Tuesday, January 29, 2013

daybook xiv:

It's been a while since I did one of these things.

Outside my window, it's dark right now. But Queensland has been at her furious best over the past few days, making sure that Brisbane has once again had a memorable January. Over the Australia Day weekend, the sky let loose with a barrage of wind and rain, overflowing riverways and sending tides into a wind-whipped frenzy. The storm left behind bits of peoples' broken lives in its wake but for some reason, our house seems to be in a little storm-safe pocket. Our fence blew over in one spot, and a tree fell on one side of the housie, but the only true casualty was the tree. People lost their lives, though, and that's just hard to comprehend.

I have been listening to lots and lots of different stuff, a bunch of things at friends' recommendations, and some old favourites. Josh Garrels continues to be so brilliant and so lovely and every song is like this haunting, lyrical painting in notes. Then there's the Les Miserables soundtrack because, well, because. The Classic Crime is a new favourite after the continued selling by a dedicated friend (she was right; I love them). Mumford & Sons is just right. And haunting the music stands at the library has yielded The Rubens, The Dandy Warhols, and The Smiths. And then there's podcasts... But maybe I'll save those for another time.

I have been wearing I don't know... clothes. I'm a bit uninspired lately. My wardrobe needs a revamp. I have nice tops without the right skirt to wear with them, or a great dress, but no slip that goes with it right. You know how it gets sometimes. And today's muggy Summer Air Sauna Of Doom does not help anything.

I am thankful for amazing words that make my own world crisper, clearer, and more whole.

I am pondering... guh. Too many things and not enough.

I am reading -- well, I'm actually re-reading a lot of things at the moment. I'm not really sure why the re-read quest, as for the last few years I've been on a greedy mission read a bunch of new stuff, but lately I think I am craving the rich familiarity of books that are old friends. What's been good about this has been realising that the books I once loved are still so, so love-worthy. In my current-rereading pile: The Ask & the Answer by Patrick Ness (my emotions! ugh, his characters repeatedly punch me in the guts), The Green Branch by Edith Pargeter (Welsh history has never been so wringing, nor so resoundingly human), and Keep A Quiet Heart by Elisabeth Elliot (I think of her as a mentor I've never actually met).

I am creating lesson plans and copious piles of rainy day activities to do with students.

A picture-thought I'm sharing is from this weekend and all the crazy. Right after I took that shot, a wave came up over the shore siding and swished through the open window of the car. Adventures!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Beautiful decay:

My friend Caitlin came for five days this past week, and on our last afternoon, the four of us (Caitlin, my mum, my brother, and I) went for a little ramble by the bay. We made an unscheduled stop at this amazing piece of deconstruction. The lines and shadows of this old building seem to tell a thousand stories.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Best of 2012: app-happy

Back when it was still 2012, I thought how cool it would be to indulge in a little reflection on all my favourite "stuff" of the year. I talk a lot here about little life moments, about books, and about creativity, but I don't often chat about the gadgets and tools and media that make life smoother -- or even just more fun. Of course, it's now 2013, and 2012 is already an old story. Nevertheless, I'm still gonna go for it. And to kick off the stuff-of-the-year, my favourite mobile apps (Apple-centric, because I don't have an Android devices, sorry) of 2012:

Afterglow, a photo-editing app, has become my go-to for editing shots before uploading them to Instagram. Afterglow is a clean, easy-to-use interface that provides a ton of editing options. There's the basic filter selection, which overlays your shot with a pre-designed light/colour/contrast filter, creating a bunch of cool looks. However, there are also stacks of cropping and rotation tools as well as tweaks for brightness, contrast, sharpening, softening, saturation, exposure, temperature, and graininess. You can add borders or crop the shot to a shape. My favourite feature, though, is the light leaks option, with more than twenty light leaks to overlay onto your picture. Every edit comes with a gradient scale, too, so you can bump up the edit or just impose a subtle change to the photo. Once the photo is edited to your liking, you can save to your camera roll, email, post straight to Instagram, etc in one (or all) of three different sizings. The photos in this post (which I took at my friend Kat's house Adorable Home of Adorableness) were edited on my phone in Afterglow. I'm a fan.

