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Yearly Archives: 2014

receiving my first postcard

I wrote about this in my last entry, but I’ve signed up for Sian’s Pile of Postcards Exchange last month, and today I received my first postcard!

It’s a picture of a public sculpture in Middlesbrough by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen though the postcard itself was sent from Lincoln, UK.

Now, I admit to being one of those people who would send themselves postcards whilst on holiday (what better souvenir or scrapbook ephemera than a postcard sent from the country you visited?), so this is not the first postcard I’ve ever received, but it is the first one I’ve received from somebody else.

That reminds me, I have a small pile of blank postcards that I need to fill out and send for postcard exchange…

lets get writing!

Recently – and by this I mean yesterday – I found two snail mail related links and I thought I’d share them with you.

The first one is the International Geek Girl Pen Pals Club.

Once a month on the 15th, they open a new round of sign ups for people interested in getting pen pals. You tell them a little bit about you, including your top 5 geek loves and at the end of the month would pair you up with someone who shares a similar interest.

But they aren’t just a pen pal group. They are a blog, a book club, a photography group plus much more, with one over-arching theme – geek love.

I am still exploring their site and forum – there is quite a lot to read – but I knew I just had to tell people about them. Their current round of sign ups are about to end (finishes at the end of the month) so if you’re a geek with a saved up pile of stationery, why not sign up and give it a go?


Now, if you’re not sure you can commit to a possibly-long-term pen pal relationship, how about writing a postcard?

This second link is an event run by Sian from the blog From High in the Sky.

She’s hosting a postcard exchange and she’s accepting sign ups from now till June 30th (I know, I know, there’s only a few days left, but I only just found out about it yesterday).

pileofpostcards2This is a one-off event; you sign up with your snail mail address and at the start of July you would receive 6 names and addresses in return.

This event was started because, for people in the Northern Hemisphere at least, it’s Summer and a lot of people are going away on holidays.

So if you want to receive some cool postcards from around the globe, email Sian or visit her blog post to read more about the event.

 

I’ve signed up for both events; since I found the two links completely at random and from two completely different sources, something in the cosmos must be telling me to do some letter writing!

layout: peach tea’s first day

There’s actually a story behind this layout.

You see, this layout wasn’t created entiarely by me.

The Boy surprised me one Saturday by taking me to one of the largest scrapbooking store in the area (about 40 minutes drive).

He said that for that entire day, we will be doing what I like to do, scrapbooking. We were going to shop for supplies, and I was to walk him through making a scrapbook page.

The whole experience was an eye opener for both of us. It was interesting to see the kinds of papers and supplies that he was drawn to (we chose supplies based on some photos we selected from our phones), and he was surprised at the wide selection of supplies available.

When we got home I was surprised to see that he absolutely no trouble cutting up the pretty papers, nor did he have any problem covering up the feature design on the background paper. Pretty paper hoarders would know what I’m talking about.

He followed the sketch we had selected earlier with no problems, though I selected the flourishes, the chipboard pieces and ended up doing the journaling.

It was a collaborative effort, and I think that made this layout even more special to me than the layout content itself.

Journaling

We actually got this little guy on September 11th, 2012.

It was a work day but it was one of those rare ones where Andrew could have lunch with me.

So I took Andrew to a pet shop near Queen Victoria Mark.

The shop didn’t have much in way of dogs and cats, but they had plenty of birds and fish.

I knew Andrew liked birds and I was vaguely entertaining the idea of getting Andrew a bird for an anniversary present, but it depended on him finding one he liked.

And he did.

And so the vague idea became a reality; Andrew took the rosey-faced lovebird home.

The name PeachTea came a day later, as a reference to our favourite drink at that time, Lipton Peach Tea. And because we needed a gender neutral name.

We still don’t know which gender Peach Tea is.

leaving iReconcile and moving to YNAB

ireconcile to ynab

Latest thing I’m into: a software called YNAB (You Need A Budget).

Previously I keep track of my budget with an iPhone app called iReconcile. I loved the app enough to pay a yearly subscription to get their online syncing service. That was two years ago.

But over the two years I’ve been using the app I’ve been experiencing annoyances large and small. Sometimes the sync would corrupt my data and I would have to contact customer service to roll back my data. Which is okay, if they would only respond to my emails. I’m supposedly paying for this service after all. Lately the app is starting to get bogged down with the sheer number of transactions and I had to clear out data before it starts moving again.

