TBI Tips and Tricks: Amazon’s Alexa 

Alexa and I have been working together for close to 18 months now. I was an early user and began utilizing her daily and she has made my life SO much easier.  I knew I would love her before I got her, but I never imagined I’d rely on the device SO MUCH, but it has become a huge compensating strategy for me.  I’d love to see other TBI survivors utilize her because she does a lot for me and helps me save my spoons.

Oh, and if I sound crazy because you have no idea who Alexa is, Alexa actually isn’t a s/he it’s Amazon’s Bluetooth Speaker.  Amazon defines Alexa as “an intelligent personal assistant developed by Amazon, made popular by the Amazon Echo and the Amazon Echo Dot devices” and it’s the name you speak when you are communicating with the device and requesting it to perform certain functions.  Below is a picture of it (mine is black) and it looks just like a bluetooth speaker…Alexa is my BFF. 

Alexa for the win
Amazon Alexa Speaker pictured in black

Alexa is my kitchen assistant

I was first introduced to Alexa while on vacation with my husbands family, and we simply used the device as a speaker. My sister-in-law explained a bunch of Alexacapabilities and I immediately  saw the benefit to getting her for the kitchen.  Prior to my TBI, I was never much of a chef.  I worked too much to have any time to cook and we relied heavily on take out and quick, not necessarily healthy meals.  After my TBI, I didn’t cook for years because it was so challenging. I’d forget I was cooking things and it would burn.  I’d also become flustered with the ingredients, lose my train of thought and leave things out. It was extremely frustrating.  Once I had my daughter, I forced myself to start cooking because I wanted to provide her nutritious meals- my crockpot became my best friend and I started using timers for everything when I was cooking real time. The timer on my microwave would be for one item and the timer on my stove for another.  Problem is that after I had kids, I’d get preoccupied and forget that I had to set a timer.  So in 2016, when I met Alexa I started using her timer functionality and requested a timer for everything I am cooking. “Alexa , set a timer for 5 minutes” and then five minutes later she starts beeping and it reminds me to do whatever it is I am doing. You can also have multiple timers running at once, I definitely use dual timers frequently and may have even had a third one going once.

Another helpful Alexa kitchen hack is when I am cooking and need to convert one tablespoon to teaspoons or a 1/2 cup into tablespoons. I simply ask her the conversion while I am in the midst of making whatever I am making and I can measure the ingredient properly.  Prior to Alexa, I’d have to stop, wash my hands, and go to my iPad or phone to type in the question. I’d then generally forget the unit of measure I was trying to convert and/or forget what ingredient I left off at and then you know how it goes, the recipe would spiral into a disaster.  Generally speaking, since I’ve started using  Alexa help me with my conversions this doesn’t happen! It also helps when I am in the middle of a recipe and don’t have a sled I i ingredient that I need.  I ask, “Alexa , what’s a substitution for egg in a recipe?” And she provides me some solutions.

Alexa manages my grocery list

One of my favorite Alexa capabilities is how she links to a grocery list on my phone. This is another example of how when I am doing something in the kitchen, I don’t need to completely stop what I am doing to go and write it down.  After TBI, we all know all too well how any distraction can cause us to lose our train of thought, which causes a lot of frustration, forgotten moments and unfinished tasks. In the kitchen when I am making breakfast I can continue to pour the cereal and milk into the kids bowls and say, “Alexa add milk and mini wheats to my shopping list.” And she responds, “I’ve added milk and mini wheats to your shopping list.”  Even better that Alexa links directly to my phone because then if I happen to be out at the store later and forget my handwritten shopping list I have it stored on the app on my phone!

Alexa is my shopping assistant

I recently wrote a blog post about grocery shopping after TBI and in one of my points I talk about how much I love AmazonFresh (disclaimer- I do love it, but read the full post here because there are a few things that I’m not 100% happy with) and Alexa doubles as my shopping assistant with Amazon Fresh and really, anything that Amazon sells. Similar to Alexa adding things to my shopping list, I can ask her to add things to my Amazon Fresh cart, to reorder things I have ordered in the past, or I can ask her if there are any deals that I can take advantage of- it’s as simple as saying Alexa , “add diapers to my shopping cart.” and she will pull my diaper shopping history and ask me which brand/size I want her to add to the shopping cart. Or I can ask, Alexa , “what are your deals?” and she will let me know the current promotions and ask if I would like to take advantage of them.  I don’t utilize this option enough because a lot of the items I get off Amazon are subscription based, but with the Holidays coming I do check Alexa ‘s deals daily.

Alexa controls the lights in my house

After we had Alexa for a few months my brother and sister both decided they needed to get one because they witnessed how much I relied on it and saw how incredibly awesome she is. My brother is wayyyy more tech savvy than me and within a few days told me he ordered some smart plugs for his house so he would have certain things hooked up to them and he’d operate them through the Alexa app. I thought this was genius and have a few outlets in our house now linked to the system so when the kids want the lights on in the other room when I am doing something, I avoid interrupting whatever I am doing by asking Alexa to do it, and it gets done.

Alexa entertains the kids 

Our kids love Alexa , and since the beginning, I joke that she is cheaper than a babysitter. When we first got her, the kids were obsessed with asking her Knock Knock jokes, and would spend ten plus minutes asking her to tell them another joke. One of my favorites is, “Why don’t you give Elsa a balloon? Because she would let it go….” Our oldest has now moved on to riddles and every so often becomes preoccupied with asking Alexa unusual questions to learn new facts.  Both kids use Alexa for her story telling capabilities. If you ask Alexa “Open the Magic door…” she walks you through an interactive story where you make decisions and based on those choices, the story takes different twists and turns. This is definitely a well loved perk to the device.

What else can Alexa do??

What am I missing? If you use Alexa , how does she make your life easier after your TBI? I’ve been asked if she is worth it and I think we paid $150 for it when it first came out and after a few weeks of use, I thought she was worth every penny.   I just searched Amazon to link this post directly to the newest version (which if you click on any of the Alexa words above, you can buy it) and saw the second generation is now $99! This is a steal for the TBI personal assistant as I so lovingly call her and you won’t regret your purchase. With the holidays coming up, this is a perfect gift for someone (head injury or not) and I would love for my TBI tribe to scoop one up to make their lives easier.

Thanks to Amazon you can have your very own personal TBI assistant. A timer, shopping companion, electronic list making, entertainer, all-in-one friend.  Be well, friends and when you get her, enjoy her!  And if you remember, come back and let me know what you use her for so I can learn too!

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