Price: currently $0.99 through the Australian iTunes store.

Solar: There are a million weather apps out there (that might not even be hyperbole; I have no idea) and most of them can be trusted to deliver the information that you need. Can any of them deliver that information as beautifully as Solar, though? I sincerely doubt it. Be sure to click over to the link to see some screenshots of the app in action. It's a lovely piece of minimalist design that's easy to use but also conveys a sense of the weather, with the colour gradient shifting depending on the time of day and the temperature. It delights me every time I check the forecast.

Price: currently $1.99 through the Australian iTunes store.

Bible: Again, there's a whole slew of Bible apps available, but I love this one because it provides a whole multitude of translations to choose from, and is pretty easy to navigate throughout. My two favourite features of this app, though, are the stacks of Bible-reading plans which you can select from (providing you with daily and specific readings directly from your app) and the read-aloud option for the majority of Bible versions. That was especially cool; I found myself listening to the Bible while I was brushing my teeth, applying makeup, or falling asleep at night. Nifty nifty.

Price: This one's a free app, too, so -- bonus!

Marvel comics (for iPad): Yes. I am apparently ten years old, and a boy. But one sick day when I was curled in on myself on the couch, sprawled beneath a cloud of self pity, I just started scrabbling round in the app store, I guess, and came across the Marvel app. It is really just a pretty interface designed to make it even easier for you to fork over dollars for comics, which you can purchase and read from within the app, using your iTunes login. So well done, Marvel. I fell for your wiles and your beautiful high-definition digital comics. However, there are a bunch of free downloadable comics, too -- a gateway, I suppose, to the paid stuff. Enter at your own risk.

Price: the app is free, the comics are not.

Paper (for iPad) is a pretty pretty app that also provides a little bit for free and then lures you into realms of creativity where you must, simply must, fork over seven dollars fifty or so in order to have access to the full palette of sketching and colouring tools. I know; who spends $7.50 on an app? Me, it would seem. And more than once (see below). But when it's worth it, it's worth it. Paper provides a bunch of digital sketchbooks and notebooks, which you can customise by decorating the covers and adding and removing pages. The number of journals you can set up is (I believe) unlimited. The basic app comes with a colour palette of about seven colours, and one drawing nib. With the extra money, there are colours galore and five drawing tools: calligraphy nib, pencil, marker, fine line pen, and brush (which makes for beautiful watercolour effects). Plus there's an eraser. Your drawings, sketches, and notes are completely saveable and shareable. I look forward to doing more with this app because the possibilities are huuuuge.

Price: free... at first.

ABC iView: God bless the ABC, I say! Non-commercial television is lovely enough, but then to offer it all online for viewing at a more convenient time -- yippee! I rarely get to watch a show I'm interested in when it's actually on tv, but the iView app turns my iPad into a little anytime tv. You can add shows to your watch list and be alerted when new episodes appear. Plus, stop watching something halfway through and it will be waiting for you right where you paused it next time you go to watch. I'm sure anybody who is interested is already well aware of this app, but it rates a mention because I really appreciated it this year past.

Price: free, free, free.

Zombies, Run! and Zombies Run 5k training: I actually deliberated for a while about sharing this app with you all. There's no doubt it's my favourite app of 2012 (and I only got into it August, when Laura bought me an iTunes card for my birthday, with the rule that I could spend the change however I wanted but first I MUST buy Zombies, Run!) but sometimes I fear I am loving it too much. It's an exercise app; it shouldn't be this important, right? Oh, but it is!

Basically, Zombies, Run! is an immersive running game that drops you right into the middle of an isolated township of survivors working to get through the zombie apocalypse. You set up a workout playlist, get the app going on your phone or iPod, and then you run your way through all sorts of adventures, getting to know amazing, beautiful, heartbreaking characters as you complete mission after mission and try to help Abel Township stay afloat at the end of the world.

