December 29, 2011

On the move…

Come see twyste.  I’ve been slowly migrating my posts there and I hope that those of you who follow my blog will follow me there!  It’s a work in process… but it probably always will be!  I’d love to hear any comments on what you think of my new site:  twyste.

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December 20, 2011

Beautiful.

‘Sunrise, Sunset’, a Gumbee(tm) style handspun art yarn in wire & silk from COLORBOMB Creations | Flickr – Photo Sharing!.

November 15, 2011

Top Ten iPhone Apps

A few weeks (months?) ago I published a post listing my ten favorite iPad apps. I have been meaning to compose a similar list for iPhone apps, but have had a harder time narrowing my list down. However, some of my friends have recently gotten iPhones for the first time, so I’m feeling some new motivation to come up with a pared down list of what I feel are the must-have iPhone apps.


Wow, though; this has been a really hard post to write.  I started out planning to come up with the top ten apps I use on a daily basis… just ten.  Then I realized there was no way I could stop with only ten, so I grouped them into categories to combine apps into one number slot and kind of cheat my way down to only ten.  The problem was that even with doing that, I ended up with 23 27 number slots (more than 45 apps)!  And… I still felt like I left some out!  Yikes.  My solution is to publish my top ten, then my next top ten, then my honorable mentions, each as a separate post.  So, here is my first top 21 ten apps and my reasons why I like them:



1.   Cloud-based Storage: 
       Dropbox: (free)-  One of the best things about Dropbox is that it’s so easy to use after you have it installed.  To get started you download the app on your iPhone and it will ask you to sign up for an account (or to sign in, if you already have an account).  Then you need to go to Dropbox.com on your computer and download the software to allow you to drag files in and out of Dropbox just like any other folder on your computer.  It is not platform specific, so you can store and later access files on any computer or tech gadget where you have Dropbox installed.  Furthermore, you always know you are looking at the most recent version of whatever you’re working on because any time you make a change, it’s updated in Dropbox and, therefore, anywhere you access it.  You get quite a bit of storage for free (and even more if you refer new people), but there is also an option to pay for more on a monthly or yearly basis if you need LOTS of space.  Another benefit to Dropbox is that it’s integrated with a number of other apps you may already use, making file saving, syncing, and sharing even easier.  Finally, you can share any files or folders you want with others by clicking the appropriate buttons within the app.  I love it!
       Evernote: (free)-  Evernote is pretty much the same concept as Dropbox (same kind of sign up, etc), but seems to me that Evernote offers a bit more. The thing that’s great about Evernote is the filing system aspect of it.  It reminds me of beautifully organized, searchable notecards.  You can save pictures, documents, audio, etc to Evernote and it tags them (if you write a tag) and organizes them so you can find them later.  Like Dropbox, you can access them and share them from anywhere you have Evernote or you login to it.  It is great destination for clipped news articles, pictures, and even knitting patterns I want to access later. 
       If I absolutely HAD to choose between the two apps, I would go with Evernote, but since I don’t have to choose,  I use both.  Dropbox is easier for pulling files from my computer desktop and Evernote is better for clipping from the web.  They both are fabulously useful for keeping things organized.  

2.   Newsy apps: 
       USA Today: (free)-  This is the app I go to on both my iPhone and my iPad to read the current news.  As I mentioned in my iPad app post, USA Today isn’t as in-depth as something like the New York Times, but it does a good job of providing enough information in a variety of areas (Top News, Sports, Life, Tech, Travel, etc) to keep me current on what’s going on in the world.  I like it too that I can share articles from within the app.
       AP Mobile: (free)-  I like the AP Mobile app because it sends me alerts on current news in the world right when it happens.  I rarely open the app to read the news (that’s what I use my USA Today app for), but it’s great for staying on top of what’s going on across the world.  
        The Weather Channel: (free)-  The Weather Channel app doesn’t do anything that makes me go wow, but it gives me the information I want to know in a simple, easy to navigate format.  I can look at current conditions, as well as hourly, daily, and weekly (10 day) forecasts for my current location and favorite locations I have listed.  I also use this app as my go-to weather app on the iPad.
       AppAdvice: ($1.99)-  I wouldn’t call this a news app exactly, but in my effort to keep this down to ten items, I’m including App Advice here.  I use it to get my iGadget news.  This app aggregates app and Apple info into one place.  I look forward to checking it for reviews on new apps and updates on what’s happening in the world of Apple-y products.  It’s definitely not a necessity, but probably one of the apps I open the most.