They had also advertised a web app to allow tracking and entering of data from your desktop. When I first got iReconcile this web service was next to useless and there hasn’t been any update since.

A few weeks ago I decided to email them directly to see if any updates to either the iOS or the webservice were in the pipeline. No response.

That was also when my iOS app decided to cough on me again – most likely as a way of prompting me to delete old transactions (one at a time, mind you) again.

That was the end of it for me; I didn’t see the need to keep paying for non-existent customer service for an aging app.

Google helped me discover YNAB.

It is everything iReconcile is supposed to be but wasn’t.

Image Source: http://www.mdmproofing.com/iym/reviews/ynab4/
Image Source: http://www.mdmproofing.com/iym/reviews/ynab4/

YNAB (You Need A Budget) is a desktop budgeting system with an iOS/Android app to facilitate tracking.

I love doing the actual budgeting on the desktop instead of fiddling with the mobile apps. Some people might want more functionality on the iOS app (the Boy certainly does, but then he’s resistant to any changes – it took months for me to get him used to iReconcile), but I highly recommend giving the system a go anyway. Being able to use the number pad on my physical keyboard just make the whole budgeting process so much quicker.

A word of note, YNAB is not like Mint.com, it doesn’t pull your transaction from your bank automatically, you have to enter your expenditure manually. I’ve been doing that with iReconcile, so this is not an issue for me, but it might be for others.

The desktop version does have an importing feature though which allows you to manually import your transaction history (OFX file) from your bank.

This is great for finding those transactions that might have slipped the gaps and is great when you’re reconciling your accounts.

Image Source: http://jamieflarity.com/finance/how-ynab-changed-my-life/
Image Source: http://jamieflarity.com/finance/how-ynab-changed-my-life/

Now what about the mobile apps?

Let me say this up front, in the YNAB system, the mobile app is used only for tracking your daily income and expenses (and your bank transfers, eg. ATM withdrawals). You can’t change your budget, and you can’t look at your reports.

But realistically, why would you want to?

The YNAB system is built around budgeting by categories instead of by accounts, which is how I’ve always budgeted but never had a system which supported it. iReconcile kind of did it, but when the budget page takes ages to load, you’re just not going to use it.

Both the desktop and mobile apps are really slick to use and pretty to look at. It uses Dropbox to sync the data between devices, and I haven’t any any issues with conflicting versions of information being synced.

It’s a one off payment of $60 for the desktop app (the mobile apps are free, but you must have the desktop app for them to work), and this one license allows you to share the software between everyone in your immediate family.

One thing I must mention is that YNAB also has a very substantial database of support files, and a comprehensive series of live classes teaching people how to budget and use the YNAB program properly. Even if you don’t buy the YNAB software, you should still go through those videos and articles; they are just chock full of tips on how to budget better.

Before I sign off, I want to point out a couple of review articles I would highly recommend reading if you want to know more about the YNAB software. I really love the apps, but have only skimmed the surface of the features available. These blogs have done a fantastic job walking through each part of the program:

It’s Your Money!

Jamie Flarity

Do you budget? Are you using a budgeting program? Are you an iReconcile or YNAB user? Comment below on your budgeting experiences, I would love to know.

layout: surprise cat attack

Layout: Suprise Cat Attack Layout: Suprise Cat Attack

Journaling

Andrew just couldn’t help himself; it was the perfect opportunity.

The cat was napping and completely oblivious to her surroundings.

Andrew pounced, catching Siu Hak completely off guard.

Don’t feel too badly for the cat, she gets Andrew plenty of times too, and when he’s not even napping!

When reading the journaling on this layout, some people would think that we’re horrible owners, but let me assure you, my cat does not mind – she gets her fair share of surprising us.

When I first got those gold star sequins (I can’t remember whether I got these from Citrus Twist or whether they were from an old old Studio Calico PL kit), I thought, “What am I to do with those? I don’t even like gold.”

Of course, as with most scrapbooking supplies, if you save them up, one day you’ll find a page that would have a use for those bits and pieces.

Note: Of course, at the same time, you should also limit the bits and pieces that you save, otherwise you’ll never remember them all! I try to only keep as much supplies as this can hold, which I bought from Kmart, but you can buy from here.

layout: shiroi koibito / camera + travelling tip

I’m so slow at getting these articles published. I actually have a few layouts all photographed and uploaded to Squarespace, but I just haven’t gotten around to writing a blog post about them.