To say that I have fallen in love with the characters is an understatement. These guys are very endearing, with a good mix of drama and humour in their stories. And they are great companions to get me jogging (which I'm super bad at), bike riding, or working out. I've never had such a great inducement to exercise, and the ZR app has taken me through hours and hours of sweating. The app includes more than 30 original workouts, but all of them can be re-run as often as you want. As you run, you collect supplies to help build the fledgling township. And for added incentive, you can turn on zombie chases, and the fear of the undead coming up behind you and moaning in your ear will have you really picking up the pace. It does have its scary moments, as well as other PG elements, so it won't be for everyone (I can't convince my sister to try it) but I have never been more delighted by an app. I am busting for season 2 of the series to come out so I can get over the terrible cliffhanger at the end of the first season of missions!

PS. There's a 5K training app for those new to running, and it is just as wonderful.

Price: this is, to many, an expensive app. At the regular price of $8.99 for ZR and $3.99 for the 5k version, it seems hefty compared to all the free or 99c apps out there. But I'm not kidding when I say I'd buy this app at three times the price. It's really worth it. Plus, for a short time only, the apps are half price to really encourage you in your new year's resolution to move more (don't tell me you didn't promise you'd do it). Half price, guys! Seriously!

So: I've told you my favourite apps of 2012. What are yours?

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

6/100 (a tentative love note)

Dear Queensland Summer,

I don't want to speak too soon; after all, it's only been -- what -- almost six years? But I think I'm finally beginning to like you. Don't worry; I'm surprised, too.

Please continue to be kind?

Yours in wary affection,


Wednesday, January 2, 2013

And here is where the words roll up the screen, Star Trek style:

I saw in the baby new year -- the 9pm version -- with my parents and my brother, my sister and her wee family, and my cute goddaughters and their parents. There were fireworks*, people jammed all over the paths lining the oversized pond (the one at the bottom of our hill, that likes to think it's a lake) and then there were queues for ice cream and finally peanut butter Cold Rock with nutella mixed in, dripping all down my fingers because I couldn't eat it quicker than December was melting it.

At about ten, I got in the car and drove to a friend's place about half an hour away. His new house is still in christening mode and a bunch of people were gathered for games and conversation (yeah, we party hard). Midnight snuck up on us and we fumbled through a really rushed countdown before the happynewyears began. About ten minutes later, Tim remarked on our somewhat pathetic countdown efforts and suggested a do-over. I was so on that. So four of us (the four most mature?) raced outside and did a proper countdown with shouts and cheers, and that felt like the right way to see in a new year.

"So is anyone making any resolutions?" asked Emma, whom I'd just met for the first time. She looked right at me and I was startled into saying the thing that was at the forefront of my mind.

"Just a word, really, one word to sort of... guide my approach to the year" -- or something like that. And though thoughout the week before I'd had three words jostling for the supremacy, three words which would all make sense, all be worthwhile ways to sally forth into a new year, when she asked what the word was, it just popped out, and my resolution was fully birthed.


"Boldness?" asked another friend, Cath.

"Yep," I said. "Basically I'm a wimp."

Cath raised her eyebrows. "No."

"Yes." And when she looked skeptical, I had to confess: "I'm pretty good at faking brave."


Bold. That is my word for the year, and if it sounds similar to things I've said in previous years, then that makes sense, because it's the same thing God's been drumming into my brain for a while now. 'Because I'm scared' doesn't cut it as an excuse any more, even just in my own head, and though I've been getting better at not using 'it freaks me out' as an escape hatch, I definitely still have a way to go.

It took a small dose of bold even just to write about it here, because part of being a wimp is being scared of failure, and part of being scared of failure is being intimidated by the judgement of others. Hi, others. Now I've told you about my plans, you are perfectly able to watch me fail. Nevertheless, I couldn't help but notice the smack-in-the-face-with-a-wet-fish obviousness of last night's devotional reading, though. Philippians 1:6. It's a good promise for a new year.


*A kid about eight years old was roaring NO GET IT AWAAAAAY MAKE THEM STOOOOP and a tiny baby was cooing and kicking her legs and grinning.
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