#67: How to cure an #iSlave

by Elizabeth on August 26, 2014 · 2 comments

in 101 in 1001, iPhone, Life


Image source: Romance Academy


Task #67 of my list of 101 Things in 1001 Days: Have a technology-free weekend

Let me tell you about life without phones, screens and social media!  I’ve just spent a weekend free of all my gadgets and it was one of the best I’ve had in a long time.

I left work last Friday afternoon with my phone locked in my office cupboard, and by the time I reached the car park I already felt different.  It felt very liberating to be free of the buzz each time an email, text, tweet or Facebook notification came in and that was the moment that I realised just how wedded my subconscious had become to that sound.

Although I already had my suspicions, last weekend I realised the extent of my gadget dependency and how it has been affecting my life.  I am still a big believer in taking my phone with me whenever I leave the house (because flat tyres, stranger danger etc) but what really struck me is the way I’ve been using my phone to pass the time instead of getting on with living.

On Friday when I came home from work I dropped my bag, played with the dog for a while and then went to sit down at my computer like I normally do.  But then I remembered that it was turned off and my first thought was, “what am I going to do now?” and that really bothered me.  Let’s face it, you’ve seen my To Do list and I’m not exactly running out of material.

Image source: Melarky


The pain of being device-free was short-lived, however, and once it was over the benefits kept on rolling in.  By Friday evening I felt as though I could relax and stop consuming everybody else’s news for a little while.  My mind began to quieten down and I discovered that more of my own thoughts were getting a little airtime for the first time in ages.  My thoughts had stopped competing with the shouting phone in my hand, and it felt peaceful.

I had expected that my weekend would feel longer without screen time, but I was pleasantly mistaken.  Instead I found myself engrossed in my deliberately-chosen projects, experiencing them fully and without distraction.  The time trickled away, but without the usual sense of loss and regret that I normally feel after an unproductive day off. My mind was peaceful and I felt completely present in what I was doing.

The laundry still got done and the house was quickly tidied, but surprisingly it felt like a luxury to be using the rest of my time for my friends, books and painting.  Why did I feel so indulgent, when that time was all mine to start off with?  I hadn’t expected to feel actual guilt about pouring myself into my favourite things, and that’s given me plenty to think about. Is this part of the reason I’ve been reaching for my phone every ten minutes? Have I not been giving myself permission to do one thing at a time?



Image source: Hunter Langston


What I noticed

    • When I switched off my phone at 4.30pm on Friday I needed to be certain that Tim and I had decided on a meeting time and place for our Friday night date. And then I needed to be on time, not my forté by the way, because I knew that I couldn’t text Tim if I was running late.  (I was late, of course. I can’t help but wonder if living with a contingency plan in my pocket has something to do with that bad habit.
    • With no access to Siri or Google Maps I needed to plan ahead for where I was going, and what information I would need before leaving.  So much for my usual trick of googling a recipe from the supermarket floor!  I realised that having the internet in my pocket can be a mixed blessing because it feeds right into my tendency for procrastination, improvisation and avoidance of fully committing.
    • While normally I struggle to sit still for the length of a movie, last weekend I read a novel from cover to cover for the first time in ages.  Since there was no point in indulging my usual thought patterns  (I wonder if I have any emails to respond to?  I just thought of something I should tell the internet about immediately!) I was able to give it my complete attention.  Bliss!
    • Tim came home with roses on Saturday, and since I couldn’t record them with a picture I noticed I spent more time just looking at them.  Enjoying them.  Committing them to memory and noticing their tiny changes.  It was really nice.
    • Meal times were spent talking instead of staring at the TV (although, to be fair, we’re not big TV-watchers anyway)
    • When I was tired I went to bed and fell asleep straight away.


What now?

I switched my phone back on when I got to work yesterday morning with a small pang of sadness.  I was eager to check my email and read some news headlines, but once that was done I felt a strong desire to reduce the rest of the ‘noise’ before I fell back into old habits.

