lineup, the face wash "combines the benefits of a foaming wash and a gentle scrub. Volcanic rock exfoliates. Aloe & Coconut Water moisturize. Eucalyptus & Peppermint refresh." What man doesn't want to wash his face with volcanic rock. What the product description doesn't describe is just how awesome my face feels after using it. As with all other Harry's products, you need far less of it than you think. Just a tiny dab of the Daily Face Wash, the diameter of the tip of your pinky finger, is all I need for a good lather. Given the amount of the product needed for each use, Harry's products are a tremendous value. Their customer service is still amazing and this year they released the Harry's smartphone app, now it's easier than ever to get new blades or products.
$7.00 | Harry's

Harry's Daily Face Wash

3. Apple Watch. As an original Pebble watch and Pebble Time owner, I originally had no interest in the Apple Watch. I liked that the screens on my Pebble watches were always on. I liked that the battery lasted for several days. I liked the simplicity of the new technology. Eventually, I started reading more and more about Apple's entry into the smart-watch and wearable markets and decided to go try one on in July. My intention was to see how it felt on my wrist and experiment a little with the features. The Apple store employee spent half an hour with me answering all of my questions and letting me try on multiple watches with multiple bands. When he reminded me I had 14 days to return it if I didn't like it I decided to buy one: 42mm Apple Watch Sport, Space Gray. Initially, I liked it. After several months, I love it. I use the voice feature a lot more often than I ever thought I would, setting reminders, making calls, sending texts. I also really like the activity tracker and the Chipotle app (push button, order burrito).
Starting from $349 | | BestBuy (currently $100 off)

4. Apple Music. I have never used a streaming music service. I have a large music catalog and, until a few years ago, regularly purchased a lot of music. As an Apple fan I had been following the rumors about what their new service would be and couldn't wait to give it a test drive when it was finally available to try on June 30. After the three-month trial, I couldn't wait to throw more money at Apple. I loved that I could download any song, heck, every song, from the iTunes catalog. One of the first things I did was download a bunch of albums that I only had on cassette. Then, I went looking for new and interesting tunes, songs for which I typically wouldn't have paid $1.29. Music is fun again. Finding new music is fun again. Now when I hear about an interesting band, I can listen to (and even download) their entire catalog (have you heard of Party Cannon?). The app experience does take a little to get used to, but after some time, it's become second nature. The new "For You" section (really, it's "for me") often has some cool playlist, artist and album recommendations based on what info I provided Apple Music.
$9.99 monthly for single user |

5. Chris Stapleton. Well, he's not a thing, but he is a great country singer. Also, he is not new, he is new to me. Chris Stapleton is a Nashville based song-writer who wrote or co-wrote many country songs in the last decade. I was not aware of him until November when he performed the George Jones hit, "Tennessee Whiskey" with Justin Timberlake. Stapleton, who, later that evening, won CMA Best New Artist award, has a rich soulful voice. As a lifelong country music fan I have become disheartened by the country-turned-pop artists over the last few years. I like pop music, I really do. I even like some pop-country, I just really miss traditional country music. Since I saw him perform with Timberlake (one of the greatest performers of our day) I have been hooked on his new debut solo album, Traveller. The album is full of incredible songs. My favorite, "Whiskey and You" was written by Stapleton and recorded by Tim McGraw in 2007. Stapleton's recording is simply one of the most beautiful country songs I have heard in years. The lyrics are simple yet brilliant. I listen to the song, which is just one voice and one guitar, several times every day. Every song on the album is great.
$9.99 | iTunes |

Chris Stapleton, Traveller

6. Garmin 520. I finally bought a dedicated GPS bike computer. I have had my eye on this particular model since it was announced earlier in the year. The primary draw to this device was its Strava Live integration. I have used the same CatEye Astrale 8 computer on my road bike since 2004 and have been looking for a reason to upgrade. To better track my performance, for the last several years I have used Strava a GPS cycling app on my iPhone, just using the CatEye on the bike for real-time speed, distance and cadence. The Strava app on my phone is pretty accurate, but I wanted something on my handlebars that would give me exactly the data I want to see when riding. I opted for the bundle pack which added a heart rate monitor as well as speed and cadence sensors. With GPS, speed is calculated by using distance and time, so seeing real-time speed can be slightly problematic. The speed sensor, which attaches to the hub of one of the wheels (which is great if you want to ride on a trainer or rollers) provides an accurate real-time speed. The display is great and fully customizeable from 1 to 12 fields.
$400 (bundle) | REI

7. Original New York Seltzer. This is not a new thing. But, for those of us that were around in the 80s, that saw the small 10 ounce bottles give way to super-size cups of Coke, it is great to see the return of these great drinks! I stopped drinking soda a few years ago but occasionally splurge on a 7-Up or an RC Cola. Recently, I was on a bike ride in Brentwood and went into a small bakery for something to drink. I was so shocked to see the iconic bottle of seltzer that, in my giddiness, I actually considered buying every bottle they had. I thought maybe there was a mistake, I hadn't seen these drinks in many, many years. The original flavors - Vanilla Cream, Root Beer, Lemon Lime, Peach, Raspberry, Blueberry, and my favorite, Black Cherry are back, too. The Original New York Seltzer drinks are not healthy drinks. With 30-35 grams of sugar and 120 calories it is pretty similar to a 12 ounce serving of Coke or Pepsi. However, there is no sodium or high fructose corn syrup in the seltzers.
$18.00 case |

Original New York Seltzer

There you have 'em, my favorite things in 2015. What were your favorite things?