3.  Grocery (and other) shopping: 
       Grocery IQ: (free)-  I use this app almost daily for my grocery list.  It has nice organizational options, including the ability to add different stores, including non-grocery stores (although that takes a bit more creative customization, but is very doable).  Grocery IQ is very customizable without being so detailed that it makes it more difficult than using a pen and paper.  I like it because I always have my list with me when I remember something I need to add.  It also has a nice feature that lets you scan a barcode to add an item to your list; thus making it more likely that you will actually get the same item you are trying to replace.  Lastly, you can share your list with someone else easily, which is nice in case you somehow manage to get out of doing the grocery shopping that day!

4.   Printing:
       ePrint: ($2.99)-  This app allows me to print from my iPhone even though I don’t have a wireless printer that natively works with my iPhone.  I can print from other programs by using the “open in” option or by opening ePrint directly and going from there.  It’s really nice to be able to print directly from my phone without having to involve my computer at all.  Yesterday I printed something from my iPhone while standing in the backyard waiting for my dog to do his thing… maybe too much information, but pretty cool.

5.   Social Networks:  
       I recognize the power of social networking, but use it very sporadically and inconsistently.  When I do use it though, I want it to be simple and integrated.  I have been asked why use an app instead of just going to Safari and opening the site there.  For me, the apps produced by the social networks themselves are the cleanest and easiest way to navigate the social networking sites.  They are designed with the iPhone in mind and have simple navigation based on that platform.  Yes, you could do the same thing (most of the time) on Safari, but I like clicking the app icon and being logged in, with sharing capabilities from the get go, but it’s a personal preference… just like everything else in this post!
       Twitter: (free)-  Twitter’s app is pretty straightforward.  If you use Twitter on your computer, you can navigate it on your phone app with no problems.  You can manage multiple Twitter accounts and do searches fairly simply.  The one gripe I have with the Twitter app is that I can’t easily shorten URLs within a post.  That problem is solved by one of the apps recommended below.
       Facebook: (free)-  Much like the Twitter app, the Facebook app is just a simple way to use Facebook on your iPhone.  You can set it up to notify you when people post on your wall, etc. if you wish.  You can upload pictures and can easily comment on or “like” people’s posts.  It just works… and that’s nice.
       Hootsuite: (free)-  Hootsuite’s benefit is that it is a central place that you can view and contribute to both Twitter and Facebook and you can have multiple accounts for each.  In theory that sounds nice because you are just in one app, but I find that I don’t use it as often as the Twitter and Facebook apps because the user interface just isn’t as nice for me.  So, you may ask, why do I have it on my top “ten” list?  Well, the thing I REALLY like about it is that when I post using Hootsuite, I can shorten a URL within the post.  It just does it.  The other thing that’s nice is that if I want to post the same thing to both Twitter and Facebook, I can just select both accounts and it will go to both places.  Those are the times I use Hootsuite.
       Google+: (free)-  I am on Google+, but I am not an active user.  I keep thinking I should take the time to get it up and going for me, but I just haven’t yet.  However, once I do, I’m ready with my Google+ app.  Like the Twitter and Facebook apps above, it’s straightforward and includes all of the stuff that goes with Google+… stream, messenger, photos, circles, etc.  