So here’s what I did:

    • I switched off all sound and pop-up notifications on my phone.  I left the badge notifications in place so that I can see at a glance when I have a Twitter or Facebook notification, but not until I choose to look!
    • I unsubscribed from about 90% of my promotional email lists.  Have you noticed how some online stores have a couple of sales every week?  Come on.
    • I’ve created a “Close Friends” feed on Facebook so that I can keep up with the most important news more efficiently
    • I’ll eventually create some similar filters for Twitter (#auspol, close friends, bloggers etc)
    • Ditched a bunch of pointless apps
    • Declared my side of the bed to be technology-free!  I’m even considering looking for an old-school alarm clock so that I can charge my phone overnight in a different room.

I feel absolutely no sense of loss about reducing the stuff I consume, because I don’t feel like I was really doing any of it justice anyway.  The more snippets of 140-character information I was reading, the more scattered my own thoughts became.  And worst of all it was getting in the way of the stuff that really mattered!

This short experiment has taught me so much about the value of slowing down and looking up.  Just imagine what impact an entire week might have had…



#86 – Build something from wood

by Elizabeth on March 4, 2013 · 47 comments

in 101 in 1001, DIY, iPhone


Task #86 of my 101 Things in 1001 Days project: build something from wood.

When I added this task to my 101 Things project I assumed it would involve hammering one piece of wood onto another.  I didn’t really have an idea in mind, but I was pretty sure that during the course of this 1001 days I’d dream up something simple.  Simplicity was key because we don’t have much in the way of tools – just a handsaw, hammer, an electric sander, a drill and some nails and screws.  And plus, I have no idea what I’m doing most of the time.

My phone contract expired last month and I used it as an opportunity to leave my terrible phone provider and sign up with a new one.  I decided to sign up for a plan that included an iPhone 5 and every day since then I’ve quietly congratulated myself.  It’s such an elegant little device and the camera alone is a great reason to upgrade.

My only complaint is that the lightning cable for the iPhone 5 renders my two old iphone docks completely useless.  It was during my online search for a replacement that I discovered a bunch of beautiful wooden iphone docks, and thought to myself I wonder if I could do that?



Tim and I found an old section of tree trunk a couple of weeks ago on the side of the road, and it wasn’t much to look at.  The bark had already begun to rot away and a few spiders had taken up residence.  I had a feeling that underneath the muck there was going to be a beautiful piece of wood inside, and I was right!  I don’t know what sort of wood it is (some sort of Australian hardwood I guess), but it’s pretty.

I improvised like crazy to build this iphone dock, so it didn’t make sense to take step-by-step photos.  But if you came here to learn how to make a wooden iphone dock these tips might help.


  • A piece of wood
  • Lightning cable
  • Dremel or rotary hand tool (mine was $40)
  • Hot glue gun
  • Drill
  • Cabinet makers’ wax
  • Thick, self-adhesive felt base (this is what I used)




  • I chose a section of wood that looked interesting, and used my hand saw to cut off the slice I needed.  This would have been much easier with a circular saw!
  • I sanded both sides of the wood slice, starting with a course 40-grit sandpaper and then using progressively finer grits (up to 120-grit).  If you like a mirror finish you might want to choose something even finer to finish it off.  I opted for a more natural look to suit the rough edges and those beautiful deep cracks.
  • The rotary tool (or dremel) that I chose came with all the accessories I needed, and I switched between attachments pretty regularly.  I found that I mostly wanted to use the stone grinding shanks that came in my kit (here are some similar ones) even though I don’t think they’re intended for wood.  If your wood is softer you might be able to use something more gentle.


  • I started to carve out the recess for the phone by eyeballing it, and as I got closer to the finish line I drew some pencil guidelines to make sure that it was even.  My asymmetrical slice of wood was very forgiving and meant that I didn’t have to do any measuring.  I chose to carve a generous recess to allow for different phone cases in the future.  And really, the recess is a cosmetic feature rather than a practical one – my dock doesn’t provide any support to the phone except via the strength of the lightning cable head.
  • I spent quite a lot of time smoothing the groove and buffing the wood with the cabinet makers’ wax at this point – including the beautiful, rough edges.  Then I went to bed and had nightmares about ruining my project with the drilling step.


