Monthly Archives: March 2013

The Daily Post

Today, let’s explore photo apps, shall we? From in-phone editing to photo sharing to managing your image libraries, you can experiment and have fun with cool tools out there.

We’ve rounded up some popular ones below:

Image editing apps

Hipstamatic: The tagline — “digital photography never looked so analog” — perfectly describes Hipstamatic. With just a swipe, you can “change” the lens, flash, and film of your image. It serves up a number of filters to give an image a vintage look, or to create a distinct effect or frame. The app is part of the IncrediBooth and SwankoLab family: IncrediBooth allows you to create photo booth-style pics with your pals, while SwankoLab acts as a darkroom simulator and lets you choose and experiment with chemicals to process photos — right in your phone. (Download for iOS.)

SnapSeed: This app offers retro filters, dramatic effects, and frames, as…

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Knitted phone or iPod case with a felted flower

Knitted phone or iPod case with a felted flower

Two evenings and a train ride…flower made using pattern in Bev Beattie’s ‘Knit and Felt Bags’; case freestyle with circular needles. Now, what next?

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March 15, 2013 · 9:40 am

Handwriting, chatting and yoga


Good thing no. 1: Handwriting


I’m using Notes on the iPad to write this so the font looks vaguely handwriting-y, and, as such, is quite pleasing to look at. But nothing compares to the pleasure of a pen scrawling across paper, a felt tip scratching out a letter to a close friend, a soft nib of a pencil listing milk, bread and beans in a notebook. I’ve been writing a lot this year, kicked off by morning pages – an attempt to give shape to the chaos of an overwired brain which would leap into action at unsavoury pre-dawn hours. This transmuted into a journal of a woman on the edge of a nervous breakdown before returning to something more calm and expansive.

Writing has saved me. The once carefully-curved letters and sweet swoops of ‘ys’ and gs’ have been rescued from the jagged, hard-edged lines they descended into. Sentences are considered, sedate once more, after a few weeks in an unpunctuated whirlpool. After the storm, calm.

That’s not to say I don’t still rage. ‘The Missing Ink’ by Philip Hensher* has had me slamming the book down hard on the bed, but I suspect he wanted these reactions. He really is a smug, arrogant sod, but – credit where credit is due – the topic of his book is an engaging and a timely one. How many of us actually put pen to paper these days? I’d even started using a shopping list app, for Heaven’s sake. Messages to the kids or husband texted through, even when we were all in the house. Emails or Facebook messages to friends instead of birthday cards, telling myself I was being environmentally-friendly and saving trees, meanwhile closing my eyes to the horrors that go on in the production of mobile phones, tablets, laptops etc. Perhaps because for me writing had become so associated with marking my students’ work, doling out praise and ‘constructive criticism’ (as well as circling in increasingly firm, hard, tight circles the missing apostrophes and full stops), a pen in my hand signalled WORK, and tedium, and pointlessness. To have resurrected the joy of handwriting – messages on a chalkboard; post-it notes to the dogsitter; even a 3 page letter to a close friend and a poem scribbled in a cafe – that really is a ‘good thing’.

* A review of Hensher’s book is in the pipeline – just let me finish reading it first!


Good Thing No.2: Chatting

I’m beginning to spot an unintended theme emerging here – it’s all about communication this, isn’t it? The rediscovery of the pleasure of just ‘chatting’ for the sheer camaraderie engendered. Not the ‘hometime’ talk which  is marked by rushed enquiries and checks about school/work, with responses only half-listened to; the duty phone calls to relatives with one eye on email or the web; and certainly not online talk. This is chatting, with all participants able to see, hear, smell and touch each other – I’ll stop there, but you get the drift. How much do we lose when we don’t see that cast-down glance accompanying ‘I’m fine’? Hear the sucked in breath as a child says he’s OK? Silence itself is a language which all too often we’re just too busy to hear.


Good Thing No. 3: Yoga

Slowing your breath, feeling all those aches in your body loosen, and giggling as you tumble out of a balancing posture.

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Woman’s Hour, pumpkin soup and teenage boys


Good Thing no.1: Woman’s Hour, Twitter and ‘The Curse of Lovely’ In these past weeks while I’ve been off work, it’s increasingly seemed as if Woman’s Hour and I are engaged in some kind of counselling process, with the editor evidently having a hotline to my ongoing musings about quite how I’ve found myself here. Yesterday’s feature – ‘The Curse of Lovely’, with the tag ‘are you just too obliging, too decent, a bit too lovely? It can be a problem’ – had me launching a tweet into the twittersphere and, to my amazement, finding myself on the receiving end, not of the notorious Twitter Lynch Mob, but of several lovely, yes lovely, tweets, all being supportive and kind, offering advice, and some even advising I hang onto the ‘lovely’!
‘Lovely’ was quickly rescued from the curse of any wicked witch, and transformed into a thing of strength and comradeship. It’s only a curse when others exploit it.

Good Thing no.2: Cooking home-made pumpkin soup just for me for lunch.
Filling the house with the smell of onions frying, admiring the orange gleam of pumpkins doused in olive oil, more than compensated for the fact I managed to burn the onions, leaving me with a decidedly brown pumpkin soup. Still, it was edible.

Good Thing no.3: Teenage boys and dinner-time conversationsSon no.2 has taken to reading at the table while we eat. Husband frowns, but quietly I enjoy this habit, because it reminds me of myself when I was a kid. I read everywhere I possible could. And what’s great about his reading habit is he can’t keep a single thing to himself, so we found ourselves – following an anecdote about his history teacher warning him and his friends NOT to come dressed as ‘boobs or purple dildos’ for Comic Relief on Friday – being presented with a question. He was reading the G2 – can’t you just tell how middle-class we are?! – and had landed on the health page. He appeared to be reading Dr Dillner, but suddenly looked up with a puzzled expression on his face and asked, ‘What’s a foot job?’. Son no. 1 choked on his rigatoni, husband put his head in his hands, while I puzzled over the images which arose in my head as I tried to form an answer. Thank you, Pamela Stephenson.

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Mother’s Day, 10th March


Good Thing No. 1: Luke’s luscious chocolate brownies

Up at 7.30 cleaning the kitchen, bringing me a pot of tea in bed, and then baking me brownies. Son no. 2 delivered my first good thing of the day, reminding me, of course, that he is one of the best things!

Good Thing No. 2: Walking the dog in snowy woods

We’d set out in cold, bleak rain, on a squabble about who was wearing whose wellies only to arrive at the local forest park to find the snow starting to come down. Icy cold, it nipped at our faces and cleared out our crossness.

Good Thing No. 3: Cooking the dinner with no work to do for the next day

Sundays are usually defined by the amount of marking or teaching prep that I have to do to get the week off to a start, and cooking the dinner in these circumstances is never a pleasure. But signed off from work, I find myself enjoying cooking food for my family, rejecting their offers of help with sincerity, and sending son no. 1 off to do the hoovering instead! He, of course, is another one of the best things.

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The Juno Project is born!

The Juno Project is born!

Duncan Bannatyne, Moza Ahmed and another guest at the launch of Ali’s new project to support young women into business, 8th March 2013

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March 9, 2013 · 9:02 pm