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5 Awesome Apps to Help You Stick With Your Resolutions

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The new year is well under way, and it’s the perfect time to revisit those 2015 resolutions you made just a few short weeks ago.

Whether you want to learn something new, organize your finances, or travel more this year, that initial process of setting goals and planning can leave you ready to tackle any challenges that come your way. But then, something changes. Maybe one day you skip a workout you had planned — it’s no big deal, you’ll pick it back up tomorrow, right? But then another day goes by… and another.

Feeling frustrated? Lost that initial excitement? That’s normal — and it’s not too late to get back on track. Fortunately, we live in an age where technology can help you monitor your goals, find a quick dose of inspiration, and connect with a community of like-minded people. And many of the best goal tracking apps are free to download, so there’s no excuse not to give them a try!

Here are five goal tracking apps we love, along with some helpful tips for how to keep your resolutions even when you’re struggling:

Coach.me

If you’re worried about being “that girl” or “that guy” on social media, consider this: experts agree that writing down your goals and sharing them publicly have a big impact on your success. A series of studies by UK psychology professor Richard Wiseman, for example, found that women in particular are 10% more likely to achieve their goals if they share them with their family and friends. If you’re struggling, consider finding a community of people who have set similar goals with the Coach.me app. Set your goal and connect with other users and coaches, or hire a one-on-one coach through the app. It’s a great way to hold yourself accountable and get added support.

Fooducate

Before embarking on a goal, arming yourself with the right resources is essential. Do your research beforehand, but also keep it handy for times when you find yourself floundering! If your goal is to learn guitar, for example, signing up for private lessons is a fantastic start — but you’ll also need chord and fretboard charts, tutorial videos and books, and so on.

Not interested in guitar? This idea is the same no matter what your goal is. One of the most common New Year’s resolutions is losing weight, and part of that process is empowering yourself with knowledge about specific exercises to do and how to eat right. For the latter, we love Fooducate, which offers the pros, cons, and nutritional information for tons of different food products. Use this app to make informed decisions about what you’re eating, track your progress, and get daily tips to stay motivated.

Mint

If you’ve fallen off the wagon with your goal, don’t stress! Being hard on yourself only makes it that much easier to give up. Instead, stay flexible and learn to respond to setbacks in a healthy way. If your goal this year is to manage your money, Mint has been at the forefront of tracking apps for several years now. Once you’ve connected your bank statements and credit cards, Mint automatically displays everything you need to keep your finances in order, making it one of the best goal tracking apps available. But one of its best features is the tool for setting and adjusting specific budgets. Overspent on groceries this month? Don’t beat yourself up — simply adjust your budget for the month, and see what other areas you cut back.

Habit List

If you set a lofty resolution like “lose weight” or “get healthy,” it’s normal to feel like you’re not even getting close. Instead, simplify your goal by dividing it into measurable steps and milestones. You might start, for example, with something as easy as a daily habit you want to add to your routine, like drinking a glass of water first thing every morning. Here’s where an app like Habit List comes in handy — enter in the habits you want to establish, and the app will help you stay focused with reminders, badges, and weekly and monthly reports on your success.

stickK

If intrinsic motivation isn’t doing it for you, it may be time to raise the stakes. Several apps and websites have cropped up in recent years that enforce financial consequences when members don’t reach their goals, and Stickk is one of our favorites. How does it work? Define your goal, and pledge however much money you’d like to put on the line. You can even add a “referee” (a friend or family member, for example) to hold you accountable. If you achieve your goal by the deadline you’ve set, you get your money back. If not, you forfeit your pledge to either your referee or a charity. When real consequences are at hand, you’ll feel much more motivated to succeed!

What other goal tracking apps do you use? Leave a comment below and let us know!

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15 Ways to Make 2015 Your Best Year Ever

15 Ways to Make 2015 Your Best Year Ever

Small changes in our daily routines can make a huge difference over time. Here are some of the best New Year’s resolutions you can make so that 2015 is your best year yet!

1. Practice gratitude.

Take a moment each day to appreciate the things that are great about your life. The more you notice your blessings and practice gratitude, the happier you will be!

2. Unplug more.

Resolve to put your phone down more and engage with the people in the world around you. Simple things like banning devices during dinner are a great way to feel more connected and enjoy the moment more.