6.   Reading:
        iBooks: (free)-  This is Apple’s standard offering so it’s good because it’s all totally integrated and works how it should and is just plain pretty.  I’m not sure it has the best deals out there but it also doesn’t seem like it’s crazily overpriced.  It syncs between one’s various iGadgets nicely and I really have no complaints about it.  
        Kindle: (free)-  This offering from Amazon was my overall favorite before they had their negotiation showdown with Apple and couldn’t come to terms with Apple’s fees.  What that means for me, the consumer, is that I no longer can purchase books from within the app.  It isn’t a huge deal other than the bit of a pain it is to go to Amazon to browse for and buy books, then go back to the app to actually read.  Once I have the book, I think the Kindle offering is every bit as good as Apple’s iBooks and it too syncs between devices.
       OverDrive: (free)-  I don’t feel like OverDrive is the easiest app to use, but I haven’t found something better.  What OverDrive does is allow me to check out books from the library.  I can check out books from any library where I have a library card and they will be loaned to me on my iGadget for 7 to 21 days depending on my settings.  I keep hoping that iBooks will come up with a borrowing option like what is being offered on the new Kindle, but until then, the OverDrive app accomplishes what I need.

7.   Music:
       SoundHound: (free)-  SoundHound is one of those apps that’s just plain fun.  If you hear a song and want to know anything about it, you just tap “listen now” and it will identify the song (it’s amazing how well it does at this!) and give you more information than you could possibly want.  The lyrics scroll along in time with the song, there are links to relevant concert information and tickets and the iTunes download of the song, a bio of the artist(s), etc.  You can also click on a link to create a Pandora station based on that song.  It’s so fun!  (I also like it for previewing the lyrics of songs my kids want to download.)
       Pandora: (free)-  Pandora is a cool way to learn about new music you might like or just find music that suits your mood at the time without having to commit to just one artist or come up with your own playlist. What you do is type in the name of an artist or a song that you want to listen to and Pandora will identify (based on some sort of complicated algorithm I assume) other songs that will be to your liking.  If they happen to include a song you don’t care for, you can click the “thumbs down” icon and it will skip that song and fine tune it’s understanding of your preferences.  Likewise, you can “thumbs up” if you especially like what Pandora offers.  Pandora saves the “stations” you create so you can listen to them at a later time without having to recreate your choices.  It’s good.

8.   Sports:
       ESPN Score Center: (free)-  If you like sports or just want to sound like you know what you’re talking about when someone mentions the “big game,” ESPN Score Center has you covered.  You can customize what it tells you so you get top story information, but also get updates on what’s going on with your favorite sports and teams.  There are optional settings to get alerts for when certain games start, end, or whatever.  It’s straightforward and covers it all.
       Fantasy Football (Monster) 2011/Yahoo! Fantasy Football 2011:  (free)-  If you have a fantasy football league, you need to have an app to manage your teams on the go (especially when you forget about those pesky Thursday night games and have to make an adjustment while waiting for your child in the parking lot somewhere).  However, we have varying opinions in my house as to whether the Monster Fantasy Football or the Yahoo! Fantasy Football app is better, so I decided to list them side by side.  My opinion is that the Yahoo app is easier to adjust my line up with, but the Monster app allows you to manage all your different leagues.  We have ESPN, Yahoo, and NFL leagues and I can manage them all through the Monster app.  I’m not ready to say that it’s all roses though because it seems like I run into problems with it not being as current on my updates and scores as the Yahoo app.  I know there’s also an ESPN app and an NFL app, but have not tried them out sufficiently to make a call on them.  
                 
9.   Exercise:
       RunKeeper: (free)-  RunKeeper is probably one of the apps that I would keep if I had to dwindle my app collection down to only ten.  I love how easy it is to keep track of my exercise.  It uses GPS to keep track of where I am and tell me my speed, calories burned, and pace (both current and over the course of my exercise).  It then syncs with RunKeeper.com to keep track of all my exercise.  I’m not a diehard exerciser, but I use this a lot and I really like how it maps out my exercise.  It has lots of options for kind of exercise you enter, and I really use this for every time I go out for a hike, walk, run, or whatever.