  • The next day I drilled a hole in the centre of the recessed groove, and gave it a slight lean so that the phone would sit at a bit of an angle for ease of viewing.  I used a 9/32″ drill bit for the hole, which was perfect for the head of the lightning cable to fit through.  It worked!
  • The next step was to use the dremel to carve out a path for the rest of the cable on the underside of the dock.  I knew that this was going to be covered with a layer of felt so I didn’t worry about making it beautiful.  I carved a deep groove that would allow the dock to sit perfectly flat.
  • Then it was time to heat up the hot glue gun.  I spent some time deciding how much of the lightning cable I wanted poking out of the dock and testing it thoroughly with my phone.  I also came up with a strategy for setting the cable in place, since I knew I would only have a few seconds to place it once I’d added glue.  Spend some time making sure that the head faces forward perfectly, and also that it doesn’t lean left or right.  Then go – and don’t burn your fingers!
  • Fill the remaining gaps in the hole with hot glue, and when it’s cool flip it over and do the same at the bottom.
  • My last step was to apply a layer of thick, self-adhesive wool felt on the base.  It’s designed to protect the surface that your dock will sit on, but also serves to hide messy cables and keep your dock perfectly flat.


You know, I think I might have been too intimidated to begin this project if I’d seen all of these steps spelled out for me at the start.  So let me try that again:

Carve a spot for your phone to sit in.  Smooth, polish or stain your wood to your heart’s content.  Drill a hole for the cable, and glue it in place so that it won’t budge.  Flatten the base somehow.  Add the pretty wooden bunny from Japan that your mum found for you last year.  Enjoy!


Steve Jobs (1955 – 2011)

by Elizabeth on October 6, 2011 · 1 comment

in Celebrities, iPhone

Of all the quotes and clever graphics circulating the web today, this one is my favourite.


Strange day.  This morning I didn’t need to be in court for jury duty until 10am, so I had a bit of a sleep in and took my time getting into the city.  When we arrived we all had to hand in our phones so I spent a few hours being “unplugged” from the world.

It was some time before we were brought into the court room, and as soon as we took our seats the judge advised us that the trial had come to a close.  No reason was given, but I notice that the same defendant is listed in tomorrow’s criminal trial list so I’m guessing that they’re starting over with a new jury.  Perhaps we heard evidence that was determined to be inadmissible?  Whatever the case it was disappointing to not be able to see it through.

On the other hand, this left us suddenly free for the afternoon and I decided that I’d hit the shops rather than go back to work.  I don’t often make it into the city during the usual 9-5 bustle so I took my time and saw lots of new things.  I was in Harvey Norman testing out a cute little MacBook Air when I opened Safari and saw the news for the first time.



How fitting that I should discover the news on one of his groundbreaking devices.

I’ve been planning to buy that MacBook Air for a while, and tonight I finally placed the order.  It’s going to be a long two weeks while I wait for it to make its way from Hong Kong to my desk at work, but I know from experience that it will be amazing.  All because of the vision of one man with the courage to think outside the square.

Rest peacefully, Mr Jobs.  And thank you for putting so many tools into the palms of our hands.

{ 1 comment }

A rainy day in Melbourne

by Elizabeth on September 29, 2011 · 0 comments

in iPhone, Life, Melbourne, Videos

Nothing warms my heart like a gloomy, rainy day. I’m lucky that I don’t really have to face the elements each day to get to work (thanks to my little car park), so I guess I get to enjoy this simple little pleasure without any of the annoying parts.

Yesterday Melbourne was hit with a big storm that cut off power to sections of the city, damaged homes and grounded planes at the airport. There was rumbling thunder all afternoon and plenty of lightning, and in the middle of the afternoon the sky was almost black with heavy clouds. Damage aside, it was beautiful!

By the time I got home the worst had passed, but I grabbed a big golf umbrella and used the last of the light to make a little video. Enjoy this footage of my rain-soaked little garden, and the vocal loveliness of Randy Newman.