3. Be kind to yourself.

Give yourself a compliment, or splurge on a small surprise treat. Don’t let yourself get bogged down in your worries or insecurities. Instead, choose to be a little kinder to yourself, and you’ll find you have more strength and energy for the things in life that really matter.

4. Be kind to others.

Whether you’re volunteering your time with a charity organization or just doing a favor for a friend, doing things for other people is a great way to boost your happiness. Do small acts of kindness each day to make 2015 a great year for you and your community.

5. Learn something new.

Learning new skills makes you more confident, and you might even discover a new passion for life. Whether you’ve always wanted to learn to play the piano, speak a new language, or take photos like a pro, 2015 is the perfect time to learn.

6. Get active.

Exercise releases endorphins that make you happier, and keeps your body in shape. If you’re not very active, try adding a walk to your daily routine, riding your bike to work, or taking the stairs instead of the elevator.

7. Take a trip.

Traveling is a great way to destress and learn more about the world. Even if you can’t afford a big vacation, why not take a day trip to a nearby destination? Seeing new places is refreshing, and you’ll feel like you’re going on an adventure.

8. Cross something off your bucket list.

Is there something you’ve always wanted to do? It can be something big, like skydiving, or something smaller like writing a loved one a poem. Whatever it is, find a way to make it happen in 2015, and you’ll have a memory that will last you the rest of your life.

9. Cook something fabulous.

If you’re not great in the kitchen, learn to cook a few stand-out dishes that will impress guests, as well as easy meals that don’t come from a box. If you’re already a great cook, why not try something fancy, like a French pastry or rolling your own sushi? Master some new dishes in 2015 and have fun showing them off!

10. Spend more time with loved ones.

Life is all about the people you spend it with. Take more time for your family and friends this year and see how much richer your days become!

11. Read a great book.

A great book has the power to touch your heart, expand your mind, and even stimulate your creativity. Reading also trains your brain to focus better, an important skill in our increasingly distracted world. Even if you just read a few pages before bed each night, squeeze in some time with a good book and you’re sure to feel the benefits.

12. Go outside.

Take a quick walk in the morning or after dinner and notice things like the color of the sky, the plants around you, and the way the air feels. Getting outside is relaxing, and sunlight helps your body make Vitamin D.

13. Kick a bad habit.

Whether you need to stop overeating desserts, cut down on your TV time, or quit smoking, make 2015 the year that you finally kick your bad habit. Think about it — with your bad habit out of the way, you’ll have more time and energy to enjoy doing the things you really love.

14. Celebrate more.

Celebrate your accomplishments and those of your loved ones! Don’t let achievements go by unacknowledged. The more you celebrate, the more opportunities you will find to share happiness with the ones who matter to you the most.

15. Have fun!

Most importantly, have fun! It’s your life and you get to decide how to make the best of it. Go through your days with a smile and you’re sure to have a very happy new year!

What are some of the best New Year’s resolutions you’ve made? What is your resolution this year? Tell us all about it in the comments below!

 

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Road-Trip

Looking Back: Our Favorite Blog Posts of 2014

2014 was an incredible year for us here at TakeLessons. Our days were packed with growth and learning, and we hope yours were too! In the past year, we expanded our service from offering just music lessons to including many, many other subjects ranging from academic tutoring and foreign languages to sports, dance, crafts, and so much more.

Through it all, we’ve stayed focused on how wonderful it is to learn new things and made it our mission on the blog to show off the many amazing subjects our teachers can help you learn more about. Of course, we also have fun along the way!

So, in no particular order, here are 10 of our favorite fun and informative blog posts we’ve written in the past year. We hope you’ll enjoy reading them as much as we loved writing them, and we look forward to learning even more with you in 2015!

Your Official Road Trip Playlist: 150 Best Songs to Sing Along To

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3 Small Mistakes That Make a Big Impact on Learning Piano

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12 Strategies & Resources to Take You Beyond “Buenos Días”

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10 Simple Ways to Transform Yourself for the Better

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How To Write a Song Today: 4 Easy Steps

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8 Goof-Proof Ways to Beat Writer’s Block

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6 Easiest Tips for Weight Loss

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Arts and Crafts Ideas for Kids: 3 Simple Steps to Get Started

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Audition Tips: 4 Things You Need Besides Talent

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Inside the Mind of a Young Songwriter | TakeLessons Student Spotlight

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What did you learn in 2014? Is there anything you’d like to learn more about in 2015? Let us know in the comments below!