10. Office:
       Pages/Numbers: ($9.99 each)-  I don’t think there will ever be a document or spreadsheet app that is ideal on a screen the size of a mobile phone.  However, that said, I think Pages and Numbers do a really nice job.  They have a pleasing interface and just feel nice to use.  You can start with a blank sheet or use one of its custom templates.  It’s simple to add text and pictures and adjust styles and formatting.  The one gripe I have with Pages and Numbers is that I can’t put my document in Dropbox or send it to ePrint; I have to email it to myself then open it in a different program.  There is also the option to send it to iTunes or copy to iDisk, iWork.com, or WebDAV.  It’s not a deal-breaker, but does make it so I have to add in an additional step to print my document (please note, if you have a compatible wireless printer, you are able to print right from the program).  These two apps are a couple of the most expensive I’ve ever purchased (I tend to be pretty cheap on my apps), but I needed to have a way to create documents and spreadsheets on my iPhone and iPad.  Also, because they are universal apps, they work on both my iGadgets, making the price tag more doable for me (Both apps are WAY better not the iPad).  I feel like they were a good purchase.
                 
So… those are my first ten(ish) recommended apps.  I don’t feel that these apps are in order of value to me.  My next post will list the next ten and I recommend them just as strongly, so that post will also be the “top ten.”  I’ve decided in the process of writing this post, that what I’m really writing is a series of posts on my most favorite apps.  I’m sure I’ve missed some that others feel are vitally important and I’d love to know about them- I mean, who knows how many posts will be included in this series!


November 11, 2011

San Fransisco, the speed version

This weekend our family went to San Fransisco for a quick little getaway.  We didn’t have a lot of time there, but it was fun and we had beautiful weather (as you can see in the picture below).   

The last time our whole family was in San Fransisco, I had Jacob in a stroller and Spencer in a front pack, so this was a much different experience.  Jason had work to do so the boys and I did some exploring (and a little Christmas shopping) on our own, but first we walked the bridge.  


Despite the fact that Spencer couldn’t get over his irritation that the Golden Gate Bridge wasn’t (isn’t) “golden,” the bridge was beautiful with the blue background of the sky.  The picture above was taken with my iPhone 4 and I didn’t touch it up or edit it at all- such a pretty fall day!

The picture below, however, is obviously altered.  I edited it on my iPad using a program called PhotoStudioHD (@fxphotostudio); I applied simple filters to change the original image (picture in the top left of the collage).  The filters used were: Original (no filter), Black and White Grained, Color Pencil Sketch, and Atlantic Beach.  I saved the new images to my photo library then opened them in another app called PopBooth (@popbooth on twitter) that allows me to arrange them either in a 2×2 grid or 1×4 (like you get in an old fashioned photo booth).  Both apps are really quick and simple to use for fun results.
Cable Cars (edited using PhotoStudioHD for iPad & PopBooth)
The highlights of our day were The Cheesecake Factory on the top floor of Macy’s at Union Square and the nighttime ride on the cable car.  I would highly recommend both!  


The Cheesecake Factory was amazing- we ordered a cheesecake slice for each of us, which was about twice as much as we could actually eat!  Look at the size of those three cheesecakes (Oreo Cookie for Spencer, Peanut Butter Cake for Jacob, and Chocolate Mousse for me)!  We loved them all and will definitely go back again; maybe next time we’ll share one piece…probably not, though.





The Cable Cars are a typical touristy, must-do experience for San Fransisco, but at a friend’s recommendation, we rode them at night and that really took it up a notch.  It wasn’t nearly as crowded, there were beautiful lights, and it just felt more special somehow.  The boys and I rode from Union Square down to the Wharf, then hung out in a coffee shop and enjoyed warm drinks and wifi for a bit before riding the trolley back to Union Square.  It was just a nice evening.


We also got to play some with Jason… bouncing away at the House of Air (@houseofair).  The House of Air is a large warehouse/hangar that has been converted to an indoor trampoline park.  There is no good way to describe it, so I’ll let the pictures and videos do the work.

