Nature Captured by VSco

parramatta lake

Life has amped up spectacularly the past several weeks and looking at the date right now… wow, it’s practically the middle of the year… already. Is it just me or is time flying faster as you grow older?? 

Weekends are flying by as I’ve been upping my time spent “socialising in-person”, to enjoy life more. Gareth often complains that I spend too much time holed up in front of a screen, so I put a plan into action where we organise at least two outdoor adventures per month!

This past week has been a superb example of doing just that, which included a visit to Parramatta Lake which features several walking/bike tracks. It turned out to be a great spot to hang, sort of like a small taste of the Blue Mountains scenery. On a social side note, we also went to see The Rubens in concert at the Enmore and they were fantastic live!   

But getting back to nature…. I’m a big fan of Instagram but I much prefer using VSco (Visual Supply Co) who have their own mobile app called VSco Cam to edit photos. They often produce that dreamy, faded look and the app provides you with plenty of ways to tweak it the way you want. The norm for me these days is to snap and edit via VSco and then from there, send to Instagram to upload and share. 

All these photos were taken using VSco in the past month: the first above and second below were of the scenery at Parramatta Lake; the flowers from a corner store at Katoomba and the last one featuring seeds sprouting taken from my balcony garden.

Let’s hope this coming month becomes easier to bear, but just as exciting!

If you have any suggestions of things to do on weekends, I’d love to hear about them to get more ideas :)

parramatta lake

flowers

seeds gardening

Five Steps to a Sustainable Digital Detox

digital detox

I’m a big advocate for technology, leveraging it in the daily life. I love using it to become more educated, productive, creative and connected with the world. On the other hand, it’s a double-edged sword. The more you delve deeper into the online world, the more you lose being in the moment in the real (offline) world. I’ve read about and have friends who have gone on digital detoxes in order to stave off their online addiction and bring them back to the basics and details of the real world. It’s no easy act to juggle and most of the time requires a very conscious mindset of the online/offline war.

Personally, I know realistically that going on a complete no-Internet detox for a period of time is just not going to happen. Plus, it’s not sustainable in the long term even if I were to try. Throughout the past six months, I’ve been thinking about what little things I could practise to ‘detox’ in a more sustainable manner. And I think it’s working. I’m rather switched on during the week, particularly given I work at a tech company, it would hard not to be - and I’m okay with that. But on the weekend, it’s me and real world time. My weekends are much more relaxing than what they used to be. This is my version of a digital detox in a world consumed by all things tech.

Do you have similar wrangles with yourself and about becoming too much of an online addict? If you share the same sentiments, I strongly encourage you to be conscious of it and follow these five steps to detox realistically and live a healthier, stress-less life:

1. Unsubscribe and spam filter your inbox

In all seriousness, your email inbox is your digital enemy no.1. The number of times that I have woken up in the morning with an eagerness to check what possibly awesome stuff may have been delivered overnight? It’s an unhealthy addiction and most of the time, I’m disappointed and just spend the time going through and deleting crap.

Learn to be harsh with your inbox and unsubscribe from every single source that is not necessary and just producing clutter. Facebook notifications for mentions - do you really need an email for this every time it happens? Don’t you check Facebook regularly enough to catch such notifications? Unsubscribe. Twitter mentions? Unsubscribe. Linkedin messages? Unsubscribe. Newsletters to stores you no longer frequently shop at? Unsubscribe. The key here is to remove all unnecessary passive streams of information. If you really cared for Twitter, then you would be actively checking Twitter and catch everything there anyway. 

For those sources that I would classify as “semi-necessary” (i.e. they’re not important all the time, but sometimes are quite useful to receive) or if you simply have a problem with unsubscribing from things, then mark them all as spam. I’ve done this to mostly shops that I enjoy shopping from. Mark them as spam and whenever something new comes in, it will go directly into the spam folder, bypassing your Inbox. That way, if you don’t actively check your spam folder, which you wouldn’t normally anyway, then you won’t even notice them!

2. Switch off desktop and mobile alerts

This is something I started doing from around August last year and I’ve not looked back since. I’ve found myself to be more productive and less easily distracted at home and at work.

On my iPhone, I don’t receive alerts for anything apart from phone calls, SMS and two apps that I make an exception for: Footy Tips and eBay. The footy because I like to be reminded when a game is about to start in case I want to watch it on TV (and have forgotten to tip) and eBay, in case I am bidding/watching an item and don’t remember when it ends. But with social networks, I have a personal mandate to switch off ALL alerts. No exceptions there! Go to your phone’s settings and there should be a notifications section where you can turn it off for every app there.