(Oh, and please pardon my shaky camera work – it wasn’t easy to keep my iPhone still and dry with one hand while I held a big, heavy umbrella with the other! I wonder what my neighbours think of me, out in a lightning storm holding a metal rod in the air…)


August sunset

by Elizabeth on August 6, 2011 · 3 comments

in iPhone, Melbourne, Videos

Every so often Melbourne has one of those sunsets that makes your jaw drop. Our little hilltop house usually gives us a great view of the show, and yesterday I felt like we had front row tickets!

(Well, maybe front row balcony tickets? It was still pretty great!)

Perfect opportunity for another time-lapse style video, right? Right! This was my setup on the dining room window sill…

And this is the finished product! Fifty minutes of footage condensed to four and a half. I only wish I had noticed that annoying reflection from the picture frame on my wall – definitely a lesson for next time.

It’s not quite as good as being there, but it’s pretty close. Enjoy!

Music is Midnight Bird by Clare Bowditch & The Feeding Set.

Sunset from Scarlet Words on Vimeo.

PS: There’s totally a UFO at 3:43.


Instagram stickers!

by Elizabeth on July 18, 2011 · 1 comment

in Art, iPhone, Photography News


Most of you are already aware that I am a card-carrying Instagram tragic. I grab my phone and take a picture whenever my dog does something adorable, whenever I’m cooking something that I want to brag about, or just to show my followers where I am and what I’m doing.

For those who don’t know, Instagram is a free iPhone photo app that makes it simple to apply a cute filter, and upload it for your friends to see. It’s like Twitter for photos!

About a month ago I decided to hunt around and see what services were being built from the Instagram API. I was pretty sure I’d be able to find a desktop app for my Mac (and I did – meet InstaDesk!) but I was surprised to discover just how many people had been hard at work creating other cool products for Instagram addicts like me.

If you’re curious to know what sort of stuff people are making, check out this comprehensive roundup.

It wasn’t until I discovered Artflakes and Instagoodies‘ print services for Instagram that I realised my life was incomplete without sticker versions of my favourite photos.  I placed orders with each, and last week my prints arrived in the mail.  I thought I’d review them here in case anybody else has the bug.



Artflakes is run by a small team in Berlin and they are best known for producing art prints, canvases, posters and greeting cards.  Their ArtStickers are just one part of what they do, and they have done a great job in automating the upload process and making it painless.

The finished product is a set of beautiful, big vinyl stickers that are completely removable.



At the main screen, you simply enter your username and wait for your photos to appear on the next page.  The next step is to select the photos you want to print, and adjust quantities as you go.

Click the “buy now” button and you’re done!


My stickers took about three weeks to arrive (which isn’t bad, considering the $4 shipping fee), and came very well packaged.  Inside were my ten 10x10cm (4×4 inch) vinyl stickers, and I was really surprised to discover that the print and colour quality was excellent.  Also?  They are HUGE – they feel like polaroids to hold.



If I had one complaint, it would be the curl in the paper that they use.  I imagine that this can’t be helped though, and I can tell that it wouldn’t affect the stickers once they were stuck in place.  It’s not a big deal.

My 10 stickers cost about $25 (Australian) delivered, so they’re probably not something that you’d indulge in too often.  I plan to use my stickers in my paper journals, so for that reason I would probably choose my favourite shots to print every few months or so.  My Canon Pixma printer does a pretty good job, but I don’t think it can match the quality of these prints.

In summary: Recommended!
pack of 10 ($ 20.86)
pack of 25 ($ 41.86)
pack of 50 ($ 62.86)
Delivery to Australia: $4 / 3 weeks.
(All prices in US dollars)



Instagoodies uses the already popular Moo to print cute little sticker books of your Instagram photos.  Each photo is 1 inch square, and the Instagoodies interface makes it really easy to populate your book with your favourite photos.  Each little book is made up of 90 stickers, and you can either choose 90 different photos or let Instagram repeat your favourites to make up the correct number.  Easy peasy!



The finished result is super cute, and very tiny.  Mine was unfortunately a little damaged by the rain, but I was pleased to see that the cardboard cover did a great job of protecting the stickers inside. Still, I was a bit surprised that they arrived without a bit of plastic for waterproofing.