This first picture is just a screenshot of the video from my iPad (in iMovie).  You can see that I stopped the action when I was up in the air.  I’m pretty pleased with this picture because I never knew I could do that!  My shoulders were pretty sore afterwards!  I added a video below of Jason doing a forward flip (missed the video of the backward flip he mastered while we were there!), but I still need to edit the video of the boys; then I will post those videos too.  


You can kind of see in those videos what the House of Air looks like and how it works.  It’s a little chaotic at first, but they did have “adult swim” time when the kids were only allowed in one section and the adults got to play on the other.  That was nice because then you didn’t have to worry about landing on a six year old who happened to cross under you when you were up in the air… something to avoid.  So, if you’re in the Bay Area and looking to get a little exercise, check out the House of Air.

One last thing… San Fransisco was a much easier, quick getaway than I expected. From our house to our hotel in downtown (right across from Union Square) it took less than six hours including stops.  I still prefer Portland, but we had a good time and it’s nice to have options.
October 10, 2011

Pumpkin party invites with instagram & postagram

Every year our family hosts a pumpkin carving party, and this is the 11th year of our totally fun tradition.  The boys and I started getting ready for it by putting out some of our Halloween decorations this past weekend.  I don’t know who decided that chartreuse-y green is a halloween color, but I’m glad they did!  I love these little treat bowls and the fun green bowl takes it all up a notch in the color world for me!  It also keeps a playfulness in the decorations that’s important for me.  We are into the candy, the dressing up, and the pumpkin carving, but not the gruesome yuck and scary stuff.  

Also, I have to show you my invitations I did this year.  Usually I try to be artsy and come up with some little crafty notecard invitation (they’re never exceptional, but always handmade- kinda my trademark, maybe…handmade but not exceptional?), but this year I decided to go with techy (and still crafty-ish?).  I used a super cool program called postagram to import a picture from last year’s party that I had uploaded to instagram.

If you’ve never tried instagram, it’s a fun little app (I know it’s there for iPhone and I imagine it’s available for Android as well), that let’s you apply cool filters to your pictures.  The instagram filter I used is called “early bird” to give it that old timey feel.  Postagram is also an iphone and Android app that allows you to upload pictures from your phone’s photo album, facebook, or instagram (or take a new picture right then) and create a postcard that they will send to the address you choose.  It costs 99 cents for each postagram to be printed and mailed, but you can also buy credits which give you a better price cut.  It makes sending a postcard so easy and I never have to go find a stamp!

October 7, 2011

This is my work companion.  Otto is a two year old pug we found at the local animal shelter.  He was a stray from out of town, so we know nothing about his past but can assume a couple of things.  
   1.  He had a pretty rough period before he made it to the shelter.  When we first met him he was having a horrible skin reaction to fleas, he needed his teeth cleaned (one was so bad it had to be pulled), and he hadn’t been neutered.  
   2.  He is desperately afraid of being left; I think because of whatever happened in his first two years of life and maybe how he ended up at the shelter. As such, he has a fear of abandonment and has major separation anxiety.
Since having gotten Otto home (post flea treatment and neutering), his skin is doing much better, and his anxiety every time we walk out of the room has lessened.  He’s eating great (if you can call swallowing your food whole in gulps, good!) and seems to be adjusting well.  We think he’s awesome and love having him in our family.  Our cat, Eddie, doesn’t mind him most of the time, but is having a bit of a hard time transitioning from the only child role.  Mostly they just ignore each other, but I’m still hopeful that they’ll play together someday.
Anyway, as I said, Otto is my work companion.  The picture above is taken of Otto just to my left as I work on the computer.  It’s nice having him around.  
   

October 6, 2011

Small sample

Okay, be kind in critiquing my photoshop background.  I’m totally teaching myself and learning by trial and error with more emphasis on the error it seems at the moment.  Anyway, here’s a picture of my fall background I made.  I am sure there are simpler ways to make it, but I went with the “stumble your way through” approach and this is what I ended up with by the time I was done.