Similary for home and work computers, I’ve made sure that there are no Growl or widget alert notifications that appear - ever. And most definitely no notifications for chat applications (that’s digital enemy no. 2).

limit time spent online

3. Consciously limit time spent online during your time off

If your day job normally involves use of a computer, it would be hard to consciously avoid using technology during that time. I’m the same, so I wouldn’t expect you to try and detox when it doesn’t make sense to logistically.

What you should try to do instead, is to avoid going online during the time of the week that is your time off. For me, that basically means from Friday night to Sunday night, I busy myself with other things and most of the time, either forget about my phone or don’t have it on or near me. If you find yourself spending minutes or hours checking Facebook, stop, ask yourself why and what else you could be doing!

4. Bring a proper camera with you instead of using your smartphone

When going out, it’s always handy to capture memories on your phone, via Instagram, Vscocam, Hipstamatic and the plethora of camera apps we have these days. But this tends to lead to people just being glued to their phone when really they should be enjoying the scene in front of them! Take the time to edit and share your photos when your home, not when you’re out having fun.

This is why I recommend bringing a proper camera with you instead. Whether it be a compact or DSLR, you’ll have more fun immersed in the moment with your camera, than with your phone. Seriously, try it and you’ll thank me for it. Your camera doesn’t have the ability for you to check your email and Twitter after all, plus your photos should turn out nicer too!

find an offline hobby gardening

5. Find an offline hobby

Whatever it is, it should be something that takes a decent chunk of time and doesn’t involve anything requiring the use of the Internet. Lately, I’ve become a real hobby gardener and now it’s become a weekly habit that I spend half a day on the weekend tending to my balcony garden. It’s a fun and interesting hobby that I like to partake in and gives me a real sense of the earth.

I also enjoy crochet and watching the football on weekends, both ‘offline’ hobbies that are real joys. So I encourage you to get out there and find something offline that you learn to love to spend your time on. And don’t forget to consciously leave your phone somewhere out of arm’s reach!

Let me know if you plan to start a digital detox too, I’d love to hear how you go!

For those who have gone on a detox, have you got any great tips that I may have missed?

Detox feature image credit

BLOG TECH #4 // HTML 101 - what’s it all about?

I think it’s time we start hitting the deeper stuff now in our Blog Tech series, don’t you think? So far, we’ve touched on colour design and blogging 101 basics so a primer on HTML before the end of the year would be perfect to set you off on a path to a geeky new year!

What is HTML and why is it used?

image

HTML stands for HyperText Markup Language and it is the type of language used to tell a browser what to display on a web page. For example, the image above is a snippet of the HTML used on my blog right now. It specifically relates to the main navigation links near the top of my blog, just underneath my logo.

Different HTML elements put together make up a web page’s content. It’s also pretty easy to distinguish the HTML as it uses tags  like these < > with text inside. You’ll notice that many lines in the image above begins with <li> and ends with </li>; this style is pervasive across all HTML elements since it denotes the beginning and end of an element. In this example, it marks the start of a “list item”, with each one of my navigation links being a different “list item”. Make sense? Good!

Another thing to note is that having a decent grasp of HTML and how it relates to SEO (search engine optimisation) is important so you don’t make silly mistakes that would make your blog rank badly or low without you even knowing! But more on that another time, that deserves a post or two on its own!

So…what can I do with HTML?

These days you’ll hardly see HTML without some CSS (Cascading Style Sheet). CSS is the styling of the HTML and is the key ingredient that makes your blog look beautiful (more on CSS next week). But for now, you can think about HTML in terms of a photo that you’ve just taken - unedited and unprocessed, it’s the raw thing. Then the CSS comes along, processing and tweaking the photo… by the end once it’s done, you have a shiny prettified photo!

Every web page and site you see uses HTML for the content and guts of the page along with the CSS, which makes it look good and presentable.

On a high level, an HTML document is structured like this below:

image

  • You begin and end with <html> and </html> and everything else goes in between these two tags.
  • There’s a head section that contains special stuff which does not visibly appear on the actual page. Think of it as more behind the scenes work. For example, if you’re using Google Analytics to track your blog’s traffic, then you would have included the snippet of Google Analytics code within this head section.
  • Everything you actually want displayed on your page needs to be included in the body section.
  • If you want to write notes to yourself on what something is or does that you don’t want displayed on your page, write it within these tags: <!- - Write stuff here - ->

Where can I learn more?

Keep following my Blog Tech series as I continue on with CSS next week. Not long after that, I’ll be getting even deeper with more specific HTML/CSS tutorials relevant to prettifying elements of your blog’s look and feel!

But if you’re a nerd at heart like I am and a go-getter, I would highly encourage you to learn HTML comprehensively to further your knowledge. Remember that the more you know the better and more you can do with your blog, so here are some of my recommendations to help you: