Category Archives: Reviews

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“How many days until…?” – Online countdown timers reviewed

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Part of the excitement of planning a bucket list activity is the anticipation. I always find myself counting down to various events and activities, and impatiently watching the shrinking number of days makes me look forward to it more.

Today I’m reviewing several web-based countdown timers. I looked for timers that were…

  1. free online
  2. customizeable (to varying degrees)
  3. shareable/bookmarkable (most are also embeddable on websites)

(While the reviews are for the online timers, I’ve linked to the apps if they’re available, but please know that the apps may not be free and I haven’t tried them).

My favorites:

Time and Date 
Apps also available: iOS, Android
Share/Embed: share with URL/social media, no embed
Customization: moderate, for design, event name, countdown display
Visual appeal: high, for cute animated designs (that visually show you getting closer to the highly anticipated date, for example, a plane that travels until it lands when the countdown ends)
Editable after initial creation: yes
Example: Time and Date – Countdown Example

Are We There Yet?
Apps also available: none
Share/Embed: share with URL/social media, iframe embed
Customization: high, for event name/text, background (image, Youtube video, or GIF), color of title/text, display after date is reached
Visual appeal: high, for full page display and animated numbers
Editable after initial creation: yes with password chosen when countdown is made
Example: 
Are We There Yet – Countdown Example

Some others:

It’s Almost
Apps also available:
 none
Share/Embed: share with URL/social media, iframe embed
Customization: minimal, for event name only
Visual appeal: moderate, clean minimal design (stylized gray text on white background)
Editable after initial creation: no
Example: It’s Almost – Countdown Example

Counting Down To
Apps also available: none
Share/Embed: share with URL/social media, iframe embed
Customization: minimal in free version, for event name only
Visual appeal: low, basic design (black box with white text)
Editable after initial creation: no
Example:
 Counting Down To – Countdown Example

TickCounter
Apps also available: none
Share/Embed: share with URL/social media, Javascript embed
Customization: high, for event name, countdown display, and colors of background/text/numbers
Visual appeal: low, minimal design, lots of ads on web version (but embeddable widget is promised to have no ads)
Editable after initial creation: yes
Example:
TickCounter – Countdown Example

Date Countdown
Apps also available: none
Share/Embed: share with URL/social media, iframe embed
Customization: low, for event name, limited countdown display options (display in days or timer mode)
Visual appeal: low, basic design (black text on white background)
Editable after initial creation: no
Example:
Date Countdown – Countdown Example

There are many other options, but some of them wouldn’t load correctly or they’d let you change things but never kept preferences, instead changing themselves back to defaults every time. Oh well. This list should be more than enough for now, especially when you have Time and Date and Are We There Yet? as the top options!

Did I leave off a free online countdown timer that you love? Let me know!

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Drive-in movie experience: Rodeo Drive-In

Like a mix of watching a movie at home and being at an outdoor movie, drive-in movies are a fun bucket list experience. My college friend C. and I checked an item off the bucket list when we went to the Rodeo Drive-In in Bremerton, WA last summer. Here’s how my experience was.

Finding the entrance to the theater is a bit tricky for us. We actually pass the entrance because the GPS isn’t sure where it is, but the good news is that it got us close. The screens become visible as we pass the entrance, but there’s an easy place to turn around and go back. We buy the tickets right as we enter, and are directed to a specific field (theater).

We park with the front of the car pointing up, the front tires resting on the bump on the ground that runs along the entire row of this grass-and-dirt parking lot. Our plan is to sit inside the car, but we notice that many people bring lawn or camping chairs to sit on so they don’t need to be inside the car the whole time.

**Good to know: The rules about sitting on the ground, in chairs, on blankets, or on the top or hood of the car vary by theater, for safety reasons, so check to make sure you’re clear on the rules before you go. For example, the rules at Rodeo Drive In say, “No one is allowed to sit or lay on a blanket or a mattress on the ground in any of our fields. […] You may sit in the bed of your pickup, or on lawn chairs, but not on the ground. Also, you may NOT sit on the top or roof of your vehicle.”

The showing is always double feature at the place we’re at, but you’re not required to stay for the second movie (but if you decide to leave, you’re asked to do so at intermission so the headlights and engine noise don’t interfere with the other viewers’ experience. Our movies are Inside Out (such a fun movie!) and Tomorrowland (it’s okay, really not as good as the commercials make it seem).

Before the movie we get food from the concession stand/snack bar, which joins all the theater fields together. There are more options than most theaters around me, including something called a pizza dog. We don’t know what it is, and while we guess things like “a pizza with hot dogs” or “a hot dog in the crust of a pizza,” the person in front of us in line says he thinks it’s a hot dog with pizza toppings. Who’s right? We ask the person at the counter about the pizza dog, and they nicely explain with the ease (but no attitude or eye rolling) that comes from explaining the same thing every night. Unfortunately, as I’m writing this, I can’t remember what they said. So, I ask Rodeo Drive-In on Facebook, and this is how they describe their famous pizza dog:

A Pizza Dog is one of our hot dogs, on a bun with pizza sauce on it, covered in mozzarella cheese and then steamed until the cheese is melted. We serve it with a knife and fork, it gets a little messy trying to eat it with your hands.

We eat the food and hang out in the car while waiting for the movie to start, but there are also a few benches just outside the concession stand to sit and eat (or watch the movie) if you don’t want to be in your car the whole time.

As we’re waiting for it to get dark, I’m a little worried about my ability to stay up late, because the first movie won’t start until dusk, and then second starts after the intermission, so it won’t end until 2am! Still, I’m super excited for the first movie, and I decide that if I fall asleep in the second one, it’s not a big loss, and not as weird as falling asleep in an indoor movie theater.

When the movie finally begins, we turn on the car’s radio and settle in, enjoying the ability to make little comments while we’re watching. The movie and sound both run smoothly, and I don’t mind looking through a window, which was the one thing I thought might be weird (but if you have a dirty windshield, it’s probably a good idea to clean it before you go to a drive-in). Also, if you have more than two people, you should be prepared to watch the movie outside of the car, since it may be hard for the people in the second row of seats to see.

During intermission, we take a bathroom break and buy more snacks, but the lines for both are very long. We end up missing a few minutes of the second movie even though we left our car right at the start of the intermission. If this is really important to you, you could leave at the beginning of the credits of the first movie (we wanted to watch the credits because Inside Out has little videos during the credits), or if you want to go with the more extreme option, bring a portable FM radio and earbuds tuned into the station for your theater. Then you’ll at least be able to hear the movie while you wait.

Our car starts on the first try when we’re ready to leave, which is fortunate, since that’s not always the case at drive-in theaters. Because you listen to the movie’s audio using the car radio, there’s a chance the battery will die. But not to worry! Drive-in theaters often let you borrow jumper cables if this happens to you. When I ask the Rodeo Drive-In to refresh my memory on their available supplies, I’m told they offer “jumper boxes, field people, and flashlights,” and that guests can “just go to the snack bar and ask for help” if needed.

Overall my experience was very fun, and there’s nothing quite like watching a movie at a drive-in theater. The price is a great deal because it’s a double feature, and because the theater requires a lot of space, they’re often outside of cities so you can turn it into a small overnight trip or part of a longer road trip. It was also fun to accomplish this list item at such a historic theater. According to their website, Rodeo Drive-In is “the largest outdoor theatre complex in Washington State and by far the largest and oldest family owned drive-in in the Northwest.” I wouldn’t pick it over a regular indoor theater for the majority of my movie watching, especially because it’s far away, but I’d definitely recommend it as a fun bucket list activity!

Good to know:

  • Many drive-in theaters are only open seasonally, so be sure to check open hours/seasons with the theater you’re interested in.
  • Also, while there’s a resurgence in popularity, in some areas, only a few drive-in movie theaters remain. Do a little internet research to find one near you, and go soon before there’s even fewer left.
  • Even though you bring your own car, you’re asked not to bring your own snacks, because the concession sales are what help keep the theaters in business.

Resources:

Stay in the Teeny Tiny Guesthouse in Fremont, Seattle

What’s the smallest house you’ve stayed in? For two days, I stay in a 68 square foot house, and I don’t miss the extra space for one second.

There are many tiny houses popping up all around the world, all functional but with varying degrees of attractiveness. I find out about this one from its listing on AirBnB (read below if you want a discount). It’s cute, fun, and slightly quirky.

In person, the house seems much larger than in the video, and for the two of us it’s plenty of room (my friend C. is with me on this “staycation”).

We spend the first moments there talking with Hal, the owner and builder of this space, and he gives us the tour and welcomes us to the little house. Then he goes into his own (larger) house, saying he’s going to water the roof of guesthouse (to water, he sprays water from his house to the roof lawn of the guesthouse). We forget this by the time we go back inside and can’t help but explore the roof lawn, and we’re sitting on the roof lawn when Hal, very luckily, looks out before soaking us with water! We go back inside so he can give the lawn water without getting us wet.

The house is within walking distance of the main part of Fremont, a quirky neighborhood of Seattle, as well as near many bus routes, so C. and I take a bus to downtown and Pike Place Market, and then come back to Fremont to check out some shops and get dinner. At night, we walk back to the guesthouse, where the WiFi is strong, so we’re able to stream a movie to watch before going to bed. C. wants to sleep in the loft bed and I won’t mind either but have a preference for the rolling bed, so it works out perfectly (both beds are comfortable and we sleep well).

In the morning, we drink tea and eat some pastries Hal gave us, remembering not to microwave the pastries and run the tea kettle at the same time (to prevent tripping the circuit breaker). We spend a relaxing day walking around in Fremont and the nearby Wallingford neighborhood, returning to the guesthouse in the afternoon to get some quiet reading time and enjoy the good weather on the tiny lawn.

Sleeping the second night is as comfortable as the first. Hal has us take the sheets off the bed before we leave in the morning, and we sweep up (because even though we’re careful to remove our shoes we still manage to track in some nature, and I grew up with my mom telling me to leave things better than I found them – even though in this case it’s pretty hard to do, since the guesthouse is kept up really well). I also make sure to type a note on the typewriter guestbook (how often do you get to use one of those?!).

Overall, this is a great “staycation” in our own city. We both had a lot of fun, the guesthouse is comfortable, the living/sleeping areas and bathroom feels like they all have enough space, the front yard+roof lawn combo is great for sunny days, and the location is fantastic. I definitely recommend it!

Resource (discount!):
If you decide you want to stay in this or other AirBnB listings, you can use my referral link to get travel credit (discount), valid for new accounts only. It also gives me a travel credit at no extra cost to you. If you don’t want a discount, or if you don’t want to start a new account, you can just use the direct link to Hal’s Teeny Tiny Guesthouse.


Want a unique experience but this is just a little too teeny tiny? Try the Hotel Hotel Hostel in the same neighborhood!