The colours are perhaps a little less vibrant than the Artflakes prints, but the lightness gives them a certain charm.  I noticed that some of my darker shots looked better in the little Instagoodies photos than in the big vinyl stickers because they’d been lightened up a bit more.  Mind you, the difference is hard to spot.

They’re cheap, they’re tiny, and they are adorable!


In summary: Recommended!
book of 90 ($ 14.00)

Delivery to Australia: $2 / 3 weeks.
(All prices in US dollars)


So… which one would I recommend?

If you’re looking to turn your entire Instagram gallery into a little sticker book, then Instagoodies is for you.  It’s quick, it’s relatively cheap, and you can share your stickers with the world!  I bet this would make an awesome present for school age kids too, as they’d be fun to use for personalising books and trading with friends.

I love my little sticker book, but I’m more likely to order again from Artflakes.  The large size of the stickers makes them a little more usable for me, especially as mine will be finding their way to my paper journal.  They are big enough that you could use them on the cover of a blank book (this would make a great gift) or even frame!

Printstagram looks interesting too, offering posters, mini prints (they look a lot like instax minis), stickers and mini books.  They might be next on my list to try.


Meanwhile, can I just say how refreshing it is to find such innovative services that are actually catering to an international market? Both of these websites charged reasonable delivery and got the job done on time.

Good job, team. The world is finally getting smaller!

{ 1 comment }

Instagram / Webstagram

by Elizabeth on July 7, 2011 · 7 comments

in iPhone, Photo Posts

Add me on Instagram! I’m @scarletwords.

Instagram may be favourite iPhone app of all time. However, if I had one complaint it would be that people without iPhones (or without the app) can’t participate!

I recently discovered a service called Webstagram which creates a web based feed of your Instagram submissions, and even allows comments via its web interface. You can also use it to add somebody’s feed to your RSS reader if you can’t use the app to aggregate posts. I probably don’t have a need for it myself, but it is pretty nifty for those who wish they could join in!

I’m looking for new people to follow, so if you’re an addict like me leave a comment with your username. In the meantime I’ll try to post my favourite photos here from time to time.


Now there’s an app for that too!

by Elizabeth on March 11, 2010 · 3 comments

in Cool stuff, iPhone

Words can’t describe how much I love these magnets from Jailbreak Toys. There seems to be so much out there for iPhone tragics like me, but they’re not all as functional as these!

Whatever you want to do… There’s an app for that. That’s right. Whether you want to buy movie tickets, read the news, write a review, pay a tip, catch a taxi, or even train your dog, there’s an app for that. But what if you want to hang a photo on the fridge? Or leave a note on the microwave? Or save that Chinese take-out menu in a place where you can’t lose it? When it came to certain old-school tasks, the apps were coming up short. A little reverse innovation was needed. Well, good news, everyone… Now there’s an app for that, too.

Introducing the App Magnets by the Jailbreak Collective! In order to bring the magic of the iPhone into the third dimension, we asked an artist to reach into the iPhone home screen and literally pluck out the apps. Then we added a little magnetism. And best of all, we mass produced them so now you too can own your very own set of 3-D App Magnets!

My only complaint is that they don’t seem to ship outside of the US. Please consult your calendar app, Jailbreak – you appear to be stuck in 2003.

Spotted at Design Fetish.



Later this week I’ll be writing about my progress with the Couch to 5k running program, but in the meantime I wanted to tell everyone about this iPhone app. It is one of the main reasons why this challenge has been a pleasure to commit to, rather than a battle!

The Couch to 5k app works on the iPhone or iTouch, and gives you audio cues during your workout. Start playing your music before launching the app, and the audio cues will be heard right over the top. This makes it possible to forget about your watch and simply concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other.

I know that there are other C25K apps out there, but this is the only one I have tried. I chose it based on its high user reviews, and haven’t found any reason to look for a better alternative. In fact, short of running my sessions for me I’m not sure what else it could do better!

Well worth a try if you have an iPhone. If not, try googling for podcasts that do a similar job.


Last week I took myself to Albert Park Lake for one of my sessions, which involved dodging the poo of a couple of hundred black swans. They were beautiful to watch though, especially the little newborn cygnets!