This layout is very similar to this one I did. I am not adverse to using the same layout designs; the colouring and the photos are different enough that I could have these in the same album without alarm bells ringing in my head.

You couldn’t see from the picture of the full layout, but there’s actually journaling along the right vertical panel of the layout. Because it was written in silver pen (recently purchased at Typo) it doesn’t show up very well in camera.

Journaling

Shiroi Koibito Park, Sapporo, Hokkaido.

This is not the first time I was charmed by its seemingly random collection of antique china cups, retro toys from the 70’s and amazing collection of working gramophones.

But as I was not on a tour this time around I actually had time to visit the garden and see their hourly “show”.

The mechanical puppets, the whimsical decorations and the bubbles floating through the air were all just too enchanting not to love.

Two out of the three photos on this layout was actually taken by my friends – they took their DSLRs whilst I opted to snap away with my iPhone.

Tip: Camera Choice + Travelling

If there’s one tip I would give about photography and travelling, it’s that if you’re travelling in a group, there’s sometimes no need for everyone to lug around their DSLR+lens+tripod.

Sometimes, it’s better to have a variety of cameras on the trip (DSLR, mirrorless, point and shoot, and even film/instant). When you’re in a very small and confined space (think cramped wet/spice markets in Asian countries), a point and shoot is a better choice than a DSLR.

With different people in your group carrying different cameras, you’ll get a lot of variety in the types of photos taken. When the time comes to share photos of the trip, you’re less likely to have 60 similiar shots of the Eiffel Tower when one person is shooting raw on a DSLR and another is using Hipstamatic on their iPhone.

layout: sea angels

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a scrapbook layout. To be honest I haven’t been scrapbooking for the past few months. Life has been crazy and my Citrus Twist kits have been stacking up, unused.

So with January well and truly behind me, I decided to roll up my sleeves and actually get some layouts done.

To help me get started, I thought I would use one of the sketches on write.click.scrap.

The pictures in this layout is actually from my 2012 trip to Hokkaido. (I only realise now that I wrote the wrong date at the end of my journaling – I will need to go back and fix that.)

Journaling

Hokkaido’s Shiroi Koibito factory is where I first saw these enchanting creatures. Their translucent bodies and flapping swimming motions certainly earned them the name “Sea Angel“. I found them endearing pretty much immediately.

They require quite cold environments to survive and I have not found many aquariums to hold them.

So this time while I was back at Shiroi Koibito factory, I took the chance to take a snap of them.

Even though I have since discovered that they are actually a type of sea slug, it doesn’t stop me from thinking they are incredibly cute. – 22nd October 2012

The hardest part of this layout I think, would be the stamping on the right side of the layout. Stamping directly on the background paper, and in such a prominent position really freaked me out; there were so many ways that this could go wrong!

I think one of the things to keep in mind is to stamp on scrap paper first to see how the colour/impression comes out, and then to persevere. With multiple impressions like the one on this layout, you have to just trust that the first couple of images would look strange and to keep going.

I tried to keep the positioning a bit varied, and stopped before it got too crowded. Overall I’m quite happy with my first foray into background stamping.

time mapping and the 30/30 app – part 1 – introduction

 

Recently I watched Joshua LaPorte’s video on his time mapping for 2014.

I was so inspired, I decided to do something similar but using the 30/30 app instead of an Excel file.

This is the first of a 2-part series on my system, hope you like it.

The background

As I mentioned, I recently watched LaPorte’s video:

Being the nerd that I am, I immediately opened up Excel and began mapping my own day.

I was surprised to find that, like Joshua, I only had around 2 hours a day of free time.

Obviously I’ve over-allocated some of the tasks eg. I don’t need 15 minutes to feed the cat. But over-estimating is always better than running over time.

This time map is also overly optimistic. I’ve never had any regular exercise regime and I don’t think I have been able get to bed before midnight for years.

But this really showed me why I go to bed so late; I’ve always assumed that I have more free time than I did and before I know it, it’s 3am.

For this new year, I hope to increase my sleep and exercise time by following this time map.

But I knew I wouldn’t be working with Excel. It’s too rigid; tasks are all allocated in time-specific slots and it doesn’t easily adapt to changes, eg. dinner might get rescheduled to an earlier or later time.