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Video thumbnail for youtube video NASA Makes Best Science-Themed Music Video Ever

NASA Makes Best Science-Themed Music Video Ever

Since the days of Schoolhouse Rock, and even before, educational songs have run the gamut from crazy catchy to super cheesy. This video from NASA, made to show off the exciting work going on in space travel is actually incredibly fun! Set to the tune of Meghan Trainor’s “All About that Bass”, you’ve got to see “All About That Space”. Who knew science could be such a blast?

What do you think? Is this parody an improvement on the original? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below!

 

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Looking Back at the Biggest Hits of 2014 [Video]

2014 has been flying by and best-of-the-year lists are starting to come out of the woodwork. In the year-end spirit, DJ Earworm has created a mashup showcasing the biggest hits of 2014, featuring big names like Taylor Swift and Pharrell Williams, plus newcomers Meghan Trainor, Iggy Azalea, and many more.

Now you can hear all the songs you’ve had stuck in your head this year at the same time, in a mashup that’s both fun and catchy.

Can you name all these hit songs of 2014? Or is there a song that you think was left out? Tell us all about your favorite music of the year in the comments below!

 

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Video thumbnail for youtube video 10 Rockin' Christmas Songs

7 Rockin’ Christmas Songs You Won’t Get Sick Of

Think you’ve heard every Christmas song on earth a million times since Halloween? Think again! These headbanging Christmas covers and original rock Christmas songs are here to turn your holiday up to eleven.

Twisted Sister – “Oh Come All Ye Faithful”

Bet you won’t believe what year this hair-metal Christmas cover video was made. Though it looks like it’s straight out of the ’80s, this Twisted Sister video was actually made in 2006. Turn it up, marvel at their talent for time travel, and rock your way through Christmas.

El Vez – “Feliz Navidad”

If Elvis were a punk rocker from Mexico, his name would be El Vez. Punk rock energy and fuzzed out guitar riffs make this version of “Feliz Navidad” a rocking holiday treat.

James Brown – “Soulful Christmas”

Though he is widely known as a “Sex Machine,” the Hardest Working Man in Show Business also has three funky, soulful Christmas albums under his belt. Let James Brown’s incredibly contagious energy give you the boost you need to get through the holidays.

Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings – “Ain’t No Chimneys in the Projects”

Sharon Jones’ sound is a blast from the past of soul, with a few modern twists thrown in. Give this tune a spin for a smooth, soulful, retro Christmas vibe that is effortlessly cool.

The Ramones – “Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight)”

For some, the holidays can be a stressful time, especially if you find yourself in disagreements with loved ones. Luckily, punk pioneers the Ramones created their own rock Christmas classic in 1987 with “Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight)” just for those times. Not even legendary punks want to fight on Christmas.

Weezer – “We Wish You A Merry Christmas”

California pop punks Weezer are serving up the figgy pudding in this cover of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas”.  In 2008, Weezer recorded six Christmas cover songs, so there is more where this came from.

Sufjan Stevens – “Holly Jolly Christmas”

Indie superstar Sufjan Stevens is a Christmas fanatic. He has recorded 10 Christmas albums so far, and many more could be on the way. Whether you dig twee folk sounds or electronic pop, something from Stevens’ prolific holiday rock catalog is sure to tickle your fancy.

Do you have any favorite rock Christmas songs? Share them with us in the comments below!

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turkey

5 Embarrassing Turkey Disasters | Best of the Turkey Talk-Line

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Since 1981, aspiring home cooks have turned to the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line every November for helpful pointers and advice to save their bacon — or should we say, turkey! According to Butterball’s website, the company’s 50+ experts answer more than 100,000 questions every year, ranging from thawing the bird to proper preparation to tips for different cooking styles for Thanksgiving dinner.

Of course, with so many calls to field (and so many newbie cooks in the kitchen), there’s bound to be some… well… interesting inquiries. This round-up from Reader’s Digest had us chuckling — and some of us looking the other way in embarrassment. Hey, we’ve all been there… right?

Here are some of our favorite Butterball turkey hotline fails pulled from the list:

It’s a Wrap

A proud gentleman called to tell the staff how he wrapped his turkey in a towel and stomped on it several times, breaking the bones so it would fit in his pan.

Carving the Turkey

Another gentleman called to tell the operator he cut his turkey in half with a chainsaw and wanted to know if the oil from the chain would adversely affect the turkey.