If you want to see the background “in action”… I uploaded it to my practice site.  You can check it out at kellydevries.blogspot.com.  The site is truly just a practice site where I mess around with things I learn (not so different than this site, I suppose!), so it’s pretty much a mish-mashy mess.  Anyway, take a look and see what you think.  If you want a copy of my inaugural background offering, click below to get instructions and the link.  I will get better; I promise… but until then, this is at least a start.

Happy Fall!

~Click here for the fall background links (top paper), (bottom paper), and upload/installation instructions.

October 4, 2011

Much ugliness, but I did it all by myself!

I am so happy.  I have been trying to figure out how to make scrapbook paper type layouts from scratch in Adobe Elements for…ever….  it seems.  Well tonight was a a hallelujah moment and I did it.  I made a basic background paper like I could buy as part of an online digital scrapbooking kit!  Granted, it’s so ugly that I won’t put a picture of it on here, but even still, I did it all by myself.  So, now I am sure I have the know-how to make beautiful, fun, creative, funky, or otherwise Kelly-ish layout papers… all… by… my… self!  Yay!

Once I make some scrapbook-y type pages that are fit for human eyes, I’ll post them on here to give away to happy homes!  I’m so excited to start playing with colors and designs, but I’m thinking that 11:00 at night is not the best time for me to start in on this.  Aaaah, hold me back.

October 4, 2011

Fall makes me feel like baking and knitting

I love this time of year.  It makes me feel all domestic, motherly, and crafty.  I get optimistic about all the handmade gifts I will make, the breads I will bake, and the wonderful crafts I will do with my children.  The optimistic feeling is pushed aside a bit in November by the reality of life and time and my less than perfectionistic tendencies when crafting, but for now I am all ideas and dreams and plans.

One of the things this time of year signals for me, is the return to knitting.  In the summer I try to keep up with knitting a bit, but it’s when the weather starts to turn cooler that my drive to play with all the colorful yarns and pour through my books searching out patterns really kicks in.  You should see my bookshelf on Ravelry!  I can spend hours going through those pages in real life and I plan to this next week as the weather turns more fall-like.  I hope to pick out some simple, yet wonderful, items to knit for some of the people on my list.

One book that I’m looking forward to searching thoroughly is “Kristin Knits” by Kristin Nichols.  I love her use of color and her sense of design.  She inspires me to put together colors in new ways and I just love looking at the pictures in her books; the patterns are simple to follow and yet don’t look simple when completed.  I have both “Kristin Knits” and “Color by Kristin” and they are both wonderful.  I’ll post some pictures below to inspire you to check them out.  Also, check out my other favorite knitting books on the sidebar.  If I get techy enough, I’ll put a link to it on here.  Until then, just slide to the right and scroll down.

September 28, 2011

How to make a fancy schmancy blog background

So, you have a blog on Blogger and you want a fancy schmancy background to give it your own personal touch… well, look no further because here are your easy peasy instructions (makes sense that you’d have easy peasy instructions for something fancy schmancy, huh?).
Hop right to it, follow the directions below, and prepare to amaze yourself:
1.  Open Blogger and login to your account
     a.  click on the Design tab
     b.  click on the Page Elements tab
     c.  click “add a new gadget” and choose the HTML gadget
     d.  paste the code below into the HTML gadget page (leave the title blank)

               
                body {
                background-image: url (YOUR DIRECT LINK WILL GO HERE);
                background-position: center;
                background-attachment: fixed;
                }
               

               
  2.  Open a new browser window for photobucket
     a.  upload your chosen pattern/background to your account (accounts are free and easy to sign up for)
     b.  click on your uploaded picture
     c.  copy the “direct link”
     
  3.  Go back to your Blogger window and paste the direct link into the text where it will replace YOUR DIRECT LINK WILL GO HERE
     a.  click save
     b.  view your blog and be amazed by your tech skills!