Introducing the 30/30 app.

 

The 30/30 app is a colourful little app designed by Biary Hammer.

I originally got this app to help implement the (10+2)*5 procrastination hack.

The idea is you trick your mind into completely focusing on one task for 10 minutes, after which you reward yourself with a 2-minute break to do whatever you want.

You repeat this four more times and an hour of your work day would have passed, and four tasks would have been moved forward towards completion.

If you are a person who needs some help with getting past their procrastination, whether at work or at home, I highly recommend reading Merlin Mann’s article on this hack.

30/30 app + Time Mapping

 

So when looking for an alternative way of keeping track of my time map, I figured that the 30/30 app would be just what I needed.

To start, I enter in all the tasks that needs to happen between when I get home from work till when I begin winding down for bed.[1]I’ve discovered that having a pre-sleep routine (like reading for 15 minutes in bed) helps slow my mind down, so it’s not buzzing around when I’m trying to sleep. I don’t plan on using a time map during work; that goes into my asana task manager.

Now on the top left of the app’s display (marked by a blue frame in the screenshot), you can see how long all your task would take.
FullSizeRender

 

When you actually start the timer, this number on the top left turns into real time; the time it will be when all your tasks are done.

FullSizeRender 2

This is perfect for my time mapping, because I can see – as I complete tasks early, or delay the onset of the next task – what time my day finishes.

Since I aim to sleep at midnight, the screenshot on the left shows me I pretty much on target, as long as I follow the schedule I have left on the screen.

App Options

The app has a few options that really works to customise the way I track my time map. The screenshot on the right shows how I set up my 30/30 app.

Sounds: As the name suggests, this lets you select the type of sound for your notifications[2]In the old version of 30/30 (version 2.0.1) there was an issue with the app’s notification sound being quite soft when you have the app running in the background. This issue has been fixed since version 2.1, you just need to make sure that sounds is turned on in your Settings -> Notification Centre..

Show Duration: This ensures the total duration of all your tasks shows up in the top left corner of the app

Show Time: This toggles the display of the start and stop time of each task still remaining on your list of to-do’s.

Auto-Pause: If this was turned off, once one task is completed, the timer for the next task would start. I usually leave this on; I rather manually start the timer for the next task, confirming that I’ve actually moved on to the next task. This keeps me accountable for whether I stay on track or not.

Auto-Loop: This is similar to auto-pause, just that if you have it off, your list would automatically restart after it’s completed all the tasks in the list. I usually keep this off.

 

So that’s the introduction to the system, in the following posts I would explain how I set up the time map and how I use it on a day to day basis.

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. I’ve discovered that having a pre-sleep routine (like reading for 15 minutes in bed) helps slow my mind down, so it’s not buzzing around when I’m trying to sleep.
2. In the old version of 30/30 (version 2.0.1) there was an issue with the app’s notification sound being quite soft when you have the app running in the background. This issue has been fixed since version 2.1, you just need to make sure that sounds is turned on in your Settings -> Notification Centre.

forgot to mention the RSS feed address

Thanks Steve for pointing this out to me, but I forgot to mention what my RSS feed address is.

For those using Feedly or Bloglovin, I believe you only need to enter in the URL and the reader would automatically extract the RSS feed address.

For those more tech-savy, my RSS feed address is: http://www.serendipitythis.com/feed http://www.serendipitythis.com/feed

welcome to the new site

Happy New Year Everyone!

Most, if not all, of you would have come here from my old blogger blog http://serendipity-art-journaling.blogspot.com.

As I have mentioned in my old blog, with the new year, I am revamping the site and moving it here.

I hope the new domain name http://www.SerendipityArtJournaling.com http://www.serendipitythis.com would be easier to remember (and type).

A little housekeeping

The old blog would remain, but new blog posts would not show up there. So if you are using any type of RSS feeder, please add the new URL to get the latest update. (If you don’t know what a RSS feeder is or what it does, you might want to read this article. I personally like Feedly.)

Also I’ve extracted all the old blog posts to the new site, but I think some of the links may have been broken in the process. I am currently going through each post and checking the links, but if you find something that is not working, please let me know by commenting, and I would get on it asap.

Moving Forward

I’m still fiddling with the layout and design of the new blog, so if you have any feedback or suggestions, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment below.