Currently

Watching How I Met Your Mother. We started watching this on Netflix Streaming the night LM left, and we’ve already plowed through the first season and a half. So hilarious! And I finally found out where this quote came from last year, which is… wait for it… awesome.

Reading blogs on Feedly. Finally. This has been a month long trial trying to find an RSS reader after Google kicked it’s Reader to the curb. When Reader stopped, unfortunately so did my beloved Flipboard. I’ve loved Flipboard for a long time, but despite what they promised my feeds did not get migrated over and I stopped getting 95% of them. I tried Bloglovin’, but they don’t have categories, which I desperately need. And I got cranky that all my feed info was public by default with no easy way to change it to private. Which in the grand scheme of things is NBD, but I was having a crappy day so it turned into a BFD. Enter Feedly. I was able to import my old OPML file, so now I have all my feeds, and I’m busily sorting and organizing them.

Listening to Anna Kerinina. I’m almost finished. This might be one of my longest audiobooks ever, almost forty hours. I’m not sure what to say about it that hasn’t already been said. There is a lot more about farming than I expected.

Making lots of LO’s.

Feeling nervous, chilly, inspired.

Planning my first guest blog post.

Loving that Jason’s coming home early today.

Playing with Aperture. And loving it!

Looking forward to the new PL class coming up.

Applying for part-time jobs.

Missing LM. Always.

Thinking of going back to digital PL for a few weeks.

Enjoying the quiet.

Making your photos more awesome with apps and actions

I will freely admit that I’m not the best photographer in the world. In a perfect world, all of our pics would be taken in great lighting with DSLR cameras in Manual setting to get beautiful images every time. I don’t know about you, but that pretty much never happens for me. So I depend heavily on photo actions, either on my phone or in PSE. Here are a few of my favorites right now.

For the phone- Pic Tap Go, A Beautiful Mess, and Instagram

Pic Tap Go is my go-to for basic editing. I’ve tried many others apps, but this is the one that’s stuck. I love the cropping options that let you save a rectangular photo to Instagram. The sliders make it so easy to make more subtle adjustments and you can pile filters on top of each other. If you find a combination you like, save it to Recipes and use that combo on other photos. One caveat is that the app is pretty buggy right now. It crashes on me every two days or so.

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My newest obsession is the A Beautiful Mess App. You can use filters to make your photos prettier, but my favorite parts are the doodles and text options. You can buy add on packs with more doodles and fonts, but the ones that come with the app are pretty great to play around with.

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And of course there’s Instagram. Every photo that I edit with the first two apps eventually gets shared through Instagram. The filters are great, but don’t add as much versatility as many other apps since you can’t adjust their strength or use more than one at a time. For me, the best part of Instagram is the social media aspect. I think I have more conversations on Instagram than I do on Facebook or Twitter. I’m also excited to start playing around with the video feature on Instagram.

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For the computer- CoffeeShop, Pioneer Woman, and RadLab

Some of the first photoshop actions I’ve ever used were from the Coffee Shop Blog. Rita offers a ton of PS and PSE actions- all for free! (You can also save time and support her blog by buying them all in a bundle. Just make sure you download the correct actions for the program you’re using, either PS or PSE, or they won’t work.

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I’m also a big fan of the Pioneer Woman’s photoshop actions, which are also free. I almost always use her Boost and Flatten actions on my photos for the blog. If you haven’t visited her blog before, you definitely should. She has lots of photography tips, plus tasty recipes.

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If you’re looking to spend a few dollars, I recommend RadLab. I got the free trial a few days ago, and I’m Loving it! You can get actions for PS and PSE, or presets for Lightroom. The RadLab people are the same ones behind Pic Tap Go, and just like the app, you can pile filters on top of each other and save your favorites to recipes.

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So now that you’ve seen some of my vacation photos, (like how I snuck those in?). let’s see how these apps can take an older photo from eh to awesome!

Here is the original. Pretty bad photo taken with Jason’s old Palm Pilot from 2006. But it’s just so sweet!

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Now here’s the same photo, edited with some of my favorite apps and actions. Please note that these pictures are teeny and low res. I had to blow them up a bit just to get them big enough to post. Also, I’m not doing anything to try and correct the graininess or anything like that in PSE. This is just showing the apps and actions alone, with a little cropping.