Frozen Turkey

A lady from Colorado called about “how to thaw” her frozen Butterball. She proudly shared the fact that her turkey was stored in a snow bank outside! It had snowed the night before and it then dawned on her that she didn’t have a clue which snow bank her turkey was in. At that point, the conversation was really over because she was now on a mission to go find her turkey.

Wash Those Suds Right Out of My … Turkey?

A first-time Thanksgiving chef called Marge Klindera, a 20+ year Talk-Line veteran, in tears Thanksgiving morning last year. She was so proud to have thawed the turkey successfully and continued to rinse the turkey – with dish soap! The tears started flowing when the turkey wouldn’t stop sudsing. If only she called before she would have found out you don’t have to rinse the turkey – just pat it dry with paper towels.

State Bird

When a Talk-Line staffer asked a caller what state her turkey was in (meaning how thawed was it) the caller responded with, “Florida.”

Check out the full slideshow of Butterball turkey hotline fails here.

Lucky for you, if you’re in charge of the bird this year, there’s still time to brush up on your cooking skills with one of our culinary teachers! Or, try your hand at dessert or pastries with one of our baking instructors. Cooking isn’t your thing? That’s alright — we’re sure the family will appreciate some beautifully folded napkin art, too.

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Amazing Dad Learns to Sing for Unforgettable Wedding Song

What’s something you always thought you couldn’t do? What would it feel like to have a breakthrough and discover that there’s really nothing holding you back?

John Butcher, age 50, always thought he was tone deaf until he took voice lessons to perform a surprise song at his daughter’s wedding. After six months of private voice lessons, Butcher was able to deliver a touching and tuneful performance. This video, which was featured on the UK’s Daily Mail website, shows this incredible dad’s wedding reception song performance of “You Were Always on My Mind”. 

Is there a specific wedding reception song that you would love to be able to sing? Or if singing’s not quite your cup of tea, is there a piano piece or guitar song you’d like to learn? Find a teacher near you who can help out!

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Video thumbnail for youtube video Stuck on Lyrics? Maybe iOS 8's Autocomplete Feature Can Help

Stuck Writing Lyrics? Maybe iOS 8′s Autocomplete Feature Can Help

Songwriting can be tricky when the perfect word is just out of reach, a sentiment that songwriter Jonathan Mann must know all too well. Mann has been writing a song a day for over five years, which is no small feat.

For one of his most recent compositions, Mann took a backseat as a lyricist and let his iPhone 6 do the talking. Using only the autocomplete feature on his phone, Jonathan Mann managed to write an astonishingly catchy tune!

Of course, the resulting song doesn’t make a lot of sense, but it sure is fun to see how artists use new technology as it comes along. Who knows, maybe one of these random strings of words will inspire Mann or another songwriter to create a beautiful lyric down the road.

What do you think? Does new technology inspire your creativity? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

 

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Video thumbnail for youtube video 10 Essential Songs You Need on Your Halloween Playlist

10 Essential Songs You Need on Your Halloween Playlist

Whether you’re turning your house into a creepy haunted mansion, heading to a rockin’ Halloween party, or getting the kids dressed up for trick-or-treating around the neighborhood, these Halloween party songs are the best way to get into the spirit. No playlist fit for consumption by ghouls and goblins is complete without these 10 essentials. Turn it up, and have a happy and safe Halloween!

1. Thriller

Who doesn’t love the “Thriller” dance?

2. Candy

Because it’s not Halloween without plenty of candy.

3. I Put a Spell on You

For extra bonus Halloween points, check out Bette Midler’s version of this classic tune from the movie Hocus Pocus.

4. This is Halloween

Another great Halloween movie, Nightmare Before Christmas, is full of great songs by Danny Elfman, perfect for this scary season!

5. Dead Man’s Party

Speaking of Danny Elfman, throw a “Dead Man’s Party” with this 80′s favorite.

6. Time Warp

Rocky Horror is always appropriate.

7. Heads Will Roll

Hold on to your heads! This tune is perfect for a Halloween dance-off!

8. Ghost Riders in the Sky

Johnny Cash brings the spooky vibes in this golden oldie.

9. Psycho Killer

Run, run, run!

10. Monster Mash

Because it’s not Halloween until you’re doing the mash!

What’s your favorite Halloween party song? Tell us all about it in the comments below!
 

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