Pic Tap Go

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A Beautiful Mess

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Instagram

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CoffeeShop

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Pioneer Woman

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RadLab. This is the one I ultimately decided to go with in Jason’s Father’s Day book.

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There are a lot of options for even the worst photo, depending on what kind of layout you’re going for. Have fun and play around, you might find your new favorite photo effect with one of these apps or actions.

New York adventures: Getting there

Jason and I went to New York from April 22-26. We took around 2,000 photos. Yeah, that’s a lot. In order for me to tell the New York stories without completely losing my mind and being totally overwhelmed, I’m going to break them up into small, bite-sized chunks. It might take a week, it might take a month. Probably closer to the latter. But I’m fine with that.

So here goes…

I guess I should start out by explaining how we got to go to New York in the first place. Jason had to go for a work trip, and I was lucky enough to get to come along. Jason lived in New York as a very small child, but hasn’t been back since. I’ve never been that far north, so we jumped at the chance to explore a new place!

We knew Jason would be doing a lot of work during the trip and we wouldn’t have a lot of free time but we wanted to make the most of it. So we did what we always do when planning a trip, we started making lists of things we wanted to do. We had to do things on the cheap (a surprise trip to New York was not in our budget this year!) But I think we did a pretty great job fitting in a ton of fun things.

We woke up at 3 am on Monday and headed to the airport for our 6 am flight.

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Nerd humor- Blue Screen of Death at the Best Buy kiosk.

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Security was surprisingly hassle free. I almost always get pulled aside for extra screenings at PBI.

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I found a super cool app that let me grab a bunch of videos from YouTube to load on my iPad to watch on the plane. I watched a lot of Shimelle and Glitter Girl that week! (The logo in the top left came with the free version. It didn’t bother me at all though some might find it distracting).

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Jason mostly worked during the flight, but found a little time to read.

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He takes great in the air pics. I can’t sit in the window seat because I get airsick and looking out the window makes me want to puke. (Things that make Jen want to puke are a running theme throughout this trip).

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New Jersey, we are in you!

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Newark airport is ginormous. You have to take a train to get around, like in Atlanta.

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Got our bags, rented our car, and we were ready to roll!

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Next stop- Staten Island

iPhone birthday cake

On Friday I made a cake for Jason’s birthday. It’s always a bit of a challenge to make a dessert he’ll like. But I think this year was the most successful one I’ve made. We might actually finish the whole thing, which I don’t think has ever happened. It helped that he had three days off from work in a row. We spent them relaxing, watching TV, and eating cake. 🙂

My original idea was to make emoticon cupcakes. I found a bunch of cute ones on Pinterest, but the all involved fondant. Jason doesn’t like fondant, so I was wracking my brain for something fun to do with the cake. (It was a craptastic morning, so this was partly to cheer myself up).

I decided to go with an iPhone cake after seeing these adorable app cupcakes. This video was also really helpful and cute. I was still a little on the fence with the whole idea, until I saw that you can make your own homemade fondant. It was supposed to be way better than the store bought kind, so that pretty much sold me.

So I walked to the store (in the rain) and got my ingredients. I decided to go with a plain yellow box cake mix and chocolate whipped frosting. Then I’d make the “apps” out of fondant and food coloring and stick them on top. That way if he didn’t like them, he could just peel them off.

I came home and baked the cake. (I also attempted to make mint chocolate chip ice cream, but that was a total fail. Did I mention it was a rough day?) While the cake was cooling (and the ice cream was failing) I started mixing up the fondant.

I followed the recipe exactly. The only thing I would add it to be sure and use the dough hook instead of the paddle for mixing because the fondant is extremely thick. It’s pretty much the consistency of play dough.

I drew a diagram of how I wanted the cake to look. I figured out the apps I wanted to make and what colors I would need. Then I rolled out the fondant. I used a shot glass to measure out how big I wanted my apps to be. This wasn’t exact, but I needed a starting point to figure out how much of each color I’d need.

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Mixing up the food coloring was probably my favorite part of the whole process. I like to squish things in my hands 🙂 Making the actual apps was a bit tedious, but so much fun!

Here is my final result-

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In case you can’t tell from the picture, I made app icons for messenger, calendar, the weather app, foursquare, notes, calculator, camera, photos, iPod, timer, phone, and mail. The phone looks a little janky, but it’s supposed to look like it has the red “missed calls” badge.

Oh yeah and one other thing… I totally put Jason’s wrong age on the calendar and weather apps. He’s really 38. Fail…. but we already know I’m a terrible wife, so I’m sure that doesn’t surprise anyone, lol.

 

iPhone 5

I got the newest iPhone this weekend. Best Buy has a great buyback program and they took my old iPhone 4 back for $150, so we only ended up paying $50. Pretty sweet. (My phone was in excellent condition thanks to my Otter Box and we still had the box and all the cords and such, so that’s partially why I got such a good price).

So here’s my review.

Pros:
Speed. So much faster than my 4, especially the camera. Huge improvement there.
Siri. I know it’s a gimmick, and still technically in beta (I think), but I really hate to type, so anything that let’s me easily dictate instead of typing is a big plus. I’ve used Siri several times today already, mostly for setting timers and texting.
Camera. Not only super fast, but great picture quality. The thing I was most looking forward to is the ability to do panoramic photos. I haven’t been able to do any just yet, but hopefully by next weekend I’ll be a bit steadier on my feet and I can try it out.
Ease of switching phones. I backed up right before I left home that day, so all of my info was ready in the cloud to start using right away once we bought the new phone. There were some hangups, most notably with my iTunes music and podcasts. I ended up having to plug the phone in to finish transferring everything over. But overall it was super easy and I don’t think I cursed once.

Cons:
Siri. The network isn’t exactly zippy 100% of the time. I had to tell Siri who my husband was at least three times before it stuck, due to network timeouts.
Screen size. I know everyone was drooling over the larger screen, and I thought I would too. But it still feels awkward to me, especially when taking screenshots. Probably something I’ll get used to though.
Headphones. I take issue with the apple commercial featuring the headphones. It’s annoying and arrogant. (I know Jason is rolling his eyes right now). So I wasn’t exactly looking forward to the new design anyway. I have weird ears. Headphones never stay in. Ever. So the new headphones went to Jason. Which makes us both happy. And if anyone has any headphone recs, I’m all ears 😛
Podcast app. I know this is an OS thing, and not strictly in iPhone 5 thing, but let me just take a minute to jump on my soapbox and say, I HATE the podcast app. I have been a podcast junkie for years, and have spent a lot of time carefully curating smart playlists to maximize my podcast enjoyment. And the stupid Podcast app took all of that functionality away. They broke something that was just fine. I tried to work with it, I really did. But it pissed me off to the point that I deleted the app entirely. Now my podcasts come through the regular iTunes app again. It’s a little buggy now and then, but much better than the stupid stupid stupid Podcast app.

To be honest, I didn’t want to upgrade at all. I was still mostly happy with my old phone. But Jason found the buyback offer and it was hard to pass up. I’m loving the speed and the camera the most right now. All in all, I’m really happy with the new phone.

What’s your system? (mobile)

I listened to the latest episode of the Paperclipping Roundtable recently where they talked about your scrapping system. That is such a big topic I just had to write about it.

I loved hearing about Amy Tan’s system of scrapping using mini books. She basically keeps a little bag of stuff in her purse that she uses to collect things so that when she gets home, a lot of the work is already done. She keeps a book to jot down notes, a pen, tape, even a tiny printer to print photos on the go. She must have a Huge Purse. I’m really intrigued by that idea, and might work on something like that for the summer.

That got me thinking about my own digi version of scrapping on the go. How can a digital person keep up with things while on a trip, or just collecting everyday things for Project Life?

My best tool is definitely my iPhone 4. I can’t say enough about the ease of use, the great camera, and of course all the apps! I would definitely not get as many pictures as I do if I were using the regular camera.

The thing on the phone that I use the most for scrapping is the Momento app. I’ve seen a lot of people sing it’s praises and I’m definitely joining that choir. You can use it to jot down notes, collect photos, and it even grabs feeds from your social network. I’ve been using it since last spring and it has been so helpful to refer back to, especially if I need to remember details for a layout.

Camera apps. I want to do a whole post on these, but on the rare occasion you take a crappy iPhone picture, they can do a lot to help it look better. The one I use the most is Instagram.

There is a lot more to my system than just my phone, but as far as keeping up with things on the go, nothing has helped like it has.